Massoud Rajavi, affected by leftist and political cultic relations, grabbed hold of religious considerations to immunize himself against encountered challenges and criticisms and hence, stabilizing his unquestionable leadership in MKO. A significant point to be mentioned is Rajavi’s misusing of religious and ideological factors simultaneously. Singleton elaborates on the interpretation Rajavi made of democracy and responsibility of leaders writing:
Rajavi’s idea of democracy has always been that everybody has the chance of choosing a leader once in their life. As far as he is concerned, people chose either him or Khomeini. After that, the responsibility lay only with the leader, not the individual. People should have no moral guilt if they are totally obedient to the leader. Therefore, good and bad are not for the individual to decide. Members are not even responsible before God because the leader has sacrificed himself to take all their responsibility before God. 1
In fact, Rajavi pursued two objectives. On the one hand, he was likely to convince members to carry out organizational tasks submissively and on the other hand, he was after making himself free from any challenge and criticism. As singleton puts into words, Rajavi justifies his policies as follows:
Later Rajavi implied in his speeches that if such a leader has done his job well enough, then he starts a relationship with the Imam Zaman (the last and still awaited Imam in Shiite Islam) and therefore has direct contact with God. He brought examples from Prophet Mohammad and compared himself to the Shiite Imams. The result of this was to create a mentality of complete lack of responsibility, which would allow the person to take part in suicide bombings or Forouq-e Javidan or any other actions. 2
There are parallel instances of the same mechanisms used by other cults concerning the immunity of leaders against challenges. A look at the statements made by former cult members may bring into eyes the similarities found between cults in this regard. Steven Hassan, a detached cult member himself, refers to the mechanisms used by Marshall Applewhite, his cult leader, and writes:
Charismatic cult leaders often make extreme claims of divine or "otherworldly" power to exercise influence over their members. Many legitimate religions have had powerful figures who have inspired enormous dedication in people. Being a powerful leader is not inherently wrong, though it carries a high potential for abuse. A group becomes destructive when its leader actively uses such power to deceive members and to rob them of their individuality and free will. For example, I was told to surrender my free will (viewed as Satanic) to God’s representative, Moon, and his sub-leaders. Marshall Applewhite told followers that an alien entity was speaking through him, and used this message to justify his absolute control over their lives. Leaders of numerous groups-including the Twelve Tribes, International Churches of Christ, and Jehovah’s Witnesses-claim it is God’s will that members follow them. 3
The effects Stalin had on Rajavi has not to be ignored. Rajavi followed Stalin who claimed to assume political as well as ideological leadership of Marxism and introduced himself as he unquestionable interpreter of Marxist principles. In fact, opposition to Stalin was considered as opposition to Marxist ideology rather than Stalin’s political and strategic theories. As a result, his opponents were considered ideological deviants and were accused of betrayal, espionage, being agents of capitalism, and were sentenced to death by Stalin. Before the development of ideological revolution, Rajavi like Stalin favored democratic centralism and council leadership. Contrary to what is common in MKO at the time being, its organizational principles and pamphlets have referred to leader’s criticism as an organizational necessity:
The necessity of establishing democracy is not just for the sake of claiming to have democracy in the organization (as a liberalist decoration), rather its full implementation aims to revise the decisions made by the organization and its leader on the part of the rank-and-file who are in direct contact with the public and immune leadership against errors and deviations. Since, the leader responsible for decision-makings is likely to make mistakes and is not free from error. 4
The ideological revolution of Mojahedin was initiated under the influence of cultic relations to justify unquestionable as well as cultic leadership of Rajavi by means of controlling mechanisms and brainwashing techniques. It managed to immune leader against all likely criticisms and challenges; from then on the dissidents were known to be the deviated and any posed question an unforgivable sin. The leader was no more responsible fir organizational errors and failures but it was on rank-and-files. As an example, after the failure of the operation Eternal Light, Rajavi accused members and absolved himself from assuming its responsibility. From a psychological point of view, this kind of relationship puts the leader always in an offensive position and members in a position of responsiveness to leader as is common in almost all cults.
1. Anne Singleton, Saddam’s private Army, Iran-Interlink, 2003.
3. Hassan, Steven, releasing the bonds, Freedom of mind press, 2000, p.4.
4. The study of the possibility of democratic centralism or the difference between scientific and non-scientific doubt in organizational issues, MKO publication,1980, pp. 40-43.