Futurism and Iran's 1979 Revolution
In 1986, in a series of articles entitled "Progressiveness in the Present Epoch", I wrote that the 1979 Revolution of Iran was a reversal of a Modern Times' synonymy of Revolution and Progress, a concurrence which was assumed as a given, since the American 1775 and the French 1789 Revolutions, and remarked that with Iran's 1979 Revolution, this synonymy was now reversed, and noted that the world may need a new Immanuel Kant to formulate this reversal, when the retrogression, rather than progress, has become the epitome of a major political revolution in Iran.
It is noteworthy that Kant never bothered writing about revolutions, till the American and French Revolutions happened, and before those events, when writing on topics of armed conflicts, his topics were war and peace between different states, and not revolutions internal to a state. Kant's formulations of his ideal state and individual rights were in reference to a state of affairs achieved thru reform and *not* revolution.
Therefore, Kant's support of American and French Revolutions was not because of his partiality for revolutions. In fact, the opposite was true that he was *not* a revolutionary, yet he supported those revolutions, *only* because he saw the ideals that he had advocated for years, such as the ideals of individual rights, were achieved thru those revolutions.
Kant's desire was to achieve his goals through reform in Germany, therefore as noted, Kant's support of those revolutions was not because of him being a revolutionary, which he was *not*, but was because of the progressive ideals which were pursued by those revolutions. I will explain more below, but let me first return to my main point about Iran's 1979 Revolution.
As noted in "Progressiveness in the Present Epoch", *not* all the forces in Iran's 1979 Revolution were seeking reactionary goals, but the *main* forces of the revolution sought reactionary goals. In contrast, the main forces of the American and French Revolutions sought progressive goals, such as individual rights, civil society, and fairness. It is noteworthy to mention that in contrast, in those revolutions, there were also other forces, that pursued reactionary goals, but they were *not* the main forces of the American and French revolutions.
Basically the main forces of Iran's1979 Revolution were *against* the social rights of an individual, and even the Shah's regime, which they opposed, honored social freedom (not political freedom), more than these forces. This is why the Islamists started wiping out the social rights, from the first days after the success of the 1979 revolution, with the slogan of "yA roosari, yA toosari" (meaning either wear a scarf or be hit on your head), when suppressing the demonstration of women in Tehran, a month after the February 1979 Revolution.
And the Islamists spoke of Islamic principle of "amre beh maroof va nahi az monker" (advocate virtues and prohibit the vices), an Islamic principle which became the rule of social conduct in Iran under the rule of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), and it was used to suppress the individual social rights of every citizen in Iran, by the revolutionary guards and other organs of morality police, the state organs with the mandate of upholding virtues and crushing the vices.
If during the Shah's regime, only the political rights of the individual were suppressed, the new Islamic state would not even stop at political rights and decided on how people should eat, dress, or have sex, and even decided how people should live inside their own house.
A total reactionary turn of social life in Iran ushered in with the 1979 Revolution, and it was spearheaded by the strong presence of Islamists in the revolution, thanks to Shah's blocking of formation of democratic organizations in the three decades prior to the 1979 Revolution, leaving the mosques unchallenged, as the center of social resistance to Shah's regime.
When looking at the French and American Revolutions more closely, although there were some reactionary forces on the side of the revolution, *but* the main forces on the side of the revolution sought progressive goals, such as the *individual rights* and civil society. Whereas in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, although there were some progressive forces on the side of the revolution, *but* the main forces on the side of the revolution, sought reactionary goals of suppressing *individual freedoms*, and replacing civil society with an Islamic ommat.
In other words, the French and American revolutions became the epitome of the ideals which Kant had called for in his writings, to be achieved by *reform*. Basically being progressive has nothing to do with being a revolutionary or a reformist. Kant was trying to attain his ideal social norms through *reform* in Germany of the successor of Frederick the Great, Frederick William II. Nonetheless, Frederick William II, contrary to Frederick the Great, had no respect for individual rights, and even had banned Kant from writing on religious matters, after Kant's publication of his 1793 Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, and the fact that as long as King Frederick William II was alive, Kant did not write on religion.
Thus ironically, Kant's ideals were achieved sooner by the revolutions in America and France, than by the reforms he had hoped for in Germany. And Kant's support of those revolutions, was not because of being revolutionary, which he was not, but was because of his support for the progressive ideals achieved by those revolutions.
Kant was a symbol of a democratic-minded individual doing his utmost to work by civil *obedience*, and the only reason he supported the American and French Revolutions, was because he saw them to usher in the ideals which he viewed as necessary for a modern state, and *not* because of liking to advocate civil disobedience and revolutions, which he did not.
For Kant, *progress* was important, whether it was achieved by reform or revolution, although he preferred it to be achieved by reform. In other words a revolution can be as much reactionary as a reform and vice versa, a revolution can be as much progressive as a a reform.
