Category Archives: Totalitarianism

Ron Radosh on Jennifer Delton: A Fresh View of Cold War America

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This article by Ron Radosh is from Minding the Campus:

Teaching in the universities about the so-called McCarthy era has become an area most susceptible to politically correct and one-sided views of what the period was all about. One historian who strenuously objects to the accepted left-wing interpretation that prevails in the academy is Jennifer Delton, Chairman of the Department of History at Skidmore College.

In the March issue of The Journal of the Historical Society Delton writes:

However fiercely historians disagree about the merits of American Communism, they almost universally agree that the post-World War II Red scare signified a rightward turn in American politics. The consensus is that an exaggerated, irrational fear of communism, bolstered by a few spectacular spy cases, created an atmosphere of persecution and hysteria that was exploited and fanned by conservative opportunists such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. This hysteria suppressed rival ideologies and curtailed the New Deal, leading to a resurgence of conservative ideas and corporate influence in government. We may add detail and nuance to this story, but this, basically, is what we tell our students and ourselves about post-World War II anti-Communism, also known as McCarthyism. It is fundamentally the same story that liberals have told since Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy in 1948.

This conventional narrative of the left has been told over and over for so many years that it has all but become the established truth to most Americans. It was exemplified in a best-selling book of the late 1970′s, David Caute’s The Great Fear, and from the most quoted one from the recent past, Ellen Schrecker’s Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. My favorite title is one written by the late Cedric Belfrage, The American Inquisition 1945-1960: A Profile of the “McCarthy Era.” In his book, Belfrage told the story of how he, an independent journalist who founded the fellow-traveling weekly The National Guardian, was hounded by the authorities and finally deported home to Britain. American concerns about Soviet espionage, he argued, were simply paranoia.

The problem with Belfrage’s account was that once the Venona files began to be released in 1995–the once top secret Soviet decrypts of communications between Moscow Center and its US agents—they revealed that Belfrage was a paid KGB operative, just as the anti-Communist liberal Sidney Hook had openly charged decades ago, and as turned KGB spy Elizabeth Bentley had privately informed the FBI in 1945. The Venona cables revealed that Belfrage had given the KGB an OSS report received by British intelligence concerning the anti-Communist Yugoslav resistance in the 1940′s as well as documents about the British government’s position during the war on opening a second front in Europe. It showed that Belfrage had offered the Soviets to establish secret contact with them if he was stationed in London.

Facts like these did not bother or budge the academic establishment. Most famously, Ellen Schrecker wrote in her book that although it is now clear many Communists in America had spied for the Soviets, they did not do any real harm to the country, and also most importantly, their motives were decent. She wrote, “As Communists, these people did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism; they were internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national boundaries. They thought they were ‘building…a better world for the masses,’ not betraying their country.”

Schrecker’s views were endorsed by former Nation publisher and editor Victor Navasky, who regularly in different articles argues that the Venona decrypts are either gossip or forgeries, irrelevant, or do not change his favored narrative that in the United States– only McCarthyism was a threat. As Navasky wrote, Venona was simply an attempt “to enlarge post-cold war intelligence gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty.” If spying indeed took place, it was “a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will, many of whom were Marxists, some of whom were Communists… and most of whom were patriots.” As for those who argue against his view, they were trying to “argue that, in effect, McCarthy and Co. were right all along.”

The lens through which McCarthyism has been seen, therefore, is one seen exclusively through the left-wing prism, which regards defense of one’s own democratic nation against a foreign foe as evil, and sees only testimony against America’s enemies as McCarthyite. What is therefore necessary is to look anew at the McCarthy era, not in the terms set by its Communist opponents, but from the perspective of examining dispassionately the nature of the entire epoch. Those who have chosen to do this, however, have been met with great opposition. A few years ago, the editors of The New York Times claimed that a new group of scholars “would like to rewrite the historical verdict on Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism.” Fearing such a development, the newspaper warned that it had to be acknowledged that it was McCarthyism more than Soviet espionage or Communist infiltration that was “a lethal threat to American democracy.”

