Compilation of Articles on the US/NATO Attack on Afghanistan 2001

Stop the Invasion of Afghanistan! (2001)



Note by the Editor: The following article has been published by the predecessor organization of the RCIT (the League for a Revolutionary Communist International; later renamed into League for the Fifth International) in 2001 shortly before the beginning of the imperialist atack on Afghanistan. We are republishing this article on the 15th anniversary of this war. The founding cadres of the RCIT have been expelled from the LFI in 2011 when the protested against the centrist degeneration of this organization.


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The US-led attack on Afghanistan is an atrocity. The war that Bush and Blair have unleashed from the comfort of Washington and Westminster will kill and maim thousands more innocent victims.


We have to be clear that in this war we want to see the imperialist coalition defeated, and that means supporting all Afghan military resistance against imperialism, including Taliban resistance. Why?


Blair and Bush’s war aim is not simply to “end terror” - it is to reassert global capitalism’s domination of the world and control the central Asian region.


That’s why tens of thousands of people across the globe have come together to oppose the war.


The American press has asked the question: “why do they hate us”? But few in the establishment can stomach the answer.


The system of global exploitation that is run from Wall Street is one, long organised atrocity.


Hunger and preventable disease kill thousands of children every day in the poorest countries of the world. Heavily indebted countries spend more on debt repayment than on education and health. And the USA’s puppets – the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation – are on a mission to rip away every obstacle to cheap labour and privatisation.


But global capitalism does not just kill by starvation and disease. The USA backs torture regimes and terror groups across the globe.


It backs the death squads in Colombia. It backs the Israeli murder machine against the Palestinians. It even backed bin Laden when his terror groups were useful in the fight against the Soviet Union.


To point to all these facts is not to justify the September 11 attacks – but it does justify the mass movement against the imperialist war – a movement that must unite workers, refugees and peace campaigners in the developed countries with the mass struggles against imperialism that are raging from Palestine to the Philippines.


The attack on the World Trade Centre has given Bush and Blair every excuse they need to step up repression against liberation movements in the Middle East and around the world.


It has set the stage for a crackdown on civil rights, on refugee rights, on media freedom.


And it has allowed the West’s rulers a free hand in the class struggle. As George W Bush gave a billion dollar handout to the airlines, the airline bosses were preparing to sack 90,000 – many without redundancy pay or benefits.


In Britain, those who called for the TUC to keep up the fight against privatisation were denounced as “traitors” – and the GMB union has already called off its million pound publicity campaign against privatisation. Gordon Brown has warned there will be spending cuts to pay for all the bombs and bullets.


But the class struggle will go on.


And it is no longer just a struggle against privatisation and poverty. Bush has drawn the line – you’re either for us or against us. And Blair has rushed preening to his side.


Well sorry, Tony Blair: the millions of workers who voted Labour did not vote for a US-led military rampage across Asia and the Middle East.


We need mass action, uniting trade unionists, peace campaigners, refugee groups and the anti-capitalist movement to stop the US/UK’s war. If we fail there will be a decade of carnage.


In the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Centre attack there was talk, in Washington, of carpet bombing and even nuclear strikes. Now it seems the USA is taking a step-by-step approach. But it’s just as dangerous.


The hawks in the Bush regime – and many on the US right – wanted to unleash Armageddon, not just on Afghanistan but on all the rogue states who will not play ball with US domination: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea. They even threatened strikes against Pakistan until it agreed to co-operate with the USA.


But a different strategy has now emerged: the “ten year war on terror”. Far from representing restraint or moderation, this strategy is designed to deliver an even more complete US triumph over the peoples of the Third World.


The USA is busy constructing a coalition with some of the worst dictatorships in the world.


Jack Straw was sent on an errand to kiss the backside of the Iranian dictatorship that has killed tens of thousands of workers, students and peasants.


US diplomats are showering favours on the military dictatorship in Pakistan. Musharraf’s right wing junta can have debt relief and even its own nuclear weaponry in return for siding with the US.


Russia has been given the nod to carry on massacring and raping Muslims in Chechnya in return for its support.


The imperialists are operating the old maxim of US policy: “They may be sons of bitches but they’re our sons of bitches”. As a result, those struggling for democracy and human rights across the globe will now be on the receiving end of unbridled repression.


As well as bombing, we are likely to see incursions by ground troops, commando raids and a prolonged dirty war against Islamic movements.


It is because of the scale of opposition and resentment to imperialist rule, because they fear the transformation of resentment and opposition into mass resistance, they know Cruise missiles are not enough.


Imperialism’s other repressive techniques against its opponnets are well known and all too effective. They include police repression, deportation, torture, censorship and death squads. They include puppet leaders of mass movements and client states – people like Arafat and the Jordanian monarchy who would rather do deals with the US than lead resistance. They include tame Labour and trade union leaders who will agree to suspend the class struggle for the duration of war.


That is why we must be clear: imperialism’s target is not just a few Islamic “terrorists”. It is the whole global resistance to capitalism that is in the gunsights of the Washington offensive.


And whether liberals and pacifists in the west like it or not – the masses of the Third World will fight back.


If the workers’ movement does not head up the resistance it will be led by radical right-wing Islamic movements, from Egypt to Pakistan to the Philippines.


Because of this – and because of the terrible price the imperialists will extract from a global victory – the working class and socialist movements must put themselves at the head of anti-imperialist resistance.


The workers’ movement in Britain must commemorate not just the US workers who died on 11 September but also the innocent victims of US foreign policy in Latin America, the Balkans, the Middle East and across the globe.


The best way to fight for the interests of ordinary people in the USA, Britain and the other imperialist countries is to launch a mass movement against the imperialist war, protect ethnic minorities and defend civil rights.


That includes giving active support to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli reoccupation of cities and towns in the West Bank.


The anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s must be our model. It acted, along with the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people, as a major deterrent to US military aggression for years.


There already exists a vibrant mass movement against global capitalism. It has “summit-hopped” its way into history, paralysing the imperialist economic diplomacy and shaking the confidence of the system’s apologists.


Now that movement – which had begun to unite with organised workers sporadically and tentatively – must do two things:


• sink deeper roots into working class communities;


• come out openly against the war and organise direct action to hinder the war machine.


The task of the moment is to prevent the imperialist attack. Blair’s ministers have been quietly shocked by the size and immediacy of the anti-war response. And we’ve only just started.


The LRCI and its British Section - Workers Power - stand clearly for the military victory of all Afghan forces that resist the US/UK offensive. This includes Taliban forces that resist the imperialist offensive.


The war against Afghanistan must be the signal for a generalised protest across the region: strikes, the occupation of roads and the blockade of US military installations can paralyse the Pentagon warmongers.


Workers across the globe must stand with the ordinary people of Afghanistan against the military onslaught.


The events of 11 September show that globalisation, and the USA’s domination of the world, are not heralding a new era of peace and plenty.


We are entering a period of dramatic instability, in which the hatred and revulsion engendered by imperialist policy, global inequality and national oppression, rouse individuals to acts of desperate violence as well as to mass resistance.


The USA is sowing the seeds of further conflicts to come, ensuring that the 21st Century will be at least as violent and bloody as the last.


The World Trade Centre attack sent shockwaves through the world economy – but it did not cause the recession that is about to be unleashed. Capitalism itself is the root cause of economic misery.


Added to the miseries of repression and war we may be about to see those of a prolonged and co-ordinated global recession.


But another world is possible.


A world without racism, war and unpredictable terror can only come about if we attack the root causes.


And the root cause is capitalism.


Capitalism sucks wealth from ordinary people to feed a privileged layer of rich businessmen. Capitalism dooms humanity to crisis and war.


Socialism means taking away their wealth and power and putting society under the control of the working class. It means allocating resources according to need, not the profit motive.


To get socialism we need a workers revolution.


And revolution – not terror – is the biggest fear that stalks the White House and Downing Street. Our rulers know that every world war has resulted in huge revolutionary upheavals.


They told themselves that, with the collapse of the corrupt, decrepit Soviet bureaucracy they had seen the end of history. But history has returned, big time.


Of course, as in all wars, there will be a wave of patriotism as “our boys” go in. Just as surely there will be a wave of revulsion when some of these young people come back in body bags while Blair, Brown and Straw sit smugly thousands of miles from the action.


Revulsion will turn to anger as workers realise it is they who are having to pay the price: through spending cuts, job losses and curtailed civil liberties.


Millions will realise that the war Blair and Bush have unleashed against “terror” is in fact a war against democracy and social justice.


Globalisation, indebtedness, poverty and the rule of military tyrants are the real payload on the warheads of the cruise missiles they will aim at Kabul, Baghdad or Khartoum.


That’s why socialists are determined to turn the struggle against the war into a struggle against the system that has spawned it.


Shoulder to shoulder, workers and young people across the globe, we can stop Bush and Blair’s war, defend Afghanistan and defeat imperialism.




Questions & Answers on the Afghan War (2001)




Note by the Editor: The following article has been published by the predecessor organization of the RCIT (the League for a Revolutionary Communist International; later renamed into League for the Fifth International) in 2001 shortly before the beginning of the imperialist atack on Afghanistan. We are republishing this article on the 15th anniversary of this war. The founding cadres of the RCIT have been expelled from the LFI in 2011 when the protested against the centrist degeneration of this organization.




What does the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) say about the war?


Our position on the imperialist attack on Afghanistan is that we are for the defeat of Britain/USA and its allies and for the victory of all the Afghan forces that resist them.


So our policy is for revolutionary defeatism with regard to the imperialist states, and revolutionary defencism with regard to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a semi-colony - a country that despite formal state independence is fully dependent on the world market dominated by the imperialist powers and their monopolies.


Does this mean supporting the Taliban?


In the event of imperialist attack, the LRCI stands clearly for the military victory of all Afghan forces that resist the US/UK offensive. That includes Taliban forces if they resist the imperialist offensive.


This in no way implies political support for the deeply reactionary Taliban regime or for the terrorist policies pursued by Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organisation.


The LRCI condemned the indiscriminate mass terrorism of the attack on the World Trade Centre and the killing of the passengers of civilian airliners. This is not the way to struggle against imperialism. But we stress that imperialism is the biggest terrorist, having killed many, many times more innocent civilians during the past 10 years than bin Laden or the Taliban.


But aren’t the Taliban just as bad as imperialism?


Afghanistan is a poor, devastated country - held in backwardness by decades of imperialist-sponsored civil war and economic dependency. US imperialism and its allies are the great powers responsible for poverty, wars and ecological disaster all over the globe.


Certainly the Taliban are a deeply reactionary force, which has banned all opposition, suppresses other religions and minorities, and has driven women from work and education.


But this war is not a war between democracy and reactionary Islamism. It is a war for US and imperialist control of a semi-colony. It is from this fundamental point of view that we defend semi-colonial countries - the regime in power at the time of the war is a secondary question.


We have to analyse this war not from just a short-term snapshot of the current situation but from the socio-economic fundamentals. The key starting point for Marxists is the relationship of the contending states to the world capitalist order and the interests of the class struggle against global capitalism.


So what is this war about?


The war is not about terrorism or Islamism. It is about imperialism’s determination to crush any opposition around the globe. Imperialism wants to have the right to dictate to any country in the world what type of government it should have. The USA wants the right to intervene within other states at any time on the pretext of a “war on terrorism". The USA also wants control of the central Asian region and to secure territory for its oil supplies. From the Afghan side this war is about the defence of the country’s sovereignty against the imperialists’ grip.


Revolutionary communists are not champions of nation states - we want to see a world free from borders and nationalism. But national independence must not be abolished by the dictat of powerful nations over weak ones. It can only be overcome through the free and voluntary association of nations in an international socialist society, in which inequality and exploitation have been abolished.


But how can you side with a force in a war without supporting its politics? Surely this is a complete contradiction?


No it isn’t. In the class struggle it is often the case that revolutionaries have to take sides in a conflict with forces to whose leadership and policies we are completely politically opposed. This does not and must not mean that we endorse or prettify their politics in any way.


The reason we are obliged to take sides is because of the real, practical, objective situation and what it means in terms of the worldwide conflict of forces. The war is not fundamentally a choice between US democracy and Taliban theocratic despotism. It is between the right of the USA and Britain to dominate and plunder the natural resources of central Asia and the right of semi-colonial countries to resist imperialist aggression.


There are countless situations in the class struggle in which revolutionaries have been obliged to support military forces which are at war with imperialism despite their counter-revolutionary politics. This was the case in the Falklands or Malvinas War in 1982 and the Gulf War in 1991. In the former case Workers Power (Britain) and the Irish Workers Group called for victory to Argentina. In the latter case the LRCI called for victory to Iraq. We did this without for a single moment supporting the dictatorship of General Galtieri whose Junta had murdered thousands of workers and leftists when it came to power. Likewise we did not express any political support for a Saddam Hussein the butcher of the Kurds and the Shiite population of southern Iraq.


"It is in the direct interests of the Iraqi and Kurdish people to defend Iraq against imperialism without for a minute abandoning their just struggles for national freedom, democracy and class emancipation. In the war they should propose a military united front against the attacking imperialist forces. In practice this would require that the regime cease all repression against the progressive forces.


But whatever the regime’s actions against progressive forces, imperialism remains the main enemy while the armed conflict continues. It is from within the war effort that forces must be rallied to overthrow the Ba’athist regime and create a workers’ and peasants’ government. Proceeding towards an armed insurrection to achieve that goal during the course of the war with imperialism will have to be considered in the light of the need to secure a military victory against the main enemy - imperialist forces in the Gulf."


(’Victory to Iraq’, LRCI Resolution in Trotskyist International, No. 6, April 1991)


Does this approach have any history in the revolutionary movement?


Yes - Trotsky supported Chinese government forces against Japanese imperialist invasion in the 1930s, at the head of which stood Chiang Kai-shek, who had massacred 250,000 Chinese communists in the late 1920s. Trotsky explained this position very clearly with regard to Brazil in 1938 and, as with a great deal of the revolutionary ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, this method is directly relevant, and can be applied, to the situation today.


Trotsky wrote: “In Brazil there now’s reigns a semifascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally - in this case I will be on the side of ’fascist’ Brazil against ’democratic’ Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the other hand should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!”


("Anti-imperialist struggle is key to liberation", September 1938, in Writings, 1938-39, p.34).


How does this apply today?


There is a fundamental difference between the USA and Afghanistan - a far deeper one than the contrast between their internal democratic and dictatorial regimes.


The USA is the greatest danger to the working class and poor peasantry of the world. It is the new imperialist monopole - the sole superpower. Its military might is driving globalisation and seeking to establish a new world order based on the unrestricted advance of capital across the globe. Afghanistan on the other hand is an extremely weak semi-colonial country which has been racked with imperialist sponsored war for decades. Even the triumph and reactionary policies of the Taliban are in large measure the result of US policy since 1979. The Taliban were created out of the efforts of imperialism to defeat the Soviet-backed PDPA government in the Afghan civil war and to resist the USSR’s invasion. Afghanistan’s development is blocked primarily by imperialism. The greatest enemy of the workers and peasants of the region is imperialism.


Can’t we say we are for the defeat of the imperialists without being for the victory of Taliban forces?


This would be a complete evasion. If we are for the defeat of the imperialists, it means we want the forces that are fighting them to win. Anything else would reduce our anti-imperialism to a mere phrase.


Does this mean that workers and progressive forces in Afghanistan should be in a united front with the Taliban?


The Taliban won’t allow this. They are still imposing a brutal dictatorship over all other forces in the country. This would make a united front practically impossible because of their absolute intolerance of any opposition and their refusal to collaborate with non-Islamic forces (which is a very broad category according to their world view!) They would seek to prevent any independent organisation or arming of the peasants or workers. This, together with their venomous hostility to women’s rights and the rights of the non-Pashtun nationalities, are massive obstacles to a large-scale mobilisation of the masses to defeat imperialism. If they persist in these policies this will enormously contribute to imperialism’s triumph or the imposition by Pakistan and others of a compliant pro-imperialist regime in Kabul.


What is more, it would be unprincipled to enter a formal “united front” or alliance in which the revolutionary communists were obliged to drop or hide their politics.


The LRCI’s programme The Trotskyist Manifesto explains that the anti-imperialist united front involves: “Striking tactical agreements with non-proletarian forces at both leadership and rank and file level. Such agreements might involve striking formal alliances or committees. Where this is the case the fundamental pre-conditions for entering such blocs are: that the bourgeois or petit-bourgeois forces are actually waging a struggle against imperialism, or its agents, that no limitations are placed on the political independence of the revolutionary organisation within this bloc and that there are no bureaucratic exclusions of significant forces struggling against imperialism."


But revolutionaries and working class forces should fight for an anti-imperialist united front.


Without giving an iota of support to the arch-reactionary Taliban government in Afghanistan or the movement of Osama bin Laden, we call for and support the united action of all Afghan forces - including Islamist forces - to repel the imperialist assault.


How could an anti-imperialist united front ever be possible if the Taliban refused it and allowed no space for independent forces to organise?


Inside Afghanistan, the slogan of the anti-imperialist united front would be both:


* A rallying call on the people to fight the imperialist invasion; and


* An attempt to mobilise those who are fighting under the leadership of the Taliban to force the Taliban leaders to abandon their dictatorship and broaden the basis of resistance to imperialism.


