Let's Make *Club Alternatives* کلوپ آلترناتيو
One of the achievements of the Iranian opposition in the last 24 years has been its understanding that it is not enough to be an opposition and the real need is to offer an alternative for Iran's future. This is contrary to anti-Shah years where it just wanted to be an opposition and its goal was just to overthrow the regime, and did not worry much about what it wanted to replace it with. Recently we have seen many charters (manshoor) of various forces of Iran's opposition and I can confidently say that all different shades of the opposition now have a platform detailing what they want for the future. I wrote a platform for futurist party two years ago which detailed what is needed in this day and age. I also have signed various other charters of groups, parties, or coalitions that I thought are subsets of what I consider necessary for Iran's future.
Although for a long time, we Iranians had known that we do not want the Islamic Republic, we had to focus on the *what* question, rather than a *how* question, because the most important thing is to first know what one wants, before discussing about how to achieve it, or talking about how to get the opposition united. When I now look at all the parties, groups, and united front coalitions, I see that they all have developed their platforms, and they are all asking the question of *how* to achieve the goals they have in their platforms, and this is what I would like to discuss in this article.
Before I discuss what I see as a solution for the *how* question, let me make a side note. In the last 9 months, with the surge of the students movement in Iran, many former Iranian political activists have become active again, and this is a real good news. Also contrary to the activists of the last 24 years, these folks have always had a focus on the *how* question, which is from their experience of the anti-Shah democratic movement. This is also good news that they are bringing their great experience to the current movement. What is also happening, which is unfortunate, is that a lot of old rivalries, jealousies, and differences that have nothing to do with the opposition movement of the last 24 years, is also coming into the picture, and this is causing a lot of useless tensions and waste of energies, on issues that all belong to times long passed, and have nothing to do with today's reality of the Iranian movement. Similar situation happened in 1356, when some of the old activists of 1320-1332 period suddenly became active again, and they temporarily introduced some sidetracks that damaged the growth of the democratic movement. I hope we learn from that experience. Let me emphasize that this should not be a reason to discourage these past activists from contributing to the movement. These folks are carriers of some of the most important experiences of the Iranian movement, experiences that are not documented in any books or periodicals and their presence should be highly valued.
Another side note that I want to make is about Heshmat Tabarzadi and Reza Pahlavi. Tabarzadi, because of some special circumstances of the development of Jebhe Demokratik, has been able to say things inside Iran that anybody else could have been hanged to say, and this is why some people are becoming suspicious of him. I think it is a mistake to doubt his honesty and independence, as we all know the many correct positions he stood up for, even as late as the Council Elections a few months ago, when he was in jail, and risked his life to take a principled position to boycott that election. The reality is that his situation is similar to people like Bazargan and Nehzate Azadi during the Shah's regime, who were legal, and could say things that others would have lost their life to say. Let's also remember Dariush Foruhar and Amir Entezam during IRI, who said things that others could be hanged for saying. These are some special circumstances for some individuals, and it is no reason to doubt them because of that. Actually before Dariush Foruhar loses his life, some people were making similar rumors about him, and they now know the mistake they made in those days. Sometimes the ones propagating such rumors, do it because of political differences, and I hope we all stand up to such end justifying means tactics, and not become the carriers of the mistrust.
As far as Reza Pahlavi, I think since he has not abdicated the throne, his significance in the future of Iranian alternative will be minimal, and although I admire his stand for human rights and democracy in Iran and hope he continues with his stand, but he has not listened to the changes of the last six years in Iran's political arena, which has concluded the decision of Iranian people for a republic. The whole issue of Iranians about Khatami's era was the antagonism of IRI with a true *republic*. There will always be some royalists in Iran, just as there are royalists still in France after 200 years, but the Iranian people have finished the decision for a republic, and all they are doing now is to make sure it becomes secular and democratic. The monarchist groups wishing for a new monarchy, or for a return of a Qajar or a Pahlavi prince, will always exist, just like many other peripheral groups in Iran and Iraq, and they have every right to advocate their wishes. Already a number of former monarchist groups have changed their stand, and have adopted for a republic, and this trend will continue, and at the end only a few shahollAhis will remain with a monarchy platform, but as I noted, they have every right to advocate their views, although personally I will discuss them less and less, as I do not see them to have much of significance in the future of Iran, and I think the technocrats who used to be the so-called monarchists, have rapidly moved to the side of republic, and *they* have significance for Iran's future, not because of their political stand, but because of their knowledge and skills.
