The Houthi Dynasty, like Hamas, is in the Hands of Imperialism

Many political analysts, including those on the so-called left, believe that the Houthis' military operations in the Red Sea are simply due to the twin demands of the brutal civil war they are conducting against the Saudi-backed government of Yemen, and an example of struggle against the arrogance of Israeli imperialism. From there it is an easy step to arrive at some kind of support for the “self-determination” of the people of Northern Yemen, on a par with support for the alleged “anti-imperialist” jihadism of Hamas.

Obviously everyone has the right to think what they like but, as the aim of their analysis is to get the widest possible echo pro domo sua,(1) it is equally legitimate for us to denounce their position as false. Their analysis is fake and partial, both politically and factually, about the ongoing civil war, and the military operations around the Bab-al-Mandeb entrance to the Red Sea. Worst of all they cannot see how all this has developed into a toxic cloud of imperialist war whichever way you look at it, and in which Hamas and the Houthis are just simple pawns.

The internal conflict that the Houthis have fought against the Saudi-backed Mansour Hadi government since 2015, certainly has had, and still has, considerable importance for the rebels. The internal and regional interests fought out under the veil of religion, of Houthis against Wahhabis, Sunnis against Shiites, Sunnis against Sunnis, hide the struggle for leadership in the Muslim world. Interests whose true connotations, once the religious veil is torn off, reveal themselves for what they actually are. They concern issues such as oil, gas and other strategic raw materials for the world economy, as well as the control of the trade routes through their territories, the straits, and the international ports. Last but not least, they switch from the indiscriminate use of military force to political pressure, depending on which strategy is best suited to the geographical place and the political moment in which they live. Imperialism has no limits, unless they are those imposed by another imperialist power.

The North Yemeni (Houthi) government uses the same rhetoric when coming to the defence of the Palestinian people against the Netanyahu government’s “genocide” in Gaza. However, this obscures the Houthis’ other essential interests, such as the fight against the government of Mansour Hadi, the clash with Riyadh, and the need for international legal recognition after years of civil war. Even if the dominant fact is that of a small civil war in a tiny, poor country, on the geographical and political margins in the south of the Arabian peninsula, in the middle of a structural crisis of world capitalism it ends up being incorporated and exploited in a much broader international war, with the direct or indirect presence of the big imperialist powers.

From their initial priorities in the armed resistance to the Saudi-backed government in Aden, the Houthis found themselves involved in a political struggle that forced them to make war one of the cornerstones of their economic and political survival. To this end they recruited around 25,000 fighters into their Tufan al Aqsa brigades to complement the regular Ansar Allah military structure.(2) Officially this recruitment aimed at expanding their military ranks to fight against both the internal enemy supported by Saudi Arabia, and the external one, Israel, to liberate the occupied territories and make Gaza the Thermopylae(3) of jihadism. One of the leading Houthi exponents of this project, General Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, asked all neighbouring and non-neighbouring countries to open their borders to give free movement to jihadist fighters, claiming to be the real defenders of the Palestinian people in deeds and not just words. In reality, none of these fighters went to Gaza, no neighbouring country opened its borders, as was predictable, and as Abdel-Malik al-Houthi himself well knew. In fact, the true aim of the Sana'a government was to create a military structure, not legally recognised internationally, in support of its national policy. In other words, to intimidate Riyadh or, at least, to make the Wahhabis understand that the Zaidis(4) of Northern Yemen would not be an easy morsel to digest, and that the Saudis have to negotiate an "accommodation" with them on the Arabian peninsula.

Obviously all this comes at a price, the price that imperialism makes these anachronistic nationalisms pay, not only in political terms, but also in strategic demands to the point of making them fight proxy wars of international dimensions in its interests. Imperialism exploits nationalism while pretending to support it.

The most obvious example is the one provided by the "alliance" between the Zaidi Houthi Shiites and the Iranian ayatollahs but, for the record, there is also the religiously odd one between Shiite Iran and Sunni Hamas.

The first and most important of these alliances – the political, military and financial support that Tehran has given to Sana'a for years – has a very specific purpose. Since the 2009 clash with the central government, the Houthis have been supplied with money and weapons by the Pasdaran(5) and Hezbollah. Then, after the conquest of Sana'a by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2015, Tehran began to supply the Houthis with light guerrilla weapons, heavy weapons such as mortars and cannons transportable on pickups, anti-ship missiles, ballistic missiles and combat drones. Military technicians then arrived on Yemeni territory to install factories capable of producing reconnaissance and combat drones on site.

All this was in exchange for a substantial shift in Houthi strategy. The fight was no longer just against the Saudis and the government of South Yemen, but now involved a series of military threats against Israel, and massive disruption to the US and its Western allies at the entrance to the Red Sea. In short, by making the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb impassable, although officially only for ships en route to the port of Eilat in Israel, they are interrupting the only passage to the Mediterranean, forcing Western naval traffic to circumnavigate the entire African continent.

More than 40% of all Asia-Europe naval traffic passes through Bab-al-Mandeb, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and 15% of the world’s oil and liquefied gas traffic. This has placed a lot of container ships, oil tankers, shipping companies and the important American strategic interests in Djibouti, already competing with China, in great difficulty. In addition, to clearly demonstrate how the imperialist nexus involves everything, the Houthis have allowed transit to the Red Sea only to Russian and Chinese ships,(6) thus consolidating the imperialistic chain that goes from Hamas, Hezbollah, Syrian Alawites, Iraqi Shiites, Russia, North Korea to China which, in recent times, has decided to help the Sana'a government with funding and weapons as part of its anti-American aims. And for added value, Beijing has declared its political interest in the defence of islands in the Red Sea such as Kamaran, especially its Ras Douglas peninsula, and Taqfash (or Antofash) which the Stockholm agreements of 2018 had assigned to Sana'a, but which the official government in Aden has always disputed. The islands in question, in addition to their strategic military importance, guard commercial traffic routes and have offshore oil fields. At the same time the nearby land areas of Marib, al Jawf and Masila, a long way from the Red Sea coast, are garrisoned by the military forces of Ansar Allah, militarily supported by Iran, and managed by technical consultants of Chinese oil companies. The wells were unused after the 2011 coup against President Saleh, then partially reopened in 2019 with a flow of 55 thousand barrels per day of which, unsurprisingly, 30 thousand were exported to China. Once fully reopened and operating at full capacity with Chinese help, they will become very important for both the big imperialism of Beijing and the tiny government in Sana'a, which needs this oil like water. It goes without saying that the relationship between China and North Yemen is to the advantage of the former, which benefits from the latter as a dependency of its own widening imperialist reach.

It should also not be forgotten that the Houthis launched heavy attacks on the Israeli port of Eilat, and that in September 2019 they had already targeted the Saudi oil facilities under the pressure from Iran. Therefore, strict vigilance over possible retaliation against their islands in the Red Sea is certainly easier if the imperialist power of China stands behind them, obviously at high cost to their own supposed autonomy. For all these reasons, it is no coincidence that the small Houthi nationalist movement found itself at the centre of an imperialist storm as a simple but useful tool of interests which, although initially theirs, ended up being managed by others. China, with the usual excuse of being champion and defender of the interests of the Sana'a government against imperialist voracity which, obviously, is always the imperialism of others, will take its cut, both for immediate competitive gain over imperialist rivals, and as part of its broader strategic vision throughout the area in question. In the same storm, the attacks on the port of Eilat, the missiles launched at Saudi oil facilities and the recent blockade of the entrance to the Red Sea, brought a swift response from the other imperialist camp. The American and British air forces immediately bombed the Yemeni missile and drone launch sites which were making transit through the Bab-al-Mandeb impracticable. This effectively opened another front in the Middle East war after that of Hamas-Israel in Gaza and Israel-Hezbollah in Lebanon, with the further risk of the West Bank entering this tragic conflict. There is also the inevitable news that American warships, with the usual British support, are patrolling the sea area in question as a warning to the Houthis and their imperialist masters. All this on the back of the Russian-Ukraine war and the dangerous rising tensions between China and the USA over Taiwan and the control of the Indo-Pacific islands. In addition, it should be noted that the European Union has also reacted to the Red Sea crisis, probably under Pentagon pressure, by sending a fleet under Operation Aspides.(7) The operation, which began on 19 February 2024, involves the use of five ships provided by Germany, France, Greece and Belgium under Italian command with the aim of defending European commercial ships from Houthi attacks. They claim its purposes are defensive but the fact is that Europe is participating in an ongoing war in one of the most strategic sea areas in the world. Here too the other side were quick to respond (15 March). Iranian, Russian and Chinese ships have begun patrols in the same stretch of sea, which does not bode well. In short, in response to the attacks of the Houthis in Sana'a (and no-one knows how independent that decision was) the fleets of Europe, the United States, Britain, China, Iran and Russia have been mobilised.

Therefore, talking of the Yemeni civil war as just a split with the Saudi-backed central government in Aden not only does not correspond to the facts, but insults the latest intelligence coming from current geopolitical analysts.

The Perspective

In the current historical phase, world capitalism is demonstrating its decadence as a productive and social form, which can be seen in its ever greater difficulty in valorising capital for productive investment due to the tendential fall in the rate of profit. Speculation seems to be the simplest, but also the least effective, escape route because it ends up re-emphasising the very causes that provoked it. The bursting of financial bubbles add to the crises of the economic system that created them, further depressing its productive base; as well as increasing imperialist tensions in geometric progression. Given these circumstances, talking about the self-determination of peoples, of wars of national liberation, of the independence of peoples is simply a historical oxymoron. An oxymoron which fully includes the nationalist claims of Hamas, and the idea that the Houthi dynasty has political and economic autonomy. In their different ways they are both swallowed up within imperialist scenarios as useful supporting actors, as tools to be used in proxy wars, if not as victims destined for massacre through the ravenous strategies of imperialism itself.

