Pilot becomes hijacker

Torab Saleth, a participant in the 1979 Iranian revolution, charts how ayatollah Khomeini rose from obscurity to lead the anti-shah mass movement and come to power in a counterrevolution

The shah’s white revolution, by promoting a new layer of super-rich capitalists tied up with the west, had in effect split the traditional ruling class; the most immediate aspect of which was the demotion of three layers traditionally dominant in Iranian society and politics: merchants of the bazaar, absentee landlords and the Shi’ite clergy - a demotion in terms of both economic and political standing.

These three layers had all appeared after the break-up of the Asiatic state and did not necessarily represent three different or in any sense opposing social layers. There was enough overlap of ownership and common interest between them to push them into a ruling bloc at every major historic turning point. In particular, the traditional merchants and the Shi’ite hierarchy enjoyed close historic ties. The merchant’s monopolistic position was sanctified by the local mullah, whilst the merchant in turn was the main financial backer for the clergy. As both had come out of a break-up of the central state - a kind of ‘privatisation’ of previously state-owned functions - they were naturally drawn together whenever confronted by the state. Both of them were also landowners of substantial importance and therefore closely tied to the absentee landlords.

The 1906 Constitutional Revolution showed that even in Asiatic Iran, the capitalist era eventually led to a ‘bourgeois democratic’ opposition within this bloc. The sharpest division that appeared inside the ruling class during that revolution was precisely between those wanting to curtail the power of the absolutist state and those against all forms of democratic change. Sheykh Fazollah Noori - the grand-grand guru for Khomeini - believed democracy to be a “western conspiracy” to destroy Islam. But the outcome of the revolution also proved that the former had already gathered enough strength to defeat the latter (especially when the urban petty bourgeoisie rose up behind the constitutionalists).

As this revolution was against a state which owed its existence mostly to Russian imperialism, the most radical bourgeois democratic currents were also simultaneously anti-Russian (and to a lesser degree anti-British) and thus nationalist. Indeed the very blatant official excuse for the Cossack army’s march on Tehran was to stop the new parliament from granting trade concessions to other - non-Russian - European countries.

It must be said, however, that the integration of Iran into the world imperialist system had not yet gone far enough to give this nationalism an anti-imperialist character. If the revolution had not been defeated, the bourgeois state that emerged would have later found itself in conflict with imperialism, but that defeat also marked the last chance for the indigenous bourgeoisie to create its own independent nation-state.

The decades that followed saw, on the one hand, a gradual weakening of the democratic tendencies in favour of the more backward-looking cliques within the ruling class; and, on the other, a gradual strengthening of the anti-imperialist character of the anti-shah movement. First, Russian imperialism restored the despotic state; then the British stole the nationalists’ thunder by creating a militaristic nation-state from above with the ultra-nationalist Reza Shah on the throne; and - the final nail in the coffin of bourgeois nationalism - the shah himself delivered a programme of change more radical than anything Mohammed Mossadegh, who nationalised the oil industry in 1953, could have ever imagined. By this time the era of bourgeois nationalist anti-imperialism had truly ended.

In the intervening years, the only time bourgeois nationalism reappears as a political current was when Reza Shah was deposed by the Allies during World War II. After the war, a whole series of bourgeois nationalist political parties were created. Although they represented many different and at times even opposing factions, covering the whole spectrum from semi-fascistic monarchists to republican liberals, they nevertheless all united under the umbrella organization of the National Front (under the leadership of Mossadegh). This coalition was on the whole secular and nationalist and kept itself separate from the Shi’ite hierarchy. At first sections of the hierarchy supported the National Front, but their later change of sides in support of the shah and the ease with which the coup of 1953 overthrew Mossadegh’s government put an end to all that.

This paved the way for a reshaping of the divisions within the Iranian ruling class more in tune with the post-war neo-colonialist phase of imperialist domination. Imperialism was no longer interested in pushing back the indigenous bourgeoisie in favour of its own exported capital. It now wanted to enter an era of ‘joint ventures’. Even where its own policies of the earlier periods had blocked the formation of this capitalist class, as in Iran, it now helped to create a new one out of thin air. Thus the shah’s revolution basically plucked a whole chunk out of the old ruling class and used state funds to turn it into a new, ‘modern’ capitalist class. It is precisely here that the so-called nationalist currents lose historical credibility and this is precisely why in response to the shah’s reforms it was the traditionalists - ie, the most reactionary wing of the ruling class - who became champions of an anti-western and anti-shah opposition masquerading as anti-imperialism.

This process was also helped by the nationalists themselves; many of whom had concluded that the defeat of Mossadegh in 1953 was partly due to the lack of a viable unifying ideology capable of placing the National Front at the head of the whole nation. The Freedom Movement (Bazargan’s wing of the National Front) came precisely out of this process; one where a ‘movement back to Islam’ was being proposed as a means of uniting the nation against the shah and his westernisation. By the time the crisis of the shah’s regime had become all too obvious, the only memory of any serious opposition from within the ruling class was that of the early 60s, financed by these ‘traditional’ layers and led by Khomeini.

The capitalist crisis of the 1970s

In statistical terms, by the time of the 1976 census, the new industrial sector (including agro-industries) had outgrown both the traditional agriculture and trade. As the GDP was showing phenomenal rates of growth, sustained over a decade, and as the general expansion of the money economy (with the injection of enormously increased oil revenues) was making even the demoted sections of the ruling class richer than before, none of them really mounted any serious challenge to the shah’s regime.

By the early 1970s his propaganda about the glorious future awaiting Iran under his leadership was ever more strident. All the voices of opposition within the ruling class could be reduced to grovelling: me, me, take me, why not me! Everyone, including the Islamic opposition, was too busy getting rich.

But capitalist growth from above - under a corrupt political system ruled by an even more corrupt royal family, and managed, directed and advised by US ‘consultants’, at best in it only for a quick buck - can, of course, only lead to a corrupt economic system. By the mid-70s, as little as 100 families owned about 80% of the new industrial sector. Except for a few who were also previously rich and powerful, by far the largest section of this new ruling class was made up of those who had got there simply because of their ‘contacts’. One who had been a fixer, say, for a junior member of the royal family (and ‘fixer’ is meant here in the worst sense of the word), was more likely to be granted lucrative contracts than another who had come from many generations of entrepreneurs.

Thus even our ‘modern’ capitalist system reeked of Asiatic despotism! Like a mogul king, the shah was granting exclusive rights to his cronies for the mass production of foreign goods under licence. And of course, the faithful servants would in return assign a whole chunk of shares to the royals. When the royal family escaped in 1979, the shah alone had stashed away $20 billion in foreign banks.

As had been predicted many years earlier, such a crazy method of ‘industrialisation’, that could have been cooked up only by US bankers, was bound to come to a sorry end. By the mid-1970s a deep and ever worsening socio-economic crisis hit Iran. It is a well known fact that even after the 79 revolution, US planners and their CIA watchers still did not know what had hit them, but many of the economic aspects of this crisis were being openly discussed as early as 1974. The basic problem was simple: industrial growth had come to a halt and the shah’s white revolution had run out of steam. The solution of the regime - advised by the same people, it seems, who are advising Obama and Brown today - was also simple: inject more money - oil money - into the economy and keep the bubble going.

Thus, on the verge of the ‘great civilisation’, industrialised Iran was even more dependent on its oil revenues than before. Oil production shot up to a staggering 6.5 million barrels a day. But this simply added inflation to the underlying stagnation. Thus, by 1975 Iran had its first taste of stagflation. More and more factories were bought to produce more and more inferior goods that no-one wanted to buy. Those who had the money would buy better products from abroad - and cheaper. A study by the International Monetary Fund at the time, concluded that the cost of production in Iran was, on average, around 30% higher than in Europe.

The same bazaari merchants who had been pushed out of this ‘new deal’ two decades earlier were now competing with the ‘modern industrialists’. Even after paying either the import duties or the smugglers’ fees, they could still sell cheaper than the internal producers. Bear in mind that the Iranian economy was more or less devoid of any sector producing the means of production. Factories were bought, lock, stock and barrel, from foreign companies. In most cases this also meant importing parts or even the ‘raw’ material specific to the technology from abroad. In effect, the entire Iranian industry was closer to a repackaging plant than modern factory production.

Thus, ‘industrialisation’ based on replacing imported consumer goods soon ran against the rigid boundaries of the internal market. The internal market had became more and more monopolised and parcelled out amongst an ever decreasing group of producers, whilst expansion in external markets was near impossible. How could Iranian capitalists compete with the same western capitalists who had dumped their second-hand technology on them in the first place? Add to this the politically corrupt and dictatorial system, which by now had abandoned even the pretence of a two-party system (Iranians called them the ‘Yes’ and the ‘Yes, Sir’ parties) and replaced it with no less than the Resurrection Party (the ‘I am your obedient servant’ party!), and you have the makings of a deep structural crisis.

The government’s answer was to organise a ‘war on prices’ and a ‘central campaign to boost exports’. The first meant attacking bazaari merchants and traders to maintain the ruling clique’s internal monopoly; the second meant giving freebies to the other corrupt US-backed regimes in the neighbourhood. One would hear that Iran had suddenly become an exporter of things like buses, trucks and fridges to countries like Egypt and Pakistan. In fact, it was all simply a propaganda scam. They were actually being given for free. The shah would, for example, be ‘encouraged’ by his US masters to help Egypt’s Sadat, and he would comply by ‘exporting’ buses and fridges!

The huge increases in oil revenues allowed the shah’s regime to cover up the cracks for a couple of years, but soon the whole edifice began to crumble. The most immediate and embarrassingly obvious aspect of this crisis was the unprecedented explosion in the number of shanty town dwellers in every major city, including and especially the capital of this great civilisation, Tehran. By the summer of 1976, in Tehran alone, the shanty population had grown to around 400,000. They were officially referred to as the ‘out-of-bounds people’: ie, those living outside the city boundaries and for whom the city authorities did not have any responsibility to providing services. That summer there were almost daily clashes with the police in the south of Tehran. Eventually the regime had to bring in the troops to suppress the revolt.

The shanty dwellers were mostly migrants from the countryside, displaced and dislocated from their lands and seeking employment in the new industries of the major cities. In fact the main aim of the land reform, which was initially proposed by Ford Foundation consultants to Mossadegh’s government, was precisely to provide cheap labour for the new industries. The white paper produced for the government was indeed called a plan for ‘increasing labour mobility’. By giving land to some families (35% of the rural population) the government was simultaneously breaking the traditional ties to the rural economy for those who did not get any.

At first, this was not a problem, as the rural migrants were absorbed as soon as they arrived. The rapid growth of agro-industries in the countryside and the huge expansion of ‘industrial towns’ around many major cities - in the process increasing the size of the Iranian working class from around 1.5 to four million - were achieved on the basis of this ‘freed’ labour. But when the growth stopped by the early 70s, the exodus from the countryside did not.

When the results of the 1976 censuses came out, the problems of Iranian society were starkly obvious. Although the new class of wage-earners had grown tremendously (and was still showing growth), the ‘inactive’ (unemployed) sector was now much larger too. The trend in further concentration and centralisation of capital in the hands of a smaller number of capitalists was also there to be seen, but at the same time the subsistence economy was growing at an even faster rate. After years of the high-speed march towards the great civilisation, reliance on ‘family labour’ was higher in 1976 than 1956.

The inherent contradictions of capitalist development in a backward country in the era of imperialist domination show themselves nowhere better than in this Iranian example.

In the last analysis all such developments have not only reproduced backwardness, but have actually strengthened it. The revolutionary period that opened up after this crisis was, of course, also shaped by this contradiction.

It is interesting to note that after the Iranian revolution a number of western analysts, in their attempt to explain this crisis and draw lessons from it for imperialist policy-makers, came to the conclusion that the shah’s programme of change had gone too far and in too short a period for people to catch up! In other words, there was a backlash of tradition against too much western progress. But what else can you expect from the same people who had earlier devised this sham modernisation? The exact opposite of the truth! The fact of the matter is that even 15 years of capitalist industrialisation at breathtaking speed had hardly scratched the surface of the backwardness in Iran. Furthermore, directly because of this imperialist-dominated ‘development’, even larger parts of the Iranian forces of production were now pushed back into the pre-capitalist subsistence economy.

This crisis proved that, given the current framework of a capitalist world economy dominated by imperialism, any serious programme of industrialisation in backward countries could only succeed if it first broke with capitalist relations. In a way, the defeat of the Iranian revolution is nowhere more obvious than in its failure to break with capitalism. On this 30th anniversary, the Islamic regime has not let up its propaganda about how it has become the major power to be reckoned with in the Middle East; but, down on the ground, Iranian society as a whole is a lot more backward now than it was in 1979. The Iranian ruling class has as much hope of becoming a ‘sub-imperialist’ power on the basis of a capitalist economy dominated by bazaari merchants as Saudi Arabia had with its dollar-hoarder sheikhs. Probably with one difference - whilst the latter cannot even clip their coupons without the permission of the US bankers, the former are now boasting they can buy their prayer mats from where they want!

