Out of Step with the masses


by yasmine

Statements from some of the most senior clerics of Iran’s Islamic state has left little doubt that the Shia republic is in deep crisis.

First came the rather sad sermon of ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani at Friday prayers on July 17. His voice broke as he told the gathering he had devoted 60 years of his life to the establishment of the Islamic Republic and now he feared for the very survival of the regime. On the disputed elections, he said: “People became very hopeful. Everything was set for a glorious day. This glory was due to the people ... I so very much wish that that path had been continued. But unfortunately, that was not the case.”

The hint in his call for unity was that he and he alone could save the present order from total collapse. We could almost feel sorry for the man - if we could forget the billions he and his immediate family have pocketed from dodgy deals, sanction-breaking contracts and sheer extortion.

A couple of days later the supreme leader himself, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seemed to echo Rafsanjani’s warning and he was followed by former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, whose call for a referendum (it was not clear which question this would address) caused further confusion.

Then came the predictable conflict between president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ‘principlists’. His nomination of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a relative by marriage, as first (and the only significant) vice-president prompted a chorus of denunciations by ultra-conservative clerics and politicians. In 2008 Mashaei had angered the supreme leader when he said Iranians were “friends of all people in the world - including Israelis”. He was also filmed watching a belly dancer during an official visit to Turkey.

It is now clear that, after receiving Khamenei’s short letter instructing him to sack Mashaei, who is the father-in-law of Ahmadinejad’s daughter, the president battled for a whole week to keep him as vice-president. Some time during that week he lost the support of key ministers in his cabinet and on Sunday July 26 he was forced to sack a close ally, minister of intelligence ayatollah Ejhei, while the minister for Islamic guidance, Saffar Farandi, resigned his post. When Ahmadinejad refused to accept the resignation, Farandi announced he would not attend further cabinet meetings.

In fact Ahmadinejad has lost so many ministers that, in the words of the conservative deputy leader of the Islamic majles, Mohammad Bahonar, “According to article 136 of the constitution, as half of Iran’s ministerial posts are vacant, the government is, strictly speaking, illegal.” The conservative newspaper Tehran Emrouz described it as a “chaotic” day for the government, while MP Ali Motahari called on Ahmadinejad to “control his nerves” and accused him of intentionally provoking tension.


By Tuesday July 28 it became clear that Ahmadinejad had lost the support of conservative MPs in the majles. Over 200 ‘principlists’ wrote a strong letter condemning the president and warning him that a fate similar to Abolhassan Banisadr (the disgraced first president of the Islamic Republic who was forced into exile) awaited him if he continued to disobey the supreme leader.

Meanwhile, following a report by a parliamentary commission, Khamenei ordered the closure of Kahrizak detention centre, where dozens of detainees died following torture. One hundred and forty political prisoners were also released from Evin. It should be remembered that death under torture is not a new phenomenon in Iran. What is different this time is that sons and daughters of the regime’s own officials are now amongst the victims.

Of course, this crisis amongst the Islamic Republic’s rulers - and, this week, the crisis within the faction in power - is only a reflection of the continuing rebellion and protests on the streets and in the workplaces in most Iranian towns and cities. Every day, as the relatives of young Iranians are informed of the death in custody of their loved ones, people gather on the streets of Tehran in spontaneous demonstrations. Dozens of bodies have already been returned to grieving parents, hundreds of people are in custody, yet the protests continue with no end in sight. Those arrested include 36 officers who had allegedly planned to attend the July 17 ‘protest’ Friday prayer in their uniforms.

What is significant in the last few weeks is the growing gap between the slogans, demands and aspirations of the protesters, whose anger has dramatically radicalised the movement on the streets and neighbourhoods of major cities, and the limited horizons of reformist leaders and their supporters, some of whom are amongst the most discredited sections of the Iranian opposition - in particular the former Stalinist, turned Islamist, social democrats. While reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi keeps talking of “legal means” in a desperate attempt to save the Islamic regime, the demonstrators’ slogans - ‘Death to the Islamic Republic’, ‘Wait until we are armed’ - clearly show the differences between the two.

The left’s influence is still limited. However, clear examples of its efforts can be seen in the last two weeks in protests at Tehran oil refinery, continuing actions against job losses, notably in the textile industry, leaflets by workers calling for a general strike, and the successful gathering at the tomb of socialist poet Ahmad Shamloo on Friday July 24. At this political meeting, students distributed dates, as is the custom at Shia funerals, joking that this was to mark the impending death of the Islamic regime.

In addition, supporters of a number of exiled communist organisations (including Rahe Kargar and Fedayeen Minority) issued a joint statement in Tehran announcing the formation of United Supporters of Left and Communist Groups.

Sad state

Yet, at a time when ordinary Iranians, losing faith in government reformists, might be open to the ideas of the exiled opposition, one cannot avoid despairing at the sad state of the latter - as shown by the superficial slogans, leaflets and statements put out for the united actions of July 25. They proposed a multi-class, liberal, ‘green’ coalition that will unite all Iranians under the banner of “democratic Islam”.

Iranians are still paying the price of the anti-dictatorship front of 1979; yet few of those who advocate ‘unity’ of the opposition seem to realise the irony of their call. Of course, inside Iran it has been both useful and at times desirable that opponents of the regime join forces with supporters of Moussavi and take advantage of the conflict within the ranks of the leadership in order to reduce the risk of repression at the hands of the security forces. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is great’) is a manifestation of such tactics. However, there is no justification in uniting around that slogan in front of the Iranian embassy in London or Brussels. On the contrary, repeating this slogan in Europe is a retrograde step.

So who is involved in this Islamic-green rainbow coalition in exile? Let me describe some of its components, their recent history and some of the more laughable political positions they have taken.

Islamist reformists: Some of the founding ideologues of the Islamic Republic of Iran are currently in exile, having fallen foul of the current leadership, and, together with royalists, they represent the most backward sections of the opposition. Yet they have been given unprecedented coverage by the international media, including, worst of all, sections of the Farsi-speaking media.

First we have Akbar Ganji, promoter of a New York hunger strike and a man portrayed in the US media as a “human rights activist” who talks of Islam and democracy. An ironic description for someone who founded, and was a commander of, the dreaded Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) and who played an active role in some of the worst mass executions of leftist and socialists under the Islamic regime.

Our former Pasdar is now a fully fledged supporter of western capitalism. This is what he said at a meeting in Berkeley in 2006: “A market economy allows you to create institutions separate from the government. A totalitarian regime, or a fascist regime, requires that all economic aspects of life must be controlled by the government. The communist economies have all been defeated. Once the free-market economy enters a society, the occurrence of fascism and totalitarianism become impossible.”

And in his acceptance speech for an award in Canada: “I consider western democracies to be the best option among the actually existing forms of government and ways of organising power.” Yet the Voice of America’s favourite Iranian ‘human rights activist’ has no regrets about his own past and defends everything that happened during and in the first few years after the February 1979 uprising!

The next ‘Islamist democrat’ propelled to fame on Farsi-speaking airwaves, broadcast both by the BBC Persian service and Voice of America, is the ‘philosopher’, Abdolkarim Souroush, who is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University in Washington DC. When the Islamic regime ordered the closure of all academic institutions in the early 1980s in what was called the ‘Islamic cultural revolution’, a new body was set up - the Cultural Revolution Institute - comprising seven members, appointed directly by the supreme leader. They included Soroush. Although he has now fallen out with his former allies, his anti-communist views are as strong as ever: “I was mainly interested in breaking Marxist philosophy,” he once said.

More recently he claimed that “the spectre of Popper is all over Iran”. Maybe someone should tell our Islamist friend that these days the spectre of Popper is actually riding high over Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib ...

To this list we could add Ataollah Mohajerani, culture minister during Khatami’s time; former Islamic regime minister and now prominent journalist Mohsen Sazegara; and many others.

Former Stalinists: Probably the worst defenders of the green bandwagon and constant advocates of a “democratic Islamic state” are Iran’s ex-Stalinists turned social democrats.

The Fedayeen Majority and Rahe Tudeh (one of the splits from the ‘official’ communist Tudeh Party) are in the forefront of green gatherings outside Iran. They try to impose reformist slogans and ban all radical demands from their rainbow coalition. At a time when ‘Down with the Islamic Republic’ has become a regular slogan in Tehran and other Iranian cities, outside Iranian embassies in London, Paris and Amsterdam they decry this as “too radical” and “not in the interests of the movement”.

Of course, we all remember the days when the Fedayeen Majority and Tudeh, following Moscow’s disastrous analysis of the Khomeini regime, were cheerleaders for the black repression of the early 1980s; we remember how they called on Iranians to vote for current supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei when he became president in 1981. Throughout the last decade they defended successive incompetent Islamic reformists in power. Now they are a key force behind Moussavi and his rather discredited allies outside Iran.

