American Imperialism and the ‘war in Iran’

US presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton recently threatened an attack upon the Islamic Republic of Iran. As if instinctive human morals weren’t enough to dissuade her, it also seems that the Democratic candidate has learnt nothing of the controversies this kind of behaviour has sparked in the past, and she listed several reasons as to why she believes the invasion would be a justified one.

The invasion of Iran can only be described as US imperialism, something condemned not only by the socialist movement, but many people from across the political spectrum, and this action will likely be criticised not only internationally, by many in the United States as well. So, we have a smaller, largely impoverished country at the mercy of a larger capitalist giant, militarily threatening Iran for its own interests in the region. This is just the situation that unfolded in Vietnam and Iraq, and in neither example did it end well.

Yet to develop a better understanding of the situation, it’s important also to view Iran with the same critical slant. This is a country that operates as a reactionary theocracy, that employs an extremely backward and restrictive set of laws, and that doesn’t think it’s ridiculous to legally ban owning a dog, or, in certain universities, wearing bright clothes. This means that, in this case, we have an imperialist, capitalist power invading a reactionary, repressive state. Neither country occupies the moral high ground, and neither regime, in an ideal world, would receive my support.

I recently read an article called ‘Iran and the Chauvinism of American Media’, about reactions among the American public to Iran’s detaining of two US ships which entered its territorial waters, and the respective political situations (especially the media) in both countries. The article was posted on, a far-left political blog similar to this one, and whilst I agree with its gist, I did feel that it expressed a tendency which I’d criticise: as part of a critique of US imperialism, it was as though they took to defending Iran. Not just the Iranian people, the victims of imperialism, but the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you’re endgame is communism, I think this kind of attitude is unproductive…

It is important to remember that, by Marxist logic, the revolutionary state (or, for that matter, the revolutionary) holds at heart the duty to spread the revolution worldwide. Thus, any country which falls short of the communist criteria is effectively an enemy, and should be allied with only as a means to an end. To support these states, therefore, betrays this central tenant.

Yet, in writing this, I am certainly not condoning the atrocities committed by American imperialism, and do not want to underplay their role in this scenario. As the previously-mentioned article reads, America ‘occupied two countries on opposite sides of Iran for more than a decade, extracting oil and other resources’ and imposed ‘imperialist economic sanctions since 1979’. It is obvious that these actions cannot be ignored, but to give active support to a reactionary administration should by no means be viewed as a desirable move.

This is why, when I say that in this potential situation I would defend Iran, it is purely because this way, I’m acting against a greater evil (Americah, or the ‘Great Satan’, as Ayatollah Khomeini called it). It is important not to call into the trap of sympathy, sympathy in this case meaning sympathy towards the state, rather than just those living there. To defend a nation such as Iran for any reason beyond tactical expediency is to turn your back upon the international revolution for the politics of petty centre-leftist internationalism.

Perpetuating the Cycle of Violence 

The recent terror attacks in Paris have spurred much debate on terrorism, with many taking the view that action needs to be taken if we’re to prevent anything like this from happening again. French President Hollande himself declared war on Islamic State, announcing plans to intensify airstrikes in the region, and he’s not alone; British Prime Minister David Cameron also proposed British intervention in the area, and talk is now underway of an international coalition to fight ISIS militants. Yet how effective are these measures actually going to be?

It’s worth remembering that Islamic State, whilst taking responsibility for these atrocities, announced that they were carried out in retaliation for France’s recent actions in the Middle East. Thus, it seems bizarre that the country is choosing to respond to a disasterby committing more of the same actions that inspired this disaster in the first place, especially since, as we are surely beginning to realise by now, they don’t work.

The western powers have organised countless attacks in this part of the world, destroying many innocent lives and communities in the name of stamping out terrorism, and, through the continuation of western social imperialism, have achieved nothing, for Islamic fundamentalism is just as pressing an issue as ever. In fact, I think we can say that imperialism shares a large portion of the blame for the existence of these organisations in the first place; according to Pelp and Feldman’s research*, 95% of suicide attacks are the result of foreign occupation. Given this unsurprising trend, showing that aggressive military action in ones country will likely turn its citizens against yours, we can see that an increase in French airstrikes will only contribute to the already existing cycle of violence.

