Re: [OPE] Happy New Year!

From: Paula <>
Date: Tue Jan 05 2010 - 21:12:24 EST

Bina's article on Iran, which I read with great interest, fits rather well
with the discussion we were just having on imperialism. I find myself in an
intermediate position between his views and those of the radical left he
criticizes. I do agree with him that the left needs to move away from
antiquated paradigms; and I also completely agree with his condemnation of
the support given the Iranian regime by some sections of the left.

On the other hand, my view is that the classical theory of imperialism needs
to be updated rather than thrown out altogether; it seems to me that Bina is
himself attacking what is only an inflexible, dogmatic interpretation of
that theory. For example, there is nothing in Lenin or Bukharin that says
that colonialism is a necessary, universal feature of imperialism, although
it certainly was a key feature at the time these authors were writing. But
even then some imperialist nations had no colonies or hardly any colonies,
and these authors knew fully well that political influence can also be
exercised by more indirect means.

Today we still have a mixture of direct and indirect means, with the latter
being far more common. Spheres of influence - often overlapping each other -
have mostly, but not completely, replaced colonial empires. I don't think
this change invalidates the theory of imperialism, any more than Marx's
theory of capitalism is invalidated by the undeniable fact that capitalism
today is not exactly the same as it was in the nineteenth century. However,
if we update our analysis in this way, then we have to honestly admit what
is clear to anyone with a minimum knowledge of world affairs - namely, that
it doesn't only apply to the 'Western' nations. Iran, for example, also has
a sphere of influence. Curiously enough Bina doesn't seem to be aware of
this, and in this respect he is much closer to the 'Third Worldist' paradigm
than he realizes.

While I too find the notion of an Iraqi 'war for oil' deficient, I'm afraid
Bina's own notion of the 'disjointed time' is hardly more convincing. The
current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the longer-term instability
in those regions, are central to contemporary world politics; they cannot be
waved away as an anachronistic and confused mistake of one country's foreign
policy. We need a better explanation, and I doubt that we can find one
without a theory of imperialism.


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Received on Tue Jan 5 21:13:58 2010

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