In this way we fight to arm the people and break the Taliban’s dictatorship over them. It is a political fight for a mass independent resistance to imperialism. At the same time as focusing the armed struggle on the imperialist invasion as the main enemy, it involves an ongoing political struggle to mobilise the forces which can overthrow the Taliban and destroy their dictatorship. It poses the need for democratic rights, class independence, rights for secular forces, the arming of the masses, an end to persecution of women and national minorities, but it does so unambiguously from the perspective of fighting imperialism as long as the latter is attacking. It is not a suspension of struggle against the Taliban but the best form of it in the circumstances of imperialist attack


This distinguishes us from the bourgeois and pro-imperialist opposition by stressing that our criticism is not that the Taliban are fighting imperialism, but that because of their oppression of women, their reactionary Islamist agenda, dictatorial hatred of the democratic rights of the people etc, they are not capable of a consistent or effective fight against imperialism.


Does this mean we should suspend the struggle to overthrow tyrannies like the Taliban or Saddam during the course of the war against imperialism?


No, it means that the struggle to overthrow them proceeds along a new path - the path of mobilising forces from within the struggle against imperialism. When preparing and planning the insurrection, we would take into account the imperialist onslaught. Otherwise, we would be saying we were indifferent to the outcome of the war.


The Spanish Civil War gave an example of how revolutionaries could even support an insurrection against a regime that it was fighting alongside against fascism, if that regime tried to weaken or disarm the workers organisations. In this case the workers in Barcelona in May 1937 rose up in arms against the capitalist popular front regime without stopping fighting at the front against the fascists and without stopping producing arms for the war. This is far from being excluded in countries like Afghanistan.


But if we said in the process that we didn’t care about the war with the imperialists, and if our tactics didn’t ensure that the anti-imperialist struggle were not set back, then we would be cutting our own throats - or rather, ensuring that the imperialists cut our throats if they won the war.


But the Taliban are not actually fighting against imperialism - they are not progressive enemies of USA but reactionary ones. So how can an anti-imperialist united front be right?


There is only one sense in which Taliban or bin Laden actions are anti-imperialist - and it is only in that sense that we support them action.


Is it terrorist actions against US workers? No - we condemn them.


Is it rejecting modern society and banning TV and modern dress? No - we fight it.


Is it the barbaric oppression of women? No - we expose it and arouse the struggle of the people against it.


Is it resistance to the US/UK military attack on Afghanistan? Yes. This and only this is progressive. And it is this and only this that we support.


So does this mean that we raise the slogan ’Victory to the Taliban’?


Definitely not. That would be a gross accommodation to the arch-reactionary politics of the Taliban. We never said victory to Saddam Hussein, victory to Galtieri and the Argentine Junta, victory to Stalin or victory to any reactionary governments. We are for the victory of the Afghan forces against imperialism - not for confirming their political leaderships in power.


But would a victory for the Taliban not lead to greater reaction in Afghanistan?


Temporarily, perhaps. Certainly, if they were the only force that stood up to imperialism. If all the anti-Taliban forces back the US invasion, or if progressives fail to oppose it, the Taliban would be in an even stronger position still. If they won the war they could claim sole credit and there would be no opposition with any anti-imperialist authority. And if they were beaten after mounting the only resistance, their brand of Islamism would gain enormous prestige in the Middle East and central Asia. Anyone who stood back or colluded with the imperialists would be utterly compromised in the eyes of the masses as the full consequences of an imperialist victory became clear.


The way to defeat imperialism and minimise the reactionary advantage that the Taliban would seek to seize is to fight for the independent mobilisation of the masses against the US/ British attack. This requires the bold use of the revolutionary tactic of the anti-imperialist united front.


How can we explain this to workers who rightly hate the Taliban?


Directly, and without equivocation. Many workers in imperialist countries will object to our position on chauvinist lines - others will take a pacifist line that opposes the war without supporting resistance to imperialism. But we are revolutionaries and we must state what is the truth, not adapt our position to the present consciousness of the majority. We need to use clear, patient language but not give in to the wave of chauvinism or imitate the pacifism that almost inevitably accompanies the onset of war in an imperialist country.


Anyway - we don’t draw our line from the existing consciousness of the workers in this or that country but from the interests of the international working class.


As Trotsky explained: “The mentality of the class of the proletariat is backward but the mentality is not such a substance as the factories, the mines, the railroads, but is more mobile and under the blows of the objective crisis, the millions of unemployed, it can change rapidly."


("Discussions with Trotsky", in The Transitional Programme, Pathfinder edition, p127)


It will change rapidly if there is a prolonged war - and we must have clear revolutionary arguments to win new forces and build a powerful anti-imperialist movement.


We have the utmost confidence that the national sections of the LRCI and the REVOLUTION youth groups will do this imaginatively and clearly, taking account the psychology and mood of the working class and anti-capitalist youth.


We appeal to all organisations that support our view to work with us to defeat the US/Allied imperialist war drive and build a new revolutionary international to unite revolutionary communist forces around the world.




Defend Afghanistan! Defeat Imperialism! (2001)


Stop Bush and Blair’s Bloody War!


Joint Statement by: League for a Revolutionary Communist International, Fraccíon Trotskysta and Communist League – Workers Power (Greece)




Note by the Editor: The following article has been published by the predecessor organization of the RCIT (the League for a Revolutionary Communist International; later renamed into League for the Fifth International) in 2001 shortly before the beginning of the imperialist atack on Afghanistan. We are republishing this article on the 15th anniversary of this war. The founding cadres of the RCIT have been expelled from the LFI in 2011 when the protested against the centrist degeneration of this organization.




