The Russian bureaucracy and their Afghan supporters are in effect carrying through the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution in that country”, says Woods — though they are doing it in a “distorted”, Bonapartist fashion. The same idea is expressed by Grant in his 1978 article: the “proletarian Bonapartist” regimes “carry out in backward countries the historic job which was carried out by the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries in the past”.
They are alluding and making comparisons — Grant explicitly — to Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, according to which the tasks of a bourgeois democratic revolution in a backward country (land reform, civil liberties, a democratic republican state, national independence) can be carried out by the working class and peasantry in a combined movement, led by the working class, which does not stop at bourgeois-democratic tasks but goes on to install working-class power and overthrow capitalism. Woods’ allusion is intended to put the events in Afghanistan and the Russian invasion in the historical framework of the theory of permanent revolution, as a sort of special variant of it. But this is a very strange variant indeed. Two issues are involved here: first Woods’ substantive view that Stalinism is the necessary next stage for most of the world; and second his presentation of this scenario as a working-out (albeit “distorted’) of Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution.
In the Russian Revolution of 1917, where Trotsky’s theory was strikingly born out by events, the proletariat took the lead of the peasant masses in the struggle against reaction and backwardness, carried out the tasks of the bourgeois revolution, and in the same movement took power, eliminated the bourgeoisie, and established a workers’ democracy. Woods’ formula might be called the theory of “international proletarian Bonapartist permanent revolution”. The historical protagonist in Trotsky’s permanent revolution is the working class. But in Woods’ “international proletarian Bonapartist permanent revolution” the protagonist is first the Afghan “communist” middle class and the top army and air force officers. When they fail, the hero’s role falls to... the totalitarian Stalinist bureaucracy.
Where the working-class instrument in making permanent revolution for Trotsky was a revolutionary working-class party based in democratic soviets, for Woods the instrument is a savagely undemocratic, hierarchical foreign army which makes the revolution by subjugating — if it can — the rural masses. It appears among them as a bitterly resented and hated foreign invader. (And not only among the rural masses. Woods asserts falsely that the towns are solidly with the invaders; but that was not true even in 1980. One of the results of the invasion was the alienation of the masses in the towns and even of sections of the PDP — the Khalq faction).
But if the invaders win the war — though five years later they are further from winning than they were when Woods was stabilising Militant’s line on the Russian occupation if they win, what happens then? The scenario is as follows. A foreign military machine conquers the country. It organises, beginning from an initially tiny basis of support, a replica of the totalitarian Russian political regime. It carries out reforms from above, manipulating the population (for example, land redistribution under such a regime is no more than a transitional stage to collectivisation with or without consent).
At the same time, unless miraculously the regime proves to be different in Afghanistan from what it is in Russia, it will — even after the initial conquest is completed — oppress, massacre, jail and deport as many of the Afghans as necessary. The norm for this regime is that the population has no civil rights. Every attempt by workers to organise — in backward Afghanistan or advanced Poland — is stamped on. What has this got to do with permanent revolution? Nothing whatever!
Here permanent revolution is only an — unintendedly — ironic phrase to point up the contrast between Trotsky’s programme and what is likely to happen in Afghanistan. It brings out the contrast between permanent revolution and socialism on one side, and what exists in the USSR on the other. permanent revolution Woods’ attempt by allusion to link what Militant is supporting in Afghanistan with the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution in underdeveloped countries points up something else too: that Militant possesses all the key ideas of Marxism and Trotskyism — workers’ state, permanent revolution, democracy, socialism — in a decayed and corrupted form. The terminology is used as rags and tatters to dress up a set of politics which owe little to Marxism and Trotskyism and far more to Stalinism and Fabianism.
Woods rightly locates the pre-invasion dynamic in the backwardness of the country and the self-defined mission of the officer caste to modernise in face of the feebleness of Afghan capitalism and its bourgeoisie. He accepts that the PDP/officer caste symbiosis was only possible on a programme of transforming that caste and associated sections of the middle class into a ruling elite of the Russian bureaucratic type. Yet he argues that their “revolution” was nevertheless “a step forward in comparison to the previous situation”.
In fact it proved impossible for the PDP and the army to make that “step”; and even if they had succeeded, it would be a programmatic betrayal for Trotskyists to support such a formation, rooted in the existing state and pitted against the masses. The PDP/officer regime was radically distinct from the sort of movement that existed in Vietnam and China, where Stalinist forces led masses against reaction and imperialism. In Afghanistan first there was an attempt to impose a Stalinist police state from above and now there is an attempt at foreign subjugation of the entire people. It was right for Trotskyists to support the Vietnamese and Chinese Stalinists against reaction and imperialism. But even in such cases it is a to-be-or-not-to-be question for working-class politics that we do not accept that the establishment of a totalitarian Stalinist state is inevitable, even if we think it probable. We fight in the last ditch against the establishment of Stalinist totalitarianism, exerting whatever influence we have to warn — and organise — the masses against it and to tell them what it will mean for them and for any hopes they may have for freedom or socialism. If a Stalinist system triumphs nevertheless — and of course we knew that all the circumstances were such in China and Vietnam that the victory of Mao or the Vietnamese CP would certainly mean the establishment of a Stalinist dictatorship — then we do not hail that triumph, or the regime that embodies it, as a victory. We recognise it as a defeat for the working class, even if it is also a defeat for imperialism and capitalism. We prepare to continue the struggle in the new circumstances.
There is no parallel in Afghanistan with the support we would give to Stalinist-led movements as in China and Vietnam. Socialists in Afghanistan would oppose the reaction, but not as partisans of the PDP/officer regime. Since the invasion the struggle has become one between the occupying forces and almost the entire people of Afghanistan.
Nowhere and not in any circumstances — whether we were critically supporting the Vietnamese Stalinists against the USA or precariously trying to maintain a guerrilla base in Afghanistan against the hostile reactionaries and the PDP regime or the “Red” Army — would we accept the establishment of a necessarily totalitarian state of the Stalinist bureaucracy as part of our programme. For to do so would be to write our own self-obliteration into the programme. Yet that is exactly what Militant does, and that is why Woods coyly alludes to Trotsky’s permanent revolution.
He doesn’t openly call it a variant of permanent revolution, because that would be too glaringly to emphasise that the carrying through of the “tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution” is merged not with socialism but with what Militant calls a “proletarian Bonapartist” state. But his position depends on the notion that somehow, and in some way, the war of the Russian Stalinist totalitarian state to subjugate the peoples of Afghanistan is a “distorted” working-class struggle. He tells us that our attitude to the invasion must not be determined by “sentimental considerations” but “first and foremost by class considerations”. Which class forces, he asks, stand behind the present Kabul regime, and which behind the Mujaheddin rebels?
Putting his shoulder and full weight to an open door, he proves that the rich stand behind the rebels — and considers the matter settled, as if you can derive a class characterisation of the Kabul regime and of Russian Stalinism by negative deduction from the nature of their opponents. The rebels have next to nothing in the towns, says Woods triumphantly (though falsely).
“The new regime can count on the support of the small working class that exists, plus the great majority of the students, intellectuals and functionaries”. Woods does not present his evidence for thinking that this is actually how it is. He knows that it is so for it is ordained in the schemes that it is so. He probably still knows it five years later, when even the Russian “embassy” comes under rocket fire and the Russians do not even have secure control of the towns, nor of parts of Kabul. “The struggle in Afghanistan”, writes Woods, “is essentially a struggle of the towns against the countryside, of civilisation against barbarism, of the new society against the old”.