Yet whilst I’m surprised at their inability to see sense, I’m not surprised at the eagerness of France to resort to such violence, for this was the country that only recently helped to destroy the state of Libya, contributed to the violence in Mali, and, prior to the Paris attacks, backed US intervention in Syria and Lebanon. During these campaigns, alongside the many others carried out by the American-aligned nations, many atrocities occurred and many found themselves alienated from the western world, fuelling the bloodshed that took place last week in the French capital.

To wade deeper into the Syrian conflict, as Hollande has promised to do, shall only add fuel to the fire.


Capitalism’s Evolutionary Phases

I’ll start by saying that this entry may be quite dense. The purpose of writing it is to explain and convey an understanding I’ve developed of how capitalism has adapted to survive over the years, a question I’ve been considering for a while now. I suppose you could call the ideas proposed here a theory, (if I was to name it, I’d call it the Theory of Three Ages), and that’s all it’ll be for the moment; any advancement of this idea will only follow a lot of research on my part. 

But, given that this is me explaining my ideas so far, I’ll hopefully give you a good description of these three ages, and of how I believe exploitation has evolved over time. To do this, however, everyone needs to know what we’re dealing with, so I’ll start by asking you the following question:

What is capitalism?

It’s often seen as the embodiment of free trade and economic liberties as opposed to state control. Because of the challenge communism presented in the twentieth century, it would also be easy to cite capitalism as simply one of two political and economic currents in the world, and, after various failures in the communist countries, it’s far too often associated with freedom and harmony. Predictably, I’m going to tell you that this is wrong: it’s the single most sly, destructive, exploitive concept that has dominated the world throughout modern history. 

So here’s a Marxist appraisal of our great nemesis.

The European Age 

In terms of where it all began, capitalism arose roughly three centuries ago, taking its first breath in Italy. I wrote a more detailed entry on its origins a few months ago, but I’ll cover the basics here. The system that takes precedence over all inhabitable continents is a relatively recent one; it developed in Europe, perhaps the most socially advanced corner of the Earth at that point, out of the decaying feudal system that formerly retained supremacy. Yet unlike feudalism, capitalism existed to provide industrial (as opposed to agricultural) production, and with its rise, the focus of the economy was no longer upon the farms, but the factories.

The European countries soon grew in power and influence, and rose to colonise great swathes of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, allowing them to exploit imperialistically. Imperialism has crept its way into history throughout mankind’s many different epochs, and it has always been a tendency of the strongest individuals to dominate the weak, yet this can be viewed as the rise of capitalist imperialism. The new European empires sought to utilise the people and the resources of the colonised nations for capitalistic purposes, and thus expanded their field of economic influence to the far corners of the Earth.

These powers were thus able to sustain dominance, by widening their field of exploitation beyond national limits, yet it couldn’t continue forever. You could perhaps think of this period as the climax of capitalism, at which point exploitation had advanced humanity greatly, yet had reached a critical level and was growing ever harder to maintain. Even after the establishment of a vast imperial network, the ruling elites of Britain, France or Germany were struggling to control those whose labour they relied upon. The system was, quite literally, falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions.

The American Age

Three significant changes took place in the world throughout the twentieth century. Firstly, the rise in power and influence of another giant, the United States, changed the international dynamic of the capitalist world. Secondly, economic changes allowed exploitation to take place to a less severe extent in the western countries, allowing many concessions to be made to the working population, and causing the working class to actually decline. Finally, the rise of Bolshevism threatened to end capitalism altogether. 

These changes may not seem as though they’d benefit capitalism, but, with the economic system on the very verge of collapse, they perhaps managed to save it. 