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On 7 October the USA and Britain, supported by their allies in the European Union and with the complicity of Putin’s government in Russia launched a barbaric assault on Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. This attack is imperialist revenge for the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks, which exposed the vulnerability of the most powerful military nation in the world.


The imperialist have started an attack on the Afghan people creating hundreds of thousands of refugees and bombarding one of the poorest countries in the world into submission. Their objectives in this war up to this point are to destroy the supposed bases of the Al Qaida organisation, to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and overthrow the Taliban regime.


We, the undersigned revolutionary organisations, unequivocally condemn the US and UK imperialist attacks. We declare that the USA is the greatest terrorist threat to the world. We call for:


• the immediate and unconditional cessation of the attacks


• the defence of Afghanistan against imperialist attack


• the defeat of the US/UK/Coalition forces


• solidarity with the Afghan people resisting imperialist aggression


• defence of the victims of racist and anti-Islamic bigotry in the West


• an end to US and EU repressive laws and attacks on civil liberties and democratic freedoms.


Without giving an iota of support to the arch-reactionary Taliban government in Afghanistan or the movement of Osama bin Laden, we call for and support the united action of all Afghan forces – including Islamist forces - to repel the imperialist assault.


We commit ourselves to help to build the biggest possible global united front against imperialist aggression, uniting trade unions, anti-capitalist campaigners, youth, poor peasants, Socialists, Communists, anarchists, women’s initiatives and oppressed people all over the world in common action to stop the war.


The first and overriding aim of US foreign policy in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks has been to assemble a Grand Coalition of states which will grant them the unrestricted right to pursue their objectives by any means, including military action against any forces, anywhere in the world, within any state.


Nevertheless, although all the US allies have declared their support for the “war against terrorism” Bush has not been given a “blank cheque” nor have they unconditionally accepted the military and political objectives of the USA. Signing up to the US campaign is limited by the search by each state to defend its own national interests.


Russia has said that it will actively collaborate in the aggression but it has in return demanded a heavy price, starting with the explicit recognition of its “rights” in Chechnya. In the EU the UK has offered its support without reservations but France and Germany, with their own interests, demand certain limits to the intervention, fearful that the conflict will lead to greater destabilisation. The Arab and Islamic governments are squeezed between supporting the US and the pressure of the masses who want to reject all US intervention. In Latin America the alignment of the region’s governments with Bush has been at the cost of important internal discussions on how this support should be given and takes place in the midst of opposition by the population to the imperialist aggression.


Hot on the heels of the 11 September terrorist attacks, stock markets dived around the world. Billions of dollars were wiped off share prices. Airline bosses rushed to bring forward plans for mass sackings; the value of insurance companies, tourist and hotel industries and other financial and service organisations fell sharply. This was not solely caused by the New York and Washington events – they merely provided an impetus for a long-developing crisis. The US and European economies are entering a recession – one which is already raging in the semi-colonial countries of south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America.


This enormous heightening of military, political and economic tensions in the world proves decisively that the neo-liberal offensive led by the USA has not ushered in an epoch of peace, prosperity and an end to conflict between nation states. On the contrary, US imperialist domination has brought in its wake a dramatic increase in global instability, inequality, class conflict and war.


The USA is using the shocked reaction of millions to the terrorist attacks to achieve:


• legal rights to take such military action in “self-defence” under the UN Charter and under the mutual defence provisions of Article Five of NATO’s founding treaty


• the re-definition of NATO as an anti-terrorist alliance (which European powers blocked last year but now cannot resist)


• closer co-ordination of world intelligence and security agencies


• stricter controls on refugees


• stricter controls on travel between states


• further reductions of civil liberties and democratic freedoms in the capitalist democracies


• the right to undertake unrestricted surveillance of private individuals


• the right to examine bank accounts and financial information


• the right to declare its enemies as terrorists, including anti-capitalist protestors.


The USA and its slavish allies in the EU are conscious that their imperialist actions run the risk of uniting Islamic, Middle Eastern, Central Asian and semi-colonial regimes against them.


For these self-interested reasons, and because of the USA’s broader global objectives, US propaganda has so far played down anti-Islamic demagogy inside his country and at the same time has increased its efforts to placate his allies in the Middle East. With the help of Britain, Bush has managed to enlist the support of the Pakistan military dictatorship and its diplomatic efforts have succeeded in getting the support of other regional Arab and Islamic government even if this support has been conditional.


Part of this attempt to subdue the unrest in the Middle East has been a change of Bush’s policy towards the Palestine-Israel conflict. For the first time he has said that he favours an unconditional return to peace talks and indicated US support for a Palestinian state- in reality a fiction of a state such as the reactionary one contained with the Oslo Accords – with the aim of putting an end to the intifada of the Palestinian masses. But this change of policy put the US into an immediate contradiction with its regional ally Israel, as expressed in the conflict between Bush and the right-wing Prime Minster Sharon.


Despite their diplomatic objectives, the imperialists’ war drive has the direct effect of whipping up anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism. In the USA an ignorant racist killer murdered a Sikh whom he thought was a Muslim. We have many reasons to fear that more such outrages will follow. The working class movement and anti-war movement must champion the struggle against racism and for defence of Arabs and Muslim people. We will promote a mass campaign against racism and for organised self-defence of Arab and Muslim communities.


Despite imperialist diplomacy, there is a serious possibility that the USA is destabilising one of its key gendarmes in the region - Pakistan. Military dictator Musharraf is acutely aware that there is huge support for the Taliban regime in northern towns like Peshawar bordering Afghanistan – especially those with a large Pashtun population (the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan). Radical Islamists have called for a jihad against Musharraf if the US uses Pakistani support to launch its attacks. A general strike has been called by Islamic clerics against the government. The prospect of a civil war bringing about the world’s first nuclear-equipped Islamist regime must be causing deep anxiety to the USA.


To support Musharraf, the USA and Britain have moved to end the sanctions imposed against his regime for testing atomic weapons. They are using the central role of Pakistan’s security and intelligence forces in the creation of the Taliban to put pressure on the Afghan government to yield.


The imperialists are making other compromises in order to win new adherents to the US-led alliance. Of greatest significance has been a new reactionary rapprochement between the USA and Russia. Putin has declared support for Bush’s war on terrorism and has granted permission for Russian airbases to be used in any assault, with the barely concealed precondition of Western backing for a new chauvinist offensive against Chechnya. German Chancellor Schroeder has issued a call for greater ‘understanding’ of Russia’s ‘problem with Islamic terrorists’.


In Latin America Bush’s global campaign has already made itself felt. Governments have agreed to push through greater “security” measures. The “anti-terrorist crusade” is used in Colombia to justify even greater imperialist intervention and an offensive against the FARC. In Argentina the De la Rúa government is using the crusade to justify a bigger role for the armed forces in the tasks of “internal security”. Similar measures are being taken by other governments in the region, to counteract the growing anti-imperialist sentiments of the masses.


The talk coming out of the White House and the Pentagon is of a long, difficult campaign that may have no clear beginning and no clear end. But this will not be World War Three as some in the media suggest. Nor need it be a short, sharp war like the 1991 Gulf War, but a conflict much more intricate and difficult to resolve immediately, containing at this moment in time an important lack of clarity and confusion about the imperialists’ war aims.


At this moment in time the USA-led coalition’s most likely military aim will be to take out bin Laden’s mainly Arab military bases and training camps, encourage the opposition Northern Alliance forces in the North and probably to drive the Taliban from power, replacing them with the former King or a coalition including the faction-ridden and warring forces deposed by the Taliban in 1995.


This plan, however, will not be easy to execute given the difficulties in reaching an agreement between the Afghan opposition to the Taliban regime and in Pakistan’s opposition to the Northern Alliance and the old monarchy. Whatever the nature and extent of the political and military intervention of the USA in the following days or weeks, its interventions in Afghanistan could detonate an enormous expansion with regional implications. The military offensive undertaken by the USA gives rise to complex scenarios and will lead to unforseeable effects.


The heightening that this will mean of the misery already being suffered by the Afghan people can barely be imagined. Afghanistan has suffered over 20 years of war. It is experiencing the worst drought for a decade. Its women already live under the daily torment of the most extreme Islamist regime in the world. There are 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, another 1m in Iran and 300,000 in Tajikistan. Its infrastructure is almost non-existent. A further round of imperialist bombing, raids and incursions will cause another mass exodus – NGOs estimate around another 1 million people.


The undersigned organisations, as revolutionaries and anti-imperialists, call for the defeat of the imperialist forces. We support all resistance that weakens the enemy in the war. We call on all the working class organisations and anti-war activists to organise direct action, strikes, boycotts, and demonstrations for as long as the military action continues. We call on soldiers to organise resistance in the armed forces, to demand democratic rights, to oppose the attacks on Afghanistan and to rebel against the imperialists and their mass-murdering Generals. We call on workers in the munitions factories to boycott and sabotage imperialist war production. We demand that the parliamentary representatives of social-democratic, Labour, Socialist and Communist parties break with the Blairs, Jospins and Schroeders and vote against all political, military and financial support for the US War.


A victory for imperialism will lead to the imposition of slavish subordinated regimes on all countries in the region. It will demoralise the Palestinian people and encourage the racist Israeli state. It will be a blow to the growing anti-capitalist movement and encourage the pro-imperialist forces. On the other hand, a defeat for the imperialist forces would weaken its rule in the Middle East, encourage the workers and anti-capitalist movement and all people oppressed by imperialism around the globe to fight back against imperialism and the rule of capitalism throughout the world. A defeat for imperialism will not only help the workers and the oppressed masses of the world in their struggle to free themselves from exploitation, but will also encourage, for example, the Afghan masses, engulfed in misery, threatened with famine and repressed by the monstrously reactionary Taliban regime.


In the face of a bloody attack by the US and its supporters, tens of thousands in the imperialist countries are starting to build a new antiwar movement, something which began to take expression in the USA in the Washington demonstration on 29 September and in the early demonstrations on the university campuses. This is the key to undermining the war drive and stopping imperialism seizing the initiative. The streets of the cities of the USA, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australasia and Africa must resonate to the cry: No to imperialist War!


The development of the anti-war movement in the imperialist countries is progressive, and is already trying to build actions that could obstruct the imperialist military machine, to make attacks more difficult, and help to break up the reactionary unity that the imperialist governments need in order to get support for its actions, and also to demoralise the soldiers of their own countries. The best example of this was the anti-Vietnam war movement, that together with the tenacious resistance of the Vietnamese masses, made the US military intervention unsustainable and provoked the first military defeat of US imperialism at the hands of an oppressed people.


In the anti-war coalitions in the coalition countries many of the activists have pacifist illusions. We oppose all attempts to equate the imperialist war with just military defence carried out by an oppressed people. We are not for this reason neutral faced with this new imperialist aggression: we are for the defeat of the United States and its allies. There can be no peace in the world while there is imperialist domination. In particular in the semi-colonial countries pacifism drummed up by the leaders of the reformist parties and the bourgeoisie plays a reactionary role, as is also the case with the church which condemns “the violence of both sides”, hypocritically putting the oppressor and the oppressed on the same plane. In the semi-colonies this means not offering up any kind of resistance to imperialist aggression.


The imperialist powers are the main enemy. But revolutionary communists must reject vulgar anti-Americanism –which confuses ordinary US working class people with the US ruling class and its imperialist policy. This anti-Americanism is reactionary because it confuses the justified hatred of US imperialism with chauvinism against all US-Americans. It often serves the interests of ruling classes which are, or aspire to become, competing imperialist powers. Anti-Americanism must be fought - it is of utmost importance to break the US working class from its rulers and to win them to the struggle against imperialism and global capitalism. This is no impossible task - we will never forget that it was the US-working class and youth that in its great protest in Seattle in 1999 launched what has come to be called a new and growing global “anti-capitalist movement”.


