From Marx to his Specters? Phenomenological Encounter with the Philosophy of Marx in Iran

This paper poses the question of why the philosophy of Marx was introduced to Iran, into a situation in which all Marxists' voices were suppressed. To elucidate, this paper refers to the encounter of Iran's political activists, intellectuals and philosophers with Marx: (1) from 1880, the year in which the first article with a Marxian theme was published in Iran, to the formation of the Party of the Masses of Iran in 1941; (2) from 1941 to the Iranian Revolution of 1979; (3) from 1979 to the suppression of Marxist groups and the banning of the Party of the Masses of Iran by the Iranian government in the 1980s; and (4) from the 1980s to the present.

Submitting these stages to a phenomenological investigation, I argue that neither Marx's philosophy nor his central messages were introduced during the first three stages, mostly due to the domination of Russian Marxism in Iran and the propaganda behind the ideology of Neoliberalism that was echoed by some Iranian intellectuals and journalists. Interestingly, however, the philosophy began to reveal itself in the 1980s when there was no strong voice to represent Marxism. During this last stage, many of Marx's works and some works about Marx were translated into Farsi in an academic way, and the necessary conditions for the possibilityof knowing Marx were provided.

I argue, by referring to Derrida’s influential book Specters of Marx, that although Marx's ideological thought, which is based on historical determinism and social class struggle, is irrelevant to Iran today, Marx’s unseen call for social democracy and his specters are alive and present in Iran. I call this the ‘processes of exclusive inclusion’, meaning that while some of Marx’s central ideas must be disregarded and excluded, some of his ideas are relevant to Iran today and should seriously be considered and included in the literature of 'democracy to come.'