Trotskyist Bulletin No. 8





Document 2a.5

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:

“A prolonged presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan can only fuel the following tendencies:

“The tendency that the Afghan rebellion will increase in strength and popularity, profiting from the national Afghan resentment against Soviet intervention and from imperialist support using this intervention as a pretext. The Kremlin is in the process of getting bogged down in a war that it can never complete, inasmuch as it is completely illusory to wipe out guerrilla forces in a mountainous country when they have in addition two bases of support at their disposal—Pakistan and Iran.”

The minority resolution concluded with the definition of tasks:

“Revolutionary Marxists must take part in and promote actions by the anti-imperialist and workers’ movement to bring political pressure to bear on the Soviet Union to immediately withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. In doing this, they must oppose all characterization of the Soviet Union as imperialist. They must also fulfill their duty of solidarity with the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist Afghan forces, explaining that the demand for the withdrawal of Soviet troops should in no way be confused with support for the mujahedin.”

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:

“Revolutionary Marxists will campaign to expose the hypocrisy of imperialism, which, while claiming to be ‘the defender of the freedom of the Afghan people,’ gives its support to the reactionary forces….They oppose any imperialist intervention in the region. For support to the workers and peasants and organizations that are fighting against the reaction and against Soviet repression.3 For defence of the right of the Afghan peoples to self-determination and for the political sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

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.


1. The majority and minority resolutions were published in Intercontinental Press, Vol. 18, No. 8, March 3, 1980.

2. The resolutions of the 1981 IEC were published in Inprecor (French-language), No. 69, July 6, 1981.

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.