Stalinism is the progressive next stage, the bearer of civilisation. Citing facts about the rebels burning schools, Woods declares that the victory of these “reactionary gangsters” “would lead to a terrible bloodbath and an orgy of violence and destruction which would plunge Afghanistan back into the dark ages”. He lists the traditional cruelties and mutilations used by the rebels; he is completely silent about the napalm and the Russian tanks and bombers. The “historical mission” of the rebels is “about as ‘progressive’ as that of Genghis Khan” — unlike the mission of the army of the Russian totalitarian bureaucracy whose barbarism with napalm and bombs against the Muslim villagers he excuses and forgives. And no starry-eyed enthusiast for the conquering armies of capitalism was ever so “optimistic” as Alan Woods.
After the brutal disregard comes the consoling cant. The future — after the invading army has completed the subjugation, buried the dead, and re-built the bombed villages — is bright and hopeful. “As the social benefits of the revolution [i.e. the conquest] begin to become understood by the poor peasants,... the mass base for reaction will evaporate...” Moscow will eventually withdraw “the bulk” of its troops (and of course Militant will approve their judgement and wait for it). “Despite all the totalitarian deformations [!] the new regime will mark a big step forward for Afghan society. Industry will be built up rapidly... The growth of an industrial proletariat in Afghanistan will ultimately serve to undermine the base of bureaucratic rule and prepare the way for a new political revolution, and the establishment of a healthy workers’ democracy in Afghanistan”. Oh what dreams Militant could dream five years ago.
Militant has transformed the Trotskyist idea that the Stalinist states are deformed and degenerated workers’ states into a programmatic norm for most of the world. It has incorporated the so-called proletarian Bonapartist stage, which it says is now inevitable, into its programme, in the place held by the bourgeois revolution in the pre-1917 social democracy. It also explicitly says that Stalinism has not yet outlived its progressive role in the USSR.
Of course it talks about political revolution at a future stage, but its message to the workers in most of the world — including countries such as Portugal, it seems — is that “proletarian Bonapartism” is a progressive stage in history which should be supported. “Proletarian Bonapartism” is as distasteful to them as the notion of the inevitability of a capitalist stage was to Marxists in countries like Russia, but they consider it just as inescapable.
Even if Militant were right about the probable course of historical development in the Third World there are fundamental class reasons why Marxists could not endorse “proletarian Bonapartism” in the way that pre-1917 revolutionaries endorsed bourgeois development in underdeveloped countries. In 19th century Europe capitalism developed industry, cleared away feudal restrictions, and also developed the working class. Marx and Engels argued for a recognition of the progressive role of capitalism, and an alliance between the working class and the middle-class revolutionaries. Stalinism today in underdeveloped countries — so Militant’s argument runs — develops industry, develops the working class, clears away feudal remnants. So why not “critically” support the Stalinists” efforts to drag Afghanistan into the 20th century. Why not?
In the first place, Marx and Engels also argued for independent anti-capitalist activity by the working class at every stage. Lenin developed this emphasis with great sharpness in relation to capitalist development in Russia, denouncing the Mensheviks’ passive self-limiting policy of accepting that the bourgeoisie was preordained to lead all and any general revolutionary movement for the foreseeable future. Yet nothing the Mensheviks did comes near to equalling the fatalistic prostration of Militant before the Afghan Stalinists and the Russian Stalinists in Afghanistan.
Even the worst of the Mensheviks tried to organise workers independently for their immediate interests. Militant accepts that such workers’ organisation is impossible under Stalinist rule. It deplores the fact, but accepts it as an inevitable feature of a whole stage of development in which the active agent, deserving of support for its progressive work, is the Stalinist bureaucracy. At the end of that stage Militant sees the political revolution. But no practical conclusions follow for now.
Although Militant gives an accurate description of who dominates now in Afghanistan, of what the motives for the Russian invasion were, and although they describe the bureaucracy as totalitarian, at no point do they draw conclusions about actively opposing the oppressive, anti-working-class character of the regime that the Russians will create. They know that there will be “totalitarian deformations”, but that is not important, it is a secondary aspect of a fundamentally progressive phenomenon.
