Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Interview with UNITY’S International News Editor, Richard Fleming:
On the significance of recent events in the Near East and the international situation

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 3, February 1-14, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan has made many people take a hard look at the international situation today. It has alerted the countries and peoples of the world as to the aggressive drive of the Soviets, the increasing contention between the two superpowers, and the danger of a new world war.

These concerns are being felt in the U.S. too. The danger of war has become more of a reality especially with Carter’s plan to reinstitute the draft. The recent events raise questions, such as, how can we combat Soviet aggression and defend world peace? How should we evaluate the U.S.’s response to the Afghanistan invasion? Does the U.S. have a role to play in opposing Soviet aggression? What does this mean for our struggle against the U.S. bourgeoisie? How communists answer these questions will have important implications for our work in this period.

Richard Fleming, UNITY’S international editor, speaks to some of these points in the following interview.

What is the significance of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the world situation?

This is the first time that the Soviet Union directly invaded and occupied a third world country. It shows that the Soviets are on a relentless drive to dominate the world, and that it is stepping up its rivalry with the U.S. toward this end. If the Soviet Union can so blatantly march into Afghanistan, what is to stop them from marching into Iran, or Pakistan? The invasion is a threat to all countries in the Near East, other third world countries, and to world peace.

But the Soviet Union’s action is also significant because it helped turn world opinion against Moscow. It alerted the world to the Soviet Union’s aggressive and expansionist nature, and the danger of war. The third world overwhelmingly condemned the invasion. Almost every country in the world opposes the invasion.

How do you evaluate the U.S.’s response to the invasion?

The invasion clearly was a jolt to the U.S. imperialists, exposing the fallacy of detente. Detente has proven to be a failure in restraining Soviet expansion or protecting U.S. interests around the world. The Soviets’ invasion has precipitated a rethinking of foreign policy on the part of the U.S.

In moving away from detente, the U.S. took some retaliatory measures against Moscow like cutting off some exports of high-technology and grain. These objectively hurt the Soviets, while also not strengthening the U.S.’s hand against others. For this reason, we support these measures.

But it is also clear that the U.S.’s shift away from detente is towards a more pro-interventionist policy. Carter is clearly stepping up war preparations and adopting a more threatening posture towards the third world.

This was clear in Carter’s State of the Union Message, where he declared that the Persian Gulf was a sphere of U.S. interest and threatened to use military force to defend U.S. imperialism’s interests there.

If you support some of the steps taken by the U.S., do you feel there is a basis for a united front with the U.S. against the Soviet Union?

No, I don’t think that conditions exist for a worldwide strategic front with the U.S. against the Soviet Union. Today, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are both contending for world domination. It is this rivalry that produces the threat of a new world war. While the Soviet Union is definitely the more aggressive of the two, and therefore the most dangerous source of war, and the U.S. is on the decline, the U.S. is still a superpower fighting to defend its world empire. Its policies show that it is not willing to respect the rights of others or work in concert for world peace.

Carter’s plans, for example, to develop the “rapid deployment force,” which is essentially a shock force for intervention in the third world, or his plans to unleash the CIA to engage in more dirty tricks and subversion, are reactionary moves aimed at strengthening U.S. imperialism and harming the third world. We should condemn these moves.

At the same time, though, we do believe that on occasion, and on concrete issues, the countries of the world and the international proletariat can utilize the contradictions between the U.S. and Soviets.

Because the U.S. is on the defensive and is trying to hold onto its established interests, there are instances where the U.S.’s actions objectively oppose the destabilization of an area or support the independence of a country like Afghanistan in opposition to Soviet aggression. This objectively aids the countries and peoples of the world. In these instances, the U.S. can be utilized against the Soviets.

It is important to understand the threat that the Soviets pose to world peace at this time. We should unite all who can be united to oppose acts or threats of Soviet aggression. In particular cases this can include the U.S., such as in the UN vote against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the U.S.’s non-recognition of the Heng Samrin puppet government in Kampuchea.

