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John Passant

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September 2009



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Should the left call for a Taliban victory?

I am keen to promote a debate about the position the left should take on Afghanistan and in particular the Taliban. To do so I have re-posted a piece from the US online daily Socialist Worker of a few weeks ago. I see this as the first in a number of pieces on the issue.  Feel free to contact me to submit your own article on this or other published articles relevant to the topic.

AS SOCIALISTS, we support the right of oppressed peoples to fight for self-determination unreservedly, just as we oppose imperialism, without caveat.

This perspective is generally accepted by the left without question in contexts such as Latin America or Africa, where bitter fights against U.S. and European imperialism have been fought and, in some cases, won.

Yet, when it comes to the Middle East and Afghanistan today there is suddenly much less clarity about what radicals and Marxists should be saying.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of Afghanistan, which has suffered under the yoke of U.S. imperialism since 2001 (with active U.S. interference in the country since at least the 1970s).

The idea that the Taliban, as a movement fighting against U.S. occupation, is a force we should be supporting is, unfortunately, a somewhat controversial position to hold, even on the far left.

This is a serious mistake and speaks both to the extent to which Islamophobia has penetrated the left, as well as to the lack of understanding of the social dynamics of an oppressed and devastated country like Afghanistan.

We are all familiar with the lies and excuses used to justify the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Bush and his coterie of crooks and warmongers told us that only a military invasion could liberate the people, and especially the women, of Afghanistan from the brutal, misogynistic and “medieval” Taliban movement.

There was no mention, of course, of the substantial support offered to the Taliban regime in the late 1990s when Clinton was president and in the early days of the Bush presidency, nor of the long and ugly history of U.S. intervention in Central and South Asia, which was an important precondition for the rise of Islamism.

We should condemn unreservedly the oppression of women and the general social conservatism of the pre-2001 Taliban regime, as well, of course, as their efforts to cut deals with regional and global superpowers against the interests of the vast majority of Afghans.

However, we must also unreservedly condemn the racism and Islamophobia used as an ideological fig leaf to justify invasion and imperialism, and it is the left’s weakness on this issue, which has blinded many to the new realities on the ground in Afghanistan.

Before addressing the important question of who the Taliban actually are, it is important to understand the material conditions Afghans face.

Afghanistan is a devastated country.

It is ranked at or near the bottom of a broad range of social indicators, such as levels of poverty, infant mortality, literacy, per capita income, prevalence of easily preventable diseases and so forth.

Most major cities in Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, are in ruins (despite claims of “reconstruction” by NATO imperialists) and decent roads, electricity, clean water, sanitation and basic social services are unheard of for most of the population, especially in the rural areas.

The majority of the population ekes out a living on a subsistence basis, and the struggle for survival is the overarching concern for most Afghans.

In a nutshell, there is no Afghan working class or progressive petit bourgeoisie to speak of, and the major social classes (aside from the puppet regime and its assortment of bandits and thugs) are the poor peasantry and the Islamic clergy.

THE SIGNIFICANCE of this to a discussion of anti-imperialist resistance in Afghanistan should be obvious to any serious historical materialist.

This question cannot be thought about in the abstract; it must be considered in light of the material realities on the ground.

Such realities necessarily shape the kinds of social forces and the character of class struggle in that country and make it highly likely that any grassroots resistance will have a strongly religious character, given that the rural clergy are the only force capable of uniting the peasantry against the comprador ruling class.

The following point cannot be stressed enough; whilst the U.S. remains in Afghanistan, economic and social development will not occur much beyond current levels.

This in turn means that the Taliban, as a broad-based movement of poor farmers and lower clergy, is the face of anti-imperialist resistance in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

To put it another way, if we, as avowed anti-imperialists, intend to wait around for a resistance movement that agrees with us on every issue, including the need to fight the oppression of women, gays, racial and religious minorities, etc., we’ll be waiting a long time.

The Taliban is the resistance in Afghanistan and we must support it, critically, but unreservedly.

The Taliban that ruled Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion no longer exists.

The U.S. and NATO routinely refer to any act of resistance as the work of the “Taliban” (meaning the followers of Mullah Omar), much as every act of resistance in Iraq was the work of “Baath loyalists.”

To be sure, there are attacks being carried out by people who support the former regime, but many, perhaps most, resistance fighters have no particular loyalty to the former leadership and some are actively hostile to it.

Anand Gopal, one of the few independent journalists actively trying to find out what is actually happening in Afghanistan has written some very useful and insightful work on this, and as he points out, the ranks of the Taliban have been swelled in recent years by rural peasants who have been radicalized as a result of US/NATO brutality, including the indiscriminate air attacks which have killed thousands of Afghans.

The Taliban are increasingly espousing a strong nationalist message and, in some cases, have substantially moderated their social conservatism in order to build a more broad-based and effective resistance movement.

It is also the case that the “Taliban” is effectively a blanket term for a coalition of groups, some drawn from the tiny strata of educated middle class Afghans, which aim to eject foreign troops from their country.

In short, when the U.S. and its allies use the term “Taliban” they want us to think of public stonings, music bans and ultra-conservative clerics–and if we follow their lead we do a grave disservice to the Afghan resistance and only help to perpetuate Islamophobic caricatures of “crazed, bearded extremists.”

There is no fundamental difference between the liberation theology movements in South America and the popular Islamist resistance movements in the Middle East and Asia, movements such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.

To be sure, the former were less socially conservative, but as religiously colored grassroots resistance movements they are essentially the same kind of manifestation of class resistance.

The left needs to ask itself why it is much more critical of Muslims expressing class anger in a religious form than of South American Christians; to my mind, unexamined Islamophobia explains much of this discrepancy.

Every U.S. and NATO tank that the Taliban destroy, every Karzai-appointed stooge they assassinate and every town or village they liberate is a victory for our side and a grievous blow to U.S. imperialism–we would do well to remember that and to offer our solidarity and support for a Taliban victory in Afghanistan.
Nick K., from the Internet



Comment from John
Time September 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

I think the focus should be toops out.

Comment from Bec
Time September 3, 2009 at 9:59 am

i dont think we should call for a taliban victory persay, having thought about it – we call for a victory of the resistance. if that resistance is the taliban then so be it. However, considering the lack of radicalisation around the issue, i really agree with john. The best way to take an anti imperialist stand is under the “troops out” slogan which has some ‘cred’ among lefties and anti-imperialists, the one that at this time is the most straight forward and relatable.

Comment from shal
Time September 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

I think the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” argument is highly simplistic. It is after all how the Taliban arose to power in the first place on the back of American support in opposing the USSR. The difficulty in the middle east is that the egg is already scrambled. The chanllenge is to find a workable solution. IMHO we should be asking different questions: not whether the Taliban are anti-imperialist or anti- American but how would a Taliban victory benefit the people of Afghanistan and in particular the women?
I’m not convinced that this victory would be a step forward.

Comment from peter piper
Time September 3, 2009 at 12:59 pm

the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum, you luvvies actually want the taliban to suceed over a capatilst ‘invader’…do any of you actually have wives, daughters or even mothers?? Maybe a day trip out with the taliban and watching a woman getting stoned to death because she wants to change religion may change your feeble, embittered minds.

Comment from John
Time September 3, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Thanks Peter. Unlike under the Karzai Government eh?

You stick with the puppet Karzai and his war criminals, drug lords, mass murderers and thugs, people who only remain in power because of the presence of (soon to be) 68,000 US troops.

And how are you with Saudi Arabia? Let me take you, you worthless flea ridden excuse for a human being, parading in the emperor’s clothes of women’s’ liberation, for a tour of the US supported Saudi Arabian regime and its complete oppression of women.

And for the record I support the withdrawal of the occupiers. That means, just as it did in the Vietnam days (remember them you disgusting barnacle on the bum of humanity?) that the Left should try to build a mass movement here to match the growing resistance to the occupiers, (which imperialism calls wrongly ‘the Taliban’) with the end result that the nationalist resistance won and the world was free of US invasions and killings for over a decade.

Slime back under your rock.

Comment from Arjay
Time September 3, 2009 at 11:07 pm

The US armed and supported the Taliban against the USSR.Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book the Grand Chessboard openly brags about sucking the Russians into Afghanistan so they may suffer their Vietnam.The object of Zbigniew was to send the USSR broke and he did.The USA supplied the Taliban then with arms and they with their poppy fields could afford to buy them.

When the Taliban ousted the Russians they stopped the production of opium which supplied most of the planet.Now the USA is in there,the poppy plants are flourishing.Who are supplying the Taliban with their weapons now?Could it be some corporate entity in the USA? Could it be the same corporates who supply the US Govt with arms? The corporate banking system in Europe loaned money to both sides in both WW1 & WW2.It was a win win for them while millions of lives were lost.There is something really insidious about our human nature that needs to be addressed.

It is the Corporates who control the USA and they are after the oil/ gas just above Afghanistan.It is said to rival the quantities of the Middle East.

The War against terror is a ruse for greed and power.

Let’s not kid ourselves,if the USA was truely concerned about injustice,they would be in Zimbabwe right now,but alas they have no oil!

Comment from Arjay
Time September 3, 2009 at 11:44 pm

If you want to see the real truth view View the lie upon which the War on Terror is based.

See also
Almost 900 Architects and Engineers want an independant investigation into 911.There is new scientific and visual evidence that shows the official conspiracy theory has serious flaws.

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