Question: The 4th congress of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) will take place in December 2003. What is the significance of this congress for the WPI and Iranian politics in general?
Koorosh Modarresi: Our Congress is being held at a very particular moment vis-à-vis both the political situation in Iran and our party's history. People in Iran are revolting against the Islamic regime. So-called Islamic reformism, headed by Khatami, the president, has neither satisfied people's demands nor been able to control their ever-increasing protests and anger against the Islamic Republic. People want freedom, unconditional and unrestricted freedom of expression, prosperity, equality and so on. For the first time in its history, people are revolting against religion, i.e. Islam, the rule of God on earth, religious values and the intervention of religion in the state. Half of the population, i.e., women are officially treated as third class citizens and sexual apartheid is the rule of law; the people, especially women are not accepting this situation. Furthermore, economic stagnation and financial and political corruption have been facts of life for the last 20 years or so. Unemployment is skyrocketing; even most of the employed workers have not been paid for two years, and the list goes on and on. Changing all this requires that the Islamic Republic be overthrown. A revolution against the Islamic regime in Iran is in the making. Nobody believes that this regime will last. Everyone is preparing itself for life after the Islamic Republic. Thus, a congress on the eve of a revolution would be important for any political party.
We are not, however, talking about any political party. The WPI is an exceptional party in Iran. During the course of the last 20 years, our political tradition in general and the WPI over the last 12 years in particular have been at the forefront of the struggle against the Islamic regime for people real aspirations. We have not only organised against the Islamic Republic, but have exposed the pro-regime opposition on the one hand and the right-wing conservative opposition, which has loosely organised around the monarchists on the other. The first, the so-called Islamic reformists, have tried to save the Islamic regime by acting as kind of relief valve. They were defeated, as the people did not want what they wanted. We stood firm against this so-called opposition and exposed them. On the other hand, we had to deal with the conservative opposition, the "monarchists", whose agenda is to transfer power to themselves from above and without the direct and uncontrolled intervention of the people. They have not been successful in providing a good enough platform to attract people and they are losing ground fast to the Left, i.e., WPI.
The WPI is now, I believe, one of the most important political parties in Iran. We have turned socialism and a communist party into a viable and selectable choice in Iran. We are organising a revolution and after political power. This is a fact. What this party says and what this party does is a political event in Iran. Its congress is by all means a major political event in Iran. What WPI's congress adopts will have an important effect on the political situation in Iran and will accordingly affect WPI itself. As I said both WPI and Iran itself are in a very important juncture. This congress is important.
The congress of the WPI is said to be open to the public. Why is having an openly held congress such an issue? What is the significance of this within the political culture of Iranian and Middle Eastern politics?
A history of brutal despotic and oppressive regimes in Iran, from the Monarchists to Islamists has forced political parties, especially the Left, into the hiding. This has in essence restricted people's access to political parties. On the other hand, this pressure has created a clandestine culture, which glorifies secrecy and some types of sectarian behaviour. Even where and when this secrecy is not needed, it continues. This behaviour might be interesting for social psychologists, but it has created a sectarian politics in which politics is about anything but real life (like Monty Python's Life of Bryan); moreover, secrecy has excluded access to political parties which has been in fact politically convenient. Nobody knows how decisions are made, who the leaders of the parties are, how they are elected, how you can change them, how you can join and leave these parties, etc. As I said, it is quite convenient for the exclusion of people and hence the suspension of any political, organisational and personal accountability. We have stood against this culture. We have fought for political openness and transparency in political parties. If we want people to select us, they need to see us, judge us and hence join us. It is a mission not only to defeat the oppression of the Islamic regime but to also raise the political culture.
Question: What do you expect this congress to achieve?
Koorosh Modarresi: Politically, the congress has to set the steps and directions for the party to overthrow the Islamic Republic and seize the political power, i.e., lead the revolution. But this is a special congress on another level. This is our first congress after the loss of Mansoor Hekmat. Everyone, inside the party and outside, is watching the congress to see if this congress and the party's leadership have the texture, if you like, of Mansoor Hekmat's party. We will be judged. And I am sure it will be for the best.
This interview was conducted in English for WPI Briefing number 122 dated 3 November 2003.