Amir Abbas Hoveyda's major speech
Aspen Persepolis Symposium - Iran, September 1975
The Future of Iran
Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the Prime Minister of Iran:
I shall attempt in this essay to make a sketch of some of Iran's aims and aspirations in this last quarter of the 20th century, and the ideals and values on whose basis our nation is determined to meet the challenge of the year 2000.
The task is admittedly not an easy one. Any forecast of the course of events over so long a period must allow for contingencies whose cause or impact cannot be foreknown. Yet, contrary to the thinking of some seers, whose portrayals depict an immovable future at which we shall arrive with predestined certitude, I believe that, given a sufficient body of pertinent data, and an estimate of the vigor of the human will, the future can not only be predicted, but indeed, created. For the past 13 years, this has been the basis on which we in Iran have proceeded and, if I may add with modesty, succeeded.
It is our firm belief and cherished hope that Iran will become the first of the world's ancient civilizations to utilize fully the immense opportunities for material and moral advancement provided by the technological revolution of the past few decades. In wishing to do so, and in working toward that goal, we are determined to preserve our cultural identity, while upholding the everlasting moral and human values formulated and defended by our forefathers over thousands of years of our recorded history.
Our record for the past 13 years, since the launching of The Shah and People's Revolution, gives us the hope and the assurance that Iran is poised for further successes in transforming itself within its traditions. It is not by discarding our past that we mean to create our future. On the contrary, we see our future as a deepening of the great experiences of our past, and the application of our traditional cultural and moral values to the problems and potentials of today and tomorrow.
In a world dominated by materialism, where philosophy often becomes an exercise in the presentation of abstract models shaped by marketplace realism, we have chosen the path of idealism. In a world conceiving of state-craft as the art of the possible, meaning the subjugation of the human spirit by shortsighted designs and stratagems, we have chosen vision and the courage to dare We believe that the world as a whole is beginning to cast a fresh and critical glance at the basicall monistic views of human development that have dominated international thinking for the past century.
During the past 100 years, we have seen man reduced to the level of a blind and elemental force, locked in perpetual conflict with his fellow-men because of different functions within a certain economic systern. The advocates of this brand of monism have presented what we believe were the particular characteristics of specific societies in specific times, as universal rules for understanding the course of human development for all eternity.
We have seen the conception of man that has been held by the societies leading to the building of Utopias that crumble before they ar fully shaped. We have seen how the most meticulously organized stage of history have failed to turn man into an actor in the monistic farce that often becomes a tragedy
We have also witnessed the virtuoso performance of social engineers of all descriptions, leading to the creation of societies in whic man is no more than a consumer of often useless and dehumanizin objects. We are all aware of the abuses of technology that to some hav been the New God and to others the New Venus.
In the plethora of philosophical models and political experiences C others, there is thus much that has to be examined if our quest for a futur of greater hope and promise is to succeed. We have witnessed th emergence of great bureaucratic empires, in which political power becomes a self-motivating and self-perpetuating quantum, representin human alienation on almost cosmic scales. We have also studie societies that, beginning with a democratic consensus, are facing th danger of modern tribalization-societies that subsidize sloth and mdc lence and are divided against themselves.
I do not believe that in our quest for the modernization of the material and technological basis of life in our country we need to pas through the storms and stresses of either brand of society I have briefl described. Just as we do not have to re-invent the steam engine in order to acquire present-day industries, we need not pass through the sweat shops of the Industrial Revolution, the class struggles of the 19th century and the moral crises of modern industrial nations.
Nor do we have to go through the furnace of colonialism that melt not
only the colonized but also the colonizer. The catastrophes ur leashed upon the world by
chauvinism, presented in the attractive
wrapings of nationalism, are still fresh in memory. We have witnessed th explosion of the myth of universally applicable models inspired by thi or that "ism." At a time when both the ideological man and the technological man can be seen vacillating between unrelieved gloom and panglossian optimism, we believe we are not only entitled but dutybound to seek our own path to the future.
