Saturday, 4 January 2020

Trump Saves Iran's Mullahs

In the last few months, Iran's ruling mullahs have been under increasing pressure from their people, as the bureaucratic, medievalist economy has increasingly failed, hastened by external sanctions upon it.   The Iranian people, many of whom are young and intelligent, living in cities, have run up against a regime that rests upon a monopoly of violence, and support from a traditionalist, aged population, living mostly in rural areas.  In many ways, Iran is a reflection of the same dichotomy that has put Trump in the Whitehouse, whilst his opponents have moved progressively in a Leftish direction, and that led to Brexit in Britain, at the same time as sending the Labour Party in the most left-wing direction it has done in more than half a century.

Whether the sustained protests against the Iranian regime would have led to its downfall, or whether, as in 2009, they would eventually be beaten down and subside is impossible to say.  As with Brexit, the fact that its supporters are aged and dying out, whilst its opponents are young and becoming more numerous by the day, leads inevitably to the conclusion that its not sustainable for long.  However, for now, we will never know, because Trump's action in murdering Iranian general, Qasem Suleiman, has saved the Iranian regime.  At a stroke, the tens of thousands of Iranians that were marching demanding the downfall of the regime are now instead marching demanding "Death To America"

Trotsky discussed a similar situation in the 1930's.

"The democracies of the Versailles Entente helped the victory of Hitler by their vile oppression of defeated Germany. Now the lackeys of democratic imperialism of the Second and Third Internationals are helping with all their might the further strengthening of Hitler’s regime. Really, what would a military bloc of imperialist democracies against Hitler mean? A new edition of the Versailles chains, even more heavy, bloody and intolerable. Naturally, not a single German worker wants this. To throw off Hitler by revolution is one thing; to strangle Germany by an imperialist war is quite another. The howling of the “pacifist” jackals of democratic imperialism is therefore the best accompaniment to Hitler’s speeches. “You see,” he says to the German people, “even socialists and Communists of all enemy countries support their army and their diplomacy; if you will not rally around me, your leader, you are threatened with doom!” Stalin, the lackey of democratic imperialism, and all the lackeys of Stalin – Jouhaux, Toledano, and Company – are the best aides in deceiving, lulling, and intimidating the German workers."

(Phrases and Reality, in Writings 1938-9, p 21)

And, the same is true in relation to Iran.  The almost perpetual sanctions imposed on Iran, by the US, and its lackeys, did not really damage the interests of the ruling mullahs, but they did impact the ordinary Iranian worker and peasant who found that they were unemployed, or that they could not get required medicines, and that the prices of the goods they required were hugely inflated.  For all those workers, the actions of the US and its backers was necessarily seen as an act of war against them, an act to try to oppress and dominate their entire economy.  No matter how much they might hate their own vile regime, it meant, as in the case of the German workers, in the 1930's, that they were pushed in the direction of seeing the main enemy as being the US, and the external enemies of that regime.

As Trotsky also wrote,

"The struggle against fascism demands above all the expulsion of the agents of “democratic” imperialism from the ranks of the working class. Only the revolutionary proletariat of France, Great Britain, America, and the USSR, declaring a life and death struggle against their own imperialism and its agency, the Moscow bureaucracy, is capable of arousing revolutionary hopes in the hearts of the German and Italian workers, and at the same time of rallying around itself hundreds of millions of slaves and semi slaves of imperialism in the entire world. In order to guarantee peace among peoples we must overthrow imperialism under all its masks. Only the proletarian revolution can accomplish this."


And the same is true today in relation to Iran.  Freedom for the Iranian people from the tyranny of the mullahs cannot be won by US imperialism.  A look at the experience of Iraq since 2003, or of Libya since 2011, and of Syria shows that point.  Proponents of Third Campism sometimes refer to the experience of postwar Germany and Japan as a contrary example, but it is a false example.  Both Germany and Japan, prior to the war, were themselves developed imperialist states.  That both had Bonapartist regimes prior to the war is irrelevant.  Bonapartism, dictatorship, as much as bourgeois democracy, are simply different forms of bourgeois political rule, the social dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

As Trotsky put it,

"The conclusion is that it is impossible to fight against fascism without fighting against imperialism. The colonial and semi-colonial countries must fight first of all against that imperialist country which directly oppresses them, irrespective of whether it bears the mask of fascism or democracy."

(ibid, p 27)

Germany, like France had industrialised on the basis of Bonapartism, in the 19th century.  Both, having done so, were able to progress towards bourgeois social-democracy.  Japan likewise industrialised under a form of Bonapartism, but had not made the transition to bourgeois democracy prior to the war.  Germany had fallen back into Bonapartism under Hitler, in the 1930's, because on the one hand, the misleadership of the Communist Party and Comintern, had led to the failure of the German Revolution, whilst the Versailles Treaty imposed crippling constraints on the German economy.  But, there was no material economic reason why either Germany or Japan could not sustain a bourgeois social democracy.  What is more, as Lenin says, in State and Revolution, such a political regime of bourgeois democracy is the favoured method of rule of the bourgeoisie.  It only gives it up, in favour of some form of Bonapartism, as a last resort.

