Aims and Creed
October 28, 2018
Aban’s Aims and Creed
The Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN) is a socio-political organization based on the idea of mellat-garâi or “Nation-ism.” The goal of ABAN is to build a New Iran by organizing Iranians inside and outside of the country around this idea. Iranian “Nation-ists” encourage the cooperation of non-Iranians in the achievement of this aim, albeit with regard for the maintenance of Iran’s national sovereignty and independence. The political independence of ABAN from any and all foreign governments is a steadfast principle of our organization. Preservation of the territorial integrity of the country, the unity of Iran as a nation, Persian as the national language of Iran, and social justice for all Iranians, are among the non-negotiable principles of ABAN Nationists.
This Proclamation of the Alliance for a New Iran is offered as a draft that will be finalized with a view to the incorporation of your suggestions and consideration of your constructive criticisms. Following the finalization of this Proclamation, the Board of Trustees of ABAN will be introduced, and then they will present the ABAN program of action. At the same time, we will announce the bylaws and formal structure of ABAN as an organization. ABAN aims to surmount the schisms that have hitherto divided various groups and benefit from the cooperation of all Iranians.
1. ABAN and “Nation” as Concepts
ABAN has two inseparable dimensions, namely its character as an “Alliance” and its aim of bringing forth a “New Iran.” What we mean by “Alliance” here is a strategic solidarity among forces that seek a New Iran. The basis for the alliance of these forces within ABAN is the acceptance of the principles and values upon which the New Iran of the future will be built. Another condition is acceptance of ABAN’s organizational bylaws and leadership structure. There are no other limitations on an individual or group joining forces with ABAN, and beyond the acceptance of these conditions, we respect the intellectual and operational independence of all individuals and groups who join forces with us.
The second dimension of ABAN is the idea of a “New Iran”, which is an Iran defined within the framework of the following principles: A secular and democratic regime, a powerful yet peaceful nation, a clean and cultivated country, with a rich and flowering culture, and a regime that is a lawful and lofty member of the international community. The indispensable values of a New Iran include: the will for freedom on an individual and social level, social justice and the inculcation of ethics, the struggle against prejudice and discrimination, abstention from political vengeance, the promotion of peace, and a national independence that does not devolve into isolationism within the context of an increasingly globalized world. These values and principles are the leaven of the Constitution of a New Iran, one aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international conventions.
The word mellat has been mistakenly translated as mardom in Iranian political culture. In Persian the term mellat has been understood to mean “the people” even though mellat is really equivalent to the English meaning of “the nation” in the sense of the conglomerate of a people, their land, cultural history, political state, and place in the world. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding of the concept mellat has become the basis for ideological fanaticism. It has presented serious obstacles to developing an Iranian nation-state, and to securing its proper place in the international community. With its proper use of the concept mellat in speech, theory, and practice, Nationism can foster progressive evolution in the political culture of the country and provide a more general framework within which planning for a New Iran can take place.
2. The Need for A Unifying Idea
New ideas change countries, and for bringing a “New Iran” into being we need to make use of a “new idea.” We suggest “Nationism”, an idea that has the dimensions of the people, their land, cultural history, political state, and international position enfolded within it. A “Nationist” is an individual who sincerely strives to enhance all of these dimensions of Iran. Within the framework of ABAN, this means making people happy, building the country, making the culture flower, establishing the rule of law, and elevating Iran’s standing in the world.
Many ideas have been tried in contemporary Iran. The five of them that played a particularly prominent role are Constitutionalism, Iranism, Socialism, Nationalism, and Islamism. Unfortunately, none of these ideas was able to build a New Iran on its own, and the efforts that each of them made in this direction miscarried. These ideas, some of which were new in their own time, engaged in ideological confrontation with one another instead of allying to benefit the country. The bias of these ideas, usually on account of their one-dimensional view of Iran, was the main reason for their defeat.
The constitutionalist revolutionaries struggled against an oppressive Sultanate by taking up Western liberalism. They were successful in founding the Constitutional Monarchist regime on the basis of the mashrouteh constitution and as a replacement for the quasi-feudal system of the Qajar period. This was the beginning of nation-state building in Iran, but it remained incomplete. The main reason for the defeat of the constitutionalists, besides the interference of the great powers, was their inattention to the dimensions of the people, geography, culture, national self-determination, and Iran’s place in the world. In today’s world also, liberalism and its core idea, namely democracy, has become commonplace and even worn out. It does not have the requisite magnetism to motivate a certain segment of the population.
The Iranists (Amir Kabir, Pahlavi) made valuable efforts to build a secular and powerful New Iran with their emphasis on the geography, culture, and history of the country. The undertakings of Reza Shah the Great and the late Mohammad Reza Shah for the production of modern institutions of education and the judiciary, building up infrastructure and industry, and the elevation of Iran’s standing in the world, are worthy of appreciation. However, on account of the fact that Iranists did not sufficiently concern themselves with the civil rights of the citizenry, and ensuring the rule of law on the part of the administration, they were not able to consolidate their modernizing achievements. Meanwhile, Iranism went in the direction of a Persianism that does not have the capacity to bring about a broader unity within Iran as a Muslim nation of diverse ethnic groups.