This path has been charted, thanks to the endeavors of our people and the leadership of our sovereign, during the past 13 years. It shall lead us to what we have felt courageous enough to call the Great Civilization. It is neither out of unjustified pride nor self-delusion that we speak of the Great Civilization. The achievements of our nation through its long history, the resilience of our culture under the most adverse conditions, and Iran's almost unique regenerative abilities entitle us to such an aspiration.
Our starting point is a national unity and concord that has few parallels in the contemporary world. This unity, which is without uniformity, has enabled us to workout a social contract, the first article of which is human dignity. We conceive of economic development as a means not only of satisfying human needs but also of anticipating them. By developing our economy, maximizing the rational use of our natural resources, extending the options open to all of our people and creating national wealth, we do not mean to create only a powerful state, as so many others have done. Far more important to us is ensuring the material well-being of our people while offering them full opportunities to develop and utilize their intellectual abilities and creative powers.
It was with such an objective in view that Iran adopted the system of public planning to organize and guide its economy nearly three decades ago. During the past 13 years, as we have gained in experience, we have been able to improve our planning tools and methods. Without making a fetish of planning, we have utilized it as a means of mobilizing and allocating our national resources, while allowing ample scope for private enterprise and individual initiative. Iran's investment in its development projects during the past five years was probably larger than the total investments made in this country in the preceding two centuries. Far more important, however, was the orientation of Iranian investmenl policies. More than 60 percent of total public investments were aimed al giving the nation a modern socioeconomic infrastructure, with education, public health, communication networks, hydroelectric projects and resource development plans receiving the lion's share.
It is not my intention to present an exhaustive statistical expose' 0 Iran's performance during the past 13 years, or the targets we mean tc achieve by the year 2000. But a few figures will help illustrate the drama tic changes that have taken place in this country, and that we expect tc see during the next 25 years. In 1963, the year The Shah and People'c Revolution was launched, Iran's GNP per capita was estimated to bE around $100 per annum. By 1977, this figure will be $2,069. The pro jected figure for the year 2000 is $6,052 at constant 1972 prices. By thE year 2000, Iran's total population is expected to top the 65 million mark while a GNP of $441 billion will be attained.
Far more important than those broad figures, however, are the Social statistics we are able to present. In 1963, there were only 10 centers of higher education in this country with a total student population of less than 20,000. The number of universities and centers of higher education in this country has now reached 184, with a total student body of 149,000. When the academic year 1975-76 begins in late September, more than 7 million Iranians of all ages will be attending some institution of learning, from the kindergarten to the most advanced centers of higher studies and research. That figure is well over one-fifth of our entire population.
A the same time, a major item in our foreign expenditure bills has been investment in the education of our young people in a large number of foreign countries. At the moment, over 40,000 Iranians are attending universities and technical schools in Europe, North America and elsewhere. The total eradication of illiteracy and the improvement of the quality of education at all levels remain our primary objectives. We expect to achieve full literacy within the next 12 years.
We consider material and social investment in education as the single most important guarantor of our success in achieving the goals of the Great Civilization. We are conscious of the fact that we still have a very long way to go before achieving the kind of qualitative transformation that our entire educational system must experience. The first basic steps in that direction have already been taken. With the Iranian people's natural propensity to learn, and with determination to make our entire education system meet the needs and aspirations of our nation, for today as well as for tomorrow, we will not cease in our efforts to make education the mainspring of all our future endeavors.
Iran's cultural life has never been the preserve of a privileged elite, and we mean to help retain this. Ferdowsi, Hafez and Saadi have been and remain loved and understood by people from all walks of life. Unlike certain stratified societies, one did not have to belong to any special economic or social class to make our literature, our music and our philosophical traditions. The fact that we have never had plebeians or patricians demonstrates our nation's basic cultural unity. This unity is indeed our chief asset. It gives shape to our aspirations for the Great Civilization.
Our experience during the past 13 years has proved our people to be among the most diligent in the world. For thousands of years, the people of this land have measured the strength of their will against a harsh nature that offers but meager opportunities for agriculture. The development of our underground water canals, the qanats that are still considered marvels of engineering, provides an example of human ingenuity in the struggle to survive. Our architecture, book illuminations, carpets and a whole range of other cultural products demonstrate not only our people's aesthetic endeavors, but their love of precision, of balance and of intellectual discipline. In insisting that creative work, social responsbility and social discipline should remain major values, we reflect tne most deepiy felt traditions of our people. It is through creative work and a sense of the past that the Iranian people have succeeded in safegjarding their national identity. And it is on the basis of these values that we are determined to define and shape our future. We mean to make economic development and technological change a means to furthering social ]ustice, social cohesion and fraternity.
The choice of technology remains a critical question for Iran and all other developing countries. In developing our national technology, we have in our country 5 specific needs, potentials and abilities in mind. There are certain areas in whicn we believe we have the natural and human resources needed for the development of a technology of the most advanced oraer. I mean to refer here to the development of those technologies that are not only theoretically possible but are indeed applicable.
First among those 5 mass education. Mass education in Iran started at a time wnen we ~ad not only the means to prevent stratification, but also the determination to ensure equal opportunities. To eliminate illiteracy and to offer free education, as we have done, to all Iranians, we shall have to make use of tne most advanced educational techniques and methods. It is my belief that in 25 years' time, Iran will be able to offer theworld a rich experience as well as a high level of technological advances in the field of mass education. Necessity is not only the mother of invention; it can also ce the basis for the creation of new technologies.
Another field in which I believe we shall be developing our own national technology is energy. Apart from its oil resources, Iran has vast deposits of natural gas, perhaps the largest in the world, We also mean to exploit the opportunities offered to us by solar energy. We are already beginning the aevelopment of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. With tne vast and uninhacited open spaces that our country provides, we hope that in building and making use of nuclear power we shall not face the problems of pollution tnat threaten the overcrowded areas of Europe and Japan.
In the field of energy, it is not only the necessities but also the possibilities open to us that provide the basis for Iran's technological deveiopment. In petroleum-based industries such as petrochemicals and pnarmaceuticals, we are bound to develop technologies of our own within tne next 25 years.
Another area in which Iran has the means and the need for developing its own technology is related to the use of water. I have already mentioned our ancient qanats. But the development of our agriculture, the expansion of our industries and the growth of our urban centers dictate the need for the use of methods of an entirely different nature and on entirely different scales. The use of desalination plants and their adoption to Iranian conditions, the development of new modes of organizing the use and distribution of water, including the system of drip irrigation and the employment of snow pack and cloud-seeding techniques for agriculture are among the fields in which Iran will have a technology of its own before the turn of the century.
Public health, medicine and health care measures provide another field in which distinctly Iranian technologies could be developed. Through massive infusions of funds into public health and proper development and distribution of health care manpower resources, given the climatic and demographic characteristics of Iran, I believe we would be in a position to present our experiences as something original by the year 2000.
Construction is another field in which necessity will impel Iran to develop technologies of its own. Housing is a national priority, and our people neither wish nor are expected to wait as long as their counterparts in traditional industrial states for economic development to give them better housing conditions. The variety of building materials available in Iran, and the fantastic diversity in climate in our country, offer ample scope for innovation and the development of new techniques of construction. The public sector's unparalleled investment in vast construction projects offers the economic impetus needed.
I have spoken of Iran's main options in developing its own technology in order to stress our belief that science and technology can be positive forces in human development, if they are based on concrete realities and aimed at meeting specific needs. In other words, we shall not allow ourselves the luxury of aimless technological curiosity, symbolized by prestige projects.
Equally important for our future is the rejuvenation of our
agriculture. Land reform has removed the political and social barriers to the revival of
agriculture in Iran. Industrial development has created a vast potential market for farm
products and raw materials. Yet it is true that agriculture has been something of a
Cinderella in our economy during the past few years. The standard of living of the free
farmers has increased dramatically, but total agricultural production has failed to match
rates of growth achieved in other sectors of the economy. With younger people leaving the
countryside for urban regions, with the maintenance of many farming units that fall below
their regional optimum size; with our irrigated lands around hydroelectric units
under-utilized, Iranian agriculture has done little more than hold its own in an era of
rapid change. But the importance of agriculture for the future, not only of our economy
but also of our very life style, is now being realized once again. This is why our Fifth
Development Plan, to be completed in two years' time, has given investment in agricultural
development a privileged position. Millions of Iranian farmers will have to leave their
economically unviable villages during the next decade.
