After Democracy, How to Prevent Regeneration of a Tyranny in Iran
بعد از دموکراسی، چگونه از بازتولید استبداد در ایران جلوگیری کنیم
The Persian version of this article was published on August 2, 2018 in the sixth issue of Gitimadari, the theoretical publication of Iranian Secular Democratic Party-Futurist
Let's assume we replace the current Islamic regime in Iran with a Futurist Democratic and Seculat Republic (1) and make a democratic constitution (2), how can we prevent regeneration of a tyranny? This is a valid question after seeing the experiences of Nazi Germany replacing Weimar Republic and similar experiences everywhere and in different historical periods, from the tyranny of Peisistratus in Ancient Athens to tyranny of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar in pre-Modern Iran. And above all, the totalitarianism in Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries is still fresh in our minds. And surely we can see the Islamic Republic of Iran and do not want to replace it with a secular dictatorship like Iraq of Saddam Hussein, North Korea, Syria, etc. So what can we learn from all the historical experiences:
I. Today we understand the anatomy of power a lot better than a century ago (3). We have also learned from the Communist experience of half of the world the fact that abolishing private property makes it easier for those in charge of state not to be bridled by individuals who have the financial means to challenge the state power when Communist Party bosses had all kinds of luxuries and their children went to Ivy League schools in America using government funds whereas the families of workers suffered. Therefore, surely for a country like Iran, abolishing private property of means of production will neither strengthen democracy nor will it help social justice. Furthermore, not only the basic approach to social justice (4) needs to be based on progressive taxation but the goal will not be a welfare state like Sweden and social justice needs to be addressed with a new perspective in 21st Century (5).
II. The best way to help the cause of social justice is to use progressive taxation while respecting private property at the same time, which in turn helps the strengthening of democracy by creating a balance to state ownership. This proposal is about economic foundations of democracy. This is why the founders of the United States of America did not hesitate to protect private property as one of the three pillars of their democracy and although in Declaration of Independence, Jefferson replaces "Property" with "Pursuit of Happiness" in John Locke's trinity of "life, liberty, and property," but the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution declare that governments cannot deprive any person of "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. In other words, private property is protected, although there is no barrier to taxation.
III. In contrast to the Western democracies, Marx and the Communist countries following his thought believed in abolishing private ownership of means of production (6), which not only deprived people in those countries from economic means to challenge the state, but instead of relying on methods of progressive taxation to bring social justice, the overthrow of the whole social fabric was thought to bring justice which failed not only in experiences such as the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, but also we witnessed a kon faya kun disaster in the 1979 Iranian Revolution (7).
IV. In 20th Century, democracy in the West was based on the growth of a large middle class which even Karl Popper mentions it as the main refutation of Marxism which had predicted further polarization of capitalist society. However, in the 21st Century we are witnessing a shrinking of the middle class (8), and if this trend continues, it may impact all countries in the world including Iran and needs to be examined in the future as it can seriously endanger democracy.
V. Beside economic factors such as items I to IV above, basic ways to prevent regeneration of a tyranny are cultural, social and political because democracy is not about who or what rules but it is about how people are ruled, in other words democracy is not rule by the people, rather it is judgment by the people (9). Therefore, if institutions of judgment by the people such as parliament or the press are not strengthened, separation of power and the checks and balances will suffer and the end result will be regeneration of a tyranny which usually starts by the disappearance of these institutions as we saw in Hitler's burning and closing of the Reichstag.
VI. Redundancy of political and social institutions is another protection of democracy. If we carefully read Madison's writings in The Federalist Papers, his explanations are not much about federalism rather it is about how to create redundant institutions of power at the state and local level and rejection of claims that such redundancy is red tape creating unnecessary costs (10). In fact, he emphasizes as a thorough legal expert that such structure is a way to make checks and balances between federal, state and city government bodies. It is interesting that many Iranian leftists still think of such structures in the US government as a waste of resources and do not appreciate its value to safeguard democracy in the USA. The apparent clashes between these government bodies not only is not the story of wasting resources but actually speaks best about checks and balances in a real democracy that cannot be achieved simply by culural norms such as American free speech or European limiting of hate speech and such institutional structures noted in Madison's writings act as the fundamental social and political protection of democracy in the public sphere.
VII. Marxists and anarchists both believe in destruction of state, although Marxists see it as a long-term goal and advocate a transitional state called dictatorship of the proletariat whereas anarchists want to destroy the state right away. Thus they both do not spend any efforts to advance the institutions and structure of an ideal state which they reject even to define one (11) and this is how they both differed from Hegel who thought of state as a referee in conflicts of interests of social classes (12), and this is how authors like Robert Nozick (13) in our time still represent views similar to Marx and the anarchists in contrast to authors like John Rawls in his Theory of Justice who sees the democratic state not even based on Kantian comprehensive liberalism but rather based on templates that are not ideological (14).
VIII. Western democracies have not stopped advancing the state. One of the latest innovations in the evolution of government is ballot initiatives which is very practical thanks to the new digital tools and is currently being used in many states of the U.S. where passing "measures" and propositions as law by direct vote makes such method a participatory structure of law-making which is used alongside the representational structure of Congress and state level legislative bodies (15). Iran can introduce similar structures to advance participatory democracy.
IX. Security and intelligence agencies both in the previous Pahlavi regime and during the rule of Islamic Republic in the last 40 years have been used to suppress individual rights in Iran. Special attention needs to be used in the laws and institutions to protect the individual rights of the citizens from such agencies (16).
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
August 2, 2018
*This article is published in the 6th issue of Gitimadari, the publication of Iranian Secular Democratic Party-Futurist.
Iran-Futurist Republic-Third Edition
ایران-جمهوری آینده نگر-ویرایش سوم
2. Iran's Future Constitution
قانون اساسی ایران آینده
3. Galbraith, Anatomy of Power, and Democracy in
Iran- Second Edition
گالبریت، آناتومی قدرت، و دموکراسی در ایران - ویرایش دوم
4. Social Justice and the Computer Revolution
عدالت اجتماعی و انقلاب کامپیوتری
5. Futurist Party Aims for What Marx Deferred to
حزب آینده نگر در پی هدفی که مارکس به آینده دور
موکول می کرد
6. Carl Bildt-Why Marx Was Wrong
بازهم درباره اشتباه بزرگ مارکس و آنارشیستها
7. کن فیکون مارکسیستیِ ایران
8. Middle Class Shrinking is not a Trivial Matter
تحلیل رفتن طبقه متوسط موضوع پیش پا افتاده ای نیست
9. Democracy is Not People's Rule,
It is People's Judgment
دموکراسی حکومت مردم نیست، قضاوت مردم است
10. Madison, Federalist Papers and
مدیسون، مقالات فدرالیست و ایران
11. نقدی بر تئوری دولت مارکسیستی و
12. یادداشتی کوتاه در مورد دولت و جامعه مدنی
13. Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State, and Utopia, 1974
14. Is Socialism More Just
آیا سوسیالیسم عادلانه تر است؟
15. Ballot Initiatives and Iran
قانونگذاری با رأی مستقیم و ایران
16. Problem is *Protection* of Democracy, Not Being
مسأله *حفاظت* از دموکراسی است، نه دموکراسی خواهی
John Locke, Catholics, Democracy, and Worldviews
جان لاک، کاتولیکها، دموکراسی و جهان بینی ها
Kark Kautsky: Epitaph of Lenin,
Vienna, January 28, 1924
در حاشیه اپیتاپ کائوتسکی برای
For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran