Centre of Laic Studies and Research in the Arab World
Dr. Ali Rawandi
2010 / 1 / 8
Interview with Ali Khavari
First secretary, Tudeh Party of Iran
From Junge Welt (Berlin)
Ali Khavari was born in 1923 in Mashad. He joined the Tudeh [Masses] Party of Iran in 1941, the year the party was founded, when he was eighteen years old.He spent years living in political exile as a result of the brutal persecution of communists and the suppression of the Tudeh Party by the Shah’s regime.
In 1963, during a mission on behalf of the party to organise the structures of the party inside the country, he was arrested by the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, together with Parviz Hekmatjou. In the Shah’s court they were both sentenced to death, but because of international pressure and the effective international campaign to save their lives, the Shah’s regime commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment. Khavari was released from prison on the eve of the February 1979 revolution.
He was elected to the Central Committee of Tudeh Party of Iran in the early 1960s, and on the eve of the 1979 revolution he was elected to the Political Committee and the Secretariat of the Central Committee. In 1982 he was given the mission of organising the international activities of the party outside Iran.
After the onslaught on the party by the regime in February 1983 and the arrest of the majority of the leadership of the party, Khavari accepted the responsibility of reviving and reorganising the party. In 1985 he was elected first secretary of the party.
Comrade Khavari, your party took part in the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. In 1983 the party was banned by the mullah regime and brutally suppressed. Today it operates solely in exile. Under what conditions does the Tudeh Party of Iran work nowadays, and what problems and repressions have members to face in Iran?
Allow me to begin by extending the most sincere greetings to the editorial board and readers of Junge Welt.
I would like to suggest a small yet important change in the emphasis of your question: “Today your party operates solely in exile.” It should be noted that the Tudeh Party of Iran essentially, but not solely, operates in exile. Especially, utilising the means of electronic communications has revolutionised the operations of every opposition party and organisation against the police regime and censorship of the Supreme Leader (theocratic) regime.
The goal of every activity in the struggle of our party outside the country is to have a bearing on events inside Iran, and to secure more active participation in the process of political struggles of the masses and labour movement in the country. Therefore, drawing up the action of the party simply reflects the content and intent of a party with close to seventy years history of very effective struggle in the destiny of our country; and that is certainly the case.
Every aspect of the political, social and cultural life of our diverse society is affected by this tireless struggle and effort of our party. The ruling regimes in Iran, both before and after the 1979 revolution, see the Tudeh Party of Iran as one of the most serious and effective opposition forces operating against them. The reasons and the root of this fact lie in the unwavering struggle of our party with the despotism and subservience of the monarchical regime of the Shah and with the theocratic regime of the Supreme Leader, which has attacked all the popular and democratic, political-social and cultural institutions of our nation and thus has betrayed the goals of the 1979 popular revolution, which essentially consisted of freedom, justice, and sovereignty.
It is enough for the German readers of Junge Welt to compare and understand the fact that for a regime that represses the peaceful protests of its own citizens against the fraudulent elections with such a brutality and bloodshed, what would do with the presence and operation of a party that is active in opposing and is directed to discard the theocratic regime of the Supreme Leader? The Tudeh Party of Iran is after the discarding the despotic regime of the Supreme Leader, and the Supreme Leader is after the complete obliteration of our party. The theocratic regime is pursuing this cruel and wicked intention with all the means of repression, propaganda and treachery available to it.
Mahmud Ahmadinejad won the elections in 2005 above all with the help of the votes from the poor population. Did these people benefit from his politics in the last four years?
During the first four years of the first term of Ahmadinejad in presidential office, every possible means of propaganda was utilised to prepare and arrange for the re-election of Ahmadinejad. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Service, the state-run radio and television, and other state media were put at the service of his demagogic propaganda. Some of Ahmadinejad’s practices to pave the road to his re-election for a second term are his fully stage-managed visits to provinces and making worthless promises to the local people, taking bold gestures of fanaticism and religious fundamentalism, spending millions on extravagant propaganda shows, securing the support of the most reactionary factions of the clergy and Khamenei himself, feeding and empowering security-military organs such as the Guard Corps and Islamic Basij militia, tying and linking the financial interests and privileges of major sections of these state organs to the continuation of the Ahmadinejad government, etc. Electoral fraud on the scale of displacing millions of votes of the protesting and opposition people, which is the subject of today’s serious protests of the people of our homeland, should be added to this not-so-brief introduction.
