The Fourth International and Afghanistan
By Salah Jaber, reprinted from International Viewpoint, 6 April 1987. Footnotes as per original text. Note the claim that calling for a Soviet withdrawal, which the Usec’s 1980 resolution had correctly observed would “open the way” for the installation of a reactionary regime, does not amount to support for the mujahedin.
In January 1980, a month after the start of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International met. A minority supported the Soviet intervention, characterizing it as “progressive.” The majority of the United Secretariat criticized the intervention, but rejected the call for withdrawal of the Soviet troops, supporting them against the mujahedin. It called for “choosing your camp against imperialist and the conservative forces.” Only a small minority came out for withdrawal.1
The supporters of withdrawal, however, explained their position on the basis of considerations on the class nature of the camps existing in Afghanistan identical to those that inspired the two other positions. Their minority resolution, after condemning the Soviet intervention as a “gross violation of the right of peoples to self determination,” argued as follows:
The minority resolution concluded with the definition of tasks:
This is the position that was finally adopted in May 1981 by a majority of the International Executive Committee of the International.2 While a minority continued to uphold the United Secretariat position of January 1980, the majority of the IEC adopted and developed, with certain nuances of its own, the argumentation of the pro-withdrawal minority of 1980. Thus, the May 1981 resolution placed itself within the framework of “combating all the forces of reaction, the Islamic fundamental movements and others in Peshawar,” and judged that the Soviet intervention “favors the counter-revolution.”
While affirming that “real defence of the interests of the workers and peasants, as well as of the peoples of Afghanistan, involves an intransigent struggle against the Afghan reactionary forces and imperialism,” the majority resolution of the IEC declared for the “right of self-determination of the Afghan peoples” and for the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, pointing out that this slogan “is in no way opposed to an unconditional defence of the members and sympathizers of the PDPA against the reaction.”
The resolution ended by defining the following tasks:
It is useful in particular to recall what was, and remains, the position of the Fourth International on Afghanistan, because many people still confuse calling clearly for withdrawal of the Soviet troops with an attitude of support for the mujahedin, or even with putting pressure on the imperialist countries to increase their aid to the world’s richest reactionary guerrillas.
3. There were a few Afghan organizations of Maoist inspiration that were both “progressive” and opposed to the Soviet presence. While it was correct to note their existence as a positive fact, it was wrong to think that they “could become a pole of active opposition to the Islamic fundamentalist or pro-imperialist forces.” That was to underestimate the formidable polarization of Afghan society produced by the Soviet intervention and the military escalation. Those of the autonomous Afghan progressives who have not gone over to the Kabul government, or one of the Islamic parties have been decimated by the mujahedin as much, if not more, than by the PDPA’s repression.