From the January-February 2023 issue of News & Letters
It hurts to hear that Azadkar has passed. He was slightly built, but a giant in making the Iranian Revolution indigenous to Marxist-Humanism, and Marxist-Humanism indigenous to the Iranian Revolution. He and I participated in an international summit of farmers in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, in 1983, alongside farmers urgently fighting to save their land as both commodity prices and the value of farmland were plunging. What Azadkar described of defying first the Shah and then Khomeini was so concrete to them that farmer after farmer addressed his concerns in their own remarks. Farmers also related to News & Letters Editor Charles Denby’s book Indignant Heart: A Black Workers Journal chronicling his years as an Alabama sharecropper before his life in Detroit auto factories. Somebody called us the McGuire Brothers because the byline on our news story was “Azadkar and Bob McGuire.” It is true that I have lost a brother, as have we all.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
I first met Azadkar during massive demonstrations against the the Shah by Iranian students in the U.S. in the late 1970s. I was a student at Calif. State University in Los Angeles, setting up a Marxist-Humanist literature table on campus, and Azadkar came to the table. He was on campus because there was a large group of Iranian students there. Azadkar wasn’t his given name, but the one he used for political activities and writing.
At the time, Raya Dunayevskaya had been writing her Political-Philosophic Letters on the developing Iranian Revolution (and the soon to develop Khomeini counter-revolutionary usurpation), which we had on the literature table. Azadkar was attracted to her analysis. Thus began an exciting period in which a group of young Iranians, Azadkar and a dozen or so others, fused together actions in support of a developing revolution with a Marxist-Humanist analysis and projection. They formed a Marxist-Humanist group, Anjuman Azadi, which began translating Dunayevksaya’s writings on Iran into Farsi, as well as studying Marx’s writings, particularly his Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, seeing their relevance for Iran.
It wasn’t alone a study group, but an action group projecting an emancipatory body of ideas in an ongoing revolution. Soon Azadkar returned to Iran to participate as a Marxist-Humanist revolutionary. I remember how excited we were to receive his reports and publish them in News & Letters. As a participant, he brought the ongoing revolution and danger of counter-revolution to our readers.
However, with Khomeini soon consolidating power, turning Iran into a theocratic state, it became impossible to be openly active as a revolutionary, and Azadkar was forced to return to the U.S. To be a participant in an ongoing revolution, and then see it turn into counter-revolution, was a bitter blow. And yet he continued to participate in Marxist-Humanism in the years that followed.
I hope readers will read his writing on this important period along with those of Dunayevskaya. I see these events, and Azadkar’s writings, along with Dunayevskaya’s, as having meaning for today’s Iran.