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.

On Trotskyism

What is Trotskyism?

Unlike specific doctrines or philosophies such as Leninism, or perhaps Marxism in general, Trotskyism has no one definition – it is simply a collection of the ideas and theories put forward by Leon Trotsky. However, whilst perhaps not as easy to summarise as the ideas of Marx and Lenin, they are by no means insignificant, for Trotsky’s followers founded one of the two key movements which worked to redefine twentieth-century communism; alongside the Stalinist interpretation of Soviet-style Marxism (which later developed into Marxism-Leninism) Trotskyism split communism in two, forcing Marxists everywhere to take sides.

To give you an idea of what exactly it calls for, here is a brief summary of the ideas and theories it entails:

  • A strong adherence to the international revolutionary movement, which fuels the theory of Permanent Revolution (a theoretical argument that states revolution can take place in backward, agrarian countries such as Russia, so as long as there is a simultaneous international revolution to strengthen it)
  • An encouragement for the involvement of workers in the state system, and the criticism of ‘Stalinist’ regimes for their excessively bureaucratic and authoritarian interpretation of communism
  • A general critical attitude towards Stalin’s Russia and the Soviet Union after 1924, due to its betrayal of both the aforementioned values

Recently, I decided that I, myself am a Trotskyist, this being the inspiration for today’s post. For a long while I’d thought of myself as somewhere to the left of Marxism-Leninism, so I was looking closely at tendencies such as left communism, ultra-leftism and Trotskyism to try and determine which category I fell into, at which point I decided that my views represented Trotsky’s ideas more closely than anybody else’s. Given that I’ve written several paragraphs on the such ideas, you may wonder why exactly I’ve chosen to do this, or what relevance they have today that would make writing about them worthwhile. I’ll answer this in a short while – first, I think it’s important to understand them from a historical perspective, allowing us to comprehend their development in society.

Below is an excerpt from the document ‘For Trotskyism!’ which can be found on the homepage of the International Bolshevik Tendency, a modern-day Trotskyist organisation, where the movement is described…

It was verified in a positive sense in the October Revolution in 1917, the greatest event in modern history, and generally negatively since. After the bureaucratic strangulation of the Bolshevik Party and the Comintern by the Stalinists, the tradition of Leninism – the practice and program of the Russian Revolution – was carried forward by the Left Opposition and by it alone.’

This says it all: Trotskyism has a bad name. Ever since such ‘strangulation’ the idea had developed taboo connotations, even becoming an insult among communists. As a result, the number of Trotskyist movements is relatively small, and was probably even smaller in the days of the USSR. Following his departure from Soviet politics, Trotsky was the great outcast, the traitor, the enemy of the Soviet regime, and any of his followers were inevitably handed the same label.

Not surprisingly, then, no socialist states have arisen in accordance with Trotsky’s views or theories, and the few who adhere to such have been forced to get their word across through whatever tactics are available, such as electoral participation or entryism (a good example of the latter being Militant, a Trotskyist organisation in Britain working within the Labour Party throughout the 1970s and 80s). In other words, it would appear that Trotskyism, for the most part, died with Leon Trotsky.


The organisation’s logo

So, coming back to the question of relevance, it may seem to be the case that these theories, written over seventy years ago and only partially developed since, are far from relevant; one might be inclined to take the view that it was an ideology rooted out of the communist movement long ago, which has since been rejected worldwide, and even today is still on the side-lines of leftist politics. After all, Stalinism aside, who’s to say that there wasn’t a rationale behind Trotskyism’s rejection?

I, however, would disagree, and would take the view that time has actually helped prove Trotsky correct,  an example of this being the fact that his ideas are centred on a criticism of the Soviet system (or rather the Soviet system as Stalin had modelled it) and thus they deserve at least some credit, purely due to the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed. I’d see it like this: Socialism in One Country, the policy which, originally adopted under Stalin, influenced the country henceforth, halted efforts to spread the revolution beyond national boundaries. Thus the USSR, like its European satellite states, was left with no option but to try and cultivate socialism from within, which led to stagnation, corruption, and ultimately, failure. I believe that this is proof, or at least hard evidence, that Socialism in One Country is impossible, thus making Trotsky’s argument especially perceptive.

Obviously, I don’t mean to argue that Trotsky’s word was entirely unfalsified – that would be counter-scientific and thus contrary to the spirit of Marxism –, and he did create work that was also proven inaccurate, but I do believe that his ideas and his contributions to Marxist philosophy are worthy of recognition, and, what’s more, worthy of consideration today. In a world with no Soviet Union, after the fall of Stalinist communism, today’s Marxists definitely need to start searching for alternative solutions.

I’d say it’s about time, nearly a century after they were first discarded, to rediscover these theories left on history’s mantelpiece.