Trotskyists say that the bureaucracy can be (and has been) in certain circumstances revolutionary against the bourgeoisie, treating it (as Trotsky expressed it) as a competitor for the surplus product. It is in all circumstances counter-revolutionary against the working class. Militant might accept this formula. But it adds: even so it is progressive in backward countries. Militant portrays the fact that the Russians will probably be able to create a stable regime in Afghanistan as reason for hope in the circumstances. It assumes, takes for granted, that the workers will support the transformation, and blandly sets aside the fact that this means co-option of individuals into the new bureaucracy and repression for the masses. The monstrous logic of this argument is softened for Militant by a gross Eurocentrism.
The Mensheviks, while organising workers independently, also fought actively to bring about the bourgeois “stage” that they foresaw. Militant remains aloof, contenting itself with the thought that proletarian Bonapartism will be created by “the magnificent movement of history”. It was notoriously inactive even in solidarity movements like the campaign to help the Vietnamese against US imperialism. Again and again, Militant contents itself with a purely metropolitan-centred perspective. “Once the decisive battle is joined in the metropolitan centres, the world situation will change completely... A Socialist Europe, Japan and America, would then lead Asia, Africa and Latin America direct to Communism in a world Federation” (1964 document).
The presentation of Stalinism as a progressive historical force analogous to early capitalism is fundamentally false — and moreover undermines, as we shall see, the ritually-proclaimed perspective of political revolution. Under the regime of Stalinist totalitarianism the working class is bound hand and foot, deprived of all rights by a highly conscious and militantly anti-working-class state apparatus which concentrates the means of production in its own hands, together with immense powers of oppression and terror. It was possible, within developing capitalism, for Marxists to look to a capitalist evolution and still to relate to the working class, support its struggles, and try to organise it independently. The prospect was not that if the bourgeoisie established their regime, then the working class would be held in a totalitarian vice.
On the contrary, even in the worst and most repressive capitalist hell-holes, the working class retained individual rights and could take advantage of loopholes to organise itself. Bourgeois society offered the possibility of the workers organising themselves and developing politically and culturally.
This did not happen without struggle, repression and setbacks — but it was not ruled out. It could happen and it did happen. And otherwise the Marxist policy would have been a nonsense. A specific repressive and terribly reactionary regime is inseparable from Stalinism. Economic development was separable from the often repressive early capitalism regimes because the exploitation of the working class did not rest on its loyal status but on economic (market) transactions and the bourgeois ownership of the means of production. Stalinist economic development is inseparable from totalitarian oppression of the working class: the economics are not separable from the regime, and to opt for one is necessarily to opt for both. The surplus product is not seized primarily through market transactions, both via the wine-press grip of the bureaucracy. For this reason, the analogy with the capitalist development of the means of production is a piece of monstrous Stalinist nonsense.
But in the broad sweep of history is it not true that the development of industry lays the basis for progress? In the broad sweep, yes — on condition that the working class liberates itself and seizes the control of the means of production from the hands of the bureaucracy. But politics is necessarily concerned with a more immediate, sharper focus. In that focus the idea that the suppression (and slaughter, deportation, etc, which has been the stock-in-trade of the Stalinist bureaucracy ruling the USSR), is a detail in the broad sweep of history, is a monstrous anti-Trotskyist nonsense. It loses the viewpoint of the militant who stands with the working class and with oppressed peoples, trying to organise them to make themselves the subjects of history, not its passive objects, in favour of the viewpoint of the historian/”prophet”, the man in the ivory tower. An entirely different set of values, priorities, concerns and considerations belong to the militants compared with the philosophers in the watch-towers. Of course Marxist militants inform their work with the general historical considerations. They do not allow them to override their goal of mobilising, organising, and rousing up the oppressed.
