What is Wrong with the Iranian Opposition?
I do not think anybody in the Iranian opposition would disagree that there is something seriously wrong with the Iranian opposition of the last two decades or it would not have failed so miserably to change the regime in Iran. Islamic Republic of Iran has been around for 23 years although it is one of the most undesired regimes, both by the Iranian people living under its rule, and by the people and states of many other countries. And the mullah's Islamism, contrary to Hitler's Fascism, is not good at technology to compensate for its inabilities in economic and international relations and to nullify its inability to introduce a democratic political system in Iran.
Also one cannot just say that this regime has been around because the mullahs of Iran, contrary to Mola Omar of Afghanistan, are very sly in game playing, both with various political forces inside Iran and the ones outside. True that Iranian clergy know how to play the game of speaking on both sides of their mouth very well, to avoid a fate like the Shah, where all forces opposing him united against his arrogance. But regardless of all these tricks of the magicians of Islamic Republic, the main reason why this regime is still around is that the opposition has not been able to be a viable alternative to unite the Iranian people to replace this regime.
And the problem of Iran certainly is not lack of opposition. In fact, comparing Iran to all the Arab countries and Afghanistan, one can see that Iranian opposition is a very *real* thing and anybody who thinks that change of regime in Iran should or will be done by outside forces is blind to see the extent of Iranian opposition forces. Then the question is why this opposition is so real and extensive and yet is not an alternative.
I think what is wrong with Iranian opposition is that we Iranians do not know how to work as a community of individuals and at the same time we can no longer accept a cult-like organizational structure either. In other words, the Iranians have become very conscious about individual rights, thanks to the Islamic Republicís wiping out of every vestige of social freedoms in Iran, on top of the political freedoms that were already wiped out by the Shah. I have already written enough on this issue and will not repeat here. The readers can refer to my following article:
The bottom line reality is that Iranians are now very aware of individual freedoms and the genie cannot go back in the bottle. Now some consciously deny the free choice to themselves to escape from this free choice, and join cults like mojAhedine khalgh. A similar phenomena was true in Germany of Hitler and this is why Eric Fromm wrote his book "Escape From Freedom" to describe those who although have freedom available to them escape from it to cults to avoid decision-making as a responsible person in a free society. But those going for cults like MKO or Baha'i or Shahmaghsoodi cults are not the main body of Iranian opposition. Thus the question is not about them because Iranian people have already said no to cults like MKO and MKO has already shown that it is not able to mobilize Iranian people to change the regime.
The question is about those who respect their own individual rights. Those people have the support of Iranian people but they have not been able to form any serious organization of themselves and this is the problem that one needs to solve. I think we Iranians do not know how to work in an organization of free individuals and basically we only know how to form a political cult but political cults cannot be formed by independent individuals and this is why we have failed for 23 years.
As a result, we have as many organizations as we have individuals in the opposition. Some think this is because in democracy individuals can think for themselves contrary to those who abide by a velAyate faghih. This is half true. In fact, the free individuals should be able to cooperate and they actually have done for centuries in the democracies. If one cannot form a democratic opposition organization, one should also doubt to be able to form a democratic state later after taking over the power. Almost all these organizations of Iranian opposition are trying to get the support of U.S. to be the one leading the future state in Iran. Even the Islamic reformists and the IRI regime itself are in this race for the heart of United States.
Nonetheless the reality is that the presence of a large Iranian opposition means that not the U.S. but Iranian opposition is the determining factor for any regime change in Iran. But how is the opposition going to solve the problem of the unity of itself to unite all the people. In fact, the unity of the current groupings even if possible means a unity within a fiefdom which is of no value to bring cohesiveness to the movement and it is impossible too, because even the forces that share the same politics and ideology are not able to unit, and are splitting more. Then if closer forces are not able to unite, how can those that are even farther from each other in the spectrum unite. And it is a dream to think a bigger umbrella can bring all of them together. There is no such force today and those in the past who thought MKO or Prince Reza Pahlavi can play such roles have failed in their assessment. I think we should just look closely at the Iranian opposition to see what the reality is.
