Internal ideological revolution within Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) was started as a result of a number of factors including the strategic failure of the organization in overthrowing the Iranian regime. In fact, the revolution was the outcome of the two fold necessity of first to overcome the encountered internal crises and second, to secure the political revival of the organization. In addition, the danger of split threatened Mojahedin more than before. The organization’s failed policy of overthrowing Iranian regime that was much a result of the leadership’s autocracy and defect of a sound political vision ended in absolute failure and the consequent withdrawal of the operational teams back to the Western borders and eventually onto the Europe. Massoud Rajavi in Paris declared that the Iranian regime enjoyed only 10-15 percent of public support and promised its overthrow in a one to three-year-long period.
As the first reaction to this failure, Rajavi determined two successive short-time and long-time plans for overthrow. However, recalling forces to abroad and their exit from Iran led even the most optimistic MKO members to be pessimistic about the made claims. As such, the first signs of challenge between the leadership of Rajavi and the rank and file appeared. After a while, the Iranian regime managed to control the crises completely which affected the status of Mojahedin and its alias, the National Council of Resistance. Deeply mired, it was impossible for Mojahedin to either change and reform the existing conditions or continue their adopted policies. Niyabati expounds on the conditions leading to the development of ideological revolution as follows:
It was impossible to do with the existing conditions due to the internal discrepancies within the sole democratic alternative whose present fragile political alliance hardly moved on the past line on the one hand, and the inevitable backwash of MKO’s failed strategy of overthrow in short-time within the organization and all around the world on the other hand. 20
It was the same case within the NCR. Those NCR members who were deceived to join on the pretext of short-time overthrowing of the Iranian regime and mainly aimed to achieve their own objectives were instigating a second crisis. Naturally, it was Rajavi who was the target of all accusations. In this regard, Niyabati says:
It was even worse in political stage. Mojahedin’s failure to overthrow the regime in short-term and to integrate, claiming to be the sole democratic alternative, anti-monarch and anti-cleric political parties put heavy pressure from the inside and outside on Mojahedin. It was self-evident that Rajavi was the one to be accused. 16
As the critics challenged the leadership increasingly, the first stages of the ideological revolution were planned in order to control the internal crises. Almost all the MKO ex-members refer to the challenge as the main factor leading to the ideological revolution. Failing to present convincing explanations, Mojahedin accuse dissatisfied members and critics in different ways and label them with a variety of names. Bijan Niyabati evaluates the mechanism and the necessity of the ideological revolution similarly. He reviews the interval between the declared armed struggle phase up to the meeting of Rajavi with Tareq Aziz and points to the fact that the ideological revolution was the sole solution to overcome from the strategic failure of the organization. Summarizing the course of events from 1981 to 1984, Mojahedin are convinced that a shock is assential to control the internal crises of the organization:
The year 1983 was the decisive year in all political, military, strategic, and ideological stages. The encountered cul-de-sac in political, military, and armed resistance as well as the proven inability to overthrow the regime in short-term, which was evident in late 1982 and was proved to be impossible through 1983, forced two options on Mojahedin. It had to either submit to the existing conditions or resort to politics or, by embracing all internal, external, and international consequences of resorting to armed warfare and violent overthrow of the regime, lean to the left and yield to radicalism. 17
The most probable reaction on the part of the members was predicted to be a split in the organization. The opposition of dissidents who played a key role in the organization, led the officials to give priority to confront and overcome the threat of another schism. As Niyabati writes:
It was a prepared condition only if one out of many members of the time’s political bureau or central committee, who were brilliant campaigners against the two regimes, moved on a different path and overtly questioned the failed guerrilla armed struggle. Among the other lower-rankings, problem-makers like Parviz Yaqubi and Saeed Shahsavandi and so were enough to sound the alarm.21
Finally, to become immunized against any risk of split and demise, the organization resorted to the ideological revolution. Since the rank and file’s challenge with the leader was highly probable due to the strategic failure of the organization, the ideological revolution mainly aimed at keeping the leadership out of the reach of any criticism and entrusting him an unquestionable ideological and political status. Niyabati believes:
To protect revolution against reactionary moves and practices of exploitation, the sole solution is to immune the organization and its leadership against splitting and disintegration. 21
Thus, the ideological revolution was devised as a firewall and immunity that protected the organization against any form of demise. However, the avalanche-like detachment of MKO and NCRI members well indicate that the organization was stepping onto a path of deviation both in principles and leadership.
The quotes are all from Bijan Niyabati’s A Different Look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, originally in Persian.
Bahar Irani – Mojahedin.ws – November 3, 2007