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

Grenzgänger des Sozialismus: Die transnationale Dimension der frühen sozialistischen Bewegung im Iran (1905-1911) (1/2)

The Constitutional Revolution in Iran from 1906-1911 was one of the first modern-age revolutions in a country of the global south and it happened under the impression of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905. It attempted a fundamental political, social and economic transformation of the country. This development wasn’t singularly a result of autochthonous national developments of Iranian society, but relied on multilayered transnational networks and contacts. In this context Iran experienced for the first time the development of organisations which had connections to the socialist movement in the Russian Caucasus and which based their politics in one way or another on the ideas of socialism and respectively social democracy. Some of these organisations came to exercise considerable influence over the political developments in Iran. One of the most relevant organisations was the “Social Democratic Party of Iran” (Firqah-ye Ejtama’iyun-e ‘Amiyun-e Iran – Mojahed, short FEAM). It succeeded in becoming one of the leading organised revolutionary forces in the first phase of the Constitutional Revolution (1906-1908). In this regard Iran was the first country of the Middle East which experienced the emergence of a relatively well anchored socialist movement. To understand the genesis and the prominent role of FEAM one needs to leave the singular focus on the national Iranian context. Only by shifting the analytical frame to the plain of transnational social, economic and political interactions we can adequately grasp the phenomenon of the early socialist movement within Iran.

This book analyses the transnational dimension of the early socialist movement in Iran, in particular of FEAM. For the analysis of its development of policy and strategy we must look at the context of its emergence as a transnational project. The tension between the crisis stricken Iranian social formation with strong pre-capitalist characteristics and a not less contradictory and dynamic social formation in the Russian Caucasus are part of this research focus.

To understand the developments which led up to the Constitutional Revolution in Iran the first part deals with the general economic and political changes since the 19th century in the context of fundamental changes on the global and transregional level. Those changes were mainly initiated by the military penetration of the European Great Powers (the Russian and British Empire) and the accompanied pressure of global capitalism on the socio-economic structures of the society. Precapitalist Iranian society was thrown into crisis leading to the weakening of state power, the destruction of traditional handicrafts, the competition for the traditional bazaar complex by European merchants and the transformation of subsistence farming. Furthermore this chapter also deals with an important aspect influencing the formation of the early socialist movement in Iran: the multilayered interaction between Iran and the Russian Caucasus. The focus here lies firstly on the intellectual contacts across the border. Azerbaijani intellectuals under the influence of European enlightenment had a strong impact on Iranian intellectuals and thereby contributed to the development of early liberal and nationalist ideas in the country. Those links were essential for the later radical political and intellectual eruption in the Context of the Constitutional Revolution. But the development of the early Iranian Social Democratic movement essentially became possible only through a second, socio-economic element in the interaction between the Caucasus and Iran: mass labour migration of impoverished Iranians to the Caucasus since the mid and increasingly the late 19th century, particularly to the rapidly industrializing centres such as the Baku oil belt. Therefore it can be argued that at the turn of the century despite the lack of industrialization in Iran a diasporic Iranian working class was being formed which had fundamental political repercussions on Iran. The eruption of the Russian Revolution of 1905 was a crucial catalyst for the following political developments in Iran.

In the second part of the book the focus lies on the immediate context of the emergence of FEAM, i.e. the organisational efforts by Russian Social Democrats against the backdrop of the specific class composition of the Caucasian working class. Accordingly, a crucial precursor organisation of FEAM is introduced, the Himmat group. Founded by some Azerbaijani members of the Social Democratic Workers Party of Russia together with independents its goal was to organise Muslim workers which were the least organised part of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Caucasian working class. Out of this effort some activists went further and recognized the necessity to deal with the issue of labour migrants from Iran. In relation to the Russian Muslim workers they represented an even bigger challenge to labour organisers. They lacked experience in labour organising and collective bargaining, due to their precarious situation as migrants they were highly vulnerable to arbitrary treatment by employers and Russian state officials, they were often times misused as strike breakers and they lowered the average income by representing a cheap and easily available labour pool. Azerbaijani labour organisers therefore came to the conclusion that they needed to react to this challenge on two levels. First, they started to specifically target Iranian workers for the organisation in separate Iranian groups. Secondly and in connection with the first, they realized, that any attempt to engage with the challenge of Iranian migrant workers needed to take the political and socio-economic realities in Iran itself into account. As long as Iranian society didn’t change, for example in regard to relations of production in agriculture, the pressures on the Russian labour market by migrant workers wouldn’t either. Therefore already before the outbreak of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran many activists looked at the political developments in Iran and oriented towards revolutionary change south of the border. When the revolution finally erupted in the summer of 1906, FEAM, founded the year before and up to this point still limited to the Russian Caucasus, started to expand its network and activities into Iran and became an integral and radical part of the Constitutionalist movement.

A task which is followed up throughout the book is the necessity to discuss the identity of the discussed organisations. Due to a lack of sources as well as a certain unclarity in the connections between different organisations, chapters, front organisations, etc. a general task of this research is to unearth the true affiliation of groups and individuals in the transnational field between Iran and the Caucasus. This starts with the connection between the Social Democratic Workers Party of Russia and the Himmat group and continues in the following chapter particularly with the discussion of the affiliation of the revolutionary front organisations called “Mojahed” and the Social Democratic Party of Iran.