[read it all]

Professor Delton’s article, “Rethinking Post-World War II Anticommunism” is excellent. Here is a bit:

[T]the most famous and effective anticommunist measures were carried out not by conservatives, but by liberals seeking to uphold the New Deal. It was the liberal Truman administration that chased Communists out of government agencies and prosecuted Communist Party leaders under the Smith Act. It was liberal Hollywood executives who adopted the blacklist, effectively forcing Communists out of the movie business. The labor leaders who purged Communists from their unions were, similarly, liberals. Most anticommunism—the anticommunism that mattered—was not hysterical and conservative, but, rather, a methodical and, in the end, successful attempt on the part of New Deal liberals to remove Communists from specific areas of American life, namely, the government, unions, universities and schools, and civil rights organizations. It is true that the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) helped carry out these measures, but it is a mistake to assume that J. Edgar Hoover or HUAC could have had much power without the cooperation of liberals who wanted Communists identified and driven out of their organizations.

New evidence confirming the widespread existence of Soviet agents in
the U.S. government makes the Truman administration’s attempts to purge Communists from government agencies seem rational and appropriate—even too modest, given what we now know.3 But even in those cases where espionage was not a threat—such as in unions, political organizations, and Hollywood—there were still good reasons for liberals to expel Communists. Communists were divisive and disruptive. They had the ability to cripple liberal organizations, especially at the local and state levels. Removing Communists from labor and political organizations was necessary for liberal Democrats like Hubert Humphrey, Chester Bowles, and Paul Douglas to be elected to Congress, where they supported Truman’s Keynesian economic policies, raised the minimum wage, fought for health insurance,
defended unions, taxed the rich, and laid the political groundwork for
civil rights and desegregation.

American Library Association (ALA) Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

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I received this press release from the Friends of Cuban Libraries:

ALA Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael, candidates for ALA president, spoke on March 8 at the office of New York City’s METRO library organization.

Both candidates affirmed their respect for intellectual freedom as a core value of the ALA, but a specific question from the audience about the Cuban independent library issue identified their contrasting views on intellectual freedom as a matter of policy.

Critics of current ALA policy say that past ALA investigations and panel discussions on Cuba have overlooked or ignored the repression of Cuba’s independent library movement, founded in 1998 to oppose censorship. According to journalists and human rights organizations, Cuba’s independent library workers have been subjected to police raids, arrests, 20-year prison terms and the court-ordered burning of confiscated book collections. Amnesty International has named Cuba’s jailed independent librarians as prisoners of conscience and is calling for their release.

In the only opinion poll of ALA members on the Cuba issue, conducted by AL Direct, 76% of respondents voted for the ALA to condemn the repression Cuba’s independent library movement.

During the question period at the March 8 presidential candidates event in New York, a member of the Friends of Cuban Libraries complained that several ALA investigations and panel discussions of this issue had allowed only one side of the controversy to be fairly heard. The questioner asked Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael to guarantee that, under their leadership, diverse views on the Cuban library controversy would be fairly represented in future ALA considerations of this issue.

Sara Kelly Johns responded to the question by noting that she has paid close attention to the Cuban library issue. She gave assurances that, under her leadership, diverse views on controversies would be heard within the ALA and that the Cuban library issue would not be permitted to “go under the table.”
If brought to Council by a Council committee, the issue would be discussed.

In contrast, Molly Raphael said that the ALA has already established its Cuba policy on several occasions, and she stated it is not the role of the ALA president to challenge settled policies. With regard to the ongoing controversy over Cuba’s independent libraries, she stated it is not a “yes or no question.”

In contrast, the Friends of Cuban Libraries believe book burning is very much a “yes or no question.”

Also see:

fREADdom: How do you catalogue a burned book?

