Iran, nationalism and imperialism
—Mikl et al to IBT, 29 May 2018
Half way correct
The debate on the questions of Iran, nationalism and imperialism started after the military coups in Egypt and Turkey, in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Tom et al have argued that the iSt’s neutralist position in 1979, “Down with the Shah, Down with the Mullahs”, should apply to Egypt and Turkey as well. From the point of view of the political components, Egypt and Turkey’s situations in 2013 and 2016 were quite similar to that of Iran in 1979, so that might be formally logical and consistent, but that position is tactically incompetent and ultra leftist.
Therefore the question of Iran becomes practical and contemporary. We studied the question and concluded that the iSt’s position on Iran in 1979 and its application to Egypt and Turkey reflects only one face of the strategic principle. It is a tactically inept position, which would have led us to disastrous defeat. We should have taken the side of the anti-Shah struggle, in which the radical part the Islamists involved along with the working people, without giving any political support to the Islamacists, while politically preparing the overthrow of the radical Mullahs. That’s the position we have learned from Trotsky who clearly crystallized it, especially in his “On the Sino-Japanese War” and “Ultra Lefts in General and Incurable Ultra Lefts in Particular”.
In our study on the question we have found that the IBT and the iSt tradition have much too frequently taken that kind of neutralism in cases of imperialist aggression against colonies of the US. Besides Tom et al’s argument on Egypt and Turkey, neutralism on the maneuvers to change the disobedient colonial regimes by imperialism in Libya, Ukraine and Syria are recent examples. Defining actions against regimes when the imperialists are acting through domestic forces as merely civil war, and taking the side of the targeted regimes only when the imperialists are involved directly in combat is not revolutionary. This is at best humanist but it abandons Leninism on the national question. That position wastes critical time, failing to take practical measures to defend the victim of imperialist aggression at the outset, while making claims to be anti-imperialist. It takes the side of the imperialists’ target at a time when support is useless. And it pretends to be anti-imperialist. Perhaps that might be better than the IS’s position which describes the imperialist proxy forces as “revolutionary”, but practically it is also in the service of imperialism.
The hint from the exchange with the ICL
The ICL’s “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra” gives a useful hint to us on where the frequent neutralism on imperialist involvements found in the iSt tradition comes from: “Despite all his efforts, part of the American leadership developed a chauvinist, anti-internationalist line, opposing national liberation struggles in multinational states.” This article shows the likely root of the apologist positions on imperialism, involving an extremely weird attitude of the iSt’s maximus leader.
According to the ICL’s Hydra document and our two articles criticizing it, the iSt was already a nasty racist organization at the time that we describe it as a “revolutionary organization.” The leader’s racist rhetoric had been accepted without any significant internal struggle. Even when there was an acute appeal against his nasty words from the other leftists, the iSt just ignored this language and kept silence. There was no internal resistance neither.
This was very different to the attitude of Lenin and Trotsky against Stalin’s Great Russianism. Stalin showed bureaucratic arrogance with filthy words against minor nationalities and ordered the Georgians to join the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, labeling the resisting Georgian Bolsheviks as “socialist nationalists.” Lenin and Trotsky were provoked to a life and death fight against this. But some comrades say that ‘even though the main leadership of the iSt were racist and there was no serious resistance against it internally, the iSt then championed the national question. The national position devised at the time was revolutionary.’ Of course, we cannot exclude that kind of possibility even though it is very unlikely. But it is quite similar argument that ‘Stalin was the champion on the national question even though he was Great Russian chauvinist,’
Imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism
After the Second World War, the struggles for national liberation were intensified by two causes. One is the growth of the working class in the colonies as a result of capitalization initiated by imperialism. The other is the weakening of the former imperialist powers in the colonies by all out war between the imperialists. The growth of the working class has made direct imperialist rule difficult. Direct rule by foreign imperialists exposed the stark division of society before the working people. So ways to rule the colonies have changed from direct to indirect rule, using the indigenous ruling elites and comprador capitalists as domestic imperialist agents, to avoid direct and fierce struggles against imperialism.
Some of the struggles for national liberation have succeeded in overthrowing imperialist agent regimes. And among them, some countries have become workers states with the help of the Soviet Union.
Therefore, imperialist aggression has occurred, mainly against two kinds of places, degenerated/deformed workers states and the semi-colonies that were politically liberated after national liberation. Lenin described this phenomenon:
“Of course, finance capital finds most ‘convenient’, and derives the greatest profit from, a form of subjection which involves the loss of the political independence of the subjected countries and peoples. In this respect, the semi-colonial countries provide a typical example of the ‘middle stage’. It is natural that the struggle for these semi-dependent countries should have become particularly bitter in the epoch of finance capital, when the rest of the world has already been divided up.”
So when the colonial regimes are not sufficiently obedient to imperialism for whatever reasons and they have become the obstacles to maximize their profit and interest, imperialists have tried ‘regime change.’ Assassination, military coup, proxy civil war and direct invasion etc have typically been used to do it.
Neutralism against Imperialism and Iran
The iSt tradition has defined imperialist ‘regime change,’ as only ‘civil war’ when the forces involved were only domestic. In these cases the iSt tradition holds that the imperialist factor is not decisive and we should not take sides, covering this with superficially Leninist but ultra leftist rhetoric. By taking the side of the targeted regime only in the last stage of the imperialist operation to change the regime (after failing to take a side in the decisive conflict) this tactic reveals itself as useless in fighting against imperialism and betrays the Leninist duty to support the struggle for national liberation.
The 1979 abstention in the working people’s struggle against the US proxy Shah in Iran, was one of the vivid examples which has bent our revolutionary politics toward imperialist opportunism. Some comrades argue that the Shah and the Islamic regime, which was the result of a combination of the Iranian working people struggling against imperialism and the political victory of the reactionary Islamists, are the same. Or they even see the latter as worse than the former — which is an astonishing argument to us.
We argue that post-Shah Iran is much better than the Shah’s regime in the international relationship of forces between imperialism and the working class. We stand for the defence of post-Shah Iran in the impending imperialist aggression to restore a pro-imperialist regime, while we give no political support to the regime and preparing its overthrow and the building of a workers’ state.
The below is the comparison table between before and after 1979 on various conditions. Perhaps we can add more conditions.
|Iranian regime before 1979||Iranian regime after 1979|
|the distance to Iran’s natural resources to imperial finance capital’s|
|nuclear weapon||Should we have supported the nuclear weapon of Shah?|
|The attitude against the US imperialism||“military police” in the middle east of the US||critical enemy of the US|
|On Syria||Would have taken side with the US as like Saudi Arabia and Qatar||struggling against the US regime change|
We need to go back to Lenin’s Marxism.