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The Black And White Revolution

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  1. Introduction
  2. Meanings and methods of land reform in iran
  3. Histories and theories of the land reform
  4. Biography of a propagandist
  5. Authenticating reform
  6. The red specter
  7. The black shadow
  8. Landowners great and small
  9. Oil and international prestige
  10. Land reform as modernity
  11. Conclusion
  12. Footnotes

?My heart is with our village people, and as I think of their future I believe I see a magnificent vista lying ahead.? Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Mission For My Country (1960) In the twenty years leading up to Islamic Revolution, the landscape of Iran underwent significant change. This landscape?a reference to the physical terrain as well as a metaphor for the composition of society?had gradually emerged as a result of several thousand years of historical development and agricultural labor. In the span of two decades, however, it was to serve as the subject of a major land reform plan conceived by Mohammad Reza Shah, the second and last potentate of the Pahlavi dynasty. His plan, part of the aptly titled White Revolution, remains enigmatic and important within the larger context of Iranian political history.

[...] The book aims to justify the White Revolution and praise its successes. The justification section contains a great deal of propaganda and ideology; I use this rhetoric to understand the Shah's own rationales for revolution from the top. His character suffuses the entire work. Rahnema, Majid. The Concept of Development Majid Rahnema collection, box 1. Hoover Archives, Stanford. This collection contains the writings of Majid Rahnema during and after his post as Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. These include French and English newspaper articles, conference speeches, scholarly essays, and pedagogical material. [...]


[...] As the White Revolution progressed, so grew the growing need of the Shah to assert his government as an independent and sovereign entity, worthy of respect. Rather than join the ranks of the nations ?kowtowing? either to the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, the Shah much preferred the multilateralist United Nations.54 His ideas strongly identify Iran's responsibilities as weaning itself off foreign funds. Because he determined to show America and the world that Iran could make good use of aid,?55 the Shah wagered many of his political chips on land reform? and fixed the results as best he could. [...]


[...] The Shah claimed that his White Revolution offered way which was most beneficial for us and which would be in harmony with the Persian spirit and character, with the needs of our continent, our geography, and history.?10 But many were not persuaded. Rahnema, though not politically capable of criticizing the regime's policies, indeed abandoned his post as Iran's ambassador and worked independently with UNESCO after 1975. He also left Iran after 1979.11 These events suggest that the international development expert was not convinced by the rhetoric of reform in Iran. [...]

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