Archive Sections: letters | music | index | features | photos | arts/lit | satire Find Iranian singles today!


To resign or not to resign
That moment has arrived for the Iranian reformers

June 14, 2003
The Iranian

That is the question gnawing at the reformers of Iran, today more than anytime in their six year tenure. Iran's regional and international isolation and the extreme proximity of the business end of the Great Satan have increased the stakes of the resignation game.

Reformers have warned (most recently in an open letter signed by 137 MPs) that a semblance of legitimacy is the only prophylactic against American intervention. And yet, the hardliners continue to treat the threats of resignation as a game of chicken. They appear to dare the reform to go ahead and make their day, damn the resulting American "occuberation" (occupation + liberation). *

It may be too late for the reformers to extract real concessions with a credible show of will to resign. But such a will never existed because the concept of resignation as a moral and practical act has not been worked out in Iran's emerging political culture. The reformists feel pinned. Resigning may appear as dereliction of duty while staying on continues to cast them as the fall guy in a political charade.

There is no doubt that the hardliners are playing hard ball. The unrelenting waves of rightwing revenge that have whipped the hapless ship of reform for the past five years are once more gathering as a squall of new aggression by the goons of the Hizbullah.

Meanwhile the noose of the rightwing judiciary continues to choke the life out of the reformist students and intellectuals. The Guardian Council has once more humiliated President Khatami and the parliament by rejecting their twin bills aimed at reclaiming a measure of political authority for the elected institutions of the parliament and the presidency.

The bill will be returned to the parliament and a watered downed version of it will probably pass the Guardian Council just in time to do next to no good for an outgoing reformist parliament and president. The strategic merits of mass resignation aside, the reformers will do well to seriously ponder the legitimacy and feasibility of political resignation as an integral part of any democratic social order.

Politics is a bid to participate in the acquisition of power for the purpose of implementing an ideal. As ideals are not always attainable in their entirety a responsible politician might have to compromise in order to gradually approach his or her goal.

Compromise might be a dirty word in the parlance of logicians and moralists but it must not be considered as such in the world of responsible politics. An uncompromising artist is in all likelihood a good artist but an uncompromising politician is nothing but a fanatic. However, compromise is only a means for achieving a political goal.

Like search for power, compromise is never legitimate in itself or as means to private ends. Once a politician's axial ideals have been compromised there remains no room for compromise. Once hope for attaining or approaching the ideal is lost both compromise and search for power must cease. Thus, resignation is of the essence of democratic political ethics.

A political system devoid of resignations must be viewed with suspicion. Whatever one might think of the American political system, its last quarter of century displays an impressive register of politicians who have resigned rather than sign their name to policies that contradicted their ideals.

The list starts with Cyrus Vance the American Secretary of State who left his post in the wake of the operations to rescue the hostages from Iran to John Brady Kiesling, a career diplomat who resigned in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. There is a good project for a graduate student who might correlate the number of resignations in various countries of the Middle East with the maturity of their democratic culture.

Of course, it will not do to exhort others to abandon their livelihood on idealistic grounds. One must not start with the assumption that politicians are or must be tragic heroes or saints. Hence, the discussion of resignation must have a practical component. In the age of mass democracies politicians are no longer recruited from the ranks of the independently wealthy.

As modern politicians might face the moral obligation to resign at any time, they must be financially and psychologically prepared for a plan B in their lives. They must emerge into politics from a suspended profession (in medicine, law, journalism, education etc.) and possess a will to leave the glories of public office for a humble but honest living.

The German sociologist Max Weber argued that politicians must live "for" and not "off" politics. This means that, although they rely on their income as politicians while in office, they must be willing and able to end their political life as soon as they realize that they can no longer attain or approach their ideals.

I believe that with the rejection of the twin bills by the Council of Guardians that moment arrived for the Iranian reformers. The ongoing spontaneous combustion of Tehran's streets as this article goes to press is another sign demonstrating the hopelessness of the cause of political reform.

* "Occuliberation": Coined by a witty observer of Middle Eastern politics, Mr. Majid Mohammadi.


Ahmad Sadri, is the Professor and Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College, IL, USA. See Features . See Homepage

* Send this page to your friends

For letters section
To Ahmad Sadri

* Advertising
* Support
* Reproduction
* Write for
* Editorial policy

By Ahmad Sadri




Book of the day

Answering Only to God
Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran
By Geneive Abdo & Jonathan Lyons
>>> Excerpt

Book of the day

The Clash of Civilizations
The remaking of world order
by Samuel P. Huntington

Copyright 1995-2013, Iranian LLC.   |    User Agreement and Privacy Policy   |    Rights and Permissions