Now after this long introduction, let me discuss my main point about the *how* question. How is the Iranian alternative going to organize itself? I think every group ranging from those who solely define themselves as republican, to those who are more specific about their platform, being nationalist, liberal, socialist, or futurist, they all will have various types of organizations of their own, and can be in multiple organizations with platforms that may be a superset or subset of others. And some of them are more organized and some are less, and they will continue to grow, and after Iran becomes a democracy, such organizations will still grow more, and will find the true popular base for the kind of platforms they advocate, and these are all great that we will finally have multiparty system, with all shades of views and programs, allowed to participate in the life of democratic Iran.
I think if the future Iranian democracy means that *all* shades of thought should be allowed to participate in the life of Iran, we need to start an organizational form of associations from now, that can allow *all* shades of thought to participate, even the ones who want Islamic Republic or MKO or Monarchy, because in a future Iran all these shades of thought must be allowed to advocate their views and these associations should be a microcosm of that future. If the current parliament of Iran does not have freedom of thought and only Islamists are allowed in it, we should start making associations that do not censor anybody because of their thought, ideology, religion, etc. This does not mean that each group cannot have their own parties, coalitions, and groups focusing on their platform. But it means that they will *also* participate in these new associations that I call *Club Alternatives*. And all various groups and parties can fight for their own views and programs in these associations and the elections of the officers of these clubs will determine how each group will be able to impact the work of the club at any moment of time, based on rules such as Robert's Rules of Order.
Many of the past activists are trying to use the models of the past, both in Iran and abroad, to organize the Iranian Alternative. They all have written their own views about what alternative they have in mind and the ways to do it. Although I value their experience, but I do not think any of these plans will work. Actually they are ending up in more and more of leader-making. Leaders that have no support of the ones who have been really active in the last 24 years. I think a democratic structure like what I am suggesting can overcome this issue and leaders who really have the support of real activists will emerge from the *Club Alternatives* to lead Iran and Iranians, not only to end the rule of IRI, but also to build the Iran of the future.
One experience that has been very successful in this regard has been the Internet Forums. The forums that have had all shades of thought participate in them where every view is in the open. It is interesting that among the groups, parties, and united fronts, only the ones that adopted a policy of being really an open forum succeeded, even though their forums were named after a party, group, or a united front. Again let me note that I do not see anything wrong for any group, party, or united front to have its own forum and its own organization where it monitors only discussions relevant to its platform, just like the Democratic Party in the U.S. Let me emphasize that I support different parties and groups to have their own forums to help them to clarify their own thinking, plans and actions, and I hope my proposal here does not give the impression of undermining those forums. What I am noting here is a way to form a model that would be the reality of social-political organization in future democratic Iran where all shades of thought are allowed to participate in the life of the country as a whole, for example in its Parliament.
I think we can start this with Internet Forums and then expand it outside the Internet to local *Club Alternatives* in different parts of the world. Also in the Internet Forums, we can post in Persian and other languages as needed. I am sure the English language forums will continue to exist, because English is an international language, and this allows more input about issues from people of other countries, who can help to enrich the experience of Iranian people. But as time goes, I think we will have more and more forums in Persian and other Iranian languages. And the *Club Alternatives* outside the Internet will be mostly in Persian, although they will have activities in other languages, depending on their location.
Finally I think the real challenge is to form *Club Alternatives* inside Iran. Again I think many Iranians from inside Iran can participate in the Internet Forums that are on the Internet. But depending on the circumstances, these associations should grow in various cities inside Iran. Democracy is not built by overthrowing a dictatorial system, although I hope that we Iranian people end the IRI religious apartheid regime as soon as possible, however, forming the democratic associations like the *Club Alternatives*, whether virtual clubs on the Internet, or local and national clubs in different cities, is *how* we can take the first steps to form a democratic life for Iran and Iranians.
There are many Internet Forums. The first step to start this process can be done on an Internet forum called *SCI*, where all shades of Iranian thought have been posting views for over ten years, and everybody agrees that it is a fully UNmoderated open forum with all views present. I do not claim the SCI to be the best setup to use for the discussions of *Club Alternatives*, and maybe other places will prove better for it, but I think SCI is a good place to start the discussions because of its neutrality. At the same time there are many other excellent forums on the net that can be used for this purpose. I just hope that we can start this process as a way to find a proper structure for democratic organizations for Iran and Iranians. As we all know, the social organization that was basically used to win the 1979 Revolution, and was later used by the new regime as the basis of its rule, was none other than masjed (mosque). The need for civil alternative social associations is critical for a long term success of a *secular* republic in Iran.
I will post this article on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on the Internet and I hope people to participate in the thread of this discussion so that we can start forming *Club Alternatives*. Below are two different ways to access SCI and one can also use NNTP newsreaders such as Outlook Express, for faster access to SCI.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
June 12, 2003