The following statement of the League for the Revolution Party was issued in December 2001 and subsequently was published in the Winter 2002 Supplement to Proletarian Revolution.
American imperialism is crowing triumphantly over Afghanistan. The Taliban, deprived of the outside support that brought it to power, has been routed. At this writing Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda forces are being besieged. The U.S. military has acquired bases in former Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan, while thousands of its troops are on the ground. An interim regime has been stitched together under the U.S. pressure.
But beneath the hype plastered all over the capitalist media is the reality of a shaky coalition of CIA pawns, ethnic demagogues, squabbling drug bosses and warlords no less bloody or repressive than the Taliban. The joy of the crowds who cheered the ouster of the Taliban and Al Qaeda from the cities has been accompanied by a seething hatred for the imperialists.
No wonder: U.S. bombers have conducted a rain of terror against innocents as well as Islamist soldiers. More civilians have now been killed by the U.S. in Afghanistan than lost their lives in the criminal World Trade Center attack. The U.S. war has increased the numbers and suffering of hundreds of thousands of refugees and has exposed millions more to the threat of starvation. This is the fruit of Washington’s crusade of “good versus evil.” And Afghanistan is only the beginning of a prolonged war against the new universal enemy, terrorism.
Would-be realists in the middle-class U.S. and European left spin “answers” to war: “Justice, not vengeance,” “impartial international tribunals,” “a democratic foreign policy,” “United Nations peacekeepers.” In the imperialist-dominated world today, these proposals are utopian diversions relying on veiled superpower institutions. On the other hand, masses who have suffered the reality of imperialist exploitation, oppression and war are offered no alternative but dead-end religious fundamentalism.
There is only one genuine solution: doing away with capitalist imperialism through socialist revolutions across the world led by the working class. For those who have not grown cynical in the struggle for a world of peace and abundance, the foremost task is the re-creation of a world party of socialist revolution, composed of revolutionary workers’ parties in each country – the Fourth International.
Afghanistan has long been used as a buffer zone by rival imperialist powers intent on dominating Central Asia. Today, the U.S.’s temporarily allied but really rival imperialist nations – Britain, France, Germany, Russia – all scheme to get into the country through diplomacy and long-term stationing of troops. The U.S. does not want their “peacekeepers” yet – it prefers an initial monopoly of force in order to control whatever government may emerge.
Despite its reluctance to sink deeper into the Afghan quagmire, the need to stabilize Central Asia and the Gulf region demands that Washington exercise a heavy hand. It needs to keep a grip on local forces and a choke-hold over the region’s oil production in order to thwart the strategic ambitions of the other imperialists. Further, the U.S. has to keep the capitalist rulers of Pakistan, India, China and Iran from using Afghanistan as a battleground for their conflicts.
The most likely outcome is in effect a military protectorate like what the U.S. has installed in Bosnia and Kosovo. But the difficulties will be even greater in Afghanistan, given the absence of an indigenous unifying force with any real popularity to serve as the imperialists’ local police.
There is no answer to the present horror in Afghanistan itself. Historically, the Afghan state has presided over a chaotic collection of hostile warlords and disparate ethnic groups. Afghanistan never had a successful national bourgeois revolution and was never allowed to become an integrated nation. In this epoch, the working class is the only force that can carry out such a revolution on its path to socialism. But the working class in Afghanistan is far too small to do that on its own.
Socialism is impossible in any one country alone, and Afghanistan is especially dependent on an international solution. Given the region’s worsening conditions and the imperialists’ deepening penetration, mass struggles against imperialism are inevitable. Working-class actions are reviving in Pakistan and Iran. Within that movement, opportunities for decisive interventions by revolutionary workers’ organizations are objectively growing, in the region and in the rest of the world.
The U.S. remains the world’s sole superpower, but even so it lacks the resources and authority to stabilize a region so vital to its profits and international hegemony. The growing economic crisis, which has afflicted capitalism around the world, has now penetrated the American economy. There will be no real stabilization or Marshall Plan-type rescue in Afghanistan – nor, for that matter, in Argentina, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Rim or anywhere else where crisis conditions are already rampant.
The U.S. dominates the World Bank and IMF, which impose economic misery across the “third world” through their austerity packages and debt repayment demands. The super-exploitation practiced by the imperialists through subminimal wages keeps millions of workers in a state of misery. Imperialism controls the extraction of oil and other minerals and forces producers to switch to cash crops (like opium in Afghanistan), making even rich areas become poor.
The imperialists need to deepen their exploitation because of the crisis; that makes stepped-up military intervention necessary. The “war on terror” is the U.S.’s cover for mobilizing to quell the rising tide of hostility around the world. Until a decade ago, Soviet Russia served as the “evil” enemy that enabled the U.S. ruling class to restrain the class struggle at home and keep its imperialist rivals in tow. But even before that, Russia’s economic weakness (as a deformed, statified form of capitalism) meant that the U.S. had to find a new evil. And imperialism has managed to create a multitude of horrors it can choose from. Thus was born the struggle against international terrorism, whose fruits we see today.
