Recently I wrote the following introduction to my proposed platform of the Iranian Futurist Party as to why I think it is important to form such a party:
More than twenty years has passed since foundation of Islamic Republic of Iran. A retrogressive alternative succeeded, when Iranian people rose against the despotism of Shah’s regime. The following is what I wrote in 1985 about the reasons for the success of the Islamists in Iran:
Today the question
that comes up again and again in the Iranian intellectual circles is the reason
why this regime has lasted this long and my answer is that basically if there
are no strong organizations to replace the state power, even with the worst
shaking of the foundations of the state, only foreign intervention or coup can
make a major change, which I oppose in the case of Iran.
Then the topic of unity of various forces in Iran comes up and many individuals think they can help this unity by making compromises or coalitions with this force and that force, this government and that state, on this strategy or that tactic. It may make sense for an organization to deal with Iranian government in different ways, such as supporting a particular individual or a faction, or make coalitions, etc., depending on the overall circumstances, but not for an individual.
For the one who is not a member of any organization, it is really meaningless to approach such decisions except from what one really sees as one’s own individual right and interest. Making sacrifices on such basis, and thinking this sacrifice helps the cause of unity, only prevents these individuals to pronounce their real desires in the political arena and thus be counted as the vote of a platform they do not believe in.
The spectrum of expectations always exists even in advanced societies such as the U.S. and of course to varying degrees. Even at the time of mashrootiat, the ideas of the ones who were tajaddod-khAh were embarrassing to the ones who were traditionalists, nonetheless, they presented their views with no censor. For example, papers like Sooor EsrAfil were ahead of most other papers even 50 years later.
Ever since the founding of the toodeh party, with the tilt of Iranian intellectual circles towards socialism, we have had a trend in our intellectual circles that most of our political intellectuals tried to self-censor themselves under the so-called excuse of movAzeb bAshiim keh toodeh-hA naramand.
Instead of intellectuals trying to raise the expectation of the so-called "masses" to reach a higher level of expectation, at least like themselves, they justified the ignorance of the "masses" of higher expectations, to advocate the backward solutions of backward forces as the solution for society, something which they themselves did not believe in, and in reality those ordinary people were ahead of them, in their expectations.
Maybe if these progressive individuals and groups had directly advocated what they believed in, the so-called “masses” would have told them how backward these groups were, relative to the so-called “masses”. I remember so many ordinary Iranians who had family members, who were truck drivers, with truck lines thru the Soviet Block, who had more realistic image of Soviet Communism, than many political intellectuals who thought it was beyond the "masses" to understand about Communism.
This is how in 1979 a big group of such opposition advocated wearing chAdor and did not support the first march of the women after the revolution in Iran and they called the hezbollAhis, toodeh nA-AgAh, and justified the appeasement of Islamists, and later supported the hostage-taking, and all this wrong approach finally ended up in the eradication of all the secular forces by the Islamists in 1980.
Many of the ones who support melli-mazhabi path for Iran now, are acting the same way as above. I am not talking about supporting the human rights of melli-mazhabis, which is a right thing to do. I am also not talking about the ones who really believe in the melli-mazhabi political line. I am talking about the ones who do not believe in melli-mazhabi path for themselves, but think this is what is understandable for so-called Iranian “masses”. In fact, most of the time, the ordinary people are ahead of these intellectuals, who are so worried that the “masses” are not ready for their thoughts.
I think this self-censor of Iranian intellectuals to openly share their thoughts with ordinary Iranians is the result of introduction of rationalism to Iran in the political sphere, and not in all spheres of life, and thus Iranian intellectuals see very little of the capabilities of ordinary Iranians. Ordinary Iranians were ahead of Iranian intellectuals in seeing the sterile reality of the Soviet system, but our intellectuals were so worried not to scare away the so-called “masses”, with their knowledge, and self-censored themselves, and hid what they believed in, which stripped these "masses" from the chance to enlighten these intellectuals. If the intellectuals had readily shared what they thought was above the understanding of ordinary Iranians, maybe ordinary people would have corrected the mistake of many intellectuals who supported Communism.
I say one should really pronounce what they believe in. This is the minimum of individual rights for oneself. If in the end, the truth to be that the majority does not support secular solution, then one will lose, but self-censorship and acting as something else, for example a secular person advocating melli-mazhabi path, because one thinks that is what the so-called “masses” can endure, one is making an error which Iranian intellectuals once made, during the 1979 Revolution and I hope not make the same mistake again. BTW mellimazhabis are *not* the alternative for Iran and I have explained why the ones who think mellimazhabis can lead the pro-Democracy movement to replace IRI are gravely mistaken in their assessment of mellimazhabis. With the fall of IRI, other Islamist alternatives witll fall as well, including MKO and Mellimazhabis. The same way that with the fall of the Shah, Bani-Ahmad and Pezeshkpour, the legal opposition in Shah's majles fell as well.
Also talk of unity without understanding the needed existence of multiplicity of real organizations, is more or less useless. Unity between organizations happens depending on their relative strength and interests and in the general political development. It is not something achieved by one pretending to be no difference to have a monarchy or a republic, Islamism or secularism, in Iran. The reason for lack of unity is not such differences, and is not even personal quarrels of the leaders. The reality is that all these elements of the political spectrum are just individuals with not much strength as an organization. Also Islamism, MKO, and Leftism are history and a united front of them will end up to be something like PLO, which is not effective and will not form a unity around possibilities of future and at best is a unity around a bygone past of these ideologies that are basically dead.
There are basically not any real organizations in Iran that their unity would make a difference. The only part of the opposition spectrum that really has an organization is mojAhedin khalgh. Others do not really have any real organization to make a difference, whether they be united or not. This does not mean that there is no pro-Democracy movement. In fact, Iran's pro-Democracy movement of Students and Teachers and other social groups is even more organized than many similar movements in the former Soviet Block and Eastern Europe. Here I am referring to political groups where we have Tabarzadi group and Hezbe Mellat Iran inside Iran.
Let me also note that ones like Reza Pahlavi would prefer to create a general popularity, and may count on a foreign force to support them to get to power. But any other part of the political spectrum that really wants to change the power in Iran, with no foreign assistance, and to be able to be an active force in the power after the change, needs to start building its own party and organization.
The organizations before the revolution did not have an effective program to respond to the needs of the change in Iran and lost to the ones who advocated a return to the past. Dismissing obsolete organizations has become synonymous with dismissing any organization. This has caused a general belief in anarchism in our intellectual circles and as I said except for mojAhedin, I do not know of any other group that I can say to have a real political organization at this time.
How all these various parts of the political spectrum think they can effect the change in the power structure in Iran, and remain immune to foreign coups, and maintain presence in the power structure, even after the change, is a puzzle for me!
Even organizations like kAnoon-e nevisandegAn can be instrumental in such a development, but dismissing any organization can hardly make a dent even if the Islamic Republic shakes to its foundation.
I think Iranian youth movement is very strong and growing very rapidly and I am sure they will be learning from the past, rather than being stuck in the animosities of the past, and will focus on the future and more and more we should see rational approach and formation of political parties and organizations in Iran.
Hoping for a future_oriented secular democratic federal republic in Iran.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Updated (May 3, 2002)
* The above article was first posted on Jebhe BB on Dec 22, 2001