The U.S., of course, opposes the Soviets for its own superpower interest. We should have no illusions that the U.S. really supports the independence of other countries. When push comes to shove, the U.S. will not hesitate to trample over the sovereignty of another country to achieve its own ends.

What about the talk of U.S. arms sales to Pakistan?

Pakistan is directly threatened by Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It therefore is seeking to strengthen its national defense capabilities, and is appealing for weapons from many countries, including China, the European countries and the U.S. It is wrong to oppose Pakistan’s attempt to build up its national defense and use whatever help it can get against the Soviets. In this respect Pakistan could use U.S. military assistance.

In fact, if the Pakistan government requested aid from the U.S. and the U.S. refused, the U.S. would be in effect helping sacrifice a country to Soviet expansionism.

How does the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan affect the situation in Iran?

One of the chief reasons the Soviets went into Afghanistan was to be in a better position to attack and bully Iran. The danger of Soviet intervention in Iran is now much greater, definitely greater than from the U.S. The Soviets have combat troops poised just several miles from two of the borders of Iran, and as the Afghanistan invasion shows, the Soviets are already militarily mobilized in the region. Another factor is that there are still many domestic and international restraints on U.S. military intervention. Iran’s distance from the U.S. also creates logistical problems. U.S. military action in Iran would be sure to bring a reaction from the Soviets, who are much stronger currently in the region than the U.S.

The Soviets’ occupation of Afghanistan has made the Iranian people’s task of unifying and defending their country even more urgent. This is reflected in the increasing number of statements by Iranian government leaders against the Soviets.

In this context, it is crucial the hostage situation be resolved as soon as possible. The U.S. was responsible for provoking the crisis in the first place when it admitted the hated ex-Shah into the country. The taking of the embassy and the hostages was an expression of the anger of the Iranian people against the U.S. This may not have been the best tactic to take as it opened Iran to criticism from other countries about the violation of diplomatic norms. The Soviets have also tried to use the embassy takeover to expand their own influence in Iran.

Nevertheless, Iran was the wronged party in the crisis and the responsibility for ending the stalemate still falls primarily on the U.S. The U.S. government should meet Iran’s demands.

Do you see in the foreseeable future any basis for a united front with the U.S. against the Soviets?

In the future conditions may change, making such a united front necessary. Some factors that would have to be considered would be the position of socialist China and its relationship to the U.S. and U.S.S.R., the position of Europe or the third world, the policies and relative strength of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. A major development in all or any of these areas may be cause for the formation of such a front, but there is no way of exactly predicting or establishing set conditions beyond general possibilities.

If we were to enter a united front with the U.S. bourgeoisie against the Soviets, communists here would do all they could to struggle with the U.S. ruling class to aid the victims of Soviet aggression and even perhaps militarily oppose the Soviets. Our stand would be with the victims of Soviet aggression and not with U.S. imperialism. Furthermore, we would carry out our work always keeping in mind the need to strengthen the position of the masses in the united front, and put ourselves in a better position to overthrow the bourgeoisie following the defeat of the Soviets.

We can learn from the experience of the CPUSA in World War II. They correctly formed an anti-fascist front, but negated their independent role such as by liquidating their factory units and even dissolving the party under Browder. They lost sight of the distinction between why communists and the U.S. bourgeoisie were fighting fascism, and therefore wound up capitulating to the bourgeoisie.

In any such united front against social-imperialism, the main force would be the third world, together with the international proletariat. The U.S. bourgeoisie would not be a reliable or stable ally and would try to use the struggle for its own hegemonic ends.

Obviously we cannot know the exact turn of events in the coming years and we cannot predict the exact nature of the war that is coming. It may be an inter-imperialist war between the two superpowers, an anti-fascist war from the beginning or some variation.

The important thing at this time is to continue to oppose both superpowers and fight the danger of war by especially combating the Soviets. As developments in the world progress, we’ll have to update our policy.

What do you think of China’s foreign policy?

