On 19th February 2010 I received a letter written by comrade Alan Woods (on behalf of the IS). I found this a very interesting letter, especially as it comes from the principle leader of our organization. This letter shows the depth of the IMT’s leadership crisis. This is a leadership which acts as a group of journalists in the face of major events in a critical part of the world like Iran. For this reason I shall try to respond to this letter in depth, paragraph by paragraph, so that nothing will be left out.
“I regret to inform you that your article has not been accepted for publication because it contradicts the political line of Marxist.com. I refer specifically to the last paragraph: “Those organizations that assume that a ‘revolution’ has begun in Iran – without the full participation of the working class – are making a mistake. This mistake has two aspects: firstly, it reflects their underestimation of the central role of the working class in a revolution and, secondly, it means that they will be unable to assess the best tactics based on the concrete facts of the current revolutionary situation as it develops.”
I am not surprised that you have not published my article. This is not the first time that the IS has taken such undemocratic action towards the views of the Iranian section and a member of the IEC. By not publishing my articles in IDoM you showed very clearly that you have no respect for the democratic rights of a minority within the IMT. Either everyone has to submit to the IS or you in particular, or you punish them by excluding their views from the site and publications. Even if we are making a mistake in our analysis, why should you suppress our views? Is it not better to publish our views and also put a note saying that this particular view is not shared by the majority of the IEC and you consider it wrong, then you can also publish your “correct” view which carries the majority support of the organization. In this way the readers and all of our comrades read and judge for themselves which line is correct.
In this respect one other point you disregard is this fact that the view of a minority (even of one person) may prove to be right. In a democratic organization, you have to give the benefit of the doubt that a minority view may be proven right by subsequent events. Otherwise the organization that you are leading will be no different to a Stalinist organization.
The unnamed “organizations” that “assume that a ‘revolution’ has begun in Iran” include, as you know, the IMT. The same “assumption” is shared by several millions of Iranians, who, as you may have noticed, have been on the streets fighting courageously against the regime for many months. It is also shared by Ahmadinejad and Khamenei and the basij, who are attempting to crush the revolutionary movement by force. But it is not shared by comrade Razi. Why not?
This is pure demagogy. Are we really saying that there is absolutely no movement or a revolutionary situation existing in Iran? Are we denying the potential of this movement to lead to a revolution? Are we saying “nothing is going on”? Comrade Alan, please let’s not bring ourselves and the whole International down to this very low level of “polemics”. If what you are accusing us of is not true, then what is our real position on the understanding of the concept of “revolution”?
Unlike what you say, I think that the world “revolution” has to be used specifically. Unfortunately you use the world “revolution” incorrectly. This can have destructive consequences in relation to the kind, scope and quality of the intervention of revolutionary Marxists.
One has to distinguish between the two different ways of using the word “revolution”. The one you are using is the general sense of the word; and the one we are using is its specific sense. We firmly agree with you, that in the general sense, we, as revolutionary Marxists, should believe that a revolution is a set of specific conditions and situation in which, to quote Marx, the productive forces come into contradiction with the relations of production; thus, special conditions arise and the objective conditions that makes the situation pregnant with revolution arise.
In such a period, we could see mass uprisings, protests and movements at any time. In addition, Marxists believe that the imperialism epoch, i.e., the current period, is not only a period of war between the imperialists and capitalists of different countries but also a period of civil war (i.e., between classes inside countries), revolt and revolution. In other words, the objective conditions for social revolutions have been created all over the world. What’s lacking are the subjective conditions or the lack of a capable workers’ leadership for organizing the revolution.
These are generalities that are contained in every revolutionary Marxist programme. The rich experiences of the first four congresses of the Comintern have given this valuable lesson to all revolutionary Marxists since more than 90 years ago. As a result this position doesn’t need to be repeatedly emphasised among revolutionary Marxists. Because the main aim of revolutionary Marxists is not to talk about revolution but to prepare the masses for revolution. To prepare for any revolution one needs an objective analysis of the specific social situation. An assessment of the power and preparedness of the workers’ vanguard (which guarantees victory of a revolution by organizing itself into its own political party) is especially necessary. In other words, a revolutionary situation might arise. In Iran we are witnessing a revolutionary situation. But not every revolutionary situation necessarily leads to revolution. This is the situation currently in Iran (because the working class, despite its rich experiences in struggle and preparation, is not only not furthering the struggles but has actually boycotted the revolutionary situation).