Powerful elements in and around Bush’s administration want to attack Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, but such a move risks triggering further mass protests in the Arab world, endangering the already tenuous rule of imperialism’s pawns. It would also crack the surface unity with its fellow imperialists. So the U.S. may next move on countries that can be more directly linked to bin Laden – Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
The terror attack on the World Trade Center has enabled the White House to whip up patriotic fervor as a mask for a stealth campaign against workers, immigrants and oppressed people in the U.S. Rising concern among American workers over the assault at home cannot be allowed to divert revolutionaries from also showing that our ruling class is using the war as a cover for a bloody campaign designed to crush the anti-imperialist masses abroad.
The aims of the U.S. ruling class are in no way in the interests of workers anywhere. Workers in this country have every right to be outraged at the terrorist attack that massacred so many of their own class brothers and sisters, but the U.S. government has no legitimacy in waging a fight against terrorism. Long before Afghanistan, the U.S. slaughtered masses in far greater numbers than were killed on September 11 – in recent decades, in its attacks against Iraq, Nicaragua, Somalia, Panama and Sudan. At the end of the Gulf War, 100,000 fleeing, unarmed Iraqi soldiers were napalmed and firebombed to death. These are just a few of many examples. The U.S. ruling class is the greatest terrorist force on the planet.
Moreover, capitalism has created the conditions across the world that breed justified hatred of imperialism. With the help of betrayals led chiefly by the Stalinist “Communist” parties, the U.S. has eliminated left-appearing and working-class alternatives wherever possible. To carry out its repression, the U.S. armed and funded right-wing reactionaries and local dictators. Thus it aided and abetted both bin Laden and the Taliban. It sponsored Saddam Hussein, Noriega, Milosevic and a variety of other dictators it now denounces as devil figures.
The U.S. is forced to continually seek out reactionary pawns abroad to deflect mass hostility. But they have their own interests; their inevitable unreliability means that Washington will have to increase its own use of naked military terror to keep both pawns and masses in line.
The U.S. claims to stand for democracy and freedom; in reality it champions exploitation and aids reaction. Thus it has paved the way for millions to tolerate terrorism as the only visible response. That is why U.S. imperialism bears the ultimate responsibility even for the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Nevertheless, concrete mass support for the fundamentalist terrorists has been limited. For example, there is mass hostility in Pakistan to General Pervez Musharraf’s regime and its kowtowing to the American carpet bombing of Afghanistan. Yet the demonstrations and riots led by clerical reactionaries have been small. The restive urban working class has little sympathy for the right wing and is searching for an alternative. The mass protest struggles by workers and peasants against the World Bank and the IMF in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and South Korea are likewise seedbeds for a coming leftward shift, within which will come the struggle of workers to forge their own revolutionary communist party.
Nothing more exposes the U.S. claim to be the anti-terrorist champion than its political, military and financial support for the terrorist regime in Israel. After September 11, the Sharon government – the most extreme in Israel’s belligerent history – hoped to gain a free hand to punish the Palestinians for their intifada struggle against oppression. When Israel launched attacks on the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. objected that this “recklessness” would undermine the coalition against bin Laden. Sharon then demanded that Yasser Arafat restrain the resistance, which it labels terrorist in its entirety. Since Arafat (for all his willingness) cannot hold back the struggle, Israel staged political assassinations and other deadly provocations to trigger the Islamist organizations’ terrorist response. As of now, the U.S. has given the green light to Israel’s massive military reprisals.
The militarist atrocities committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia and elsewhere are not simply unfortunate foreign policy options chosen by the government. Imperialism is a daily fact of life for the masses of the world, manifested not only through warfare but also in the debt-slavery imposed on countries like Argentina and in the control of the oil riches of Arabia by a handful of corporations, almost entirely American-owned. The military campaigns we fight against are the inevitable result of this superexploitation of the globe. Imperialism is not a policy but an essential characteristic of capitalism for the past hundred years.
That is why nothing short of socialist revolution can put an end to imperialist war. Proletarian revolutionaries today work to build the broadest possible united actions to fight against the war. But as long as imperialism exists, this war will only give way to more wars and even greater slaughter. Stopping the war is a worthwhile basis for broad coalitions. But revolutionaries must patiently show their fellow workers that only class war against capitalism can put a real end to imperialist bloodletting. Anti-war fighters cannot allow the struggle to degenerate into the diversionary pacifist claptrap that poses no threat to the imperialist warmakers.
For example, the New York Coalition for Peace and Justice called a march at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree under the pathetically fraudulent theme, “Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All.” The working class needs not good will but class hatred towards its exploiters, who will permit no peace on earth or anywhere else as long as they rule. We join in such demonstrations only under our own slogans against the war and for the overthrow of imperialism.
As communists and internationalists, we disdain to hide our views. Since imperialism is the greatest enemy of the working class everywhere, we stand for the defeat of American imperialism in its war against the people of Afghanistan, and for the defense of the Middle Eastern and Central Asian masses. We work to defend workers at home and abroad against the attack on them by the U.S. ruling class. We openly stand opposed to the patriotic hype sweeping the United States. We seek to turn the imperialist war into a working-class war against the biggest perpetrators of terrorism, chiefly the U.S. ruling class.