Cult Parameters within MKO’s Internal Ideological Revolution

Of the key terms to develop an understanding of MKO’s internal revolution is the notion of ‘being in the leader’s debt’. That is the principle that requires all the individuals to deny their personal qualifications and potentialities and completely rely on the leader for the legitimacy of any value. In other words, any goodness is attributed to the leader and the vices are all on the part of the individuals. Through this mechanism, the personality of the insiders crystallizes under the absolute submission to the leader and no claim of any significance, theoretically and practically, or encouragement are validated unless by the leader’s approbation. In general, the insiders, regardless of their ranks and potentialities, must feel indebted to the leader for their success and spiritual felicity. To reach this stage, the insider has to be first purged of his wholly sinful past lived in the absence of the leader; it is impossible unless he is full of remorse and is dissolved in the teachings of the sphere he has joined. Expounding on the process that the insider has to undergo, Maryam Rajavi has said:

In anybody’s career can be found flaws and individual-class ill-indoctrinations engulfing him which deprive him of the blessings of an outward leader. Anybody who believes to be his own leader is left in the sepulchre of his own thoughts. You must push aside the tombstone and reach for a handhold outside. Attach yourself to the source of leadership to gain energy. [1]

According to such a vision, of course the insider must consider himself in somebody’s debt who has unbounded him from a dark, sinful past lived wholly devoid of a leader. Whatever he has committed in the past, even if they were acts of virtues, are worthless in the presence of the newly adopted leader. From here on, the past being completely denied, the individual’s qualifications and personality is conditioned to the absolute submission to the leadership. As Bijan Niyabati admits:

He [who is absorbed by the revolution] is a no one that represents no individual value. His gained prestige is neither an award of his imprisonment inside the prisons of Shah and clerics nor his presence in the fronts of fire and blood. He is neither an eloquent orator nor a highly educated man. He is not even a man. In a word, he carries none of his past merits. [2]

Simply said, a person’s badge of courage and the valor of his revolutionary combats as well as his gained social prestige and all the other merits are volatilized. Now, unquestionable self-surrender is the mechanism that generates his promotion and grants him personality and legitimacy:

From then on, promotion in rank and status is attained not by the virtue of political and organizational qualifications, but through prostrating before a woman. A woman who, for the first time in the history of Shiism, is promoted to the status of an imam. [3]

Denial of the past and absolute submission to the leader leaves the door open for anyone who wishes to join. These two factors demarcate between the old and the new worlds and they are the infrastructures of Mojahedin’s ideological revolution. Is it, as Mojahedin claim, the discovered missing-link in the world of creation that is exclusively possessed by Mojahedin and inserted in their revolutionary methodology? They insist to say that the issue of the ideological leadership and solemnizing mutual relations are tokens of ingenuity and creativeness owned by Mojahedin and which comply with the laws of existence. As Mehdi Abrishamchi admits:

Nowhere in a context out of our mind can we legislate. We must discover laws. We make success if our discovery is proper, otherwise we fail. Social development and evolution have their own set of rules, too. We make advance if we discover their rules, otherwise, we cannot. [4]

Then he asserts that Mojahedin’s leadership has developed a better comprehension of these issues and, thus, has proved to be much qualified for the leadership:

As the human society is part of the created world which is superior to our society and world, the one who has a deeper vision of the general laws dominating the motion of the world and society, which in its simplest definition is termed as ideology, can revolutionize the society. [5]

Is that really the missing-link Mojahedin claim to have discovered? In fact, the claims are the most commonly techniques practiced by the majority of movements’ leaders at least in the past century. Eric Hoffer in his social and psychological autopsy of the believers in the contemporary mass movements, being reactionary or revolutionary, and the exploited techniques to transmute their believers observes that all of them end in cults. More interestingly, the presented evidences are from among the capitalism and socialism camps as well as fascist and pseudo-fascist movements. Tracing the factors in the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, Hoffer has said:

The total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite for the attainment of both unity and self-sacrifice; and there is probably no more direct way of realizing this surrender than by inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience. When Stalin forces scientists, writers and artists to crawl on their bellies and deny their individual intelligence, sense of beauty and moral sense, he is not indulging a sadistic impulse but is solemnizing, in a most impressive way, the supreme virtue of blind obedience. All mass movements rank obedience with the highest virtues and put it on a level with faith: “union I of minds requires not only a perfect accord in the one Faith, but complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and the Roman Pontiff as to God Him- self.” Obedience is not only the first law of God, but also the first tenet of a revolutionary party and of fervent nationalism. “Not to reason why” is considered by all mass movements the mark of a strong and generous spirit. [6]

What happens in MKO in respect to inspire in insiders the feeling of regret for the past is surprisingly identical with what Stalin did in his purges of the old Bolshevik leaders when he deprived them of any possibility of identification with the past which consequently led to their unbounded contempt for the past and for history:

It is somewhat terrifying to realize that the totalitarian leaders of our day, in recognizing this source of desperate courage, made use of it not only to steel the spirit of their followers but also to break the spirit of their opponents. In his purges of the old Bolshevik leaders, Stalin succeeded in turning proud and brave men into cringing cowards by depriving them of any possibility of identification with the party they had served all their lives and with the Russian masses. These old Bolsheviks had long ago cut themselves off from humanity outside Russia. They had an unbounded contempt for the past and for history which could still be made by capitalistic humanity. They had renounced God. There was for them neither past nor future, neither memory nor glory outside the confines of holy Russia and the Communist party and both these were now wholly and irrevocably in Stalin’s hands. They felt themselves, in the words of I Bukharin. “isolated from everything that constitutes the essence of life.” So they confessed. By humbling themselves before the congregation of the faithful they broke out of their isolation. They renewed their communion with the eternal whole by reviling the self, accusing it of monstrous and spectacular crimes, and sloughing it off in public. [7]

To stabilize the authority of Nazi Party, as Hoffer points out, the devout are always urged to seek the absolute truth with their hearts rather than their minds:

The devout are always urged to seek the absolute truth with their hearts and not their minds. “It is the heart which is conscious of God, not the reason.” Rudolph Hess, when swearing in the entire Nazi party in 1934, exhorted his hearers: “Do not seek Adolph Hitler with your brains; all of you will find him with the strength of your hearts.” [8]

As Hoffer discusses, insiders’ self-surrender is blazoned as atonement for the past sins which the groups themselves cultivate in the insiders:

Self-surrender which is the source of a mass movement’s unity and vigor, is a sacrifice, an atonement, and clearly no atonement is called for there is a poignant sense of sin. Here, as elsewhere, the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as a cure. An effective mass movement cultivates lea of sin. It depicts the autonomous self not only as barren and helpless but also as vile. To confess and repent is to slough off one’s individual distinctness and separateness, and salvation is found by losing oneself in, the holy oneness of the congregation. [9]

The meeting point to comprehend bilateral cult relations is that in the paradoxical converge of the two factors the person comes to recognize the new identity he is led into. Rajavi has always reiterated that he bears the responsibility for the sins the members have done. Rajavi is promoted as the theophany that forgives his followers’ sins and warrantees their salvation. That is what Hoffer terms as ‘a tender spot’. To achieve salvation, Rajavi requires insiders’ total devotion which is accomplished through undergoing a certain process. Explaining on the tender spot, Hoffer states:

There is a tender spot for the criminal and an ardent wooing of him in all mass movements. St. Bernard, the moving spirit of the Second Crusade, thus appealed for recruits: “For what is it but an exquisite and priceless chance of salvation due to God alone, that the omnipotent should deign to summon to His service, as though they were innocent, murderers, ravishers, adulterers, perjurers, and those guilty of every crime?” Revolutionary Russia too has a tender spot for the common criminal, though it is ruthless with the heretic-the ideological “deviationist.” It is perhaps true that the criminal who “embraces a holy cause is more ready to risk his life and go to extremes in its defence than people who are awed by the sanctity of life and property. [10]

A scrutiny into MKO’s teachings of the ideological revolution well approves that, in contrast to the organization’s claims, its parameters are nothing more than emulating commonly practiced cult techniques. It is a historically proven fact that most cults apply these techniques since they work the best in the recruitment and enslavement of the new members. MKO is not an exception.


[1]. Shams-e Haeri, Hdi; Mordab [Swamp] (originally in Persian), vol. II, p. 101.

[2]. Niyabati, Bijan; A Different Look at the Ideological Revolution within MKO, Khavaran Publication, p. 102.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Mehdi Abrishamch’ lectures on MKO’s ideological revolution.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. HOffER, ERIC; The True Believer, Harper &. Row Publishers, New York, 1966, p. 108

[7]. Ibid, pp. 62-63.

[8]. Ibid, p. 77.

[9]. Ibid, pp. 55-56.

[10]. Ibid, p. 56.

Bahar Irani – -October 14, 2007


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