Reply to Ernest Friar's “Only enemy: All the regime's propaganda, statements and denunciations are directed against the MKO and no one else”:
In replying to Mr. Friar, I will begin by stating that he has provided us all with a fantastic opportunity to deepen the discussion yet again. I will do my best to avoid stepping into traps set (knowingly or inadvertently) by Mr. Friar and will address only the key substantial issues, leaving out the side-issues. The first issue of substance to address has to do with the Mojahedin's attitude toward what they are doing and their own true significance.
Anybody who has been in the Iranian opposition movement for any length of time knows fully well that the 'size issue' is one thing that the Mojahedin themselves make a great deal out of. So, any chance we get, we have to remind them and their supporters that size, though important in forcing one's way through the crowds, is only one among many issues that bestows legitimacy on a political organization claiming to have people's interests at heart.
I suggest that readers visit the NCRI's website and do their own analysis. On the day I visited the site, of the 21 large posts on the website (not counting the section at the bottom of the page titled, More Articles), 14 entries (two-thirds) were self-referential. As in, either about messages of support from various parliamentarians, the meetings they have organized, etc. Even the 'news' items have frequent references to Mojahedin/NCRI. Some posts were about protests in Iran, and there too were self-referential lines making unsubstantiated claims that the demonstrations were in (direct and explicitly expressed) support for Mojahedin!
In one, titled, “Tehranis stage demonstration to urge election boycott and support Maryam Rajavi,” a photo of a supposed anti-government demonstration was posted, and in the article it is boldly claimed that, “Protesters were carrying large photographs of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance's President-elect, and declared their support for her.” Knowing how they love to see themselves in the news, if such “large photographs of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi” really existed anywhere in the crowd, they would have been placed front, left and center, and all over the photo accompanying the 'news' item. Alas … Not a sign of any such photos of Mrs. Rajavi being held by a single member of the crowd depicted there!
Here is another outrageous statement. In one post, titled, “Mullahs set the stage for large-scale fraud in presidential election sham,” the article talks about the, “enthusiastic response to the call of a boycott by the Iranian Resistance … ” ('Iranian Resistance' is one of the names Mojahedin have adopted). No wonder Mojahedin's most repeated slogan is “Rajavi, Iran! Iran, Rajavi!” Did somebody say 'Cult of Personality'?
Everybody knows that Akbar Ganji had also called for a boycott of the presidential elections. In fact, student organizations had also called for such boycotts. Some of these were student organizations in universities that had also openly announced hunger strikes in sympathy with and support for Akbar Ganji and Nasser Zarafshan (another prominent political prisoner). So, it seems that plenty of people were calling for boycotting of the elections. So, for the Mojahedin to claim ownership of things over which they can not realistically exercise any truthful control is beyond outrageous! How simple minded do the Mojahedin imagine us to be?
The flip side of this point is the trivialization (actually the disappearance) of the rest of the opposition in the minds of the Mojahedin and their supporters. This trivialization has progressed so far that, of the millions of citizens who consider Mojahedin a nuisance at best and traitors at worst, should any dare to speak up as a member of opposition which does not wish to be incorporated into Mojahedin's ranks, the Mojahedin's knee jerk reaction is some of what has been presented.
Mr. Friar states, correct to the spirit, “Interestingly, I haven't seen any document on the NCR website directed against other Iranian opposition groups. Why the disparity?” It is interesting indeed. [Their supporters, though, have no problem directing threatening emails at me. Considering that I am a singular individual of no consequence, no organizational affiliation, and a complete nobody, it is interesting how they lose their cool composure and feel compelled to send me nasty and threatening emails!! 'Why the disparity?']
In one non-threatening email I received from a reader regarding my criticism of Mojahedin, I was told roughly that, “Talk is cheap. Why don't you get off these guys' back and do something.” I am paraphrasing; but that was the gist. I pointed out that I have been 'doing' things for at least twenty years, and posed a question: Do not groups of people who intend to engage in a collective activity such as, say, building a bridge engage in discussions ('talking') before they start building? Of course they do! One would surely hope they do!