The revolutionary crisis

It was thus only apt that the first sparks of the Iranian revolution should start in the heart of this capitalist ‘success’ story: the shanty towns of south Tehran. The revolt of the urban poor was, however, brutally suppressed - let it be noted, without even a murmur of protest from any of the ayatollahs ruling Iran during the last three decades.

Later that year, a sharp increase in the number of workers’ protests, including strikes, was also recorded. Since the 1950s, strikes had been a very rare occurrence. Neither of the two movements, however, lasted for long and, given the few months of relative calm that followed, no-one at the time took either of these events as signs of the impending revolutionary crisis.

But it was simply gathering force within a repressive political framework. The masses were at first cautious and, as their initial protests were limited in scope or remained isolated, they were soon forced into periods of retreat. Thus, the crisis unfolded in waves; each time drawing more and more social layers into the struggle. What best reflected the mood of the masses in those days was the strike patterns. A “curious fact”, observed at the time by the minister of labour, was that, even when a protest or a strike had achieved its stated objectives, the participants would shortly afterwards launch another protest or strike and demand even more!

What the government could not see was that the masses were simply gaining confidence with every struggle. The strike in the oil industries is one example. This was the first oil workers’ strike since the nationalisation movement before the 1953 coup. The strike wave begun at first in Ahvaz against the local management and around a dispute concerning representation rights for white collar workers. By its third wave, a year and a half later, it was a national strike demanding, directly from the government, not only a sliding scale of wages and hours to beat inflation and unemployment, but also freedom for all political prisoners.

Next it was the turn of the student movement. This had never really died down throughout the post-coup period - especially in Tehran - and was always a major headache for the repressive apparatus. Almost every year there were strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins and clashes with the security forces. Indeed most of the cadres of the new Iranian left had come out of this movement. There was thus a constant stream of radical student activists being forced into exile. By the time the revolutionary crisis opened up, the Confederation of Iranian Students Abroad was probably one of the most active centres of political opposition to the shah.

With the new academic year in September 1977, a qualitatively different mood was immediately noticeable. Tehran University was now in a state of almost permanent mobilisation and continuous radicalisation. That year, in one of their rallies, students openly called for a general strike to bring down the government. Indeed the slogan ‘Down with the shah’ had been popularised by the student movement since the late 1950s. This was now being linked in radical propaganda to a general workers’ strike. Those of the previous year had not gone unnoticed by students.

In November 1977, the Iranian Writers Association, another centre of opposition to the shah’s dictatorship, sensing a mood of change, organised poetry-reading nights in Tehran, which attracted tens of thousands of people. Every night, the meeting would inevitably turn into an anti-government rally. By the latter part of 1977, the floodgates were open. The urban poor, workers, students and intellectuals were now joined by national minorities. In Kurdish areas, with a long tradition of struggle against the shah and now virtually under military occupation by the central government, the increasing level of activities and the need for more coordinated struggles had led to the formation of a new type of radical city-wide associations, which were later to play a major role in the overthrow of the shah’s rule in many of the Kurdish cities. For the first time in decades, a movement of opposition to the shah began to raise its head also in the Arab areas in the south.

What was noticeably absent, however, was any form of political direction or leadership within the movement. The shah’s intelligence service, Savak, had seen to it that no opposition parties had survived. Both socialist and capitalist parties were in complete disarray. The bourgeois National Front and the Stalinist Tudeh Party (the two main players before the 1953 coup) were totally discredited and had no popular base. The ‘new’ left, which had formed after that defeat, was either in exile, dominated by Maoist currents (which were completely off the mark with their comical attempts at placing Iran within the straitjacket of Mao’s analysis of China) or decimated through executions and imprisonment.

Attempting to take advantage of this absence of leadership were the various internal and external opposition groups, new and old, with their ‘alternatives’. Many bourgeois politicians were by now sensing the weakness of the regime in the face of an ever rising mood of mass discontent and were either distancing themselves from it or putting their names forward for future consideration. The media circus around president Carter’s election in the USA and his empty promises of democratic change in the third world had also created an air of expectation within many bourgeois circles. Even the western media, usually much supportive of the shah, was now full of stories about his latest megalomaniac adventures.