So when revolutionary Marxists use the world “revolution” in its specific sense they mean the revolutionary situation is such that it could lead to revolution. Does the working class posses the power and preparation for organizing the revolution? Will this situation lead to the victory of the revolution? Will this situation lead to a revolutionary upsurge? All these questions can’t be answered conclusively unless there is a precise assessment of the situation of the workers themselves and the balance of class forces in society. This is what Lenin said in the summer of 1915 (two and half years before the first socialist revolution) on the method of assessing a revolutionary situation: “To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution.” […] “Will this situation last long; how much more acute will it become? Will it lead to revolution? This is something we do not know, and nobody can know. The answer can be provided only by the experience gained during the development of revolutionary sentiment and the transition to revolutionary action by the advanced class, the proletariat (The Collapse of the Second International, May-June 1915, LCW, Vol. 21, pp 213-6)
This quote of Lenin is based on the ideas of Bolshevism and itself consists of the experience of preparing for the first socialist revolution in the world. This shows that if in the current situation you use the slogan of the “Revolution has begun” about Iran without assessing the balance of forces and understanding the special situation of the working class, you have succumbed to talking in generalities.
In the last period we have given you quite a lot of support. I have no doubt that this support by the IMT and Marxist.com was of fundamental importance in obtaining for you whatever prestige you have got inside Iran. This is 99% due to the work of the International. You are perfectly aware of the fact that the IWSN would be nothing without the active participation of IMT comrades all over the world. We understand the need for solidarity, but you seem to imagine that the way to build a section in Iran is by building “influence” in the workers’ movement by creating the impression that you have more strength than you actually possess. This is a serious mistake. On this false basis you will never build anything solid.
Our comrades in Iran are writing a letter to respond to your claim that 99% of our “prestige” has been obtained because of the IMT. They will be the best people to judge this claim. I just draw your attention to the fact that our presence in Iran goes back to the last four decades, but we have been official members of IMT for just 18 months. Such claims by you only show your lack of knowledge of our history and activities in Iran. However there is no doubt that there has been a contribution by the IMT in the campaigns to defend Iranian workers. This we have acknowledged many times in the past. For example, in my last letter to you 3 July 2009, while making our concern about your attitude towards Iran work, I specifically said that while criticizing you: “I would like to point out that I do not in any way wish to be unfair and diminish the positions you have taken on Iran in the past ten years and in the last congress. I appreciated your intervention in the last congress and the last article. Nor would I like to reduce the effect and work of comrade FW with us. In particular we appreciate his excellent efforts to organize the most effective pickets in defence of Iranian workers and helping us to build IWSN. All these are understood and we appreciate them and are grateful to you.” I say it once again we are very grateful to your kind contribution towards building IWSN with us. But does your contribution to us, justify censoring our articles? And imposing your will upon us? Could you also tell us how you have reached the conclusion that we “seem to imagine that the way to build a section in Iran is by building “influence” in the workers’ movement by creating the impression that you have more strength than you actually possess. ….in order that this should become a reality and not just an empty phrase, the workers must actively intervene in the protests, demonstrations and mass movements and not remain on the sidelines.”
Can you explain in detail how we have made these errors so that we would learn and do not repeat these stupid “mistakes” in future? Another question you have to answer is this: why did you not mention this mistake to us before? You must have known about our wrong approach to party building prior to the past six months. Why all of a sudden, as soon as we became critical of your line, did you become aware of our “mistakes” in party building? Is it not true that if you had bothered to participate in some of our regular meeting with some IS members that we have held during the past few years, and had shown some interest in our interventions, maybe by now we would have corrected ourselves because of your brilliant arguments? Or maybe building a section of the IMT in Iran, in your mind, is pushing two young Iranians with no experience whatsoever of long-term underground work in Iran, to copy your articles under their names, and pretending that they are building a genuine party? (Action that you have been engineering in the last few months).