Take a look at the monarchists. They are one hundred and one groups. Every person in every geographical area is an organization. Although they all say they are for restoration of monarchy, they cannot even work with each other and continue to split more and more. Look at the organizations like IranMehr, Pars, Derafsh-Kavyani, and many many others. I am not denying their democratic right to be separate groups but I am trying to see where we are in the convergence of the whole movement . The same is true about even the lobbyists, although they are not really opposition to IRI but they are still Iranian political forces. One would think that lobbying for Islamic Republic should make it easier to unite, and it does, but still they have gone the same path and one sees IIC, WPAC, PWC, AIC, and many others. Then look at the leftists. There were actually many groups in the past too but after the revolution, they have split more and more and nowadays there are so many of them. True that their schism has to do with the great schism of Communism worldwide but in Iran's case, this has incredible magnitude. Let's look at mellimazhabis. They split to nehzate AzAdi and mellimazhabi and then again Ezatollah Sahabi from the latter broke off with Vahid Sadeghi and others and the saga continues. Jebhe Melli has different organizations set up in different geographical locations but they are each in a way a separate and this has helped it to incorporate the reality of the movement in its structure, more than others, but still is very far from what one could call a united organization of free individuals. Now among the whole opposition only one force seems to work united and that is mojAhedine khalgh which I call MKO cult. Why have they remained united is because they are a cult of brainwashed masses and are *not* a community of free individuals united for a common goal, program, and action. Would this model work for others. No it will not. The genie is out of the bottle. Maybe 30 years ago, a cult-tike structure would work for forces of many shades of thoughts but not now. And also what is even more important is that the people of Iran would not support a cult-like organization like MKO anymore. This is why free individuals, who are not even cooperating much, have more support of the Iranian people, than the cults like MKO although MKO has a lot more resources at its disposal but people do not even read their papers nor watch their TV.
The following are two articles by me about differences between cults and communities of free individuals and these articles may shed more light on the point I have tried to discuss here in this article:
So what is the solution today?
I think we should first understand that unless a solution is applied and forces with closer programs unite, any unity of the whole movement is just rhetoric and will never take shape and all umbrella dreams around a force like MKO or Prince Reza Pahlavi are pipe dreams that have already evaporated and there is no traditional organization like masjed for secular alternative in Iran and army will never be a substitute for such organization in Iran. In other words, the monarchists should form their own organization of free individuals because they share the same political platform. The same goes for lobbyists or leftists or others. But we see they are not converging.
I think the leaders of all these shades of political thought should make it their first priority to create a *democratic* organization of their own likeminded individuals. In other words to have very simple things like "Robert Rules of Order" voting and quorum, charters and bylaws, etc. For example, I think Prince Reza Pahlavi, if he thinks that he is for monarchy, he should take a lead and create such a *democratic* organization of monarchists. If he abdicates the throne, then he can participate in forming an organization with a republican platform but one has to start making organizations of free individuals and show the people of Iran that the opposition is able to create *democratic* organization for itself before it can claim to run the country by free individuals cooperating as a state.
What I think is interesting is that all forces of the Iranian political spectrum now have platforms. This is something hardly any of them had twenty years ago. I myself have written a proposed platform for a futurist party:
It is a good thing that all different political forces now have their own platforms. Why? Well to form an organization which is a community of free individuals, one has to first have a platform which specifies the political goals of the organization. Then one has to define the organization's rules. For example, very simple things like the right to leave an organization, something which is so clearly absent in the MKO cult that they even publish the letter of the x-wife of a dissident who has written that they should have shot her x-husband because he had decided to leave that organization. It is worse than mafia. One should be crazy to call such a mafia cult a political organization.
So the organizational rules. And then one should democratically go about plans for different areas of politics, economics, culture, human rights, and change of regime in Iran. The organization should use voting and democratic structures to run itself and only then one can work for the unity of the whole opposition. An opposition which is made of a few cults can be united like a fiefdom by a khAn or a sheikh or a shah. But groups of free individuals cannot be united that way. We need to start forming democratic organizations of free individuals who share common political platforms.
In fact, inside Iran with less democracy there has been more attempts for democratic structures than among the opposition outside Iran where there has been more of a free environment to do it. The reason is that the Iranian opposition abroad is more focused on quick shortcuts than on creating serious organizations. The latter may be more painstaking and time-consuming but this is the only way to go. Some people may be able to help such efforts financially. Some others may put in more time. That is the individual' s focus. But the goal should be to form organizations of free individuals among Iranians. This is the only way to make a change in Iran that can last because exactly such organizations will be needed not just to change the regime but to run a future democratic Iran.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Aug 25, 2002