We Represent the Majority
Interview on Iran after the 'Elections'
International: The Worker-communist Party of Iran's press release on the 'elections' refers to people's widespread non-participation, yet all the regime's factions and organisations supportive of the regime insist that people participated on a wide scale and that 21 million voted for Khatami. What is the purpose of the publicity and why has the Right faction consented to it?
Mansoor Hekmat: They now all admit that a very large percentage of the population did not partake in this farce. The regime's factions and various personalities are arguing over and blaming each other for this. The initial hype of the government and its supporters was completely expected. Now that Khatami was the entire system's candidate, the 'epic' could only be sustained through fraud. And that is what they did. The opposition had called on the people to boycott the 'elections;' consequently the government declared that the peoples' very participation was indicative of its legitimacy and committed fraud to achieve it. Clearly, in a country of 60 million, several million must have voted. Compared to 4 years ago, the population has increased by ten percent. Moreover, 5 to 6 million 15 year olds were added to the eligible voters in order to increase the numbers of those eligible to vote. Despite this, according to their own reports, the absolute number of voters was millions less than the previous 'elections.' Furthermore, their initial claim of widespread participation, which they later retracted, was not confirmed by any independent source. IRNA and ISNA [state-run Islamic Republic's News Agency and Iranian Students' News Agency] were the only sources of this news. It is not clear how they managed to conceal the 30-million epic participation and rush to the voting polls from worldview so that even a two-minute feed did not reach CNN.
International: Unlike this time, people took part in the last 1997 'elections' in vast numbers. What factors in the political situation and people's opinion have changed?
Mansoor Hekmat: In two words, Nategh Nouri. After Rafsanjani's presidency, they presented Nategh Nouri, another fossilised mullah, to the people. At the time, though, the period of people's submission had reached its end and a new generation was coming to the fore of the political and social scene. Disobedience and protest had already started. People realised that in the list of filtered candidates, there was a red-cheeked and smiling mullah who was not the system's candidate. Suddenly, participation in and upsetting the government's scenario for the 'elections' as well as preventing Nategh Nouri's election became an area for the expression people's effective political existence. I think that Khatami and Khatamism extended the life of the Islamic government. The people's move four years ago, as many have come to realise, was wrong. One should not have taken part in the regime's electoral show or even from a tactical interest, given legitimacy to any faction or personality of the regime. As a result, people suffered the consequences and the real struggle for freedom and liberation was decelerated. The regime must be confronted independently, radically and en masse. But anyhow, that semi-legal respite to hinder the government machinery caused people to take part four years ago. (The statistics of that period must also be looked at with scepticism). This time the regime's candidate and the 'election's' results were obvious. People would not gain anything by participating; consequently the atmosphere of 4 years ago was not there.
International: What effect does Khatami's re-election have on the factional fighting and disputes?
Mansoor Hekmat: The 'elections' were an administrative interruption in the context of previous political trends. We would now have faced an extraordinarily different situation had Khatami not become a candidate. But it was clear that if Khatami became a candidate, the show would take place and that all factions would go back to their original positions after observing the ceremony. These 'elections' did not change anything. It possibly strengthened the formation of a new Centre comprising Khatami, upper echelons of the 2nd Khordad [also known as the Reformists] and the Rightist 'wise' at the expense of both factions' militants. But this trend had already commenced before the 'elections.' I think that the Islamic government has now seriously realised the presence of discontented and ouster-seeking masses in the political scene. It is apprehensive of its future and is planning manoeuvres to avoid an imminent confrontation with the people. Many in the regime, whether they want to or not, will switch to the Centre. Saving the government is their main dilemma. In my opinion, most of the regime's leaders, including possibly even Khamenei, are becoming convinced that a new Centre, which would prevent the 'excesses' and de-stabilising acts of both sides, has a better chance of maintaining the government.
International: A week after Khatami's re-election, Khamenei backed the 2nd Khordad assembly (Majlis) in its dispute with the Guardian Council on the assembly's right to scrutinise the Islamic Republic of Iran's Radio and TV. What is your assessment of this decision and its effect on the factional infighting?
Mansoor Hekmat: He has still not given this authority to the assembly. Rather, he has allowed Rafsanjani and the Expediency Council - should they so choose - to revise their earlier resolution prohibiting scrutiny by the assembly. This is a manifestation of the same trend I referred to earlier. Khamenei is aware that an inflexible confrontation with segments of key government leaders in the opposing faction will destabilise the system. I think that this is the road that Rightist 'New Thinkers' close to Khamenei are advising him to take - a higher degree of compliance with the rules of the game. In general, though, the Right continues to do its own thing, especially through the Judiciary and Shahroodi. Khamenei's benevolence is not a colossal political turn, but rather tactical and topical.
International: Despite different assessments, the 'election' results have caused a more serious debate about change and reconstruction within both factions. Why do you think this debate has resurfaced and what changes might take place in both factions?
