Arnold’s book, Cuba-U.S. Relations, or in Farsi, Amperialism va democracy dar koba, is explicitly written on U.S.-Cuba relations. However, it is also very valuable for Iranian readers because of the huge similarities that exist in the United States’ unjust and oppressive approach to both Cuba and Iran.
While one being an Islamic government and the other being a revolutionary socialist government, Cuba and Iran have both been punished for exercising the right to self-determination, developing the way they see fit to build their respective countries. Both countries have been under severe sanctions and blockades, in the case of Cuba, for more than sixty years, and Iran, for more than forty years.
Yet both countries have continued resisting and fighting back for their rights, not only to survive, but Cuba and Iran have successfully and amazingly advanced and progressed in all aspects of technology, industrialization, medical sciences, arts, sports, military, education, and all other social and economic development. One good example is literacy and education in both countries.
Iran's literacy rate reached 96.6% in 2022, from 47% in 1979 at the time of the revolution. Cuba’s literacy rate reached 99.75% in 2022, from 47% in 1959 at the revolution. Interestingly, in Iran, only 26% of higher education students were female at the time of the revolution. Today more than 60 % of higher education students are female. All significant advancements occurred under the brutal U.S. blockade of Cuba and Iran. This indicates how these two nations successfully positioned themselves in a progressive course while under sanctions and blockades.
No wonder both countries have broadly influenced their respective regions, and both countries are the leading force of resistance against the U.S.’s meddling and domination in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Today, so much so, there is no political change or movement in Latin America without Cuba as a leading influencer and factor. Similarly, there is no political movement in the entire Middle East, Africa, and most parts of Asia without Iran as the leading player and influencer. Both countries have become the bastion of anti-imperialist struggle for oppressed nations around the world. Hence, the Farsi readers will find a lot of parallels and a lot of learning from Arnold’s book, Amperialism va democracy dar Koba [Cuba-U.S. Relations].
It was a wise and smart idea to have this webinar, particularly today on Cuba and Iran, since today is the 43rd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, one of the tremendous changes that have occurred in modern human history. Today is the day the Iranian revolution of 1979 triumphed over the monarch’s regime. So, I believe it is suitable to hear from me, a participant, how the revolution happened and how it evolved in a concise narration. As I mentioned, February 11 and 12 marked a turning point in the Middle East with the 1979 Iranian revolution. Two days that shook the world; two days that changed the world. Like millions of Iranians, young and old, I was honored to participate as a revolutionary socialist organizer alongside millions of Iranians in finishing the overdue task of overthrowing the imperialist puppet regime of monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and cutting the hands of imperialist powers from Iran.
Let me share a personal memory with you and a significant memory for me. You will find it interesting. Exactly, and I am saying exactly, and I am not exaggerating. Precisely 43 years ago today, at this time between 6 to 8am, after a mass uprising and heavy fighting the night before, I was standing with two of my friends in the middle of the compound of the Iranian secret police, called SAVAK, the Shah of Iran’s vicious and ruthless secret police in a city of Rasht, the province of Gilan, by the Caspian Sea in North of Iran. The SAVAK compound had fallen. The night before, hundreds of newly armed people had fought back and brought down the huge secret police compound. By 6am, the compound surrendered. There I was, standing in the middle of the compound in these moments, smoke everywhere, two secret police hung off the lamp posts, another dead secret police body lay dead with many bullets on the ground, and all other secret police killed. Hundreds of people were roaming around the compound to uncover SAVAK’s torture chambers, torture devices, and weapons. Some took pictures to document the historic moment, and reporters reported from the scene. At that moment, I was just happy that the secret police were gone. As the military base on the outskirts of the city collapsed, I clearly understood that the Shah of Iran was gone for good. However, I honestly had no idea what would happen two or five, or 43 years later. Here I am today with extraordinary stories of a unique moment in history.
As a young socialist organizer, I observed a tremendous exhibition of discontent, power, and will by millions of heroic Iranian people. The Iranian revolution was deeply rooted in the history of the Iranian people's struggle for freedom and democracy. The February 1979 revolution, known now as the Islamic revolution, stems from Iran’s first anti-colonial movement in 1891 against the unjust colonial tobacco contract imposed on Iran by British imperialism. The Tobacco Movement was the vanguard of oppressed peoples’ anti-colonial movements throughout Asia and Africa. From 1891, this fundamental desire for change never rested, continued through 1905-1911; the 1920s; 1945-1953; and finally, 1979. For almost a century, the Iranian people were consistently on the march for change, for a better life. The Iranian revolution of 1979, in its nature and political dynamics, was an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist revolution. The tyranny of the monarch regime and imperialist influence and dominance in Iran were so integrated that the movement protesting the autocratic regime rapidly developed into an anti-imperialist movement. It did not take that long for the slogan of Marg Bar Shah [down with the Shah], to combine with the slogan of Marg Bar Amrica [down with the U.S.].
No matter what one calls it – the Iranian revolution or the Iranian Islamic revolution – the 1979 revolution was one of the most significant mass popular movements in modern times, demonstrating clear antagonistic classes in motion. The 1979 revolution in Iran was a classic revolution, resembling the great Russian revolution of 1917 in terms of the dynamics of the battle between revolution and counter-revolution of the social classes. After fourteen months of unrest and mass protest, both sides finally reached exhaustion. It became clear that one had to remove the other. The mass revolutionary struggle for eliminating the old order led to a mass popular armed insurrection of millions of Iranians against the old, corrupt, isolated, and broken monarchist regime.
By the dawn of February 12, 1979, today, in these hours, the will of the mass majority of Iranian people prevailed, and history took a deep breath of relief. It is fair to say that every honest person who participated and had the honor and privilege to intervene in this gigantic shakeup of history in Iran would say with utmost certainty and confidence that it was unequivocally the right thing to do. Regardless of all difficulties, tremendous pressures, danger, violence, physical harm, and death, bringing down the monarch was a historical task that was long overdue to bring freedom and a new course of life with dignity and independence.
The Iranian revolution changed the whole political equation and the class dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa. It has changed for the foreseeable future the balance and relationship of social and political forces, not only in the immediate region, the Middle East, but the whole of Africa, Asia, and the rest of the world. The Iranian revolution's powerful message for independence and self-determination resonates, influencing, motivating, and inspiring hundreds of millions of working and oppressed people today in the Middle East and North Africa. It is no wonder that Iran has been under consistent attack by U.S. Yankee imperialism to undermine and roll back the fundamental achievement of the Iranian revolution of 1979: political independence and self-determination.
With its mighty army and savagery, U.S. imperialism is currently in its lowest capacity to dominate oppressed nations. From the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 to the occupation of Iraq in 2003 - which started the New Era of War and Occupation (NEWO) - to revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, and further ongoing resistance by Yemenis, Syrians, and Palestinians in the face of imperialist aggression, we see the proof of the continuing spirit of the Iranian revolution and its aftershocks for fundamental change.
What is known now as the Islamic revolution of Iran, its revolutionary dynamics, and its resistance to imperialism have put working and oppressed people in the Middle East, North Africa, and around the world in a better position to win the struggle against imperialist suppression and domination, to achieve self-determination and national independence. All of this with the continued hope to strike forward towards the many socialist revolutions and a better world, a socialist world.
Today, defending Cuba and Iran against the bully of the United States and its imperialist allies is a fundamental task of every true progressive and human-loving person, let alone revolutionaries.
What we need today, not tomorrow, is to get rid of the ugly capitalist and imperialist system. We need to build mass democratic and revolutionary organizations to be effective against imperialist war and occupation, against their sanctions and blockades, against their exploitation and plundering of the resources of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, all and all to bring a better world. As Fidel Castro said once, there is no other option.
This article is based on a talk by Ali Yerevani at the Farsi language book launch webinar for Arnold August’s book, “Cuba-U.S. Relations,” held February 12, 2022.
Follow Ali on Twitter: @aliyerevani
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