The Illusion of Reformism in IRI
Following the 1979 Revolution, Iranian intellectuals learned many lessons:
1. That bringing down a regime is easier than thought whereas even getting close to one's ideal alternative is a lot harder than thought. In practice the result of 1979 Revolution was a regime which is a lot worse than what ruled Iran before this revolution. I have written about this before:
2. Iranian intellectuals found out that armed struggle of cheriki guerrilla movement did not buy them anything and they ended up to be the losers and the mollahs who had not shot a bullet all those years of the Shah won the power following the 1979 Revolution. Thus the partiality of Iranian intellectuals towards a nonviolent opposition after 1979 experience Of course, the success of nonviolent pro-democracy movement in former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and South Africa also helped to strengthen the belief that nonviolence will be the way to win the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
3. Iranian intellectuals learned that the people's movement is not going to wait for them to be ready to lead it. They were mainly leftist in the years before the1979 Revolution and were hoping to get united and form their united front or communist party to take power in Iran, but saw a force that they never took seriously, namely the mollahs, took the power, with no party or united front, and within three years, this force not only did not share power with them, it basically wiped them all out.
4. Iranian intellectuals learned that they share their anti-Americanism with the reactionary mollahs. Iranian intellectuals were strongly anti-American ever since the 1953 coup and their anti-Americanism was welcomed by the reactionary clergy in 1979 and beyond and actually the Islamic Republic not only did the hostage-taking but has been doing similar shows every few months, in the last 23 years, to keep the people busy inside Iran, and to get the support of intellectuals in Iran and aboard. The same intellectuals who would be in jail if they went to Iran, are the ones who do the job of lobbying for IRI in the West, when living abroad.
The lessons that Iranian intellectuals have learned also became the shackles for their understanding of the reality of Islamic Republic and they have created an unbelievable illusion about IRI which otherwise would be so obvious to any disinterested person looking from outside. Here are some of the elements of this illusion or the imaginary reality:
1. Iranian intellectuals for years since the presidency of Rafsanjani have been talking about reformists of IRI. And at different times, Khamenei and then Rafsanjani and then Khatami were assumed as the reformers or moderates or "soft-liners" of IRI. Regardless of how far these IRI presidents were from any reform agenda, the bigger question is that talking about reform should mean some partial sharing of power with those who consider a regime to be reformist. What is ironic is that the ones who spoke everywhere about these presidents to be reformers, are the same people who know that if they go to Iran, they will be either executed or jailed. One wonders how they can have such an illusion which is an imaginary distorted view of reality of IRI?
2. Iranian intellectuals are more worried about Israel and Palestine than about Islamism and Islamic Republic because IRI has been successful to make it a taboo not to side with Arabs in the conflict. In fact, if in the 15 years before 1979, the majority of opinion leaders of Iranian intellectuals clearly knew they want monarchy to go, one cannot say the same thing today about them wanting the Islamic state to go and they are more worried to prove they are against Zionism than Islamism when we all know that Zionism has no presence in Iran. I mean look at the MKO. They still want a variety of an Islamic state. All others seldom come and clearly state that they do *not* want any kind of Islamic state but are so conscientious to say that they oppose Zionism and in fact, the same people create the illusion that Khatami's so-called democratic Islamic Republic may be possible or acceptable and everyday they try to talk of how to advise him not to blow his chances.
3. Anti-Americanism has made the Iranian intellectuals side with IRI in all the anti-imperialist shows of IRI for 23 years and they are still busy doing it. I wrote extensively about IRI's "Death to America" trap slogan before and do not need to repeat here
Still the biggest scare of the political intellectuals of Iran is to be called a Zionist sympathizer or an American sympathizer. Did anyone see such a fear among the East European intellectuals who challenged the Soviet Empire? Their independent intellectuals even came to America to get support of the US president and Congress for their pro-democracy movement and were not afraid to be called lackeys of the U.S..
4. When the majority of intellectuals were leftists, they came up with plans to overthrow the Shah's regime by encircling the cities from the countryside or by guerrilla movement or by political and trade union movement in the cities, etc. But in the last 23 years, with the exception of PMOI, the rest of the intellectual groups basically think their interest is to just advise the regime not to get the wrath of people. It is as if they are an American citizen who criticizes his/her regime but really has no interest to remove the system or to replace it with an opposite system, whereas outside the illusion we all know that Islamic state and secular state are *opposites* and mutually exclusive.
The above basically shows that independent Iranian intellectuals basically are not taking their role as those who want to replace the Islamic regime with a secular democratic regime. Some of these forces may have some hopes in the monarchist-US alliance to do the job but even a simple look at the monarchists proves that to be another illusion. If the monarch is supposed to be a constitutional monarch, we once had one, namely Ahmad Shah, and even after many years, the experience failed, but that is what shah saltanat konad va na hokoomat means. If Reza Pahlavi is supposed to have a role like that for these monarchists, the answer is obvious, he cannot win for them what they want him to do. They would need to look for another real monarch who will be like a Reza Khan. Perhaps Masoud Rajavi can be the ideal king for the monarchists. On the other hand, if Reza Pahlavi is going to be part of the independent Iranian movement, he has the same illusion as the rest thinking that Iran is going through a movement like South Africa or India or even Soviet Union where the regime was a lot more civilized to let such legal reformist movements to take roots and not a regime that easily does stoning, executions, etc.
What is the result? Will these forces, beginning with Reza Pahlavi and counting all the rest, after the US support, thinking that if Iran ends up to have a Bonn Conference like Afghanestan, they can get a seat in the next state!
