Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

M.T. editorial

Forum on Afghanistan Attacks U.S. Role, Reactionary Rebels: Soviet Intervention Deemed Necessary

First Published: Modern Times, Vol. IV, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Modern Times Bookstore and the Hawaii Union of Socialists co-hosted the first in a series of forums on major issues of today. The Feb. 8 forum concerned AFGHANISTAN, an analysis of its current situation and the Soviet intervention. U.H. students Omar Nassery, from Afghanistan, and Tayyab Mahmoud, from Pakistan, were the key speakers, and their remarks constitute the main source of the analysis summarized in this article.)

THE HUS FORUM ON AFGHANISTAN brought out the need to differentiate between positions and put out a clear line that attacks imperialism and does not serve it.

The Soviet military intervention into Afghanistan last December has had important consequences not only in Afghanistan but around the world. Within the U.S., the Soviet move has had major political ramifications in this election year and among the people, and has led to a good deal of divergent position-taking among those of us on the Left.

Some would argue that you need only look at the fact of invasion itself. But are borders sacred? Is the integrity of a nation state the highest principle for socialist revolutionaries, or are there times when socialist states or workers in capitalist countries must rally forces to wage war in other countries (like Republican Spain threatened by Franco and fascism, or in Korea, at the point of a likely invasion of China; or in Angola, etc.)? The principle determining the correctness of such intervention is whether or not it benefits the revolutionary movement in the affected country and the working class revolutionary movement worldwide. Does it challenge or countercheck the main forces of reaction in the world, and advance the interests of the most progressive and revolutionary sectors of the country in which the intervention is situated?

Another point must be whether or not it is only the Soviet Union that has intervened. Even the western capitalist media is slowly admitting that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China are, and have been for some time, directly aiding the Moslem rebel forces, with much indirect aid from the U.S. It is also fairly clear that many of the rebel bands are led by landlords, although without a doubt the foot soldiers are peasants–a strange alliance forged around Islam and conservatism which temporarily obscures class antagonisms.

The Muslim movement in Afghanistan is not the same brand as the more progressive Shi’ite variety in Iran. Even the capitalist media concedes that the rebel movement in a large part was provoked and incited by very positive reforms sought by the People’s Democratic Party government since the 1978 coup that brought it to power. The PDP basic program of land reforms, equal rights for women and national minorities, including schools and publications in the languages of these minorities, may have threatened the vested interests of the traditional society, or been promoted very rashly in an ultra-left fashion–but these reforms cannot be condemned on their face as a Soviet plot for enslavement.

The PDP’s rise to power, in April, 1978, seems to have been an act of survival, of desperate necessity, in order to avoid almost certain liquidation of their cadre and a virulent repression. The autocratic regime of Daoud, although receiving military aid from the USSR, was drifting closer to the U.S. orbit, and receiving aid from the Shah of Iran, including the presence of SAVAK (secret political police) agents from Iran. The coup of April, 1978, was a forced choice: take power or be decimated, delaying needed reforms and the chance for a revolutionary alternative for perhaps a generation or more, PDP leaders, still factionalized, realized the seizure of power was premature, that their power base was too limited. Yet there was no middle way. With the support of key military officers, they seized the time and the power to boot.

The U.S. and its reactionary allies, now joined by China, have actively aided the rebels to destabilize the regime and oppose any reforms, right from the early days of the PDP government. Pakistan, ruled by a military dictatorship under General Zia and backed by the U.S. and China, has played a major role in harboring and arming the rebel refugees, who are led by major landlord elements. The PDP’s factionalism and possible “left” errors in mandating reforms have played into the hands of the right-wing insurgents. The USSR apparently decided to dump the Amin faction and intervene massively to halt a disastrous setback right on its borders. Given the hawkish noises from Washington and the renewal of Cold War jingoism, it is not hard to understand the Soviets’ anxiety.

