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Bahman Moayedi 1944-2007

A political remembrance

by Barry Weisleder

Over 120 friends, family and political comrades of Bahman Moayedi gathered to celebrate his life on April 1 at an Iranian restaurant in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. We were drawn together by the stunning, sudden loss of someone so animated by love, honesty, human solidarity and a relentless drive for social justice.

Bahman died in a tragic accident on March 21. His beloved partner Hannah Hadikin informed us that, while on a brief vacation to celebrate the Iranian New Year with her at Isla Margarita, 23 miles off the north-east coast of Venezuela, "Bahman went for a swim and was swept away by a current. All efforts to revive him failed." He was 63 years old.

I first met Bahman about five years ago, although he had moved to Toronto in 1986. He began attending events sponsored by the NDP Socialist Caucus, and participating in the activities of Socialist Action. As I got to know Bahman I came to appreciate his rich historical experience and I was able to learn more about his native land. I was fascinated in part because he was a witness to some of the greatest events of the second half of the twentieth century, particularly the momentous 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the hated, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Reza Pahlavi.

Washington took its revenge on the revolution by pushing Iraq into a cataclysmic, 8 year-long war with Iran. The conflict saw nearly a million Iranians killed or wounded. Aerial bombardment, which destroyed many civilian neighborhoods, plus factors of internal repression and economic hardship, sent thousands into exile, including Bahman and family. They lived briefly in France, and finally came to Canada.

Bahman Moayedi first travelled to the United States in the early 1960s, where he went to university. He witnessed the rise of the powerful mass movement against the war in Vietnam. He was a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party in Seattle and Pittsburgh, and then returned to Iran in 1978 to participate in the revolutionary upsurge.

He was an active supporter of the Sattar League, the Iranian section of the Fourth International, which was founded in the United States by radicalized Iranian students. After the February 1979 revolutionary overthrow of the Shah, Iranian Trotskyists formed a unified party. The Socialist Workers’ Party (HKS) in Iran called for a workers’ and peasants’ government to replace the Khomeini-Bazargan provisional government. Bahman worked closely with the HKS.

However, by the summer of 1979 the HKS split. On one side were the Iranian Trotskyists who had worked closely with the US Socialist Workers’ Party, and on the other side were the Iranian Trotskyists who had worked with the European sections of the Fourth International, led by Ernest Mandel. The split was mainly over participation in the election for the Islamic Constitutional Assembly. Bahman aligned himself with the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (HKE) made up mostly of Sattar League cadres and leadership.

According to Kamran Nayeri, a co-founder of the Workers’ Unity Party (HVK) and a leader of the Iranian Trotskyist movement, the HKE gradually adapted to the Islamic Republic, to its repressive and anti-labor policies, all in the name of support for the anti-imperialist struggle. Meanwhile, the HKS adapted to ultra-left sectarian currents that placed struggle against the clerical regime above the need to work within the ranks of the Iranian labor movement. The HVK was formed by factions within HKE and HKS that opposed these political adaptations; it called for an independent working class strategy and for a workers’ and peasants’ government.

After settling in Canada, Bahman was a supporter of the Communist League, an affiliate of the US-SWP, until disagreement with its abstentionist stance towards the movement against the US war on Iraq caused him to leave.

Finally, Bahman entered the sphere of Socialist Action and joined us in 2003. He was actively involved in the NDP Socialist Caucus, in the Willowdale NDP constituency association and served on its executive, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, and the Toronto Haiti Action Committee. He worked in solidarity with Palestine, in opposition to imperialist threats against Iran's sovereignty, and in many other progressive social change movements, including campaigns for aboriginal peoples’ rights. He was a fierce opponent of racism, sexism and homophobia, and did not hesitate to challenge bigotry and discrimination whenever he witnessed such ugliness.

He was extremely well read, appreciated music, theatre and cinema, and loved to share with others what he knew about the world – so long as it did not involve talking about himself. In the latter department he was reticent to a fault. But he never tired of trying to educate us about history, nor of exposing the pernicious role of imperialism – for example, how Britain and the Allies occupied Iran during WW2, ripped off its energy resources, and how in 1953 the CIA overthrew the democratically elected secular politician who nationalized British Petroleum, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh.

Bahman saw the masses as the motor of social change. His view was grounded in his experience, both in North America and Iran, and in a serious study of world history. For that reason he was passionately drawn to the process of revolutionary change currently underway in Venezuela. He also desperately needed to find a paying job since his work as an immigration consultant dried up. So he left Toronto last September to work full time in Venezuela as an electrical engineer on a massive social housing project near Caracas. It had been years since he was able to apply his skills in his professional field, so he jumped at the chance of working with an Iranian construction firm and for a government that is making a positive difference in the lives of ordinary poor and working people in Venezuela.

Despite being far away, Bahman kept in regular contact with comrades. He was a prolific writer. He was frequently published in Socialist Action newspaper under the pen name Ben Yedi. His favourite topic was the mistreatment of immigrants and refugees. Some of Bahman’s last email messages reflected his general outlook and passionate concerns.

On March 1 Bahman wrote disapprovingly of the Canadian government’s decision to implement UN Resolution 1737, an embargo of certain goods and services waged against Iran's nuclear energy program. After all, why should Iran be prevented from providing for its future energy needs when the U.S., and its allies in Europe and Israel, have stockpiles of nuclear weapons, some aimed directly at Iran?

On March 5 Bahman sent a report on Iran’s condemnation of a U.S. refusal to grant visas to a delegation of Iranian feminists scheduled to speak at a United Nations women’s conference in New York.

On March 7 he relayed to us an article about students in California and across the U.S. holding strikes, sit-ins and rallies against the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq. He wrote that it was heartening to see a revival of the spirit of student revolt.

On March 8 Bahman sent a report of his visit to the slum district of Pitare, in Caracas, in which he noted significant improvements to housing and local nutrition. At the same time he bemoaned that fact that some of the social funds provided by the popular radical regime of Hugo Chavez were being diverted by corrupt local officials.

On March 18 Bahman requested of me a report on the anti-war demonstration in Toronto that occurred one day earlier, and I complied.

Finally, on March 18, he forwarded a FOX news report that Iran is threatening to retaliate — against U.S. forces — for a series of suspected kidnappings of high-ranking officers of its elite Revolutionary Guards.

Did he anticipate the eventual stand off with Britain over the 15 wayward British sailors?

The truth is that Bahman was on a permanent campaign footing, defending his homeland and its working people against plots and schemes, against the slings and arrows of the Empire. At the same time, Bahman was not a simple-minded patriot, nor was he a narrow nationalist. He was a revolutionary internationalist. As such he knew that Iran’s suffering is rooted in an unjust socio-economic system, at home and worldwide. He knew that the best defence of Iran against imperialism would be the replacement of its repressive populist regime, and the controlling clerical establishment, by a secular socialist government of Iran’s workers and farmers. To this combined task, the quest for independence for all oppressed nations and for an end to class exploitation, vital aspects of what Trotsky called the Permanent Revolution, Bahman devoted his life.

For him, solidarity knew no boundaries. The struggle for social justice was indivisible. He took up the cause wherever he was: France, the United States, Japan, India, Canada, wherever life and work took him. In Canada he threw himself into the grassroots campaigns and organizations of working people. His orientation was to the mainstream, not to the sidelines. He strove to move mountains, not pebbles. So he joined us in fighting for socialist policies inside the only mass labour-based political party in North America, the New Democratic Party.

He would joke about how his NDP riding executive, in an effort to achieve greater cultural diversity, invited him to provide ‘ethnic food’ at some of its functions – while his ardent desire was to serve up his socialist ideas and turn the party to the left.

Bahman integrated his commitment to help others into his daily livelihood as an immigration consultant. He fought passionately for the rights of refugees and for those displaced by the merciless economic forces of globalized capitalism.

 Selflessness, generosity, and dedication to principles were the hallmarks of the man. So was his good humour, never taking himself or anyone else too seriously. His infectious laugh, a kind of whooping chortle, could disable any oversized ego; it instantly put problems into a human perspective. He was cosmopolitan in outlook, but never so preoccupied with big issues and remote goals that he would not instantly drop whatever he was doing to attend to the needs of his three sons, Massih, Chebli and Siamak, and his daughter Yasmin. He married three times, yet remained a good friend to his former wives long after separation. I suspect he broke the long distance record for transporting students’ books and furniture across southern Ontario. I never met a father more devoted to his children than Bahman. Nor have I ever met a man more proud of the academic and professional achievements of his daughter and sons.

My partner Elizabeth and I last saw Bahman on February 9 when he joined us for dinner at our home. We had just returned from vacation and he was making a brief visit to Toronto to tie up a few loose ends before returning to Venezuela. We always kept bottled beer in our refrigerator just for Bahman. Between sips of the brew he recounted the strengths and weaknesses of the Chavez government. Bahman was no Pollyanna, no mindless cheerleader. He was a critical Marxist, and he saw many problems in the unfolding revolution.

He was impatient, mostly in a good sense. He wanted to see solutions to poverty and oppression, not tomorrow, but now. Sometimes his impatience clouded his judgement about what is possible and how best to proceed, but it never blunted his commitment to fight for the underdog and for the majority.

We were privileged to have known and to have worked alongside him. He cannot be replaced, and he will never be forgotten.

Socialist Action-Canada dedicated its 13th annual, cross-country educational conference, held April 27-29 in Toronto, to the memory of Bahman. Our hope is that his example will inspire those who knew him to step forward, to help us to continue the work to which he dedicated his life.

As they say in Venezuela: Companero Bahman Moayedi vive!

(Barry Weisleder is the Federal Secretary of Socialist Action in the Canadian state, and a co-editor of Socialist Action monthly newspaper, published in San Francisco.)

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