Mansoor Hekmat 1999

The main problem with Israel is that it is based on religion

Interviewed: By Safa Haeri, Editor-in-Chief of Iran Press Service;
First published: in English in January 1999.

An interview with Mansour Hekmat of the Iranian Workers-Communist Party. LONDON (IPS)

Probably among all Iranian political organisations, the Worker Communist Party of Iran is the most modern, future oriented, westernised and progressive.

Though its expressed ideals look utopian, especially at this age of globalisation and ruthless capitalism, yet, it has the merit of being anti-conformist, open minded, not afraid of breaking old, traditional taboos imposed by Islam as sex or free expression or ideas not to conform with Islam, in societies that, because of Islam, are forbidden to talk about.

The party rejected the notion of nationalism (we see the damages it is doing in the former Yugoslavia) or federalism as a solution to some groups, like the Kurds, that are seeking independence, suggesting referendum instead. “If they decide for separation, let them go, but if they vote for remaining, then we all are in the same boat, equal rights for all, according to one’s competence and nothing else.” (Actually, IPS did a mistake when, in an interview with Mr. Asghar Karimi, the Deputy General Secretary of the party it said that the organisation was supporting federalism and we apologise for that).

As reckoned by Mr. Mansour Hekmat, the Party’s young and dynamic General Secretary, since the organisation’s political and economic programmes had never been put into experience any where before, one can not be sure if they are workable or not. What it is looking for is very much close to the working of the Kibbutz, as at its beginning in Israel.

But even today’s Kibbutz are no more what they used to be in the good, old pioneering times.

Below comes extract of the 3 hours interview carried in a Greater London’s Pub, where I was taken by a pretty but quite professional female “bodyguard” in the old traditions of all underground organisations.

Safa Haeri
January 1999

* * *

Safa Haeri: My first question to you concerns the current situation, the extraordinary acknowledgement by the Information Ministry that its agents carried the recent killing of Iranian political and intellectual dissidents and the statement by the GLIR (Great Leader of the Islamic Republic) in which he continues to blame the foreigners for, at least, having written the scenario.

Mansoor Hekmat: It’s not surprising. This is what he always says. He also said that’s not the end of the plots, meaning that he continues threatening. It seems that the take and give, their bargaining over the official version of the murders has not ended. I think the reason the Information Ministry has decided to make such an admission is that the people would not accept anything less, making the situation more dangerous for the regime. Also probably some persons in the Ministry have realised that one has to make the minimum of concession and probably sacrifice some agents. In my opinion, what is important is that now the Iranians have heard with their own ears that the Information Ministry of the Islamic Republic is a killing machine involved in the assassinations of innocent people. This, in turn, is the translation of the regime’s fear from the people.

In one word, this is an extraordinary decision imposed by the people on the Islamic authorities and that also shows the fragility of the regime.

Safa Haeri: How do you see and evaluate the position and the situation of the regime at this very moment?

Mansoor Hekmat: Do you remember when the Shah said, “I hear the voice of the revolution"? Now, this regime is very much in the same situation. It also hears the voice of the revolution. They (leaders) are almost on their knees. No more united. An intense debate is going on among the rulers. It’s extraordinary to hear that some of them criticise Khameneh’i for blaming the foreigners. The split is greater that one may imagine, so great that it has forced men like Khameneh’i to put his signature under the (Information Ministry’s) communiqué.

My feeling is that now that it has implicitly admitted the murders are of its own work, the Islamic Republic finds itself on a very dangerous slope.

Safa Haeri: Do you think the situation is ripe for talking or speculating about the life span of the regime?

Mansoor Hekmat: Difficult to answer this question. However, I think that one year from now, not only the Islamic Republic can no more ignore the opposition at home, but not even suppress it, as it does now. The regime has still the upper hand as to the opposition, but what we see is that they need to boost and encourage the morale of the security and intelligence agents to continue working. Let’s bet on one to one and half year. Who knows, the Islamic republic may disappear even earlier?

