Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with Amin Ghazaie

The reopening of universities, the current climate in society and the extensive protests we’ve seen were good enough reasons to prompt an interview with leftist student activists who have gained a breadth of valuable experience over the past few years. The purpose of this discussion is to gain a more accurate understanding of this movement through its activists who have not previously expressed their views about the past and future of this movement.
  • Q. Given the aforementioned background, please give us some information about the formation and growth of the left movement at university. Tell us how it took shape and what strengthens this movement.
A. To form a left movement at university or in society, two changes were crucial. On the one hand leaving the sad experience of failure during the early revolution years behind, and on the other taking the left’s growth from academic study to the next level. This is not to say that the radical left, formed in early 2000 by myself and a few other students, did not consider the theoretical knowledge and experience of the fighter leftists of the previous generation. Rather, the radical left consisted of Iran’s most ideological and intelligent students from the remotest parts of Iran. The Traditional left had accepted that the reformist bourgeoisie has the supreme leader and initiatives in its hands, and still believes the same. Their belief has a real base and we still witness this has not lost its legitimacy among some people. However, the traditional left despite its wrong analysis and sometimes betrayal had lost its identity, hope, truth and horizon. We had to leave its dead body and failed spirit as a first crucial step.
Of course we grew from students’ desperation and disappointment in the reformists and discouragement from their student leaders. Therefore, I’m upholding the radical left philosophy (though not all its actions) and what it later called Students For Freedom and Equality. At that time we had a correct understanding of our position and I still maintain what I believed and analyzed back then. If we chose university as our place of activity it was not because we had no place in society at large or that we doubted the growth of the student movement. University was the only place to give birth to a practical left. When the independent working class movement has to start from scratch, certainly its most aware parts; the leftist students and labour activists have to be its vanguard. Just like Marx in his time had hopes in professional workers and the English union.
Finally, in 2007 we suffered from severe repression of the student movement. We can’t deny our weak organizational tactics, but each organization would take us forward to some point. You can’t expect to achieve the goal of socialist revolution with one group or organization. While other student activists were confused we permeated students’ hearts and chanted for independent student organization. Now, in universities the left has propounded discussion, and leftist students are active and dynamic. The radical left was able to change the student’s demands.
  • Q. What do you think of the crisis of 7 December 2007? Although a long time has passed…but considering that period and the post crisis that led to the arrest of many students. We witnessed comments and criticism from some people, organizations and parties. How do you explain the crisis as one of the movement’s activists? What caused the suppression of 7 December 2007?
A. What is unfortunate is the childish analysis of left parties and the organization with regard to the reasons behind the suppression. There is not a single political and social movement that has not been suppressed in the past four years in Iran. Some ignorants believe that incorrect tactics such as independence ceremonies, or the leaders’ dramatics caused the suppression. Anyone who has a little knowledge of the tactic of Iran’s or any other security agency should know that they watch activists closely for years. Once they have complete information, they attack the activists brutally and arrest them. In fighting with the must barbaric dictator regime, you expect to be suppressed. It is imperative to continue fighting by changing tactics, work style and getting moral support from others. Just as when Marx left the first international and political party in favour of the mobilization of political organization and political struggle in countries, he led every organization to the formation of a movement. Usually in such cases where suppression is extensive, the left of society have to unite and inject the fighting spirit into the rest of society. This is an important key that occurred only during the time of repression, and later played a destructive role due to competition between the parties and ignorance. The irony is, that if the conservatives on the right are arrested, the Islamic Republic is to be blamed, but if a leftist is arrested it’s his or her own fault.
  • Q. After the 7 December suppression many believed this movement would not have the ability to re-unite the students at university, others stating that the movement had failed. What do you make of such criticism?
A. The founders of Students For Freedom and Equality are no longer active in this field. This doesn’t mean anything is destroyed, instead it means that changes have happened. Unfortunately since early 2006, we have had unrealistic growth and some with the conservative ideas of the right, deprived of theory and seeking opportunities with a corrupt attitude influenced and weakened us, which made activities within the groups impossible. These people thought that by stealing the name of the movement they would be able to hijack our activities, but they have no understanding of organized Marxism and therefore they failed. So, if there is discussion over a name, there is certainly no such thing as Students For Freedom and Equality since activities in this name have failed. But this doesn’t mean that leftist activists have failed, but that the work style and tactic of the movement has changed.
  • Q. Based on what you have said, you believe one of the factors of this movement’s failure at least with this name, is the unrealistic growth and the infiltration of members of the right. So it isn’t so wrong to say that there have been mistakes made by this student movement and therefore many of the criticisms are not so irrelevant.
A. As I mentioned before, I support the existence of radical left philosophy at the university. Based on our ideas and beliefs we acted with strategy and in a way to create hegemony for a practical left. I’m not saying our performance during those years was perfect or without mistakes. However criticisms that I’ve heard don’t even touch on the real issue. They are mostly concerned with competition between the different parties and when the Information Ministry announced we are dependent on a particular movement, some immediately welcomed this idea and in action joined the political police of the Islamic Republic. This is a sad reality! Also, these criticisms are mainly related to the suppression, but as I already mentioned, the suppression had nothing to do with our mistakes. It’s not as if had we done things differently we would not have faced suppression. Obviously the Islamic Republic will not allow the leftist students to act with such power. At this point in time those who ask why we didn’t keep our activities secret, or why our approach was so harsh, don’t have an understanding of activity within the university climate. They don’t know that what’s more important than the survival of a movement is bringing the discussion and identity of an ideology to life, which at that time we could only find in the memories of retired leftists.
  • Q. Other student organizations with a leftist vision, though not “radical left” were active at university. What is your opinion on these groups’ activities? Please share any criticism or positive comments with regard to their activities.
A. If some students were active under the umbrella of the radical left, others under the banner of communist worker, or democratic etc, all were childish divisions by some students. If we’re talking numbers and influence of a movement, none stood a chance. The main motivation of the radical left founders was not to create a fan base at university to show off. Some leftist activists are only interested in having an interview with the press after each event to become a known face within their small group of friends and party. In the first instance our strategy is to create hegemony for leftist discussion at the university, to convince the class of workers of the left’s rebirth at universities and get their attention. Some in stupor and defamation thought our choice of Marxist-Leninist was based on a puerile understanding of the status quo. Our next goal was to create an independent leftist student organization, and during that time we suffered from supression.
  • Q. Considering events taking place in Iran so rapidly, can you be optimistic on the role of the left in society, and are you doing anything to advance it? Are the leftist students at university able to play a role in these developments?
A. Currently the left is already playing a role, but undercover and with more principle. If you look at student activists they are only loud, and don’t understand the basic alphabet of Marxism, certainly you can’t expect much from them. But the majority of young students after listening to our leftist discussions have accepted our ideology. Now if someone speaks about socialism or if a student newsletter publishes an article no one is surprised. A leftist activist at the university, unlike us six years ago, has more hopes in promoting and the success of the left.

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