Trotskyist Bulletin No. 8





Document 2c.10

BT Cringes on Afghanistan Defense

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 482, 21 July 1989

Over the past decade Western imperialism waged a hysterical campaign against Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. For the anti-Soviet left, which quickly fell into line with the Carter/Reagan Cold War hysteria, our slogan “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” was anathema. After assiduously trying to duck the issue, last year the renegades of the so-called Bolshevik Tendency (BT) finally fessed up that they hated our angular Soviet-defensist stand. But they tried to cover their tracks by claiming to give “military support to the Soviets and their allies’’ against the ClA’s mujahedin cut-throats (see “BT Protests Too Much,’’ WV No. 453, 20 May 1988, Document 2b.3).

After Gorbachev treacherously withdrew Soviet troops last winter in order to appease U.S. imperialism, the Partisan Defense Committed (PDC) offered “to organize an international brigade to fight to the death” on the side of social freedom in Afghanistan. The BT response (1917, Summer 1989) was to ridicule the PDC offer as “bizarre,” a cynical “publicity stunt,” deriding the “utter unreality of the proposal.” Alleging the “extremely unfavorable military and political situation” after the Soviet pullout, these gutless wonders went further, rejecting fighting under the military discipline of Stalinists. So much for the BT’s “military support’’!

Although the Kabul government declined the offer of an international brigade as militarily unnecessary at this time, shortly thereafter it proposed that the PDC participate in an international campaign to raise money for the victims of the siege of Jalalabad. In two months over $40,000 was raised. This rather surprising amount is testament to the increasing international solidarity, in particular among immigrant communities, for the embattled people of Afghanistan fighting imperialist-backed terrorists. But this is meaningless to the BT, who cannot comprehend a world view other than seen through the prism of imperialist anti-Sovietism. Indeed, the BT did not cough up one red cent for the PDC’s Jalalabad Civilian Victims Aid Fund.

Behind the BT’s cringing over Afghanistan is Stalinophobia. They make it utterly clear that if the Afghan government itself had appealed for an international military brigade, they would have said no:

“ could have proved physically extremely hazardous for young militants (or guilt-ridden ex-members) identified with a ‘Trotskyist’ organization to place themselves under the ‘control and direction’ of the PDPA [People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan]—a Stalinist organization with a history of bloody purges within its own ranks.”
1917, Summer 1989

By extension, the BT is here saying it will never engage in military actions under Stalinist-led forces against counterrevolution and imperialism.

The BT’s entire line on Afghanistan is an adaption to rad-lib anti-Sovietism. This becomes quite clear if you compare it to their line on Nicaragua. Politically there is no essential difference between the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and the Afghan PDPA. Both arc radical petty-bourgeois nationalist regimes allied to the Soviet Union. A few years ago we undertook a successful campaign to raise money to aid the Nicaraguan government against the CIA-organized contras. A number of our comrades and sympathizers have gone to Nicaragua on work brigades under the control and direction of the Sandinista authorities.

But the BT has not (yet) denounced these activities. Why not? Because there is general sympathy for the Sandinistas against the contras in the North American rad-lib milieu and pseudo-Trotskyist circles. But these same left liberals and fake-Trotskyists were violently hostile to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and have been generally supportive of the mujahedin. Hence the BT’s anti-Soviet double standard on Afghanistan and Nicaragua.

The BT line on Afghanistan reeks of “Third Campism.” In opposing the SL slogan “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” they asked rhetorically if we thought that “Trotskyists should have been ‘hailing’ the Stalinist apparatus” in the struggle against the Nazis. In fact, during World War II the Trotskyists certainly did hail the victories of the Red Army against Nazi Germany. In a 1942 speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, James P. Cannon declared:

“I say the whole world has been taken by surprise, including Stalin, who had no more confidence in the Red Army than he had in the power of the Soviet economy, than he has in the revolutionary powers of the workers generally. The Trotskyists were not taken by surprise. Trotsky predicted that imperialist attack on the Soviet Union would unleash marvels of proletarian enthusiasm and fighting capacity in the Red Army. He could do that because he, better than others, understood that the great motive power of the victorious revolution had not all been expended. The Red Army that the world hails is an army created by a proletarian revolution.”
Speeches for Socialism (197l) [our emphasis]

In the same issue of 1917 which ridicules the proposal for an international brigade for Afghanistan, there is a polemic against the slogan “The Klan Doesn’t Ride in Moscow” [see appendix]. We raised this slogan in mass labor/black mobilizations, initiated by the Spartacist League, which have in several cities stopped the Klan/Nazis over the past decade. The BT points to the ominous public emergence of the nativist fascists of Pamyat in Gorbachev’s Russia. “Strictly speaking,’’ says 1917, “the Klan doesn’t ride in Moscow; but then, Pamyat doesn’t ride in Washington.”

What does the BT care? When we mobilized to stop the Klan from riding in Washington in November 1982 they were nowhere to be found. In fact, they demanded that instead we should have concentrated our efforts on the Canadian Chrysler strike. Now they condemn a slogan which was an expression of Soviet defensism, albeit a shallow and one-sided view of the contradictions in Soviet society reflecting the isolation and degeneration of the world’s first workers state.

In typical Third Campist fashion, the BT equates the role of fascist groups in racist, capitalist America and in the Soviet Union. This negates the conquests of the Russian Revolution, which crushed the anti-Semitic Black Hundreds. The Klan rides in the American South because there was a political counterrevolution which overturned Radical Reconstruction after the Civil War. The victory of this counterrevolution isn’t just in the white sheets of the KKK but in the blue uniforms of the state’s police who are the main source of racist terror and murder in the U.S.

Although Pamyat might be protected by some elements of the Kremlin bureaucracy, it would take a social counterrevolution to overthrow the gains of the October Revolution and resurrect capitalist exploitation for Pamyat to ride in Moscow. In its own pathetic little way, the BT undermines the defense of the Soviet Union.