02. Progressiveness and the 1979 Revolution
In 1986, in a series of articles entitled "Progressiveness in the Present Epoch", I wrote that the 1979 Revolution of Iran was a reversal of a Modern Times' synonymy of Revolution and Progress, a concurrence which was assumed as a given, since the American 1775 and the French 1789 Revolutions, and remarked that with Iran's 1979 Revolution, this synonymy was now reversed, and noted that the world may need a new Immanuel Kant to formulate this reversal, when the retrogression, rather than progress, has become the epitome of a major political revolution in Iran.
It is noteworthy that Kant never bothered writing about revolutions, till the American and French Revolutions happened, and before those events, when writing on topics of armed conflicts, his topics were war and peace between different states, and not revolutions internal to a state. Kant's formulations of his ideal state and individual rights were in reference to a state of affairs achieved thru reform and *not* revolution.
Therefore, Kant's support of American and French Revolutions was not because of his partiality for revolutions. In fact, the opposite was true that he was *not* a revolutionary, yet he supported those revolutions, *only* because he saw the ideals that he had advocated for years, such as the ideals of individual rights, were achieved thru those revolutions.
Kant's desire was to achieve his goals through reform in Germany, therefore as noted, Kant's support of those revolutions was not because of him being a revolutionary, which he was *not*, but was because of the progressive ideals which were pursued by those revolutions. I will explain more below, but let me first return to my main point about Iran's 1979 Revolution.
As noted in "Progressiveness in the Present Epoch", *not* all the forces in Iran's 1979 Revolution were seeking reactionary goals, but the *main* forces of the revolution sought reactionary goals. In contrast, the main forces of the American and French Revolutions sought progressive goals, such as individual rights, civil society, and fairness. It is noteworthy to mention that in contrast, in those revolutions, there were also other forces, that pursued reactionary goals, but they were *not* the main forces of the American and French revolutions.
Basically the main forces of Iran's1979 Revolution were *against* the social rights of an individual, and even the Shah's regime, which they opposed, honored social freedom (not political freedom), more than these forces. This is why the Islamists started wiping out the social rights, from the first days after the success of the 1979 revolution, with the slogan of "yA roosari, yA toosari" (meaning either wear a scarf or be hit on your head), when suppressing the demonstration of women in Tehran, a month after the February 1979 Revolution.
And the Islamists spoke of Islamic principle of "amre beh maroof va nahi az monker" (advocate virtues and prohibit the vices), an Islamic principle which became the rule of social conduct in Iran under the rule of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), and it was used to suppress the individual social rights of every citizen in Iran, by the revolutionary guards and other organs of morality police, the state organs with the mandate of upholding virtues and crushing the vices.
If during the Shah's regime, only the political rights of the individual were suppressed, the new Islamic state would not even stop at political rights and decided on how people should eat, dress, or have sex, and even decided how people should live inside their own house.
A total reactionary turn of social life in Iran ushered in with the 1979 Revolution, and it was spearheaded by the strong presence of Islamists in the revolution, thanks to Shah's blocking of formation of democratic organizations in the three decades prior to the 1979 Revolution, leaving the mosques unchallenged, as the center of social resistance to Shah's regime.
When looking at the French and American Revolutions more closely, although there were some reactionary forces on the side of the revolution, *but* the main forces on the side of the revolution sought progressive goals, such as the *individual rights* and civil society. Whereas in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, although there were some progressive forces on the side of the revolution, *but* the main forces on the side of the revolution, sought reactionary goals of suppressing *individual freedoms*, and replacing civil society with an Islamic ommat.
In other words, the French and American revolutions became the epitome of the ideals which Kant had called for in his writings, to be achieved by *reform*. Basically being progressive has nothing to do with being a revolutionary or a reformist. Kant was trying to attain his ideal social norms through *reform* in Germany of the successor of Frederick the Great, Frederick William II. Nonetheless, Frederick William II, contrary to Frederick the Great, had no respect for individual rights, and even had banned Kant from writing on religious matters, after Kant's publication of his 1793 Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, and the fact that as long as King Frederick William II was alive, Kant did not write on religion.
Thus ironically, Kant's ideals were achieved sooner by the revolutions in America and France, than by the reforms he had hoped for in Germany. And Kant's support of those revolutions, was not because of being revolutionary, which he was not, but was because of his support for the progressive ideals achieved by those revolutions.
Kant was a symbol of a democratic-minded individual doing his utmost to work by civil *obedience*, and the only reason he supported the American and French Revolutions, was because he saw them to usher in the ideals which he viewed as necessary for a modern state, and *not* because of liking to advocate civil disobedience and revolutions, which he did not.
For Kant, *progress* was important, whether it was achieved by reform or revolution, although he preferred it to be achieved by reform. In other words a revolution can be as much reactionary as a reform and vice versa, a revolution can be as much progressive as a a reform.
In contrast,, many who supported the Iranian 1979 Revolution *forgot* about the *ideals* the revolution was seeking, and did not ask if the ideals were progressive or reactionary, and they just supported it, just because it was a revolution to overthrow the dictatorial and corrupt regime of the Shah, and not because the revolution sought progressive and democratic ideals, which it did not.
References Chapter 2