But capitalism, even if in deep crisis, does not die a natural death. Its antidotes are always the same, they only vary in terms of procedure and degree of intensity. The first act that capital resorts to, to overcome its incurable contradictions, is to reduce the cost of labour, the direct wage, as much as possible. Then it dismantles welfare, and increasingly cuts funds to unproductive sectors, such as schools, healthcare, and pensions. In other words, the absolute and essential objective is to make the world of labour pay for the crises of capital through the containment or reduction of deferred and indirect wages.

Last but not least, the export of capital and production to where the cost of labour is significantly lower, where taxation systems and state aid are significantly more favourable to capital, not least with very harsh anti-strike legislation. If these measures are not enough, and they are not enough, then the continuation of the crisis, now systemic in all latitudes, leads to the devastating and violent resort to war. War that can be limited to a restricted area, fought by proxy, where imperialist powers manipulate the theatre of war from behind the scenes. They provide funding, weapons, promises of future aid that almost never arrives, and when it does arrive it has an absolutely unbearable cost for those who receive it, but they do not openly participate. Imperialism ignites wars or throws fuel on the fire already lit by some settling of scores between countries of little political weight, but economically or strategically valuable. The crisis of capitalism can also lead to the direct involvement of imperialism if the stakes are high and worth a contest with weapons (Russia-Ukraine), at the risk of spreading the conflict to other areas. A situation that appears to be increasingly probable, given the direct commitment of other imperialist actors who could confront each other in a generalised war, such as Iran, China and the United States.

War under capitalism, with its horrible barbarism that spares nothing and no one, means for the winners the elimination of competitors from the market, and the acquisition of territory useful for the production needs of a modern economy in a structural crisis. It means more oil and gas, whilst a much-needed ecological transition struggles to get started. It means a struggle to get their hands on lithium and "rare earth" deposits. It means trying to raise the rate of profit by penalising the entire world economy and, last but not least, it eventually means the destruction of capital value as a function of the reconstruction business, all with or without atomic bombs. This last problem depends on the current war situations in Ukraine (as in Putin's threats and Biden's counter-threats in early March), on the terrible conditions of the "genocide" in Gaza, and on the possible expansion of the war in the Middle East area, Iran included, from the Red Sea crisis and on the behaviour of other imperialist powers, primarily the USA and China, which will certainly not stand idly by forever or limit themselves to military manoeuvres by proxy. The future that imperialism is preparing for us is full of destruction, death and a ferocious barbarism like never before. And who pays for all this?

The Working Class and War

The answer is obvious, those who pay are the proletarians who go to war under the flags of their own bourgeoisie or under the imperialist alignment it belongs to. It is the civilian populations that are literally decimated by the barbaric bombings that destroy everything, from production structures to hospitals, from civilian homes to cultivated fields. Nothing escapes the bloody ferocity of capitalism in crisis.

Faced with a barbarism which is more scientifically destructive than in the recent past only one force can really oppose it. This force is that of the exploited, of the international proletariat, of the enormous masses of dispossessed produced by the crisis of capitalism. It is that of the wage slaves who produce the social wealth of every country with their labour power and whose crumbs they laboriously collect at the best of times. At other times they are unemployed, underemployed and somehow survive on the margins of this unequal society made in the image and likeness of bourgeois needs. This force, which is exploited in times of peace and used as cannon fodder in times of war, can be the most powerful antidote to the barbarity of imperialism, provided that it behaves as a class that fights, but its own war is against capitalism, its incurable contradictions, its economic crises and its devastating wars. But to do this, this force with immense potential must first escape the dominance of ruling class thinking. Wars are imposed by the crises of capital, they are managed by the bourgeoisie to defend its economic interests, the primary condition of its political and social privileges, but fought by proletarians dominated by the ideologies of the ruling class. Ideologies which go from defending or exporting democracy, to national interests to be safeguarded, or even to "universal" religious principles which have to be imposed even at the cost of using violence. Not to mention all those racist and homophobic ideologies, old and new, that theorise war as an instrument of "purification" against the invasion of the new "barbarians". The ideological baggage of the bourgeoisie to get the proletariat to identify with their interests has no limits, especially when it comes to war. For these reasons it is essential that the class equip itself with an international political guide, with its own tactics and strategy, as the very essence of imperialism and its deadly actions are international. That is, we need an international party that brings all our energies together towards a single objective: the fight against capitalism in all its economic and social manifestations, starting with the individual national bourgeoisies, whatever role they play in the imperialist war scenario, whether as bystanders or participants.

