The ideological schism of 1975 constitutes one of the critical phases of MKO. Following the mass arrests of 1971, the leadership cadre found it necessary to review the past events to find the reasons underlying the strategic failure of the organization. Since two ranking members of organization, Taqi Shahram and Bahram Aram, were converted to Marxism this review led to the overall ideological shift of MKO to Marxism. However, one of the organization activists, Dr. Karim Rastegar, informed Rajavi, already in prison, of the conversion of the organization leaders. Not only did Rajavi desist to make any reaction to their perversive activities but also accused Rastegar of cynicism and fundamentalism up to the time when the ideological shift of the organization was declared openly through Marxism wing manifesto.
This event influenced the imprisoned members to a great extent and many more converted to Marxism and declared it openly. Although after the declaration of the Marxism wing Rajavi falsely made a promise to make his best to modify and revise the ideological principles of MKO, he failed to do so and instead held grab to ideological and political purging of those prisoners who were in favor of religious leadership in Iran. The consequences of the declaration of the Marxism wing inside and outside prison necessitated it for Rajavi to deny having any relation and inclination to Marxism since the past history of Marxists in preventing social movements of Iran like the destructive activities of Tudeh party in the course of nationalization of oil industry and betrayal of Shahram and Aram led to the intensification of the sensitivity of religious prisoners toward Marxists. Then, Rajavi was expected to revise organizational principles taking a firm position against Marxists and in favor of religious prisoners.
However, all those trying to find the roots of the June 1981 crises are unanimous that the position taking of Rajavi in this phase was intentionally aimed at keeping distance from religious forces and especially clerical leaders while inside prison. They acknowledge the fact that his twelve-point declaration, first distributed orally from inside the prison, formed the main pillars of his position taking and he acted amateurishly in demarcating with the ideological shift of the organization and its founders. Two out of the twelve points were more effective in intensifying the crises between Rajavi and religious prisoners. One pointed out that the organization would keep its previous position toward Marxists. In other words, it considered the converted members as an opportunist group not real Marxists so there would be no change in the organization relations towards them. The second and the most important point was triggering a more intense reaction on the part of religious members calling them reactionaries.
It is evident that jailed Mojahedin under the leadership of Rajavi considered Marxist members as their ideological allies and even preferred them to members with religious inclinations. These events as well as Rajavi’s declaration letter intensified the crises inside prisons even more. Saeed Shahsavandi, already an intimate friend of Rajavi, putting the contents of the twelve-point letter in writing expounds on the course of events after the declared manifesto of Marxist Mojahedin. Almost all members except Rajavi believed in the necessity of revising the ideological principles of the organization at that particular period of time. According to Shahsavandi:
I dare say that almost all high rankings but Rajavi came to the conclusion that the organization had made some mistakes in the past that were to be modified and these modifications were to have religious and in political terms rightist inclinations. 1
He further refers to the internal and external trends inside prison trying to revise the fundamentals and principles of MKO and revive Mojahedin making them free from dualistic views replaced by pure religious position and Rajavi’s opposition to these trends by issuing his twelve-point declaration. As he puts into words, almost all political trends and individuals were to find the roots of MKO schism and also a solution to terminate the crises. Yet, Rajavi paid no attention to the existing conditions and issued his twelve-point “declaration of MKO position toward leftist perverted opportunist trend” worsening the conditions.
It has to be pointed out that some prominent figures outside prison like ayatollah Motahari wrote a letter to ayatollah Khomeini, at the time living in Najaf in exile, referring to the deviation and schism of Mojahedin asking him to find an immediate solution for their challenges:
Marxist views have been slinked into some political groups like Mojahedin. They were primarily a political group and are gradually turning to a religious sect with their own ideology and interpretations from Islam. They claim to have come to a point where they no longer need religious instructions and teachings. They respect both Marx as Shiite Imams and also claim to be true Muslims. Others have converted to Marxism declaring it openly. 2
1. The interview of Saeed Shahsavandi with the voice of Iran, part 38.
2. A review of the life of ayatollah Motahari
Research Bureau – Mojahedin.ws – January 18, 2009