Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Do I Oppose Reformism?

Sam Ghandchi


آيا من با اصلاح طلبي مخالفم؟


Do I oppose reformism?  Do I oppose revolutionism?  Is my opposition to Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), because it is a counter-revolutionary regime?  Some Iranian political groups still write in their slogans "down with *counter-revolutionary* regime of IRI".  Why do they write *counter-revolutionary* and not *retrogressive*?  If this regime was *revolutionary* and at the same time *reactionary*, wouldn't they oppose it?  Wasn't this regime retrogressive and at the same time revolutionary in the past?  Do they think the problem of this regime is that it is not revolutionary today?


I asked similar questions from Iranian reformist groups in my August 31, 2003 article. I noted the basic mistake of Iranian political movement in its view of reformism and revolutionism, when in the 1979 Revolution, it was assumed any *revolutionary* force to be progressive, and in the last two decades, has assumed any *reformist* force as progressive.  Today after forcing out the reformist MPs from IRI parliament, this issue is clearer.  For example, would these reformist forces, now being outside the parliament, become more progressive?


Shah's regime did not even tolerate the political presence of internal critics of his regime, such as Dr. Amini.  In contrast, IRI, in its lifetime of 25 years, has shown that the internal critics of the regime, as long as they do not threaten the existence of the regime, are tolerated, and this reality has also given rise to more misunderstanding of the relation of progress and retrogression, with revolution and reforms.


From Mohandes Bazargan and Dr. Yadollah Sahabi, to Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi and Mohandes Tavasoli, from Ayatollah Montazeri to Ayatollah Taheri, in different times, whenever the regime has felt a serious threat from these critics, it has responded to them with bayonet as well.   For example, right now, Ayatollah Taheri, who was once considered as the foundation of this regime, after the Seventh Majles elections last month, is again being targeted by the hezbollAhis in Iran.  But IRI attack or its lack of, does not make these forces progressive or retrogressive.  Moreover, being revolutionary or reformist, does not mean a force is progressive or retrogressive.


I wrote about the concept of progressiveness and retrogression in details in 1985, in a series of articles in Iran Times, and there is no need to repeat here, and actually in my book Futurist Iran: Abating The 1979 Reactionary Revolution, I have thoroughly done an in-depth discussion of the subject.  Do I oppose reformism?  No.  Similar to Immanuel Kant's position, I also prefer the society to develop to a progressive system through reform, and not by revolution, but even Kant in Germany, although working hard to achieve progress through reforms, when he saw the French Revolution to bring about the progressive ideals through revolution, he supported the revolution, not because he was a revolutionary, which he was not, but because he supported progress, and viewed reform or revolution as means to the end.  In other words,  just because of a force being revolutionary or reformist, he would not oppose or support it.  The end for him was *progress*. Reform or revolution were means to get to that end.


Although I prefer to bring about a *progressive* society by reforms, but my goal is not reform in-itself either.  My goal is progress, and therefore, I am as much against retrogressive reformism, as I am against retrogressive revolutionism.  That means, if Mohtashami or Khoeiniha, want to bring about a retrogressive society by reforms, I am against such reforms.  If they want to achieve their goals by a revolution, I am still against them.  The reason of my opposition is not because of being revolutionary or reformist.  My opposition is because the program of these forces is retrogressive for Iran.


If the reforms of Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir, before Iran's 1905 Constitutional Movement, were symbols of the most progressive sections of Iranian society, the positions of retrogressive reformists, is the symbol of the demands of the most backward layers of Iranian society, and if in the past they wanted to achieve it by revolution, parts of them are now seeking to achieve those demands through reforms, and this is why they sit in mourning for Khalkhali's death, and in area of economics, they try to bypass their hardliner colleagues, and in the area of foreign policy, they have sided with the terrorist forces in the world, and have caused the isolation of Iran and Iranians in the world.


If Amir Kabir in Iran, and in the world, sided with the progressive forces of his time, both inside and outside Iran, the retrogressive reformists of today, both inside Iran and abroad, all these years, have moved with the most backward social and political forces in the world.


Let me repeat again that being progressive has nothing to do with being reformist or revolutionary.  Immanuel Kant, the main theoretician of progressive thought of Enlightenment, thought to achieve his ideals of individual freedom in Germany, through reforms, although Frederick William II, contrary to his predecessor Frederick the Great, had no respect for individual rights, and even had banned Kant from writing on religious matters, after Kant's publication of his 1793 "Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone", and the fact that as long as King Frederick William II was alive, Kant did not write on religion.  Nonetheless, when in France, the revolution, enabled people to achieve the progressive ideals like individual freedoms, Kant defended the revolution, not because he was a revolutionary, which he was not, but because he saw the ideals of that revolution to be progressive.


What was important for Kant, was progress and development, human rights and individual freedoms, and his efforts for reform in Germany, were to achieve these *progressive* goals, and when the 1789 French Revolution, chose progressive goals, Kant supported the French Revolution, and since then, for two centuries, revolution and progress have been mistakenly thought of as synonymous, whereas Kant himself was a reformist, although for him, progress and individual freedoms were the goal. 


Iranian political movement in 1979 forgot the *goal* of progress, and supported the retrogressive Islamists, like Khomeini, because both the retrogressive Islamists, and the progressive forces of Iran, wanted to have a revolution, and revolution and progress were imagined to be synonymous, and were hidden from our eyes.  The revolutionary will of Khomeini was not to bring about progress, but was to bring down Iran to Khomeini's retrogressive ideals


Today also the majority of Iranian progressive forces, and a part of retrogressive Islamists, wish reforms, but again the *goal* of progress is being forgotten, and if in the past, the unity for a revolution, caused seeing the progress and revolution as synonymous, today the unity for a reform, is causing the perception of seeing progress and reform as synonymous, and again retrogression of these forces is being hidden from our eyes, whereas the reformism of the likes of Khoeiniha and Mohtashami, is not to bring about progress, but is to achieve their retrogressive goals.


Let's go back to the original question.  Do I oppose reformism?  No, and my wish is that progressive ideals be achieved in Iran through reforms.  In fact, on Nov 7, 2003, in my article entitled Unity around a Draft Constitution I wrote that Iranian political movement should unite around a constitution, and that a referendum for the future constitution of Iran can end in the victory of a progressive program for Iran, and especially in the last 25 years, the great majority of Iranians are saying in one voice that we do not want a religious regime.  If Ayatollah Meshkini, a few days ago,  in the meeting of the Assembly of Experts, summarized his opposition to progressiveness, by his attack on Iranian scientific circles, and defending the IRI constitution, it is appropriate to the contrary, to summarize the defense of progress, with support of Iranian scientific circles, and replacing IRI constitution with a progressive new constitution.


Hoping for a Futurist,  Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher


March 8, 2004





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