In Memory of Ali Kiani (Kambiz Rafie)

Alireza Kia

Summary: We mourn the passing of an Iranian Marxist, revolutionary, and true humanist — Editors

On September 16, 2021 (26 of Shahrivar of 1400 with Iranian calendar), our comrade and revolutionary Kambiz Rafie (political name Ali Kiani, aka Kia Saadi) passed away. Ali Kiani was a very active member of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) during the past 5 years, including as a member of our editing committee for both English and Persian-language articles.

Ali Kiani came to the U.S. from Iran to study when he was 18 years old. He joined the Iranian Student Confederation, one of the largest Iranian student organizations in the U.S. Ali became an active member of the organization in order to struggle against the Shah’s regime in Iran. He was working for a living and studying, while very involved as a political activist. He studied physics and got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

While returning to Iran before the 1979 revolution, the shah’s notorious secret police, the SAVAK, stopped him at the airport for having a few political books and materials hiding in his suitcase. Since he was not on a SAVAK blacklist, they let him go after several hours of questioning.

Later Ali became a member of the Razmandegan Organization (Organization of Working-Class Freedom Fighters) to fight against the shah’s regime and defend the workers movement. At that time, Razmandegan was a left-wing Marxist organization opposed to both Stalinism and Maoism. In 1979, a mass revolution involving tens of millions of people overthrew the regime, an uprising in which Ali Kiani participated. As the regime began to fall, revolutionary crowds broke into military and police installations in the cities in order to seize arms and to vanquish the regime.  Kambiz participated in these street battles, as well as in the workers’ councils that were emerging in this period. He and his comrades interacted closely with these revolutionary workers, conducting study sessions with them on Marxism.

But not after the shah’s overthrow, Khomeini’s counterrevolutionary theocratic regime began to establish itself in its place. This led to many pressures on the workers’ councils, as Islamist reactionaries allied to Khomeini moved to take them over. All this led to a lot of turmoil among Iranian left organizations, including within the Razmandegan organization. Ali stayed with the left wing of the organization, whose members believed Khomeini’s regime was reactionary and they needed to oppose the Islamic regime. After the Islamic regime started to attack all left organizations, executing some of their opponents, Ali and his comrades realized they needed to rethink their past Marxist theories and find out what had gone wrong.

Iranian Marxist organizations had in the past assumed that theory was a given, and they needed only to apply it to the objective world.  But now Ali realized that it was their theory which they needed to rethink! To understand their situation, they started to read Marx and Lenin with fresh eyes. After the betrayal of the Second International in 1914, Lenin began reading Hegel’s Science of Logic. Lenin’s return to the philosophical foundation of Marxism, dialectics, was through his own reading of Hegel. He realized that Marx’s theory of liberation is rooted in Hegel’s dialectical theory and his philosophical ideas. Lenin’s view changed after this reading, after which he proclaimed that it is impossible to grasp Marx’s Capital, especially its first chapter, if you have not thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Ali paid more attention to Lenin’s philosophical notebooks and Lenin’s 1914 changed view and his understanding of Marx’s Marxism. In this sense, Ali and his Iranian comrades rediscovered, in the midst of revolution and counterrevolution, the revolutionary dialectics of Lenin on the eve of the Russian revolution of 1917. This was later to bring him into contact with Marxist-Humanism in the U.S., as someone who had encountered, on a completely independent and very high level, some of the same dialectical principles drawn from Lenin that were at the core of Marxist-Humanism.

During this same time, as the Islamic Republic’s police and informants closed in, the organization asked Ali to leave the country for his protection. Ali thereupon left Iran and went to Turkey. During the few months that Ali was there, he established a safehouse for Iranian political activists who had escaped from Iran, running for their lives as the Islamist secret police were searching for them.  A few months later, Ali applied for political asylum from the U.S. government. First, he had to go to Italy and after a few months came to United States. He went to San Francisco and then settled in Los Angeles. It did not take much time for Ali to get into contact with the Iranian Marxist-Humanists and their organization, Anjoman Azadi. He also came into contact with U.S. Marxist-Humanist activists and theoreticians in Los Angeles, in order to gain better understanding of Marx’s Marxism.

As Ali came to see it, Marxist-Humanism had answers to his questions about the Iranian revolution’s failure, not only what happened and why, but also concerning what is to be done today. Anjoman Azadi had a bulletin called Sokhane-Azadi (Talk for Freedom). Ali was one of the main theoreticians and most active writers for this bulletin. During this period, in 1991, he also translated into Persian one of Raya Dunayevskaya’s key essays on Lenin and Hegel, “The Shock of Recognition and the Philosophic Ambivalence of Lenin.[1]

Ali also worked as an engineer in the U.S., but eventually lost his job due to automation. He often commented on this with a wry sense of humor as an example of what capitalism is doing everywhere.

After the IMHO started its activity in the U.S., Britain and few other countries, Ali joined our Los Angeles chapter. He has been a very active member since 2014, serving on the IMHO journal’s Editing Committee for all of that period, right up until the end.

Ali spoke at our public meetings in LA on a regular basis, on topics like the recent uprisings inside Iran, the Syrian revolution, Palestine, and the struggles of the Kurdish people for national liberation. A revolutionary internationalist in the deepest sense of the term, he did not limit his activities or his theorizing to Iran and the Middle East.  He also spoke out and wrote articles about issues like the Great Recession, Brexit, Trump’s war threats against North Korea, and democracy and socialism in the writings of the young Marx. In addition, he participated avidly in all our study groups, whether those based in LA, or remotely in Santa Barbara and Europe.

During the last few years, Ali did not stop his theoretical and practical activities even though he had serious heart, blood, diabetes and stomach problems that forced him to go to the hospital for treatment many times. Just weeks before his death, even though he had a hard time walking even with a cane, Ali participated in a demonstration against political repression in Iran (see photo).

Ali dedicated his life not only to the movement in Iran, but also to revolutionary movements in the U.S. and internationally. He was extremely humble while, at the same time, having a lot to say. He was a true human being, a revolutionary with a love for freedom and for all struggles for liberation. He will be sorely missed.

Our deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and his comrades.


[1] https://imhojournal.org/articles/the-shock-of-recognition-and-the-philosophic-ambivalence-of-lenin-2/

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3 Comments

  1. Edward Tapia

    Ali Kiani was a a wonderful person that will be missed by many! I have very fond memories during the short time I spent with him and will always remember his humility. You can say whatever you want about Ali Kiani but you can’t say he wasn’t a revolutionary.

    Reply
  2. Thonette

    Ali Kiani will be deeply missed. He was a true humanist and a kind person. I met him several times in LA and he took good care of me, and we had several good conversations. He was certainly a revolutionary and will be remembered.

    Reply
  3. Hamid Vahed

    Ali was a socialist who was focused on middle east and specially on Iran’s issues .He was following the events on the daily basis. On his last days of life we had some interesting conversation about the new president of Iran and the withdrawal of U.S army from Afghanistan As this article says Ali was active during 1979 Iranian revolution and tried to combat the new reactionary regime which got the power after the Shah. While the majority of the people were deceived by popular rhetoric of Khomeini Ali was among those activists who opposed the new regime. Although Ali always stood on his political positions and did not fall short , but he did it with humor and kindness. I will miss him.

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