The Meaning of the U.S. Retreat from Afghanistan and its Consequences for the inter-imperialist Cold War with China
Statement by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 17 April 2021, www.thecommunists.net
1. A few days ago, the Biden Administration announced that it will fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September this year. Shortly afterwards, London also released a statement that British troops will also retreat from the Western Asian country. Soon it became clear that all NATO soldiers will decamp within the next four months. This means, as Biden said, the end of “America's longest war” in history.
2. There can be no doubt about the historic character of Washington’s decision. First and foremost, this represents a full-scale defeat for the strongest imperialist Great Power. Twenty years ago, it invaded the country and has occupied it since then with more than 100,000 troops. It spent billions of US-Dollars to finance this operation and to impose a puppet-regime in Kabul. The whole Western imperialist world supported this operation. Despite all these gigantic efforts, the U.S. and other Western imperialists failed to defeat the popular resistance. In contrast, the armed insurrection grew stronger and stronger and now, it is the imperialists who are on the run! As there can be no doubt that the pro-American Quisling regime of Ashraf Ghani will fall soon too, we are witnessing the most important defeat of U.S. imperialism since its debacle in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
3. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) strongly welcomes the defeat of U.S. imperialism! Our movement has joined the anti-war movement from the very beginning. As soon as the Bush Administration decided to launch a war of aggression against Afghanistan under the pretext of 9/11, we immediately raised the slogan “Defend Afghanistan! Defeat Imperialism!”. When American bombs started to fall on Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz and Kandahar in November 2001, we called for support of the popular resistance against the occupiers. Since then, the RCIT sided with the Afghan insurrection against the imperialist forces and their local stooges.
4. Naturally, we did not lend any political support to the petty-bourgeois Islamist leadership of the resistance. But as it is so often the case in history, the lack of revolutionary leadership results in situations where the popular masses, fighting against imperialist aggression or reactionary dictatorships, rally behind various types of non-revolutionary leaderships. Numerous reformist, Stalinist and centrist forces refuse supporting such objective progressive popular struggles under the pretext that they take place under the leadership of politically backward parties. Such pseudo-socialists oppose imperialism in general declarations only, but cowardly refuse to support anti-imperialist struggles when they actually take place! In contrast, the RCIT and all authentic Marxists always side with such objective progressive liberation struggles against imperialist aggression or reactionary dictatorships without lending any political support to the non-revolutionary leaderships. Today, revolutionaries can’t help but rejoicing the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan and saying: “Good Riddance, Yankees!”
5. Washington’s retreat from Afghanistan is an undeniable acknowledgement of the historic decline of U.S. imperialism. The withdrawal of its troops from the most important battlefield without having accomplished its goal reflects the historic failure of 20 years of imperialist “War on Terror”. This is even more the case since the U.S. also agreed in early April to withdraw its combat forces from Iraq in the next period. Here too, this retreat represents a defeat since the U.S. military faces an increasing number of attacks by local militias. In addition, we point to Washington’s attempts to reopen negotiations with the Mullah-regime in Teheran which also reflects a retreat from its years-long policy of aggression against Iran.
6. Furthermore, the decision of the Biden Administration also reflects another crucial turn in U.S. foreign policy as well in the world situation. Recognizing its weakened economic and military resources, Washington seems to give up the desire to regain its role as absolute hegemon of the Middle East. Hence, we will see additional growth of intervention of other imperialist Great Powers in the region. In the last years one could already observe such a process. Russia’s devastating military intervention in Syria, for example, was decisive to keep Assad the Butcher in power and to isolate the liberation forces in the Northwestern province of Idlib. In addition, China could also massively increase its influence in the Middle East resulting, most importantly, in the recently concluded 25-Year Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Iran. This treaty includes Chinese investments of $400 billion in Iran’s economy within this period and will also result in a military presence in the region. It is beyond doubt that the acceleration of Great Power rivalry can only result in more imperialist threats, chaos, and wars in the Middle East.
7. Biden’s recent foreign policy decisions mean that U.S. imperialism is decisively shifting its focus to Asia. This process started already in the years of the Obama Administration ("Pivot to Asia") and has gained pace since then. It reflects that fact that South and East Asia have become the most important region in terms of capitalist value production and global trade. It is telling that the recently released report of U.S. intelligence agencies (“Annual Threat Assessment 2021”) lists “China's push for global power” as the first and most important threat to U.S. interests. Hence, Washington will focus its reduced military capacities to South and East Asia in order to contain the rise of China which the report characterizes as a “near-peer competitor”.