One reason why this happened was  the fact that the western countries found a common enemy in Soviet Russia and, later, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba and communist Indochina; they were forced to unite against them. This can be seen most clearly in the Cold War, yet was also present prior to 1945. It demonstrates the development of a capitalist ideology, through the willingness of these nations to fight for motives like democracy and human rights (it is, in a Marxist sense, the tendency of capitalism to allow for greater political freedom) under the new guidance of the United States. It was then a question of whether or not the western proletariat would side with the communist world, or the world run by their employers, and this sense of ideological unity helped allow for the latter. Tales of failures, inefficiencies and abuses in the socialist countries helped strengthen this ideology, and helped keep the workers from revolting, temporarily keeping them occupied and holding capitalism in place for longer.

Yet whilst ideological control helped distract many, the economic contradictions in the capitalist system were still such that it could not continue, and immediate reorganisation of the economy was needed if it were to do so. Economic variation took place in the form of de-industrialisation, causing the working class to shrink in size, and the outsourcing of industry to other parts of the world. This gave rise to a new form of international domination, where brands and corporations, as opposed to armies and governments, became responsible for the unofficial and shadowy exploitation of the third world. Imperialism in the traditional sense, the official establishment of foreign authority in the region, was on the decline, again very much in tune with the tendency of capitalist society to progress in the direction of liberty and freedom, yet a new form of imperialism was developing. It was purely economic, and dodged the need for a military invasion and the controversy that such invasion causes, and yet it was more effective, and could allow the western proletariat to both decline and grow in affluence. They would thus lose their revolutionary character, and so capitalism was kept alive in the developed world. 

Thus an interesting dynamic fell into place, where the capitalist world, led by the United States, relied upon the undeveloped regions for economic purposes, and the communist world, led by the Soviet Union, wished to bring an end to such western domination. This gave way to third-world Marxism, a tendency in communist thought influenced largely by Mao’s teachings, which retains popularity today. It may also be no coincidence that, outside the communist bloc, all the new revolutions occurred in undeveloped areas of the planet. 

The International Age

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the communist empire fragmented and the majority of socialist states gave way to a shifting political climate, allowing capitalism to expand across Eurasia, consuming Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. This led to further changes in the international dynamic, and paved the way for a future in which America may not be the leading capitalist power. As some of the still-officially-communist countries resorted to capitalism, the rise of China presented a further challenge to the United States.

At the same time, the third world, which the capitalist world had become increasingly reliant upon, was developing at an astonishing rate. India, Brazil and Indonesia, whilst locked in the depths of poverty, all have the potential to become superpowers, which suggests that soon our imperial ventures in these parts of the world may no longer be tolerated. If this is to be the case, and even if not (as no format of capitalism can continue indefinitely) the capitalist world shall do what it has done for decades, and scour the Earth for pockets of resources and workers to exploit. New pockets of exploitation have already opened up, in countries like Russia, the perfect example of economic polarisation, and more will likely appear as further geopolitical changes take place.

This, it seems, is the kind of capitalism we’ve adopted. In the European Age, exploitation took place within the confines of individual countries, with certain countries exercising capitalistic rule over others. In the American Age, the division between the exploited and the exploiters began to take on national characteristics, yet now, in the age of international economics, such divisions exceed these boundaries and exist irrespective of states and countries.

Revolution, whenever and wherever it occurs, must take place on an international level to compete with this system. While famously sparse on the practicalities of revolution, Karl Marx did remark that, whilst the differences between nations and nationalities are vanishing in capitalistic society, ‘the supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster’. 

Today, as capitalism grows increasingly globalised, this couldn’t be more relevant. 


The image depicting the Statue of Liberty was provided by Giorgio Martini from Wikimedia Commons, and was licenced under the following (though a newer licence is available):

The image depicting the Shanghai skyline was provided by J. Patrick Fischer from Wikimedia Commons, and was licenced under the following:



On Patriotism

As I write, patriotic thought is on the rise.

From the nationalist, anti-US current developing in Russia to the successes of far-right parties across the UK with the increase in foreign immigration, the country one belongs to surfaces more and more amongst other political issues. The reason behind this is probably due to a variety of factors, perhaps as a reaction against the political and economic unions of today, such as the EU, or in the form of national self-determination, opposing the rule of other nations, such as in Scotland or Kashmir. It would thus seem difficult to make assumptions or generalisations for such a vague and simple manner of political thought, though there is an underlying definition to be understood.

