Realizing Revolution: Revolutionary Projects and Cultural Formations in Iran and Nicaragua

Zachary Wilmot, Brown University

This paper examines the unfolding of 1979's "twin" revolutions of Iran and Nicaragua over the same world-historical period - but across the world - through the process of "revolutionary realization:" the attempts by revolutionary actors to "realize" revolutionary goals and ideals by articulating and enacting revolutionary projects drawn from deeper revolutionary cultural formations. In this process, revolutionary actors encounter various obstacles, and the trajectory of revolutionary change is impacted by the interactions between the revolutionary cultural formation and these obstacles, mediated by the articulation of revolutionary projects of social change. The key differences between the Iranian and Nicaraguan revolutions can be found in attempts by revolutionary actors to overcome three types of obstacles: 1). the revolutions themselves (specifically their the internal contradictions), 2). the constraints of economic and material realities, and 3). extra-revolutionary groups (alternative and counter-revolutionary projects). Throughout all of these arenas of change are three similarities and differences that impact the revolutionary process. What makes them similar are three interrelated factors: 1). The similar demands of the revolutionary process, 2). Similar positions as export-dependent nations in a neoliberalizing world, and 3). Similar encounters with the generalized revolutionary tradition. What makes them different are also three interrelated factors: 1). different degrees and types of institutionalization (referring to the establishment and maintenance of power, particularly state power) that determine what revolutionary actors are capable of, 2). encounters with specific revolutionary traditions (Latin American socialism and Liberation Theology in Nicaragua, Iranian Marxism, Islamic Leftism and Islamist Populism in Iran) that impact solidarities and possibilities, and 3). most importantly, the ideological structure of the revolutionary cultural formation, which impacts the articulation of revolutionary projects and define what can and can't change about the revolution as object.

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 Presented in Session 181. New Perspectives on Revolutionary Processes and Outcomes