Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Khiaban No. 85: To Protest Or Not?

Translation of lead article from Khiaban's latest issue (# 85).

Today, March 1: To protest or not?
Khiaban # 85 / Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 protests. Should we go to them or not? It is doubtful that this question has much currency among that segment of the youth and the people who, in a long march lasting two years of struggle, have been fighting one of the most ruthless regimes on earth. What will happen, of course, depends on the possibilities and the collective capabilities.

However, isn't it the case that the call to action has been issued by a council that calls itself the Coordinating Council of the movement, has offices, definitions and particular goals? A council that, just like that of Khomeini's Revolution Council, is suspect [and secretive] and the youth, women, workers and the poor of the society have no place or representatives in it. Hasn't this council put forth such idiotic slogans as, "Oh Mehdi, Sheikh Mehdi [Karroubi]" for people to shout? Isn't their Charter the same [current] constitution, for the abolition of which people in February 14 protests shouted so loudly? So, how can we go to such protests? Why do people go? Is everybody still living with the illusion that this system is capable of being reformed?

Two Views Regarding the People
Are people, as social human beings, akin to docile puppets, whose movements and behaviors are determined by puppet-masters who control everything, by manipulating connected strings, through, say, their websites or satellite television channels or radio programs or newspapers?

Or, is it the case that people are not puppets? That they are human beings, and they work on and engage with the currents and the signals that reach them, and through re-thinking, re-imagining, re-interpreting, re-evaluating and even rebelling against those [received notions], proceed to act proactively?

A. The Islamic Republic
The Islamic Republic undoubtedly assumes people to be a bunch of puppets, whose heads can be filled with anything you wish. And in order to render our generation into docile Muslim people who believe in their superstitions and not question their rule, they spent stupendous amounts of the oil money, and from the profits of their exploitation of workers, on their Islamist propaganda; and for [thirty-two] consistent years tried to control all schools, factories, all television networks, magazines and newspapers and ... All that, in order to control the puppets in this geographical location called Iran. The result, of course, was a gigantic defeat. Yes, we all read all those books on religion and on morality and Islamic Revolution and on and on. But, we also read thousands of other things too, and also saw and looked at the life around us, and see also what is being done to our society. So now, while they are supposed to be docile puppets kissing Supreme Leader's feet, people are instead shouting in one voice their demand for the overthrow of the system.

B. The Green Party
Previously, we would refer to the 'Green Industry', to distinguish between the people's movement in the streets and the groupings that, with the aid of websites and periodicals and other material capabilities, were producing a particular product that was not the same as the movement of people on the streets. Now, however, those groupings have auspiciously been transformed into a political party. They have published their own charter (Green Charter) and it has formed its own organizational leadership (Coordinating Council [of Green Path of Hope]). This political party has announced its goals as: a return to the [current] constitution; a merciful and lenient reading of Islam; to have a share of state power in order to facilitate implementation of suspended parts of the constitution; preventing the formation of more radical political parties and organizations within the movement; etc., and using non-violent means it wants to talk the government into changing its mind and wising up.

The Green Party too regards people as puppets. They think it is enough to hold the control of the puppet strings in their own hands. As a result, they have started up at least a hundred and some websites and periodicals, and in all of them they provide very similar content. In their view, it is necessary that there be no competing strings. If all the media space is controlled by the reformists, then people will of necessity be controlled by their fingertips. In their view, people do not have the power of thinking, making decisions and acting on their own accord. If at times people do not shout, "Oh Hossein, Mir Hossein", and instead shout, "We are women and men of war, so fight, and we'll fight on!" then this must be because some agent-saboteur must have snatched the control of the strings. The Green Party sees no reason for seeking to find out what people are really demanding, where do the roots of their problems lie, and what they want. The Green Party just keeps repeating its own line: "Bring a candle and a Koran; stay silent and murmur our name!"

C. The Abdicators
There also exist a large group of political forces, in whose view people are puppets in the hands of powerful actors, and not proactive human beings. "Don't go! Don't you see who has issued the call? How come they didn't call for any action when [the regime] was executing Farzad Kamangar, or even during these past few months of executions? How come there exist all these political prisoners, from Mansoor Osanloo to Behrooz Javid-Tehrani to ... (and unfortunately, the list of he political prisoners is so long that it wouldn't fit into any periodical, and requires its own special book), but only Mousavi and Karroubi's detention is worthy of a call to action? And, who said that this particular group is the leader of the movement? Who elected them? Is all of the movement supposed to be covered under their robe? And what about others who are not in the same party but who are in the movement, and have given blood and limb for this movement and have paid some price, what about them?"

Some of these thoughts and utterances are completely right, to the point and must definitely be expressed. However, their conclusion is strange. They say, 'Don't go to these protests if you disagree with this leadership'. And then, they call anybody who goes to the protests, 'members of the green party'. And previously, they would say, "Don' go to the 13 Aban protests." "Friday prayers? Who, with a brain, would go to Friday prayers to demonstrate against the regime?" "Ashura? Isn't it the case that Islam itself brought us to this wretchedness?"

This view too, though it brings up some arguments worth considering, has a major flaw, which is how it views the people. This view too regards people as a bunch of puppets, and not proactive actors who at each [historical] moment is in the process of evaluating, judging, analyzing and making [social] decisions. The abdicators want to disconnect the puppet strings, and the strings controlled by the reformists.

People Participate in Ways They Consider Feasible
Such views, however, are empty of substance and invalid. People are not puppets to be remote-controlled from afar. Before acting, people constantly go through a process of evaluating and making decisions. They wisely take advantage of whatever opportunities arise to open up their own path. Just as no amount of religious books could render people into slaves of Islam, no amount of slogans of, 'Allaho Akbar' [God is Great] by Green Party members can render people into slaves of secret/underground councils.

People evaluate their own resources, see and analyze the opportunities, and they organize their own political actions against the regime and in order to achieve a free and egalitarian society. The degree of their success depends on their resources and their capabilities. The more equipped they are, the more powerful they are, the more organized they are, the more room for maneuver they will have. Obviously, if the peole had their own powerful organizations, powerful unions or political parties, they would not need to wait for such opportunities to express their demands and needs. In such a disproportionately unbalanced war, in which people are heroically standing up, we must try our best to strengthen the movement, to equip it, to distribute and disseminate political, social and class awareness, and use any means necessary to widen the space and domain of collective maneuvering.

The dissident people and the youth in Iran are engaged in a great war in the streets. They know this, and they have not taken to the arena to lose, either. In order to achieve victory against the Islamic Republic, we must help people become more powerful, more organized, more aware and more on the offensive. No puppets make a revolution. However, people are in the process of a revolution throughout the Middle East and in Iran as well.



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