Your false and narrow approach to the work is the main reason you refuse to accept that there is a revolution in Iran. You did not expect this movement to develop out of the electoral fraud in June. It took you completely unawares. We asked you for an article prior to the elections, as it was becoming clear that some crisis was looming in Iran. But you had absolutely nothing to say about the election campaign last year, although it already involved very big mass meetings of the opposition in Teheran. All we got from you (and all we have ever got from you) is a string of brief reports of this strike and that strike, of this arrest and that arrest, and appeals for solidarity and constant pickets, which we always responded to loyally. But these reports are not enough. What we required was an analysis of the situation, of the unfolding revolutionary crisis that was engulfing Iran.
It is obvious that in order to cover up your journalistic position on the “revolution has begun”, you are forced to resort to making false statements (which is below the dignity of a revolutionary in your position). We did produce articles on the coming crisis even one year prior to the election and the subsequent events. We analyzed the internal conflicts within each camp of the regime and warned about the deep crisis. We pointed out the depth of discontent within the supporters of the regime itself and highlighted the crisis of the coming election. This article was even published in IDoM and again it was sent to you in my letter of 3 July 2009 to prove to you that your line of intervention on Iran is not justified and you have no analysis of the objective situation other than uttering some generalities that a confused petty bourgeois journalist can make. I have to quote my letter in length to remind you once again and prove that you are either forgetful or intentionally trying to discredit us in an undemocratic fashion, as practiced by Stalinists. I wrote to you the following lines on 3 July 2009:
“…… Look at the articles which were highlighted by Marxist.com on Iran, we cannot find even a single article about the recent analysis of the objective situation in Iran. There are two historical documents, written 30 years ago by Ted and HKS and also two very general articles written by comrade FW. Your article from 1999 is also not indicative of the present situation. You wrote the article, which is related to the present situation, recently (that is an excellent article but, with due respect, and as you had mentioned in your letter, it was written in a hurry and it is general, as we did not have a discussion prior to it to give you detailed information).
The reason you have not published any such article was not that we did not have such articles; it was because Maziar Razi wrote it without an internal discussion in the IMT. As a result you have not considered such articles as belonging to the IMT. I would like to explain more on what I mean about the content of this article: “The political situation in Iran and the need to form the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists› Tendency”, I have specifically dealt with the coming election and predicted the crisis. In that article I talked about centrifugal forces within the regime and many leading figures revolting against the establishment (these were the masses you saw in the streets):
“……..The 10th Presidential elections are due in nine months and the number of «principalist» candidates indicates the depth of divisions within the ruling clique. Ahmadinejad now has to compete with his former allies: Ali Larijani (the Speaker of Parliament), Gholamali Hadad Adel (the Speaker of the 7th Parliament and Head of the Cultural Commission) and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf (Tehran’s Mayor). The rest are fiercely fighting against each other. Protests against pro-Ahmadinejad ministers and resignations by his followers are continuing. …..After three years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the reformists have started their own (to quote Rafsanjani) «uncompromising» protest against his policies. Rafsanjani has protested about Article 44 of the Constitution and lack of progress with the privatisations (August 11th) and has criticized Ahmadinejad’s policies (August 16th) and Khatami has also criticized Ahmadinejad (September 14th) and so on.
At the same time, divisions among the reformists themselves have also intensified. Old allies in the reformist faction are standing against each other in the Presidential elections: Mohammad Khatami (a former two times president), Mehdi Karroubi (former Speaker of Parliament), Abdullah Noori (former Interior Minister), Ali Akbar Velayati (Adviser to the Supreme Leader), Hassan Rohani (former Secretary for Supreme National Security Council) have entered the race, each with different policies. Karroubi intends to form a political bloc with a section of the anti-Ahmadinejad «principalists» in order to sideline Ahmadinejad and Khatami.
It is obvious that this is a crisis situation; there is no sign of stability, power or unity in the capitalist government of Iran. ….”
“…..The centrifugal forces ….The continuity of struggles and resistance of different social layers in the past period, especially teachers, workers, women and students, has made the state extremely worried. These social layers mainly have centrifugal tendencies within them. In other words, they have until recently been supporters of the reformists in government or have been backing the system in one-way or another.
These developments and centrifugal tendencies can be seen inside Daftar-e Tahkim (the Office for Strengthening Unity, a students› association) and even Khaneh-ye Kargar (the Labour House) and even inside the teachers› actions. Actually we can say that the capitalist state is more worried about the collapse of support among its own base. But these centrifugal tendencies have only one way to go and that’s towards general socialist ideas and programmers….”
The economic analysis and political conclusions of that article are closely related to today’s objective situation and our alternatives. So why was such an article, on such an important event, not highlighted on Marxist.com?
I also wrote an article on the crisis of fundamentalism from the viewpoint of criticizing the SWP/Respect party’s support for the regime (based on my short talk in the Pakistan commission in the last congress). I intentionally did not publish this article directly, and handed it to comrade FW for his and IS opinion. The process of amending and making final comments and final publication took more or less 5 months!! For a 14 page article (it should have taken 5 days if it was important for you). Now this relevant article (which has also been amended and approved by you) is not highlighted in our positions on Iran? Why? (You have just published a letter by an Iranian on Marxist.com thanking the IMT for its work on Iran. In that letter the position of other left tendencies including George Galloway is mentioned – indicating the importance of our position regarding these deviations). (Razi letter to Alan 3 July 2009)
I am sorry to say that the position you have adopted – a crude and superficial “workerism” has nothing whatever in common with the ideas and methods of Lenin and Trotsky…. Your narrow “workerism” led to you to ignore the election campaign, when it was obvious that it was the focal point for a mass opposition to the reactionary regime of Ahmadinejad’ and Khamenei. Since it was not a strike in a factory, and since all the candidates were approved by the regime, it was not of the slightest interest to you. For the whole campaign we received not a single report, not a single comment from you, not a word.
Yet again, in order to cover up your journalistic line on Iran, which was written hastily without any prior discussion with us in Iran, you resort to accusing us of being “workerist” and not producing any articles. Just for your information we did produce over 15 articles (100 pages) during the first three months after the election. Some of these articles, such as the open letter to Mousavi and Iranian workers, passed the censorship test of IDoM and were published by you as well. We produced a pamphlet titled “From Election to Revolution”, which was widely distributed in the streets, universities and workplaces of Iran. If you had the slightest interest, instead of asking poor BK to keep on translating your personal articles, and pretending that they have been distributed in Iran, you should have asked him to translate some of our articles.
We are not “workerist” but we believe in the central role of the working class in the coming revolution (unlike you who believes that any student movement is a revolution – I refer you to the article you wrote 11 years ago on the students’ movement and called it ‘The First Shots of the Iranian revolution’). The quotes you have given by Trotsky are not relevant to the situation of workers in today’s Iran. In my last interview with Militant I have tried to highlight the workers’ situation and the reasons they did not support the present movement. I very clearly supported the movement of the youth and explained to the workers that they are wrong in boycotting the movement. Below is a part of my recent interview:
“… A large section of workers since the beginning of these movements, seven months ago, thought, based on their previous facts, that there are two factions within the regime, one is reformist, the other, authoritarian, and they have no qualitative difference. Some reformists promised some actions sometime ago and some (especially in the first four years) voted for Khatami and his gang! They saw that no substantial and qualitative difference was made. Reformists weren’t there for the workers. So workers have come to the conclusion that the current disputes between the Mousavi-Karroubi faction and Khamenei-Ahmadinejad faction are family disputes that don’t concern them and even if there are some casualties in this conflict, this doesn’t concern them.
This understanding reached a level that even before the post-election events we had seen workers were organizing strikes; Iran Khodro, for instance, organised a successful strike. The Haft Tapeh workers organized a series of strikes. Previously, Sadra, Nasaji Kordestan and other workers were organizing small and large strikes. But since these movements began after the elections and the recent developments between reformists and Ahmadinejad government, workers stopped the strikes and movements and completely distanced themselves from these developments. However it is unfortunate that workers don’t take notice of an important point and that is this: the current protests and demonstrations by the protesting masses in the streets have largely surpassed government reformists and actually the regime itself and in each stage of struggle, the distance from the reformists has increased.
This happened in the very first days. After demonstrations in streets, Mousavi asked people not to go out and not to take part in demonstrations. Still, young masses went to demonstrations and Mousavi was forced to take part in this demonstration and give a speech. Yes, he was forced to! The masses dragged him out to the streets and this situation has continued until today, meaning Ashura (December 27, 2009).
As the demonstrations went on, Mousavi chose silence; but the youth started shouting slogans. Mousavi had asked for non-violent demonstrations, away from clashes, but conditions gradually led the masses to clashes and violent reaction. Since the last two, three demonstrations we have seen the response of the people and today we see that the demonstrations have really made it hard for the Basijis and police forces! And they have defended themselves when possible and have even gone on the offensive in some cases.
So none of this has been in-tune with Mousavi’s current and the reformist thugs. Unfortunately the working class doesn’t understand that if the masses went towards Mousavi or (in some cases) repeated his slogans, wore green or carried the colour green, this was not because of them being “reformists”; this was not even because they were supporting Mousavi politically and programmatically but because there was no other leadership. In other words, there is a lack of leadership. For young masses inside Iran, it doesn’t matter whom and with what colour, with what style asks them to come and protest; whomever gains the leadership, they will actually go towards them (but with their own demands). For their struggles, for using an excuse or cover for organizing anti-government struggles.
Because they have reached an end, they are tired of the status quo, unemployment is severe, there is a lot of pressure on the youth, addiction thrives, there are all kinds of family pressures and the like, especially on women and they reach a point where they want to come to the streets to protest; the election has become an “excuse” for them to do this; a space to put out their rage of thirty years, out of humiliation, oppression and pressure of all kind...”
Now I ask you comrade Alan, how do you draw the conclusion that we are “workerist” and do not see the mass movement and have been taken aback by the movement. Your comments are either based on your total ignorance of our position, or a vicious bureaucratic attack upon us for daring to criticize you on your journalist articles.
What is your position? You say there is no revolution in Iran. For an Iranian Marxist to deny the reality of the revolution is not just a mistake, but a crime. It will render it impossible for us ever to build a section with strong roots in Iran. It will discredit us with any serious elements and cut us off completely from the best elements among the youth
Comrade Alan, falsifying the views of your opponents, is a sign of weakness. We never said there is “no revolution” in Iran. This is absurd. What we said is that as revolutionary Marxists we believe that a “revolution” is a struggle between social classes to achieve state power. The state is a tool of the ruling social class in society. This tool has its own specific parts: Motor (moving force), transition mechanism and executive mechanism. The moving force of state is the very class interests; its transitional mechanism is the press, propaganda and schools, parties, mosques; and the legislative apparatus of state, privileged sections of society, clergy and etc. And finally its executive mechanism is the executive apparatus, the pasdaran (‘revolutionary’ guards), police and basij (mobilization force) and plainclothes agents, courts, prisons and the army.
The state is not the aim in itself for the warring groups but it is a huge tool for organizing, disrupting and reorganizing social relations. Any political organization (whether bourgeois or Marxist) attempts to achieve political power so it can have the state power serving the class it represents.
When you say that “the revolution has begun” in Iran, without assessing the status and preparedness of the working class for the organization of revolution and its replacement by a workers’ state, you effectively show that you have failed to understand the Marxist concept of state and revolution. For revolutionary Marxists, the “beginning of the revolution”, especially in Iran, means the potential presence of the working class for organizing the revolution even if this revolution doesn’t lead to a workers’ revolution (in 1979 what broke the back of the Shah’s regime was not the presence of millions of people in the streets, but the strike of the oil workers. That revolution did not even lead to a workers’ revolution). This process doesn’t start in the streets but in the factories and its perspective is entering the period of revolutionary upsurge for overthrowing the capitalist class and achieving workers’ power. It is evident that to guarantee this revolutionary process, it is absolutely necessary that a revolutionary vanguard party exists.
There is no doubt that you can speak of the beginning of the revolution’s process. But you can’t resolutely declare that the “Revolution has begun” based on the present situation (and after witnessing a few street demonstrations). It is to be noted that the role of a Marxist tendency is not to be a “revolution barometer”. The role of a revolutionary Marxist tendency is to assess the coming revolutionary developments before they happen and then prepare for the revolution. Last year, we as Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency (IRMT) had pointed out a lot of contradictions in society and the situation of workers and other social forces and the presidential elections in a detailed manner and had predicted the outcome of a deep internal crisis of the regime. But we nevertheless believe that the existing revolutionary situation in Iran will not lead to a “revolution” or revolutionary upsurge, without developments in the workers’ movement. Talking of “the beginning of a revolution” is tactically premature.
