Call to Arms: Iran’s Marxist Revolutionaries

Pages: 528
Subject: History, Middle East, Politics
Series: Radical Histories of the Middle East
Imprint: Oneworld Academic

Call to Arms: Iran’s Marxist Revolutionaries

Formation and Evolution of the Fada'is, 1964–1976

Ali Rahnema

A groundbreaking study of the Iranian People's Fada'i Guerrillas, their ideology, actions and impact on the 1979 revolution
9781786079855 (7 Jan 2021)
RRP £35.00 / US$45.00

The Book

On 8 February 1971, Marxist revolutionaries attacked the gendarmerie outpost at the village of Siyahkal in Iran's Gilan province. Barely two months later, the Iranian People's Fada'i Guerrillas officially announced their existence and began a long, drawn-out urban guerrilla war against the Shah's regime.

In Call to Arms, Ali Rahnema provides a comprehensive history of the Fada'is, beginning by asking why so many of Iran's best and brightest chose revolutionary Marxism in the face of absolutist rule. He traces how radicalised university students from different ideological backgrounds morphed into the Marxist Fada'is in 1971, and sheds light on their theory, practice and evolution. While the Fada'is failed to directly bring about the fall of the Shah, Rahnema shows they had a lasting impact on society and they ultimately saw their objective achieved.

Additional Information

Subject History, Middle East, Politics
Series Radical Histories of the Middle East
Pages 528
Imprint Oneworld Academic


About the Author

Ali Rahnema is Professor of Economics at the American University of Paris. He is the author of An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography of Ali Shari‘ati, Behind the 1953 Coup in Iran and Superstition as Ideology in Iranian Politics.


‘Ali Rahnema has produced the most comprehensive and deeply engaging narrative to date of the revolutionary left in Iran during the 1970s… A masterwork, a must-read!'

- Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

‘Meticulous and riveting, this book works like a time-tunnel, taking us back to experience "first-hand” the dramatic heroics and painful tragedy of radical political opposition in 1960s-1970s Iran.'

- Afshin Matin-Asgari, author of Both Eastern and Western: An Intellectual History of Iranian Modernity

‘Delivers like a ray of hope… This book is an act of redemption, not just of the Iranian Marxist revolutionaries but of the spirit of the age that demanded armed uprising against tyranny.'

- Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Call to Arms is a significant study of Iran's militant left in the 1960s and 1970s. By exploring a broad range of primary and secondary source material it closely examines the formation and operational dynamics of Iran's radical opposition during the Cold War.'

- Ali Gheissari, Professor of History, University of San Diego

‘Rahnema has done the staggeringly difficult task of offering us a meticulously researched history of the life and times of the Fadaʾis in late-Pahlavi Iran.'

- Roham Alvandi, Associate Professor of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements



1  Violence as a political option?

  • Demonizing the armed opposition

  • Why resort to political violence?

  • The four Iranian Marxist theoreticians of armed struggle

2  Hasan Zia-Zarifi's account of why armed struggle

  • The culprit: Absolutist despotic monarchism

  • Reflections from prison

3  Amir-Parviz Pouyan's account of why armed struggle

  • Literature in the service of politics

  • Armed struggle: Rational or irrational? A necessary theoretical digression

  • Pouyan on the necessity of armed struggle as a rational choice

  • Refutation of the theory of survival

  • Pouyan's incisive impact

4  Masʿoud Ahmadzadeh's accounts of why armed struggle

  • Demystifying classical notions of how and when to take up arms

  • The fruitful retreat

  • The Debray factor: From Havana to Tehran via Mashhad

  • Learning from the past

  • Breaking with the old sacred cows

  • Armed struggle by the revolutionary vanguard

5  Bijan Jazani's accounts of why armed struggle

  • Mysteries around What a Revolutionary Should Know

  • To confront a monarchical military dictatorship

  • Revolutionary intellectuals: The dynamite of the revolutionary movement

  • Jazani's paradoxical hints

  • Revolutionary agents and the question of leadership in a despotic or democratic Iran

6  The Tudeh Party's awkward tango with armed struggle

  • Ideological rift over revolution-making

  • Iranian students take sides

  • The Tudeh Party's reluctant approval of armed struggle

  • The Tudeh Party pushes back against armed struggle

  • Revolution means employing peaceful methods of struggle

  • The Tudeh Party denounces armed struggle

  • What did the revolutionary Marxists think of the Tudeh Party?

7  Monarchists, Maoists, and the Tudeh Party in unison: armed struggle is counterrevolutionary adventurism

  • For Nikkhah the red revolution turned white

  • Kourosh Lashaʾi's rejection of romanticism and embrace of realism

  • The Tudeh Party: We told you so

8  Armed struggle and Marxist canonists

  • Historical determinism or revolutionary voluntarism?

  • Marx and Engels: Wavering over the role of violence?

  • Lenin on violence, unequivocal?

  • Trotsky: Dissonance between intellectual revolutionary consciousness and backward economic conditions invites violence

9  Armed struggle and Marxist revolutionaries

  • Mao Tse-tung's revolutionary authority

  • Che Guevara's revolution-making to overthrow dictators

  • Carlos Marighella: Unleashing violence to end dictatorial violence

  • Marighella in Iran via Baghdad

10  Formative years of the Jazani group

  • Jazani the entrepreneur

  • Whence it came

  • Student political activities

  • First phase of the Jazani Group

  • Jazani and The Message of University Students

  • Second phase of the Jazani Group

  • The political and propaganda branch

  • The operational and military branch

  • The military operation that should have happened but did not

  • Ghafour Hasanpour's networks: Recruiting behind the scenes

11 Jazani Group compromised

  • First raids

  • The remnants of the Jazani Group under siege

  • Bank robberies

  • The decision to leave the country

  • The final nabs

12  The new Hasanpour, Ashraf, and Safaʾi-Farahani Group: Preparations and operations

  • Picking up the broken pieces

  • Organizing armed struggle: Three teams

  • The first urban operations of the H-A-S Group

13 The Pouyan, Ahmadzadeh, and Meftahi Group

  • The dissimilar but inseparable Pouyan and Ahmadzadeh

  • Enter ʿAbbas Meftahi

  • Pouyan's circles at Mashhad and Tabriz

  • Ahmadzadeh's membership in Hirmanpour's circle

  • Meftahi's Sari and Tehran circles

  • The P-A-M Group's military operations before Siyahkal

  • An ethical digression: To press or not to press the trigger

14 Armed struggle in Iran: Rural or urban

  • Theoretical positioning

  • Ahmadzadeh gently parts with the Cuban model

  • Jazani: Rural Iran not the ideal revolutionary base

  • Jazani's change of heart: Emphasis on rural/mountainous warfare

15  Merger discussions for "Iran's revolutionary armed movement”

  • The painful and slow process of negotiation

  • Last hurdle: Convincing the P-A-M rank and file

  • The mountain group's five-month reconnaissance mission

  • Postponements

16  The H-A-S Group hounded

  • The beans are spilled

  • The arrests begin

  • The mountain team compromised

17  The Siyahkal operation

  • Assault on the Siyahkal Gendarmerie Station on 19 Bahman

  • The aftermath of the assault

  • The nineteen-day odyssey of the retreating guerrillas

18 Assessing the Siyahkal strike

  • Objectives of the Siyahkal strike: Ahmadzadeh, Ashraf, Safaʾi-Farahani

  • Siyahkal as a military operation: Fumbles and blunders

  • The regime's first public response to the Siyahkal strike

  • The Ranking Security Official's spectacle

19  The Hamid Ashraf factor

  • Schooling

  • Ashraf in the eyes of fellow combatants

  • Three years of guerrilla struggle in perspective

  • Ashraf violent and authoritarian?

20 Hemming the guerrillas or cultivating a guerrilla culture?

  • The Shah declares the end of terrorist activities in Iran

  • The Golesorkhi affair

  • Revolutionaries of the Film School of the Iranian National Television

  • Slaying heroes: Fuel on fire

21 Jazani's questioning of armed struggle

  • Challenging the theory and practice of the Fadaʾis

  • Looking for new forms of struggle

  • Underlining the role of legal methods of struggle

  • A matter of trade-off

22  Softly disarming armed struggle to regain the trust of the masses

  • Step one: The correct stage in the movement

  • Step two: Walking on two legs

  • Step three: Iran's paradoxical political condition, democratic and despotic

  • Step four: The guerrillas' conflicting remits, or unity of opposites

  • Step five: Armed propaganda and the combined method of struggle

  • Two interpretations of armed struggle

  • The issue of objective conditions of revolution

  • How long would it take the masses to join the movement?

  • Saving the armed movement from the unhealthy leftist tendency

23  Jazani's ideological offensive in prison

  • Spreading the good word

  • Open schism in prison

  • Where did the original members of the Jazani Group stand?

  • The secretive delinking of armed struggle from the movement

  • The misunderstood or conflicted theoretician

24  The Fadaʾi interface, inside, outside prison

  • Indirect interactions between Ashraf and Jazani in 1973

  • On the correct method of struggle: The Fadaʾis and the Star Group

  • Summer 1974: Armed struggle as strategy and tactic has the upper hand

  • Reading about the correct method of struggle in People's Combat

  • Familiarity with and reaction to Jazani's works outside prisons

25 Fadaʾi leadership debating correct methods of struggle

  • A discreet Jazani special issue of People's Combat

  • Growing a second leg?

  • Political activities in 1976 discussions with the Marxist Mojahedin

  • Does Ashraf take sides in May/June 1976?

26  Bird's-eye view of armed struggle (1971-1976)

  • The guerrillas' persistent presence

  • Guerrillas highlighted: Partial transparency

  • The news blackout and the Fadaʾis' rising success

  • Changing tides: Expansion, exposure, and beleaguered

  • The Fadaʾis' relations with Libya, Palestinian groups, and the Soviet Union

  • The shock of state terrorism

  • Fadaʾis under attack

  • The Fadaʾis without Ashraf

27  Guerrillas conducting the regime's requiem

  • Students at home beat on the drums of war

  • University turmoil and campus guards

  • Policy of zero tolerance

  • The student backlash to the Golesorkhi affair

  • Winds of change

28  The regime's requiem: The players abroad

  • Iranian students abroad rallying against the regime

  • Iranian students abroad take their cue from the guerrillas

  • Radical methods to put the Shah's regime on the spot

29  Prelude to the Shah's free fall

  • The Western press reveals secrets

  • Disdain for torture

  • The grand anti-Shah conspiracy

  • A last-ditch effort against the guerrilla-CISNU coalition

  • Beating a fatal retreat






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