The Economic Crisis and Iran

by BEN SCHREINER

On February 21, to great media fanfare, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed the 13,000 mark for the first time since the 2008 collapse.  Appearing on NBC’s Today Show the following morning, Jim “Bear Sterns is not in trouble” Cramer jubilantly prophesied “the future is better than the past.”  A more ominous indication of lurking economic peril is perhaps difficult to imagine.

Indeed, for despite growing optimism on Wall Street (where profits have been ascendant through the course of the Great Recession), the economy remains teetering precariously on the precipice.  The potential collapse of the eurozone, along with mounting signs of a bursting Chinese growth bubble both still loom along the horizon.  Each of which could threaten to send the world economy barreling toward the abyss.  Hardly indicative of what one might deem a better future.

In fact, given the protracted nature of the current crises, it is increasingly evident that we are in the thralls of a systemic crisis.  That is to say, we are in the midst of a crisis that can no longer be resolved within the present neoliberal framework—try as one might.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Greece.  For as the “market” (i.e., the transnational financial elite) dictates a neoliberal inspired cocktail of deeper and deeper austerity as a way out of the crises, Greece becomes further ensnared in a downward spiral of unending economic depression and societal unrest.

To glimpse the utter failure of such bankrupt policies one need look no further than Greece’s burgeoning youth unemployment.  Staggeringly, nearly one out of every two Greeks under 25-years of age is currently without a job.  Although, Greece is by no means alone, as equally high youth unemployment now menaces Italy, Portugal, Spain, and beyond.

Of course, much the same is unfolding, albeit on a lesser magnitude, the world over.  Seen from the push to privatize education in Chile to the attack on public sector workers in the United States.  Needless to say, imposing such economic despair is simply unsustainable.  Hence, the correspondent worldwide revolts seen from the Indignatos to the Occupy movement.

Yet, as the system falters, and popular unrest mounts, the ruling elites have largely remained blinded by their neoliberal thinking, leaving them incapable of offering any viable solutions for resolving the entrenched global economic crisis.

Still, there remains one last means left for global capitalism’s regeneration.  For as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, along with heightening levels of exploitation, the capitalist class can always resort to the “enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces.”  In other words, the capitalism can ultimately be renewed via war.

Regenerating Capitalism Through War

War functions as a bailout of sorts for the system of capitalism on two levels.  First, war unleashes the power of what Joseph Schumpeter so fondly deemed “creative destruction.”  For by destroying capital—i.e., crudely addressing the chronic affliction of overproduction—war creates the opportunity for renewed growth.  As General Smedley Butler famously argued (and the likes of Lockheed Martin know all too well): war is a racket.

Second, and perhaps most important in the minds of the ruling classes, war functions to quell domestic social unrest.  For war paves the way for both domestic repression and the ultimate fracturing of the working class itself.  The former is seen in measures dating from the Espionage Act of 19 17 to the latest National Defense Authorization Act.  The latter occurs once elements of the working class, particularly elements directly benefiting from increased military spending, eagerly rally to the flag.  The resultant splintering of the working class between such opportunists on one side and the more politically advanced on the other renders it as a whole rather impotent.

And so it is that we now see a growing war fever gaining traction amongst the capitalist class, as they search for a way out of the present crisis.  And in this regard, all eyes are cast towards Iran.

Target Iran

Iran, of course, has been on the imperial hit list since 1979, when it first broke free from its U.S. shackles.  Something all war lusting neocons have not since forgot.  As they are known to proclaim: real men go to Tehran.

We are now told, however, that the present belligerence towards Iran is solely related to its nefarious nuclear program.  But such claims are merely ruses—disputed by no less than both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities—and are posited in an attempt to shroud imperial motivations.  It’s a ploy we have all seen before (most recently in regards to Iraq).

The targeting of Iran is really then a byproduct of both the opportunity it presents and the great economic potential it holds in regards to regenerating global capitalism.  For sitting atop vast energy reserves, Iran possesses the world’s third largest oil reserves, and the world’s second largest natural gas reserves.  And according to investment bank Goldman Sachs (the Mecca of U.S. capitalism), Iran is one of the 11 countries outside of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) forecast to drive world economic growth.

Therefore, the aim in the escalating showdown with Iran is to ultimately seize control of the country’s sizable energy reserves, and envelop its largely un-integrated economy more fully into the global capitalist system.  And least one wonders, concerns over the inevitable human carnage of a potential conflict factor little into any such calculus.  The system of capitalism simply must be saved, whatever the costs.

The only hope then, if one truly seeks a future better than our past, is for the working classes within the U.S. (the locus of global capitalism) to transform any impending imperial war against Iran into, as Lenin would no doubt argue, a class struggle between the ruling elite and the working class at home—into a struggle between the 1-percent and the 99-percent.

Perhaps not much in the way of hope, but it’s certainly high time the American working class came to realize that all wars are class wars.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com.

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