Jailed Cuban Activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo Dies on Hunger Strike

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[Photo taken in 2003 by Adalberto Roque for AFP]

This extremely sad news comes from the Miami Herald:

A jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 83 days died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years that an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.

It was the first time an opponent of the communist government died during a hunger strike since the 1972 death in prison of Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet and student leader who fought against both the Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro dictatorships.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid food Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and many other abuses at his Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.

Active in several dissident organizations, he had been arrested in 2003 amid a government crackdown that sentenced 75 government critics to lengthy prison terms, and Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience.”

Initially charged with contempt, public disorder and “disobedience” and sentenced to three years, he was convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison, and by the time of his death faced a total of 36 years in prison.

“They have assassinated Orlando Zapata Tamayo. My son’s death has been a premediated murder,” Reina Luisa Tamayo told El Nuevo Herald, referring to government authorities. “They managed to do what they wanted. They ended the life of a fighter for human rights.”

Cuba’s government-controlled news media did not immediately report the death, and the spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington could not be reached for comment.

An increased police presence was reported in the streets of several Cuban cities Tuesday, possibly to avert protests in favor of Zapata, according to the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami group that supports dissidents on the island.

Zapata’s case sparked several street protests by government critics earlier this month, including one during which police in Camagüey detained some 35 people for several hours. The detainees later complained that some of them were beaten during the roundups.

The Directorio Democrático Cubano released the following statement (h/t to Uncommon Sense):

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a valiant defender of the liberty of the Cuban people, died today, murdered by the Castro regime which refused to guarantee respect for his basic rights. An Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Zapata Tamayo engaged in a hunger strike of over 80 days to demand such a guarantee and to protest against terrible mistreatment he suffered in the Communist regime’s prisons, including brutal beatings. Zapata Tamayo, who will be remembered as a giant of the Cuban resistance, had been unjustly imprisoned since March 20, 2003.

“The abuses committed against Orlando Zapata Tamayo prove that torture and terror are inflicted upon the Cuban people are official policy under the Castro regime. His death is evidence of the practice of state terrorism,” stated Janisset Rivero, Adjunct National Secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

In October, 2009, Zapata Tamayo was brutally beaten by military personnel at Holguin provincial prison, causing an internal hematoma in his head so severe that Zapata Tamayo had to undergo surgery. He began his hunger strike on December 3, 2009, at Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey, classified in Cuba as employing a “maximum severity” prison regime. For 18 days, Major Filiberto Hernández Luis, the prison’s director, denied Zapata Tamayo drinking water, the only thing he was ingesting during the strike. The effect of this act of torture was to induce kidney failure. In mid-January, he was transferred to Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey, where he was left to languish nearly completely nude under intense air conditioning, causing him to contract pneumonia. Despite his critical health condition, the regime transferred him to the hospital at Combinado del Este prison, which did not have the equipment and conditions necessary to treat him.

The Cuban Democratic Directorate also underlines that this crime joins a long list of atrocities committed by the Castro brothers which include thousands of executions by firing squad and countless cases of unjust imprisonment of Cuban citizens.

Additionally, Cuban prisoners of conscience Ariel Sigler Amaya and Normando Hernández González are also unjustly imprisoned and in terrible health. Their cases require prompt support and solidarity from Cubans around the world and the international community.

“They finally murdered Orlando Zapata Tamayo. They finally finished him. My son’s death has been a premeditated murder. I thank all of those brothers who struggled not to allow my son to die. There has been another Pedro Luis Boitel in Cuba,” stated Reina Tamayo Danger to the Cuban Democratic Directorate. Boitel was a Cuban student leader who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime and died after a prolonged hunger strike in 1972.

The Cuban Democratic Directorate condemns this horrendous crime. We raise our voice to call for the condemnation of the Raúl Castro regime and those directly responsible for the death of this human rights defender for committing this crime against humanity.

Zapata Tamayo’s death will not be in vain. It will illuminate the path of Cuba’s civic resistance until the Cuban people achieve their freedom.

Cuban Bloggers Attacked by State Security Agents and Pro-Government Mob

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Last Friday, November 13, Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo were on their way to a march in downtown Havana when they were forced into an unmarked car by plainclothes police agents and beaten up. Juan O. Tamayo of the Miami Herald notes:

Blogger Claudia Cadelo and another woman were detained in the incident, but without violence.

“The U.S. government strongly deplores the assault,” said a State Department statement issued late Monday. “We have expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern . . . and we are following up with inquiries to [the three bloggers] . . . regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.”

Sánchez’ husband, Reynaldo Escobar, told El Nuevo Herald she’s walking with a crutch and taking medicines for a backache, the result of being thrown head-first into a car and punched in the back by the three men in plainclothes who detained her for 20 minutes. There was no word on Pardo’s health.

Cuba’s government-controlled mass media has made no mention of the incident, which received wide coverage abroad because of Sanchez’s fame as the prize-winning author of the blog Generación Y, which regularly criticizes the ruling system.

“The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sanchez’s only weapon: her ideas,” said José Miguel Vivanco, head of the New York-based Americas section of Human Rights Watch. “The international community must send a firm message to Raúl Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable.

“This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals,” Vivanco added.

The Human Rights Foundation, an independent group also based in New York, decried the “blatant attempt by the Cuban government to silence independent thought and speech” and added: “Does the Cuban government realize the preposterous irony of violently assaulting citizens who were on their way to protest violence?”

Seven U.S. senators from both parties, meanwhile, issued statements Tuesday condemning the incident, with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez calling it “yet another indication that despite all the hoped-for change on the island, the regime continues to rule with an iron fist that crushes any seed of free speech or human rights.”

The Cato Institute’s Ian Vasquez opines:

It’s the 490th anniversary of Havana today and the Cuban government has arranged for celebratory activities. Ordinary residents of Havana and all Cubans who cherish their civil and human rights have less to celebrate, however, as Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez regularly reminds us. Sanchez has become a major irritant of the regime because of her penetrating posts about the absurdities and injustices of everyday life in communist Cuba. You can see her blog in Spanish here, and in English here.

Just over a week ago, in an incident that was widely reported in the international press and that reveals the threat to the Cuban regime of the growing Cuban blogger movement, Sanchez was assaulted in Havana by plain-clothed government agents. Though she was forcefully beaten, she and her friends managed to fight back and get away. More than that, they took pictures of their assailants and of the incident for posting on the blog, prompting the government thugs to leave the scene. One photo of an agent features the caption “She is covering her face…Perhaps afraid of the future.” Another photo features Sanchez pursuing her assailants with the caption: “They have watched us for decades. Now we are watching them.” Very smart.

Now her husband has been attacked. Reuters reports:

The husband of Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said he was attacked by government supporters as he waited on Friday to confront state security agents accused of detaining and beating his wife two weeks ago.

Sanchez, whose writing about the hardships of Cuban life were praised this week by President Barack Obama, said men believed to be government agents forced her into a car and hit her repeatedly in a brief detention on November 6.

Reinaldo Escobar, also a blogger, said he had gone to a Havana intersection hoping that state security agents would respond to a challenge he issued earlier to meet there for a “verbal duel” about his wife’s incident.

He said he was speaking to reporters when, in what appeared to be an orchestrated event, several hundred people gathered and began shouting “Viva Fidel” and “Viva la Revolucion.”

About 20 of his supporters began shouting back and the situation turned violent, he said.

“They pulled my hair, hit me with a shoe, tore my shirt, pulled away my bag of books. I lost my glasses,” Escobar, aged 62, told Reuters.

His wife, who was not with him at the attack, wrote on Twitter: “Until when will the language of force, of intolerance and disrespect for the opinion of others be the one that prevails in my country?”

