Errors of a cult leader; Opposition to ideological revision
The crushing coup over the body of the organization following the mass arrests in 1971 as well as the ideological schism of MKO in 1975 were two alarming incidents that could well help its leaders to start a thorough analysis of strategic and ideological failures so as to make revisions to overcome further encountered challenges. Although the former incident gave the warning and made the remnant cadres and the Central Council to seat analyzing the past errors, yet, as their analyses failed to be accurate and precise, it added more pile of errors to those already leading the organization to a serious state. The role of Masoud Rajavi in all these deteriorating process is known to have been critical. However, the failure in the identification of the main source of impasse within the organization intensified the crises and resulted in the ideological schism of MKO into two wings of Marxist and non-Marxist in 1975.
In any case, the organization achieved partial recovery from the 1971 coup due to the social support it had broadened among different factions and classes of religious and bourgeois as well as the capability of some Central Council members like Ahmad Rezaee. However, it took the organization no long to suffer its schism in 1975. It is said that from the blow of 1971 onwards, the policy of the organization turned out to be in apparent contradiction to the religious principles established by the early Mojahedin leading to substantial discrepancies not accounted for by the newly formed leading cadre. Also, there are some evidences that a number of high-rankings had converted to Marxism prior to the mass arrests. According to Dr. Karim Rastegar, a former member who was witnessing the course of events during 1970s:
In 1971, I was sent to section 4 in Qasr prison. Many MKO rank and files as well as all high-rankings were there including Reza Bakeri, Bahman Bazargani, Mehdi Khosroshahi, Musa Khiabani, and Masoud Rajavi. There were heated ideological discussions there and many expressed their viewpoints. In other words, they openly declared their conversion to Marxism. 1
The members’ false perception of the true nature of Islam as well as leaders’ negligence in conceptualizing Islamic principles resulted in the repulsion of Islamic orders and conversion to Marxism on the part of a great number of Mojahedin. As Abrahamian puts into words:
According to the Marxist Mojahedin, their ‘political consciousness’ had been raised once they began to study systematically ‘dialectical materialism’, especially the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao Tse-tung. Hence, they claimed, Marxism had revealed to them the fallacies of Islam. 2
The Marxist Mojahedin were neither raw recruits nor ideological simpletons. On the contrary, among them were many surviving intellectuals of the early Mojahedin like Taqi Shahram, Bahram Aram, and Vahid Afrakhteh whose conversion led to the domination of Marxist ideology over the organization. However, Rajavi issued an order to keep their conversion secret. Consequently, converted members maintained their presence and activities in the organization following a dual policy.
The majority of those observing Rajavi’s performance indicate that his passivity, negligence, and indifference caused some problematic members such as Taqi Shahram, Bahram Aram enter the central committee while they were known to be Marxist. Mohammad Mehdi Jafari, an eyewitness, states:
They [Shahram and Aram] concealed their Marxist inclination as they joined the organization and when the top leaders of the organization were arrested and executed, they started to declare their conversion to Marxism openly. Some revisionists such as Aram, Shahram, and Afrakhteh dared to express their opposition to Islam and conversion to Marxism due to the weak personality of top officials like Masoud Rajavi and Masoud Bazargani. 3
There were some intellectual members warning Rajavi against the forthcoming crises even before the declaration of the Marxists wing’s manifesto in which the ideological position of Mojahedin had been explained; however, Rajavi acted indifferently and even accused those members of having dogmatic views, hence paving the way for the occurrence of the great schism of 1975. One of those members was Dr. Karim Rastegar who repeatedly notified Rajavi that how risky the ideological metamorphosis could be but he paid no heed. Even when Rajavi was convinced that Taqi Shahram, the guerrilla fighter blamed for the 1975 schism, was about to expand Marxist views within the organization, he told Karim Rastegar that the world of politics necessitated it to ignore some issues; otherwise, they would be blamed for their past mistakes. Yet again, Rastegar insisted on his viewpoints and asked Rajavi for preventive measures but he said:
Shut up! We are a political group. In a political group, withdrawal means suicide. You will be dismissed if I hear you tell other members that the organization is ideologically problematic. You have to either obey my words or quit the organization. 4
Lotfollah Meisami, an MKO former member, expounds on the fact that Rajavi resorted to a variety of methods to prevent ideological revision of organizational principles and preserved the dialectical and dualistic policy of MKO. For instance, he asked critics and dissident members to work individually on their viewpoints. Evidently, they failed to come to a valid conclusion on their own. Then, suffering from isolation, they were compelled to ignore their ideology and conform to the group’s set of beliefs.
Rajavi deliberately kept silent up to the declaration of the manifesto of schism. Then, he promised to revise the organizational principles of MKO having another look at Islamic doctrines. However, after the victory of Islamic revolution in Iran, as Rastegar asserts, he broke his promise and moved on his past career to synthesize Islam and Marxism to form a dialectical ideology to achieve his primary objective of assuming an egocentric political power.
1. An interview with Dr. Karim Rastegar, Cheshmandaz Weekly, No. 21.
2. Abrahamian, Ervand. The Iranian Mojahedin, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, p. 146
3. Meisami, Lotfollah; Those who went away.
4. An interview with Dr. Karim Rastegar, Cheshmandaz Weekly, No. 21.