April 1, 2011
Translation of an article by Mohamad-Reza Shalgooni, an activist/analyst/writer with Raah-e Kargar. The original article can be read here.
This is an important analysis. From its inception, the Islamic Republic has been in a constant process of purging its own fellow travelers. The initial coalition that formed the first elected revolutionary government was soon (within months) purged of its most liberal layers. The subsequent, long and persistent process of eliminating various factions, and the consequent non-stop positioning and re-positioning of different factions throughout the 32-year history of Islamic Republic -- along with the most ferocious barbarity displayed against the people of Iran and their rights by ALL factions, while in power -- are among the notable constants in the life of this regime.
Any phenomenon (e.g., a political state formation) that strives to live in complete and utter contradiction with its environment (e.g., in a complex society like modern Iran) will forever produce and re-produce contradictions and conflicts within itself. This is axiomatic.
In the article below, Mohamad-Reza Shalgooni shows us the application of this axiom to the current situation in Iran. The latest conflict/contradiction is among the ranks of (what I call) fundamentalist factions, and Shalgooni highlights the significance of their skirmishes.
"Iranian Doctrine": Acknowledging Bankruptcy of Regime's Official Ideology
Mohamad Reza Shalgooni / 24 Marh 2011
Organizing widespread and lavish Norooz celebrations by Ahmadinejad government around the country has once again caused a quarrel within the "Principlist" factions regarding the "Iranian Doctrine." In the last two to three weeks, many of the well known Principlist figures -- from Mohamad-Reza Bahonar to Ahmad Khatami, from Yadollah Javani (head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guards) to Gholam-Hossein Gheib-Parvar (head of the Fajr Battalions of Fars province), from Ahmad Tavakoli to Hossein Shariatmadari -- have all raised their voices in opposition to the "Iranian Doctrine" of Ahmadinejad's faction. Their reactions have gone so far as Bahonar calling it "a huge sedition taking shape," which "wants to emerge out of Principlism, but does not recognize the religious seminaries and [Islamic] Shari'a." Also, Ali Motahari has said in majlis [parliament], "We warn the president that if he continues to insist on spreading the Iranian doctrine, and ignoring the hejab [Islamic cover] issue, we will put the questioning of the president on the [parliament's] agenda." It surely must have been an attempt to prevent the further escalation of these very differences when Khamenei, in his Norooz address in Mashad [in northeastern Iran, burial place of Imam Reza, eighth Shiite Imam], with "admonition and a serious warning to the responsible officials of the three branches," asked them to not display [and quarrel over] their differences in front of the people.
What is this "Iranian Doctrine", however, and what goals does Ahmadinejad's gang wish to pursue by proposing this doctrine? From a look at the hodgepodge of things said in this regard by Ahmadinejad and Masha'ie and their fellow-travelers, it is clear that their "Iranian Doctrine", rather than a well defined and coherent intellectual and political system of thought is in fact a sign of distancing from the official ideology of the Islamic Republic, and is an effort to shape a ruling ideology (one that is more effective, in their belief) in the usual manner: through trial and error, erratic movements and pushing forth in darkness. Apparently, they have realized that the official ideology (especially) in today's world and in a country like Iran, is so out of touch and an obstacle to such a degree that, without an effective mobilization of the regime's support base, it will daily cause an increasing number of the majority of the people into rebellion against the regime. It is with an eye on this issue that they are trying to mix up some elements of Iranian nationalism and Shiite ideology, in an attempt to fashion other tools that are capable of mobilizing, and thus save the Islamic Republic from the current predicament (which has constantly become more suffocating for the regime).
In order to better understand their thinking and their goals, it is important to pay attention to a few points:
1. The central core of the official ideology of Islamic Republic is commitment to Shari'a and carrying out its dictates. In fact, it is the commitment to Shari'a which creates the need for Islamic rule, including the velayat-e faqih [rule of religious guradian]. We must not forget that it was this commitment to Shari'a that, before the formation of Islamic Republic and Khomeini's ideas about velayat-e faqih, in the period of Constitutional movement, which led to the proposed necessity of conformity of the laws passed by the parliament to the Shari'a rulings, which was made possible in the Second Principle/Act of the Amendment to the Constitution, which gave veto power to sources of emulation, [represented] through five qualified, predetermined religious scholars. An institution that was a less violent version of today's 'Guardian Council'.
This very Shari'a, however, and especially its rules and regulations regarding social issues, are the most rigid and cumbersome parts of the Islamic ideology that have become intertwined with the "historical Islam" and the conditions for its emergence [initiallty], and is one of the biggest problems of Muslims in today's societies. For example, it is enough to look at "personal rights", and especially women's rights, to see how far out of touch [such rules] are in today's societies. For [another] example, just the intellectual commitment to the principle of women's lesser worth compared to men, the rule of "women are half of men" and the separation of men from women, or gender apartheid, in today's world (in which the equality of individual rights, at least on paper, has become a universal principle) can lead any government to constant confrontations and an attritional war against the majority of the society. [...]
2. The incongruity of the principle of velayat-e faqih [rule of the religious guardian] is no less of an incongruity than that of the ancient rulings of Shari'a. In today's world, dictatorship is not a rare phenomenon, but most of the world's dictatorships portray themselves as elected by the people and as enactors of people's will, and they insist on showing themselves as republics and as being faithful to the superficial rituals of republicanism. This is so because in today's world, people's sovereignty/rule (at least on paper) has become a universal principle.
The big problem with velayat-e faqih is that not only is it a dictatorship, but on the intellectual level too it defends the necessity and righteousness of the dictatorship of the religious guardian. And it is impossible that, in today's world, this would not cause conflict and crises. Of course, in Islamic Republic too the kingly absolute rule of the religious guardian has been wrapped with the cover of 'republic', and is especially portrayed as having arisen from people's revolution and their choice. However, the insistence on the divine source of their rule and the very limited responsibilities of the elected institutions as opposed to the semi-god like lifetime privileges of the religious guardian, and the domination of elected bodies by institutions of the religious guardianship, are all so obvious and clear that the fig leaf of 'republic' can hardly do its job of covering the real face of the absolutist kingly rule. In other words, in a world in which many dictatorships, in order to justify themselves, resort to [rationalizations such as] "enlightened dictatorship" or "developmentalist dictatorship" as a necessary, temporary and transitional stage, the Islamic republic, in contrast, by resorting to the necessity of the absolutist rule of the religious guardian for enacting ancient reactionary laws of Shari'a, is in effect forced to defend the necessity of "Unenlightened dictatorship" and "Reactionary tyranny", and of course of the divine and eternal type.
3. People's rule, or people's sovereignty, manifests itself in today's world in the form of the sovereignty of the nation because citizens' rights have meaning only within the boundaries of the nation-state. And this creates an opportunity for an active role by nationalism in the dominant politics of countries. Nationalism can be one of the most effective ways of confronting the formation of independent awareness and [collective] will of the people, and of preventing the strengthening of democratic institutions. Nationalism's main role is mostly to unite the people in the nation in the face of "others", and these "others" may/can be a foreign "threat", or other nations (mainly neighbors), but (in nationalism's view) "they" always have infiltrators inside the country, who prevent the complete unity of the nation: from trends and organizations that defend class awareness and solidarity with workers and the poor to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities.
The offensive/aggressive form of nationalism, especially when it sees essential freedoms and democracy and even pluralism [among its own ranks] as obstacles, takes the form of fascism. Fascism's role is to inculcate [a sense of] national superiority and to keep the "nation" mobilized to confront the "others", by leveling out and homogenizing (and mostly centralizing) political and economic structures as well as evaluative systems, and by putting them all under a unified command. For fascism, 'nation' has meaning only in the form of herded masses under the guidance of a unitary leader: a leader who is the expression of the homogeneity of the nation and understands and expresses the "spirit" and the will of the nation better than the nation itself. In other words, fascism is not after divine legitimacy from the skies but, like other modern ideologies, understands its legitimacy to be issued by historical necessity and the will of a homogeneous nation, in herd like fashion, and it creates conditions in which the nation cannot express its will independent of the "leader". And it is this very mechanism and essence of fascism that makes it suitable for Ahmadinejad and his gang, as an attractive substitute for ridding themselves of the [current] meddlesome and ineffective official, ancient ideology of the Islamic Republic.
4. From the very beginnings, the Islamic Republic has always had strong fascistic tendencies within itself, which it strengthened, and some of its most important institutions, such as Revolutionary Guards and the Basij and its security and intelligence bodies, were formed with a fascistic logic and culture. Although these "pilars", due to several reasons -- including the multiplicity of centers of power and the traditional ideology of the regime -- could not become the leading centers of power until a decade ago, today they are clearly in a more dominant position and are trying to bring under their own control different ruling institutions. And it is against the background of the climb to a more powerful position of political power by these "pilars" that Ahmadinejad's gang is raising the banner of "Iranian Doctrine." They try to somehow show their displeasure with the fight against bad hejab, and in different [social] spheres they show signs that mean nothing other than taking a distance from the most obvious elements of the official ideology, and exactly for that reason most of the Principlists portray those moves as [sinful]. Numerous signs indicate that Ahmadinejad gang's "cultural" moves are not unrelated to all the hurried and speedy changes being enacted at various levels of power, and we must evaluate these moves as part of the tendency by the political power structures of the Islamic Republic to turning [completely] fascistic.
5. The process of distancing from the official ideology of the regime is still in its early stages, and (as mentioned) is still progressing by trial and error and in darkness. It is therefore still unclear what exactly Ahmadinejad and his supporters' plans are and what goals they pursue. It is clear from right now however that this distancing is, first of all, an acknowledgment of the bankruptcy of the official ideology of Islamic Republic by some of it most rabid supporters; secondly, it will be faced with a fierce opposition from the Principlists, and it may lead to an all-out confrontation between the Principlist factions. The truth is that with the elimination of the reformists from power, the Islamic Republic has not become more homogeneous, and just like Mohamad-Reza Bahonar predicts, another "great sedition" is taking form, a sedition that this time will emerge from within the Principlists themselves.