Monday, August 24, 2009

A Critique of Mousavi's Green Organization

Translation of the lead article from Khiaban newspaper (No. 39); this is a critique of the Organization of the Green Path of Hope, Mousavi's green organization, whose launch was announced August 15, 2009. 

(You can see pdf uploads of Khiaban newspaper here.)

Political gamesmanship with a burned lamp?
(On the Organization of The Green Path of Hope)
By Amir K.
Khiaban #39 / Saturday, August 22, 2009

The decision to found the Organization of the Green Path of Hope was announced [August 15, 2009], accompanied with a wave of hoopla and media hype on the part of the reformists and political forces close to them. An organization purported to be neither a political party, nor a political front, but something beyond those and designed alongside the rich and extensive movement of the people. Living in Iran, however, has taught us all to look behind the stated claims, and through the cracks and seems of the purported claims to look for the actual truth.

What is the Organization of the Green Path of Hope? As has been stated so far, this organization is composed of a small central committee, consisting of four or five people, including Moussavi, Karroubi and Khatami. A larger consultative committee will be formed, composed of political and social experts and analysts; and its body has been stated as being the spontaneously created committees and people's innovations, whose formation is said to be based on social networking and will benefit from a high level of autonomy.

In this very initial proposal, the similarities between this organization's basic organs and any other political party's are obvious. It has a central committee, composed of a number of well known political figures, and a political bureau composed of political and social thinkers/analysts. For years now, the reformists have been critiquing political party building as something belonging to the past (era of the presence of communism in society), and have introduced different forms of campaigning and social networking as the democratic vessels suitable for the new age of globalization. Of course, we have to be fair and point to some of the differences between Organization of the Green Path of Hope and a contemporary understanding of a political party. In a modern political party, all the party organs are elected and the highest political organ is the party congress. The central committee and the political bureau are elected by the party congress, and during the time between two congresses, they lead the party with the aid of other party organs.

However, the reformists, the liberals and phony democrats, who for years now have been critiquing democratic centralism in leftist parties, and despite their waxing philosophical about, "You yourself are the leaders; you yourself are the media," and despite providing various arguments based on social networks, lack of central decision making, reliance on people's innovations and other such oratory -- these same people are now founding an organization, in which the masses of the organization have no say in the choosing of the members of its leadership and its central organs.

The workings of this organization are very clear, and the blindness of some political forces regarding this is astounding. The behavioral model of the Organization of the Green Path of Hope is this: the members of the central committee are political figures, who are the symbols/personification and actualization of the organization, and the victory of the organization translates into their coming to power. Standing beside these individuals is the consultative committee or the political bureau or, if we want to talk in more contemporary phrases, the main think-tank of the organization, chosen and invited for cooperation by a few in the leadership. In his interview, [editor-in-chief of the pro-Moussavi newspaper Kalameh, and senior aid to Moussavi, Alireza] Beheshti, has said clearly that the members of the consultative committee will be invited to this committee. This group is responsible for proposing solutions and organizational tactics.

On a lower organizational level, we come to committees connected to the high level ones, formed in different social spheres where they carry out their activities. At the depths of the pyramid of the green organization, we come to those who don't have a direct connection to the organization, but have been formed spontaneously and innovatively by the people, and intend to share their resources and capabilities with the entire society. The connection between the leadership and this bottom layer is not organizational but media-based, and depends on possibilities created by new capabilities that modern media and information technologies, especially the Internet, have brought about. It is this part of the organization that is the subject of a lot of advertising and, through whose aggrandizement and highlighting, attempts are made to equate the organization with the movement. It is said that, in order to become a member of this organization, no membership forms need to be filled. Anybody can consider him/herself a member of the organization and commence their activities. Behind this people-oriented facade, however, we must look at a few unpleasant points.

Official membership in this or any organization in Iran bears a cost. Even today and under conditions where the members of the central committee are free, it is likely that any lower ranked member of the organization can be arrested, and charged with a thousand made-up 'crimes' by the regime, subjected to torture and execution. And that, with a central committee that, when confronted with murder, torture and imprisonment [and rape] of the movement's activists, merely calls for legally pursuing the matter through the courts of this very system. Now imagine a time when the regime starts to arrest the members of the central committee of this organization, the very people who have been part of this regime for thirty years; in that case, what do you think the regime will do to some unknown youth who is a member of the organization but has not a thread of a connection to this regime in any way form or shape?

As a result of such potential dangers, the masses of the people will not be rushing to become members of an organization that is legal, and would consequently even hand a print-out of members' names over to the government prosecutors if they ask for them, to prove the organization's good intentions to the court. On the other hand, the organization and its leaders are not interested in getting involved with the problems of defending their members' rights of political activity. Hence the need for the appearance of the phrase, 'autonomous social networks'. In this way, they circumvent the problem of 'right of political activity'. Now, anybody can consider him/herself a member of the organization, without there being any document that can be turned into 'evidence'. Hence, the possibility for absorbing large numbers of people and the youth.

Due to the lack of official membership of the masses of people within the organization, there will also be no need for organizational responsibility and accountability by the leadership to the rank and file, the members. Consequently, the same group that decided the central committee and invited the political bureau members for cooperation can assume the control of the organization forever and in any form it wishes, since it has never been elected in any party congress and is not answerable to any such congress either.

(Isn't it truly amazing that some are mesmerized by this proposal for a green organization yet consider themselves democrats and until now have subjected to endless criticism all existing Iranian parties and organizations till now, calling them Stalinist, though many of which were based on much more progressive and internally coherent mechanisms than this green organization.)

But it is possible for some to say: All that true. But, nobody's forcing those innovative people into which activity to engage in. Every network acts independently, and there is no oversight or control. Who can force any group or individual who's not an official member of the organization to do any kind of activity?

Yes, you are right. But, let's move a bit farther out so that we get a wider point of view, so that we can see a bigger segment of the process. The consultative committee determines the general lines and solutions, which, in the lower committees -- in the spheres of women, the youth, universities, sportspeople, etc. -- are combined with the considerations of those specific committees and then advertised and propagated. That large autonomous social network is active in units that have limited capabilities. Any innovative undertaking by this large social network that goes along or strengthens the general line of the organization will meet with approval and gets relayed and reflected. Innovations that run contrary, do not get relayed and get isolated. Through this mechanism, the organization benefits from people's help, without needing to follow up on people's demands, and without any differing or discordant paths finding a foothold in the organization.

If you are familiar with the website Balatarin, it is a revealing example of the way such a network functions. On the one hand, everybody is allowed to participate in it and to express her/himself. However, if your expressions don't go along with that of the majority of the network participants, with lots of negatives you find yourself falling farther away from the readers' eyes, and those with expressions along the network's majority line get lots of positive credits and find their writings right up front. The social networks under consideration by the reformists work in exactly the same way. By forming organizational committees in different spheres, this organization begins engaging in popular politics with an advantage. The political activists of this supposedly autonomous network, on the one hand are in contact with the leadership and the consultative committee and, on the other, with the mass media. As a result, any autonomous member in this network can only be effective if, and only in so far as, she/he spreads the political line determined up above. If anybody sings a different tune, he/she remains in the network, but will be put on mute.

Even though the current era calls for actions, the reformists are still fond of playing with phrases. The Participation 'Front', Green 'Path' of Hope. They are desperately trying to seem like an umbrella. Alas, the storm leaves no umbrellas standing.

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