The Cuban government responded quickly to Escobar’s accusations, emailing to foreign journalists a story published in the website laRepublica.es with the headline “The Cuban people are tired of Yoani Sanchez.”

“Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely,” Obama wrote.

“The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals,” Obama said.

Sanchez, 34, has won several international awards and was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Obama’s response added to her international stature as Cuba’s leading dissident voice, but she is little known on the island where Internet access is limited.

The Cuban government has made no secret of its distaste for her, but she is among a growing group of young Cubans who have taken to the Internet to express their desire for change on the island.

Ahmadinejad Picks Terrorist for Defense Minister of Iran

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Interpol revealed that Ahmad Vahidi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s pick for Defense Minister, is wanted by the agency for his role in the bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. The terrorist attack left 85 people dead and wounded more than 300.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly expressed his concern over the impending appointment but he avoided “a question as to whether the U.S. authorities might arrest Vahidi, if he was approved as defense minister and he tried to come to the United States on U.N. business” (VOA).

Roni Sofer (Ynet) writes:

[T]he Argentinean Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the appointment, calling it an affront to Argentine justice and the victims of the terrorist attack on the Jewish community center.

The statement further read that news of the nomination was received with grave concern in Argentina.

Tehran brushed aside the criticism as part of a “Zionist plot”, as Ahmadinejad press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr wondered why the Argentineans didn’t bring up the matter in the past.

Momento 24 (Argentina) notes:

“It is not surprising, if  the information is confirmed, this appointment, since this is a regime that does not surrender for trial the suspects of the terrorist attack,” said the head of the AMIA, Guillermo Borger.

He also warned that the Iranian regime protects the suspects and appointed them as public officiasls, but never before in a very important role with minister rank.

Big Bill Clinton Still Has It

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South Korea Journalists Held

When former president Bill Clinton went overseas to convince North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il to release two American journalists I thought to myself, “good luck on that one, buddy.”

Euna Lee and Laura Ling were facing twelve years in a North Korean labor camp for supposedly “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry.” Lee and Ling were conducting research for a report on women and human trafficking. The situation looked increasingly grim as each day passed. But Big Bill flies over to Pyongyang on a private mission and whamo, Jong-Il gives the two a full pardon and they are on their way home back to the U.S.

The Telegraph (UK) reports that North Korean state media claims Jong-Il pardoned both reporters after Clinton “expressed words of sincere apology” for their “hostile acts.” However, Clinton said he issued no apology.

The families of the two journalists realeased the following statement:

The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are overjoyed by the news of their pardon. We are so grateful to our government: President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for their dedication to and hard work on behalf of American citizens.

We especially want to thank President Bill Clinton for taking on such an arduous mission and Vice President Al Gore for his tireless efforts to bring Laura and Euna home. We must also thank all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal, it has meant the world to us. We are counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms.

Only the most hardened partisans are unable to find joy in this occasion. Say what you will about Big Bill, the dude still has the power of persuasion. Which, as Richard Neustadt argued, is necessary for any successful U.S. president.

But questions remain. For example, what exactly is Kim Jong-Il going to get in return for this? A softer U.S. stance towards North Korea’s nuclear weapon program? As John Bolton notes, “If you wanted to divorce the kidnapping, abduction issue of the two reporters from the nuclear issue, you couldn’t have picked a less likely envoy than president Clinton.”

Read more here.

Polish Anti-Authoritaran Leszek Kolakowski Passes On

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Leszek Kolakowski

“Freedom is always vulnerable and its cause never safe”–Leszek Kolakowski

Polish anti-authoritarian historian and theorist Leszek Kolakowski has passed away on Friday, June 17, at the age of 81. Kolakowski was Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at All Souls College, Oxford. The Library of Congress awarded him the first John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences.

If you are unfamiliar with the man, he was a supporter of Solidarity and penned the magnificent three-volume Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution (1976-78), one of the best texts I have ever read on the subject. Kolakowski argued that the barbarity of Stalinism and other communist states were no aberation from Marxism but the logical conclusion of the application of Marx’s concepts. Some of his other works are The Individual and Infinity (1958), The Philosophy of Existence, the Defeat of Existence (1965), Husserl and the Search for Certitude (1975), If There is no God (1982), Metaphysical Horror (1988).

The Library of Congress website notes:

The relationships between freedom and belief, examined in many different contexts, have been lifelong themes of his scholarly work, and are displayed fully in a wide range of essays written in a non-technical language and accessible to a wide range of readers. In his, “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered” (1983), he explains his view of philosophy:

The cultural role of philosophy is not to deliver the truth but to build the spirit of truth, and this means never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense, always to suspect that there might be “another side” in what we take for granted, and never to allow us to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity as we know it.

What Kolakowski exemplifies and defends is the treatment of every individual as a rational and freely acting subject, aware that there is a spiritual side of life, able to have faith, yet eschewing absolute certainty of either an empirical or transcendental sort. It is the essence of a vibrant human culture to honor the universality of human rights while welcoming conflict of values, and repeated self- questioning, with what he calls “an inconsistent scepticism:”

I do not believe that human culture can ever reach a perfect synthesis of its diversified and incompatible components. Its very richness is supported by this very incompatibility of its ingredients. And it is the conflict of values, rather than their harmony, that keeps our culture alive.

Check out this conversation between Kolakowski and Danny Postel from Daedlus (excerpt):

dp: Your less than euphoric feelings about the Western Left were strongly colored by your year in Berkeley in 1969–1970. Tzvetan Todorov describes a similar experience, of fleeing a Communist country–in his case, Bulgaria–only to find himself in a heavily Communist intellectual milieu in Paris. What was Berkeley like for you?

lk: I found the so-called student movement simply barbaric. There are of
course ignorant young people at all times and in all places. But in Berkeley their ignorance was elevated to the level of the highest wisdom. They wanted to ‘revolutionize’ the university in such a way that they wouldn’t have to learn anything. They had all sorts of silly proposals. For instance, they wanted professors to be appointed by students, and students to be examined by other students. I remember one leaflet issued by the black student movement asserting that the libraries contained nothing but “irrelevant
white knowledge.”

[read it all here]

Read more:

The Death of Utopia Reconsidered” (Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Australian National University, June 22, 1982)

How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist

Roger Kimball’s obit at Pajamas Media

Another obit at Inside Higher Ed

And one more from Democracy Digest

More added via Martin in the Margins and Poumista:

Andrew Murphy at Harry’s Place

Hitchens

Michael Weiss (Snarksmith)

Nick Cohen at Standpoint

Social Research Journal: Letter in Support of Iranian Dissident Akbar Ganji

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[If you want to add your name to this letter, please send an email to Social Research at socres@newschool.edu. Social Research website here.]
——————————————————————————–

Dear friends of Social Research,

Because you have joined us in protesting abuses of human rights in the past, we hope you will be willing to add your signature to the letter below. This is a letter from Akbar Ganji, an Iranian dissident who spent five years in jail in Iran, to the United Nations in response to the brutal assault on the Iranian citizens protesting the illegality of Ahmadinejad’s election. If you sign this letter, your signature will be included on the document presented to the United Nations. Time is of the essence here, so we hope you will get back to us right away. If you would like to join in signing Ganji’s letter, please reply to this e-mail with your name and affiliation, and we will pass your signature along.

Thank you,

Arien Mack
Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology
Editor, Social Research
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To: Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki Moon
From: Akbar Ganji, journalist and political dissident
June 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Ban Ki Moon,

Evidence shows that in the Islamic Republic of Iran elections are not free, competitive or fair, and they never lead to a real transformation in the country’s political structure. Several reasons exist for this:

Article 110 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html) places most of the power in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and institutions that are directly under his control. Article 57 of the Constitution places all three branches of the government – namely the executive, legislative and the judicial branches – “under the purview of the absolute [divine] rule and [divine] leadership” of the Supreme Leader. The people of Iran only have a say in voting for the presidency, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles), and local councils. Even if the people’s representatives were to be elected on fair and competitive grounds, they would be unable to bring about any real reforms in the affairs of the state. Non-elective institutions, such as the Guardian Council, the Exigency Assembly, and the High Council of Cultural Revolution, often thwart and nullify the action of elected institutions.

In practice, the real power in Iran lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and it goes beyond the letter of the law as written in the Constitution. According to Article 98 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and members of this Council are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader (rahbar). The Guardian Council holds that the power of the Supreme Leader is not limited by the letter of Constitution, rendering the powers of the rahbar of the Islamic Republic virtually limitless.

The recent Iranian elections were carried out under these same limiting circumstances. Moreover, political dissidents are excluded from the pool of candidates, and a pre-condition for being considered as a candidate is to express their belief in and adherence to Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader. In the latest parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified some two thousand potential candidates and excluded them from the candidates’ pool. Again, in the most recent presidential elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified four-hundred-seventy-one applicants for candidacy and only allowed four candidates into the competition, all of whom had previously been top official positions in the Islamic Republic over the past three decades. During the Friday Prayer congregation on June 19th, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic publically divulged that the one candidate who came closest to his own personal views was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the election held on June 12th 2009 more than eighty percent of eligible voters participated under these very restrictive and pre-screened conditions. Sadly, their free choice was rejected even in this latest election, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner.

Most Iranians concur that their vote has not been truthfully accounted for. All across the country, the people have come out and held peaceful rallies to protest electoral violations that amount to a drastic violation of their right to shape their future. Sadly, the government of the Islamic Republic has faced off these peaceful and civil protests harshly, and several innocent people, including students in the nation’s universities have been barbarically assaulted by the state police. Numerous political and civil activists have been imprisoned without due process and, and at the same time, communication networks have been widely disrupted and severe restrictions have been placed on the activities of reporters and international observers.

We, intellectuals, political activists, and defenders of democratic rights and liberties beseech you to heed the widespread protests of the Iranian people and to take immediate and urgent action by:

1)    Forming an international truth-finding commission to examine the electoral process, vote counting and the fraudulent manipulation of the people’s vote in Iran

2)    Pressuring the government in Iran to annul fraudulent election results and hold democratic, competitive and fair elections under the auspices of the UN

3)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to release all those detained in the course of recent protests

4)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to free the media that have been banned in recent days and to recognize and respect the right of the people to free expression of ideas and the nonviolent protesting the results of the recent elections

5)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to stop its harsh and barbaric treatment of the people of Iran

6)    Refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate government that has staged an electoral coup, and curtailing any and all forms of cooperation with it from all nations and international organizations

Sincerely,

More Iran Links

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Swiped from Bob and Mod:

Contentious Centrist: Friends of the Ayatollahs

Dissent: From Ramin Jahanbegloo, Michael Walzer and others

Roland Dodds (But, I am a Liberal!): Neda Agha Soltan – Voice of Iran

The Field:

Flesh is Grass:

Ganselmi: “Friends” of the Iranian People

LabourStart: Iran updates

Martin in the Margins:

The Spirit of Man: Loads of stuff to read

Michael Totten: Ahmadinejad and the rural poor

Iran Election Demonstrations Roundup

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iran demo

Too busy with the newborn to write about events in Iran right now but here are some posts and links from around the Web:

Ben Cohen at Z-Word

But, I am a Liberal!

Flesh is Grass

Ganselmi (h/t to Mod and Z-Word)

Kellie (Airforce Amazons)

Loads of posts at Martin in the Margins

Michael Totten’s website and more articles at Contentions.

Modernity Blog