If you simply type in the word ‘patriotism’, here’s what Google will give you:




  1. the quality of being patriotic; vigorous support for one’s country.

“a highly decorated officer of unquestionable integrity and patriotism”

In the entry ‘Nationalism, Imperialism, and Communism’ I made clear my hatred for nationalism. Today, against the backdrop of increasingly-patriotic world, I’ll take that one step further and explain why I believe patriotic thought, even in casual circumstances, is unhealthy, damaging, and also completely irrational.

Take Russia for an example, a country in which ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ is actually able to translate itself into ‘hatred of another’. Is this not proof that patriotism is a corrupting manner of thought; one that is able to completely distort perceptions of the world? It would even be possible for any leader could cultivate such a force, using it to brainwash their population and justify inhumane actions ‘for the glory of the motherland’. Patriotism, capable of arising in any country under any regime, can serve to counteract the process of fair, logical decision-making, when an individual will side with their country no matter what. Even ‘weaker’ patriots, happy to draw limits on their support for the nation, fall into the same trap: if you belong to a country, if you believe in that country, then imagine how readily biased you’d be in the need to choose a side.

This can be clearly seen in the example of the Vietnam War, in which many atrocities, violations of international treaties, and inhumane acts of violence were committed by the United States in the invasion of an innocent country thousands of miles offshore. This war in particular suffered a great deal of internal opposition, yet a proportion of society managed to be persuaded, and that was enough. If these people were born without a nationality, without any reason to side with the U.S. government, I’m certain that fewer would chose to do so. Thus, many that could prevent authorities from committing such atrocities do not, merely because they blindly support the country of their birth, for no real reason whatsoever.

Yet this isn’t even the worst of it; to develop a true understanding of this idea, I believe it’s necessary to consult history, and what does this tell us?

Well, as you might have expected, it’s not good news…

The twentieth century saw the establishment of patriotism in its most extreme format, with the global rise of fascism. A fascist regime is an example of patriotism taken to the furthest extent possible, with nationalistic thought not only embedded in the regime, but existing as the basis upon which the government, the military and the economy all stand. The ideas that motivated Hitler, Mussolini or Franco were not only patriotic in nature, but they placed the idea of national glory where the communists of the day placed the achievement of a classless society. In other words, they valued their nation more than anything.


To reach conclusions, however, we must look at the regimes from which these movements arose, for a trend between fascist nations such as the Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy or imperial Japan is clearly visable: each one of them quite simply formed out of a miserable society. This could be due to a disaster, such as the horrific earthquake experienced by Japan in the 1920’s, which has been thought to have sparked the rise of Japanese imperialism, or just a general want for change, such as that in post-1918 Germany. Either way (doubtless, there are also many other ways), we can see a trend developing here. Nationalism, like a political tumour, has a tendancy to arise out of chaos. It ties the people of a nation together using an already-existing middle ground, and gives them something to believe in when nothing else will. It isn’t surprising then, that Germany and Italy (two nations where nationalism burned as brightly as ever) were countries in which a revolution was most expected. Instead of staging one, however, the people resorted to an easier form of change, looking to nationalism as a ‘cheap’ alternative.

Whilst these three countries are obviously extreme examples, it says a great deal on patriotism in general. The idea develops as a creed the populace will turn to when they have nothing left to believe in, so they chose to place their faith in the most simple idea available, this being their own country. It has the potential to curb real political change and distracts the population from the truth of the matter, despite how appaling such truth may be. Just look at the military, who often endure horrific conditions whilst living in fear of their lives, and desperately need something to believe in, something to fight for, something which enables them to keep pushing on. It’s thus no surprise that patriotism is not only rife among the fighting forces but is implemented artifically by those in command.

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I think I’ve made my point clear as to why such thought is far from healthy and should be considered dangerous, but I’d like to finish by pointing out the true nature of the idea, and why this is relevant in discussing the concept.

What does it mean to be a patriot?

For the simple definition of the term, the one given above is adequate, yet what a ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ actually consists of is an entirely different matter.

