PART II: If you want the ultimate pleasure step on a landmine

Over the next few months, 5,000 leaders and members of the Tudeh Party were arrested. Most of the leaders were paraded on TV, confessing to the crimes deemed most atrocious by the Islamic Republic: spying for the KGB, propagating mistrust towards the regime, corrupting the minds of the young with destructive ideas, treason, subversion and conspiracy to overthrow the regime. A year later, one of the most influential members and ideologues of the Party’s Central Committee, Ehsan Tabari, announced that, after reading the works of great Islamic thinkers in prison, he was now ‘repudiating’ the works he had written over the past 40 years. According to Ervand Abrahamian in his Tortured Confessions, Tabari realized that his entire life’s work had been ‘defective’, ‘damaging’ and ‘totally spurious’ because it had all been based on unreliable thinkers: Freemasons nourished by the Pahlavis, secularists, Western liberals and Marxists linked to imperialism and Zionism.

There were rumours about these confessions being made under torture. Most of the activists had been members of the Tudeh Party for many years and had endured long-term imprisonment during the Shah’s regime. But they had never confessed to spying or treason. Now Tabari, after 50 years of being a party theoretician and the author of several books defending Marxism and defying religion, was repenting and declaring himself a strong believer in Islam.

After the death of Khomeini and the ascension of Khamenei to the position of Supreme Leader in 1989, Noureddin Kianoori, Secretary General of the Tudeh Party, wrote him a letter which became available to the public only 20 years later. In it he describes the tortures endured by him, his family and other members of the party; how his daughter and wife had been tortured in front of him and how he had been beaten, chained up and forced to witness the execution of his friends. He simply wanted the new Leader to know what was going on in Iranian prisons, assuming that he would care. Khamenei never responded, and it was soon evident that he was going to follow the legacy of his predecessor to the letter.

Tudeh’s top leaders were sentenced to long-term imprisonment; the second tier of membership was executed; others were sentenced to between 7 and 10 years. This was the end of the Party: the last vestiges of plurality in Iranian society were wiped out. Now Iran had only one party and that wasn’t even a registered one: ‘There is no Party but Hezbollah (Party of God); there is no leader but Ruhollah [Khomeini].’