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

S) what some nations such as Singapore have achieved......

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

S) our society; and replacing brevity and fearlessness contests for

S) reason.


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

even short.!!!:).].


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

Germany.  But Iran's Tudeh Party seldom cared for reason and

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

literary assistance.


And after the coup, Tudeh Party never existed in Iran.  The

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

former tendencies.


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

opposes historicism.


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

historical trends.


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) either.


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

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