Frankly if the future of Iran ends up to be decided by some US interjection, it is the most probable that they will pick up Reza Pahlavi as their choice although if coming forward as a U.S. plan, he will not be able to get any support among Iranians, not even among the diehard monarchists. And those who are dreaming of Mohammad Reza Shah, when reposting pictures of the old Shah and Farah Pahlavi on the Internet, are dreaming of their own good old days, and can dream as much as they want, but Reza Pahlavi cannot fill that dream. Not because of not having a charm or not caring about democracy. But simply because he neither qualifies as a tyrant puppet after all the promises he has made on all these TV shows, nor can he be the future presidential candidate, because he has not taken the steps to get cleared from the monarchist platform and to seriously work on a republican platform. Thus he can only make the US fail if all others go well. The Pahlavi dynasty has long been finished and if they persist in their desire for monarchy, their choice will be a Rajavi dynasty or some other gholdor like that.
The question before all the independent thinking intellectuals of Iran is whether they want to remove the Islamic Republic or not. If they do not want to remove it, they can keep on writing advice for Khatami to do X or Y or Z today, etc and think they are challenging IRI. If they want to remove IRI, the first step is to look at the reality that the issue of Iran *is* IRI and not America or Israel or whatever, and they should spend 90% of their time planning for the alternative to IRI and to work together with all who care to do this to form a democratic organization that can achieve such a goal. How is the removal going to be achieved is the issue for such an organization to address. How can Reza Pahlavi or anybody else be so sure that the civil disobedience will remove IRI? In all countries that such plan has worked, people have had organizations whose goal was specifically to overthrow the old order. Personalities like Gandhi or Mandela or Havel were supported by such organizations.
Today even the scattered groups who talk about supporting opposition personalities in Iran spend all their time planning and suggesting to Khatami what to do? It is as if all the organizations in India, of the time of Gandhi, had spent all their time advising the British governor what to do, rather than defending Gandhi's defiance of the British rule. All those who are mainly outside Iran advising Khatami, have some friends in the so-called reformist faction of IRI, whom they hope to usher in a "new order" and this helps them to forget that even they themselves are not allowed to live in Iran, let alone to be active there politically, and they still keep on talking of their illusory view of Iranian political scene.
How many of the Iranian groups and organizations support Reza Pahlavi or anybody else of the opposition? Frankly the way that things are today, a change in Iran will be either some US action like Afghanestan or the worst will be IRI getting rooted in Iran and stay in power like the Communist China. When some of our intellectuals talk of the chaos after the Soviet breakup and say that China's path is more desired than the chaos of former Soviet Union, we can easily expect such intellectuals to support IRI over any uncertain challenge of IRI. And even if they do not support a scenario like Afghanestan or if they lose opposing it, the result will be another puppet regime in Iran.
The above alternatives are not such good choices for the future of Iran. I think it is time that all the shades of Iranian movement, from nationalist, futurist, and monarchist to mellizmazhabi, leftist, or mojahedin, to see that if independent intellectuals want to have any impact on what happens to Iran, their only choice is to quickly start a democratic organization with a democratic structure with the sole goal of defining an alternative to any Islamic government of Iran and to work for achieving it before it is too late. Yes, before either foreign forces make that decision for Iran and Iranians or that we end up like the main land china, where the Islamist state stays in power despite all the opposition of the people, and despite all the sacrifices that the opposition has endured all these years.
Any of the forces thinking that they can get to power in Iran by the US support are simply dreaming. The reality is that we either will have Islamic Republic like China remaining in power or will have a puppet regime, whether the puppet state to be a monarchy or a pseudo-republic is irrelevant. A real independent choice cannot be formed without first forming a viable *organization* of the opposition.
The opposition needs to form its organization outside of Iran. Even those active inside Iran, need to use the democracy abroad to form organizations. Iranian opposition is *not* in a country where there is a real reform environment with them participating in power. These are all illusions. How many leftists are in Iran's parliament? How many monarchists are able to campaign for their ideas in Iran. How many Kurdish representatives can even speak of their aspirations in Iran. Where is this reformist state of affairs? Even the dictatorial systems when opening up, would allow some of the people with such political tendencies to run for office. Islamic Republic not only has not allowed anybody but the Islamists to run for office, but it has actively suppressed and killed those who oppose the Islamic state for Iran.
Although all these issues are very obvious but most Iranian intellectuals do not see this reality when being outside Iran and for over a decade have fallen for the illusion and ended up helping IRI apologists. It is time to wake up from the illusion of dreaming of IRI as a reformist Islamic Republic, which never existed, and to form a democratic organization, with a clear goal of removing the Islamic government from Iran, and to establish an independent secular democratic state in Iran. As far as a real independent organization for forming a real independent alternative to Islamic government in Iran, frankly there is no difference between Reza Pahlavi and any John Doe and the difference is who makes the real contribution in forming such an organization and to get it encompass Iran and all Iranians.
The above process is where the leaders of the future Iran will be known as they lead the formation and growth of such an organization. Any of those who interview with Iranian and foreign press everyday can dream that they are the future leaders of Iran's next development, but their significance may prove to be even less than Alexander Dubcek in the liberated Czechoslovakia. Only those who play a significant role in forming and developing the independent democratic secular organization of Iranians will be the ones who will be considered as the leaders of the next development of Iran to remove the Islamic Republic and to replace it with a secular democratic state of tomorrow.
Hoping for a Secular, Democratic, Federal, and Future_Oriented Republic of Iran.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Oct 8, 2002