This is no easy task, and is full of obstacles, like any perspective of historical relevance. The road is paved with pitfalls, and not all of them come directly from bourgeois reaction itself.

We first find that quite a few "left" forces, who may even claim to be revolutionary and internationalist, with slogans and programmes that are presented as their indispensable points for the resumption of the class struggle in an anti-imperialist sense, against capitalism and against war, are themselves caught in a web spun by the very capitalism which they verbally claim to fight.

To keep it topical, these political forces, faced with the ongoing wars in Ukraine, Palestine, the Red Sea, faced with the excessive military power, for example of Russia towards Western-aided Ukraine, are vacillating terribly. Another significant example is that of Israel's military superiority against Hamas, which is carrying out a "genocide" against the Palestinian population and, last but not least for the moment, that on the alleged national self-determination of the Houthis in Yemen against the Saudi-supported recognised government in Aden: in all these cases, their confusions are increasing in intensity and all internationalism has been abandoned.

They support Hamas, despite its jihadism based on a medieval social order, like the almost but not quite defunct, Islamic State. This despite the fact it is armed and funded by the Ayatollahs’ regime in Iran, a racist, anti-women, government which acts with lethal ferocity against any opposition. It is a regional imperialist regime pitted against Saudi Arabia for energy supremacy in the Muslim world and beyond. How can anyone defend a political formation that is the child of jihadist fascist nationalism? In order to have a small role as an "absolute minority shareholder" in the leadership of the Arab world in general and in the Palestinian world in particular, specifically against the government of Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority, positioning itself as the only true antagonist to Israel's Zionism, Hamas sends its proletariat to certain massacre and forces its civilian population to face “genocide”. This is the price that the damned of Palestine must pay for the petty aims of a bourgeois ruling class that lives in the luxury of the marbled halls of Doha, and is in turn dominated by the political ambitions and economic interests of al Thani, Emir of Qatar and chief financier of Hamas.

This fake internationalism extends to those who defend Russia or Ukraine, depending on whether in the war and its formal justifications they lean more on one side rather than the other of a false ideology, absolutely neglecting the fact that the tragically common feature in every war is the clash between workers on the opposing sides, when they should form a common front against their respective bourgeoisies. The same goes for those who see the Houthi dynasty's fight against Israel and the pro-Western government in Aden as a supposedly anti-imperialist act which should be supported. Forgetting also in this case, that Yemeni jihadism, which is responsible for closing the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb to make the Suez Canal unusable for Tel Aviv and Western ships, is, we repeat, only part of the long arm of Iranian and Chinese imperialism. We have already mentioned Iranian interests, but Beijing’ support for Sana'a against Aden (another fratricidal war fought by two sets of workers) means implementing a double aim: having North Yemeni oil available and taking advantage of the viability of a port in the Red Sea with the aim of building a base for its hyper-imperialistic Silk Road.

In conclusion, proletarian interests are not defended by leaving the destinies of wage slaves in the hands of the bourgeoisie, whether jihadist or secular. We cannot contribute to the rebirth of revolutionary internationalism by taking sides in imperialist wars. You don't fight war by joining it, whatever the justification. On the contrary, the first task of internationalist political organisations is to disentangle the working class from the thousand tentacles of the national bourgeoisies and international imperialists. The only condition for opposing all nationalisms and all wars is a revolutionary alternative to capitalism, against counter-revolutionary politics and the preservation of the “status quo”.

Battaglia Comunista
15 March 2024


For further background on Yemen see


(1) Pro domo sua, literally “for their own house”, comes from the 1st Century BC Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero. It roughly means special pleading aimed at your own audience/interests.

(2) Tufan al Aqsa (Al Aqsa flood) was the codename of the Hamas attack on 7 October 2023. “Ansar Allah” means “supporters of God” and is the official name of the Houthi movement.

(3) The pass where in 480 BC 7,000 Greeks held up a much larger Persian force under Xerxes for seven days before being outflanked – the bulk of the Greek army retreated coverd by a reargaurd of 300 under the Spartan King Leonidas who fought to the death. Has ever since been used as a symbol of heroic nationalist resistance (e.g. Jacques-Louis David painted it in 1814 when Napoleon was facing defeat at the hands of the Fourth Coalition).

(4) Zaidism is one of the three main branches of Shi’ism. Virtually all its adherents are to be found in North Yemen and the Saudi area of Nayran.

(5) Iranian Revolutionary Guards

(6) Sine this article was first published in Italian the Houthis have struck a Chinese ship (23 March 2024) but it seems this was a case of mistaken identity as the ship had until February 2024 previously had a different owner. See

(7) Aspides is Greek for “shield”.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024