They do not allow the goal of industrial development on the back of the masses to supplant the goal Trotsky outlines in the quotation at the beginning of this pamphlet. In the Grantite view of Afghanistan everything is eventually — and quickly — to be made right by the workers taking political power from the bureaucracy in Russia and elsewhere. Such a view is rational only on an analysis of Stalinism such as Trotsky’s, which identifies the bureaucracy as being in fundamental contradiction with the basic socialised relations of production. (In the final analysis, that is because it is in fundamental contradiction with the working class).
Yet Grant presents a different picture: the bureaucracy (the Russian one or its would-be Afghan duplicate) is the bearer of a higher civilisation and will do for Afghanistan what capitalism did not Europe. The bureaucracy is at one, at least for a whole historical period, with the collectivised means of production, which for that epoch of history are “its” means of production. The implication is inescapable that Stalinism, which has a progressive role in the backward countries, has had a progressive role in Russia too. We have been through, and are still in, an epoch of progressive Stalinism. And it follows necessarily that — whatever tags we call them by — the Stalinist states are stable class societies, whose ruling group is not a usurping bureaucracy in contradiction to the property relations but a historically legitimate ruling class, whose role in history is to develop the forces of production.
Grant, in fact, like Isaac Deutscher, is a Shachtmanite (bureaucratic collectivist) disguised within the verbiage of Trotsky’s theory, and placing a plus sign of appreciation against the new class society between capitalism and socialism, while Shachtman placed a minus sign, calling it barbarism, In that perspective, it is not clear why the working-class political revolution against Stalinism in Russia should be on the order of the day now, or even on the agenda of the next epoch at all.
But doesn’t the Trotskyist commitment to defence of the USSR against imperialism necessarily imply support for the armies of the USSR in Afghanistan? No.
Defencism is fundamentally a position against imperialism, against according it any progressive role, or allowing it to strengthen itself, against looking to anyone but the working class to deal with the bureaucracy, against allowing imperialism once again to feed off the areas taken out of its control in the USSR and later the other Stalinist states. The remnants of the conquests of October are defended against imperialism despite the monstrous totalitarianism that is grafted onto them.
Already in 1939-40 Trotsky and his comrades declared: “We were and remain against the seizure of new territories by the Kremlin”. The experience since then has vindicated and reinforced this position one hundredfold: in an advanced capitalist country like Czechoslovakia with a mass labour movement and a mass Communist Party (a real party, not a ruling apparatus created by the Russians), Russian control meant the annihilation of the labour movement. Trotsky’s view, in fact, was that the property relations were potentially progressive. Imperialism should not be allowed to destroy that progressive potential, but working class revolution was necessary to realise the potential.
“In order that nationalised property in the occupied areas as well as in the USSR become a basis for genuinely progressive, that is to say socialist development, it is necessary to overthrow the Moscow bureaucracy” (Trotsky). The USSR “as a whole” — property relations plus bureaucratic tyranny — was a reactionary force. Trotsky and his comrades categorically repudiated and denounced the “pro-Soviet” propaganda of the professional friends of the Soviet Union — among them long-time Fabian enemies of Marxism in Britain like the Webbs and Shaw.
The Trotskyists did not indulge in propaganda about the wonders worked by the nationalised economy, because they knew that would imply a shamefaced endorsement of “socialism in one country”. Of course, we supported the Vietnamese, for example, against imperialism, despite the Stalinist leadership. In the case of Afghanistan there is nothing to support but a very isolated Stalinist middle-class leadership, and the brutal extension of Kremlin power. To say that the overthrow of already established nationalised property by imperialist intervention is reactionary and should be resisted is one thing. It is another to support the Russian bureaucracy against the people of an invaded country.