Talking, discussing, and debating are integral parts of 'doing'. At least such is the case for us humans. Spiders spin webs with architectures more complex than any human architect can dream of, without a single second of thought, reflection or any need for consultation with any other spider. When it comes to complex activities, however, we humans discuss, debate and design first and only then we proceed to build or transform. So, if a group of people building a structure as simple as a bridge must have discussions, how can there be no discussions in the course of an activity as complex (to a mind-boggling extent) as transforming a society?
Of course, when it comes to highly complex social activities, the order of 'talking' and 'doing' is not as clear cut; but the necessity for both is an absolute, and anybody who dismisses either one is leaving themselves open to all sorts of maladies. You must have debates and discussions, critiques and counter-critiques with other major tendencies and thoughts present (or represented) within a social movement to change the structures of an entire society. So, if the Mojahedin choose to talk to nobody but the powers that be (mostly imperialistic ones), that is a clear indication of how they conceive of social power and how they want to exercise it.
If the NCRI's website is any indication, the only discussion deemed worthy of having by the Mojahedin is that between them and major imperialist powers! Please do go and have a look at their site. Not a word of salute or solidarity with any other movement by any tens of thousands of other organizations struggling around the world for social justice. Not a singular word! Not even a word in support of Akbar Ganji or Zarafshan, our most prominent political prisoners.
What you will see, however, is portentous claims such as this: “The NCRI is today widely recognized as the only viable democratic alternative to the mullahs' regime in Iran.” Likewise, visitors to their website will look in vain to find a singular message of solidarity addressed to the Mojahedin from other organizations that represent other peoples' struggles against different institutions of oppression.
In fact, we find that the only organizations that does get a mention (of a highly negative kind) is Human Rights Watch, which recently issued a highly critical report of Mojahedin's human rights record! How is it possible that Mojahedin would not even have criticisms to direct at the rest of the opposition? OK, let us assume that all the tens of thousands of socialists in exile simply do not exist.
Let us imagine further that large numbers of monarchists (the reactionary wing of the opposition) likewise have evaporated. Let us even say that much larger numbers of republicans (of all stripes, from right wing republicans to leftist republicans) have all vanished over night. What about all the thirty-five (or more) millions of women in Iran with all their different educational backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, professional backgrounds (including the homemakers), and from all the different classes? What about all the semi-over ground and not so over ground groups whose platforms are competing for people's attention? How about Akbar Ganji's “Republican Manifesto” for example?
Now, to the second point of substance. The real crux of the problem I have with Mr. Friar comes down to his puzzling claim to being a communist and yet supporting this near-cult, self-aggrandizing organization that wants to bring 'national capitalism' to Iran.
Mr. Friar says, “The NCR states in its constitution its support of “national capitalism” and “private ownership” as a means to reconstruct Iran's economy.” This is correlated with: “My understanding of the situation in Iran today is that the struggle is not that of the transfer of power from the privileged to the poor, as the latter aren't the only ones at the receiving end of Iran's government, but so are intellectuals, middle class professionals, as well as those who seek to establish a secure and efficient capitalist economy in Iran by ensuring free investment and flow of capital.”
First, since Mr. Friar is such a stickler for 'sourcing' one's argument, I would very much like to see the exhaustive sociological study that has led to such a portentous conclusion as setting the 'stage of revolution' (so to speak) in Iran at a 'national capitalist' one (whatever that is).
Second, Mr. Friar needs to be reminded that our nation has been an integral part of the world capitalist system ever since the first British gained exclusive Iranian oil concessions at the beginning of the twentieth century. We have been part of a particular configuration within the capitalist system; a particular configuration that is the only one allowed nations such as ours as long as we remain capitalist. In the brilliant works of people like Immanuel Wallerstein, an advocate of World-Systems Analysis, this dynamic is best explained by the use of the term Core-Periphery (a term he has adopted from Dependency Theory).