Unfortunately an incorrect and excited assessment can cause problems in our interventions. One of the problems is illusions that will be created within the workers’ vanguard that the revolution is imminent or it can lead to a notion that revolution, without the preparedness of workers, is on the order of the day. It is not so. In addition, what is the point of highlighting the “revolution has begun” as a phrase? Do we want to notify the Iranian youth in the streets that the “revolution has begun”? It is evident that the youth who have used slogans like “Death to the dictator and the Islamic Republic” will not gain anything by someone else stressing this point. Do we want to remind workers that the “revolution has begun and you don’t know about it”? This is talking down to them and it will not find any receptive ears inside the workers’ movement and layers of the workers’ vanguard.
It is evident that we, as a revolutionary Marxists, will continue to take part in any movement of the masses for orienting and improving the situation, to the benefit of the working class and paving the road for a Socialist Revolution.
Why is the “revolution” not beginning? I think after the recent events, especially Ashura, that the mass protests started to go on the offensive, a revolutionary situation was seen in Iran. But when you say the “Revolution has begun” it means a series of conditions are facing the movement that have to be realized before the revolution itself begins and becomes victorious. It is evident that the mass protest is very important element which exists today, i.e. consciousness, being gained from anti-tyrannical motivations, has brought the masses to the streets. Taking physical action to further a series of goals and tasks that the masses face has decreased their fear of the oppressors. The entire machinery of oppression is hated and is sometimes attacked. The political atmosphere and political consciousness among the youth has increased. This is a step forward. But I believe the main step, especially in the special situation that we face today, is the organized and conscious presence of working class. It is very unfortunate that this element is lacking in the recent developments. The working class is not involved on the scene as an organized force.
In short the workers see mass movement (incorrectly so!) as an internal feud of the regime and want no part in it. They don’t want to be a pawn in the hands one clique or the other.
This was our written position during last few months and it is there for the record.
* * *
Finally, I would like to point out three things about the manner in which this discussion is being conducted. I believe that, no matter how sharp an internal conflict, there are certain standards that people who call themselves Marxists should adhere by. On page 3 of your letter you seem to blush like a little kid when it comes to translating “cagada” (which is Spanish for “shit”). Yet, when it suits you, you stoop to the uncomradely level throwing accusations at anyone without thinking about the consequences!
(1) On page 4 you say that I am not only making a mistake but committing a “crime”! To you, someone who is primarily an academic, this might be a clever poetic touch to his argument. To the Iranian EC this is a very serious accusation that, if made sincerely, needs to be investigated and dealt with quickly. Alas, there is, of course, not a shred of evidence that I have committed a “crime”.
(2) It was very edifying for me when you brought up my past in the “Mandelist” international on the first occasion that we have a political difference! It really showed the whole of the IRMT the true measure of your attitude towards anyone who politically opposes you. All we did was to raise concerns about your analysis, and then, as a consequence of the IS’s manoeuvres, the internal regime of the IMT. This justifies you to throw this in my face at the first opportunity.
Trotsky struggled against Lenin for well over a decade. During the course of that struggle they said some very harsh things about each other. Then, once Trotsky had joined the Bolsheviks, they put all that behind them and did not raise it even when they had quite marked differences.
We sincerely believe that the issues we have highlighted, if addressed properly, will in fact strengthen this International and ensure its further growth.
(3) You also complain about the tone of my emails, as well as my so-called “blackmailing” and “bullying” ways. Do you seriously expect us to sit quietly when you close off the website and most of the resources of the International to us? The reason we are in exile is because of the repression and censorship in Iran that prevents us from doing our political activity. We therefore cannot tolerate any repression or censorship from any quarter! We will speak out against them systematically and ceaselessly, raising our voice until the rank-and-file members of the whole International hear us.
I hope that the IEC comrades will come to the conclusion that our position is correct. We are, of course, always open to discussion. But we can only do this in a democratic atmosphere without intimidation, manoeuvring and accusations.
In the near future I shall also deal in detail with your and IS opportunist position on Chavez.
(on behalf of the EC of the Iranian section of IMT)