We say to imperialism: hands off Afghanistan. We can’t, or we should not, say that to the people of Afghanistan. The view that Stalinist collectivism contains progressive or potentially progressive elements compared to imperialism or imperialist-backed alternatives is one thing. To slip from that into the view that the Stalinist regime is progressive even while it atomises and oppresses the working class and the plebeian population, is another. That is to accept the bureaucracy as the protagonist of history — for the “next stage”. It is a reactionary and elitist position. No wonder Woods finds himself talking about the “dark masses” of Afghanistan.
Many would-be Trotskyists think that Trotsky supported Stalin’s expansion into Poland and Finland in 1939-40, and sometimes they cite this as authority for supporting the USSR in Afghanistan. Nothing of the sort is true.
Trotsky denounced Stalin’s expansion, but also argued that the whole issue had to be seen in the context of the world war then in progress, in which attempts by imperialism to crush the USSR were certain in the very short term. He regarded Finland as an outpost of Anglo-French imperialism. In addition, Trotsky argued that revolutionaries must recognise that the Russian Army was likely to stimulate revolutionary struggle which the Stalinists would use against the Polish and Finnish ruling class — and then strangle. Revolutionaries should support any such independent working-class and poor-peasant-mobilisation, and align themselves with it. They should at the same time try to warn the workers and peasants against the Stalinist Russian state and all its instruments, as deadly enemies.
They should immediately fight for political independence from the Stalinists — and prepare to fight them with guns. It was a policy for the orientation of revolutionaries in a situation where (Trotsky assumed) the “Red” Army still had a revolutionary prestige and authority with Polish workers and peasants, and with the oppressed Ukrainians in Poland — where its call to seize land, etc could be expected to evoke responses of a revolutionary sort. Nothing like that can be even imagined in Afghanistan.
The Russians alienated even former supporters of the PDP. And, as far as I know, Trotsky’s assumptions about Eastern Poland and Finland were seriously mistaken. (He was starved of information). Even in 1939 the “Red” Army’s power to rouse revolutionary action was minimal. Its power to kill off Poles was much greater. Between one million and 1.5 million Poles were deported to make Poland safe for Stalin. (The Poles numbered five million out of 13 million in Eastern Poland, the rest being Ukrainians and White Russians: unknown numbers of these went the way of the million and more Poles). Trotsky partly acknowledged his mistake (see In Defence of Marxism). And in any case he did not hesitate to describe the fate of the people of East Poland, in so far as they were subjugated by the “Red” Army, as that of becoming “the semi- slaves of Stalin”. Where is the analogy in Afghanistan?
World War 3 is not in progress. And Militant is supporting no mass movement, but the implied “promise” of nationalisations and agrarian reform which are to be carried out by a totalitarian state once it has imposed itself by force against the resistance of the people of Afghanistan. Where Militant parts company with Marxism is clear at this point: they do not relate to the working class and its struggles and interests. The Stalinist “revolution” will impose a savagely oppressive regime, which will destroy and continually uproot any elements of a labour movement. To go from the clear and simple idea of “defencism” — that the conquest of the Stalinist states by imperialism and their return to capitalism would be reactionary and should be opposed by socialists — to go from that to support for the conquest and hoped-for transformation of Afghanistan is to travel light-years away from revolutionary socialism. It is to take up residence on the grounds of Stalinism. It is to accommodate to the existing Stalinist bureaucracy with the “perspective” (i.e. passive confidence) that after the totalitarian “stage” will come a better stage.
Finally the supporters of Russia’s conquest of Afghanistan have the fall-back argument: if the Russians go, there will be a bloodbath. This argument was used intensely by the Mandelites and the SWP-USA in 1980; then they changed their minds and forgot about it. In 1980 the short answer was: If the Russians stay there will be a bloodbath. There has been a bloodbath, and the bloody colonial war continues.