Iranian Socialists were right to emphasize secularism and social justice, especially insofar as their struggle was taking place in a poor Islamic country. They made efforts to propagate a culture of worldliness concerned with seeking earthly justice. However, they were also responsible for giving rise to many problems within the political culture of Iran. These include a disregard for personal freedom attendant to their promotion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, rejection of the national and geographical independence of Iran (in favor of Internationalism), socialistic materialism, and the struggle with global Imperialism and international Zionism. Following the defeat of Communism, this ideology finds itself in a state of crisis.
Nationalists (Dr. Mossadegh and the National Front) helped considerably to propagate the culture of Iranian patriotism and national identity with their emphasis on territorial integrity, national independence, and nationalization of the country’s resources. However, their inattention to the democratic needs of the people, including social justice, and their inability to secure national self-determination at the same time as an elevation of the country’s international standing, must be classed as the fundamental failings of Nationalists. They pushed geographical nationalism to the point of anti-Western isolationism. In today’s globalized world, and in virtue of the fact that there are more than six million Iranians outside the borders of the country, Iran’s traditional Nationalism has lost its magnetism and is barely even worthy of attention.
Political Islamism (Ayatollah Khomeini) is situated at the opposite pole to traditional Iranian Nationalism. Islam puts the people at the focus of its attention, but these people are the Ummat of an Islamic government and not the citizens of Iran. Their rights are determined by religion or by the clergy. Islamists do not accept the geographical limits of the country, and their country is an expanse wherein the Muslim Ummat lives. Islamists are not seekers of independence, but they have strong nativist tendencies that internally conflict with their globalism. Another major problem with Islamists is the fomenting of terrorism by fundamentalist forces within this religion, which is radically at odds with the modern world.
Besides their particular merits and drawbacks, these ideas each have a burdensome past that they cannot disown and that prohibits them from serving as the foundation for building a New Iran. Consequently, members of ABAN are in need of a new idea, namely the “Nationism” that is being suggested here. The most important point that renders Nationism distinct from both the ideas of the past and those current within the political opposition of Iran is its power to integrate these ideas. In other words, in Nationism, the dimensions of the people, their land, cultural history, national sovereignty, and geopolitical position are not separate components. Rather, they are interpenetrating dimensions. Nationism is also the only idea that secures the interests of the individual, group, and nation for a majority of Iranians. Consequently, it will be attractive from the perspective of diverse interests and will serve to foster unity amongst them.
3. Building a New Iran
The program of ABAN for two conditions, the immediate situation and long-term development, will be designed and prepared for implementation in two stages. In the first stage, the goal is rapidly resolving the economic, political, environmental, cultural, governmental and international crises of the country. A rapid and tactful transition from out of this hazardous situation must be the priority of the transitional government. In the second stage, the comprehensive development of the country will be considered. This middle and long-term program revolves around axes that include: the development of the government and of civil society; economic development; political development; social development; cultural development; spatial development; and development of international relations. The aim of the development program at this stage is the building of a New Iran, wherein people will be joyous, the land will be well-cultivated and industriously developed, the society dynamic, the culture flowering, and the government legitimate. The country will have authoritative power and a relationship with the world that can be a source of pride.
ABAN’s development program for a New Iran shall be subsequently supplied. In this proclamation reference has only been made to generalities. The New Iran will be built on the basis of the idea of Nationism, which naturally conceives of the country as having five dimensions, namely the people, their land, cultural history, political state, and place in the world. In the New Iran:
- The people will be democratic and joyous.
- The land will be clean, cultivated, and industriously developed.
- The government will be law-abiding and disciplined.
- The culture and history flowering and a source of pride.
- The country will have retaken its rightfully distinguished and sublimely lofty place in the world.
By taking up the aforementioned principles and values of Nationism, the government and people must design and implement specific programs for the sake of the comprehensive and enduring development of each one of these dimensions of Iran. Toward the end of building a New Iran, Nationists must also take every opportunity to strive for international cooperation and peace between countries. A strong Iran has always been a stable and peace-loving Iran. Empowering Iran and increasing the nation’s ability to act authoritatively must be an ideal that is developmentally compatible with the sustainability of the country.
The building of a New Iran begins with the comprehensive development of its people, and the ultimate goal of this development must be making Iranians happy and democratic. The people of Iran are made up of three social classes: the lower-income and working class, the middle class and intellectuals, and professionals and capital-owning people. The poor and workers have their basic needs, especially work, housing, education, health, and recreation. They seek a just distribution of the country’s resources. The middle and intellectual class needs freedom and wants political development. The upper and professional class have a need for the accumulation of capital and provision of services. They want economic and political stability.
