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.


Cuba: the World’s Last Attempt at Socialism

When the current thaw in U.S./Cuban relations made the news, it became clear that there were two sides to this debate. While many wanted to lift the embargo against the Cuban people, others undoubtedly wanted to starve the country’s autocratic regime. I opposed these sanctions, but for an entirely different reason: I wanted to preserve what may be the world’s last honest attempt at socialism.

On the opposite side of the globe, the Vietnamese Communist Party maintains firm leadership, yet what has truly become of Vietnam? A country, this is, where Coca-Cola is bought and sold as a consumer product – but it’s not alone. The changes which such a country has seen are comparable to those which have taken place in the People’s Republic of China, as within both China and Vietnam is a system driven and animated by force which seems to lie somewhere between communist pride and nationalism, and perhaps some petty statement of reaching ‘true socialism’ through the market economies they have constructed for themselves in socialism’s name. Given this is the world which the two nations have slipped into, will the current economic reforms concerning America’s embargo against Cuba have the same consequences?

Buildings in Shanghai

All I can say is that, given we’re awfully short of communist states, I hope not.

This will be a sensitive situation for many who lived under the repressive regime at the height of the Cold War, or even today, in a country where citizens have risked their lives to try and reach Florida, ninety miles away. The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 15, 000 and 17, 000 were killed under the regime, and (whatever the actual number) it’s hard to imagine many friends, relatives, or sympathisers of these victims supporting Barrack Obama’s decision to open the door to Cuba; I imagine they’d rather the United States continued to show no mercy and no remorse to the regime of what the Lawton Foundation of Human Rights called an ‘enslaved island’.

I’ll accept that, but despite all this, I still believe that socialism should be given a chance. Not an illusion of socialism, but a full-blooded attempt. If, as a result of welcoming the United States, Cuba substitutes its own attempt with an illusion, as has been the case with both China and Vietnam, which nations will remain to keep the red flag flying? Even if one took Marxist Economic Determinism – the theory of the proletariat inevitably leading the world to communism due to their own exploitation – for granted; even if one maintained the belief that communism is the final and inevitable truth, surely they’d accept that the sooner a nation such as Cuba may arrive at that truth, the sooner the same shall occur on a worldwide scale. If Cuba’s attempt, which may well be the last attempt remaining, is thwarted by these reforms, this cannot happen.

I also want to talk about not just what Cuba is capable of achieving, but what it has already achieved. When discussing communism with somebody opposed to the idea, they did remark that Cuba may be the only place where socialism has actually been partly successful. It is a country with free education, and not only free healthcare, but a healthcare system recognised internationally for its brilliance. According to the news source Al Jazeera, the infant mortality rate in the country is one of the lowest in the world, slightly lower than that of the United States, and life expectancy is over 77 years, (among the world’s highest).

View of Car in Havana

Now Al Jazeera also states that the system which exists in Cuba is on the decline, but if this is what the country have constructed from autocracy, and political repression, imagine what the socialist regime, if truly developed, could construct. Just because it is not at such a point currently does not mean that this shall continue to be the case, and it definitely deserves a chance. Thus, when the end product is the possibility of achieving true socialism, alongside the end of capitalist class-based oppression sooner, the current existence of the autocratic Cuban state can be justified in communism’s name.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that simply because the United States is no longer pretending Cuba doesn’t exist does not mean liberty will prosper. Whether or not you’d be prepared to support autocratic socialism is really irrelevant, because, whilst in one circumstance socialism shall exist and in another it will not, autocracy will remain regardless (at least for the foreseeable future). As Senator Marco Rubio, a Floridian Republican and a child of Cuban immigrants said: “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people”.