China’s new stance that the Soviet Union is, in fact, a socialist country (recently reported in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin courtesy of the “China watchers”) should throw the China-tailing groups in the U.S. and around the world into some turmoil. (The new Chinese position, as it begins to emerge, is more a self-serving assertion rather than a repudiation of their previous shabby and unsubstantiated theoretical conclusions about the USSR; it is designed to cover economic and social policy decisions in China which are remarkably similar to patterns the Chinese have condemned in the Soviet Union.)

China’s theoretical shift on the question of the nature of the Soviet Union, if the media reports are accurate, would knock the guts out of the Chinese party’s assertion of the Theory of the Three Worlds, in which the two major capitalist superpowers make up the first world of contention for world dominance (i.e. the U.S. and USSR), and other capitalist and Third World nations should forge a united front against the two powers, particularly aiming efforts against the USSR, which China views as the more dangerous and aggressive of the two. The so-called “3 Worlds Theory” has already been widely discredited and attacked, and has led China into open alliances with imperialist puppets and client regimes of U.S. and Western European imperialism, and into complicity with the U.S. war-promoters’ campaign for a boycott of the Olympic Games.

(The U.S. government, in order to get the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee to go along with its boycott scheme, resorted to heavy-handed pressure and outright bribery. Other backers of the boycott include such progressive “human rights-loving” regimes as Chile, Zaire, and Egypt.)

Our Pakistani brother at the forum made a very good observation when he noted:

Today we see a new-born Truman Doctrine, the right of the U.S. to intervene anywhere in the world, including the Middle East, to protect the oil and other interests the U.S. holds dear. This is good that Carter has proclaimed this so bluntly, because now people have to take sides. For years, the OPEC moderates have pretended to be the champions of the Third World. Now they are completely supporting the U.S., the brutal regime in Pakistan, and the reactionary rebels, for all the world to see. It may be a period of great difficulty, but it is really a blessing in disguise because it will help clarify things, and get people down to reality and serious business again.

In summary, it seems clear that the Afghan-revolution launched in April, 1978, was in grave danger of being lost almost two years later. A counter-revolutionary movement in the countryside, led by landlords and Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the progressive reforms of the regime, was gaining sway, aided by Pakistan and the Chinese, and probably the U.S. CIA. The ultra-left policies pursued by Amin in seeking reforms, policies which relied on military coercion rather than education and formation of a broad front of support, had alienated mass support and participation and played into the hands of the reactionaries.

These developments were going on in the context of U.S. setbacks in the Middle East since the collapse of the Shah of Iran and the holding of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Teheran by Iranian militants. With the serious threat posed to the Afghan PDP government, the USSR felt compelled to act, more out of its concern for its own military security than any deep, abiding commitment to the revolution in Afghanistan. U.S. imperialism, already on the defensive, seized on this opportunity to pound its war drums and proclaim its jingoist “Carter Doctrine”, earmarking billions more for military spending, attempting to sabotage the Olympics, and calling for a resumption of registration for the military draft.

In the Afghanistan situation, the state interests of the Soviet Union coincided with the revolutionary movement in Afghanistan; its intervention has at least temporarily halted the advance of counter-revolutionary forces openly supported by reactionary Muslim states and allies of U.S. imperialism.

While the Soviet move into Afghanistan may in the long run make for tremendous obstacles to the successful construction of socialism in that country, in the short run, it is difficult to see what other options were available to the embattled Afghan revolutionaries or to the Soviet Union. Socialists in the U.S. should oppose the U.S. war-mongering generated in response to the Soviet move, and support the Karmal government in Afghanistan, which from many reports, is attempting to build broader support for the government’s program of reform and to correct the left errors of his predecessor.

(Read also “AFGHANISTAN–THE BATTLE LINE IS DRAWN”, a pamphlet by Irwin Silber, available thru Modern Times Bookstore, for $1.50 each. Silber’s analysis is similar to our own.)