U.S. forces based in Iraq have bombed pro-Iran militia units in Syria. This is a clear sign of continuity with Trump’s US foreign policy under Joe Biden’s new presidency. Imperialism is not only a particular phase of capitalism, but also expressed by a policy of war (conventional or not) of the state at the service of financial capital and multinational monopolies.
The ‘respectable’, ‘civilised’ image cultivated by Biden’s supposedly progressive administration is designed to distinguish it from its crudely racist, fascist-sympathising predecessor. But it is not able to hide from the masses of the world that no matter the nuances of the political regime in Washington, its relations with the rest of humanity as the world’s imperialist hegemon, do not change just because the party that rules the White House changes. As Karl Marx noted nearly 150 years ago of an earlier imperialist hegemon, Britain:
“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilisation lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked’ .The Future Results of British Rule in India, Jan 22, 1853, in New York Daily Tribune
A key feature of the world situation in the 21st Century, particularly since the financial crisis and near collapse of 2007-9, is the shaking of the equilibrium of the pillars of world capitalism, the dramatic deterioration of the power of the West and the United States. Another peculiarity of this moment, which combines with the crisis of imperialist domination is the growth of the influence of a bloc composed of dependent capitalist countries, semi-colonies and workers states, as rivals of the USA.
The aforementioned dependent capitalist powers are two former workers states, centrally Russia and China. These two great nations are supported by smaller semi-colonial countries that are also in conflict with imperialism, such as Iran and Venezuela. On this multinational front are also the two remaining deformed worker states, North Korea and Cuba. They are all the target of imperialist economic sanctions. Some, like Cuba, have been under sanctions for more than 70 years. Others, like Iran, have been under sanctions for 40 years.
” In the sphere of inter-state relations the disruption of equilibrium means war or – in a weaker form – tariff war, economic war, or blockade. Capitalism thus possesses a dynamic equilibrium, one which is always in the process of either disruption or restoration. But at the same time this equilibrium has a great power of resistance, the best proof of which is the fact that the capitalist world has not toppled to this day. ”Leon Trotsky, Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International, June 1921
Key to our programme today is the defence of these opponent powers of Western imperialism against imperialist attack, and of course regarding the deformed workers states, defence of them against capitalist restoration whether from within or without. These considerations overlay our entire analysis and response to such imperialist actions.
The crisis sparked the shake-up of imperialist domination and simultaneously concentrated capital in the hands of an even smaller handful of banks, monopolies and billionaires. This concentration of power in the hands of financial capital promoted a right-wing turn in globally dominant bourgeois thinking, encouraged fascist tendencies, promoted bourgeois leaders such as Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán. Fascism is a watchdog of financial capital set to terrorize the proletariat in times of crisis, to force it to submit to austerity and slavery regimes. To this end, it regiments, recruits for the state forces of the enraged petit-bourgeoisie and demoralized gangs of the lumpemproletariat, human beings that financial capital itself led to despair and fury. These trends that rely on strong material bases of capital concentration have not cooled with the replacement of one or the other of these leaders.
Iraq is in effect a US colony today. Its Prime Minister, in the latest phase of the US overlordship that has been maintained since the invasion and subjugation of 2003, is Mustafa Al-Khadami, who claims a history as a campaigner for human rights against the former regime of Saddam Hussein. But then one discovers that he is a close associate and friend of Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, US client and close collaborator of Zionist Israel, murderer of Jamal Khashoggi, and deadly enemy of Iran. Bin Salman is waging a genocidal war against the Yemeni population and particularly the Iran-allied Shia Houthi movement, who now are leading a genuine national independence struggle against their Saudi oppressors, who act on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism.
Iraq has been rent by protest movements against corruption and occupation, the latest being the biggest since October 2019, before the Covid pandemic, which has caused huge suffering and exacerbated the plight of the populations in the entire region, including Iraq, Syria, and worst of all Yemen. This entire circumstance has led to resistance to US rule: with the Sadr movement in Iraq playing a key role, and pro-Iran Shi’a groups in Syria, such as Kataeb Hizbullah, who have been a key part of this resistance to occupation and corruption. But it goes further than a mere religious objection: these movements have class roots, though their relationship with this is complex.
In any case, the US is fearful of populations taking things into their own hands and demanding democracy and an end to US domination, demands that could fuel a challenge to capitalism itself, notwithstanding the current state of mass consciousness. For that is what is objectively posed by US imperialist domination. Breaking from it needs a more fundamental struggle then the current forces can offer, though there is always the possibility that the struggle could provide an opening for more advanced political developments.
The whole situation mixes with the consequences of the failure of the US to subjugate the region’s oppressed semi-colonies. They have not defeated Iran, pressured by sanctions, sabotage, assassinations like Soleimani’s, Israeli bombings, and hybrid warfare operations since the 1979 revolution. They do not fully control Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation. They have not destabilized or overthrown the Assad government, even if they have been trying to do this for more than a decade. During the Arab spring imperialism tried to recycle and expand its dominance in the region by relying on the popular rebellion against the economic crisis that financial capital itself provoked between 2007-9. In allied countries imperialism manoeuvred to crush the “spring”, brutally oppressed the movements of opposition to the governments of Egypt and Bahrain, allies of Washington / Israel / Saudi Arabia. In countries ruled by unreliable regimes such as Libya and Syria, imperialism armed the opposition. In Libya, the imperialist coalition managed to subdue the oppressed nation and assassinate Qaddafi. It was a colonial bloodbath, driven directly by British, French, and American forces. At that time, in 2011, imperialism had the complicit abstention of the diplomatic delegations of Russia and China in the UN Security Council. Brazil, India, and Germany also abstained. South Africa, ruled by the ANC, voted in favour of the colonialist intervention in the sister African nation. No one opposed Resolution 1973 authorizing international support for the movement for the overthrow of Qaddafi. After this tragedy, when the U.S. and Israel tried to repeat this offensive in Syria , relying on armed opposition agents, including Daesh, a military coalition of anti-imperialist forces, mainly Iranian and Russian, was constituted and managed to deliver a major blow against the U.S. and Israel, with the most important battle to conquer Aleppo in 2016.
As we wrote then in a declaration signed by the LCFI’s sections and a number of other revolutionary groups and individuals around the world:
“The final liberation of Aleppo in mid-December 2016 is a defeat of the jihadist militias sponsored by the USA and its allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Libya, to name the most prominent. A victory for imperialism on Aleppo here would have dealt an enormous blow to the Syrian and Middle East working class.
The defeat of US-dominated world imperialism based in Wall Street’s great finance houses and their allied transnational corporations and the subordinate imperialisms in Europe and Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. is a victory for the world working class and all oppressed peoples of the planet. Of course, it is not a socialist revolutionary victory but it does strengthen the struggle of the working class of Syria against imperialism and therefore ultimately against its own capitalist ruling class.”The Liberation of Aleppo and the Tasks of Anti-Imperialist Revolutionary Socialists (12 Jan 2017). The full text of this declaration can be found at https://socialistfight.com/2017/01/12/the-liberation-of-aleppo-and-the-tasks-of-anti-imperialist-revolutionary-socialists-12012017/
The whole situation is intermixed with the consequences of the failure of the US to fully subjugate Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation, and more recently to destabilise and overthrow the Assad government in Syria. This grew out of the imperialist response to the initially naive Arab spring upheaval. They manoeuvred to brutally crush the movement in Washington/Israel’s allies, such as Egypt and Bahrain, while buying control of it in Libya and Syria, ruled by regimes that had sometimes shown defiance against the US and Israel. Though they succeeded in subjugating Libya and destroying Qadhafi in a reactionary bloodbath directly aided by British, French and US forces, in Syria they were foiled by a military bloc of semi-colonial nations, centrally Russia and Iran, that came to the aid of Syria to resist this imperialist conquest and succeeded in striking a major blow against imperialism by defeating the attempt, centrally at Aleppo in 2016.
Trump and Biden: Continuity and Discontinuity
Trump’s regime was particularly brutal domestically in its white supremacism and cavalier Social Darwinism over Covid-19, costing hundreds of thousands of lives at home. It brought about a hugely polarising clash between two mass camps – a proto-fascist, white supremacist movement behind Trump, vs the de facto popular-front around the Democratic Party of Biden and Sanders, that found armed expression at the Capitol on 6 Jan. Biden’s role is to neutralise that struggle and ‘reconcile and reunite’ the American population.
In foreign policy, the Trump administration was also dysfunctional, veering between national isolation and extreme militarism, between some limited troop withdrawals from the Middle East, and overt threats of nuclear war against Iran and North Korea, followed in the latter cases by pacific overtures and cranky attempts at ‘friendship’. His promotion of the fake ‘President’ of Venezuela, Guaido, going so far as to threaten invasion (and made a failed attempt to initiate one with mercenaries) if Maduro failed to comply with this aggression, was hardly pacific isolationism. Trump personally ordered the murder of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Suleimani (mimicking Obama’s assassination of Osama bin Laden) and tore up Obama’s 2015 JCPOA deal with Iran that sought to limit its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the gradual lifting of imperialist sanctions. Biden formally declares he is trying to resurrect and save the JCPOA, but concretely carried out this military attack against Iran. Under this policy, the resumption of negotiations with the Persian nation would be based on a shameful capitulation, which does not seem to be in Tehran’s plans. Resuming these agreements is far less likely and more difficult than the Paris Accord on Climate Change and the World Health Organisation, which Trump walked away from right in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The JCPOA was openly undermined and condemned by Israel even when Obama was still in power, and Trump was funded by Likudniks – Sheldon Adelson was his biggest campaign donor, this being a key factor in his rise to power in 2016, demanding the abandonment of the JCPOA. This seems to be the nexus of the contradictory relationship between the bulk of the US ruling class, and the overlapping, numerous and powerful Jewish-Zionist part of it that regards Israel as just as much its state as the US itself.