The shah’s standing in the west was not helped by his insistence in those days on a higher price for oil. In 1977-78, a real conflict of interest both around the future of BP in Iran and the price of oil was brewing. Reportedly the shah, needing more and more oil money to survive, kept on boasting privately that he would extract $300 a barrel from the west. He refused to agree to BP’s terms and did not renew its contract. London, in turn, was putting enormous economic pressure on the shah’s regime by refusing to take up Iranian oil production, buying only three million or so barrels daily out of an agreed minimum of five million barrels per day. This imposed dramatic revenue pressures on Iran - worsened later by a British-driven exodus of capital. It was thus becoming increasingly obvious to many observers that the powers-that-be were now treating their own shah as someone who had got too big for his boots.

Even in Washington itself, think tanks which had openly lobbied for the break-up of the whole Middle East along ethnic or religious lines were now becoming more and more vocal. Under the protection of Brzezinski, the national security advisor to Carter, the policy for the “Balkanisation of the Middle East”, proposed by the famous British Islamic expert, Bernard Lewis, was being openly touted by White House staff. This is the same period when the US embarked on a policy of arming the mujahedin in Afghanistan. The shah’s memoirs show that when in 1978 George Ball, a well known defender of the infamous “arc of crisis” policy of encircling the southern borders of the Soviet Union with a whole series of Islamic states or movements, was appointed to head a special White House Iran task force, he went berserk and vehemently protested to Carter.

Rise of Khomeini

In his memoirs, the shah reveals that by November 1977 he had already suspected that there was a plot (which he says was cooked up by the British and backed by the US administration) to remove him from power. The last three months of 1977 were rife with rumours about the latest plans for the future of Iran. All kinds of imaginable coalitions were being put forward as alternatives to the shah. None, of course, cut any ice with the masses.

The revolution was gathering momentum. But then, just into the new year, one of the most curious events of the Iranian revolution occurs, completely out of the blue. A hard hitting article appears in the semi-official daily Etelaat attacking Khomeini as a British agent and exposing a “joint plot” by “red and black reaction” (meaning pro-Soviet communists and Islamic fundamentalists) against Iran (meaning the shah).

Of course, there were no mysteries about the existence of a religious opposition in Iran - nor about the existence of the Tudeh Party. But a joint plot to overthrow the shah? How? After all, neither was of much significance. Even Savak itself had long realised these two no longer posed a threat. Most of their leading members were already in the shah’s jails anyway. Not even within the Islamic opposition was the fundamentalist faction taken seriously. Indeed, although ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had been a well known figure since 1963, the fact that an Islamic fundamentalist faction actually existed was neither known nor believed by anyone - except, of course, in Savak propaganda. Khomeini and his followers had hardly been active for the last 15 years. Even the usual annual statements had long ceased publication. Within a few months, however, the very same Khomeini was being sold in the international mass media as the leader of the Iranian opposition to the shah.

The scenario that followed is now well known. There was an angry demonstration in Ghom, the theological centre of Shi’ite Islam, in reaction to this article. It was brutally suppressed by Savak and the army, with scores of demonstrators killed. Forty days later, in the Islamic tradition of honouring the dead, bigger demonstrations were organised in other cities, which led to further deaths. And thus a 40-day cycle of demonstrations began which culminated in one of over a million people in Tehran. By September 1978 Khomeini had indeed become the unchallenged leader of the mass movement.

It is now a well documented fact that by November 1978, the US had openly abandoned the shah and was in direct negotiations with Khomeini over ‘regime change’. General Robert Huyser was dispatched to Iran to prepare the army and Savak for such a change. By then it was obvious to the US administration that without accommodating Khomeini it would not have a hope in hell of safeguarding the capitalist state.

But was there a sinister plot by the British even earlier? It is, of course, difficult to give an objective answer. Many of the participants are still alive and hardly in a position to be truthful. The most widely accepted scenario, one which is now admitted by many Iran experts in the west, is that, yes, there was a plot - but it aimed to help the Islamic opposition to reduce the danger of a leftwing takeover. Even Carter has admitted as much in his memoirs. What they do not say, however, is when all this began. Did the west start helping later - in, say, September-November 1978 - when the Islamic opposition was already calling the shots; or did it in fact help place the Islamic opposition at the leadership of the mass movement? Evidence points towards the latter.

Obviously, all those who felt threatened by the revolutionary crisis in Iran also recognised the need to counter it. Right from the start it was obvious that there were certain forces, both inside and outside the regime (and both within the internal and external centres of capitalist power) that were orchestrating a ‘new’ Islamic alternative. For example, why did that article appear in the press? The accepted wisdom is that the shah himself ordered it in order to warn the US about the Soviet danger and to stop it from cooperating with the British plot.

But why do so publicly? Surely Savak could have faxed the CIA the relevant papers. Secondly, even if one accepts this version, that is not to say that the shah thought of it all on his own. He could have been persuaded to approve the publication of this article. The evidence that he did not really realise what he is doing is overwhelming. It was reported at the time that even his own prime minister, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, was against it.

There was already inside Savak an entire Islamic wing, recruited right from the day it was set up - part of the ‘founding fathers’, as it were. Ayatollah Halabi’s followers, anti-communist hojatieh zealots who had already served their king by helping the CIA-backed coup, were a considerable force within Savak. They provided most of its foot soldiers. Many of the same people who were known Savak operatives stayed on after the revolution to run the security forces for the new Islamic regime. Indeed many of them still hold governmental posts even today (it is even rumoured that Ahmadinejad is from the same current).

Thus, the other and the more likely scenario is that Savak itself persuaded the shah to publish this article knowing precisely what would happen next. Indeed the evidence shows that Savak agents were actually behind many of the Islamic mobs active in those initial demonstrations burning cinemas, off-licenses, banks and other so-called symbols of the shah’s ‘western’ regime. In the summer, for example, Cinema Rex in Abadan was set on fire, killing over 400 people. It was blamed on Savak. After the revolution it turned out that the arsonists were indeed linked to mullahs associated with the hojatieh wing of Savak. The linking of Khomeini to the communist threat was not so much designed as a warning to the US about the dangers of a British plot, but as a way of mobilising the anti-communist mullahs and their mobs.

Add to this another curious fact that, even before this attack was launched, a process of releasing political prisoners associated with the Islamic reaction to the white revolution had already begun. Following the violent reactions to the article, the shah was ‘persuaded’ to release all the rest. Most of the individuals who later became leading figures within the Islamic regime were thus released from jail at least a year before the February revolution.

Indeed the 14 military committees which took power in Tehran after the insurrection had been set up a year earlier under the direction of ayatollah Karrubi (a man with well known British connections who was to become speaker in the Islamic parliament and is now a candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections), one of those pro-Khomeini clerics released from jail. Why expose a plot to overthrow the shah and then release its leading figures from jail?

The period from January to September 1978 is thus one of a launching pad for Khomeini’s Islamic opposition. Khomeini is then sent to France to be introduced to the international media and to start negotiations with imperialism. Again it is said that the shah himself had asked Saddam Hussein to expel him from Iraq. And again, even if that is what really happened, he was obviously persuaded to do so for the wrong reasons. Giscard d’Estaing, says in his memoirs that he had to phone the shah himself to calm his anger at the French government. If the shah had ordered Khomeini’s expulsion from Iraq himself, why be angry when these orders were carried out?

By September 1978 an organised network inside Iran supporting Khomeini had already taken over the leadership of the mass movement. The Islamic hijab was already being forced on women in mass demonstrations. No slogans other than those approved by the organisers were tolerated. Tehran university students reported in November 1978 that whenever they raised even the mildest of their own slogans such as ‘Unity, struggle, victory!’ they were thrown off the demonstrations.

Khomeini in Paris was, of course, promising everything to everyone: freedom for all (“even for communists”, he said), a constituent assembly after the overthrow and the resurrection of the mostaz’afin (the downtrodden). Oil money was to be used for the benefit of all and utilities such as gas and electricity were to become free of charge! Mullahs, of course, all have PhDs in demagogy. The masses of the urban poor and the ever growing petty bourgeoisie were natural victims of such demagogy. By November and December 78, mullahs were even collecting for the strike funds of the workers who were by now in the middle of a general strike.

Thus the scene was set for the hijacking of the Iranian revolution. Again with a peculiar Iranian twist: the pilot becomes the hijacker!