It should be noted right here that considering the negative and anti-people performance of Ahmadinejad government, whether in the economic arena or in the area of social and individual freedoms, or in the foreign relations policy of the country, the overwhelming majority of the population went to the polls consciously in this elections. At the end of the voting and after the polls were closed, within only a few hours the result of the 40 million votes cast was announced. This fact, and much other documented evidence and information released afterwards, revealed the obvious fraud of the authorities. This vote-rigging and betraying of the votes of the people of our country enraged the public and clearly substantiated a reality in the political life of the people, which is the ultimate and absolute shattering of people’s trust in the official government of the country.
The reasons for what happened after the elections, during people’s protests, and what is expected to happen in the future should be sought in this deep crisis, the deep and irreparable rift and rupture between the ruling regime and the people. The majority of the people have now fully lost their faith in the demagogic, repressive and despotic regime, and the era of unrelenting and ever-stronger protests on the surface of and deep within society has begun. This is the beginning of the end of the demagogic, despotic and mediaeval regime in our homeland.
The Iranian protest movement has been a very important topic in the world news after the presidential elections on the 12th of June and has found many sympathisers around the globe. Which social groups are part of this protest movement? How do you evaluate the influence of the political left within the protest movement?
The popular protest movement has engaged all strata of society. The people somehow find themselves exposed to the risk and threat of policies of the regime that are mainly unprofessional, voluntaristic, demagogic, and adventurous. People are concerned about their situation and the future of the country as a result of these policies. Right here I have to apologise to the readers of Junge Welt for these seeming generalisations, but I should add that any one of these characteristics attributed to the Ahmadinejad government has been selected carefully and has its own supported data and reasons, which require more time to elaborate on here.
Undoubtedly the left forces, with their belief in the interests of the workers and working people and the importance and significance of freedom and democracy, have always participated in every instance of the struggle of our people, including this great mass uprising, and have had, and continue to have, an active presence in the fields of publicising realities and raising awareness. Our party has rightly been at the side of and together with the people, both before and during the aforementioned elections and the popular movement for democratic rights that emerged from it.
What kind of political aims have the oppositional groups in common, apart from the overthrow of the regime?
Not all the groups participating in the current demonstrations and mass protests against the process of the elections and their outcome are in support of overthrowing the present system of government. The current constitution has essentially set the pillars of the regime on the two bases of republicanism and Islamism. The current despotic theocratic regime of the Supreme Leader is constantly shifting this balance against the principle of republicanism and the influence of the peoples’ will in the running of the country. Now the majority of the people of our homeland have risen up to protest against this breach of their right to governance, that is, eliminating the principle of republicanism. There is now a grave battle going on between the deeply reactionary clerical leadership and their supporters among the ruling forces, on the one hand, and the general public that is fighting to defend its right to elect and its will to decide the way the country should be governed, on the other hand. The essence and core substance of the current movement is this battle.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi is a man of the establishment. While communists were persecuted in Iran, he was prime minister until 1989. Today the Tudeh party of Iran supports him. Is this not a contradiction?
It is true that during the crackdown on our party Mir-Hussein Mousavi was the prime minister. But it is also true that, particularly in those years, the person who ultimately and conclusively decided on the macro-policies of the regime was Khomeini himself. The same is true today, as Khamenei considers this to be his task, and the reactionary article in the current constitution gives this right to him. Nonetheless, and taking all these facts into consideration, during the sensitive and critical moments of the uprising and protest of people against the extremely despotic position of the police-security regime, our party is moving and sees itself on the same side as and alongside the people and to a certain extent at the head of the people’s protests and correctly avoids any issue that might harm the unity and integrity of the broad movement of people.