China’s foreign policy is a policy based on proletarian internationalism. It is a policy of defense of world peace – China has played a leading role in forging a united front against the two superpowers and the danger of war. China has especially alerted people to the threat of Soviet imperialism. It has given concrete assistance to the victims of aggression and reaction as in southern Africa, Kampuchea and Afghanistan.

With regards to the U.S., China has consistently opposed the imperialist policies of the U.S. On occasion, due to the rising threat of the Soviet Union, there has been a certain paralleling of interests between China and the U.S. in opposing the Soviets. China has been correct to utilize the U.S. to help oppose instances of Soviet aggression and threats. If China wished to receive arms from the U.S., such arms would help strengthen socialism.

China’s foreign policy has been correct, principled and a major help to the people of the world.

How do you think we should fight Soviet aggression and defend world peace?

We believe that the third world is the main force in fighting Soviet aggression, fighting both superpowers, and the danger of war. This is being shown today in the tremendous condemnation of the Soviets throughout the world especially in the third world. This has made Moscow very nervous.

We in this country should actively support the third world from Soviet aggression and also from U.S. intervention. The U.S. ruling class actually puts forth the view that only it, the U.S., is capable of fighting the Soviets, because everyone else is too “weak.” But the third world, especially a unified third world, and most especially the unity of all the countries in the world, is an extremely strong weapon. The U.S. actually is the least reliable in fighting the Soviets because it places its own imperialist interests above the interests of world peace.

What tasks do communists in the U.S. have around the international situation?

Communists have the responsibility of building proletarian internationalism by forging a mass movement to oppose the war preparations and contention between the two superpowers. We should build a movement that opposes the aggression and bullying of both superpowers and especially expose the danger of the Soviets, and uphold world peace.

In opposing the Soviets, we should promote a stand of solidarity with the victims of Soviet aggression and threats. We should make a clear distinction between our internationalism and the U.S. bourgeoisie’s interests in opposing Soviet aggression.

It is important to forge a movement which identifies itself as independent from the U.S. bourgeoisie. The U.S. proletariat and masses of people need their own policy and stand on the international situation. This is important because the U.S. government is at this time fanning up pro-U.S. imperialist chauvinism and war mongering and trying to turn people’s opposition to Soviet aggression into pro-U.S. imperialist patriotism.

With regards to U.S. imperialist policies we should support the struggle of countries and people around the world to throw off U.S. domination and strengthen their national independence. Such struggles are taking place in Korea, the Philippines, in Latin America, Palestine and elsewhere.

We should oppose U.S. war preparations, such as the draft, military buildups and the militarization of society. We should also oppose any appeasement of the Soviets even though Washington for now is turning away from the “detente” policy.

We should oppose appeasement around concrete issues like demanding the U.S. not trade with the Soviets or that they should meet the demands of third world countries for aid to fight the Soviets. It is not correct to oppose appeasement by calling for an arms buildup by the U.S., strengthening of U.S. imperialism, or U.S. intervention in the world to stop the Soviets. Such actions at this time would weaken the third world and other countries.

We should take these ideas out and do work among the masses of people and expand our influence over public opinion. Many people in the U.S. are very responsive to opposing the Soviet menace as well as the U.S. expansionist moves. We should raise issues like Afghanistan in trade unions and other mass organizations, and reach intellectuals, journalists and popular figures.

We should conduct forums on campuses and in the communities around the international issues. There is great concern and interest in international events and it is Crucial we build a movement that is progressive and internationalist and can affect U.S. government policy.

We should do work to support friendship with China and solidarity with the struggles in Kampuchea, Korea, El Salvador, Iran, and Afghanistan, and other areas. Around particular struggles we should unite all who can be united to advance support work, and we should integrate this with our ongoing mass work.

This work is part of our carrying out proletarian internationalism and forging the revolutionary movement in the U.S. These are not separate issues. International educational and support work is a part of developing a movement that opposes monopoly capital and which stands in solidarity with the people of the world against imperialism and war.