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IN DEFENSE OF IRANIAN LIBERALS

By Sam Ghandchi

2/24/94

 

The following is a copy of ghandchi’s article entitled “IN DEFENSE OF

IRANIAN LIBERALS”, which was posted on SCI newsgroup on Feb 24,1994: 

 

 

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“AAA”, an SCI reader, in his message says that he has lost a brother

and many close friends and comrades.  I can only sympathize with

his loss and say that yes, Iranians have buried so many of their

brightest intellectuals in mass graves in the last century, without

even achieving half of what some nations such as Singapore have

achieved.

 

Why?  I think because of sensational assessments of the world and

of our society; and replacing brevity and fearlessness contests for

reason.  I am sorry to be so harsh and cold-blooded in my response

to AAA's tragic report, but I do not want to see the sacrifice of

another soul for sensationalism.  I am afraid that Iranian

intellectuals have already lost too much by resorting to

sensationalism, especially in the last four decades and I prefer to

have my reason, rather than my emotions, to direct my actions.

 

AAA's final call for action goes as follows:

 

>In summary, my message is the following. First, Iran needs a

>revolutionary change to take it back from the IRI's rule. Second, it is

>not clear that any leading opposition group will be a practical force

>for implementing this revolutionary change and therefore, a new

>independent force must be created to fill this void or otherwise we

>can look forward to living in conditions similar to our neighbors in

>Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan. Finally, the time for action is

>now and we must take the leadership role that will complement

>the change within the Iranian society.

 

The above analysis reminds me of the period after the 1953 coup,

i.e. after the overthrow of Dr. Mossadegh's government.  Many

Iranian intellectuals who were tired of the politics and defeats of

the Tudeh Party and Jebh-e Melli chose two new sensational

alternatives.  The first one was the Cheriki leftist guerrilla movement

and the second one was the Shariati mystical-Islamic movement.

 

The former felt dead in the quiet times of 1953-1962.  Amir Parviz

Pooyan called the intellectuals of the time BAGHA (meaning status

quo) supporters.  Massoud Ahmad-Zadeh looked to Regi Dubre's

theories for action and being alive.  Thus the former tendency, that is

the leftist guerilla practitioners, with prominent figures such as Bijan

Jazani, finally were consolidated in the Fadaeean Khalgh organization.

 

The latter group, that is Shariati and his Hosseiniiieh-Ershad, created

a mixture of Existentialism and Islam in a mystical fashion.  They

attacked liberalism by undermining rationalism; and they idealized

emotionalism by choosing the path of heart.  They partly joined the

forces that finally are part of the current regime; and partly became

the body of Mojahedin organization (MKO), which was previously

formed by the radical elements of Nehzat Azadi.

 

Actually the above two tendencies among the Iranian intellectuals

for over 30 years, were the reasons why the liberalism did not grow

in Iran in this period.  Yes we did have a liberal tradition which was

continued from the time of Mashrootiat.  People like Alameh

Dehkhoda continued that tradition even after Mossadegh's fall. 

Dehkhoda himself was always a supporter of Mossadegh. 

Unfortunately, the new intellectuals of the 60s had no patience for

this liberalism, which was already tarred by Tudeh Party within the

opposition and was damaged by the Shah's repression from the other

end.

 

It is ironic that the fathers of the two individuals who were founders

of the above two tendencies, were both members of the National

Front, namely Ahmad-Zadeh and Shariati.  The new sensational

leftist and Islamic tendencies attacked liberalism so much that the

word "liberal" became a dirty word in Iranian political literature.  If

you see in our times that Mohandes Bazargan was attacked as the

menacing "liberal", as if the word is pointing at something dirty, this

is a heritage of that period.

 

Let me return to one of the AAA’s own statements below.  He writes:

 

>Can anyone of you imagine a dictatorship running France or England

>for extended period of time? The answer is no as these countries

>have gone through the evolution of democracy. It is not too difficult

>to imagine the rise of a dictator for life in Nicaragua or Iran despite

>the revolutions that they have gone  through. Therefore, we must

>understand that the change we need and should seek is an

>evolutionary change and not a revolutionary one    IF we had the

>time, but we are not given that luxury.

 

The above reminds me so much of Ahmad-Zadeh and Shariati's

writings.  We never have time for liberalism.  But the real reason for

France and England's strong footholds of democracy is the long

liberal tradition.  They also had to deal with dictatorships.  AMIR

KABIR ALSO DEALT WITH DICTATORSHIP, BUT CHOSE LIBERALISM,

WHEREAS MIRZA REZA KERMANI CHOSE SENSATIONALISM IN

RESPONSE TO THE SAME SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

It is not because of the conditions, Conditions are used as an excuse

to justify oneÕs chosen path, although the conditions do reciprocally

help to strengthen that chosen path.  In other words, for our post

1953 coup intellectuals, liberalism was not noble enough and the

post-coup repression reinforced them in their belief to abandon

liberalism as a feasible path.  In the above, the arguments that were

repeated over and over again since Ahmad-Zadeh, by Cheriki

activists of Iran, are being repeated above by AAA. 

 

Who do you think attacked the liberal government of Mohandes

Bazagan right after the revolution?  The leftists and radical Islamic

groups did.  Do you remember how "liberal" was such a dirty word in

those days.  In those days, these groups always sided with the more

conservative groups of Ruhaniiat, such as Khoeineeiha, and they

pointed their attacks against the more moderate factions such as

Rafsanjani [at the time of hostage-taking, Rafsanjani took more

moderate positions as compared to Khoeiniha and his politics at that time

was more similar to Khatami’s politics of 90’s-Note SG 2001]

 

I never forget the attacks on Mohandes Bazargan's government. 

Ibrahim Yazdi was attacked daily by our leftist and Shariati type

intellectuals.  The Jebh-e Melli representatives in that government,

such as Sanjabi, never received any support from our intellectuals. 

 

It is so unfortunate that in the first years after the 1979 revolution,

the Iranian intellectuals themselves, more than anybody else,

damaged the growth of consciousness for liberalism among the

people and they damaged the growth of the democratic movement to

address the individual rights among Iranian people, by their attacks

on the liberals, as the lackeys of the Western states.  During the

hostage crisis, most of the Iranian left was one voice with the

extremist right in attacking the liberal government of Bazargan.

 

Please read the following conversation between AAA and BBB.  BBB

who is an ardent supporter of MKO on SCI:

 

AAA writes:

 

>Islam, whose very soul is to free and liberate, has turned into a

>sword, whose only goal is to chain and murder.

 

BBB of Mojahedin responds:

 

>Again although I do not consider myself a religious person, I agree

>with you completely. I do believe Islam and other religions brought

>the message of equality and compassion for the human race and

>certainly do not believe what the Akhunds are doing in Iran has

>anything to do with Islam.

 

In other words, BBB representing an organized party, is more

realistic.  He sees that what AAA says is what MKO has been in its

youth.  AAA admires the early MKO and wants to return to those

days.  In other words to return to the days when MKO was filled with

Shariati type Islamic sensationlism.  Here is AAA's own words:

 

>I, like many others in my age group, was a sympathizer of the MKO

>for many years as to me they were a manifestation of the ideas and

>goals that captivated my young mind and came from Dr. Shariatie

>and others like him. The admiration that I felt towards MKO was

>dimmed and finally put to rest after the current crop of their

>leaders took over the organization. Mr. Rajavi in my opinion is as

>much responsible for the murder of many of our brothers as is

>Larijanee who ordered the actual executions. ..... His lack of trust in

>others and his egoism has turned a potentially viable option into an

>organization that is hated by the masses of Iranian people and has

>turned MKO into a useful tool for the regime.  By having an

>illegitimate and highly unpopular opposition group the regime has

>succeeded in labeling all other opposition forces with even a slight

>bias towards left as MKO supporters or MKO imitators and thus, has

>deprived them of any popular support.

 

I am writing in defense of Iranian liberalism.  I hope that Iranian

intellectuals today not to make the same mistake that their

predecessors made after the 1953 coup.  IT WAS SO UNFORTUNATE

THAT THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF PEOPLE LIKE AMIR KABIR, ALAMEH

DEHKHODA, AND DR. MOSSADEGH WERE REPLACED WITH THE

SENSATIONALIST APPEALS OF TERRORISTS LIKE MIRZA REZA

KERMANI IN THE MINDS OF OUR YOUTH.  THE RESPONSIBILITY WAS

MAINLY WITH THE SHAH'S SAVAK WHICH STOPPED EVEN

THE MOST INNOCENT GATHERINGS OF IRANIAN INTELLECTUALS.

 

In fact, unfortunately, the brightest Iranian intellectuals never

became attracted to the liberal groups such as Jebh-e Melli and

Nehzat Azadi.  Thus these liberal organizations seldom have anybody

of high caliber (such as Dr. Sanjabi or Dr. Mossadegh) in their ranks

from the 60s generation.  If you read the history of very top-level

Iranian intellectuals such as Ahmad-Zadeh, Hanif-Nejad or Jazani;

they all started in these liberal organizations, but ended up in one of

the leftist or Islamic extremist organizations.

 

What a pity that we have the greatest number of brightest minds in

our graves and even more pity that their sacrifices did not contribute

to the growth of a liberal society in Iran.  Socialist movement without

a strong liberal background in Iran, not only did not help the growth

of a liberal society, it even damaged its growth.

 

I hope one day someone would write a book entitled "In Defense of

Iranian Liberals".  The people who worked hard for almost a half

century, without much support from the majority of Iranian

intellectuals.

 

It seems to me that inside Iran, the publication of so many modern

futuristic works points to a new focus of Iranian intellectuals, a focus 

that is radically different from the sensationalist alternatives.

 

Regards,

- Sam Ghandchi

Feb 24, 1994

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