People Must Choose
A Discussion on the Opposition's Unity
International: People's pressing desire to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran has put forth the fundamental question of how this is to be done. In this regard, many point to the need for unity among opposition parties demanding the regime's overthrow, and pose this question to the Worker-communist Party of Iran as well. They say the opposition's weakness vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic is its lack of unity. They ask why the opposition does not unite.
Mansoor Hekmat: Contrary to the National-Islamic trend (including Khatami, Hajarian, Montazeri, the Freedom Movement, the Fedayeen Majority and Rah e Karegar), which represents one social movement, opposition political parties demanding the overthrow of the Islamic Republic are in completely different and even opposing poles. There are two main currents in the opposition demanding the ouster of the regime: radical communism, in which the Worker-communist Party is the main and most prominent organisation and the pro-West nationalist current which has primarily gathered around Reza Pahlavi. The People's Mojahedin Organisation, a large and active political organisation, can be added to these two, although this organisation (unlike the other two) does not spearhead a larger social movement and is basically an organisational entity in itself. I do not think anyone even slightly acquainted with politics in Iran and the social position and outlook of these trends could possibly suggest their unity as potentially achievable or preferable. I understand people's pressing desire for all to 'join hands' in the regime's overthrow but there is a difference between people's perceptions and considerations and the dynamics of political transformation in society. The National-Islamic spectrum can unite around prayer to plea for the health of Mr. Montazeri but within the opposition demanding the regime's overthrow, differences are deep.
International: It is clear that political parties opposing the Islamic Republic have differences but it has been suggested that they can work jointly on their mutual demand for the regime's overthrow. What is your opinion on this?
Mansoor Hekmat: Rather than 'joint work,' which none will agree to given the serious social divisions between the currents, a possible optimistic starting point is to define a series of basic principles and discuss adherence to these principles by these forces. The principles will include adherence to people's free will, unconditional political freedom, a secular society, the prohibition of discrimination, etc. These basic principles could even be defined in a charter on people's basic rights. These principals, however, cannot be the basis for unity but rather can define the rules of the game. It describes the playing field in which each of these currents attempts to make victorious their own outlook and movement. These movements have existed before the establishment of the Islamic Republic and will exist after it as well. Each is endeavouring to establish their preferred system and society. The struggle for the government's overthrow is part of a wider struggle over these alternatives. What can be done is to establish an official dialogue among the opposition currents demanding the regime's overthrow. We do not have a problem with this. We invited all the opposition, from Left to Right, to our Third Congress. Not only do we not have any problem with setting up an official dialogue with any organisation opposing the Islamic Republic, we welcome it and think it necessary. 'Unity' and joint activity among these political currents, however, is unrealistic.
International: Within the currents wanting the regime's ouster, Reza Pahlavi has raised the banner of unity; the People's Mojahedin Organisation has also suggested unity within the framework of the National Council of Resistance. The majority of Left organisations also suggest unity and coalitions. It is only the Worker-communist Party of Iran, which emphasises that unity is impractical and stresses its differences and substantiating its views, aims and objectives. Could you explain?
Mansoor Hekmat: None of these organisations are suggesting unity beyond their own currents. They have already decided on their king and president and are inviting others to join their plan. The Worker-communist Party of Iran has one basic principal and that is to tell the truth to the people. We do not want to take advantage of people's instinctive desire for unity. We strive to create a Socialist Republic and this cannot be achieved by uniting with supporters of the free market, United States, monarchy and a pasteurised Islam. Consequently, we invite people to our own political camp, to the camp of workers, Communism, and complete and comprehensive individual and societal freedom. This does not mean political isolationism towards other political movements. On the contrary, the more clearly we state our independent views and publicise our political and social ideals, the more we will be able to walk along with anyone for as long as possible without spreading any political illusions among the people. We support the development of political culture and party culture in Iran. Coalitions, compromise, fronts, united action etc. will only have meaning in Iran when the process of defining parties and movements in society and differentiating ideals and party programmes has already taken place. Initially, the political camps in current Iran must be accurately defined until tactical fronts between them can be discussed.
International: In the process of the regime's overthrow, a situation could come about in which it is impossible to ignore the main political opposition parties and their social support in the ensuing transformation and government. In this situation, will there not be a type of compulsory unity and shouldn't this aspect of unity be considered from now?
Mansoor Hekmat: Whenever it comes about, we will address that need responsibly. The opposite could happen and we must be ready for that as well. For the moment, dialogue is our favoured position.
International: Given the rise of people's struggle, it is stated that the movement for the government's overthrow needs leadership. In the absence of unity among the opposition, how can the movement's leadership be secured?
Mansoor Hekmat: Leadership is the result of political hegemony and not the averaging of movements or agreements among politicians. The emergence of a leadership in the mass movement for the government's overthrow is a result of one perspective gaining the upper hand. The existence of leadership depends on the fact that people have made their political choice. This decision is not primarily an organisational one. People broadly choose between the Right and Left. In people's view, will the alternative perspective vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic be a broadly Left or Right perspective? This is a question that will be answered before anything else. In overthrowing the Islamic Republic, will the people look to the 'top,' Western powers and the market economy or to themselves, to society's Left and a radical solution? Do people want the Left or the Right? This question has not yet been answered. The choice has not yet been made. If we can make the Left and revolutionary perspective into the hegemonic perspective in the process of overthrowing the Islamic Republic, then the chief parties and personalities of the Left will be placed in a leadership position. In every period, people identify society's Left with certain currents and see them as the embodiment of their Left perspective. In one period, the Tudeh Party played this role, in another, the Fedayeen. Today, the people of Iran see the Worker-communist Party as the spokesperson and mainstream of the Left in society. Consequently, leadership depends on the people's political choice between a revolutionary or non-revolutionary path in the overthrow of the Islamic government. Our party and movement are determined to secure this leadership. All the activities of the Worker-communist Party of Iran is geared to drawing the people of Iran away from the bourgeois alternative and outlook and driving them towards a Left and revolutionary position in the current political developments in Iran. The indicator of the advance of the Left vis-à-vis the Right in the protest movement against the Islamic regime is an increase in people's expectations and a rejection of instances of compromise that the government and the bourgeois opposition step by step place before the people. The 2nd Khordad was one of these compromises, which the people eventually did not yield to. The National-Islamic movement probably still has several other formulas for the people's co-existence with a 'reformed' Islamic regime up their sleeves. One by one, they must be isolated. The bourgeois opposition outside the government will at some stage enter the scene to portray, as the people's victory, new equilibriums in which the foundation of its class power is left intact. We must constantly call on the people to go beyond these frameworks. We must emerge as the spokespersons and advocates of the people's big 'No!' to the totality of despotism, exploitation, discrimination and reaction in the political scene in Iran. The deeper and more comprehensive this rejection, the more a communist leadership of the protest movement will be established. Objectively, the current situation is in our favour since the government and the bourgeois opposition's proposed compromise positions cannot resolve the current Iranian society's economic, political and cultural needs. The economic-political-cultural crisis of capitalism in Iran cannot be alleviated easily.
The above is a translation from Persian. It was first published in International Haftegi (Weekly), Number 66 dated August 10, 2001. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.
Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya