For at least a century, Leftist intellectual and political trends have contributed significantly to the making of Iran’s modern culture and politics. Yet the Left continues to suffer the double burden of systematic state repression and marginalization/vilification in mainstream historiography. Bringing together leading specialists on the subject, this roundtable revisits the Iranian Left’s century-long controversial legacy from multiple critical perspectives. Our areas of investigation include historiography and intellectual history, labor and working class studies, sociology and social theory, gender studies, intellectual history, ethnic and religious minority studies, and studies of elite and popular culture. The Left is broadly defined to encompass all those committed to social justice, including socialists and communists, left-leaning Muslims, liberals and nationalists, as well as independent public intellectuals concerned with class and gender equity.
Specifically, brief individual presentations will invite audience participation in the following discussions. First, “The Muslim Left: Social Justice and Spirituality,” is a critical examination of the Muslim Left, from the 1950s Movement of Theist Socialists and Ali Shariati to the appearance of new Muslim Leftist trends in post-revolutionary Iran. Second, “Revolutionary Violence or Terrorism?” will revisit the legacy of 1970s Iran’s guerrilla movement in light of current debates on “terrorism” and its relation to “legitimate” revolutionary violence. Third, “Marxist Theory and the Left's Praxis,” reexamines the “failure of the Iranian left” in the wider international context of disjuncture between Marxist theory and the practice of non-Western leftist movements; Fourth, “The Left and Gender: Past Record and Current Prospects,” will survey the Iranian Left’s contributions and failures with respect to women’s rights and gender equality, while proposing future paths considering developments in various Muslim countries. Fifth, “Does The Iranian Left Have a Future?,” will focus on post-revolutionary Iran’s new intellectual generation that has abandoned the Russo-Marxist tradition in favor of more flexible, identity-oriented movements inspired by a pluralistic and egalitarian social imaginary.
The contribution of this presentation is twofold: first, it will contextualizes and problematizes the discourse, diversity, and dynamism of the Iranian Muslim Left from Mohammad Nakhshab’s Movement of "Theist Socialists" to Ali Shariati’s trilogy of “Freedom, Social Justice and Spirituality”.
Second, it will shed light on new developments in the discourse of the Muslim Left in postrevolutionary Iran: it asks how post-revolutionary socio-political context has contributed to the rise of new thinking about Iranian social democracy, post-Islamist and post-structuralist trends among the contemporary Leftist Muslims.
This presentation will generate discussion about the new generation/trends of the left inside Iran (Vahabzadeh, Behrooz, and Maljoo), future prospects of the Left (Matin-Asgari, Matin, Vahabzadeh), and the intersection of gender, religion and social justice (Moghadam).