Yet we do not mean to achieve this through coercion. Using the techniques of persuasion to achieve this mass transfer of productive ability to more promising I' and better equipped agricultural regions will certainly slow down the process of change. But we believe in changes brought about through the exercise of human will, and not imposed through the dictates of either the planner or the economist.
The next two decades will, therefore, witness a basic transformation of Iranian agriculture a transformation that we hope will enable us not only to meet local demand for food and raw materials, but also to make a contribution toward fighting hunger and scarcity on a global scale. Before leaving the subject of Iran's future technologies, I do want to refer to the climate of industrial relations in which Iran's industries will be owned and operated by the turn of the century.
Other essays presented at this symposium have already referred to the new legislation pertaining to the workers' ownership of private and public industries; therefore, I shall limit myself to a brief reference of its essentials.
Under this law, which has now been incorporated in the charter of our revolution, 49 percent of the shares of privately owned industries, and 99 percent of the shares of most government-owned industries, will be sold, in the first place, to the workers, and then offered to the farmers and the public at large. The government will provide the workers with long-term loans at concessionary interests, to facilitate the transaction. By 1978, the program will have been completely realized.
In my opinion, this is one of the most progressive pieces of social legislation ever enacted anywhere, ensuring not only the workers' sense of psychological and actual participation in the prosperity of their country, but a just and fair distribution of income as well.
In reviewing our path to the Great Civilization, I have already referred to our belief in the necessity of unity without uniformity. It was in that context that earlier this year Iran developed a new political organization embracing the entire nation. This new organization is the Iran Resurgence Party. It represents the revival and modernization of a long-established tradition of political solidarity and unity of action in our country. It came after many decades of experimenting with basically imported political party models. Those who have sought to study our new political organization, through terms of reference that have nothing to do with Iran's characteristics at the present stage of our development, have railed to understand our political institution. The Iran Resurgence Party, which we believe will be the vehicle for our nation's political development towards the Great Civilization, symbolizes our people's unity on hree principles: the monarchy, the constitution and The Shah and People's Revolution.
The minimum condition for any nation's progress, indeed of survival, is agreement on a body of tenets and a set of definitions. Almost all nations have sought to define their basic points of unity in one way or another. In many cases these basic points have been imposed by minorities representing particular tribes, socioeconomic strata or self-perpetuating cliques. This often assumes the form of a one-party system in which membership in the party is an exclusive privilege. We all know of the philosophies and organizational styles of unique parties in totalitarian states. We also know the way in which the de facto one-party system operates in the whole or in certain parts of countries that supposedly have a multiparty national system. We have also, not long ago, witnessed !how political extremists, at times using semi-conspiratorial techniques of organization, have tried to secure control of different parties and thus gain power and influence far beyond their original numerical strength or political influence.
Equally recently, we have heard the leaders of certain nations in whose countries the multiparty system hac been introduced as an imported ideology declare that system a threat to their national survival, after years of experimenting with it.
It would indeed be difficult to find many countries with a multiparty system in which the government in power enjoys even numerical majority. A wide range of coalitions and majorities made possible through the indifference of millions of voters appears to be the rule. At the same time, many people who could make major contributions to their country's material and moral development are automatically excluded from the decision making process because of the so-called "democratic process of selection."
There are people who have been asking, in all sincerity, how could people with different political views belong to a single party. But we need go no further than the United States to answer that. Am I not right in thinking that Professor Galbraith and Governor Wallace both belong to the same party?
The Iran Resurgence Party is not an exclusive organization designed to set one section of the society against others. Apart from its three basic principles, it does not demand any kind of intellectual conformity. On the contrary, by eliminating artificia party barriers, it opens the way to the full and active participation of the entire nation in all stages of decision making. Our party's three basic principles are not products of a few ideologues or political prophets. Monarchy has been the focal point of Iranian unity through 25 centuries. It provides the basis of our nation's political life, and has always been accepted and revered by our people, despite the traumatic experience of many centuries.
