Sunday, July 19, 2009

How I Wasted 4 Hours of my Precious Time on Saturday

I was so annoyed, I was cursing myself for having wasted 4 hours of my valuable time on Saturday. Some of the young people who are active in organising the demos outside the Iranian embassy, asked me to go along to a meeting at SOAS where a mixture panel of old Iranians were speaking. The main speaker was the Iranian philosopher, Abdolkarim Soroush, one of the former theoreticians of the 'Cultural Revolution' that took place soon after the 1979 revolution. 'Cultural Revolution' meant closure of Iranian universities for two years, sacking most of the secular students and academics and re-writing the courses to conform with the Islamic revolution. It was the turning point in my life when I unwillingly started getting involved in politics.

The young people who asked me to go along said they wanted to go and debate with the panel, but I knew from previous experience that this sort of show is no opportunity for a debate. Nevertheless, I reluctantly agreed to go for their sake only.

When I arrived, the only spare seat turned out to be near the front, to the left of the panel, and guess who I was sitting behind? Elaheh Rostami and Mehri Honarbin, two of the prolific promoters of the Islamic Republic as a popular and anti-imperialist regime and regular guests of SWP meetings on Iran! How these turncoats quickly change sides when the winds of fortune change is beyond me. It was only a few weeks ago they were performing their boot licking for Ahmadinejad's 'working class cabinet' in front of Press TV cameras, at another lecture hall in the same university. This time they were more camera shy however. They kept asking people who were taking photos not to include them. Presumably they still want to be able to go back and forward to Iran if the current protests don't come to fruition.

I have no desire to open up old wounds if the likes of Elaheh Rostami and Mehri Honarbin put their hands up and say we were wrong, now we want to make up for our mistakes, I would not have a problem but these people never admit their mistakes, they want to remain close to whoever has the upper hand and even have the audacity to give instructions as to how the movement should proceed. Apparently they were trying to hand out leaflets but for some reason they abandoned that plan.

Coming face to face with Soroush was interesting. To think this was one of the culprits in motivating the illiterate thugs who had attacked the universities and caused so many deaths and injuries of young Iranians who wanted nothing more than a free Iran, was not easy. Once again I felt the pain of those blows I had received from the thugs in those three terrible days we naively thought we could defend the universities against the gangs of cut throats on the loose, but I am a forgiving person. I am told Soroush has come a long way since those idealistic days. Idealistic in the sense that any crime could have been justified for the sake of ideologies that were held above everything else even human life.

Soroush talked about the depressing literature of defeat in the aftermath of the 1953 coup. One of the verses he quoted, I have forgotten who it was from, said 'There is no sign of Kaveh [Iran's mythical hero], perhaps there will be an Alexander [Macedonian invader of Iran] to save us!'.

The next speaker from the panel was Farrokh Negahdar, former Marxist-Leninist Fedayeen leader who was at the forefront of the split in the Fedayeen to Majority[Bolsheviks] and Minority [Mensheviks] factions. The root cause of the split was this discovery of Lenin's statement by part of the Fedayeen leadership that 'petty-bourgeiosie is the natural ally of the working classes in the class struggle'. Poor old Lenin had not defined what class the Shiite clergy fall into but Farrokh Negahdar and his friends in the Fedayeen leadership then assumed that the Shiite clergy who had seized all centres of power after the 1979 revolution, were also petty bourgeoise and therefore natural ally of the working classes. Cut the long story short, for the sake of the working class struggle, Negahdar promoted the idea that Fedayeen should back the clergy in power and also become Soviet puppets like the Tudeh Party, Iran's pro-Soviet Union Communist Party, and concentrate on the anti-American struggle. The repression and the curtailing of the freedoms was just a bourgeoise grumble and did not matter in the greater struggle against American imperialism.

I remember how I used to laugh at my class mates who were Fedayeen supporters and had bought this new 'intellectual' theory. They would remind me that the likes of Farrokh Negahdar have read lots of books by Marx and Lenin and I would say, even if you read a million books and come up with something as outrageous as this shit, you are talking out of your arse.

The consequences of this petty-bourgeoisie theory was very grave. It made the new ruling clergy even more brazen, first they went for the Fedayeen Minority and then they even went for the Fedayeen Majority. All that support for the 'anti-imperialist' struggle did not even save their own skin. Negahdar had to run away to Afghanistan, while many of his comrades were left behind and executed in Iran. When the Marxist Afghan government started looking shaky, Negahdar then went to Soviet Union and when they started looking shaky, he fled to England, where he has enjoyed the benefits of 'bourgeoisie' democracy for years.

Perhaps the biggest failure of Negahdar and his ilk is that they couldn't even pass their experiences to the Left in Europe and tell them how wrong they were in assuming the same things the European Left assume today about supporting harsh dictatorships that appear to be against the West.

In the meeting, Farrokh Negahdar said we should identify those responsible for the murders of Neda and Sohrab and try to bring them to justice, but didn't give any ideas as to how?! He also kept mentioning the figure of 35 dead and I wondered if he has read the Le Figaro report of what the doctors at just one Tehran hospital had witnessed?!

Next speaker was Massoud Behnoud, the BBC Persian's employee. Now this guy is a fantastic story teller and even a better liar. If there was ever an olympiad of liars, this guy would be a very serious contender for the gold medal. May be even a new platinum medal would be created just for him. Behnood as usual recited some anecdotes, quotes and jokes from the past political figures in Iran and made the audience laugh. After a previous meeting before the 'elections', I had witnessed Behnoud say to people who were talking to him outside, 'The majority is with Ahmadienjad supporters, people who want change amount to 5% at the most'!!