It is not clear that Biden will be able or willing to simply go back to the configuration that existed at the time of Obama’s Iran deal, as Zionism has grown more powerful as an organic component of imperialism, in terms of its influence and centrality through the Trump period: Biden will not simply be a negation of everything about Trump just as Obama earlier was not simply a negation of the Bush period. Obama’s tactics and strategy incorporated strong element of Bush’s, and in turn Trump himself incorporated some Obama era policies and deepened them, e.g. Obama’s mass, million strong deportation programme. Biden in turn appears quite Trumpian in his administration’s actions after only a few weeks. These continuities occur above all because of the common class underpinning of the two US bourgeois parties, no matter the conflicts between them (which can bring other forces into conflict with each other, as recent events illustrate).
Israel sees the very existence of any strong and independent Arab or Muslim state in the Middle East as a threat to its very legitimacy and demands the destruction of Iran and similar states even if the consequences are catastrophic. This was also the role Zionists played in agitating for the destruction of Iraq in the early 2000s, when the 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave them the opportunity to win support for that policy among the wider American bourgeoisie.
The policy of the mainstream of the US bourgeoisie is not that per se. It has no objection to rampant militarism, destruction of nations through invasion and throwing its weight around the globe, but it also understands that such things are often counterproductive and tend to unite enemies against it. It prefers to divide and rule, though ‘soft power’, ‘colour revolutions’ and the destabilisation of opposing forces through hybrid warfare. But there is no absolute distinction between them either. So, when Biden distances himself from Trump’s policy and actions in abandoning Obama’s JCPOA, at the same time he copies Trump in a ‘measured’ way in bombing Iran’s Syrian allies. No doubt he regrets the setbacks that the US hybrid war strategy suffered in Syria. It is possible, indeed likely that the Biden regime will try to revive the kind of hybrid warfare that the US carried out in the Arab Spring along with such military attacks.
Racist Lies and Conspiracy Theories
This overlap is also visible in the fact that Biden has not denounced, but carried on with, the smear and innuendo that the Covid-19 virus, which appears to have crossed the species barrier to humans in or around Wuhan, China, is some kind of manufactured Chinese weapon. This outrageous lie was stock in trade of Trump’s racism in dubbing Covid-19 the ‘China virus’, but Biden has carried on with it as part of seeking to mobilise popular hostility against China over something that in fact is a product of capitalist restoration, the commercialisation of food production, and commodification of wildlife in this regard. The US bourgeoisie instead promotes its own racist conspiracy theory, while decrying supposed ‘conspiracy theories’ elsewhere, particularly accurate descriptions of the behaviour of the Israel-loyal brethren among its own class, any realistic analysis of which it denounces as ‘conspiracy theory’ and hence ‘anti-Semitic’ (of course!).
The ‘liberal’ Biden administration’s continuation of Trump’s racist lie about China has even manifested itself in censorship on social media, as Facebook has banned the sharing of an article by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) denouncing the smear against China as a warmongering conspiracy theory. (See Facebook censors WSWS article exposing Wuhan lab conspiracy theory, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/02/26/pers-f26.html). This in apparent concert with the liberal Biden supporters of the Washington Post. So, the bourgeoisie waxes indignant at accurate descriptions of the behaviour of its racist, Zionist allies and class brethren, but attacks the left when it criticises their own jingoistic, racist lying blood-libels against China, the outgrowth of the white supremacist proto-fascist Trump.
Such are indexes of the oppressive and dangerous role of US imperialism in the world today. We defend the Shia militiamen in Syria against the attacks they have suffered, and condemn the warmongering smears against China, and the entire world project of the ‘business as usual’ US imperialism of Joseph R Biden and call for its defeat in all conflicts with the oppressed peoples and semi-colonial countries including Iran, Syria, Russia and China. This action by the Biden government exposes all those who created expectations in this new management of imperialism as being “progressive.” The counterrevolutionary, predatory role of imperialism can only be overcome by the strategy of the permanent revolution, by the working class taking the leadership of the struggle against imperialism through principled tactics like the Anti-Imperialist United Front, with the aim of the world revolution at the core of our strategy.