The Tudeh Party of Iran, and all the progressive forces of Iran that have been the victims in the past and the present in the course of the regime’s paving the road for the rule of theocrats and their allies and supporters in the repressive forces, bear the past in mind for the sake of the future. All those who ordered and committed that grand crime, and other anti-people crimes of the regime, must answer to the people of Iran for those terrible crimes.
Mir-Hussein Mousavi himself, with his declared programmes and position against the rule of deceit, tyranny and despotism of the present regime, so far has stood up on the side of the people’s movement. This is why the protesting people of our homeland, considering all the existing limitations, have accepted his leadership. The Tudeh Party of Iran strongly supports this great movement of the people of Iran.
Which forces can you not, by any means, see as allies of the Tudeh Party in the fight against the regime?
Any force whose motivation in the struggle against the regime is its narrow and factional interests, in contrast with the interests of the people and the national interests of the country, fits on this list. Unity of action or alliance with the forces that are campaigning to re-establish the toppled, historically rejected and hated monarchical regime from before the 1979 revolution is completely out of the question.
How do you evaluate the Western support of the protests, above all that coming from the United States? Do you see a possibility that the protests could be used for international interests? Is there the threat of a CIA “revolution”?
The Tudeh Party of Iran welcomes the support of people and democratic and left forces and parties in Western countries for the protests of the people of Iran. This support encourages and strengthens the popular protest movement for the realisation of the violated rights of the people. However, taking the position of the Western governments that are in conflict with and at odds with the regime would not only not help the popular protest movement under the present circumstances but might be exploited by the regime and even argued as a reason for confronting the movement, as has happened already.
It is also true that the security and intelligence agencies of some countries attempt to stir up and to fan dissatisfaction and protest among people against the ruling regime in the country. This pretext and ploy has been extensively exploited to its extreme by the regime against the people’s movement and its leaders.
But I should firmly stress that the movement of the people, and its leadership, have entered this difficult and unequal arena of struggle against the despotic regime merely and solely on the grounds of their liberating and patriotic motivations, totally spontaneous and with absolute reliance on its own power. This devious provocation and instigation of the despotic regime ruling our homeland—to portray the protest movement as being influenced externally—must be comprehensively and firmly exposed.
The Western world wants to prohibit the use of nuclear power, despite international law. It even threatens to use military power. What opinion has the protest movement on the matter of war and peace? Is a regime change from abroad, like in Iraq, an option for you? What does the Tudeh Party of Iran think about the nuclear dispute? Do you think the promise to strive only for a peaceful use of nuclear power is trustworthy?
Our party, and all the popular forces of our nation, are in favour of the right to enjoy nuclear energy and the technology of this vital and important field. The Tudeh Party of Iran, and the forces and individuals participating in the popular protest movement, oppose any interference, whether military or otherwise, by foreign states in the internal affairs of our country. The peaceful character of these forces stems from their popular and democratic nature.
Regime change from outside, such as what occurred in Iraq, is neither possible nor acceptable by any means in Iran. Any foreign force that attempts such a dangerous provocation will burn its hands and set the whole region on fire and will seriously endanger world peace. It is impossible to predict all the repercussions of such a provocation.
As for the question whether the regime’s promise to use nuclear energy solely and exclusively for peaceful purposes is trustworthy or otherwise, we must say that such a possibility is not totally out of the question. The right of nations and countries to obtain nuclear energy and technology is not exceptionable. The correct way to prevent the likelihood of this happening is confidence-building and building trust between Iran and the countries that are concerned about Iran achieving this energy. On the basis of such likelihood, which could apply to any country, no one country could be deprived of its natural and legitimate right.
Ahmadinejad has been accused of anti-semitism because of his polemics in the struggle with Israel. How does one interpret his words in Iran on the Holocaust?