To sum up the meeting, all these old Iranians in the panel could offer was the usual poetry, jokes and anecdotes from the past and more wrong conclusions. There were no solutions, no suggestions as what we as ex-pats outside Iran could do to make sure the coup masters pay a price for the crimes that are being committed against the people in Iran. I asked myself the question, how could a panel comprised of people who have repeatedly been wrong and made disastrous political decisions still have so many as their audience. But perhaps we shouldn't blame the audience, after all the only ones they see on their Persian program TV stations and in the Persian media are these very people. Its not just the elite in the Islamic Republic who have cliques of 'insiders' and 'outsiders', those who present themselves as the Iranian political figures outside Iran also look after their own and are careful not to promote anyone else.

Here in UK, the way I have understood the system and the life span of political players is that the likes of Chamberlain who make disastrous mistakes are never relevant after their political flops. If Michael Foot leads Labour to a disastrous defeat, then thats the end of his political life. Only us Iranians repeatedly become audiences for political figures who have shown repeatedly to be wrong and out of touch.

Outside the meeting, I asked those who had asked me to turn up what they thought?
One response was 'If we had just caught up with some sleep, we would have been better off'. Another one said it was like coming to a Hadi Khorsandi stand up comedy show, but without having to pay for tickets, we laughed and we were entertained for free. Except that apparently the organisers had tried to ask for entrance fees but were told that they were not allowed.


Anonymous said...

Oh How I wasted 4 minutes of my life reading this post.

Mehran said...

Behnoud is a shameless opportunist who will jump from faction to faction, regime to regime, and even country to country as his interests require. He was a close associate of Hoveyda, Dariush Homayoun and other big guns in the Shah's regime. (I remember his weekly political commentaries on Iranian National TV, where he would rhapsodise about the goings on in the Shah's 'Rastakhiz' Party).

Then just as things started to get rocky, he miraculously 'heard the voice of the revolution', jumped ship and became a dyed-in-the-wool revolutionary.

In spite of this I still had some respect for him when, as editor of Tehran Mosavar, he seemed to be fighting the reactionary Islamists who had started to crack down on liberal newspapers, most notably Ayandegan.

Then he disappeared from the radar for a while (and admittedly spent some months in jail), and re-emerged as a historian, biographer, screenwriter, and, yes, a respected political commentator again, this time for the mullahs' regime. Plus a change.

In case you haven't seen this, read this very interesting article that tells you all you need to know about this man:

Whenever I feel disappointed about some leader or other, I just remind myself of this line in Bertolt Brecht's 'Life of Galileo':

Andrea: "Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero."
Galileo: "No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."

Anonymous said...

Winston said...

Sounds like a meeting OLD crappy people. Fortunately the young and those who are fighting the regime in Iran have no respect for these fools nor they know them well. These Leftie liars have come out of the dust-bin of history and they won't have a political future in a FREE Iran.

Anonymous said...

Oh, SOAS? Why didn't you say so at first?!?! SOAS is a hotbed of Islamist lovers. Stay away from SOAS next time.

medraki said...

Is this meeting the one that Ataollah Mohajerani took part as well?. There was no mention of his speech in this article??

FearlessDream said...

Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing!

Azarmehr said...


Yes Ata'ollah Mohajerani was also there, he talked about religious democracy etc. I just didnt mention himbecause the article would get too long.

Neda Mehregan said...

It is amazing that in the light of what has happened in the last few weeks there are still some people who support the IR. There is no justification for it.
I was priviledged to be mongst the brave people who were protesting at Friday prayers outside Tehran University. It was exhiliarating but fraught. As hundreds of thousands were shouting their slogans, everyone was aware of the plain clothes secuirty who were watching and talking in their ear pieces.
The regime relies heavily on these anonymous, faceless individuals who are an army in their own right.
I saw a young woman, an Etelaati, who was taking close up photos of young woman protesters with a big professional cameera ( the kind no one else would bring), prsumably to use the photos for reprisals against these who were taking part.
Every night there is chanting of Alaho Akbar from balconies. Last couple of nights there were more and more "Death to the Dictator" but suddenly they were interjected with "Alaho Akbar, Khamenei Rahbar". We knew then that a handful of Basijis had been sent to dampen our spirits.
Still the young people I saw outside the university were full of hope, they are intelligent and savvy, they know they are right. In contrast the faces of the supporters of the regime were dark, gloomy and miserable as though they know that their days are numbered.

Tehruni said...

I am glad that I didn't bother going then!

Neda in Tehran said...

lol@neda mehregan. ur english is too good for potkin. did u jump in and outta tehran??? ur privileged to BS.

Mehrtash said...

You stated that you were disappointed that the conference failed to suggest a solution. Indeed, a solution to the problem in Iran is very much needed. However, I feel the solution can only come from within Iran; from the Iranian people. Where us ex-pats are concerned, I think that the best we can do is what you have been doing - challenging any erection/maintenance of IRI platforms in the west; mounting pressure on organisations and governments to address certain issues, including the innumerable human rights violations in Iran.

Ba'azi mogheha tond miravid, amma karet bessyar dorost hast, chon do rooh nistin; you only aim to serve the best interests of Iran. keep going, perhaps one day you will sit on a panel at a conference, and present the solution that we have all failed to realise.

Dorood bar shoma.

Anonymous said...

Good article Potkin.

if the Iranian opposition outside Iran wasn't out of touch, we would have freed Iran by now.

At least I appreciate their some of their TVs such as VOA and Pars TV. They really have good programs about history and the root of our problems as well as some very good analysts.


Neda Mehregan said...

I have not jumped anywhere. I'm still in Tehran.

Anonymous said...

What a utter rubbish this article was. How do you come up with all these rubbish only in one article. Some people write all of their lives and still don't manage to write to much garbage.