Safa Haeri: In your opinion, why they started this latest wave of terror and who is behind it?

Mansoor Hekmat: I Think the initiative is taken by the Shalamcheh group (the conservatives-controlled Ansar Hezbollah thugs) and other pressure groups around Khameneh’i with their influence going beyond the leader himself. I Think Khameneh’i knew of the murders and had blessed it, but it could have been imposed on him as well.

There was a time that they would kill people in the prisons with impunity, announcing the names of the victims proudly. Now, they have reached the point to feel obliged to punish some of their men for the murder of dissidents. The hard liners around Khameneh’i must be very angry with him for approving the arrest of the rogue agents.

Safa Haeri: Changing subject. Your organisation is called Iranian Workers-Communist Party. In these days that communism has joined the antiquity and Communist party’s IDs are pieces of museums or collector’s items, why such an odd name and then what’s your Charter?

Mansoor Hekmat: All these are explained in our brochures. By Workers-Communist, we want to present a new version of Communism different from the one that every one has known.

Like socialism and its different versions and tendencies, Communism had also lost its true, historic meaning and significance. Between all the different Communism, the Russian, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Albanian, the Cuban or Romanian, we needed to have our own brand, closer to real Marxism ideals which are basically against religion or nationalism, while the Russian or the Chinese brand of Communism were and are nationalists and providing room for religions. In other words, what is presented today as the failure of Communism is their failure, not that of Marx and Engels. More than at any time, communities are in need of an egalitarian movement.

In our view, Communism is alive, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but maybe it must be presented in its real light, as a real force against the wild rule of international markets, the rule of wild Capitalism. Hence our name.

Safa Haeri: Talking intellectually, the name of Communism or egalitarian system etc. evokes for people the spectre of something like (George Orwell’s) 1984 or a return to the Soviet era Communism where freedom was completely ignored. Now, with all these considerations in mind, what form will take your government supposing that you come to power in Iran? Will it recognise the basic right of the people to democracy? Will the Monarchists or Nationalists or Khomeinists have any freedom?

Mansoor Hekmat: That’s a valid question and the debate of fear of the people from Communism or Marxism is a reasonable one.

First of all, I have to state that the fear you talk about is created by the enemies of Communism who controls everything, from politics to universities, churches to educational systems. They have created a horrible scarecrow of Marxism. To fight this negative spectre is not an easy enterprise. It needs time, energy, the media and huge financial resources, especially if one wants to project a real image of what Communism and Marxism are about.

Anyway, we are proud to say that we were the first (political) current that opened the debate about unconditional freedoms for everyone, without any distinction. We were the first to talk about freedom in its Western signification. We reject the shutting of the mouths on considerations such as national interests, so-called sacred religious or national believes. I’m sure that if some nationalists or monarchists come to power, they probably will ban us while if we come to power, they will be free to oppose us. We are committed to freedom for all individuals, even for the atheists and apostates. If you are to believe the others, you have to believe us as well.

But I consider our position is stronger because we have no such considerations as religious or monarchical sacred rights and so forth. We are probably the only group that is fighting for a real equality of rights between men and women, the ban on executions, the medical treatment of drug addicts, the rights of the children, the prostitutes. However, the fact is that so far no other political current like us has ever been into power for except a very short period at the early days of the Bolsheviks. But while we are not yet experienced, religion is, as seen in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Algeria, nationalism is, as seen as in Yugoslavia.

Safa Haeri: Mr. Hekmat, you say nice things, paint a beautiful picture of your promised government that sound perfect to me. But is the freedom you talk about applied in your own organisations?

Mansoor Hekmat: I don’t understand your question. Everything I say here is in our Charter..

Safa Haeri: Forget charter. My question is simple. When you are among yourselves, can he or she expresses his or her views even if it is not in accord with your point of view as the leader without being thrown out immediately and accused of thousands of sins, without his or her tongue being cut out, like what the commander of the Iranian revolutionary guards promised the opponents of the regime?

