Workers Vanguard No. 866
17 March 2006
U.S. Out of Iraq, Afghanistan Now!
Break with the Democrats, the Other Party of War and Racism!
For a Workers Party that Fights for Socialist Revolution!
Three years into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, that country has become a hellhole of all-sided bloodshed, with scores killed daily by occupation forces, government death squads and communal militias. Over 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war and occupation, on top of tens of thousands slaughtered in the 1991 Gulf War and more than 1.5 million killed as a result of United Nations sanctions between 1990 and 2003. As we warned from the beginning of the 2003 war, the U.S. occupation has unleashed a cauldron of ethnic and religious violence, pitting Shiite and Sunni Arabs as well as Kurds against each other and posing the real possibility of communally based civil war.
Meanwhile, some 23,000 U.S. troops supplemented by 10,000 NATO forces continue the murderous occupation of Afghanistan carried out after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The U.S. and NATO plan to add some 10,000 more troops this year and to expand operations throughout the country in order to shore up the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. The occupation of Afghanistan has meant continued brutal oppression of women and warfare among the various tribal warlords. Afghanistans U.S. overseers brokered a constitution that effectively enshrined Islamic fundamentalist sharia law, while in Iraq Islamic clerics are granted authority to strike down un-Islamic laws. Last October the Afghan Supreme Court sentenced a journalist to two years in prison for questioning the use of stoning to execute women accused of adultery.
The Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), stood for the military defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against imperialist attack without giving any political support to the reactionary, woman-hating Taliban cutthroats or the capitalist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Today, we call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases from Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia!
Insofar as the forces on the ground in Iraq aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. But as we wrote in U.S. Out of Iraq Now! (WV No. 830, 6 August 2004): We do not imbue the forces presently organizing guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces with anti-imperialist credentials
. We are intransigent opponents of the murderous communal violence against other ethnic, religious and national populations oftentimes carried out by the very same forces fighting the occupation armies.
We have fought for class struggle at home against the U.S. capitalist rulers. This perspective is crucial to puncturing the illusion that the working class and its exploiters share common national interests. That lie, propagated by both imperialist ideologues and the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, is meant to obliterate the class line that divides the proletariat from the bourgeoisie.
With even sections of the U.S. bourgeoisie embarrassed by revelations of abuse by the military in its Guantánamo prison camp, Washington has announced that it will be expanding the detention camp at its Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Bagram is itself a notoriously brutal interrogation center, one of many maintained by the U.S. around the world. The hundreds of detainees in these torture centers include not only fighters against the invasion of Afghanistan but many who had no role in any fighting but just looked the part or had the wrong name. We say: Free all the detainees! U.S. out of Guantánamo, now!
With the Bush administration under increasing fire from sections of the bourgeoisie worried that White House policies are undermining U.S. imperialisms interests, the Democrats seek to regain control of Congress and the White House as the party that can better carry out the war on terror. It is notable that while many Democrats call for an exit strategy from Iraq in order to cut U.S. losses, none are calling for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan. There was exactly one vote in Congress opposed to the Afghanistan war (by California Democrat Barbara Lee), as well as near-unanimous approval of the draconian USA Patriot Act—the linchpin of the governments war on immigrants and on the civil liberties of the population at home.
Our fight for class struggle against the blood-drenched imperialist rulers means a fight against both the Democratic and Republican parties of capital. Thus we are not and have not been part of any of the various antiwar coalitions built by the reformist left—United for Peace and Justice, ANSWER, Troops Out Now, NION—whose purpose is to build a political alliance with peace-loving sections of the bourgeoisie, i.e., liberal Democrats. None of these coalitions took the elementary stand of military defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against the imperialists.