Our problems are those that come with what capitalism has to offer a nation such as ours. We have progressed as far as we are going to progress under any capitalist regime. We have a rich and a very resourceful country, but unfortunately we also live in the age of imperialism. In case you have not noticed, imperialism is not just a word. It really does rape and plunder, and it shapes the world in a particular fashion so as to make possible the further plundering of our resources. This is done as much by IMF and the World Bank as by covert actions and invading armies.
So, if you as a supposed communist still want to support capitalism when it comes to us Third World nations, do not invite us to jump off the cliff with you. We know better. Cuba was far less 'developed' than is Iran today, when she made a leap into the courageous unknown and decided to go the path of true anti-imperialism and independence. That is the spirit we salute.
The statement regarding 'national capitalism' with ' free flow of investment' better than anything else proves Mr. Friar's illusions regarding the structures of imperialism as they function today. 'Free investment'? 'Free' for whom? And 'investment' by who?
World Bank? IMF? Is Mr. Friar totally blind to the social struggles against such institutions (and the social reality they reproduce) reaching a key turning point on the entire sub-continent of Latin America? People from Argentina to Brazil, to Bolivia to Ecuador are shouting 'NO!' to those institutions and to the ways those institutions have plundered their societies.
'National capitalism'? What is that? Capitalism from its inception has been international. So, have the Mojahedin, unbeknownst to all, invented a new form of capitalism? The idea being, an island of ideal capitalism? Like, some utopian capitalism not yet achieved in the US or in Europe (i.e. the birthplace of capitalism)? And now this highly new form of capitalism is going to come to life in Iran? This one is rich!
Two more quick points and I will stop.
1. The diversity that Mr. Friar points to within the left, for me personally, is a sign of health and nothing to be ashamed of. We on the left do not pretend to be know-it-alls anymore, even if some of our comrades may think they are. I for one, am thankful for all the myriad organizations that responded from their own particular ideological corners to the different challenges that our historical development faced. As a result of the diversity of reactions and analyses and challenges, we have a rich history to learn from, and which will see us through to better days. Those who think in monoliths will always bite the dust sooner than later.
2. Once more I will reiterate, regarding the so-called ' sourcing' issue. I have not refused to 'source' my argument. I made a recommendation, which differs from ' sourcing' (or 'bringing evidence by reference'). All sources, as Mr. Friar concedes, are biased. We take that as a self-evident truth. As such, we make recommendation for people to read things that we trust. Why should I make a recommendation for a source I do not trust?
Again, in that one source I know of that is available in book form, and in English, Mr. Friar, if he is interested in real learning and not mere polemic, will find fully explained the main points of our arguments against the Mojahedin; and the book itself is amply 'sourced', if you like, by reference to Mojahedin's own literature that has been laboriously translated for the likes of Mr. Friar (hence our recommendation).
In closing, as long as the Mojahedin stay away from the imperialists and do not become a willing stooge of their designs, and merely exercise their right to propagate their ideas while fighting for justice, just like those of us on the left in the opposition, they will have a legitimate chance to redeem themselves for the handshakes they have exchanged with Saddam Hossein (there are pictures of Rajavi with Saddam, just like there are pictures of Rumsfled with Saddam).
If however, they continue their flirting with the most fascistic factions of US imperialists, and as long as they continue on their current self-delusional track of considering themselves the only enemy of the Islamic Republic, well, we have rude news for them.
Wake up! We do exist, and we are sick and tired of people who make deals with imperialists in order to get to rule over us! Further, we are sick and tired of people who think they are the center of the universe and presume to speak on everybody's behalf, and think that we should all kiss their asses just because they oppose a theocracy that we too oppose! Show respect, and thou shall receive some in return!
Rosa Faiz is an independent writer, researcher and analyst.