In 1992, Giovanni Arrighi, Terence Hopkins, and Immanuel Wallerstein wrote that the Iranian Revolution, under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, presented a “great difficulty” for anti-systemic movements of the present era. One the one hand, these movements “often regarded the Islamism of the Iranian mullahs as part of a cultural defense of the Third World against Western cultural imperialism.” On the other hand, they were “dismayed . . . when the Iranian leadership suppressed one after the other Iranian movement of the ‘traditional’ antisystemic variety” (Arrighi et al. 1992: 240-241). Today, a consensus on the historical trajectory of Iran after 1979 is no closer. Such ambivalence toward postrevolutionary consolidation, however, is not unique to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The curtailing of liberties and indiscriminate persecutions of Iranians during the Khomeini regime recalls similarities with the Chekist waves of arrests and executions during the Russian Civil War. Echoing the Soviet Union, Iran had its own Kronstadt rebellions by self-organized worker councils that had occupied abandoned factories and workplaces after the Revolution (Bayat 1987). These were quickly suppressed by the state, under the auspices of wartime emergency, and replaced with pliant organizations. During the final years of Iran’s war with Iraq, show trials of Iranian political prisoners were broadcast on state television, with the accused tearfully recanting their crimes and pledging allegiance to the nation (Abrahamian 1999). If members of anti-systemic movements subsequently engaged in “embarrassed shuffling” of feet, then perhaps this was less because the Iranian Revolution “came to incarnate a strategy of total otherness” as surmised by Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein (1992: 240-241), but rather that it contained characteristics of world-historical social revolutions that anti-systemic movements often observe but frequently forget. In fact, as Ervand Abrahamian (1993) has argued, “Khomeinism” can be read not as a medieval throwback to the seventh century, nor as an anti-liberal challenge to Western modernity, but as
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and jefes of Latin American states. More importantly, the Iranian regime’s outlook on the world has been decidedly dynamic over the last three decades. Indeed, as I shall argue, when Iran moved from the 1980s war period into the economic and political reconstruction of the 1990s, and then into the current era of reintegration with non-Western markets, it followed a practical and strategic path that Andre Gunder Frank’s historical sociology had earlier taken theoretically. The “shuffling of feet” that the subject of Iran induces in anti-systemic movements, then, may be analogous to the reception by these movements of the intellectual shifts within Frank’s own lengthy career.