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1 August 2017. A World to Win News Service.
Remembering Amir Hassanpour, revolutionary communist fighter, intellectual and internationalist from Iran
August 2, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On 24 June 2017 Amir Hassanpour, renowned revolutionary intellectual and revolutionary communist with long connections to the struggle in Kurdistan, Iran and elsewhere, passed away in Toronto, Canada.
On 22 July, 250 people of many nationalities gathered at the University of Toronto to honour and learn from Amir’s life. Memorials are planned in other cities as well.
The intellectual and political life of comrade Hassanpour was intertwined with events in the international communist movement and the Iranian revolutionary and leftist movements. Amir was born in 1943 in Mahabad in Kurdistan of Iran where he spent his childhood and teenage years. It is a region whose people, especially the poor peasants, were oppressed by feudal and reactionary patriarchal social relations and also suffered national discrimination.
The first-hand experience of national oppression and the political environment of Mahabad drove Amir to join a nationalist movement in his youth (Kurdiati), but in his own words, after he got to know about Marxism, his view on things changed. He saw the reality of human exploitation and national oppression in the light of Marxist theories, which helped him go beyond the confines of nationalist theories and views. Amir was a theorist on the national question in Kurdistan and the Middle East and a prominent scholar and researcher in the fields of the culture, language, literature and history of Kurdistan, with many academic publications. But above all he always tried to understand and analyze problems of human society by applying the science of communism. “I do not have any identity,” he stated frankly. “If I have to choose an identity, I must say that I am an internationalist.”
Amir joined the Iranian student movement in Tehran in the 1960s. This connection continued in the 1970s with his participation in the Union of Iranian Students in the United States. On 1 May 1968, during a student trip to the U.S., he landed in Paris and immediately joined the youth rallies in the Latin Quarter and their fighting with police. This period of activism connected him to the future Communist Party of Iran (MLM) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP, USA).
Amir was, on one level, typical of the revolutionary intellectuals who were active in the 1960s. He was an enthusiastic participant in and advocate of the revolutionary national struggle then sweeping the world, from Kurdistan and Palestine to Vietnam and Brazil. As a student he jumped into the rebellion and intellectual ferment of those days in the United States and other countries of the imperialist world.
All of this was heightened and put on a scientific footing by Mao Tsetung and his leadership of the earth-shaking Cultural Revolution in China, which was showing in vivid colour the possibility of advancing toward the final goal of a society that finally surpasses all class divisions and all of the rotten relations and ideas that correspond to exploitation. Amir was also deeply concerned over the emancipation of women. He became a communist, a Maoist, and devoted his considerable talents and energies to the struggle to bring about a communist world.
He was one of the many communists and revolutionary intellectuals who threw themselves into the struggle in Iran as the Shah’s regime crumbled in the later 1970s. Amir was one of the founders of the Toilers Peshmerga organization in Kurdistan in 1981, affiliated with the Union of Iran Communists (UIC).
For the communists in Iran, the overthrow of the Chinese revolution after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976 was accompanied by the defeat of the Iranian revolution and the rise of the reactionary Islamist movements in Iran, the Middle East and North Africa. This was followed by the emergence of the conflict between the two historically outmoded pillars: Islamic fundamentalism and imperialism. For those in the Iranian movement determined to carry forward the cause of revolution, the need for the fresh breeze of new communism and its scientific and political leaps was greatly felt. Amir, who was surrounded by many remorseful former left-wing intellectuals and ex-communist leaders from the 1980s and 1990s, never gave up on the cause of communist revolution and the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed. The new communism brought forward by Bob Avakian once again gave him the opportunity to challenge his thinking and engage with the advances in theoretical and political developments in the communist movement.
Amir knew that science is not a static, frozen phenomenon, but was marked by twists and turns, corrections of previous mistakes and new developments. This view on science helped him to become very involved with the new communism, which Amir struggled to dig into, grasp and actively promote.
At the memorial meeting in Toronto, Amir’s broad influence on revolutionary and progressive people from the Middle East and in the academic sphere was reflected by diverse statements and messages and cultural performances. The meeting began with a short drum performance and a talk by Salah Hassanpour, his son. After discussing Amir’s personal and political qualities, Salah pointed out, “My father was an optimist but not an idealist”—that Amir based his hopes and struggle for a better future for humanity on dialectical materialism and the science of communism.
A powerful tribute entitled “A Statement on the Passion of a Rebel” from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) was read. This statement celebrated Amir’s passionate and rebellious spirit, as well as his uncompromising fight against the oppressors and his lifetime search for truth. A fearless search which in the last years of his life made him a close adherent of the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian.
A short tribute by faculty members from Palestine hailed Amir’s contributions and invited people to continue on his path fighting for the liberation of Palestine.
A statement by KJA, a contributor to Demarcations, the theoretical journal of the RCPUSA, was read by a comrade from the US. It pointed out, “Confronting the process of ‘Maoism dividing into two’, learning to sift out what was essential and correct in our previous understanding and to reject the wrong, the harmful, the non-scientific thinking, has not been so easy for most of us who lived that shared experience, even with Avakian shining light on this very contradiction. In this perspective, the power and importance of Amir’s firm adoption of a political position in favour of the new synthesis, despite having to wage a protracted battle against a cruel disease, stands out all the more sharply.”
Some of Amir’s former students also spoke at the memorial, praising his lively teaching, his encouraging pedagogical approach that emphasised learning through criticism. Another activist and sociology student mentioned that for him, Amir’s special characteristic was the role he played in exposing the Persian chauvinism that is so strong in contemporary Iran.
Activists and leaders of other parties and movements, including the Kurdish Satar Awehang (Communist Party of Iran-Komala) and Fatih Sheikh (Worker Communist Party-Hekmatist) sent video massages, while others like the linguist Jaffer Sheykholislami and Farid Partovi personally read their statements. Though the speakers represented different political lines, they all agreed that as a revolutionary communist Amir tirelessly fought against all sorts of oppression, including national oppression, the oppression of women and class divisions. In addition to his undeniable role in the Kurdish liberation movement, Amir’s contributions to the study of Kurdish history, language and culture were emphasized.
Shahriyar Jamshidi performed deep and sad music, bringing many of the people in the room to tears.
The hall was decorated by several insightful quotations from Amir. One read: “Yes, I am for grand narratives… I wish they were even grander… we have no interests in one human being over another one.… We want this kind of world and this kind of relations and this kind of ‘grand narrative’. And science gives us this, and on the basis of this scientific truth we must aim to leap and achieve this horizon that humanity has been able to explore.”
Professor Shahrzad Mojab, Amir’s lifelong partner, colleague and comrade gave a strong and emotional talk. Shahrzad’s voice broke several times from sadness, but very soon she would remember one of Amir’s humorous moments and make the audience smile along with her in sharing lively memories. Shahrzad talked about Amir always standing on the right side, with the oppressed and against the oppressors. From boycotting Israeli products to regularly going to the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto to talk to people and make them aware of the oppression of the Palestinians. Shahrzad stressed that Amir was filled with passion for learning, life and humanity. She concluded her speech with a quote from one of Amir’s favorites, the early 20th century U.S. poet and singer Joe Hill—“Don’t mourn! Organize!”
The message from the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) concluded: “The world cries out the need for communist revolution. Without revolutionary communists there will never be a communist revolution. It is time to decide and scale the heights again. Riding the new waves of communism, Amir’s victorious smile will be with us.”