The call for the March 18 antiwar protests by the ANSWER Coalition, which was founded by Workers World Party, states: In order to realize the demand Money for jobs, housing, education, and healthcare, Not for war and occupation we must create a national grassroots movement. In other words, organizing right-minded people in large enough numbers can convince the war-crazed, profit-driven ruling class to address the needs of working people, blacks and the poor. In contrast, we fight for proletarian revolution to rip industry out of the hands of the capitalist exploiters and create a planned, collectivized economy. That is the only way to end imperialist war and to provide jobs and quality housing, education and health care for all.
We Said: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!
Republican and Democratic party politicians rail against the barbarity of Islamic fundamentalism. Not so long ago, the American bourgeoisie, including the liberals who were tailed by most of the left, heralded the Islamic reactionaries as freedom fighters in the war against the Soviet evil empire. In the 1980s, the CIA doled out billions to the mujahedin fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. This was the largest operation in CIA history, and included aid to Osama bin Laden, who would later turn on his former masters.
U.S. aid to the Afghan mujahedin began in the late 1970s under the Carter administration, which had launched an anti-Soviet human rights crusade. The Islamic fundamentalist mujahedin were in rebellion against the pro-Moscow Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), who took power in an April 1978 coup. The PDPA sought to implement some minimal reforms to bring Afghanistan closer to the 20th century: land distribution, freeing women from the burka (the head-to-toe veil), reducing the bride price to a nominal sum, and providing education for girls. These basic reforms sparked a ferocious rebellion by landlords, tribal chiefs and mullahs who launched a jihad (holy war), burning down schools and flaying teachers alive for the crime of teaching young girls to read. When the PDPA requested assistance from Moscow in quelling this bloody rebellion, the Soviet Army intervened, acting to defend the USSRs southern border against the CIA-backed insurgency.
We declared: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Our defense of the Soviet intervention was based on our understanding that the USSR was a workers state, despite its degeneration under Stalinist bureaucratic rule. The Soviet intervention into Afghanistan—a country so backward it lacked a proletariat to carry out a social revolution—posed the possibility of extending the social gains of the 1917 October Revolution to the Afghan peoples.
Sending troops into Afghanistan was an unambiguously decent and progressive act that cut across the Stalinist bureaucracys dogma of building socialism in one country, which meant renouncing the struggle for world socialist revolution in favor of a futile quest for peaceful coexistence with imperialism. We warned that the Moscow bureaucracy might well cut a deal with the imperialists. Indeed, in an attempt to placate the imperialists, Moscow treacherously betrayed the Afghan peoples as well as Soviet defense by pulling out its troops in 1988-89. This opened the door to an all-sided civil war resulting in the fundamentalists taking power and the victory of the Taliban in 1996.
Supporting the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was the duty of proletarian revolutionists. As historic American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon said in 1939:
The question of the Russian revolution and the Soviet state which is its creation has drawn a sharp dividing line through the labor movement of all countries for 22 years. The attitude taken toward the Soviet Union throughout all these years has been the decisive criterion separating the genuine revolutionary tendency from all shades and degrees of waverers, backsliders and capitulators to the pressure of the bourgeois world.
As Trotskyists, we stood for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state, while fighting for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats and return the USSR to the revolutionary road of Lenin and Trotsky.
Capitulating to the imperialists anti-Soviet war drive, the bulk of the left internationally condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The anti-Communist International Socialist Organization (ISO) and its then-parent group in Britain, Tony Cliffs Socialist Workers Party (SWP), criminally stood with the imperialists. The 12 January 1980 issue of the British SWPs Socialist Worker blared, Troops Out of Afghanistan! After the Soviets withdrew, the ISO declared: Just as socialists welcomed the defeat of the U.S. in Vietnam, we welcome the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan. It will give heart to all those inside the USSR and in Eastern Europe who want to break the rule of Stalins heirs (Socialist Worker [U.S.], May 1988).