The reality, in both Germany and Japan, is that these were societies that could both support bourgeois social-democracy as the most favoured form of political rule, the favoured mask of the bourgeoisie, except for the potential for the working-class of those countries demanding to go beyond it.  What imperialist occupation and domination of both Germany and Japan was about, after the war, as with the continued occupation of Italy, of Greece and so on, was not any humanitarian desire for democracy for the benefit of the people, but was pure and simple to ensure that the working-class of those countries did not rise up and overthrow capitalism itself, in the same way that such revolutions had followed World War 1!

The occupation of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, and the Balkans by the USSR had the same intent.  The last thing the Stalinists desired was that the workers in Germany, Poland, Czeckoslovakia, Hungary or in Yugoslavia would rise up to overthrow capitalism, and create workers states, because that could easily have contagion into the USSR itself.  Indeed, when, ten years after the war, the workers in Hungary, and then in Poland, Czeckoslovakia etc., did begin to rise up, the USSR sent in tanks to suppress them.  The USSR occupied Eastern Europe, and would have occupied the Balkans had not Tito opposed them, in order to ensure that it could control them, in the same way that the US, French and British occupation of Germany, Japan, Italy and Greece was intended to keep the workers of those countries suppressed.  As Orwell portrays, in Animal Farm, the pigs of the USSR, France, Britain and the US, sat down together at Potsdam and Yalta to agree this modus vivendi between them, to carve up the world into their own respective spheres of influence.

In Germany, the West had no moral qualms about ensuring that Nazis continued to occupy leading roles in society as judges, industrialists and so on, just as both they and the USSR had no difficulty in recruiting Nazis to head up their respective space and missile programmes.  At the same time, they introduced the Berufsverbhot laws that prevented free speech, and muzzled communists and others on the left.  The role of imperialism in these cases had nothing to do with promoting democracy, and everything to do with ensuring that the working class was suppressed until such time as capitalism was safe from it.

Nor does Trump have any interest in democracy in Iran.  He has no qualms about his relations with the feudal regimes of the Gulf, for example, or for that matter his relations with Putin, Kim and so on.  What Trump's action are really about is, as usual, his own self promotion.  Trump's own position, at home, is under increasing threat, having just become only the third US President to be impeached; his position amongst independent voters is becoming dire, threatening his hopes of re-election; investigations continue into other aspects of his behaviour, which many now think will lead, after he leaves office, to criminal prosecutions.  In typical Bannonite style, Trump has thrown a dead cat on to the table to distract attention from his current political plight.  In doing so, he has saved the Iranian regime.

According to Trump, the Iranian general was imminently to unleash death and destruction on US citizens and troops.  If that is true, then we should expect to see it happen, because any such imminently planned action would go ahead without him.  It would, already, have been passed into the hands of local commanders to execute.  I doubt we will, in fact, see any such action, because its doubtful any such large-scale action was actually planned.  Indeed, despite all of the bluff and bluster from the Iranian mullahs, nor are we likely to see any large-scale response from them to the US action.  The Iranian regime knows that, although it could cause much greater damage to the US than it suffered from the 2003 war in Iraq, when it comes to it, Iran is in no place to defeat, or win, a war against the US.

The Iranian regime will respond in the way it was already doing, via asymmetric responses, and by utilising its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.  Trump, in addition to distracting from his own current political plight, also no doubt thinks that the potential of an external threat, and of talking up war, may act to rally US citizens around the flag, to bolster his own electoral prospects later in the year.  But, that is not likely.  A majority of US voters hate Trump; they are likely to see this action both for what it is, and for yet another example of a moronic President who has no understanding of global politics, and who, by this action, has, if anything, both undermined the US position in the world, and put US interests in jeopardy.

The EU, which is increasingly distancing itself from the US, as its own interests diverge from those of the US, has not backed Trump's actions.  It is likely to put further pressure on EU states to consider their relation to the US and NATO, having already diverged from the US over Trump's withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Treaty.  The EU, particularly its most important member, Germany, has significant interest in maintaining supplies of oil and gas, both from Russia, and from the Middle East, whereas the US has become a net exporter of both oil and gas, as a result of the development of shale.  The US also has access to oil and gas from Venezuela, Mexico, Canada etc.    Trump in pursuing his "America First" strategy, therefore, is necessarily speeding up the divergence of US and EU interests, and the division of them into huge competing geo-strategic as well as politico-economic blocs.

That reality is seen by the Democrats and their supporters.  Trump's opponents in the US are, then, not likely to be won over by his warmongering against Iran, especially given that he is seen as having engaged in it recklessly, and without any kind of plan, much as he does with any of his actions and ventures.  At the same time, Trump's core base is not likely to be impressed by such action.  Trump made a big play of opposing the actions of Bush and Obama of becoming embroiled in global conflicts, particularly in the Middle East.  The Libertarians in the Republican Party pride themselves on their commitment to US isolationism and refusal to get involved in foreign wars.  A lot of those in the rust-belts, who voted for Trump, also did so on the basis of not spending money and US lives in such wars.  Now Trump is on the verge of doing exactly what Bush and Obama did before him.

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