are finding it increasingly necessary to buddy up with neo-conservatives
in Washington DC, further proof of their ideological bankruptcy
June 7, 2005
In reply to Ernest Friar's "Short
on facts long on ridicule".
Mr Friar has opened up a welcome rejoinder
to the discussion regarding the worthiness of the Mojahedin-e Khalq
Organization (MKO). The issues brought up by Mr. Friar
give us a chance to dig deeper into this topic.
First off, Mr. Friar makes much of the title of my article, and
its supposed flippant tone. In the spirit of full disclosure it
must be said that the title ‘The
Other Religious Nuts’ was
chosen by the editor of Iranian.com website, and not by the
writer of the article. The original title was, ‘Iranian Mojahedin:
What kind of alternative?’
Second, if Mr. Friar can read Farsi, we recommend that he consult
the voluminous output of Mojahedin’s own literature-producing
department, in which, as the alternative they seek for Iran, they
clearly propose a ‘Nezaam-e Towhidi’. In plain English
translation, this reads ‘Theocracy’.
As to the question of sources, Mr. Friar needs to know that the
Iranian Mojahedin, by Abrahamian is, has been, and will
be continually sourced because it is a very comprehensively researched
and meticulously documented book. Ervand Abrahamian is an immensely
respected historian, and Mr. Friar obviously not having ever read
this book, may protest all he wants about ‘one book’ not
being enough. If however he took the trouble of reading that one
book, he would have to agree that the thousands of sources provided
in that book make for very compelling argument against the Mojahedin,
especially since a great percentage of the sources cited are
the newsletters and books published by Mojahedin themselves. I
say, as far as sourcing goes, one cannot find sources more reliable
I personally had many Mojahedin friends in high school as well
as in university, while in Iran, and while I personally was a supporter
of the Marxist Fadayian-e Khalq. In spite of our differences back
then, we carried out political actions together while the Mojahedin
were still a revolutionary force and with the people, during the
first year or so of the revolution. We used to read their newsletters
and books as a matter of everyday practice. And we observed very
closely how they gradually lost their heads in the fumes created
by the impatience of a petty-bourgeois mentality. Mr. Friar, as
a communist, it seems you have not read Marx’s The Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. We recommend it highly, if you want
to learn a thing or two about petty-bourgeoisie.
One of the points that Mr. Friar raises is one worth pausing
over. It is claimed that, “The Iranian left opposition in
exile is very fragmented. Most of these groups spend most of their
energy criticizing and attacking other groups, instead of attacking
the Iranian regime.” While it is patently untrue that we
leftists attack each other more than we attack the regime, the
fact that the Iranian left is disorganized and/or fragmented, etc.,
has been a definite source of problems for us. Granted. But we
fail to see how that must lead to the conclusion that, therefore
we must support this “biggest and best-organized” opposition
grouping. Since when has size become such a deciding factor?
Mr. Friar have supported the Khmer Rouge based on this line of
thinking? And, please, do not take that last sentence to mean I
am equating the Mojahedin with the Khmer Rouge! I am merely pointing
to the absurdity of the line of thinking presented by Mr. Friar,
to show that it is his line of thinking that would have had to
have supported the Khmer Rouge as well. And if not, i.e. if Mr.
Friar agrees that in ethical politics the substance of one’s
stance is more important than one’s size, then such arguments
best not be presented, then.
It is a very grave logical fallacy to jump from a descriptive
statement (‘left is fragmented’) to a prescriptive
call for unity just for its own sake.
First of all, maybe the fragmentation is a truer mirror of the
political reality than a forced and false unity. Second, true unity
can only be one that is based on shared political orientation.
Otherwise, whatever unity we are talking about is a tactical alliance,
something with its own merits depending on how it is executed;
but an alliance nevertheless that will be brought about by the
necessities of the struggle of groupings who have coherent outlooks.
The current fragmentation reflects truthfully the class and sub-class
divisions that exist socially which give rise to the different
political projects that are deemed necessary for an emancipatory
So, are the Mojahedin advocating that different political groupings
and tendencies stop developing their respective perspectives and
simply fold into their organization? Is that supposed to bring
us emancipation? Mr. Friar, whether you like my tone or not, you
are advocating a familiar slogan that we have heard coming from
bullies historically: “Just shut up and stick with the biggest
Mr. Friar, we paid an immense social price for the exact kind
of false unity you are so generously prescribing. As Iranian socialists
and radical democrats, we took to the streets with that exact kind
of unity against the Shah, joining hands with all manner of political
ideologies, from extreme right to extreme left, not thinking about
what would come next. Would Mr. Friar have supported such a confused
unity with the mullahs had he been consulted back then? We are
the ones who are still paying for that kind of unity, Mr. Friar,
and now you are telling us to do it again!!
With all due respect, Sir, we say back to you: No, Thank You!
One round of being the total political ass in one lifetime is plenty
Now, for another factual point. I and many tens of thousands
of socialists and communists were in the streets of Iran demonstrating,
very shortly after the take over by the new ‘revolutionary’ government.
Why were we in the streets demonstrating? We were demonstrating
against the policies that the new government was imposing, notably
their attacks on women by making hijab (head cover) mandatory,
while the Mojahedin did not find this too troubling. We were also
demonstrating against the attacks by the new regime on the non-Persian
national minorities, who were rightly demanding the recognition
of their cultural and social rights.