I’d consider it vital to understand that ‘one’s country’ consists of no more than several hundred square kilometres inside an artificially-drawn borderline, somewhere in which they live their life. It may sound like a romantic idea, yet the actuality is plainly ridiculous, despite how many continue to cling to it.

On that note, coming back to the UK, several informative leaflets on the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP) recently came through my door in the run-up to the General Election. Reading through what the party had to say, I noticed that the slogan ‘Believe in Britain’ was used (well, in fact it was proudly displayed in capitals).

‘Why?’ I found myself asking. ‘What is there to believe in about Britain? In itself, the United Kingdom is merely a relatively small nation-state off the North-western coast of Europe. Within this country there are many greats, yet there are also many wrongdoers, and I’m not too sure what makes the general spread of the population so special. Perhaps you should tell me to ‘Believe in UKIP’, but what is there to glorify about one country out of hundreds, which just so happens to be the one in which I live and which you intend to govern?’

It certainly seems odd. Surely we’re too intelligent a being to devote ourselves entirely to an area of land, simply because it was one we grew up on, or live in today.

Sadly though, this just isn’t true.

The image depicting an individual playing a brass instrument was provided by Wikimedia Commons, on which it was uploaded by the German Federal Archives under the following licence:

Imperialism, Isolationism and Communism

The way I see it, all communist states, (and in fact, all communists) embrace elements of one of the following ideas: isolation or imperialism. Which one exactly depends on the conditions of the state or the individual concerned, yet both can be exemplified, which seems odd, as both are similarly unpopular ideas among the communist movement.

National isolation is an idea which communism has grown to frown upon for multiple reasons. Such a rule cannot be applied to every situation, yet in general, the separation of one portion of the proletariat through the artificial division of states can be seen in contrast to class struggle, especially since Marx himself believed the nation-state was a bourgeois creation. In the Communist Manifesto, it is written that ‘National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto. The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster.’

Equally, communism rejects imperialism – the practice of constructing an empire – probably more profoundly so. This can be seen most clearly from a Maoist (Third-Worldist) perspective, known for its fierce opposition to the exploitation of the third world by nations of the first, perhaps even more so than to labour exploitation in general. Even outside of Maoism, one would struggle to identify an openly imperialist advocate of Marxism. Long before Mao’s theories gained significance, Vladimir Lenin referred to imperialism as the ‘Highest phase of capitalism’, probably eliminating all prospects of its official establishment among the communist world.

The prospect is simple: both ideas appear counter-revolutionary in the field of Marxism. Yet, if you examine the communist and formerly-communist world, it appears that every state will have fallen into one of these traps…

The reason for this is as follows: I believe that the following two theories have split communism down the middle more drastically than any others: world socialism, and Socialism in One Country. This division has it’s roots back in the Bolshevik power struggle of the 1920s, in which Trotsky, an outspoken internationalist, talked of spreading the revolution whilst Stalin spoke of cultivating Russian communism independent of the outside world. It appears that Stalin’s ideas proved far more influential, for the majority of socialist states seem to have followed the path of building socialism independently. Thus, as independent communist states in a capitalist world, they took on an increasingly isolationist approach, setting themselves apart from their neighbours. Often, this lead to the rise of heavily nationalistic views within the regime, as has been the case in various communist states across east Asia.


By contrast, the communist world has also embraced ideas of world socialism, which can be seen again in the example of the USSR (prior to Stalin’s leadership) which existed not as one nation, but a network of states bound together by the common leadership of Moscow. Critiques of such a system highlight the fact that this was achieved by the repression of what have become known as the Russian ‘satellite states’, reducing them to mere provinces in the power block and thus robbing them of the national identity they once possessed. This has been criticised as an imperialist idea, for obvious reasons, allowing countries like the early Soviet Union to acquire negative connotations. So there you have it, on one end of the spectrum you have Lenin’s Soviet Union, and on the other, North Korea. As a communist country is, by nature, an enemy of the international capitalist world, a revolutionary state has two choices: they can fight capitalism, or they can hide from capitalism. Either way, it involves going to one of two extremes, for (not including the westernised and, let’s be honest, post-communist nations like China) they can’t just simply exist, but either extreme entails an ugly scenario.