Response To Article2
By Sam Ghandchi
Here is ghandchi’s first response to CCC:
Please note that the "S" indicates my original postings and the "C"
shows CCC’s comments:
S) .....Iranians have buried so many of their brightest intellectuals in
S) mass graves in the last century, without even achieving half of
some nations such as
S) Why? I think because of sensational assessments of the world and
S) our society; and replacing brevity and fearlessness contests for
C) But isn't this a bit simplistic? Lets see... :
It may not be detailed, but I do not think my assessment is
simplistic. I am presenting a new angle in my whole posting and my
angle is to view our history from the viewpoint of someone who
thinks everyone has had choices; and has made right and wrong
choices; rather than seeing things as inevitable.
In other words, according to my viewpoint, one had the choice to act
like Amir Kabir or Mirza Reza Kermani under the same dictatorial
rule. Some people chose the former option and some others chose
the latter, and the choices they made were not inevitable. They
could have done the reverse. This is all I am trying to convey. I
agree that to cover what I have tried to cover, I would need to write
a book and not a short article [Sorry SCI friends, I know, it was not
I also agree with someone, who in an Email corrected me, that it was
not just two tendencies of sensationalism and rationalism. She did
correctly disagree with my dichotomous/binary referencing. I
agree with her, and I also prefer a pluralistic analysis.
But here I am just referring to the sensationalist extremism in our
history. I know none of our historians make such an allegation, but I
believe there is a major tilt towards sensationalism in our history. I
accept that I have not given enough arguments to substantiate this
view in every juncture of our modern history and definitely a lot
more work is needed. But I am trying and I need your help to add
your research to prove or disprove this theory:
In my opinion, the number of individuals, who chose the rationalist
path in our modern history is very small: Amir Kabir, Kasravi, Arani,
and Dehkhoda. The liberal tradition, even before 1953 coup, was
extremely weak. Even in that period, it was rather Mossadegh as an
individual, and not Jebheh Melli as a party. It is noteworthy to say
that unfortunately Jebh-e Melli had more emphasis on nationalism
than on liberalism and individual rights. Also needless to say that
Jebh-e Melli never grew to be a real party.
The only party of significance in our history was Tudeh Party, as a
party, and that was neither rationalist nor liberal. It was not even
communist. Kianoori and Ghasemi were adventurists long before
guerrilla movement. And I classify them more with the
sensationalist tendency of our intellectuals in modern times, rather
than the rationalist tradition.
Actually there have been communist parties in many countries that
symbolized rationalism, for example, The Communist Party of
rationalism. Kasravi or Dehkhoda by themselves researched and
wrote more works of research than the whole of Tudeh Party, during
the 1941-1953 period when they did not have much of the Russian
after the coup, Tudeh Party never existed in
remnants of Sasmaneh Afsari did a lot of couragous sacrifices, but
the Central Committee was busy in its plenums abroad. As for
rationalism, especially after 1963 defeat of Jebh-e and Tudeh
remnants, as you noted, rationalism drastically went down hill in
favor of sensationalism. People like Bazargan and Sanjabi in 1979
were actually remnants of the 1941-1953 period and were not
the products of the post-1953 period.
The post-coup period never created any major new liberal figure in
our political scene. Again I am not discerning the differences in the
rationalist and liberalist development patterns. I am only referring
to growth of sensationlism, which prohibited the growth of the
Thus, as you see, I am not considering just the Cheriki and Shariati
movements as sensationalism. I see the shadow of sensationalism in
most of our modern history. I agree that my analysis is very
different from old assessments, which state the liberals’ failure
before the 15th of Khordad, as the reason for the start of radical left
and of the Islamic movement in Iran.
In my opinion, in the opposite way (Please note that the issue is not
just the dates. The issue may sound like chicken and egg, but it
makes a big difference) , the climax of sensationalism in the post-
1963, actually killed liberalism for good; and this is why it did not
exist, except for the Jebh-e Melli ghosts of the past at the dawn of
the 1979 revolution.
Even one year after the Islamic Revolution, when Sanjabi had an
open to public press conference, following his resignation from
Bazargan government near Meydan Enghelab at Jebhe's garden,
only less than 200 people showed up; which was pathetic,
considering the freedom of assembly at the time.
C) While I quite agree that the lack of liberal tradition in Iranian
C) politics has been a major factor in the growth of violence and/or
C) mystical/religious oriented groupings during the 10-15 years
C) before the revolution, I found your analysis of the reasons for the
C) first rather simplistic. Furthermore, classifying intellectuals as if
C) they are a homogeneous political groupings and then blaming
C) them for whatever happened to Iran in this (and some other)
C) periods is bordering on naivetŽ. This sort of "analysis" is used
C) universally by many opposing groups: the monarchist blame
C) intellectuals for the revolution, the mollah's blame them for
C) keeping the Shah in power for the period he was in power, and
C) many people on the left also doing the same.
I really reviewed my writing to see why you consider my analysis as
simplistic. Maybe to write the Iranian modern history from a new
angle cannot be done in a short essay and you are right. But I cannot
accept it that all I have written should be marked as a simplistic
so-called "analysis" used by monarchists, mollahs, leftists, etc.