Satellite TV and BBC Persian service: Around 40 TV channels broadcast into Iran. Some are from exiled groups, ranging from royalists to those claiming to represent communist organisations. Sadly, most of the programmes are so appalling (or so boring) that very few people pay any attention to them. Yet Iran’s official radio and TV news service is so unreliable that no-one takes it seriously.

In this situation, the slightly more informative BBC World Service, broadcast by satellite and on the internet, has suddenly become a main source of news and analysis for many Iranians, resulting in the supreme leader’s accusations of British involvement in the protests. In fact many Iranians consider the BBC to be too even-handed, giving too much time to supporters of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

The reporters and editors pride themselves in presenting an “unbiased, non-ideological” programme; yet the reality is that their so-called balanced programming inevitably appeals to the centre ground of politics - and that in itself is ‘ideological’. The perceived centre ground requires giving virtually unlimited time to ‘Islamic democrats’ Soroush, Mohajerani and Kadivar. Yet, for example, Soroush can spout about the spectre of Popper over Tehran, while at the same time defending the darkest days of repression under Khomeini, but is never challenged by an experienced interviewer.

Ends and means

While this is the state of the bourgeois Iranian exiles, sections of the ‘radical’ left in exile are not much better. On the one hand, we have those who are preaching a return to armed struggle in order to “empower the working class”. On the other hand, desperate to see the end of the regime, some believe ‘the end justifies the means’ - even if the means are provided by rightwing organ-isations, Zionist peace groups or pro-imperialist trade unions.

Yet the leaflets put out by the left inside Iran are very promising. Unlike our exiled social democrat ex-Stalinists in the Fedayeen Majority and Rahe Tudeh, they call for a fully democratic and uncompromising secularism. Not only the complete separation of state and religion - a demand that can only be achieved with the overthrow of the entire Islamic republic regime - but the expropriation of all vaghf (Shia charitable wealth), all property owned by religious foundations, the abolition of the bassij and Pasdaran, the right of every citizen to bear arms, and freedom for all political prisoners.

As for the Iranian working class, its militants are putting forward demands for an end to current neoliberal economic policies, an end to ‘white’ (short-term) contracts, the right to set up independent workers’ organisations and the right to strike. Rather than supporting holocaust deniers such as Ahmadinejad or tailing reformist Islamists, the radical left in Europe and the US must do all in its power to promote these demands - not only for the sake of the Iranian working class, but because what happens in Iran will be crucial for the future of the whole region.


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ex programmer craig

Jahanshah Rashidian

by ex programmer craig on

Furthermore,because leftists are a big spectrum from
the genocidal Stalinism to the modern, human, secular social democrat that are not praised by you whereas we see their vertue in the history of Western Europe .

We do? Can you explain what you mean by that? It wasn't leftists who spawned humanist philsophy. It was liberals. And it wasn't leftists who were the driving force behind democratising Europe. It was liberals. I honestly can't think of anything GOOD that leftists have contributed to Europe. But maybe you can enlighten me?


Jahanshah Rashidian

Spectrum of left

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

I agree with you that all attempts to continue programmatic goals within political Islam are doomed to failure. “Islamist reformists”, from khatami to Moussavi, they both show the reactionary nature of religion. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions". But, also, as Marx's famous dictum stressed "it is the opium of the people”, said Marx.

 This Marx’ maxim is now more imminent when we see that Islam in the eyes of Iranians of any social class is now only the sanctity of the elite Mullahs. This caste is now too filthy to represent any sanctity for truth. Therefore, Mullahs tactically need allies from different categories of Iranian activists. Non-Muslims like “ex-Stalinists” seculars, ex-Muslims, etc., are welcome. Any with a dose of Western phobia, a mania for class struggle, an anti-imperialist clue is welcome to this camp. As you mentioned, a crowd of IRI apologists in the West sow the seeds of confusion about the nature of the IRI and attempt to limit people’s current struggles to the vain reforms within a regime which proved unreformable. Islamic state in any shape and form is a deep backwardness to be related with socialist or even a capitalist mode of production.

