1979-03 Letter on the Iranian Revolution [Dunayevskaya]
Letter to her colleagues in News and Letters Committees in 1979, reprinted in 1984 in her book, WOMEN’S LIBERATION AND THE DIALECTIC OF REVOLUTION.
March 10, 1979
On my way to the talk in celebration of International Women’s Day [March 8], that I was to give at Wayne State University on "Rosa Luxemburg and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution," came the news of the most magnificent international event: tens of thousands of Iranian women were demonstrating against Khomeini, shouting "We fought for freedom and got unfreedom!" Naturally, I began the talk with an homage to those Iranian women’s liberationists who had, with this act, initiated the second chapter of the Iranian Revolution. Thus, my very first sentence stressed the TODAYNESS that this mass outpouring had placed on our topic, though it was to begin with rolling back the clock to 62 years ago, when the Russian working women transformed International Women’s Day into the first of the five days that toppled the centuries-old Tsarist Empire.
The point was not only to single out great revolutionary acts, but to demonstrate that even in the first Russian Revolution of 1905, a great theoretician, Rosa Luxemburg, was as "shortchanged" about her thoughts as were the Russian working women, en masse, who were later to be played down as allegedly "unconscious" about their historic act which began the second Russian Revolution. Toward that end, I read from the still-unpublished speech of Rosa at the famous 1907 Congress of all Russian Marxist tendencies, which pointed to the fact that 1905 was but the first of a series of 20th century revolutions…[*]
I spent the following day, March 9, talking with an Iranian male revolutionary, developing ideas not only of the revolution but how we must be prepared for the COUNTERrevolution that is sure to arise in Iran as Khomeini holds on to power and gathers not only men but some women to consent to turning back the clock to Islam’s reactionary viewpoint on women–and by no means only on the question of dress; and I singled out the historic points in the development of the Russian Revolution, which moved from the February events through Lenin’s April Thesis to Kornilov’s July counterrevolution, and only after many laborious and bloody months arrived finally at October. In a word, we were discussing my next POLITICAL-PHILOSOPHIC LETTER on the Iranian Revolution.[**]
March 10 was still a newer day when, but half an hour before the Iranian’s plane left, I came up with the idea of translating into Farsi Ding Ling’s THOUGHTS ON THE EIGHTH OF MARCH, which would carry also the following message of solidarity with the Iranian women of today, stretching back to 1908 on native grounds:
“In Spring 1908–when the 1906 Constitutional Revolution everyone is talking about today was still alive, and a women’s ANJOMAN was still most active, especially in Tehran–New York garment workers declared March 8 to be Women’s Day. The following year, in support of the locked-out Triangle Shirtwaist makers, the mass outpouring became known as the "Uprising of the 20,000" that so inspired the German working women’s movement that its leader, Clara Zetkin, proposed to the Marxist International that March 8 become an International Women’s Day. Today, you–the daring women of Iran–have opened a new chapter in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In homage to you, and to express our solidarity with your ongoing revolution, we are here translating the thoughts of still another opponent of the status quo, this time in China–Ding Ling, who opposed both Stalin and Mao (who purged the great writer), as she expressed herself creatively in THOUGHTS ON THE EIGHTH OF MARCH.”
The friend who volunteered to do the translation felt that, indeed, the simple act of translation would thus express a totally new Man/Woman relationship…
* Luxemburg’s speech and a discussion of women in the 1905 Russian Revolution can found in Dunayevskaya’s ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN’S LIBERATION, AND MARX’S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991). — Editor
** The letter, "Iran: Unfoldment of, and Contradiction in, Revolution," can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 6019 (English) and 6066 (Farsi). — Editor