Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran

Sam Ghandchi

جنبش دموکراسی خواهی ایران


If one looks at the Iranian movement for change of IRI, thinking of traditional political parties, thoughts, groups, etc., basically one will end up seeing nothing in horizon not only to challenge IRI but also to replace it. 99% of the movement to challenge IRI has had nothing to do with any of these groups.


The truth of the matter is that in opposition to the *theocracy* in Iran, a strong *secular* movement for a new republic has been forming in the last three decades and this movement encompasses journalists, writers, students, teachers, workers, and other social groups of Iran which are coming forward one after the other without any calls of any of the traditional groups, personalities, etc. Anytime any of those traditional groups and personalities made any calls, nobody showed up.


The organizations of writers, journalists, lawyers, students, teachers, and workers, organizations such as Jebhe Demokratik Iran and kAnoon-e nevisandegAn, are creating leaders who are the main threat to the IRI and this is why we saw the Saiid EmAmi killing of Foruhars and the writers, not that Foruhars' own organization was that important, but because he had lined up with this new trend in Iranian politics, which is commonly referred to as the third force.


I do not know how each individual in this movement, from Heshmat Tabarzadi to Simin Behbahani to a lot of lesser known other activists, writers, journalists, teachers, students, workers, and others will end up having a role in this movement and in Iran's future, but I think Hoviatis had seen it coming that they picked someone like Mohammad MokhtAri to assassinate, because exactly such individuals are the ones who will replace the IRI leadership, one way or the other.


Even the Students Movement of the last decade in Iran is fundamentally different from the Iranian Students Movements of the 60's and 70's.  The Students Movements that followed the 1953 Coup were marked by the 16th of Azar.  In 1999, I wrote a detailed article about 16-Azar of 1332.  The movements of that era were basically driven by the political groups of Iran.  Groups such as hezb-e toodeh, jebh-e melli, and nehzat-e azadi and later on, mojAhedin, cheikhAy-e faAdyee, and others. 


Today's students movement is actually a part of a strong intellectual movement in Iran and is hardly driven by political groups of Iran.  From Khatami to Reza Pahlavi, from MKO to Jebh-e Melli, various political groups try hard to identify with this students movement, but basically this movement looks up to the intellectuals of Iran, and hardly cares for any of the old traditional groups, and in fact new groups like Tabarzadi's Jebhe Demokratik has been born from Jebhe Motahede Daneshjooii of 18-Tir movement of 1999.


The students movement of Nov/Dec 2002 and May 2003 in Iran reminded me of the last years of the Czech's Communist Regime, where old political groupings, and the most popular figure among them, Alexander Dubcek, lost their popularity quickly, as the movement got momentum, and Vaclav Havel, an author, unknown in the political circles, rose to be the leader of the powerful new movement for change.


Today in Iran, the Islamic Reformers and Khatami, are attacking the hardliners for what they consider to be the misrepresentation of true Islam and Islamic Revolution by hardliners.  Just as Alexander Dubcek wanted to save Communism by attacking the hard line rulers, Khatami wants to save the Islamism, by repeating his Reformist interpretation of Islamic Revolution, something that even his collaborators do not buy anymore.


On the other hand, Reza Pahlavi's speeches in 1999, were taken seriously for the first time in many years, because he disassociated himself from the Shah's monarchy and wanted to play a role like Sihanok in Cambodia, where talking mostly of secular democracy, and focusing on referendum for the future of Iran.  Sticking with the strong desire of Iranian people for a referendum, and having intellectual supporters of monarchy, such as Shaheen Fatemi to speak on his behalf, than staunch monarchists of Shah's time, helped his call to gain support. Although it did not take long to see that the plan of democratic monarchy in Iran is not more than a myth.


In other words, the 1979 Revolution and 1990's Reform have long faded away, and the old political alternatives have little credibility to attract any serious following.  Political groupings of the past are all trying very hard to be *the* alternative, but what is obvious is that the people are looking for new leaders elsewhere, not among the old political groupings of the past.


People are looking for new leaders among the authors and journalists and among other intellectuals, the ones who have not been necessarily associated with any political movement.  What Iranian people are doing about politics, is a new way of looking at the political destiny of Iran.  They are now experimenting with an alternative way of looking for political alternatives.  They are looking for political leaders among the ones who are hardly political, in the traditional sense of the word, in search of personalities like Vaclav Havel.


A. Issues facing Iran's pro-democracy movement


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 over two decades although it is one of the most undesirable regimes in the world, 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, when the people want a modern democratic 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 the Shah 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 the lack of opposition.  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 1994, in an article about Memes, I explained the meaning of an organization of free individuals and its difference with a cult.  In short, the Iranians have become very conscious about individual rights, thanks to the Islamic Republicís wiping out of last vestiges of social freedoms in Iran, on top of the political freedoms that were already wiped out by the Shah. I noted extensively about this phenomena at the beginning of this book.


The bottom line reality is that Iranians are now very aware of individual freedoms and the genie cannot go back in the bottle.  Some consciously deny the free choice to themselves to escape from this free choice, and join cults like MKO.  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 are not the main body of Iranian opposition.  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 the last two decades, when Iranians have become independent individuals, and will not accept any cults, but are not able to form democratic organizations either. 


As a  result, we have as many organizations as we have individuals in the opposition.  Some think this is because in a democracy individuals can think for themselves and are not like those who abide by a valiye faghih.  This is half true.  In fact, the free individuals should be able to cooperate and they have done it for centuries in the Western democracies.  If one cannot form a democratic opposition organization, one should also doubt to be able to form a democratic state later after taking power.  Almost all these organizations of Iranian opposition are trying to get the support of the 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 of 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.  How is the opposition going to solve the problem of unity? 


I think the leaders of all shades of political thought should make it their first priority to create *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 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* organizations of itself, before it can claim to run the country by free individuals cooperating in a state.


These organizations should show that they are a different kind of organization that is not based on unethical "end justifying means" principles, and that they will not defame people because of dissent, and that they respect people's right to leave the organization any time the individual desires. 


For example part of a group of monarchists recently changed to republican, and the other half of the group has just been distributing insults and threats to the dissenters.  These are not harbingers of a new way of thinking about organizations and this is not the way to create democratic organizations.


What I think is a step forward 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, and they treat worse than Mafia with those who separate from that organization..  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 with such approach 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. 


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 achieve it.  The reason is that the Iranian opposition abroad is more the remainder of past groups, and is 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.


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

August 24, 2004



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For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran