Workers Vanguard No. 944
9 October 2009
No to Imperialist Sanctions!
Down With U.S./Israeli Threats Against Iran!
When Iran reported last month to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was setting up a new nuclear enrichment facility, the Obama administration seized upon that otherwise routine announcement as the pretext for a fresh round of imperialist saber rattling. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened “crippling” sanctions if Iran did not agree to rein in its nuclear program. President Barack Obama, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, virtually parroted former president George Bush’s 2002 “axis of evil” speech, railing that Iran and North Korea “must be held accountable.” This is from the chief executive of the ruling class that brought humanity the atomic incineration of 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the slaughter of millions in counterrevolutionary wars in Korea and Vietnam in the 1950s and ’60s, and countless CIA-sponsored coups and death squad regimes in Latin America and elsewhere—to cite just a few of the crimes of U.S. imperialism.
Meanwhile, the chief of staff of the Israeli military declared that “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran (haaretz.com, 21 September). That is the standard expression used by Israeli and U.S. officials—including by Obama during the presidential election campaign last year—to invoke the threat of a military attack against Iran. This summer, the British Sunday Times (5 July) reported that Saudi Arabia had secretly assured the head of the Mossad, Israel’s CIA, that Riyadh would turn a blind eye if the Israeli air force flew through its airspace in order to attack nuclear installations in Iran. The same day that this article was published, an interview was aired with Vice President Joe Biden declaring that Israel has a “sovereign right” to carry out military strikes against Iran.
We are in no position to judge the likelihood of an impending U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran. The Iranian government says that it does not plan to develop the bomb, and has actually agreed to limited inspections. (Claims that Iraq was flouting such imperialist inspections were used by the U.S. as a pretext to invade that country.) In fact, given the threats by the imperialists, it is perfectly reasonable and necessary for Iran to pursue acquisition of nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack. In today’s world, possession of nukes has increasingly become a necessary means of maintaining national sovereignty.
In the event of military attack against Iran by the U.S. or by Israel—the only nuclear-armed country in the Near East—operating on behalf of the U.S., it would be in the interest of the international proletariat to stand for the military defense of Iran, without giving an iota of political support to the reactionary Tehran regime. Likewise, in the lead-up to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, we stood for the military defense of these countries while maintaining our intransigent political opposition to the reactionary, woman-hating Taliban cutthroats and the bloody capitalist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Every victory for the imperialists encourages more predatory wars; every setback they suffer serves to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed the world over. We demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops and bases from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia!
Obama’s Facelift for U.S. Imperialism
As we have repeatedly pointed out, after eight years of the oddly demented regime of George W. Bush, which reveled in imperialist arrogance and barbarity, Obama is well suited to help refurbish U.S. imperialism’s tarnished image around the world. In that regard, Obama last month scuttled a fantastical (and costly) Bush plan to deploy (unworkable) missile interceptors in Poland—i.e., in Russia’s “backyard”—ostensibly to shoot down (nonexistent) Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
While outwardly talking up the need to engage Iran diplomatically, behind the scenes Obama has expanded Bush’s efforts to stifle the Iranian economy, now seeking to cut off the supply of fuel on which the country depends. In this, Obama is simply carrying out his presidential campaign promise of “putting the squeeze on them.” (Iran, for lack of refinery capacity, relies on gasoline imports for as much as 40 percent of its consumption.)
Iran is subject to three sets of UN sanctions as well as a growing number of U.S. sanctions. As revolutionary Marxists, we oppose any U.S., UN or European economic sanctions against Iran, which are an act of war. Whether the Commander-in-Chief is a Democrat or Republican, wars of conquest and occupation are an integral feature of imperialism, from the Philippines at the dawn of the 20th century to Iraq and Afghanistan today. As Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin explained in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), the pronounced importance of the export of capital is a characteristic of imperialism. The productive forces of capitalism long ago outgrew the confines of the nation-state, with the imperialist powers, each representing its own national interests, engaging in ruthless struggle against each other and their neocolonial victims to redivide markets and spheres of influence, leading to war.
Washington has been largely successful in getting international banks and oil companies to stop financing or working on oil and gas contracts in Iran. This has put in question dozens of Iranian development projects. As Time (30 September) reported:
“Rather than passing laws or attempting to push new sanctions through the U.N. Security Council—where Russia and China could veto them—officials are quietly approaching companies directly, convincing executives that the cost of doing business with Iran has become too high....
“The message seems to be getting across.”
Indeed, one reason Tehran views nuclear power as an important potential source of energy is the debilitating impact of sanctions on its oil and gas fields, which have been starved of the technologies necessary for their upkeep and improvement.
A bill that has overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress would formalize Obama’s policy by legally banning any company involved in the sale of gasoline to Iran from doing business in the U.S. The bill’s chief author, Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that if the bill achieved its purpose, “the Iranian banking system would collapse” and Iran’s “economy would be seriously impaired” (Washington Post, 26 September). That scenario would have a devastating impact on Iran’s entire population, especially working people and the poor.
After British Petroleum and India-based Reliance halted exports of refined petroleum products to Iran, Chinese state-owned companies stepped in to fill the gap and now supply about one-third of Iran’s gasoline imports. China has been rapidly deepening its economic links with Iran, as it has with other oil-producing countries outside the Near East—for example, in Africa and Venezuela—where Washington has an overwhelmingly dominant strategic position. China has been Iran’s biggest oil export market for the past five years, and Beijing has committed some $120 billion to Iranian oil and gas projects. As two former National Security Council staff members noted in the New York Times (29 September): “Chinese military officials are particularly focused on the potential for Iranian hydrocarbons to come to China through pipelines running across Central Asia, rather than through seaborne routes vulnerable to American naval interdiction.”
That is an eminently reasonable long-term strategic concern on the part of Beijing. Obama took office pledging to draw down U.S. troop levels in Iraq in order to pursue what a significant portion of the U.S. bourgeoisie sees as more strategic aims, including the occupation of Afghanistan. A major consideration behind this policy is the encirclement of China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state where capitalist rule was overthrown by the 1949 Revolution.
Ultimately, the U.S. imperialists aim to restore capitalist rule in China, and for this they have a two-pronged strategy: military pressure combined with capitalist economic penetration. At the same time, the Democrats, backed by the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy, have been in the forefront of those pushing anti-China chauvinist protectionism. It is vital for the international proletariat to stand for the unconditional military defense of China and the other remaining deformed workers states—Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam—while fighting for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist misrulers and establish regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.
For Workers Revolution in Iran!
After Tehran indicated last week that it would be willing to send most of its enriched uranium to another country (Russia and France have volunteered) for further refinement into fuel, Obama administration officials toned down the calls for a formal embargo on gasoline shipments to Iran. Obama called the proposal “a step towards building confidence that Iran’s program is in fact peaceful” (New York Times, 3 October). Washington has defined its posture toward Iran in recent months with an eye to the political turmoil in that country, into which the imperialists have sought to intervene, most openly through intensified radio broadcasts.
The fraud surrounding the June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered a series of mass demonstrations in Tehran and other cities that were brutally attacked by the police and paramilitary Basij militias, leaving dozens of protesters dead and thousands in jail. On September 18, the regime’s annual pro-Palestinian rally for Jerusalem Day, also known as Quds Day, was overshadowed by a mass mobilization of tens of thousands of anti-government protesters. More recently, there have been several student demonstrations in Tehran, including a September 28 protest at Tehran University that forced Ahmadinejad to cancel a visit there. We call on the international workers movement to demand: Free all anti-government protesters!
