Next in US sights?

Iran might be the next country due for a 'pre-emptive' regime change. Mehdi Kia of the Organisation of Revolutionary Workers of Iran discusses the fragmented state of the opposition and poses a solution

Iran's clerical regime is being squeezed between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand the Great Satan has listed it at the top of the "axis of evil" and the countdown for regime change has already started in Washington. On the other hand the total failure of the reformist movement at home leaves the regime without a fig leaf and faces it with a sea of people who detest its every aspect. No wonder, then, that the regime is treading gingerly after Anglo-America forces invaded Iraq. It made some noises but also allowed overflight by US aircraft on their way to bomb Iraq. Almost 10 days into the war it decided it was prudent to organise a demonstration. But immediately Khatami, the president, expressed his sadness at US and UK deaths. When two US missiles hit Abadan oil refinery "by mistake" it was all but glossed over. The ultra-conservatives have come out with the necessary anti-American rhetoric but, as Jack Straw assured us, both sides are in close touch. And scared of the devil they might well be. Even as Iraq was being pulverised, both the 'hawk' Donald Rumsfeld and the 'dove' Colin Powell warned Iran that it is next on the list. There was no ambiguity there. The 'good' and the 'bad' torturers had come together. A bare 10% of the voters bothered to turn out in the major urban centres for the municipal elections in February. Contrast that with the 70% turnout and the landslide victory of the reformists only two years ago. This miserable performance is a graphic demonstration of the total failure of the reformist movement within the regime to steer the people towards accepting a religious government with a human face. The entire regime is under threat from below and this has caused the reformist movement to experience seismic shocks. Some of its factional groupings have begun to look outside the regime for allies, a process that was started one or two years ago but has now accelerated. Others are closing ranks with the ultra-conservatives. Manifestos galore The opposition has also been in a flurry. There have been numerous plans and manifestos for forming alliances "“ 22 at the last count. There are two broad oppositional categories (for a more detailed discussion of them see interview with Ardeshir Mehrdad "“ www.Iran-bulletin.org). The first camp says let us all unite now to overthrow the regime and we can let the Iranian people decide later the exact shape of what is to follow the theocracy. The groups in this camp are spearheaded by the monarchists. They are using the same tactic as Khomeini did "“ all together now "“ and will surely have the same disastrous results. More interestingly, the monarchists will put the question of restoring the monarchy to a referendum. So the people will have one go at voting and then, as in Khomeini's days, pass on sovereignty to Mr Reza Pahlavi in perpetuity. The second opposition camp are the republicans "“ a wide spectrum "“ who essentially want to define the successor regime as a parliamentary democracy. Their platform is a mirror image of the Islamic Republic. Secularism, representative bodies, and inviolability of the national borders. It thus starts from the Islamic regime, turning its policies into its negative, and ends right there. They talk about freedom, but there is no mention of the right of Iran's nations to self determination. They talk about human rights, but there is no addressing the deeper causes of lack of freedom. But most importantly the whole issue of the greatest unfreedom "“ poverty, homelessness, unemployment, etc "“ is totally jumped over. It is clear that many of these manifestos and programmes have one eye towards Washington. They too know that the US is here to stay in a big way and want to be in its good books. This is best shown by the fact that many have not even penned a lukewarm protest at the US invasion of Iraq. No one can doubt that a parliamentary democracy would be better than clerical authoritarianism. But in a world where the nation-state has been redefined, where parliamentary democracies have one of two choices - become the agents of global capital and its various international institutions, or they pack up and go home - to have a parliamentary democracy as the ultimate goal is either sophistry or pure charlatanism. Any such government will be, or rapidly become, an agent of global capital, vying with other states to put the national "silver" on sale in the international market place. Participatory democracy The only viable alternative, no matter how apparently 'impractical' in the present climate, is a genuine participatory democracy. And only the left can lead this. Unfortunately the left in Iran remains fragmented and dispersed. There are however enough forces there to potentially be able to create an alliance around the project for a genuinely participatory democracy "“ a democracy where the people directly control their own destiny. The ingredients for this already exist. In the struggles of the working class for self organisation. In the hundreds and indeed thousands of groups, circles, NGO's etc. In campaigns for the homeless, the runaway girls, prostitutes, addicts. In the neighbourhood organisations. In the minority nationalities. In women's groups, student organisations, associations of writers, lawyers, teachers, and journalists. In the struggles of religious minorities and countless others. What is needed is political involvement in the form of a force to link and direct these streams into a single torrent. This can only be done by the left - and, therefore, that left which believes in participatory democracy, which has bidden goodbye to its deep seated sectarianism, which no longer subscribes to Stalinist elitism, must gather together. A suitable vehicle is a social forum within the framework of struggling for a participatory democracy and rejecting capitalism and all capitalistic solutions. This is something we have called for openly. We hope that such a forum may also allow the project of left unity, which has stalled somewhat, to develop and grow alongside. We also believe that a larger forum encompassing all those who believe in representative democracy, pluralism and republicanism and are against imperialism and neo-liberalism can also take shape to counter the various alternatives on offer. Clearly such a forum will exclude those who may use sweet words, but whose current or past practice puts a lie on their claim to be born again democrats. This would include the Peoples Mujahedin of Iran, the various groups espousing virulent Fars-chauvinism, paternalist anti-women groups, and even some who profess to communism but by their totally sectarian practice have shown that they are at present anything but that.