United Secretariat Declaration on Afghanistan
Reprinted from Intercontinental Press, 3 March 1980. We have excerpted key passages from the 26 January 1980 majority resolution passed by the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec) led by the late Ernest Mandel. There were also two minority resolutions (see document 2a.5).
5. In a society like that in Afghanistan, the initiation of progressive reforms by the PDPA was bound to arouse armed resistance from those conservative forces who lived off the exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses and who had previously presided unchallenged over the destinies of one of the most deprived people on earth.
Notwithstanding the petty-bourgeois character of the PDPA leadership, its desire to carry through a “national and democratic revolution,” and its methods of carrying out its reform program, the existence of two camps confronting each other in a civil war that has spread since the spring of 1979 expresses the sharp confrontation between the exploited and oppressed classes and the ruling classes.
A coalition of reactionary forces whose real social base was composed of big landowners, tribal chiefs, smugglers, the religious hierarchy, and industrial and commercial capitalists rose up against the new regime. The traditional tribal, clan, and semifeudal ties of dependence between the peasants and the notables made it easier for the latter to build a social base. Islam was employed as an ideological glue to cement these various layers. The fragmented character of the conservative groups fighting against the regime in reality reflects their organization around the tribal chiefs and notables of diverse regions.
American imperialism then moved— with the aid of the European imperialists— to strengthen its position in the region, including Pakistan. Its direct and indirect aid to the reactionary forces in Afghanistan was part of this broader operation and in turn highlighted the class nature of the civil war unfolding within Afghanistan.
6. The Soviet bureaucracy is concerned, above all, with protecting its own power and interests. It therefore places great importance not only on the military defense of the Soviet Union’s borders, but also, within the context of its policy of peaceful coexistence, on regional stability.
Faced with the danger of a collapse of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and a possible victory by the reactionary forces linked to imperialism, Moscow decided to become more deeply involved. It was not prepared to accept the installation of a regime beholden to imperialism on its borders and in a country that had traditionally been under its influence, with all the consequences that would follow, especially at a time of heightening tensions throughout the region. Moscow did not look forward to the prospect of a chaotic situation of prolonged and spreading civil war. It feared the establishment of another “Islamic Republic” and its repercussions on those populations in the Soviet Union whose ethnic and cultural identities are similar to those of peoples in Afghanistan and Iran.
Beginning on December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union qualitatively increased its military presence in Afghanistan, after having prepared the liquidation of Amin and his replacement by Babrak Karmal.
7. The Soviet bureaucracy decided to intervene (which was only part of its broader policy) the same way it decides all questions—without any regard for the democratic and national sentiments of the oppressed classes and peoples or for whether the working class on a world scale will understand it.
Independently of its specific aims, however, the Soviet bureaucracy’s intervention places it in a position where it must fight against a reactionary social bloc, a bloc that has no resemblance to a “national liberation movement,” but which is struggling to retain its privileges and turn back all the gains of the masses.
Whatever our political opposition to the bureaucracy’s overall approach, we must not lose sight of the concrete and important fact that today the bureaucracy is striking—with its own methods—against the counterrevolution. It is dealing a military setback to reaction and imperialism within the country.
Given Afghanistan’s position on the Soviet Union’s borders and the Soviet intervention in the civil war, the class struggle unfolding in that country immediately takes on an international dimension and is reflected in the current conflict between imperialism and the Soviet Union.
Imperialism, under the guise of preserving “national sovereignty,” has acted to defend the landlords and the privileged classes, to break the rise of a liberation movement of the workers and peasants, and to change the strategic situation to the detriment of the Soviet Union.
9. a. Revolutionary Marxists support the anti-imperialist demands of the Afghan workers and peasants and the progressive measures taken in their interests by the PDPA. In the civil war under way in Afghanistan—regardless of their criticisms of the policies of the PDPA leadership and the Kremlin—they are in the camp of the toiling masses and fight for their victory over the conservative forces and their imperialist allies.
b. Revolutionists base themselves on the international class struggle and on the independent organization of the workers and peasants, which is totally different from the entire approach of the Kremlin bureaucracy.
They do not take any responsibility for the Kremlin’s military intervention. They do not give the slightest political support to this intervention, which flows from the overall policy of the bureaucratic caste. Although the intervention deals blows to the reactionary forces, it does not in the least aim to improve the opportunities for independent action by the masses.
Revolutionary Marxists reject any neutralist attitude in this war. In so far as the Soviet army actually is opposing the enemies of the workers and peasants, they favor its victory over them. To achieve that, the gains of the workers must be consolidated, radical social and democratic steps must be taken, and the Afghan masses must be organized and armed to defend them.
d. In the conflict between the reactionary coalition and imperialism on one side and the Soviet troops and the PDPA government on the other, the demand for Afghan national sovereignty in the name of the right of peoples to self-determination would be nothing but a democratic guise for the aims of reaction and imperialism. The withdrawal of the Soviet troops would in no way assure any freedom for the Afghan nationalities to decide their own course. It would only open the way for the installation of a reactionary regime oppressing workers and peasants, a regime beholden to Washington, which would consolidate Washington’s position in the region.
e. To choose the camp opposed to imperialism and the reactionary forces does not imply any truce or holy alliance with the Soviet bureaucracy, whose counterrevolutionary orientation discredits socialism, places a major obstacle before the development of the world revolution, and thus weakens the defense of the material basis of the Soviet workers state.