XXX wrote:


“MKO published a series of pamphlets which clearly demonstarted their attempt to synthesize Islam with Marxism.   Among these are:  takAmol, shenAkht, eghtesAd be zabAne sAdeh, motAleAte mArxisti, nehzate hoseini, chegoone ghorAn biAmoozim.

[Deleted for Brevity]”


You have made a note about MKO (MojAhedin Organization of Iran) being "Islamic Marxist" or "Marxist", etc.  This allegation has been made many times in the past by many different people for different objectives.  In the following, I would like to reply to it as a theoretical/historical topic.  The purpose and reasons for the ones making this allegation at different times is not of interest to me here.


Let's look at two of the first theoretical works of MKO, Shenakht and Eghtesad Beh Zabaneh Sadeh, which you have noted.  It has been a long time since I have read those books, but I think the first one was written by Hanif-Nejad and the second one by Hassan Askari.  The first one has a lot of similarities with the Marxist philosophy and the second has a lot of similarities with Marxist economics.  But does that mean, those works are Marxist?  I would strongly deny it.  Why ?


During the period when those works were written, most of the social, political, economic, and to some extent, philosophical writings, were influenced by the Marxist theory.  In fact, in social theory, post-Marx works are all undeniably influenced by the works of Karl Marx, to this day, one way or the other.  Why?  Because Marx had done the most comprehensive study of the industrial society ever.  This has nothing to do with Marxism as an ideology.


For example, Plato's influence in the writings of Early Fathers of the Christian Church is undeniable.  Aristotle's influence on European Scholasticism is also undeniable.  This does make the Early Fathers and the Scholastics ideologically pagan.  They definitely were Christians.


Aristotle's influence on the Medieval Islamic thinkers such as Iran's Avicenna is undeniable.  In fact he and Averroes of Spain are considered the only acceptable heirs of Aristotlian thought by most Aristotlian scholars to this day.  But Avicenna was a Muslim and was definitely not a pagan.


Why such influences are a reality?  Because they are the most powerful theoretical models available to any thinker of the time and using them is the enlightened way of doing research.  Not using these models would have been dogmatism, which has been also popular among some other Christian and Islamic authors.  But the former (e.g. Avicenna or St. Thomas Aquinas) are the ones who have done the real contributions to the Medieval thought.


In fact if you read the books of Seyedeh Ghotb of Egypt, who had a lot of following among the thinkers who supported Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1960-1980 period, there is undeniably the same kind of influence seen in Ghotab's writings.  Ghotab's research on Islamic economic theory was very comprehensive. I remember when I read Ghotab's books on Islamic economics, I was surprised how much similarity I found between them and Marx's Capital.


But neither MKO founders nor Ghotb and his followers in Iran should be considered Marxist.  If they had written in the Medieval Times, maybe their writings would have been more influenced by the theoretical works of St Thomas Aquinas, but that would not have made them Christian.  They would still be foremost Muslim thinkers.


I think the issue nowadays is that many new advancements in the social and political theory have happened in the last thirty years; that are starting a new stage beyond the Marxist framework.  I am not talking about the Marxist ideology, which was actually never accepted by most liberals, even from the beginning, especially in the West.  I am talking about theoretical models of social, political, philosophical, and economics thought.


For example the INPUT-OUTPUT model of Wassily Leontief in economic theory, which gained him a Nobel Prize in economics, is a complete new stage in the economic thought, drastically different from the Marxian model in economics (see his article entitled "The Distribution of Work and Income" in Sept. 1982 of Scientific American.  Also see his essay "Machines and Man" in his book ESSAYS IN ECONOMICS).  But Wassily Leontief himself has a high respect for the historical achievements of the Marxian economic theory (see his essay "The Decline and Rise of Soviet Economic Science" in his book ESSAYS IN ECONOMICS).


Also methodologies like CONTEXT ANALYSIS introduced by people like John Naisbitt in his MEGATRENDS, are drastically different from any methodologies used in the Marxian era of social theory.  I think, it is more important to focus on these new theoretical models nowadays, no matter what ideology or religion you subscribe to.


I agree that, as a historian, it may be of interest to see how much Hanif-Nejad or Seyed Ghotb was influenced by Marxist theory.  But as a current discussion of social and political issues, the problem of MKO (MojAhedin Khalgh Organization of Iran) is that it is still stuck in some outdated theoretical models, whether semi-Marxian or not, is not the issue.


Sam Ghandchi

March 10. 1994





[Addendum to the above on Jan 1, 1995]  Here is a more in-depth analysis of this frequent topic of Iran news and Iranian culture.  In the above article, I had tried to separate the contributions of thinkers such as Aristotle and Marx from the obscurantism of some of their followers, in cultish creeds, which came into existence in the name of these great thinkers.


As Bertrand Russell once noted about the followers of Plato, these people had lost interest in the topics that were topics of interest to their master, and they were gratifying themselves by repeating the words of their master, for subjects that were way removed from what their master had dealt with.


Nonetheless some of the elements of the problems in the creeds of followers of these masters, can be traced to the theories of these great thinkers.  For example, I do *not* think that the elements of dictatorship in some Marxist cults was not present in Karl Marx's thought himself.  Actually one can vividly see these dictatorial elements in Marx’s book “Critique of the Gotha Program”, which was later hidden by European social-democracy, but was, in contrast, highlighted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.  In this regard, Karl Popper’s book “Open Society and Its Enemies” is a good source to read.  Nonetheless, I do not think the above tendency had been the main component of Marx's work himself.


I believe that no one else has impacted modern thought as much as Karl Marx, and I do not think that impact has been the result of the obscurantism of some of Marx's later followers.  In fact, exactly the opposite; the reason for the impact of Marx's thought on almost every sphere of inquiry, had been the result of his great scholarship, and because of the depth and breadth of Marx's tremendous knowledge in almost every field of human thought, which in my opinion, was only comparable to Aristotle and Kant in the history of human Western Civilization.


Among the works of scholarship, I believe Leszek Kolakowski’s book, “Main Currents of Marxism”, has been the best treatise to examine the achievements and failures of the works of Marx and the Marxists as a whole.  Moreover, I think in the area of economic theory, the works of new thinkers such as Daniel Bell’s “The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society” and Wassily Leontief’s “Essays on Economics”, and other works that I have noted in this article, are some of the best presentations of Marx’ s achievements for modern economic thought.  I do not think there is much that I can add to these excellent works of scholarship.

My point is that the challenge is to draw from Marx’s achievements and move forward, rather than being stuck in what Marx had introduced, which is still repeated by the Marxists of all shades. 


And as far as the new trends of thought are concerned, I believe there is hardly any original new theories coming out of the Leftist circles, and as I had noted before, I think the Left and the socialist movement is finished.  I do not mean that it will not exist anymore.  Christianity has existed for centuries even after its fall after the Middle Ages, but the main new theories in different areas of human thought are no longer coming out of the Christian Scholastics.  Again this is not an issue that I can deal with in an article on SCI Iran news.   My suggestion for interested readers is to see other sources such as Alvin Toffler’s “Third Wave” and other similar works.  The shortest book to read, which directly deals with this topic, is a book called “Previews and Premises” by Alvin Toffler.  Many works of the new thinking nowadays is being  presented by the futurists.  A good listing of books categorized by different fields of inquiry is available from the World Future Society.  [Note 2002, please visit  www.wfs.org and the “The Futurist Bookstore” catalog on that site for the latest research in many fields.]




* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on March 10, 1994 and the addendum was first posted on SCI on Jan 8, 1995.  Published on IRANSCOPE Portal Iranian Site of Iran News and Iranian Culture in 1999.  Also discussed on Jebhe Iranian site.


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