Mansoor Hekmat: I think that the key point is the conception of a new Centre, with a new regrouping of the heads of the government and a common understanding of the requirements for survival, the rules of the political game and no go areas. While on one hand the people's movement to oust the regime gathers momentum and on the other hand, the Rightist militant factions accuse 'Reformist' leaders of a coup d'état and military conspiracy, many more leaders are becoming convinced that the solution lies in the development of a common understanding in the Centre, which can isolate extremists of both factions. That is what Khatami fundamentally is and wants. The same goes for Karubi. Some in the Right faction have also begun moving in this direction.
International: Khatami is due to form his cabinet soon. What do you think about the factional composition of the new cabinet and its relation to Khatami's future policies?
Mansoor Hekmat: Khatami is Khatami. He has no earth-shattering plans for his cabinet. He will not rock the boat. I do not think that the cabinet's factional composition will be met with the exultation of the 2nd Khordad.
International: Finally the people with all their problems and lack of rights are facing the same regime of before the 'elections.' What do you think people will and should do? What will be the political situation's general trends and what are the plans of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI)?
Mansoor Hekmat: I think that people want the regime's ouster and will oust the regime. I will come back to this point. But let me mention an important point to clarify the WPI's methods. Our slogans, policies, programme and aims have not been deduced from and are not statistical summaries of 'what the people want.' These are our slogans, our aims and our policies as a section of the people, as activists of a definite political and social movement and as particular human beings. The duty of Communists and a Communist Party is to do something, which on a wide scale changes people's existing thoughts, methods and viewpoints (which are the viewpoints and beliefs of the dominant class in society) and draws them towards the Communist perspective on freedom, equality, and social and political liberation. Consequently, 'what people say' and 'what people want' in every period doe not have the slightest impact on 'what we say' and 'what we want.' It is our beliefs. It is the result of a history of freedom and humanism and the struggle for liberation in the world. It is the result of a critique of backwardness and reactionary political and social thought. It is the result of serious reflection about people's rights and dignity. It is the pronouncement of a better world, with a people free from poverty, rightlessness, ignorance and superstition. For some time now (especially with the help of paid or unpaid and exiled or not 'Reformists') it has become fashionable to wage war against the Left and progressives by saying 'the people do not want such and such.' 'The people do not want the regime's ouster, so why don't you give up;' 'give up, our people are religious;' 'give up, people voted for this;' and 'people want Khatami, give up!' Some stupid newly-turned-professors within Khatami's supporters in the Opposition state: 'The Iranian bourgeoisie does not want the regime's ouster and wants to change the Islamic Republic into a regular government, give up;' ' the World Bank intends to provide loans, give up;' or 'give up, there is globalisation!' The reason that we will not give up and continue striving to overthrow the regime is because we are freedom seekers. We are the activists of a social movement for freedom, equality, welfare and human dignity. We overthrow governments, which violate civil rights; we overthrow religious governments, governments founded on any kind of discrimination, anti-women governments, and regimes that have condemned workers to poverty, silence and lack of organisation. We overthrow these governments even if all their victims endorse them, even if they are normal, stable, without crisis, and have received a loan from the World Bank! Consequently, neither mass support for Hitler, Khomeini or Pinochet nor international support of the world powers for Israel and South Africa during apartheid will obscure our movement. Our intent is to struggle for human freedom and equality. However much people support and submit to the dominant reactionary views and thoughts, inversely our movement will be smaller and even more against the mainstream and will have greater and more difficult duties.
But today's practical reality of Iran confirms an historic truth. Yes, if we are radical and the people are conservative, the work before us is difficult and victory is out of reach. But today the WPI is the sharp tip of an arrow of mass radicalism in Iran. The glaring success of the WPI in recent years is because the people, particularly the generation born after 1979, are increasingly realising the necessity of overthrowing the Islamic regime and establishing a free society. They recognise the WPI as the banner bearer of this monumental social and political mission and as the main representative of freedom seeking and militancy in society. The deprived people of Iran are being drawn to our position on a wide scale. Now, it is reaction that is against the main stream and it is we who represent the majority. Victory is possible and achievable. This is the essence of the current political situation in Iran.
Our programme is clear - to organise and mobilise workers and progressive people in a massive political movement for the overthrow of the Islamic regime and the establishment of a Socialist Republic. From our point of view and the people's point of view, the Islamic Republic of Iran has reached its end; its maintenance is not possible. There are crucial political transformations on the way. Very simply, the people's protest movement against the entire regime will develop. Left and radical organisations, headed by the WPI, will come to the centre of attention. The Islamic Republic will resist at all costs but people will smash its resistance. The people's pressure will cause further factional fighting. Periodic agreements and regroupings at the top will not have any lasting effects. Certainly, the bourgeoisie of Iran and world powers will attempt to leave the pillars of its class rule untouched, either through a modification in the Islamic regime or with its replacement without the people's intervention. What happens in practice depends entirely on the degree of people's political and practical proximity to our party. There is a historical opportunity for a Socialist transformation to take place. Our victory is one of the possibilities. This requires much shrewdness and hard work.
The above is a translation of an interview in Persian with International Haftegi number 59 dated 22 June 2001 (www.haftegi.com). The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.
Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya