First Published: Spartacist Canada, No. 35, April 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Among Ayatollah Khomeini’s North American “socialist” fellow travellers none have been so, shameless as the Stalinists of the Canadian Party of Labour (CPL). As Khomeini paves the road for his “Islamic Republic” with the blood of Iran’s national minorities, workers and leftists and attempts to reimpose the chador (veil) for Iranian women, most of his left cheerleaders have begun to venture a few timid criticisms of the Shi’ite patriarch. But not CPL which seemingly remains under the influence of the opiate of Islam. On March 18, after a week of demonstrations by Iranian women against Khomeini’s threat to reinstitute the veil and feudal marriage and divorce laws, CPL supporters at Ford Oakville introduced a motion at a union meeting that the United Auto Workers Local 707 send a telegram to the Iranian embassy congratulating the Iranian people on their successful revolution!
In order to better ’rationalize its prostration before Khomeini’s clerical” reaction CPL has recently taken up the study of Islamic theology. CPL’s study of Islamic obscurantism, like Lysenko’s study of genetics, bears the unmistakeable earmark of the “Stalin method” of work – wholesale falsification.An article entitled “Who are the Shi’ites” in The Worker (28 February) argues that “the Shiite branch of Islam is a ’Protestant’ sect, and like the Christian Protestants, they have usually been more progressive than the ’Catholic’ Sunnis.”
Protestantism, unlike Islam, was the product of the epoch of bourgeois revolution which swept aside feudal privileges for the clergy, recognized the separation of church and State and, at least in the abstract, recognized the equality of all people including women. Like all Islamic sects, Shi’ism is the product of feudal and pre-feudal societies. Under Islam there is no separation of church and state, a theocratic priest-caste holds complete sovereignty, including political and juridical power, and women are considered as chattel. As the official state religion. Shi’ism is the embodiment of great Persian chauvinism and is as “progressive” as the Protestantism of the Ulster Orange Order or the South African Boers.
For CPL, however Shi’ism “is a somewhat democratic religion with no established hierarchy; no heavy bureaucracy of priests and bishops who just sit back and collect their money.” In fact Shi’ism does have a rigid hierarchy and a heavy bureaucracy – like The priests in medieval Europe the mullahs and ayatollahs of Shi’ism are social parasites living off the social surplus of the toiling masses. In Iran the huge priest-caste, which numbers in the tens of thousands, collects more in “charity” from the merchants and peasants than the shah collected in income tax. The Shi’ite ulema controls whole cities like Qum, thousands of mosques, huge plots of land given over as religious endowmentso(vaqfs) and hundreds of seminaries, schools, hospitals and libraries. It was only when the shah threatened these clerical privileges by nationalizing the vaqfs that Khomeini went into opposition.
According ’to CPL “Khomeini is a centrist; he definitely anti-imperialist...” Perhaps Khomeini won his “democratic” and “anti-imperialist” credentials with these “ayatollahs” of Stalinism because his orchestration of the Iranian “revolution” corresponds to the internal life of CPL and its organizational practices within the workers movement. All decisions are made by a secret “Revolutionary Committee” hand-picked by Khomeini and unknown to, much less elected by, the masses. In the streets of Iran today Shi’ite “democracy” is exercised by gangs of Islamic fanatics busting up leftist meetings while the mullahs appeal to the army to massacre national minorities. The culmination of this “successful revolution” is Khomeini’s referendum in which the Iranian masses can “choose” between the shah’s return or a theocratic dictatorship in which the ayatollahs have veto power over all government bodies.
In backward countries without a strong national bourgeoisie and organized working-class movement, opposition to imperialism can be channeled into religious mobilizations. However, rather than glorifying such developments as did most of the left over Iran, Lenin called for a struggle against them. In his “Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions” for the Second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin stressed .“the need for struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries” and underlined “the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialiam with an attempt to strengthen the position of the Khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.” Khomeini and the mullahs are “anti-imperialist” in the same way the Bourbons were “anti-capitalist,” i.e., insofar as their feudal privileges are threatened.
It is not surprising that CPL should feel a certain kinship with the mullahs. The backward social code spelt out in the Koran dovetails neatly with the rigid norms of Stalinist “puritanism” upheld by its mentors in backward Albania – the country upheld by CPL as the beacon of human progress. With CPL’s notorious reputation of gross capitulation to bigoted social attitudes, it may be secretly cheering the execution of homosexuals and stoning of adulterers in Khomeini’s Iran.
Those fake leftists who lied about Khomeini for a moment of ephemeral popularity will be rejected by the proletariat as they battle against the “Islamic Republic” of the “democratic” and “anti-imperialist” ayatollahs. The Trotskyist League and the international Spartacist tendency, who alone told the truth and drew the lessons from the social upheaval in Iran, will-have blazed the path for the construction of the party of Iranian socialist revolution under the unstained banner of the reforged Fourth International?