Radicalization of the Pre-Revolution Student Movement Abroad

The radical turn amongst the activists of the National Front and the new Revolutionary Organization of the Tudeh Party was sure to have far-reaching impact on the activities of the Confederation. There was henceforth a more systematic attempt to increase the social base of the organization, and emphasize the necessity of unity in its ranks. In early days, there had been constant tensions between these two groups in their joint struggle in the student movement. One consequence of this tension was that eventually, during the Paris Congress, the Confederation was split. The fact that the Tudeh party invariably followed the Soviet line, and the reality of the anti-Communist sentiments of the Front all added fuel to these early controversies. When finally, the Tudeh Party was all but expelled from the Confederation, and when the Front itself turned more and more into a leftist organization, the source of the tensions that hitherto plagued the Confederation dissipated. As far as the Front was concerned, the Tudeh Party was guilty of treason in the matter of the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry. Furthermore, in the mind of the Front leadership, the party had acted irresolutely in fighting the 1953 coup. But the leaders of the new Revolutionary Organization offered a clear slate; they had no role in the party decisions at the time of the coup and thus were not burdened by its guilt. Their advocacy of revolutionary armed struggle meant that while they enjoyed all the glamour that had once been attached to the image of the Tudeh Party, they suffered none of the negative aura that by then surrounded the party.

Another factor helping this new spirit of alliance and cooperation was that the Revolutionary Organization, following the Chinese Communist line of creating a united front with elements of what was in the jargon of the time called the National Bourgeoisie, enthusiastically sought to cooperate with the Front as the bono fide Iranian representative of the much vaunted National Bourgeoisie. For their part, the Front had all but completely broken from its own past and emerged as a leftist organization.

The unity of the Front with the Marxist-Leninist did have one negative consequence for the Front itself. Moderate religious forces, led by figures like Bani Sadre, were opposed to what they figured was a too cozy of a relationship between the Third National Front and the Revolutionary Organization, and eventually, in protest to this all too intimate alliance, they split from the Front.

As these changes were taking place in the ranks of the Confederation, a new larger wave of Iranian students began to arrive in Europe and America. They were of a new generation, with no direct experience of the coup and its aftermath. They were politically schooled in the days when the struggle of the Viet Namese and the Algerian and Cuban people was at its height. The new generation sought quick and often violent solutions to the problems plaguing Iranian society. Not only the number of Iranian students coming to the West increased, but the social fabric and economic class from which they came changed. Hitherto, coming to Europe and America had been more or less in the monopoly of the children of the higher classes. As a result of the changes brought about by the White Revolution, where the very demography of Iranian society changed, and as a consequence of increases in the oil revenue, a new urban middle class emerged. Their sons and daughters, and occasionally even the children of the working and peasant classes themselves found their way to Western universities. They would often join the ranks of the Confederation, and gradually and surely changed the fabric of life in that organization.