As stated, a cult to form a totalitarian society needs to bring about a profound change in members for achieving oneness with cult. Depending on the cult’s sphere of activity, the change is programmed under a variety of identified values to create receptivity to a new ideology.
There are countless ways and different avenues, and usually no single motivation, that drives people with different predispositions into cults. Many go to cults through their heads and some other go through their heart and emotions. However, what is of worth notification is that when a person melts in a cult, his/her whole strategy of attribution undergoes a total change and comes to believe that the new adopted ideology is the truest one in the world. There are also those who pretend to be followers because of the fearsome atmosphere of the cult and the employed measures of castigation. As Hoffer describes the converts of a cult:
Both they who convert and they who are converted by coercion need the fervent conviction that the faith they impose or are forced to adopt is the only true one. With- Jut this conviction, the proselytizing terrorist, if he is not vicious to begin with, is likely to feel a criminal, and the coerced convert see himself as a coward who prostituted his soul to live. 1
It can well be argued that as the recruits are involved in a group over a longer period of time, through the structure of the group, through new disciplines, through new behaviors and so forth, they shape a new personhood. So, it has a lot to do with when they are evaluated, and how far they’ve come from where they were before. It is the value system of the cults that attracts people to choose the gate opening to the most desired and optimal option; being it an avenue to salvation or terrestrial utopia.
Being recognized a cult of personality after its recognition as a terrorist group, Mojahedin Khalq Organization, MKO/MEK/PMOI, has developed its own terminology of cult values to entrap new recruits and to subjugate the already activists. It borrows the characteristics of a leftist cult proselytizing under a variety of catchy mottos like revolution, social change, freedom, emancipation of women and much more. To achieve the goals, first the members have to undergo a change themselves and the change is enforced through a number of processes if they show signs of reluctance; only the leaders and high ranking cadres seem to have already been acclimated to the changes and the whole body of the rank and file had to suffer the crushing pressure of the changing processes.
Some may question that why MKO insists on compelling the members to adapt themselves to the required changes? It has to be pointed out that MKO’s theoreticians of the group’s internal ideological revolution believe that any system of value has to be tested in a miniature model of society, the organization itself, before being generalized for the actual, real society and overpowering the ruling political power. But the first organizational objectives can be numerated as:
1- To destabilize members’ power of thinking in the face of critical circumstances
2- To prepare for change in the exterior milieu
3- To block members’ contact with the outside world
4- To prevent internal antagonistic moves against the made decisions
5- To get members ready for committing whatever command
6- To grow in members the illusion of being on the right path
7- To detect suspected infiltrators
8- To enforce unquestionable submission and total devotion to the leadership
9- To detach members from all personal attachments
10- To instill into members that they are safe until they are consistent with collective organizational identity
The organization strongly believes that the authority of change is beyond questioning and it is the most urgent task to be accomplished because:
1. It is essential for any ideological alteration
2. It is to legitimize organizational identity
3. It is the criterion to determine ideological disobedience
4. Being passive against it equals to becoming passive and slanting to enemy
5. Any reluctance to undergo it means being overpowered by anti-revolutionary, bourgeois attributes
6. vAnd finally, submission to change means an everlasting attraction towards the pole of the ideological leadership
Once Massoud Rajavi said “the effect indicates the cause”. He meant to say that change sets up the base for the continuation and legitimacy of the organization and it has to be ascertained within the organization through a change in ideological principles and teachings. It eventually crystallized into a cult. The ideological revolution set the door open for the change and Rajavi insisted it was a rebirth that all members necessarily had to go through it:
All have to experience this rebirth. All the sins you have committed comes to an end. Either you leave or accent to change. Make sure nobody remains but revolutionized among the real Mojahedin. Except those who may have not be informed. 2
Rajavi would compare the ideological revolution to a forge wherein the members had to be melted and reshaped as he desired them:
This [ideological revolution] is to test you; we need iron men. We seek new versions of power and capacity. Those Mojahedin who pass through this forge will be more rough and resistant. 3
As stated earlier, it was not a change only intended for the organization but aimed to encompass a grater milieu out of the organization:
Because of the fundamental role of this value system [ideological revolution] in ideology in general, the extent of the consequent changes within it included all the reactions and the individual- organization relations with the widespread scene of social and political sphere. 4
Thus, the ideological revolution turns into a standard to measure the members’ fidelity and commitment to the organization and leadership:
It is the ideological gauge that decides how good you are, and you are bad to the extent of the criticism you receive, and your power of dynamism depends on the change you undergo. 5
The ideological revolution before being considered an extraordinary way of initiating change in Mojaheidn Organization can well be defined as an internal coup d’état to accomplish Rajavi’s own ambitions and promoting him to the highest and unbeatable status of a hegemonic leader and even above that. Explained by Anne Singleton:
It [ideological revolution] is now operating around a pseudo-religious ideology for which Rajavi is the deity. Was the change necessary? Did they have to change in order to survive? It is possible to argue that any organisation has a degree of organic and dynamic change built into it. Also, that it must be flexible enough to make pragmatic alterations to the way it operates as a consequence of both the world it exists in and the demands of the situation it is in direct relation to. But the Mojahedin has done almost the opposite of what could have been expected. Rather than change in response to external demands, the organisation has wilfully ignored these and instead, obeying its own internal dynamic, rendered itself more and more distant from any constituency it might possibly have previously had recourse to for support. This internal dynamic is controlled directly by Rajavi himself and it demands that the organisation, down to every last member, must be kept totally and unquestioningly obedient to him. 6
1. Eric Hoffer; The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, New York: First Perennial Classics 2002, p. 99.
2. Massoud Rajavi’s speech in Paris, 1985.
4. Niyabati, Bijan; A different look at the internal ideological revolution within MKO, Khavaran publication.
5. Mahdi Abrishamchi’s speech on ideological revolution, 1985.
6. Anne Singleton; Saddam’s Private Army, Iran-Interlink, 2003.