Trotskyist Bulletin No. 8
AFGHANISTAN & THE LEFT
Afghanistan: Russia defeated as....
US Abandons the Victims
Reprinted from Socialist Worker (Britain), 11 February
1989. This article represents a shift from the ostensible neutrality of
document 2a.2 with its assessment of the victory of imperialist-backed
reactionaries as a boost for our side and the comparison with
Vietnam. In the original most sentences were separate paragraphs.
Russias war in Afghanistan appears over. The invasion that
Moscow now calls a political mistake has ended in defeat. Russia
intervened more than nine years ago to prop up a government which now looks
incapable of surviving. Russian Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadzes
last desperate attempts to preserve some members of the Najibullah government
in an interim administration have floundered. mujahedin leaders based in
Pakistan have refused to have any truck with the ruling party, the PDPA.
The defeat for the USSR is profound. Former leader Brezhnev
ordered the invasion in late 1979 to protect Russians interests in
Afghanistan and maintain a friendly state on its border. Now Gorbachev has been
forced out by the popular resistance. The attempt to subjugate the country by
force has been broken.
Far from subduing fundamentalism, Islamic influence will have been
fuelled immeasurably by this victory. Opponents of Russias rule
everywhere within the USSR and Eastern Europe will take enormous heart. But the
legacy of the war and of decades of imperialist interferencenot just by
Russia but by Britain and the United Statesis vast. The fighting is
likely to continue.
Attempts to set up an interim government at a consultative
assembly (shura) this week looked doomed. The mujahedin is split
between the commanders in the field and the political leaders in Pakistan and
Iran. The political parties are split between allegiance to Pakistan and to
Iranto Sunni or Shiite Islam.
The seven parties based in Pakistan are divided between those
wanting a fundamentalist state and others backing a return of the king Zaheer
Shah, deposed in 1973. The one unifying factor has departedopposition to
the Russian army. Neighbouring Islamic states Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia
are competing to fill the vacuum left by the USSR.
No one is concerned to aid the people ravaged by the war. More
than one million of Afghanistans 15 million people have died. Two thirds
of the population are refugees. The population of beleaguered Kabul has
quadrupled and now hundreds of thousands face famine in a country that used to
be self-sufficient in food. Tens of millions of mines and plastic bombs litter
the deserted countryside. More than half the livestock has been slaughtered.
Wells and irrigation channels lie in ruins.
Pakistan and Iran want rid of the millions of refugees inside
their borders. Russias rulers want only to minimise the damage to their
interests. The United States and Britain are refusing to help a United Nations
relief effort, claiming it will prolong the life of the Russian-backed
Najibullah government. So while the White House has been spending $600 million
a year on arms for the mujahedin, it has given just $16 million in aid
to the UN and a further $95 million to private relief agencies.
With the Russian army gone, the US cares little for the mujahedin.
That shouldnt lead socialists to see Russias defeat as
anything but a boost for our side. Russias experience in Afghanistan
resembles that of the US in Vietnam in everything from the effect on its
forces moraleits troops bartering uniforms and arms for
hashishto the extent of the defeat.
It took the Pentagon years even to begin to recover. If anything,
the consequences for Russias rulers could be more grave.