I actually do not mind if anybody with any political tendency uses
the same analysis. But I still think that my approach can be fruitful.
Maybe we can *rethink* our modern history and see if we may solve
some of our problems better this way.
I am just trying to view the history not as "COULD NOT" and "WOULD
NOT". I am trying to say that we are not pawns in a big movement of
a historical machine. I am tired of Hegelian models of looking at
history as inevitable spirals. I do not believe in any historicism. I
actually like philosophies like Karl Popper’s philospohy, which
BTW, I know intellectuals are not one pack, but I cannot understand
why you think my analysis of their general tendency towards
sensationalism; and their role in the defeat of liberalism in Iran, is
bordering on naivete.
I could use Alvin Gouldner's analysis and differentiate the
intelligensia, etc. and give a more detailed anlysis of different
groupings of intellectuals and their role. But all I wanted to note
here was that the majority of Iranian intellectuals overwhelmingly
sided with the sensationalist tendecy rather than the rationalism and
liberalism, and I did not need a breakdown.
IMHO the intellectuals of Iran in the last century have had many
choices to make. A few like Amir Kabir worked for reason and
liberalism (I know reason and liberalsim are not equal); and they
still lost their life; and many like Koochek Khan, Heydar Amoghli, and
Mirza Reza Kermani did not have the time for liberalism. I wish
more of our intellectuals had taken the former path than the latter. I
think, if they had, Iranian society would have benefited more.
I know about the world situation and historical facts, etc. But I still
believe, the more educated you are, the more responsible you are for
the decisions you make; and one cannot just blame everything on
C) ....The Bazargan government was liberal only in name: it could not
C) and would not defend and safeguard the most basic human rights
Why do you say COULD NOT and WOULD NOT as if things are pre-
determined. We have choices even under the worst conditions. Why
not just say what things Bazargan did right; and what he did wrong.
Can't we criticize our politicians the same way as Americans do. To
say what right choices they made, and what wrong choices they
made and voice our support and our dismay.
C) against the onslaught of the reactionary mollahs. It was ready to
C) compromise anything for power (unlike Mossaddegh who would
C) stand against the Shah whenever matters of principle were at
C) stake. And true, the radical left (both Islamic and Marxist) had no
C) time and place for such "luxuries" as human rights in their agenda,
C) It looks as if the Iranian people have had no choice but to go
C) through "trial and error".
I appreciate your agreement that Islamic and Left radicals did not
have time for "human rights".
But why do you say, we had no choice but trial and error. I
understand that you mean it in a historical perspective, but let's just
drop this way of looking at history for a moment. Don't you think
one, who has brain, can think and is responsible for making good and
bad choices. Actually Mossadegh also made many wrong choices as
well. I am sorry I just do not see history as Hegelian spirals, and I
feel the Iranian people had other choices than just going thru this
pendulum of trial and errors that you sketch below. I just do not
believe in historical necessities.
C) They tried liberalism (in the shape of Mossaddegh government)
C) and failed by the coup. They tried violence in the
C) sixties/seventies. That failed too as all these movements were
C) crushed by the might of SAVAK torture machines. They then
C) turned to religious salvation - and got the IRI with all its
C) barbarism, devastation and regressive records. The signs are that
C) this latest experience is leading many back to liberalism again -
C)with a difference. The political changes both inside and outside
C) Iran have created a more favorable conditions for the growth of
C) liberalism. One can easily witness that the argument for violence
C) and extremism is losing ground in the Iranian politics, and the
C) forces of reason and secularism/liberalism are gaining grounds.
C) What it lacks is a political leadership to turn this new
C) sentimentality into a political force and affect changes for the
C) betterment of the society.
I am sorry to be very rough in my response. I actually value your
note a lot. I think you helped me to review the different periods of
our history for myself. You also have helped me to understand my
shortcomings in attempting to rethink our history and specifying the
dates. Actually the same issues that I am criticizing you about,
namely historicism, etc., are unconsciously on my mind as well.
I have been brought up in the same intellectual atmosphere of Iran
of the last quarter century; and I am trying to re-understand our
situation because many of the answers I used to give to the dilemma,
that were no longer satisfactory to myself either and I started to
*rethink* my approach in reviewing our history. I think, perhaps,
you may also feel the same way when reviewing our modern history.
Actually I think whether Muslim, secular, leftist, rightist, futurist,
whatever we may be, we all share many similar approaches in our
way of analyzing our history which is not really helping us to make
better choices. I do not think that I have the answer. I am also not a
historian. But I hope to see more history books with fresh
perspectives. I am tired of reading Petroshevski's inevitability
theories fixed on Iranian history.
I once went to a firewalking seminar with Tony Robins in San
Francisco vicinity. I was able to walk on fire after learning to control
my mind and the choices I had made. He had one good advice in his
6-hour presentation. He said that early on he learned to read the
books that successful people read, do the things they did, etc. He
tried to teach how to always be aware of making choices. His book is
called UNLIMITED POWER. BTW, many people think he is a
charlatan. I do not know. But his lecture program was useful for me.
- Sam Ghandchi
Feb 26, 1994