In contrast,, many who supported the Iranian 1979 Revolution *forgot* about the *ideals* the revolution was seeking, and did not ask if the ideals were progressive or reactionary, and they just supported it, just because it was a revolution to overthrow the dictatorial and corrupt regime of the Shah, and not because the revolution sought progressive and democratic ideals, which it did not.
Not a Coup but a Reactionary Revolution
Progressive development in the modern world works in tantamount with the struggle for forming an Open Society. It is noteworthy that some of those who think of 1979 Revolution, as the work of Carter's human rights breeze, have since blamed Carter and the U.S., for not bringing in the necessary mechanisms to contain the unleashing of the freedoms, and thus they think Iranian society ended up in Islamists using freedom to kill freedom, to take over the country, because of the U.S. unleashing the freedoms, while not being able to protect the democracy.
Of course, in the case of Iran, although Carter's policy in supporting the Islamists at the end, helped the Islamists to finally dominate the political scene in post-1357 Iran, but Iran's movement was not the work of the U.S., to be able to control the unleashing of the forces that were freed by the fall of the Shah, with or without proper policing, and the interim government and various political forces of the time, are more to blame for giving in to the Islamists, and as I noted in Why Shiism Became the Flag of 1979 Iranian Revolution, lack of a progressive alternative, left the scene all open for the pre-industrial forces of Shi'a Islamists, unchallenged in their scheme to fully usurp the power in Iran.
Calling the 1979 Revolution a coup, by some monarchists and others, only means they still have not understood the above reality, that the revolution is *not* synonymous with progress, and since they see the 1979 Revolution to be retrogressive, they disdain to call it a revolution, and call it a coup, as if a revolution would always have to be something progressive and good, which as I explained, is not always true, not only for all revolutions, but neither for all reforms.
For some others, the reason they call the 1979 revolution a coup, is because they want to blame the problems of Iran on foreign powers, and they do not want to believe this reactionary development to be an internal event. Again, considering the 1979 upheaval as a revolution, and not as a coup, and looking at it as an internal event, and not a foreign conspiracy, does not mean that one sees it as something "good" and progressive.
As I pointed out, I actually see the 1979 upheaval as a *reactionary* event, although I see it as a *revolution*, and as an internal development by Iranians, and not as a conspiracy.
When the world is progressing towards a post-industrial society, Iran fell to reactionary forces that offered a reactionary retrogression for the society, as the solution for the real problems of development that Iran was facing, and the Islamists were unchallenged, because the suppression of secular democratic forces in Iran's society, for three decades prior to the 1979 Revolution, under the Shah's dictatorship, meant that there were no social and political organizations strong enough to compete with the mosque, which became the center of the revolution and its leadership organization.
The 1979 Revolution symbolized the reactionary response to the crisis of industrial society, in absence of futurist social and political forces, to lead an alternative development towards a post-industrial society for Iran. Iran was a country that faced the challenge of deciding an alternative for the future. A future which was not going to be the capitalist or communist solutions of the industrial society, as they were not viable choices at the end of 1970s, and new secular organizations, with a new platform beyond the old paths of socialism and capitalism were absent, and all this vacuum helped the success of pre-industrial forces, who offered themselves as an alternative to the crisis of industrial society and its discarded options in Iran of 1979.
What follows from my theory that the Iranian Revolution was *the* major reactionary revolution of our times? Simply it follows that the futurists have the best perspective to offer for Iran and the region.
True that in this day and age, one can still try a capitalist or a socialist path, but the outcome will be another failed experience that many Latin American capitalist states or the Cambodian Killing Fields and Vietnamese socialist states have tried and failed. Those countries have not retrogressed to pre-industrial society, but the capitalist and socialist alternatives of industrial society were tried again by them, in this day and age, and the result was simply failure after failure.
The above experiences show that an alternative beyond the industrial society is needed, a solution beyond both the capitalist and socialist forms of industrial past, to drive these societies towards a post-industrial society, to tackle the dilemma of development in the world of today.
Those looking for an alternative beyond the industrial society in Iran had two choices. Either to end up in a pre-industrial solution with Islamists or monarchists at the top, or they had to be futurists, going beyond the liberal and socialist traditions and plan for a post-industrial society.
Unfortunately a futurist force was almost nonexistent in Iran of 1979, and even three years later, the first blooms of futurist thought, were strongly opposed and threatened even by the Iranian opposition itself, which was mainly leftist, and made even death threats to me for raising such doubts about their leftist doctrines, communist dogma, which they espoused like a religion.
I wrote over three years ago, that the most important lesson of the 1979 Revolution of Iran, the opposition learned, was that overthrowing the regime was not the hardest work, and lack of program and organization after the change, was the real challenge.
Furthermore, I wrote in the same article that there are no quick panaceas for those who really want to work for democracy and progress in Iran, and after the 1979 Revolution, the opposition just found out how much it did not know, in terms of answers to the issues facing Iran, when the opposition had spent all the years prior to the revolution, on polemics, rather than doing any serious theoretical work on the real obstacles hampering Iran's progress into the 21st Century.
Futurists and the Iranian Experience
Iran being the cradle of the first major reactionary revolution of our times, means that freeing Iran from the Islamic Republic nightmare, and moving towards the future, offers the best example for the world, as to how to overcome major pre-industrial setbacks and to go towards a post-industrial society.
Going beyond the industrial society, will be in its most explicit form in Iran, in contrast to countries like the U.S., that are gradually spawning this development. The Iranian experience will have a central role in formulating the ways to progress towards the future post-industrial societies, the same way in the 18th Century, the American and French Revolutions, were so central to set a new paradigm of building the coming industrial society, for most other countries, that were searching for solutions, to go beyond the Medieval society.
What is very disappointing is that the Futurists have mainly ignored the developments of Iran, and have only seen the Iranian situation as an issue of US-Iran relations, whether at the time of the Shah, or at the time of IRI and hostage-taking. If one looks at the publications of the World Future Society in the last 20 years, there is hardly any article about Iran. Among the futurists, only Daniel Bell has made a reference to Iran and the Salman Rushdie issue, and Alvin Toffler has made a few occasional references to Iran.
I think Iranians and those who understand the Iranian situation, will be the ones who can bring the awareness about Iran's experience to the world, and help the futurists of other countries to see the significance of the Iranian upheaval and setbacks, and to understand its relevance to the post-industrial development in general, when the epochal post-industrial change is challenged by powerful pre-industrial forces like the Islamists, and by the retrogressive social structures of the past, such as the strength of Islamic fundamentalism shown in the Islamic Friday Prayers of Middle East.
I think the Iranian people forming a futurist party and leading and spearheading the epochal change of Iran to a full bloom post-industrial society, can become an example for the world, in making this new paradigm shift from the industrial to the post-industrial world. The challenge in Iran is forming and building a Federal Secular Democratic Republic.
As I have explained in later chapters of Futurist Iran book, the insistence of Reza Pahlavi and the monarchists to return the rule of Pahlavi family to Iran, has wasted a lot of energy of Iranian people, to deal with the monarchy, which has been history for over 25 years, and had already been even voted out in a referendum in Iran.
The monarchy distraction is just for the selfish goals of a deposed family, with another retrogressive goal of returning Iran to an obsolete past, to regain their bygone power and wealth, and it has stopped the pro-democracy movement of Iran, from concentrating all the forces of opposition on eradicating the retrogressive system of Islamic Republic, to replace it with a futurist republic, and again like the time of 1979 Revolution, a retrogressive force, this time the monarchy, is trying to restore its lost power in Iran, by using the people's movement.
Regardless of these distractions, Iran and Iranians will have a leading role in formulating the proper solutions for building the post-industrial society, and that can help others in other parts of the world, by setting an example of developing a post-industrial society in our era, especially in an undeveloped country, encompassing all aspects of life.
For the secular and democratic forces of Iran, to provide proper leadership for this future development of Iran, there is a need to form a futurist party, that can lead such a change, or else even if the power is won, a proper progressive leadership will be absent, and we all know how such absence of a futurist leadership in 1979, ended up in retrogression, and it cost Iran and Iranians so dearly, when choosing a reactionary paradigm as a solution. This is why I have proposed a detailed platform for founding a futurist party of Iran.
One may think that being a futurist is just to learn the views that are well documented in the works listed in the book catalog of the World Future Society. Undoubtedly those books are the best collection of futurist literature around. But to really understand what modern futurism involves, the experience of Iran is the most telling example for any futurist, and it is still a living event.
When approaching Iran, we have to specifically answer some important issues of the political development, firstly the continued strength of the organization of the Shi'a clergy in Iran's judicial branch, and other branches of the state, and its strength in civil institutions like the real estate title companies, and the fact that the absence of separation of state and religion, was true long before the birth of Islamic Republic.
Thus the need to specifically call for removal of clergy's status in all state offices and the need to call for removal of *all* Islamic laws in Iran, including Qessas laws, is the real definition of secularism for Iran. Secondly the absence of development of federalism, is another major factor hindering the growth of democracy in Iran. And thirdly the strength of state economy, has been the foundation of endurance of despotism in Iran, under various regimes. These are crucial issues for achieving progress in Iran.
Some of these topics, such as the position of Shi'a clergy in Iranian state, may have no significance for a futurist who focuses on the development needs of the United States, nonetheless, the pre-industrial obstacles stemming from other religious and ideological influences are not much different, and thus Iran's experience sets a paradigm for futurists, for tackling the challenge of pre-industrial forces to new civilizations, in other parts of the world.
Iranian experience highlights the pre-industrial obstacles and the relevant solutions, when progressive forces do not want to create another obsolete despotic system, with a stagnant economy and with more violations of human rights, when replacing an existing retrogressive system. Such so-called "new" pre-industrial systems, replacing the industrial system, are not progress towards a post-industrial society, and are simply a retrogression wrapped up, as a solution, to the problems encountered by the crisis-ridden industrial world.
Hoping for a Futurist, Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
Nov 20, 2004
This article is from Chapters 2, 3, and 4 of the new edition of Futurist Iran book