Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Iranian Intellectuals and Leftism

Sam Ghandchi

روشنفکران ایران و چپ گرائی


In Pre-Industrial Attack on Globalization,  I noted why globalization is the progress of our times.  Now what do the leftists do in the Iranian intellectual circles. Do they try to analyze and study this phenomena, and look for the best course of action for Iran and Iranians in this global market? Do they try to see how much Iran has been able to take from the global market beside selling raw material (oil). No! Even in the best of the magazines with the leftist mindset, you see articles after articles against globalization, as if this is the worst thing happening in the world.


This is just a Luddite reaction to the progress of our times. They translate and publish articles by people such as authors of Monthly Review in the U.S., those who are a very tiny group of semi-Marxist professors (just like the small group of Islamist professors in the U.S.), leftover of a past movement and not harbingers of a new thought, with no significance in the U.S. development, whether among the labor, or the American intellectuals, or the economists, or other academia.  And none of the people who make any impact in the industry or labor cares for any of the publications of these leftists.


Now what do these people write? They claim on one side that Marx also had seen the globalization (which is true) *but* they oppose it and say until there is socialism (some imaginary kind of socialism other than the socialism which has already been in Soviet Union, China, etc), they want to stop the globalization. In other words, they want to stop the real progress of the world until the world complies with them. If Marx was alive, he would be the first to call these "Marxists" reactionary Luddites. They remind me of the ones who quote Molavi's saying of del-e har zareh rA keh beshkAfi (a poem by Rumi saying digging a tiny grain, you'd see a Sun in its mid), to claim that we already knew all the quantum physics at the time of Molavi (Rumi). Those Sufis are an insult to Molavi just like these Marxists are an insult to Marx trying to make a "prophet" out of them.

Nobody cares even to write opposing the articles of Monthly Review, because nobody reads it except their own small subscribers. Nonetheless, there are more Iranian intellectuals in Iran who have heard of Monthly Review than there are in the U.S. This is the sad thing that these people are not taken seriously by anybody in the U.S. where they publish.  This is the kind of nonsense that is fed to our Iranian intellectuals by the ones who cannot see that industrial society in both its socialist and capitalist forms has already happened and has finished and the world is moving to a post-industrial global economy and the answer to the problems of this new world cannot be found in Marx’s Grundrisse or Hegel’s Philosophy and one has to study the new realities rather than look for it in maktab (scholastic doctrine) and religion. Even people like the liberal theorist John Rawls have done more work on the issue of social justice in this coming new society than all the socialists put together, and the leftists still like to claim to speak for social justice.

Even writing critics of the left is of no value in most parts of the world anymore. It is like writing critic of Christian theology. Such debates have no significance in the scientific circles in the West. The sad reality that one has to spend time critiquing it in the Iranian circles is incredible, because these American authors have no significant readers in their own society, and our intellectuals waste time translating the obsolete theology of these authors for Iranian readers, as if these are the analysis of the world economy and world developments.

In the West, all that ever was needed to write as critic about the left has already been written by Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper, Lezcek Kolakowski, and Daniel Bell and there is really not much more to add to what has already been done.


Attempts to unite the left are like the attempts to unite Christian groups or Islamist groups.  The schism of the left is the description of the reality that the time for these groups has long passed and the solution of current social and economic issues is found beyond the left.  Pan-leftism is a useless ideology which thinks the backward left can do better if united. 


The left just like Islamism will always exist but the bulk of Iranian intellectuals should drop leftism and need to look beyond it, if they want to be able to find viable solutions for issues facing Iran and Iranians today, and they should not waste their time with the reactionary anti-globalization  movement, which is another abyss like hezbe toodeh, that exhausted the energy of a generation of Iranian intellectuals, without helping the advancement of Iran and Iranians, and caused a resentment among the Iranian working people for the intellectuals, who became synonymous with toodehii, for advocating the pride in misery, rather than advocating the advancement of  the life of working people to a more flourishing development, by supporting equal opportunity, pursuit of happiness, and democracy.


In 1994, I wrote an article entitled "What Do We Want?"?  In that article, I asked my readers to assume that they have won the state and as if they are at the top of state power and then my question was what they want to achieve in various areas of life in Iran, and as I will explain later, fortunately after ten years, we are finally seeing serious platforms among the various Iranian intellectuals groups, which is a good sign that Iranian intellectuals are looking at plans and reviewing the possible side effects of various plans, before committing to them and wanting to implement..

In my articles, I spent years to discuss that the left has been the view of the majority of Iranian intellectuals.  Leftism has been like a virus as bad as Islamism, for secular intellectuals of Iran, and it is still hard for them to go beyond it. And the left supported some of the most backward anti-Western thoughts of the likes of Ale Ahmad and Shariati.  Thus I found the critic of the left to be of utmost importance for the Iranian intellectual development.  Internationally, I found the works of Daniel Bell and Leszek Kolakowski that could be read, and saw that I did not need to spend  more time on the topic, and I summed up my own views in the following papers, one on Marxism , another on Pluralism and  the third one on New Paradigms going forward.

Many of the X-leftists and leftists are like the remainders of Islamists, trying to save the system by either denying the reality of its collapse or by incorporating the new ideas in their old system.  The latter approach is like a similar approach among a section of the Islamists, who try to incorporate modernism in Islam. Beside support of a majority of leftists of Khatami, under the postmodernist banner of cultural relativism, their focus internationally has been in opposing  globalization. I think if Marx was alive, even he would tell these people that their position on globalization is reactionary. They are like the luddites who are so unhappy to see the old system to fall apart, that they think the world is sinking, rather than recognizing that their old mode of life is coming to an end.  I have written about the reactionary anti-globalization movement and have also noted about the attitude of the leftist Iranian intellectuals towards globalization.  And the mojAhedin's program is not much different from the leftist programs, and such platforms will not be able to achieve a modern  democratic state in this day and age.

How can one view the global developments that are like a glacial change in the world.  As I noted before, the 1979 revolution and the disappointments with its results, show that the programs of the left and right of the old industrial society do not work anymore and I did a research of my own about the foundation of global changes, and published it in a scientific journal called AI Journal.  I have further discussed the redefinition of economic value and social justice in the new post-industrial economy.  Whether one agrees with my analysis about economic value and social justice in the coming new civilizations, and/or one finds the  works of prominent futurists like Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, or popular writers like John Naisbitt, one thing is beyond doubt, the fact that these changes have important ramifications for Iran and other parts of the world which I noted before. 


I also discussed the issue of state economy in State Economy as the Foundation of Despotism.  I have been arguing  with many of the leftists that the state economy should be opposed, in no uncertain terms, in any unity plans; because if after all these experiences of world communism, and other similar states, intellectuals of a nation still are not clear on this foundation of despotism, they will do a disservice to their nation.


If Iranian intellectuals still try for statist programs, and it will be unpardonable to say later that we did not know better, after all these world experiences.  This is what I have written as my comments about the shortcomings of manshoor81 which I signed, a charter signed and published by a number of Iranian intellectuals in Feb 2003 as a minimum Charter for a democratic future of Iran.


I asked people to sign the above charter and supported it, because it was the least we could expect for an alternative to the Islamic Republic of Iran and I found it to be a minimum that any democratic-minded individual should support for Iran's future, and I hoped such efforts to help the democratic development of Iran, although I believe the alternative organization to lead Iran's future can be formed by a futurist party platform.


I do not think a minimum platform can create such an alternative, nonetheless, I supported the effort hoping it may help the endeavors to create a progressive democratic alternative to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I have written my views about the various aspects of the topic of futurist party in the past, to achieve a Futurist, Secular, Federal, and Democratic Republic in Iran.

In my comments, beside the issue of federalism and opposing state economy, I had noted that just supporting UDHR is not enough and one should clearly state that all the Islamic laws such as Qessas laws will be abolished and especially the judiciary  will *not* be Islamic and the Shi'a clergy, as long as holding positions in Shi'a religious organizations, should not be allowed to hold state offices.


I think not being clear on these issues may get one end up like Hamid Karzai's government, where the Islamic clergy are again running the  judiciary, and after all the atrocities of Taliban, the judiciary dares to punish government female officials for not wearing scarf in a foreign trip, and the government is still called Islamic after all these sacrifices for separation of state and religion.




Another issue that has continuously come up in the leftist movement of Iran has been the topic of Palestine.  It is strange that the leftists have always sided with the Islamists and Palestinians against Western democracies and Israel, but ironically  in the last three decades, the Iranian left has been more oppressed by the Islamists than by Western democracies, and ironically the Israelis have sided more with Iranian dissidents than the Palestinians.  The issue of Islamism and its retrogression, I have discussed extensively in previous chapters.  Let's look at the Palestinian issue here.


For years, democratic activists spent all our energy to get Vietnamese opposition to get to power. We made all the sacrifices from our lives to distribute the pictures of casualties of Vietnam, to get the US to sign the peace agreement. Today when talking to the Vietnamese, we are ashamed to tell them that we are partly responsible for the government they ran away from in boats many losing their lives.


It is not just enough to condemn imperialism. It is important what alternative we are supporting. PLO had more than three years after the first initiative to form the Palestinian Authority. What did they do? Did they create a democratic state? Did they grow a modern economy?  Or they just continued fighting in secret, instead of developing relations and growing the society, and just wanted to get more land? If they were there another ten years, and got more land, what would they do? And we cannot solve this problem of their leadership for them. I hope the recent changes in their leadership corrects the situation.


We can support the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis but more than that, we should see what it is we are helping. Just making sacrifices will not get the people anything. Vietnam is before our eyes and not only the sacrifices of the Vietnamese people, the sacrifices from the life of every individual outside Vietnam, to make that happen thru demonstrations and protests and see what it is the state we helped to succeed. Not even any of the leftists would like to live in that place.


Palestinian Authority now has a radio station.  What does it broadcast? Friday prayers (namAze jome)?  Shouldn't Muslims go and create their own TV station and pay for the Islamic programming such as namAze jome from their own donations rather than the state paying for it, in this case Palestinian Authority paying for the broadcast of namAze jome.  And this is what they broadcast with the state's money.


We all know what is wrong with the Palestinian movement, but still it is a fad in the Iranian progressive forces to always worry about Zionists ruling us, and always think of Palestinian movement as our friends, although the reality of the last 24 years has proven to be the opposite, when the likes of Edward Said supported IRI all along, but expected from Iranian progressive forces to always exclude and condemn Israel, when he never condemned IRI for all the atrocities of IRI.


Others like Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk have not been much different from Edward Said either and IRI has been using the words of these authors to get the support of Iranian progressive forces all along.  A short look at the policies of various forces of opposition, from leftists to MojAhedin to Jebhe, shows that they all are pro-Palestine in the Palestinian-Israel conflict, and if anybody asks to be fair-minded, and sees both side of the Palestine-Israel conflict, there is the faryAd of vAveylA (scream of "betrayal").


The more time passes, I see the wisdom of the students and workers in Iran whose slogan was "felestino rahA kon, fekri beh hAle mA kon" meaning "stop wasting more time on Palestinian issue and focus on Iran".  Basically there is not much the Iranian opposition can do about Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, except being distracted from the real development issues of Iran and the Middle East, when building post-Industrial societies in that part of the world is important, rather than being preoccupied with this ethnic issue for this long.


It is in fact long overdue that we should not be siding with IRI agents, and should not ally with them against the so-called Zionists, who are none but those who are fed up with the Islamic republic and its Qods anniversary days.  Forces like Iranian student groups that are directly opposed to preoccupation with Palestinian issues*are* the groups that have formed Iran's pro-democracy movement in the last 20 years, and they deserve their due respect even if one differs with them about their alternative for Iran.


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher


March 4, 2005


This article is from Chapter 9 of the new edition of Futurist Iran book


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