Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Referendum Society

Sam Ghandchi

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Iranian pro-democracy movement has reached a major turning point.  Almost all parts of the movement are now calling for a referendum.  Of course some forces clearly are calling for a referendum for a new constitution and regime change, and others are not.  I already have discussed the different views in Towards Constitutional Congresses for Iran.


The question now is *how* this desire for regime change is going to be materialized.  In other words what form of leadership will this effort need, to be successful.  Everyone of the people who are calling for this demand, want the end to dictatorship and theocracy in Iran, and the people's movement, is to realize these demands, but this does not mean the leadership can be formed solely on these demands, and most likely will not.  Let me explain:


1. All efforts to use a minimum platform to form a leadership for Iranian movement have failed, and we have ended up with many political or human rights groups that have been based on a minimum platform, but are still apart, and have not been able to work in unison and lead the pro-democracy movement.


2. Plans for unity of groups have also failed and has ended in more groups claiming to be united fronts of some republicans, or some monarchists, or some mojAhedin supporter groups, or some Jebhe or leftist groups, etc.  And even in their small united fronts, they hardly have much unity. So I can confidently say united front groups, which worked in French, Russian, or Chinese Revolutions,  are *not* working as a solution to lead Iranian pro-democracy movement.


3. As I explained in  Islamic Democracy is *not* pluralism, some Western politicians are dreaming of a faction from within Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)  to make the regime change in Iran. They fail to understand that IRI reformists, contrary to state reformists of Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, or South Africa, who wanted the end of their own Communist and Apartheid regimes, IRI refromists want to prolong the Islamist and the apartheid regime of Islamic Republic, albeit wanting their own version of Islamist state, rather than wanting to end Islamism, and they are as much opposed to Western democracy, as their hardliner counterparts, and therefore they cannot even succeed in minimum reforms, such as allowing other parties to exist, let alone to make a regime change in Iran.


4. The alternative of a Futurist Party, which I have been proposing for years, in time for the *current* referendum and constitution movement, which are very immediate, does not exist as a powerful entity.  In the U.S. experience, the Democratic Party in the U.S., was formed by Jefferson, *after* the success of Revolution.  I still think ultimately a futurist party is what is needed to drive Iran towards the 21st Century, whether it gets formed before the removal of IRI or after it.


The minimum platforms not working, and the prospect of unity of groups to form an alternative not in the horizon, and the IRI reformists basically being a platform to prolong IRI, and in the absence of a powerful futurist party, I think we need to look at a different alternative to lead the movement for referendum, new constitution, and regime change in Iran.


I think a team of about fifty people should be formed of those who share a vision for the future of Iran, a vision stated in a constitution model, and they should take charge of leading the movement for referendum.  What is very important is their shared vision of the future.


My suggestion may sound very strange that I am not talking about organization of people's movement for freedom and separation of state and religion, and instead, I am talking of an elite group with a shared vision of future to lead the movement.  True that French Revolution or Russian, and Chinese Revolutions all succeeded by coalition of parties.  But there have been, in history, even revolutions, that have succeeded in the way I am describing, by a group of visionaries who share a vision of the future.  The leadership of American Revolution has been this way, although one never sees this reality discussed in standard history books.  Below I will mention a research by late Willis Harman on this topic in his book Higher Creativity which was published in 1984.


Before writing my review of Harman's work, I should emphasize that discussing his views does not mean my support of the ideas of Freemasonary.  I see Freemasonary as an obsolete ideology and I condemn its colonial role in developing countries like Iran, and I oppose any colonial scheme jeopardizing Iran's independence. 


Nonetheless I should note that Iranian clergy demonized  Freemasonary, and individuals like Mirza Malkum Khan were attacked as British agents, because of them being a challenge to clergy's control of Iranian mind.  Otherwise the mollahs themselves were mostly connected to the British government, and they should be the last ones, to accuse other forces as colonialist plans.  The same the clergy did with other new ideologies like communism.  The clergy demonized them to keep their control on Iranian mind.  Again I am a critic of communist ideology and see it as an obsolete ideology, but my point here is to note the reason of Iranian clergy demonizing all these new ideologies, including liberalism, to ensure its grip on the Iranian mind.


Now let's return to the topic of American Revolution and its leadership.


Harman writes on page 180 of his book Higher Creativity, about the aspiration of participants of the American Revolution that "Unarguably, many-perhaps most, of the people who eventually joined in the collective endeavor ..became part of the movement because of an urging for freedom ..." but he offers evidence that leadership was made of individuals who worked together to make their vision of the future, a reality, and those individuals and groups with close connection to this central project must have been at works.  He continues as follows:


"Every American customarily carries a symbolic reminder of the central project .., toward which the United States of America was dedicated nearly two centuries ago, ..  That reminder is the reproduction, on the back side of the dollar bill, of the Great Seal of the United States.


"This curious design was chosen in 1782, although there has been minor modifications since.  Considerable opposition was expressed in to the proposal in 1935 to place on our currency this 'dull emblem of a Masonic fraternity' (as the reverse side-the pyramid and the eye-had been termed by professor Charles Eliot Norton).  That these symbols on the dollar bill should come from the traditions of Freemasonary is puzzling if one imagines they were originally chosen by a simple citizenry of farmers, shopkeepers, and county gentlemen.


"But on further investigation we discover that both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were active and high ranking Freemasons, and of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, approximately fifty were Masons.  All but five of the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention were Masons...


"There were also many Masons among those from other nations who supported the American Revolution, including Lafayette, Kosciuzko, Baron de Kalb, and Count Pulaski.


"Against this background let us examine the symbolism of the great seal, bearing in mind that it is the essence of any powerful symbol that it says many things to many different levels of the mind, so that any single explanation of its meaning is necessarily a dilution and a distortion.


"Dominating the obverse is the bird that is now an eagle, but in earlier versions was the phoenix, ancient symbol of human aspiration toward universal good, of being twice-born or reborn through enlightenment, and higher awareness.  The olive branch and the arrows in the bird's claws announce that the new order covets peace but intends to protect itself from those who would destroy it.  The banner the eagle holds reads e pluribus unum, or unity from many, referring to the nation made up of states and pointing to higher unity as well.  The "glory" over the bird's head traditionally symbolizes the cosmic vision.


"The phrase novus ordo seclorum on the reverse, "a new order of the ages is born," declares that this event is not just the formation of another guild, lodge, or nation, but of a new order of the world.  The project is launched with confidence because annuit coptis,  'He [God] looks with favor upon our undertaking'.


"The most conspicuously Masonic symbol occupies the central portion of the reverse-the unfinished pyramid capped by a radiant triangle enclosing the all-seeing eye.  Whatever other meanings this ancient symbol may have, for example, the significance attached to numbers of levels and of stones; the resemblance to the Great Pyramid of Giza, shrine tomb of Hermes, ..., it clearly proclaims that the works of men-both the individual's inner development and his external works-are incomplete unless they incorporate divine insight.


"The central project of the United State to be, in a way that was unique in history, an exploration and actualization of what human beings can be-despite what the rest of the world "knew" about limitations.  At least part of the "American Dream" involved the implicit commitment to this exploration."


The above long quotation from Harman shows clearly that a major change, i.e. American Revolution of 1775, had been led by a group of individuals who shared a vision. When Harman states that "both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were active and high ranking Freemasons, and of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, approximately fifty were Masons.  And all but five of the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention were Masons,"  it shows that in the absence of powerful parties for change in a society, this path had been chosen by the American Revolution, for its leadership, and it had succeeded.


I think we can take a similar approach. But the vision I have in mind has nothing to do with Freemasonary.   I totally reject Freemasonary and think it is an obsolete ideology in our times.  Also I reject anything that can jeopardize Iran's independence.


Why I gave this example was to show that an association of fifty people with a shared vision, in our situation, may play a more powerful role to lead the referendum movement, than the other solutions that I enumerated, which have basically failed in the last 25 years.


In our days and age, a progressive shared vision should be a futurist platform, that can address democracy, secularism, human rights, social justice, in a post-industrial global world of the 21st Century, for a new independent republic, to drive us towards the Futurist Iran.


In short, a referendum Society with a shared futurist vision is needed to lead the Iranian pro-democracy movement.


This is the shared vision I discussed in A Vision from City of Heretics.  Anything short of a leadership team with a futurist vision, is not the consummation of the sacrifices and efforts that Iranians have made in the last 25 years of our struggle, to end the retrogressive regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran for good, and to start a new progressive tomorrow.



Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

April 30, 2004
















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