I think those leftists who once supported “Imam" Khomeini, will still support a faction of his regime or any evil, not because they are "bogus" leftists, but because they are also humans and make routine mistakes. Furthermore,because leftists are a big spectrum from the genocidal Stalinism to the modern, human, secular social democrats that are not praised by you whereas we see their vertue in the history of Western Europe .


Big Mistake If We Let !

by darius on

The biggest mistake is to let the old and bankrupted ideology and politician to be back into a new political  era.

I consider it insult to Iranian if the new movement cannot find few

honest , educated, people oriented and aware of The Iranian socio-ecomics  to start leading the people.

Accepting Jebhe Meli, Tude, Fadaeian,Mojahedin  back into equation is

like knowingly leading  people to another slaughter house and then work toward another movement and revolution in near future.

Dear Moji, Tude in time of Shah consolidated its forces to penetrate through all Iranian ministries to  push for a hiden agenda.

Mojahedin and Fadayian to recruit and replace their  destroyed cells

used  false warning to take young univerities student underground and finally take advantage of them.This is not a false claim, CampAshraf is one good example of it.

Jebhe Meli, except Bakhtiar  were bunch of cowards and did nothing but just moan and accept bunch of Mullah Maktabis( who did nothing in their whole lifebut satisfying thie sexual desires by  issuing fatwa on hwo to do the mother in law without it committing  zana) little by little not only take all the freedom but consider us minors in every aspect of our life.

These people with their lies an d their own hidden agendas ruined our life,our youth and our dreams and cuased not only a large migration of Iranian but death,war and making India, Turkey and few other countries rich .They let these peopel to spread narcotics,addiction and for the first time make our females to  prostitute widely in Persian Gulf countris to earn a living and escape their shit hole of Islamic Republic.

These are traitors and letting them to be part of the movement is

a  complete mistake and whomever helps them, knowingly has paved the way for a new  era of mass execution and betrayal of Iranian who are fighting  for a little right to freedom.

So go ahead and accept Mousavi, Rafsanjani and those who fled the country  along with all those junkies of the past politic back to Iran and be responsible for another  oppression.

If Iranian cannot create a new political movement that fits and suit

Iranian culture and its interest ,then shame on us. We deserve to be taken advantage of and deserve waht we are going through.I f we cannot create and found our way out of these repeated misery

then we deserve no better than what e getting now.

Any compromise in accepting the now reformist IRI and old junkies

is what we should avoid.I promise you it is better to live in hell than

bringing this movement to victory with shady and questionable characters inside and outside Iran.We all should be aware , that we are and will be responsible for every single death and jail and suffering that people go through and then at the end get betrayed by us and those old guards of IRI and those who helped the IRI to  get established and had no courage to  confront it.

Let us make right choices , it is not toomuch to ask these old junkies to repent and topay for their mistakes , for once saty out

and instead help the sincere people in Iran to form a leadership and

help themselves out of darkness of IRI and all those false revolutionaries that could fight the shah but a mullah beat them in their own game.

Mort Gilani

In Quest of A Better Iran

by Mort Gilani on


It is inaccurate to say that the Islamist Reformists and former Stalinists are holding back the Revolument (hybrid of revolution and movement).

First, former Stalinists have never had any significant role in Iranian political platform in the past 50 years. The Fedayeen Majority and Rahe Tudeh (Tudehis) by their own admissions are not leaders, but followers of mass movements. I don’t know where you find them in the forefronts of every gathering. The major things that they might have done are few youtube clips. The former Stalinists have no influence, whatsoever, on what is happening in Iran.

It is fair to concentrate on your criticism of Islamist Reformists since you named a few former perpetrators of Islamic Republic. Politicians and activists regardless of their past, or affiliations are entitled to change their mind. I agree that Islamist Reformists are not for a meaningful change, but one of the valid points the reformists make, is that the regime’s police force (IRGC and Basij) is precariously imbalanced against people at this juncture, which is why, according to them, they fear radicalization of slogans. That should be an interface between Islamist Reformists and Secular Iranians as it minimizes human toll.

Out of step with masses not only means being behind masses, but also far ahead of them.

Thank you for posting this piece.

Maryam Hojjat


by Maryam Hojjat on

excellent & completed blog of this uprising.  Your analysis of supporters for Green Wave is very accurate.  We all must be aware of these groups.  We must not let the tragic mistake of  the 1997 revolution happens to our people.  May Iranians who have put their lives on line achieve a secular democtratic government very fast without bloodshed.

Payandeh Iran & Iranians

Down with IRI & his supporters