Netiran>Articles>Politics>Internal Affairs>We Pay the Price for Past Mistakes (Interview with Saeed Hajjarian)
: "We Pay the Price for Past Mistakes (Interview with Saeed Hajjarian)
Nasimesaba, Daily Newspaper, Vol. 1, No. 108, Jul. 30th, 2003, Page 7
Word Count : 2379
Prominent reformist ideologue, Saeed Hajjarian, believes that President Mohammad Khatami is the last option for reformism in Iran.
He says prolongation of the current trend would bring about major developments which would not serve the people. For him, Mr. Khatami did refuse to manage reforms and he preferred to serve as the chief executive.
That is why, he says, the reforms faced problems.
Saying "We are paying the price for our mistakes in the past twenty years" Hajjarian kicks off his critical assessment of the past and ongoing trend. He does not only focus on the past but spells out significant points regarding the younger generation to prevent them from repeating the past errors and make the future horizon more transparent under the aegis of experiences.
Owing to his dynamic thoughts and views, Hajjarian has always been forced into the spotlight. Our interview with him reflects his latest views of political events and theoretical hypotheses.
Accountability of the officials to the people, institutionalizing healthy rivalry among the political parties and power-sharing through general elections has topped the reformist agenda in the country.
Organizing the political parties and groups has hit snags due to lack of political culture and degradation of political thinking over the past six years, but every one knows well that reformist demands could materialize only through regulating connections between the people and the authorities. To this effect, Nassim-e Saba newspaper intends to canvass influential elements and faces. The interviews focus on two theoretical (strategic) and news-style levels to distinguish the status of political parties.
A glimpse at the 25-year-long history indicates that six main political tendencies have spearheaded the political showdown in the country. The Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI), the Islamic Coalition Society (ICS), the Society of Combatant Clerics (SCC), the Assembly of Combatant Clerics (ACC), the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization (IRMO) and the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) represent the leading political and influential parties and all have in turn held grip on the power. To this effect, Nassim-e Saba has sought the opinions of influential figures from the aforementioned parties about their past performance and their predictions. Such a trend would open a new chapter in enlightenment of political thoughts and would serve as a step in political promotion of Iran. We have thus far interviewed Dr Ebrahim Yazdi, FMI leader, and Hussein Allah-Karam, leader of the hardline Ansar-e Hizbullah vigilantes. Other interviews are being organized.
Q: Mr. Hajjarian! Would you please tell us of the origins of the reformism movement on May 23, 1997? Was it a historical event or an organized project?
A: The May 23, 1997 event could be viewed from various angles. To me, it was a project inclined toward the human willing. Project is always aforethought and if we consider the May 23, 1997 a historical event we have to consider it a historical must. I think that the start of May 23, 1997 event was a calculated project as it focused on democratization of the Islamic system and the power structure.
Q: So you believe that the May 23, 1997 event was premeditated?
A: Not completely, but relatively. You see that architecture is a technique in construction but earthquake would strike beyond the human willing.
Q: Considering the origin of May 23, 1997 event a project, had you thought of any solution to remove possible hurdles or you did not make any relevant predictions?
A: I imagined that any project like reforms would face myriad of problems and that is so today. Reforms can be compared with construction of an edifice. Building would definitely face problems like financial shortages or official hurdles like the City Hall. Such probabilities go with the reforms too. But a pre-planned project is defensible whenever it can deliver on its promises according to the schedule.
Q: Any planned program and action pursues its goals. What do you think the reform movement followed up?
A: The reforms have definitely pursued objectives but it should be noted that reformist objectives are not calculated quantitatively and they are looked at qualitatively. Reformism is not like economy to be measured statistically. But we are witnessing qualitative developments like promotion of civil institutions, growth in contribution of the people to political affairs, etc. Such indices can be considered quantitative but such calculation has not yet been made.
Q: The public opinion in the society is now hanging on the point that the reform movement and Khatami administration failed to make good on their promises. What do you think about anti-reform snags?
A: I ask your question in a different way. How would the people have made judgments had the reforms succeeded? The people would not make the same judgments. The losers never write the history and the winners do so according to their wills! The same is going on for Khatami and the only difference is that nobody has won Khatami administration! Few may think that the Islamic establishment would get somewhere with the failure of reforms. So the history is always written by the winners. The history has sided with the Allied forces in the World War II and the Nuremberg Court has put on trial the losers. Can you give an example in the history that a court puts the winners on trial? I don't think so.
Anyhow, even if we take it for granted that Khatami's reforms have foundered can we conclude that the enemies are winning?
In the political jargon, we have "defeatism" implying that a nation who is falling to an enemy demands such defeat.
Q: As you know, the issue of democracy is from time to time addressed in the country and it faces conflicting assessments. Some are of the view that a nation should elect a leader and hand over their power to him to run the affairs. Is it a democratic trend or not?
A: To me, the living mankind should not delegate his right of deciding his fate to somebody else otherwise his humanity would be questioned. Can the mankind sell him or pay to be slaved? It is incorrect.
Q: But such a trend occurred in Germany. In a national uprising, the Germans elected Adolf Hitler as their indisputable and incontestable leader in 1933.
A: Yes, such a phenomenon took place in the history but it is not defensible. The people did not sell themselves.
Q: Is it indefensible because the Germans elected Hitler under ebullient and tumultuous conditions?
A: Yes, Hitler took the helm in Germany because of his charisma but misled the German people and the German civilization. Of course, it is accidental and it is not a rule in the history.
Q: What do you think are the most significant hurdles for human promotion in Iran? To what extent do you think non-formation of "self-fundamental wisdom" has affected Iran's backwardness?
A: I think that Iranians should set up "self-fundamental wisdom" and introduce new projects. Otherwise, Iran would get bogged down in its inclusive backwardness. Of course the trend of events in Iran differs from Europe of 17th and 18th centuries.
Q: What's the reason behind such backwardness? Can we attribute it to certain events or the society's misinterpretation of revision gives rise to this problem?
A: It is important to find out why no development is taking place in Iran and it would answer many other questions. Of course this question might be looked at from a variety of angles for instance ecological and geographical conditions of Iran might be linked to lack of economic development and commercial surplus. Iran also lies at the crossroad of warring tribes and has always fallen pray to pillage and looting. Such conditions have ended in flight of capital from the country and kept the nation away from reaching bourgeois. Of course other answers might be given from political and cultural points of view.
From the political point of view, Iran failed to reach any development due to monarchial and patriarchal system. Under such system, people are considered a proletariat group who should offer the monarch what they earn.
Q: So you mean that these two factors account for Iran's backwardness?
A: Other factors are also effective and many sociologists have talked about them.
Q: What do you think about the influence of muzzling thoughts in Iran? Is thinking being repressed or Iran is suffering from degradation of thinking -- as Dr Javad Tabatabaie believes?
A: Former professor of philosophy at Tehran University Dr Aramesh Doustdar has discussed this issue. He touches on non-emergence of modern thinking as Iran's fundamental problem while Mr. Tabatabaie has focused on regression of thinking on Iran. Such standpoints have unfortunately not yet analyzed thoroughly.
Q: Under the present circumstances, Iran is said to be mired in a "vacuum of discourse". In other words, a large gamut of students and youth turned to such philosophers as Dr Abdul-Karim Soroush and Dr Ali Shariati but they did not meet any modern thinking in the 1990s. Do you agree with such vacuum of discourse?
A: Of course Shariati and Soroush are not proprietors of discourse. The fact is that a segment of our society centered on Dr Shariati in the 1950s and 1960s but we should not exaggerate about the influence of Shariati's thinking on the society. The research programs may be "productive", "unproductive" or "influential". We have had all sorts in Iran. Soroush and Shariati have definitely been influential and they can be considered a kind of cultural paradigm.
Q: In a comparison, we may consider Soroush more successful than others because he addressed significant issues and drew reactions from the universities and seminary schools. What do you think?
A: Yes, we admit that Soroush and Shariati managed to influence the universities and youth but we cannot deny other currents. We had other systems like Marxism in Iran.
Q: But Marxism could never have communications with the Iranian society and we cannot say it influenced the social developments in Iran?
A: Yes, that is right but Marxism has dominated a portion of universities. I intend to say that Shariati and Soroush did not represent the sole tendencies.
Q: The Iranian society pretends to be pluralistic from the cultural point of view. Do you agree?
A: To me, the more cultural tendencies, and the more development our society can reach. Thanks to expansion of communications and Internet we are today witnessing cultural pluralism in Iran and we do not deny it. It proves that our society is moving toward globalization.
Q: Taking into account the trend of globalization and pluralism in Iran, what do you think about future of Iran? Will Iran adapt to such a trend or it would oppose it?
A: When we have the May 23, 1997 elections, we should know that Iran is moving toward such an objective. It is not easy to resist pluralism in today's world.
Q: The Islamic and Western civilizations have reached a sensitive point in their interactions and challenges. If we fail to produce thought to influence the global culture, the West would change everything. Shall we think of remedies in the face of such vacuum?
A: Western pluralism is a global reality. Instead of mere slogans and negating such a trend, Iran had better boost collective morale and deal with this issue reasonably. We have unfortunately not taken seriously this issue to understand external cultures.
Q: Given the significant international conditions and the people's disenchantment with reforms how do you predict the prospect of developments in Iran?
A: I think that Iran is paying for its past mistakes. The Islamic Republic lost its opportunities for 20 years and is now paying the price.
Q: What solution do you propose to reduce such expenses?
A: We should do a lot for this purpose. Mr. Khatami launched reforms very well but they were thwarted for various reasons. Of course, Mr. Khatami should not take the blame for all the problems and faults. We reformists should admit our mistakes. The fact is that reformists did weakly in reproducing political development. We did not manage the affairs properly and as a result we failed to carry reforms through.
Q: To what extent should the Islamic Iran Participation Front take the blame for failure of reforms? To what extent do you feel responsible for such failure in your capacity as a reformist ideologue and strategist in Iran and notably IIPF? Don't you want to reach more clarification by criticizing the behavior of IIPF?
A: To remove the prevailing ambiguities, the IIPF is determined to offer the society a report on its six-year performance. The report is inclusive.
Q: In a meeting with a Member of Parliament, I told him that he would end up in jail with the ongoing trend! What do you think?
A: Is prison a bad place? (Hajjarian laughing) This room is like prison, isn't it? Even the parliament is like a prison and it is a matter of concern. The people voted for the MPs to do something for them but now the legislators are under pressure and they feel they are in prison.
Q: Anyhow, what do you think about future of Iran with the external pressures piling up on Iran?
A: Iran would undergo fundamental change in the future but the people would have no part in such developments. I think that Khatami is the last option for reformism in Iran. The outcome of internal pressures would appear outside the body of the society. The election of Khatami was the last reformism in Iran.
Q: Why does Mr. Khatami hesitate to make any decision? He seems to be loath to making any serious decision in the face of such sensitive juncture.
A: To me, Mr. Khatami is not the decision-maker.
Q: But Mr. Khatami can resort to such solutions as referendum or even resignation in protest against inefficient conditions. Why doesn't he seek to creep out of such crisis?
A: For personal reasons Mr. Khatami did not agree to manage the reforms and he is willing to serve as the chief executive and that is why reforms are facing numerous hurdles."