ICL on Afghanistan: Realist Wiseacres
The following is a reconstruction, from notes, of the intervention of International Bolshevik Tendency [IBT] supporter Samuel T. at a meeting of the Spartacus Youth Club (SYCyouth group of the Spartacist League [SL]) in New York City on 12 February. This was the second time in a week our comrade challenged the SL on its refusal to call for the defeat of the U.S. imperialist attack on Afghanistan in 2001 [see: Where is the ICL Going? and Healyites of the Second Mobilization?]. Once again the SLers were unable to respond politically.
The SYC comrade mentioned that his organization defends Afghanistan without discussing why they dont call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism. What does it mean to defend Afghanistan without calling for the defeat of U.S. imperialismthat one defends Afghanistan only to the extent of seeking to limit the damage inflicted upon it? Since the SL claims not to call for a U.S. defeat because the struggle for the Afghans would be militarily futile, thats the only possible conclusion I can see.
If we accept the assumption that the SL makes about the military futility of any struggle by the Afghans, what does the SL suggest they do? Show no resistance? Allow the U.S. to completely take over their country?
Marx believed that the workers who launched the Paris Commune were doomed to defeat from a purely military standpoint, yet he still supported them and called for their victory. (1)
In the current issue of 1917 we cite Lenins comments in Socialism and War:
A revolutionary class cannot but wish for the defeat of its government in a reactionary war, and cannot fail to see that the latters military reverses must facilitate its overthrow; and in a war of Morocco against France, or of India against Britain, any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory Great Powers. [emphasis added]
Lenin called for the defeat of imperialism in colonies as undeveloped as Afghanistan is today. The struggle between imperialism and the Third World was always unequal, but only the most wretched Kautskyites use that as an excuse to abstain from a revolutionary defeatist position by counterposing class struggle at home.(2) In raising the issue in these terms, the SL is simply attempting a cowardly dodge. Whether forced to pull out by resistance from the Afghans, the U.S. working class, or as a result of class struggle in other parts of the world, a defeat is a defeat.
As for how, theoretically, the ragtag fundamentalists could have driven out the U.S. without even an army well, Islamic Jihad drove the U.S. out of Lebanon by blowing up the Marines barracks in 1983. Of course in that case the SL flinched and denied that it was a militarily supportable blow against imperialism.
Lastly, Id like to report an interesting conversation I had with a friend today, who, back in high school, was also a member of the Northites youth group [the Young Socialistsaffiliated with David Norths Workers League, now known as the Socialist Equality Party]. When I left the Northites over their refusal to call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism during the Gulf War, she and another youth member left with me. Unfortunately both were too burned by their experience with Norths version of Healyism to want to continue in politics, but they subscribed to Workers Vanguard for a few years after I joined the SYC. Not having followed the SL for several years, she reviewed the new position on Afghanistan and, remembering the position on defeating U.S. imperialism at the time she left the Northites, commented Wow, it seems like the SL really had its back broken.
(1) Lenin in 1907 wrote the following:
(2) Lenin had nothing but contempt for the self-proclaimed socialists who derided the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin as a putsch doomed to fail because of the overwhelming strength of British imperialism. He commented: