Grenzgänger des Sozialismus: Die transnationale Dimension der frühen sozialistischen Bewegung im Iran (1905-1911) 2/2

The third part of the book finally discusses FEAM in detail. To understand the context of its activities this chapter opens with an introduction to the history of the Constitutional Revolution whereby the focus is put on the various grassroots organisations and the mass movement dimension of the revolution. From there on the history of FEAM is systematically traced, from its origins in the labour movement in the Russian Caucasus to the extension of its activities to Iran after the outbreak of the Constitutional Revolution. One part deals with the FEAM chapter in the city of Tabriz because of its complex composition, its organisational strength and general importance. In the following chapters one can find a detailed analysis of the party structure as well as its political and ideological aspects. Special attention hereby is given to the dynamic trajectory of FEAM in the course of its development. As the organisation shifted its activities from the Caucasus to Iran it also changed its political orientation in accordance with a change in its social composition. In this context several questions are followed up to understand the political foundations of the organisation. In what regard did the politics of FEAM actually correspond with contemporary Marxist principles. How was the fight for the establishment of a liberal Constitutional order in Iran theoretically argued? How did socialist intellectuals and FEAM engage with Islamic ideas, principles and the Shia clergy as political agents? Finally, the book closes with an analysis of the development of the Democratic Party, the first modern type parliamentary party in Iran, in the second Constitutional Period (1909-1911/12) and therewith the demise of FEAM in Iran.

The book draws a series of conclusions. FEAM similar to the Himmat group was no pure Marxist organisation. Its political constitution was influenced by the societal relations as well as the character of the political movements in the Caucasus and Iran. Main political and organisational elements of the party derived from the early founding period in the Caucasus and its continuing transnational field of activity. But the expansion to Iran made it necessary to build an organisation which was able to intervene in the existing movement on the basis of the real social realities and political challenges. In Iran the organisation was confronted with a society which was similarly affected by revolutionary turmoil but largely characterized by pre-capitalist social relations and hardly developed modern political identities. Instead of the working class it were mainly traditional layers of the bazaar which shaped the social character of the Constitutionalist movement in Iran. Except of some “enlightened” intellectuals, society was rarely familiar with political concepts and opposites such as moderate and radical, religious and secular, democratic and social-democratic and so forth. The apparent contradiction between the social formations of Russia and Iran therefore made it necessary for FEAM to find a way to cope with these challenges and translate political strategies as well as theoretical foundations from one area of activity to the other. On the basis of a distinct political-ideological pragmatism FEAM was quite successful in developing a hybrid political profile which manoeuvred in the nexus of traditional societal structures, modern discourses and the context of global processes of transformation. Thereby FEAM contributed to the differentiation of political forces by constituting the organised radical pole of the Constitutionalist movement and by denominating the challenges of democratic reform (Constitutionalism, Parliamentarism and rule of law). These issues which were put down on paper in FEAM’s programs generally resembled the ideas of Iranian liberals and reformers. This correlation doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that FEAM had “sold out” by appealing to bourgeois circles or because it wasn’t a genuine socialist and Marxist organisation by contemporary standards. Despite the fact that FEAM rarely pointed to a theoretical Marxist framework for its politics, the book argues that its liberal-democratic aspects nevertheless can be seen in line with the theoretical paradigms of contemporary Marxism. Particularly the mechanistic idea of historic progress in which each society was determined to develop along similar lines, i.e. first reach the stage of “mature” capitalism in order to finally later on reach the state of socialism, could be easily translated into a liberal-democratic agenda of modernisation. This perspective made the FEAM attractive for a wide circle of nationalist and liberal activists.

In conclusion FEAM formed an inclusive space for different ideological influences and social

elements. As the book title implies it represented in the truest sense of the word a “Grenzgänger des Sozialismus”, traversing the boundaries of socialism. It overcame geographic-political borders, it challenged the existing boundaries of political norms and it moved along the lines of pre-capitalist and modern social formations. Finally, as a pioneer of the socialist movement in a (semi-) colonial context it interpreted the ideas of contemporary European socialist theory and praxis in a creative and non-dogmatic way to apply it to its own questions and challenges.

Ramin Taghian


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