We reject the reactionary demonising of all Muslim believers. At the same time we say clearly that political Islamist fundamentalism is a reactionary movement through and through. It represses women, workers and democratic rights. They are multi-class movements which seek to impose reactionary theocratic state and launch “holy wars”, using the justified hatred of the impoverished masses of the region towards imperialist domination and its policeman in the Middle East, Israel. To carry out its strategy these movement frequently use and ally themselves with different bourgeoisie in the region, including even the same imperialist powers, as was the case with the Mujahadin during the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. There can be no liberation of the Arab and Islamic masses under these leaderships.


The working class and peasant masses in Afghanistan, central Asia and the Middle East need to organise independently, to build their own mass organisations and militias to struggle against imperialism and prepare for its own struggle for power and the Islamist fundamentalists. Mass mobilisations and organisations of the workers and peasants could help to get rid of the reactionary Mullahs as soon as possible. If the cycle of vicious reactionary regimes is to be broken, the workers and peasants will need to take the power themselves and establish a socialist republic of Afghanistan and a voluntary Socialist Federation of Central Asia.


Throughout the world, imperialism is preparing another bloody spiral into recession, repression and war. Unless it is stopped, the twenty-first century will repeat the history of the twentieth, but on a new, more technologically advanced, more savage and more destructive level – one which threatens the survival of human civilisation itself.


This spiral of greater exploitation, oppression and imperialist war can be stopped and defeated. We revolutionaries struggle for the internationalist unity of the working class, the most powerful social force that can lead the fight to destroy the basis of the system of imperialist capitalism; that is to say, the control of the world economy by a handful of monopolies and imperialist states that bring misery to entire continents, deepen racism and provoke war and barbarism. Now more than ever the anti-capitalist movement must transform itself into a movement against the war and imperialism. It must base itself in the working class because only a workers and socialist revolution can realise its objectives and end the world capitalist system.


To achieve this it is necessary to push even more the internationalism that this movement has already started in its struggle for the end of the Third World debt, against poverty and the profits of the monopolies. The capitalists have their internationals – the IMF, NATO and WTO. The working class, youth and oppressed of the world and all those that struggle to end the barbarism of imperialist domination need to fight for our own revolutionary workers’ International dedicated to the destruction of capitalism and a new world without private property, nation states, racism, inequality and bloody military conflict. In order to finish off imperialist domination and begin the construction of a society without exploitation; a new world without private property, national states, racism, inequality, nor bloody military conflicts.


The impending war poses the urgent need and the chance to unite the struggles of the anti-capitalist movement in the metropolitan countries with those of the people in the semi-colonies that are already resisting the imperialist offensive, and with the oppressed masses that are now today fighting against the imperialist military aggression of the USA and its allies, against the common enemy: imperialism. We call for all anti-capitalist mobilisations in the months ahead to take up the fight against the imperialist war drive. Make the Anti-WTO day of action on 9th November a day of action against global capital and imperialist war! Make the mass demonstration against the EU-summit on 14th December an expression of mass anger against the EU’s participation in Bush and Blair’s mass murder and aggression!


For massive protests outside US embassies/consulates, in busy City centre locations, at colleges, and seats of government. Build united front committees against the imperialist war in every town, every college, every workplace. These should bring together representatives of the anti-capitalist movement, peace campaigns, trade unions, Communist and Socialist parties, oppressed minorities, youth and women’s groups.


We say:


• Defend Afghanistan - Defeat US and imperialist attacks


• Imperialist hands off Afghanistan


• USA is the biggest terrorist


• Open the borders to refugees


• Oppose witch-hunts and racist attacks against Muslims and Arab people.


• Fight all attacks on civil liberties


• Abolish NATO, instrument of global warfare


• No to state surveillance and repression, no databases of activists, no new anti-immigrant laws, no new police powers


• For trade union action to boycott troops, weapons and supplies heading for the imperialists armies, navies and air forces


• Reject individual terrorism as a method of struggle against imperialism


• For massive food and medical aid to Afghanistan without strings or conditions


• Abolish the Third World debt to Western banks and financial institutions


• The Afghan people themselves must settle accounts with the Taliban: not US/UK imperialist armies. No restoration of the monarchy or the Northern Alliance warlords. For a workers’ and peasants’ government based on shoras - democratic councils of delegates


• Down with Musharraf – for a socialist republic of Pakistan and socialist federations of central Asia and the Indian sub-continent


• Nationalise all companies – airlines, insurance companies - declaring redundancies after the September 11 attacks under workers’ control without compensation to the capitalist owners


• No to suspension of the class struggle in the imperialist democracies. Break the pro-war policy of the social-democratic, official ‘Communist’ and trade union leaders.


• Victory to the Intifada! For the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people. Down with the racist state of Israel! For a workers and socialist Palestine in which Jews and Arabs can live in peace! End sanctions against Iraq!


• Repudiate and cancel Third World debt! Break with all military pacts and agreements that tie semi-colonies to imperialism! No to CALA!


• Turn the anti-capitalist movement against imperialism


• For an international revolutionary youth movement


• For a revolutionary international of the working class– world party of social revolution


• For a workers and socialist revolution to end the domination of imperialism and construct a world socialist commonwealth without poverty, inequality, oppression and war.




The History of Afghanistan


Note by the Editor: The following article has been published by the predecessor organization of the RCIT (the League for a Revolutionary Communist International; later renamed into League for the Fifth International) in 2001 shortly before the beginning of the imperialist atack on Afghanistan. We are republishing this article on the 15th anniversary of this war. The founding cadres of the RCIT have been expelled from the LFI in 2011 when the protested against the centrist degeneration of this organization.