Other important social forces exist that have their own special needs. These include women, the youth, teachers, government workers, immigrants, religious minorities, disabled people, the clergy, and military men. Besides those needs that they have attendant to the social class that they belong to, these forces have other special needs and wants that must be met. For example, there is the problem of discrimination that faces women and minorities, and the problem that the disabled and the youth have with gaining access to resources and recreation. Even though satisfying class needs and wants is possible to accomplish through pre-fabricated economic and political frameworks, the needs and wants of special interest groups come with social, territorial, and cultural complexities.
The following program for the democratic development of the country and the happiness of the people is meant to be answerable to these diverse needs. In other words, the existence of these social classes makes it necessary that the country’s economic, social, political, and environmental development program have justice, democracy, growth, and nature as its axes. But democratizing the country demands democratizing its people, and to this end the development of education and political culture must be among the main pillars of the country’s constructive post-transition program. Spatial development must be understood to include preservation of its territorial integrity, national defense, building-up of the cities and towns, infrastructure, historical buildings and monuments, and preservation of the water, soil, forests, and natural resources of the country. The relationship between the development of the people and the cultivation of their land is mutual: a clean and industriously developed land will make the people happy and democratic, and a happy and democratic people will keep the land clean and industriously cultivated.
The role of the government and civil society is decisive in making people happy and securing everlasting life for the land. However, only a government and civil society oriented toward development can play this constructive role. A developmentally-oriented government is one that has come from the people, has legitimacy, is lawful, disciplined and Nationist. Only such a government will have sufficient authority to build a New Iran. A civil society oriented toward development must also have such characteristics. Unfortunately, in Iran, we have neither a government nor a civil society that is development-oriented. Consequently, the first step for the development of the country, orienting these two players toward the pursuit of development, begins with cultivation of the political community of the country and demarcation of the boundaries that define the latter as distinct from civil society. The political community is a social sphere defined by power and party politics, whereas civil society is organized for the sake of limiting that power and protecting its members from the government and political parties.
Making people happy and democratic, making the land clean and industriously cultivated, and orienting the government and civil society toward development, means being pledged to support the growth and revitalization of culture, including the political culture of the society, and revitalization of the historical achievements of the country. No country has undergone development under conditions of cultural collapse and when lacking a sense of its historical identity. Actually, countries that have fallen into such a state are doomed to annihilation. Education of thought, support for literature and the arts, revitalization of history and the restoration of ancient monuments and other landmark buildings, has the biggest role to play. The tourism industry can function as the driving motor of this culture and history. This in turn requires reasonable and sensible relations with the world within the framework of national interests. In other words, a developmentally-oriented foreign policy and diplomacy are among the other tools for producing the happiness of the people, the industrious cultivation of the land, and the flowering of the culture. The foreign policy of ABAN shall be firmly grounded on the principle that “Iran has no enemies in the world” and on striving for friendship with all nations and peace amongst them.
United Nationists will build the New Iran on the basis of political liberalism, social capitalism (following the example of Scandinavian countries), and global convergence. However, in implementing these concepts we will make use of the experience of recently developed countries.
Firstly, no developed country fully privatized its economy in the initial stages of development. On the contrary, all of these countries, including the latest examples of China, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India, were able to undergo development only with their government manning the levers of the economy. However, all of these governments were disciplined and lawful, not servile, thievish, and lawless.
Second, by contrast with the development ideas of neo-liberal economists, these governments were oblivious to indicators from the free market. They designed their program and determined their policies on the basis of the present national interest of the country.
Third, development in these countries began by making use of internal resources and forces, and only resorted to foreign procurement in the face of the dearth of capital and technology.
Fourth, their entrance into the world market was in stages and began with the increase of the competitive strength of domestic producers. The role of government in the development of exports and the restriction of imports was also determinative.
Fifth, these precedents teach us that enduring development is impossible without industrialization of the economy and careful attention to the standard of living. Properly attending to this matter requires making work, production, and living standards the axes that orient economics.
Sixth, the taking shape of sound money markets, the independence of the central bank, and the expansion of domestic trade alongside balanced foreign trade, were all very important.
Seventh, effort must be expended for a quantitative and qualitative development of the workforce, employers, the capital and commodities market, technology, research and development, other institutions deserving of support, and the construction of sufficient infrastructure.
Eighth, creating these conditions for microeconomics in turn requires appropriate distributive, consumptive, financial, monetary, foreign exchange, trade, and industrial policies on the macroeconomic level. These policies must be developed in a mutually reinforcing relationship with each other and not in such a manner that they conflict with one another.
Ninth, the protection of private property, the encouragement of a culture of healthy competition, and a relentless struggle against monopoly and bribery must take their place as the top priority of a development-oriented government.
Tenth, as the final and most important condition, let us recall that the struggle against corruption, and popular assessment of the performance of governmental departments and authorities at all levels and in all fields must be conducted regularly, so that the government of national development takes shape in a disciplined and lawful manner.