Kapuściński: On Revolution XI

From Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book Shah of Shahs (about the last Shah of Iran):

Dissent soon broke out in the revolutionary camp. Everyone had opposed the Shah and wanted to remove him, but everyone had imagined the future differently. Some thought that the country would become the sort of democracy they knew from their stays in France and Switzerland. But these were exactly the people who lost first in the battle that began once the Shah was gone. They were intelligent people, even wise, but weak. They found themselves at once in a paradoxical situation: A democracy cannot be imposed by force, the majority must favor it, yet the majority wanted what Khomeini wanted — an Islamic republic.

When the liberals were gone, the proponents of the republic remained. But they began fighting among themselves as well. In this struggle the conservative hardliners gradually gained the upper hand over the enlightened and open ones. I knew people from both camps, and whenever I thought about the people I sympathized with, pessimism swept over me.

The leader of the enlightened ones was Bani Sadr. Slim, slightly stooping, always wearing a polo shirt, he would walk around, persuade, constantly enter into discussions. He had a thousand ideas, he talked a lot — too much — he dreamed incessantly of new solutions, he wrote books in a difficult, obscurre style. In these countries an intellectual in politics is always out of place. An intellectual has too much imagination, he tends to hesitate, he is liable to go off in all directions at once. What good is a leader who does not know himself what he ought to stand up for?

Beheshti, the hardliner, never behaved in this way. He would summon his staff and dictate instructions, and they were all grateful to him beause now they knew how to act and what to do. Beheshti held the reins of the Shiite leadership, Bani Sadr commanded his friends and followers. Bani Sadr’s power base lay among the intelligentsia, the students, and the mujahedeen. Beheshti’s base was a crowd waiting for the call of the mullahs. It was clear that Bani Sadr had to lose. But Beheshti too would fall before the hand of the Charitable and Merciful One [Khomeini].

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