While including heterogeneous forces, the opposition demonstrations have been politically subordinate to one side in what is essentially a falling out between rival factions within the ruling clerical elite. The main opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, one of the founders of the Islamic Republic, served as prime minister from 1981 to 1989, when untold thousands of leftists, Kurds and women’s rights activists were slaughtered in Iran’s prisons. As we wrote in “Down With the Clerical Regime! No Support to ‘Reform’ Mullahs!” (WV No. 939, 3 July): “The workers and oppressed of Iran have no interest in supporting either of the cabals fighting over how best to pursue the mullahs’ bloody rule.”
A 5 August article on the liberal Huffington Post Web site by Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy described how a formally declared U.S.-sponsored gasoline embargo could embarrass Iranian oppositionists such as Moussavi:
“If he says he supports the embargo, he may be politically toast in Iran: every bad thing that happens to Iranians as a result of the embargo will be blamed on Mousavi by the Iranian government. If he says he is against it, then he’s saying that the signature Iran policy of the West is a policy to attack Iranian civilians.”
All sides in the tumult shaking Iran today hark back to the 1979 overthrow of the country’s despised autocrat, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as a model for their political activity. At that time, the convulsive opposition to the monarchy included powerful workers strikes in the oil fields and throughout the country; Iran could have become the cockpit of proletarian revolution in the Near East. However, the mass mobilizations were channeled into a reactionary crusade for an “Islamic Republic,” with virtually the entire left in Iran and internationally cheering on the mullah-dominated opposition led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Uniquely on the left, we raised the call: “Down With the Shah! Don’t Bow to Khomeini! For Workers Revolution in Iran!”
Today, while promoting the Democrats in the U.S., the U.S. reformist left repeats the treacherous policies of 30 years ago by lining up behind one or another wing of the ruling clergy in Iran. Workers World Party (WWP) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), a split-off from WWP, have sided with the pro-Ahmadinejad wing of the clerics against the protests, claiming that in this way they are opposing U.S. imperialism. The International Socialist Organization (ISO), in the September-October issue of International Socialist Review—while scoring some easy polemical points against the WWP and PSL—makes not even a token effort to distinguish itself politically from the Moussavi-led opposition. Instead, they write that Moussavi
“has become a symbol in the fight for democracy in the eyes of millions. A very elementary demand of the mass movement—that the regime live up to its claim of being a republic and count people’s votes—has become a gateway for further radicalization.”
In fact, in 1979 the ISO, like virtually the entire left internationally, unabashedly hailed Khomeini’s “mass movement,” which aimed to enslave women and throw back social progress by centuries. The ISO headlined one article “The Form—Religious, the Spirit—Revolution!” (Socialist Worker, January 1979). The establishment of a Shi’ite theocracy following the overthrow of the Shah resulted in murderous terror directed against leftists and working-class militants, Kurds and other minorities, homosexuals and unveiled women.
Eduard Bernstein, the father of “socialist” revisionism, wrote in Evolutionary Socialism (1899) that “the ultimate aim of socialism is nothing, but the movement is everything.” This statement represents the reformist politics promoted by the ISO. In contrast, we stand in the tradition of Lenin, who built the Bolshevik Party that led the 1917 Russian Revolution. Iran is a country of combined and uneven development. The only road to genuine social and economic modernization, to liberating Iran from imperialist subjugation, to freeing Iranian women from enslavement, to winning the right of national self-determination for the Kurds and the myriad other oppressed nationalities, lies in the smashing of capitalist class rule in Iran through proletarian socialist revolution as part of the fight for a socialist federation of the Near East. The fundamental question facing the Iranian proletariat today is the need to build a Marxist workers party that fights for the class independence of the proletariat.
The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the socialist revolution, but only opens it by changing the direction of social development. Short of the international extension of the revolution, particularly to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers, that social development will be arrested and ultimately reversed. Defense of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the U.S. and other imperialist centers, and ultimately requires a proletarian struggle for power. If the imperialists are not to plunge humanity into nuclear Armageddon, they must be overthrown through socialist revolutions internationally. This underscores the urgent need to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution.