Nuclear bombs are not weapons of “defence”. They are weapons of mass murder, of the threat of mass murder. If they are used it will not be in defence but in murderous “retaliation” against cities and those who live in them — against the civilian population. Their effectiveness rests entirely on that threat.
No socialist can support nuclear weapons, still less, support their use. The drive by the Iranian regime to acquire nuclear weapons is a drive to achieve the power to inflict mass murder. Any socialist who wants them to acquire that power abandons the ground of socialism entirely and becomes a native or vicarious Iranian or Islamic chauvinist.
It is nonsense to say that Iran’s right to have nuclear weapons is an inalienable part of its right to self-determination. In the Iran/Iraq regional imperialist war of 1980-1989, these two powers fought a Middle Eastern equivalent of Europe’s 1914-1918 war. Like the European war, it was a war of attrition in which vast numbers of soldiers were slaughtered. If either Iran or Iraq, or both of them, had nuclear weapons, that might have acted as a deterrent? But atomic weapons might also have been used (as poison gas was, by Iraq).
The proliferation of nuclear weapons poses a threat to the very future of humankind. All socialists must oppose such weapons.
Israel should certainly not have nuclear weapons. But nobody on the left is going to argue that they should. There are a lot of people who argue explicitly or implicitly that Iran should have nuclear weapons, or has a right to nuclear weapons — a right to defend itself “by any means necessary”.
The argument that Israel has nuclear weapons and therefore, in “fairness”, so should the Arab states and Islamic powers like Iran is nonsense — an argument for the establishment in the region of a “nuclear balance of terror” such as that which existed between the USA and Russia for half a century.
All this would be true whatever the character of the Iranian regime; but it is especially true given the nature of the regime that has ruled in Iran for thirty years. It is a clerical-fascist regime: its leaders are concerned more with their imaginary supernatural world than with this. It is not inconceivable that some of those at the heart of the Iranian state power might come to think of nuclear annihilation in the way that individual homicide bombers think of their own destruction in an explosion they themselves trigger — as a glorious and sure way to reach martyrdom and the martyrs’ special place in Paradise.
Iranian leaders call for the destruction of Israel. It is not inconceivable that they could make a half-rational choice to trade off the full destruction of tiny Israel for a sure nuclear retaliation against large Iran which could not wreak equivalent national destruction there.
But Iran must behave with bourgeois rationality and according to its material best interests, and therefore would not conceivably use a nuclear bomb in an attack on Israel? Governments do not always act according to bourgeois economic rationality.
The German bourgeoisie wanted to end the second world war from about 1943, while it could still negotiate a peace from relative strength, and thus avoid the enormous catastrophe of total defeat. It simply could not control the Nazis; or even assassinate Hitler, as was tried in July 1944.
The madman Hitler decided that the German people had let him down, were unworthy of him, and therefore deserved to perish. He would fight to the last German. And there was no “bourgeois rationality” able to control him there, in the strongest bourgeois state in Europe.
History has many other examples of governments behaving “irrationally” It is not merely vulgar Marxism, but vulgar ignorance, to insist that “economic rationality” prevails everywhere.
An Iranian nuclear bomb should be opposed by all socialists — if they are socialists, and not vicarious Iranian or Islamic chauvinists.
Yet it isn’t opposed. The SWP has got the Stop The War coalition to instruct local branches that meetings discussing Iran must include no debate about the nature of the Iranian regime, i.e. no criticism of Iranian policy. The Weekly Worker group (CPGB) and its front organisation, Hands Off the People of Iran, claim to be more critical. But HOPI has a statement of purpose that includes: “The tasks of the anti-war movement in Britain and HOPI is threefold. One to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian people’s right to defend themselves by any means necessary”.
“By any means necessary” in the current political context, plainly means by nuclear weapons if that is their choice.
By talking about the “Iranian people” choosing the “necessary” means to defend themselves, HOPI and the WW group disguise their political capitulation to the clerical fascist regime. The peoples of Iran do not have power. The clerical fascist regime does.
Later, the same statement reads: “Opposition to Israeli, British and American nuclear weapons. For a Middle East free of nuclear weapons as a step towards world-wide nuclear disarmament”.
That’s a statement about Israel’s bomb; it’s also a smart-ass way of deflecting the burning question of whether the Iranian regime develops nuclear weapons onto a general project for a nuclear free Middle East. The implication is that, meanwhile, until there is a nuclear-free zone, it is not at all unreasonable for Iran, which they say should defend itself “by any means necessary”, to have nuclear weapons.