Radicalization of the Pre-Revolution Student Movement Abroad

The first issue of Nameh Parsi was published in April of 1959. At the same time, preparatory work for convening the first Congress of the Confederation, to be held in Heidelberg, continued. It is important to note that contrary to the common perception—the perception that might have well been created by the Tudeh Party itself—neither the Tudeh party nor the National Front had much role in preparing this Congress. Indeed it is primarily the students sympathetic to the Society of Iranian Socialists that led the work of convening the Congress. Gradually as the Tudeh party and the National Front increased their power, they further isolated the Socialist group.

After the Heidelberg Congress, future meetings were held in London, Paris and Lausanne. The number of students participating in these gatherings, as well as the other activities of the Confederation, saw a rapid increase. Amongst the new demands made by the students in December of 1961 was the right of women to vote. Within two years, this too, like the demand for college graduates to teach in the Iranian country-side, would become a principle of the White Revolution.

In January of 1964, the third Congress was convened. By then the student movement was deeply influenced by the victories of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions. A new kind of radicalism, emphasizing revolutionary violence as the sole path to liberation, began to develop roots amongst the Iranians. In Iran, the unsuccessful premiership of Ali Amini, and the fact that the mass uprising of people in Iran in 1963 was brutally suppressed, helped further this process of radicalization. The fact that the Shah’s regime had successfully eliminated all political groups and organizations in Iran meant that by 1964 the Confederation emerged as the sole political organization articulating the demands of the Iranian people.

In spite of these changes in the overall intellectual and political atmosphere, the Society of Iranian Socialists continued to insist on a reformist path. And thus by the time of the third Congress, in London, their political fortune began to decline. The old leadership of the Tudeh party was equally incapable of changing with the new circumstances. The fact that they were a satellite of the Soviet Union, and had to follow the Big Brother’s party line further contributed to their political sclerosis.

Between January of 1960, when the first Congress was convened, to January of 1964, drastic changes had occurred in the nature of the demands of the Iranian students. Opposition to the despotic rule of Mohammed Reza Shah had by then emerged as a key element of the students’ political agenda.