Mansoor Hekmat: If you compare the equality and freedom we enjoy in our party with most political organisations of the West, like the British Labour Party for instance, we are much more progressive. I wished you could assist in our congresses. I wished we could organise them openly. If we do hold some of our meetings in hiding, it’s because of the savagery of the Islamic regime that forces us to be cautious. For your information, all our decisions are taken by voting and approved by the majority. All of our instances, committees, bureaux, the general secretariat are chosen by voting. Contrary to most, if not all other opposition organisations, we are the only one that identifies its responsible members. Editors and staff of all our publications are clearly named. Each article bears the signature of the writer. Some of our publications carry interviews with our most implacable enemies.

Safa Haeri: The latest campaign you organised for the striking Iranian oil workers was so great that one would think that you are a great party with branches all over the world, as you were able to bring out petitions from all major international and national unions. Are you really that big? Do you have really branches in all these countries, meaning from countries as far as Australia and Japan?

Mansoor Hekmat: Right now, we have branches in all Western European countries except Italy, Portugal and Spain. We are present in the US and Canada as well as in Japan and Australia. In Turkey and in (Iraqi) Kurdistan and Pakistan.

Contrary to more leftist groups, we don’t think that radicalism is counter-productive. In order to expand, they have become more mellow and moderate. We think the more we are ourselves, meaning radical left and being maximalist is a capital...

Safa Haeri: Sorry, what do you mean by maximalist?

Mansoor Hekmat: It means that we want to get what we think is ours. For instance, if in Iran 15 per cent of the population is irreligious, really intellectual, against superstition, internationalist etc this portion of the population should be attracted by our ideals. A great majority of the women that makes half of the Iranian population should spouse our cause, as we are struggling for the real equality of rights between men and women. In our socialist society, transport, education, food and other welfare and essential services will be distributed free to all.

Safa Haeri: Sweden was like this, but the system collapsed. Maybe your ideal government can be found in the Kibbutz?

Mansoor Hekmat: Maybe.

Safa Haeri: Internationally speaking, and starting from our own region of Middle East. In your opinion, what should be the relations of Iran with the country of the region, including Israel?

Mansoor Hekmat: I’ll be expressing my own view that may not be that of the organisation. Concerning the Arab countries, most of them if not all are corrupt, dictatorship, usurpators, undemocratic, reactionary. With Israel, our principal problem is that the nation is based on religion and that’s contrary to our policy of equality among all people in the world, regardless of all religious, sex, ethny, race etc which is not the case in Israel of today. Otherwise, we also consider that Israel is a nation that has been born here, politically speaking it is more modern, more democratic, more westernised. If it has special jails, but it is also possible to protest and denounce, something I don’t thing would be possible in King Hussein’s or King Fahd jails.

We also contest the policy of Israel concerning the Arabs and the original residents of this country who are denied all their rights to their properties and living in the country they have been born in. This, in our view, is undemocratic, inhuman and uncivilised. But this is itself another debate, which probably was not the subject of your question.

Safa Haeri: You are right. My question is this: Shall Iran have full diplomatic relations with Israel or not.

Mansoor Hekmat: If we would be in power we would recognise the State of Israel, we would also support the Peace Process, we would refuse the activities of organisations like Islamic Jihad or the HAMAS, not for or because of Israel but because of our own principles, but would sincerely and fully defend the right of the Palestinian people to get back their legitimate rights.

At the same time, we must not become more catholic than the Pope. If the Palestinians have decided to negotiate with Israel, who are we to tell them not to talk. In my view, until this Israeli Palestinian conflict is not resolved, the region will never become civilised and peaceful. Only a genuine peace can help the people of the region to get rid of Islam and of reactionary, corrupt regimes like Saudi Arabia. Of course, one can not underestimate the role of the United States in the maintaining of regimes like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.