The anti-Communism of the Cliffites stretches back to their very origin, when Tony Cliff and his followers broke from Trotskyism by renouncing defense of the Soviet Union at the start of the Korean War in 1950. Under the fig leaf of the United Nations, U.S. and British imperialism launched a counterrevolutionary war against the North Korean deformed workers state, which was militarily backed by Red China. The Cliffite tendency was founded on a capitulation to international imperialism.
For its part, the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party declared in Revolutionary Worker (11 January 1980): Superpowers Square Off Over Afghanistan, and condemned Soviet social imperialism. In order to cover for its treachery, the RCP invented Afghan Maoist groupings opposed to both the mullahs and the Soviets. But the real enemy of this opposition were the liberating Soviet troops, as the RCP made clear in a retrospective article in Revolutionary Worker (10 March 2002): Revolutionary and progressive forces, including the countrys Maoist organizations, threw themselves into the fight against the Soviet invaders.
Uniquely in modern history, the rights of women were a central issue in the civil war that raged in Afghanistan from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The liberating effects of the Soviet intervention can be measured in hard statistics. In 1988, women made up 40 percent of the doctors and 60 percent of the teachers at the University of Kabul; 440,000 female students were enrolled in educational institutions and 80,000 more in literacy programs. Western dress was common in the cities, and women enjoyed some real measure of freedom from the veil and subjugation for the first time in Afghanistans history. As we wrote in Afghanistan: Hell for Women (WV No. 654, 25 October 1996), immediately after the Taliban took power: The blood of every unveiled woman butchered by the Afghan fundamentalists is also on the hands of those leftist organizations internationally which lined up behind U.S. imperialisms anti-Soviet dirty war in Afghanistan! (emphasis in original).
For New October Revolutions!
Warning against Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachevs maneuvers to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, we declared that it was far better to fight and defeat the forces of counterrevolution there than be forced to take them on inside the Soviet Union itself. Following the Soviet withdrawal, the Partisan Defense Committee wrote to the Afghan government in 1989 offering to organize international brigades to help fight the CIAs mujahedin killers. Though this offer was declined, the PDC and fraternal organizations raised $44,000 to aid civilian victims of the mujahedin in the city of Jalalabad. But with the Soviets out, the PDPA regime collapsed by 1992, giving rise to a brutal civil war between the various warlords that culminated in the Talibans victory in 1996.
The Kremlins retreat from Afghanistan emboldened the imperialist rulers in their drive to destroy the Soviet workers state and strengthened the forces of capitalist counterrevolution within the USSR. Withdrawal from Afghanistan was followed by the capitalist reunification of Germany in 1990 and the final undoing of the October Revolution in 1991-92.
Today, U.S. imperialism feels it can ride roughshod over every perceived opponent and enemy. With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialisms current strategic target is the Chinese deformed workers state, where capitalist rule was overthrown in 1949. Besides pursuing their economic penetration of the Chinese mainland under the Beijing bureaucracys market reforms, the imperialists are also increasing their military pressure against China.
The September 11 attacks served to temporarily divert Washingtons attention away from China. However, the occupation of Afghanistan and the placement of U.S. military bases in Central Asia and elsewhere in Asia under the rubric of the global war on terror point toward a strategic encirclement of China. Earlier this month, the Bush administration finalized a nuclear agreement with nuclear-armed India to help counter the rising power of China, as the Los Angeles Times (4 March) put it. The current bipartisan threats against Iran, a key trading partner with China, likewise pose a danger to the Chinese deformed workers state (see U.S. Hands Off Iran! WV No. 863, 3 February). We stand for the unconditional military defense of China and the other remaining deformed workers states—Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea—against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution. We call for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist misrulers and replace them with regimes based on workers and peasants councils.
The logic of the bloody imperialist system starkly poses the choice: socialism or barbarism. Young fighters against war and oppression must study and learn the lessons of past struggles and defeats if they are to go forward to win new victories. The ICL fights to forge Bolshevik parties internationally to lead the fight for new October Revolutions, opening the door to a socialist world in which imperialist war and oppression are relics of a barbaric past.