The Mojahedin not only stayed
silent on this, they were negotiating behind the scenes with
the very president Bani-sadr who vowed literally not to take off
military-issued boots until the Kurds were crushed. On both those
issues the Mojahedin stayed silent because they were busy negotiating
with Bani-sadr. So, in effect at very crucial junctures of the
revolution, instead of standing with the people the Mojahedin
were more interested in grabbing state power at any cost. That
fact, Mr. Friar; a fact that for any inductive mind paints a
troubling picture of the kind of political morality Mojahedin represent.
Another point brought up by Mr. Friar is that unlike Chalabi,
the MKO have never supported outside intervention against Iran.
My dear Sir, the MKO, in the closing chapter of the Iran-Iraq war
in 1988, asked for and received Saddam’s air cover so that
they could make military forays into Iran. Now, maybe I am missing
something here, but would you not find this even slightly shameful
for a group that does not support outside intervention in Iran?
Or, taken from another angle, why is it that very prominent neo-conservative
groups in the US are lobbying the White House and the State Department
to take the MKO off the State Department’s terrorist list?
Again, maybe I am missing something here, but it seems to me that
these neo-conservatives are very thorough and would be extremely
unlikely to befriend any group that truly stood up against their
And, in case Mr. Friar and the Mojahedin would have us believe
that he affection between neo-conservatives and the Mojahedin is
a one way street of unrequited love, here is a little something
from San Francisco Chronicle: “Shahin Gobadi, a member of
the foreign relations committee for the [MKO’s] political
wing, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, praised Bush's
State of the Union speech. ‘The remarks by Bush were a very
necessary and important step for distancing the West from its appeasement
of the fascist dictatorship in Iran,’ he said. ‘But
we hope for further, more practical steps in confronting this regime.
We should be freed to help lead the opposition to the mullahs,’” (Tough
US stance on Iran brings echoes of Iraq debate, San Francisco Chronicle,
February 9, 2005).
To begin with, we must emphasize that praise was being lavished
by a high-ranking MKO official on the same State of the Union speech
by Bush that had the entire world horrified and in disbelief. Now,
even setting that aside, why would a revolutionary grouping praise
Bush? And is it not clear to Mr. Gobadi and his Mojahedin fellow-travelers
that Bush and the Gang are themselves the biggest fascists around
these days, with the biggest sized weaponry of all times? In the
Middle Eastern politics (in fact, in modern politics, period) if
your position on imperialism is as clouded and unclear as that,
you should not be trusted at all.
The deeper point here is of course missed completely by Mr. Friar.
The point was not so much that the Mojahedin have called for the
US to attack Iran. Not even Ledeen says anything like that. They
are careful enough to say that they want a ‘people’s
revolution’. And it is only expected that they would talk
like that. Mojahedin, to their credit, are not morons and know
that utterances openly calling for an imperialist attack on Iran
would be effective political suicide. And, besides, our opposition
to the Mojahedin is based on their ideology and predates their
ambiguous relations with the imperialists. The fact that the Mojahedin
are finding it increasingly necessary to buddy up with neo-conservatives
in Washington DC is further proof of their ideological bankruptcy.
Instead of addressing such substantial issues, Mr. Friar brings
in handy and slightly immature tidbits to the effect that ‘whose
plane was it anyway’! Now, I personally do not much care
which version is true, this kind of pissing game is too childish;
but, even assuming Mr. Friar’s version is correct, in this
episode we have proof that the Mojahedin did in fact escape from
Iran in Bani-sadr’s company. Is that a better formulation?
Well, no matter how you cut it, and no matter whose plane it was,
Rajavi did ally himself with Bani-sadr, and in the process courted
his daughter (and later divorce her), and in doing so, acted with
the mentality and as if the exchange of women is a necessity of
a political alliance!!
These are not flippant remarks Mr. Friar. Unfortunately, you
do not understand this backward way of thinking that is choking
us all. To bring such things up is to remind ourselves of the necessity
to be clear about who deserves our trust and who does not. The
Mojahedin have proven that they clearly cannot be trusted. Not
even in their political alliances could they be trusted by their
The ultimate danger in the logic presented by Mr. Friar is the
one that plainly and without any embarrassment repeats a very dangerous
line of thinking that only those without a legitimate ethical argument
would present: the size! ‘Mojahedin are the biggest opposition
Mr. Friar, at the risk of piercing my own brain with frustration
as I try to respond to this aspect of your thinking (as a supposed ‘communist’),
the size of an organization does not lend it any more political
legitimacy than would any amount of make-up be capable of creating
true beauty. You need to be reminded, in case you missed it, that
the mullahs were also the biggest political grouping who were opposed
to the Shah. So, tell us, would you have supported the mullahs,
then, in following your own logic? If not, why not? Your logic
is that of ‘might makes right’. And in this, you are
very similar to the current neo-conservative crusaders sweeping
across the globe.
When logic and principles go out the window, it is not surprising
that all that is left is to resort to one’s size. With such
logic on clear display, who needs any other sources to prove the
illegitimacy of any contender for an alternative?
Mr. Friar, we the people of Iran have learned our lessons. It
is time for people like you and the Mojahedin to learn yours.
In closing, we remind Mr. Friar that we have presented analysis,
as well as facts, and would like to hear something that addresses
the deeper analytical issues, rather than engaging in trivia and
unrelated things such as number of sources provided. We do not
write for an imaginary PhD dissertation committee. We address political
reality. The Mojahedin, according to their own literature (and
that is good enough for us) want to deliberately bring about a
form of theocracy in Iran. As democrats, as lovers of freedom and
social justice, and as socialists we are opposed to all forms of
theocracy, and as such we oppose the Mojahedin, no matter how big
their size, and no matter whether they come atop American tanks
or their own Saddam-issued tanks.