A Look Back at Iran's 1963 "White Revolution"
The "White Revolution" was a series of aggressive modernization steps launched by the late Shah in 1963. The reforms intially resulted in a great redistribution of wealth, explosive economic growth, rapid urbanization, social and economic freedoms for women, and deconstruction of Iran's feudalist system.
The Shah had intended this to be a non-violent (hence the word White) rebirth of the Iranian society through economic and social reforms with the ultimate goal of tranforming the country into a global economic power.
In the 1950s, 150 families owned around 50% of the arable land in Iran with one landowner owning land the size of Switzerland. The Shah intended to break this power structure and give land to the peasantry. In this effort, he was aggressively opposed by the conservative clergy, feudal landlords, and the wealthy aristocracy.
A six-point plan was initially introduced in January 1963, and later expanded to 19 elements over the next several years. Below is a partial list;
1. LAND REFORMS to "abolish feudalism"
2. NATIONALIZATION OF FORESTS
3. PRIVATIZATION OF GOVERNMENT-OWNED ENTERPRISES
4. PROFIT SHARING for industrial workers
5. EXPANSION OF THE VOTING FRANCHISE TO WOMEN
6. FORMATION OF THE "LITERACY CORPS"
7. FORMATION OF THE "HEALTH CORPS"
Over the next decade and a half, Iran's economy expanded at an annual rate of over 9%, over 1 million families became small business owners, enrollment in elementary schools tripled and college enrollment grew from 25,000 to over 145,000. The Literacy Corps helped raise the literacy rate from 26% to 42%. From an economic perspective, the "White Revolution" was a success but it was not without challenges.
A rapid expansion of small landowners did occur, but the peasantry as a whole did not acquire land. By late 1978, there had been widespread dissatisfaction among Iranian farmers with regard to reforms. The clergy (mullahs) were aggressively opposed to the "White Revolution", as they saw their influence eroding in the society. They were also opposed to the freedoms given to women and framed this as a westernization trend and contradictory to their Islamic beliefs. These factors combined with lack of political freedoms all contributed to the Shah's overthrow and the Islamic revolution of 1979.
The Shah, in his own mind, may have had the noblest of intentions. Unfortunately, an unholy alliance of the so-called elites, gullible younger generation, radical left and right mercenaries, and corrupt and self-serving clergy was allowed to step in and hijack the mass uprising. In hindsight, Iran did not need a revolution in 1979 - she was, however, in need of economic and political reforms.
"The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions"
#Unity is the Secret to Victory.
Long Live a Free and Democratic IRAN.