In general, the vast majority of the people of Iran, as well as all left and progressive parties and groups, deem the reality of the massacre of Jews by Nazi Germany a known historical fact. But a regime that relies on force and repression and demagogy needs excuses to advance its policies. The solidarity between the people of Iran and the people of Palestine, and the use and implementation of invasive and brutal policies by Israel against the people of Palestine, has provided this excuse to the ruling regime in Iran. An overwhelming majority of Iranians, and all the progressive and democratic forces of Iran, realise and appreciate the principle of respect for reaching an agreement and the need to resolve the critical and dangerous problem in the shape of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and its consequences in the region and in the world, and call for its final and comprehensive resolution through peaceful means, vindicating the violated rights of the Palestinians and establishing peace in the region and among the parties involved.
In the eyes of Israel and the United States, Iran is a main opponent in the Middle East. “Third World” countries and left-wing governments express solidarity with Iran against imperialism. Has Iranian foreign policy an anti-imperialist point of view, objectively speaking?
The Tudeh Party of Iran believes that the issue of struggle against imperialism has not got the same meaning and content for the ruling regime in Iran as it has for the left, democratic and progressive forces of Iran and the world. The 1979 revolution put an end to the monarchical regime, that significant base of the West in the region, and terminated the exclusive advantages and privileges of imperialist states, and first and foremost the United States, in Iran. The conflict and clash with the US government, emanating from the fact that the United States could not and did not accept the regime emerging after the revolution, has become the main and principal basis for defining the foreign policy of Iran with the outside world and the United States and has even left a long-lasting effect on domestic policies. Calling this conflict an anti-imperialist struggle is irrelevant and ridiculous.
The type of conflict and anti-imperialist struggle of the theocratic regime in Iran is of the same character as the struggle of the Ṭâlibân in Afghanistan and al-Qâʿidah and Bin Lâdin against the United States and the West. If this could be called anti-imperialist struggle, that could be named the same too!
Considering this, what are the motivations of the regime in Iran for supporting Ḥezbu’llâh in Lebanon or the resistance in Palestine?
Because of the religious solidarity of vast sections of the population of our country with the people of Palestine and the continuing aggression of Israel against the Palestinian territories, we should say that this painful process has turned into a sensitive and effective means of influencing people’s opinion, and has been used and abused as an effective means of propaganda and for playing politics by the ruling regime of Iran. The progressive forces of Iran, including the Tudeh Party of Iran, believe that reaching an agreement between the people of Palestine and the people of Israel for a fair peace acceptable to both sides is the most suitable resolution of the problem and perhaps is the only solution.
The present ruling regime in Iran uses the support for Ḥezbu’llâh and for the struggle of the Palestinian people both as a tool for its own agenda and also for a positive response to the religious sentiments of the ruling regime’s social base. In the meantime it should not be overlooked that the provocations and threats of previous US governments against Iran, including military threats in their agenda, has enabled the ruling regime of Iran to articulate a policy in the region and in the world that is aimed at preventing such a threat, through increasing the possible cost of enacting such threats as much as possible for the aggressor. Looking for allies in the region and in the world, and the enormous spending on this path, must be seen partially in the light of this issue and the likelihood of such a danger for the ruling regime.
The big demonstrations have been defeated, the protests have become calmer. Has the movement given up already? What is your present outlook?
The anti-regime demonstrations could not continue as extensively as in the early days. What occurred has been the splendid start of one of the epics of the century that will lead Iran and its people to freedom, independence, and social justice. In our country now the eminence, invincibility and holiness of the power of the religious rule of the Supreme Leader (the theocratic regime) has seriously cracked. The people of our nation have now realised that it is through their movement and struggle that their future will be shaped and are now advancing this unequal and difficult struggle with their own creative and innovative methods.
It is interesting to note that in this spontaneous struggle the million-strong masses are leading their own leaders. After thirty years of suppression, demagogy, tyranny and despotism ruling over our homeland we are now once again witnessing the bright horizons of a tomorrow with social justice and freedom, which has filled the hearts of millions of our suffering people with hope. The seething society in our homeland is pregnant with great and epoch-making events.
Centre of Laic Studies and Research in the Arab World