8. Reflecting the near consensus of the U.S. ruling class about such a turn in U.S. foreign policy, the New York Times – a mouthpiece of the American monopoly bourgeoisie – commented: “And if Mr. Biden can truly focus the country on far bigger strategic challenges — in space and cyberspace, against declining powers like Russia and rising ones like China — he will have finally moved the country out of its post-9/11 fixation.” (New York Times: With Afghan Decision, Biden Seeks to Focus U.S. on New Challenges, 13 April 2021). China’s ruling class fully understands the meaning of the turn in U.S. foreign policy and the unavoidable escalation of the Cold War between the world’s largest imperialist powers. The Global Times – the English-language mouthpiece of the Stalinist-capitalist regime – published an editorial in response to the release of the above-mentioned U.S. intelligence report: “First, China needs to urgently consolidate its deterrent capabilities to prevent the US from carrying out extreme strategic intimidation against China. In particular, China's military buildup must fit the rapidly growing national security needs. For instance, if we are determined to reunify the island of Taiwan by force, if necessary, we will need to significantly increase our deterrent against external threats. That includes nuclear deterrent.” (Global Times: Targeted by US, China has to do three things, 15 April 2021) In short, both Washington as well as Beijing are accelerating their militaristic efforts and prepare for future wars.
9. The RCIT has emphasized since a number of years that one of the most important features of the world situation is the historic decline of U.S. imperialism and the rise of imperialist China. We explained that this development – in itself a result of capitalism’s decay, particularly since the Great Recession in 2008-09 – has inevitable provoked a massive destabilization of the imperialist world order since no clear hegemon is longer in command as the “World's Policeman”. As a result, global political developments are increasingly dominated by the accelerating rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers (U.S., China, EU, Russia, and Japan). It is impossible to understand the world situation and its explosive contradictions – resulting both in revolutionary as well as counterrevolutionary developments – without recognizing the inter-imperialist rivalry as one of its key features!
10. The RCIT reiterates that in such a period it is crucial for socialists to take a consistent anti-imperialist and internationalist line towards Great Power rivalry. The only possible, the only revolutionary tactic is the intransigent opposition against all imperialist Great Powers. Socialists must denounce all forms of imperialist chauvinism and militarism. Likewise, they must oppose imperialist sanctions and punitive tariffs. We denounce those “progressive” forces which side with one of the Great Powers as social-imperialist lackeys. The RCIT advocates the program of revolutionary defeatism as it has been developed by the Marxist movement. This means that socialists must oppose all Great Powers and act in each imperialist country on the basis of Liebknecht’s famous slogan: “the main enemy is at home“. They should utilize any conflict in order to weaken and eventually overthrow the ruling class. They should support liberations struggles of oppressed people against imperialist powers – against those in the West as well as against those in the East.
11. It is of utmost importance that revolutionaries strive towards international collaboration and unity in order to advance the building of a World Party of Socialist Revolution! Recognizing the reactionary character of the capitalist Lockdown policy under the pretext of the latest pandemic (the COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution), taking an intransigent position against all Great Powers in East and West, supporting the global wave of class struggles and popular uprisings without any political support for non-revolutionary leaderships (from Chile to Syria and Myanmar) – these are the crucial pillars on which revolutionary unity has to be forged! The RCIT calls all authentic revolutionaries to join us in this struggle!
International Bureau of the RCIT
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We refer readers to the following documents of the RCIT:
Afghanistan: A Successful Strike against the US Occupation. Major Attack by the Afghan Resistance against a High-Level Meeting of Afghan and U.S. Generals in Kandahar, 19.10.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/afghanistan-a-successful-strike-against-the-us-occupation/
“A Really Good Quarrel”. US-China Alaska Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist Cold War Continues, 23 March 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/us-china-alaska-meeting-shows-continuation-of-inter-imperialist-cold-war/
The RCIT’s documents on the Global Trade War have been collected at a special sub-page on our website: see https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-global-trade-war/
Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/