To the editors: This letter is in regard to your most recent issue on Iran, “Khomeini and the Opposition” (MERIP Reports 104). It includes interviews with representatives of the right opposition (Bakhtiar) as well as the left opposition. The latter, we learn, includes the Islamic left (Mojahedin’s Rajavi), independent socialists (Hezarkani) and liberals (Bani-Sadr and Nobari) — all of whom, we know, are affiliated with the National Council of Resistance. Are MERIP readers to assume that Khomeini’s left-wing opposition consists solely of the above? Or is MERIP suggesting that the above comprise the only “significant” opposition? I find it truly astonishing that in the array of personalities and currents presented in the issue, one movement which has had a significant impact upon Iran’s political scene is completely absent and ignored — namely, the indigenous communist movement.
Certainly the Islamic regime considers communists “significant” enough to arrest, imprison, torture and execute them along with Mojahedin supporters. Within the revolutionary opposition itself, the unity of Fedayi (Minority), Rah-e Kargar and Fedayi (Left-Majority), which produced a common platform, was an important development, and merits attention. Moreover, the National Council of Resistance has been stymied by the non-participation of Iranian communists — whose reasons for not joining are a little more complex than the one-line explanation offered by Fred Halliday in the opening article.
The communist critique of the NCR is based on an analysis of the configuration and balance of class and social forces that is fundamentally different from the NCR’s understanding of the Iranian social reality and its outlook in general. The critique also includes the non-democratic manner in which the NCR was established and its maximalist program (for a “democratic Islamic Republic”) which negates principles of unity that require a minimal program if all the progressive forces are to be united and the broadest possible alliance built.
At a time when the progressive forces inside Iran are suffering the most severe repression and yet struggling to carry out concrete analyses of the situation as well as build stronger ties with the popular classes and strata, our friends in MERIP could demonstrate solidarity with those forces, and better serve their readers, through more comprehensive reportage and analysis that corresponds more closely to the Iranian social reality in general, and Khomeini’s opposition specifically.
The editors respond: In our editorial to this issue, we noted that “the interviews and articles here do not represent the full spectrum of opposition to the regime.” We further provided an address for the Fedayi (Minority) English-language publications, and urged readers to consult their critique of the Council of National Resistance. We had informed Fedayi (Minority) supporters well in advance that we were planning this issue, and invited them to submit a text for possible inclusion. We finally received a manuscript months after the original deadline, and after the contents of this issue had been set. In our editorial judgement, this text did not sufficiently inform us about the present configuration of forces in Iran to warrant deleting material already scheduled. We clearly expressed our view that the interviews “do not provide a comprehensive or detached assessment of the situation today,” and in fact “raise more questions than answers about the capacity of orientation of the exile opposition now grouped together as the Council for National Resistance.” Our interviews were expressly critical, and certainly not expressions of “solidarity” with the persons and movements represented. We hope that a similar critical examination of the statements and activities of the “indigenous communist movement” will be possible in our future coverage of developments in Iran.
To the editors: While I enjoyed the articles in your recent issue on “The Politics of Religion” (MERIP Reports 103), I was disappointed that you virtually ignored the role of Christianity in the Middle East. Christianity plays a distinct, albeit limited, part in this area. One can think of the situation of the Copts in Egypt, the traditional Ethiopian Christian church (and the more recent Protestant community in Ethiopia), the Maronites and other Christian communities in Lebanon, the prosecution of a Melkite bishop by Israel for aiding the PLO, the location of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in military-run Turkey, the role of Makarios and his successors on Cyprus, the existence of an Armenian hierarchy in Turkey and the Soviet Union, to mention a few. While these Christian elements have been mentioned in connection with studies of particular countries, there has been no focus on them. These Christian bodies are, to a great extent, unknown and “alien” to most Christians in the United States. I hope that MERIP Reports will be able to address these concerns in the near future.