In Solidarity 3/89 we published an open letter from Martin Thomas (of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty), urging Maryam Namazie of the Worker-communist Party of Iran to withdraw her support for the “March For Free Expression” in London on 25 March. On the formal basis of supporting the right to lampoon Muhammad, the march organisers would put her on a platform with the rabidly right-wing and British-nationalist Freedom Association, a group which prides itself above all on its work in trying to break the Grunwick strike in 1977.
The open letter also (secondarily) took issue with Maryam Namazie co-signing a “Manifesto Against the New Totalitarianism” with various intellectuals, some markedly right-wing like the French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Arashe Sorkh has sent us this “Open Letter to Martin Thomas”, also addressed to Soraya Shahabi, a member of another Iranian “worker-communist” faction who has taken issue with the Manifesto. We publish Arashe’s open letter here, and will carry a reply in our next issue.
In a covering note, Arashe Sorkh writes: “I completely agree with you about the Freedom Association. I am sending this letter to Maryam too so we can see her response.
“Even forgetting the dark right-wing past of the Freedom Association, I have predicted that a right-wing opposition will also arise over these cartoons, and we should confront that as much as we confront Islamism. Actually they are the same. They both take Islamic values as ‘Muslim people’s values’ - one to praise them and impose them on people, and the other to prove the ‘clash of civilisations’ nonsense and therefore arouse hatred against innocent Muslim people around the world. The ‘Freedom Association’ is among the latter group”.
In recent days and after the publication of the Manifesto Against The New Totalitarianism (with Maryam Namazie as one of its signatories) you have discussed a few matters, and here I, as a Worker-Communist and as a person who has defended Comrade Maryam’s action in supporting the Manifesto, want to reply your discussions.
I think some of the matters that you are discussing are real. The tune of manifesto in some sentences is a bit “cold war”-ish, and Maryam herself has discussed that. (See the Maryam Namazie interview with Communist Youth).
But should we see that the soul of Manifesto, its call, and more importantly the fact that Maryam (as a communist) has signed it, as positive or not?
Comrade Soraya in a letter to all of the signatories of the manifesto has said that: “The Manifesto is attacking the majority of the freedom of speech movement in Iran and Iraq”. It is not against political Islam, but is the continuation of the war against Communists!
If we look at Comrade Soraya’s letter [in Persian] we will see that all that she shows us to prove the above statement is the opening sentence of the declaration: “ After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.” (Let me say that the translation that Soraya has used is not a good one, and for example she has translated “overcome” to something like “victory” in Persian which is a wrong translation and makes it much more “cold-war”ish!”)
This is, to say the least, nothing but complete unfairness.
We should look at the global situation, and the subject that this manifesto is discussing, and then make a judgment.
I think the Manifesto’s stance on a special issue is important. The stance on that issue is the one that will make clear that why this Manifesto is important.
That issue is not freedom of speech.
I believe that fight about the Muhammad caricatures was not about freedom of speech. What was challenged in that tussle was not only “freedom of speech”, and I don’t think that “freedom of speech” itself was a key factor.
A key factor was something else. The issue was the New Racism that is conquering the world in the name of “cultural relativism”.
From the Western leaders who apologised because of the caricatures, to right-wingers who, with the thesis of “conflict of civilisations”, demanded that “Muslims” should be purged from the country because they cannot “tolerate” “western” values, everybody was presupposing one thing. That secular and universal values are for “Westerners”, and “Islamic” values are for Muslims!
That’s where this Manifesto is important.
The Manifesto has declared that there is no war between civilisations, and the war is between liberty and Islamism in the Islamic world itself. It declares that the victims of the war are “Muslims” themselves.
One of the most important features of the Manifesto is the list of signatories. The first look at them shows us a very important fact. The majority of signatories are among the “one billion and half Muslims” of the world. They are mostly from Islamic deprived countries and this fact (which has also been noticed in all of the world media) is itself most illustrative in the opposition to cultural relativism.
To sum it up I should say that if Comrade Soraya and any other communist, progressive and libertarian humans, look at the forces that are present in the fight, and if they try to make a just conclusion, they will notice that the issue is not freedom of speech.
So to publish a platform for freedom of speech (which Soraya and her party have done) is not an alternative to the manifesto. The key sentence of the declaration is:” It is not a clash of civilisations or an antagonism of West and East”, and this is completely “against the current” and against 99 percent of existing analyses. Without this Manifesto this perspective would not be presented at all.
And I should also add that this Manifesto has led to increasing fame for Maryam Namazie, and this can only be a better situation for us to speak of our communist perspective for everybody in the world. This is (unlike what Soraya says) exactly in confrontation with the European Parliament’s acts against Communism. Does Comrade Soraya ask herself, if this Manifesto is anti-communistic, how come that its signatories have invited a leader of WPI to sign it? Is not WPI one of the most extreme communist parties of world history?
With all this I want to conclude that I think we should support the perspective that this Manifesto is talking about, and that is not to accept any Huntingtonistic nonsense such as “clash of civilisations” and try to gather progressive and libertarian forces on this matter.
And then let’s talk about Comrade Thomas from AWL, who has spoken of different matters.
He, in a letter to Maryam Namazie, as regards the Manifesto, has complained that Maryam has signed a Manifesto with right-wingers such as Bernard-Henri Lévy and has argued that is it possible to fight for freedom of speech with all “democrats and free sprits”. Is this not “class conciliation”?
Dear comrade Thomas, I think that as regards the signatures of reactionary figures such as Bernard-Henri Lévy, there is nothing to complain about what Maryam did. We have signed several Manifestos and declarations and of course some of them have been also signed by reactionary figures. The signatures of several persons on the same Manifesto do not mean that they are agreeing. Actually the meaning of such Manifestos is that different people are agreeing on a common matter.
But you have also another point - is it possible to unite with “class enemies” to fight for liberty, or should we fight with a working-class independent banner?
I think this is more complicated, and we have talked about it a lot. Just so you know, one of the initiatives of Mansoor Hekmat, founder of our party and current in Iran and Iraq, was that he removed the condition of “accepting our programme” for joining the party, and at the same time he started to promote several organisations in defense of women’s liberty, refugee rights, etc. Everybody, including our “class enemies”, was welcome to join and to fight for specific rights!
There is no doubt that we have our own independent banner as a working-class party and that in the final analysis (especially in the world today) all of these liberties can never be achieved unless worker-communism comes to power. But can’t we make a coalition with people from different classes for specific campaigns? I think we can.
There is also another thing. I have written about it so many times and I want to again emphasise the point. I think we should specifically emphasise our independent communistic stance on different issues in the world today. We should emphasize “Our Differences” and, with a communist analysis, prove that, as Maryam Namazie said: “Worker-Communism is the answer”.
In the end I will send my best salutes to both of you comrades. I demand you focus on our fight with the New Racism, cultural relativism. it will soon conquer the world. We should show all the world that the so-called “identity crisis” that is happening in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and France is not a crisis of contradiction between “Muslim culture” and secular Western culture but a crisis of the alienation of immigrants’ human soul in the midst of “Islamic culture”. We should show the entire world that, as Comrade Soraya once said: “Nobody’s Hijab is voluntary!”
The Manifesto is important in this sense and in confronting cultural relativism and Islamism. We should, while criticising some wordings, defend this Manifesto and the perspective that it presents globally! Let me say again that without this Manifesto and writings of persons such as Nick Cohen, this perspective was absent.
Long live defence of universal human rights!
Long live Worker-communism!
* The manifesto can be read at http://maryamnamazie.blogspot.com.