The unlawful assassination of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani by the U.S. military has heightened an awareness of an impending world war in the collective Western conscious. Fortunately, for the majority of us living in the United States and Europe, our experience of war is never direct. It’s a bill passed in congress, a headline or perhaps a feature on news channels. At worst, it’s a viral social media video of a bombing thousands of miles away. Horrendous acts we can choose to scroll past without having to consider why it happened or who was killed.
Beyond these decontextualized overt acts of violence, we are even less aware of the “soft” economic wars being waged on entire nations, often causing starvation and death. Iran has been on the receiving end of an incessant and violent economic war for decades since their revolution in 1979. These economic sanctions on nations that choose a path away from Western-led capitalism are often even more destructive than military action. The consequences of these sanctions are scarcity or complete lack of essential foods, medicines, fuel, technology, and so on.
More concretely, the economic war waged on Iran by Western nations has meant that meat products in the country rose by 116 percent in 2019, especially affecting already undernourished countryside communities. Similarly, in November 2019, the price of fuel rose by 50 percent, affecting basic human necessities such as cooking, power, and, of course, transportation. Additionally, the right to basic healthcare and medicine is being denied to millions of Iranians due to the shortages produced by the sanctions, including those with life-threatening conditions, such as leukemia, epidermolysis bullosa, epilepsy, and others. For the Iranian people, the prospect of WWIII is not something that worries them because they’re already living in a war. A war that threatens their lives daily either through “hard” acts of war, like the assassination of Soleimani, or “soft” acts of war, like being negated the right to basic human necessities.
Iran is only one example of a nation that has been violently attacked using economic and financial imperialism. For centuries, Western imperialists have used economic and political war on periphery nations to coerce them into submission. When the enslaved masses of Haiti had the audacity to free themselves from their slave masters, European nations refused to recognize them as a sovereign nation, let alone trade with them. In an attempt to integrate themselves into the international community, especially for trade, Haiti was forced to accept a French demand for “reparations” worth $21 billion for the losses that the Europeans had “suffered” at independence. The consequences of this economic war and the continued isolation from important global markets means that Haiti is unable to develop its economy and take its people out of poverty.
Similarly, socialist- and communist-led nations such as Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been suffocated with economic sanctions threatening the well-being of their populations on a daily basis. Despite these atrocious acts of war, these nations, including Iran, have managed to survive and ward off incessant attempts to overthrow their anti-capitalist projects.
To conclude, Iran, and many other countries in the Global South that have decided to take a distinct political and economic path than that imposed by Western nations are not worried about the possibility of a new world war breaking out on their doorstep. They are already living through a devastating foreign-imposed war for decades and the assassination of their top military general is only another aggression in a long line of terrorist acts committed against them.
In this context, those of us who consider ourselves socialists and communists should not fear the prospect of a World War but, rather, welcome and actively take part in the movement to bring about the end of capitalist-imperialist violence in the world. Whilst we must actively participate in protests against Western military aggression in places like Iran, we must also actively participate in and support the revolutionary movements in the Global South that are on the frontline against the capitalist-imperialist power structures.
Hands off Iran! Hands off Venezuela! Hands off the Global South!