Soviet troops leave Afghanistan

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A new path for socialism? Revolutionary renewal in the Soviet Union and Cuba – from
FRFI 85, March 1989

soviet afghanistan

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, which was completed on 15 February 1989, represents a serious setback for the country's democratic and progressive forces. It has substantially reduced the ability of the PDPA (People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan) to resist the counter-revolutionary Mojahedin.

The imperialists are gloating. They are predicting and, indeed, working to bring about the collapse of President Najibullah's government. As Soviet troops withdrew, British and US imperialists, hoping to whip up popular opposition to the government, prevented desperately needed UN food aid reaching Kabul. In breach of the Geneva agreements, President Bush has just advanced the Mojahedin another $200m to continue its reactionary war against the Afghan government.

Nevertheless, President Najibullah has declared the PDPA's determination to resist. So far the Mojahedin, split into a dozen factions, have failed to capture any of the country's four main cities Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat. Their victory is by no means inevitable. Let there be no mistake: if the PDPA does fall and if power passes to the hands of any combination of Mojahedin factions, it will mark a major defeat for communism, the working class and the democratic movement.

Revolution...

When the PDPA came to power in the April 1978 revolution, Afghanistan was desperately poor with a per capita income of $157 per annum. Ninety per cent of the population lived in the country where the land was owned by a tiny number of feudal landlords. The people were plagued by poverty, disease and hunger.

The new revolutionary government enacted a major land reform programme. It confiscated 1.5 million acres for distribution among the poor and landless peasants and cancelled the staggering peasant debt of 31 billion afghanis (50.6 afghanis = $1). It launched a major water reform, literacy and health care programmes. It also gave equal rights to women, a measure detested by the counter-revolutionary and fundamentalist Mojahedin. And, for the first time in history, trade unions were legalised.

However, a series of ultra-left mistakes by the PDPA and mounting counter-revolutionary terrorist operations put the revolution in serious danger. In December 1979 Soviet troops entered Afghanistan to help defend the social and democratic achievements of the Afghan revolution.

... Counter-Revolution

Even before the Soviet military presence, the Reagan administration, assisted by Thatcher, had begun nurturing and developing the Mojahedin bloodthirsty, anti-communist killers. They are intent on restoring the power and wealth of the rich and privileged landlords, capitalists and their hangers-on. The biggest recipients of CIA funds over $2 billion in 10 years they have been armed with the most sophisticated weapons including British Blowpipe and US Stinger missiles.

After their 1975 defeat in Indochina, the imperialists were not willing to see the consolidation of yet another revolutionary state. They used the Mojahedin to terrorise the population and destroy their achievements. Between 1981 and 1984 they burnt 30 hospitals and 100 health clinics to the ground. From 1981 to 1985 they destroyed 1,864 schools. Attacks on the country's irrigation system, its agricultural and industrial projects, caused damage worth more than 40 billion afghanis.

This war has left the country devastated with its economy in tatters, one million dead and five million refugees. Reagan, Thatcher and Bush didn't care about these consequences. Their aim was to 'teach the Soviets a lesson'.

... And friends of counter-revolution 

Given these facts, it is sickening to see some 'socialists' welcoming the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The SWP said that 'all socialists should welcome it' and, incredibly, added that 'Russia's defeat' is a 'boost to our side'. Whose side, exactly, is the SWP on?

In the class struggle there are only two sides the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary. At a time when the democratic PDPA needs all the solidarity and support it can get, the SWP is actually making a counter-revolutionary alliance with Thatcher, Bush and the Mojahedin. 'Welcoming' the Soviet withdrawal is tantamount to urging the Mojahedin to seize power. If they come to power there will be a massacre of communists and democrats. Women will be forced back into a condition of slavery. The Mojahedin will destroy everything dear to socialists: the land reform, trade unions, women's rights and all other democratic achievements of the Afghan revolution.

For its part, the Revolutionary Communist Group can have nothing to do with the SWP style of 'socialism'. This socialism expresses not the interests of the oppressed British working class, but that of the petit-bourgeoisie and labour aristocracy which at every crucial turn in the class struggle openly displays its opposition to the real socialist and democratic movement.

The RCG calls on all socialists and democrats to extend support and solidarity to the Afghan people and the PDPA in the coming period.