Ramin Taghian

L’émergence du socialisme musulmans / turc et de la classe ouvrière musulmane de la fin de l’Empire ottoman au début de la République Turque (1908-1925)

Le mouvement de la classe ouvrière dans l’Empire ottoman a fait un bond sans précédent après la révolution de 1908. Quand bien même il y eu des points de ruptures et paroxystiques, la mobilisation des ouvriers a persisté jusqu’à l’ère du Parti unique dans la République Turque. La mobilisation des travailleurs turcs et leurs actions ont coïncidées avec l’émergence du socialisme turc et musulman et des organisations socialistes. En contraste avec l’historiographie turque, mes recherches vont s’attarder sur les liens entre les émergences de ces phénomènes dans le premier quart du XXe Siècle. Traditionnellement ces deux cas sont examinés séparément comme s’ils n’étaient pas connectés. Mes recherches ne vont pas seulement considérer le socialisme comme composante de l’histoire intellectuelle mais couvrir les effets du mouvement ouvriériste sur ces idéologies et organisations politiques. L’étude se concentre sur différents groupes de travailleurs au sein de la classe ouvrière musulmane et turque ayant perdu le contrôle de leurs moyens de productions : artisans, femmes, ouvriers aussi bien dans le secteur formel qu’informel et se focalise également, non pas sur le niveau d’industrialisation mais sur le développement des relations capitalistes dans l’empire ottoman et la Turquie afin d’évaluer et analyser les classes sociales.

Etats de l’art

L’historiographie turque a longtemps fait une distinction nette entre la classe ouvrière et les artisans ou les corporations et a longtemps tenue pour égale le capitalisme et la Révolution industrielle. La faible définition de la classe laborieuse dans l’historiographie turque est étroitement liée à la faiblesse du socialisme en tant que mouvement politique. A l’inverse du nationalisme, constitutionalisme, islamisme ou du libéralisme, le socialisme demeure un sujet peu étudié dans l’historiographie ottomane malgré de solides contributions à l’histoire du mouvement ouvrier turc dans la dernière décennie, principalement due à l’investissement d’historiens amateurs, de journalistes ou de militants politiques. A noter toutefois, que l’intérêt porté au sujet a émergé dès les années 60 et 70 à mesure que les mouvements de gauche ont pris une importance sur la scène politique. Cependant, ces études furent majoritairement le fait d’une vision idéologique où la classe laborieuse furent le résultat du progrès historique. L’historiographie turque a longtemps vu la classe travailleuse uniquement sous le prisme de l’industrialisation. Le secteur tertiaire n’était par conséquent pas inclus dans leurs études.


La littérature existante portant sur l’émergence du socialisme en Turquie s’est surtout focalisée sur l’étude des grandes figures et personnalités du mouvement marquant la prédominance de l’histoire intellectuelle sur l’histoire sociale ou culturelle. La traduction occupe de plus en plus l’historiographie considérant l’impact majeur des langues occidentales sur l’Empire ottoman. Il s’agit d’ailleurs de l’un des traits dominants de la littérature scientifique revendiquant que le socialisme ottoman et dans la République Turque alors naissante fut un produit importé par les étrangers. L’étude de M. Doğan Çetinkaya tend donc à démontrer qu’il ne s’agissait pas uniquement de cela mais également d’une prise en compte pleine et entière par le mouvement ouvrier.

Contexte politique et social

La composition démographique de l’Empire ottoman été divisée en plusieurs communautés. Séparant la classe ouvrière et les socialistes entre leurs communautés respectives. Néanmoins Doğan Çetinkaya observe une porosité évidente entre ces différentes communautés. L’intégration de l’Empire ottoman à l’économie mondiale a stimulé les investissements et échanges étrangers. Ces mutations profondes ont entraîné une nécessité de communiquer avec leurs camarades européens par l’intermédiaires d’organisations transnationales comme l’Internationale ou le Parti Bolchevique.

L’avenir de la recherche

M. Doğan Çetinkaya a publié plusieurs articles et ouvrages et a soutenu sa thèse en mai 2010 à l’Université de Leiden qui fut par la suite publiée chez IB Tauris en 2014. A l’occasion de l’écriture de sa thèse, l’historien a été amené à croiser de nombreuses sources aussi bien chez les grandes figures du socialisme que parmi les ouvriers eux-mêmes. L’une des principales organisations durant cette période est le Parti socialiste ottoman (devenu Parti socialiste de Turquie après 1918). Ce parti, sous l’influence notamment de son leader Hilmi, a tenté de renforcé les liens avec ses pairs européens tels que Jean Jaurès. Depuis, Doğan Çetinkaya travaille sur les archives de la Seconde Internationale afin de retrouver les traces de ces interactions. Les activités des socialistes Turcs dans le Caucase après 1918 jouent un rôle crucial dans l’histoire du socialisme turc. Le Parti communiste Turc (TKP) prend racine dans cette région où de nombreux intellectuels russes ont joué un rôle signifiant dans le mouvement. Les différentes collections du Parti socialiste ottoman, du Parti Communiste Turc lié au Kommintern, des partis communistes Iraniens et Turc dans les fonds Azerbaïdjanais  vont également être explorées tout en ne négligeant pas la presse, les formes brèves et la littérature grise.

Doğan Çetinkaya
Istanbul University

European Socialism | Socialisme européen