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Afghanistan is not simply a poor country. It is one of the most economically and socially backward, war ravaged, famine stricken and desperate places on earth. Yet the USA, the world’s biggest imperialist power, has launched a prolonged military onslaught on it. This can only add to the devastation which Soviet intervention, CIA sponsored civil war and the reactionary medievalists of the Taliban have so far achieved.


Afghanistan proper came into being in 1747, following a nine day council meeting – a Loya Jirga – of the warlords and tribal leaders (khans) of the dominant ethnic group, the Pashtuns. They elected an Emir, Ahmed Shah Durrani, and his dynasty ruled Afghanistan until 1973. Yet this unbroken royal lineage did not mean that national unity and a modern nation state had emerged. Far from it. The king mainly served as an arbiter between the clans, tribes and disparate nationalities who inhabited the region.


The factors militating against modernisation were numerous. Afghanistan’s geography was a major factor. A vast and inhospitable desert in the west, highlands in the centre, and enormous mountains in the east and north (the Hindu Kush), meant that the country was carved into distinct chunks by nature itself. Herat, an oasis town in the west, was a world apart from Kabul in the foothills of the Hindu Kush. Different influences and different cultures grew and became entrenched in this fragmented landscape.


Only a small portion of the land (around 20 per cent) was fertile. Large sections of the population were nomads. Others relied on an ancient tribal system, dominated by large landowners, in order to survive. Loyalty to the clan meant being able to work a small plot of land. Being able to eat – and enjoying the protection of the clan from rivals out to steal your produce – reproduced and reinforced an essentially feudal system.


As late as 1979 the cities and major towns of Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar – E – Sharif and the capital, Kabul – were inhabited by only around five per cent of the population. Years of war have slightly swelled the urban population with refugees. But the modern urban classes of Afghanistan remained too weak in numbers and too divided in politics to lead the transformation of the country. In particular the core of the working class (industrial and service waged worker) to this day numbers hundreds of thousands, rather than millions. The majority of the 20 million population live in tiny rural villages, the mountains and the deserts.


The establishment of a monarchy was only possible with the consent of the khans. The interference of that monarchy in the affairs of the tribes that the khans ruled was excluded from the outset. Any attempt at interference was met with violent resistance. When King Ammanullah attempted systematic modernisation in the 1920s (with help from Soviet Russia) he was driven from the throne and replaced by the more pliable and traditional Pashtun monarch King Zahir, who ruled from 1934 to 1973 and is now being talked of as the new ruler of Afghanistan.


In such circumstances the emergence of a genuinely Afghan national consciousness was thwarted. The population remained divided between several distinct nationalities, deeply hostile to each other. The main group, the Pashtuns, have dominated and oppressed the others – Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras plus many smaller groups – for centuries. Unity has only ever come about episodically, usually during conflicts with the big powers (Britain in the 19th and early 20th century; Russia in the 1980s).


Ethnic conflict has been compounded by religious antagonism. The Hazaras account for around 20 per cent of the country and are Shi’ite Muslims. The majority of people in Afghanistan are Sunni Muslims. Such was the persecution of the Shi’ites by the Taliban in the late 1990s that Shi’ite Iran was on the verge of invading to defend its religious co-thinkers.


Despite all of these disadvantages Afghanistan has always been an important country for the imperial powers, the regional powers and, of course, for the former Soviet Union. It is, by virtue of its location, a vital crossroads in the trade routes between the Indian sub-continent, the far east, the Middle East and Europe. Its cities grew as great trading centres during the heyday of the spice trade. The quickest land route to India lay through the valleys and across the mountain passes of Afghanistan. The Khyber pass, to this day is a major trading thoroughfare. Even if you know next to nothing about Afghanistan you will probably have heard of this famous pass.


In addition Afghanistan has always acted as a kind of natural buffer zone between the great powers. In the nineteenth century it was the setting for the “Great Game” between Britain and Tzarist Russia. It quite literally stood between a Russia that was expanding into Central Asia and a Britain determined to rule eternally over the lucrative sub-continent.


Three times British expeditionary forces crossed into Afghanistan – 1838, 1878 and 1919 – in a bid to place it under direct colonial rule. Three times they were beaten back. In 1878 Britain did secure control of the country’s foreign policy, a major prize given the conflict with Russia. But the attempt to maintain this in 1919 saw the mighty British empire humbled by the ill equipped but utterly determined Afghan tribesmen.


In the later twentieth century it was a vital barrier between the USSR and Iran (a threat when the pro-US Shah ruled and when the Islamic fundamentalist Khomeini replaced him) and pro-imperialist Pakistan. It was in order to maintain its ability to play that role that the USSR launched its fateful invasion of the country in Christmas 1979.


But by 1988, after killing over one million people and blasting mountains and cities alike, Russia began to withdraw its troops and by 1989 had conceded defeat.


Today Afghanistan’s geopolitical importance is supplemented by the need for a safe pipeline across the country to carry the plentiful natural gas and oil of Central Asia to an energy-craving west.


The USA was still busy trying to secure the contract for this pipeline for Unocal, a US oil multinational, when the current crisis broke. Selecting Afghanistan as a target for attack in the aftermath of September 11 is therefore not just to do with “terrorism”. It is also prompted by the prospect of getting that pipeline after all, and with it access to the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia.


As a result of all of these factors – internal and external – Afghanistan has never made the leap into modernity that each of its neighbours undertook.


It has been preserved not simply as a semi-colony, but as a profoundly backward, feudal dominated and nationally divided semi-colony. Its remarkable and successful repulsion of invaders – British and Russian – has not given rise to a modern nation state. Rather, the victories have strengthened the feudal warlords and landowners and their antiquated system of tribal rule. This society was perfect for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Backward, divided, war weary but still at war with itself – enter the Taliban, “god’s invincible soldiers.” But their mission was not to create a modern nation – it was rather to take it back.