The argument always was and is now thoroughly dishonest. It is also incompletely stated. The complete version would say, and not just imply — a bloodbath of PDP people and collaborators with the Russians. This is not a humanitarian objection, but taking sides with the Russians and their supporters. It is a variant of the idea that it is better if the Russians do what the PDP/army aspirant bureaucrats could not do — subjugate the population and make a Stalinist “revolution”. That has to be argued for and justified politically. For how many of the Afghans will the Russians shoot? Or napalm, or bury in the ruins of villages bombed for reprisal? And why is such a brutal transformation by conquest necessary? Why should it not be what the majority of the peoples of Afghanistan want that occurs? Even if assimilation by the USSR is ultimately desirable, as Militant says, why can’t this area wait until the majority of its own population decides to fight for social change, or until a socialist revolution in other countries makes it possible to attract its people to the work of transforming their own country? From the point of view of the international socialist revolution, there is no reason why not.
Something basic is involved in the bloodbath argument. It is impossible to work out a serious independent working-class political assessment on the basis of such gun-to-head questions as: do you want the right-wing Muslim reactionaries to triumph? Yes or no? In any acute situation where a large revolutionary working-class movement does not exist, the gun-to-head appeal to responsibility, humanitarianism, and the lesser evil can almost always be counterposed to an independent working-class political assessment.
For example, in 1969 when the British army was deployed to stop sectarian fighting in Derry and Belfast, enormous pressure was generated to support the use of the troops, or refrain from opposing their use, on the ground that they had probably saved Catholic lives and that Catholics had welcomed them. No doubt they did save Catholic lives, and certainly Catholics welcomed them, including the Republicans. A lot of socialists succumbed to the pressure. The SWP (then IS) did.
The small minority at the September 1969 IS conference who resisted and called for opposition to the British imperialist troops were met with hysterical denunciations and slandered as “fascists” who “wanted a bloodbath”.
Yet it was those Marxists who refused to be panicked or to abandon their understanding of Britain’s role in Ireland who had the better grasp of reality. But then, Ted Grant might say, it was plainly a matter of a reactionary imperialist army. And in Afghanistan... it is a matter of the thoroughly reactionary anti-working-class army of the Russian bureaucracy. If the Russians withdraw it might well prove to be the case that the final result of the strange episode of the seizure of power by the putschist PDP/army “bureaucratic revolutionaries” would be a massacre of PDP supporters (though presumably most of them would leave with the withdrawing army).
That would be a tragedy. But it cannot follow that because of this, Marxist socialists should abandon their programmatic opposition to the expansion of the area under Kremlin control, or should abandon the idea that the consolidation of a Stalinist regime in Afghanistan would be a defeat for the working class.
We cannot abandon independent working-class politics for the lesser evil — for the PDP and the supporters of the Russians — in a situation which the putsch, the policy of the PDP/army, and the Russian invasion has created for them. They are not, to quote Trotsky, the inspectors general of history.
The political independence of the working class, and in the pioneering place the political independence of the Marxists, is the to-be-or-not-to-be question for socialism — independence from the bourgeoisie, from the labour bureaucracy, and from the totalitarian state bureaucracies of the Stalinist states. This is the immediate political question for people who may take Militant’s pro-Stalinist line on Afghanistan for Marxism. While Militant is unlikely to influence events in Afghanistan, it does influence people in Britain (and perhaps elsewhere). It influences them away from independent working class politics and towards the role of cheerleaders for the “progressive” Stalinists in Afghanistan. For more than five years now Militant has supported the USSR’s attempt to subjugate the Afghan peoples by way of a murderous colonial war.
In Afghanistan and in relation to Afghanistan Militant has abandoned the basic commitment to working-class political independence, as well as the Trotskyist programme. Militant insists that the proper role for socialist militants is to line up firmly with one of the international counter-revolutionary blocs. It deplores the lack of class consciousness and failure to relate properly to the “major” contradiction of our time on the part of the British CP because it does not support the Russian invasion.
Militant even criticised the Tribunites, as we say, for not basing themselves on the actual relations between the great powers! Even the most wretched of the left reformist currents is too independent for “Labour’s Marxist Voice”.