The Iranian constitution, the second basic principle in the charter of the Iran Resurgence Party, was achieved by generations of struggle. Our forefathers voted for it with their lives. In its cefense rose not only Iran's literate and enlightened urban groups, but also poor serfs from the deepest recesses of our old society and nomadic tribes that were hardly integrated in the country's political and economic system in the early 2Oth century. It was the first constitution to be won by the masses in an Asian country, and it was won through a revolution that embraced the whole of the nation, with the exception of a few small cliques backed by the imperialist forces of the day.
The Shah and People's Revolution, whose charter was ratified by the overwhelming majority of Iranians in a national referendum, provides the nation with a vital force for progress and regeneration. The charter of the revolution safeguards the interests of all sections of the society, thus unifying them in defense of interests that go beyond parochial limitations to assume national dimensions. Protecting the just interests of farmers, for example, becomes as important a goal to an urban intellectual as it is to the many millions of men and women working the land. The Iranian revolution, by rejecting the notion that sectoral interests are necessarily in conflict with each other, succeeds in turning them all into national interests.
Beyond these three principles, which I hope I have shown to be qualitatively different from traditional "credos" imposed by minorities on whole nations in so many countries, the Iran Resurgence Party not only provides for, but strongly demands, variety and versatility within a comprehensive system of dialogue, debate and, even, dissent. The aim is man, his dignity, happin~ss and prosperity; the means could be as diverse as men are capable of conceiving them.
More than 800 years ago, the great Iranian philosopher and saint Abu Sa'id spoke of "looking in the same direction without looking alike" as the system of thought coming most naturally to Iranians. The fact that the very word "class" did not have a Persian equivalent until one was borrowed from the Arabic demonstrates the fact that the Iranian people never allowed themselves to be regimented in social groups, locked in internecine feuds of an economic-ideological nature. Even at times of great stress in our history, when divisive forces were strong, the Iranian people were constantly able to maintain their national unity, thanks to their ability to transcend factional conflicts. Thus the borrowed model I referred to proved unable to strike roots here, essentially because it worked toward uniformity while ignoring unity.
I have attempted briefly to review the natural, technological, economic and political factors which, I believe, will play key roles in shaping our future society. We have achieved our revolution on the basis of our traditions and not against them. This, I believe, shall continue to chart our path to the Great Civilization. The Shahanshah has said: "The best way for me to describe the soul and the philosophy of our revolution is to stress the fact that it is not an imported commodity but a purely Iranian movement completely adapted to our traditions. It would have been undignified on the part of a country, which, during millennia, had so much enriched thought, philosophy and logic, to borrow ideas emanating from foreign quarters."
By remaining Iranian we do not only preserve our cultural identity, of which we are justly proud, but will, I believe. also contribute to world peace and international concord. Whenever the world was dominated by but a few 'ways of life," with only a few options open to all nations, conflict and war became inevitable. Worlo peace and international economic and cultural development are conditional on the achievement and maintenance of full freedom of choice for all nations. Attempts at imposing certain ways of life and certain options on any nation, whether through direct war or via cultural invasion and economic pressure, constitute direct threats to world peace and understanding. If we are all going to live in peace and benefit from sharing each other's experiences, if we are to meet together the great challenges of the third millennium, we ought not only to accept but also to endorse and support each and every nation's freedom to shape its own destiny. It would be a dull and dangerous word without an Iranian way of life, an American way of life, a Vietnamese way of life, a Peruvian way of life and so on. Cultural and technological imperialism could be as dangerous as economic and political imperialism proved to be in the 19th century. The sharing of experiences, exchanges of views, debate and dialogue and the comparing of notes on an international scale ought to proceed on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Iran, because of its historic role, its geographic location and its diverse cultural contacts, is in a privileged position for advocating cultural and political diversity within a framework of international unity and solidarity. We mean to assume our responsibilities in this domain with greater vigor and dedication. Certainly, we do not presume to teach the world how to overcome its problems and how to utilize its resources for the betterment af the human condition. But we are fully prepared to play our part in the common quest for future peace and prosperity. In this respect, I am certain that the association between your organization and our country coulo prove beneficial to mankind as a whole. The very name of your Institute, the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. gives you all an essential, perhaps even a vital, role in encouraging and fostering the kind of inquiry the contemporary world requires, if we are all to progress in freedom ano peace.Back to Aspen Back to Index