Radicalization of the Pre-Revolution Student Movement Abroad

With its ranks swelling in numbers, and with radicalism on the rise, the Confederation was suddenly faced with the daunting task of trying to save the life of Parviz Nikhah, and his comrades who were jailed on the charge of conspiring to kill the shah. In heat of the vast, and energizing struggle to save Nikhkah, in June of 1965, the Confederation organized a seminar in the city of Dussoldorf to study the future policies of the student movement. In the final resolutions of the seminar, crucial and consequential language was introduced, advocating that “in countries like Iran, students can and should play a revolutionary role.” The resolution went on to declare that “for a better future, and in order to gain their rights in society, students must struggle for a radical change.” It was in fact the Revolutionary Organization that had first advocated the line about the revolutionary role of students and as a result, in a short time, it succeeded in attracting to its ranks a rather larger number of new members and fellow-travelers.

During this period, the leaders of the Confederation, when analyzing the conditions of the student movement, came to the conclusion that, “under the current despotic conditions in Iran, no syndicate can simply work toward purely syndacalist goals. In other words it can not take abstract positions on specific issues and ignore the over-all situation. If there are such organizations, then it is clear that they can not be construed as progressive. In the final analysis it will be nothing other than a reactionary and state-organized syndicate. The question is not whether and to what extent we can articulate purely syndicalist demands, and fight for them, while ignoring the larger political struggle. The real question is that under the despotic and freedom-killing Iranian regime, the masses can not articulate any of their demands…In consequence, any group or organization that wants to struggle for the demands of a specific group, or social strata or class, has no choice but to go through a political struggle. The Confederation is one of these organizations. While it is not a political party, and has no specific program or ideology, it also has no choice but to go through this political struggle. Our movement is thus inseparably connected to the anti-imperialist struggle. The more we can consolidate our unity with the masses, and with their interests and demands, the more we can increase our power as an organization and attain our demands as students. We can easily close our eyes and ears to the general struggle for freedom and independence, and then we shall see that we can indeed gain our specific student demands without even a struggle. We shall discover that those in power will readily line our pockets with cash and other goodies, and might even invite us to share in power. But is this really our goal, and is this really why a group like the Confederation, or other progressive organizations, have been formed?” The final conclusion of the leadership at the time was simple enough: any group that fights for its interests has no choice but to engage in the political struggle.

The eight Congress of the Confederation coincided with the shah’s trip to Germany in May of 1967. Vast and vastly successful demonstrations were organized against the trip. The success of this endeavor further moved the organization to a full-fledged political opposition group. The Secretariat of the Confederation at the time had published an article entitled “On the Eve of a Big Congress,” and in it proclaimed, “in the final analysis, the Confederation, often referred to as the Iranian student movement is in fact engaged in a long-term struggle against agents of oppression and misery in Iran and all those who benefit from these dark conditions. Tactical and temporary and superficial gains is not what we are after. The Confederation is now a part of—and not an appendage to– the anti-imperialist forces of Iran and it has already torn asunder the mythical and imaginary boundaries of ‘limited syndicalist struggle.’”

Another crucial turn of event took place around the time of the twelfth Congress in March of 1971. At the time, Siyavoush Behzadi, the prosecutor general of military tribunals in Iran declared the Confederation an illegal organization. An infamous law, known commonly as “the black law” and passed during the reign of Reza Shah to fight the growth of the communist movement was this used as the legal basis for the new policy. The law declared that membership in communist organizations, or any group that advocated communal ownership of property was detrimental to national security and thus against the law. A media blitscreek was organized against the Confederation in Iran. Students were given till 21 of March, 1971 to officially inform Iranian embassies in the west of their decision to rescind any and all contacts with the Confederation. Failure to do so would place them in breach of law, and subject them to prosecution.