A Brief Response to Responses

Against the Current, No. 20, May/June 1989

Val Moghadam

CHRISTY BROWN’S THOUGHTFUL discourse on the gender factor in the Afghan conflict and David Finkel’s balanced reflections on the complex dimensions of the revolution, the war, and the struggle for reforms and rights (ATC 19) contrast sharply with the comments by Chris Hobson and Dan La Botz (in this issue and in ATC 19).

The latter are far too simplistic and, particularly in the case of Hobson, evince the mechanical application of assumptions and “political lines” (which are themselves of questionable validity) rather than a thorough study of the specificities of the case in question.

Hobson’s unfamiliarity with Afghanistan is demonstrated by his comment that “the Afghan regime, from the start, in its methods and objectives, was state capitalist” This is absolutely untrue — since when does a “state capitalist” government expropriate land from big landlords and distribute it free of charge to peasants?

By the way, the “free of charge” point is an important one, and it is recognized today by PDPA members to have been a mistake. In their zeal to transform rural relations, the PDPA land reform agents in many cases seized land from landlords and gave it to peasants without requiring any payments.

It is possible that had the reformers bought the land from the landlords, sold it to the peasants and written up new titles and deeds, there would have been less resistance on the part of peasants and landlords to the land reform. But then that would have been state capitalist, and Hobson would find a reason to oppose that method of land reform.

The White House, professional anti-communists, and guerrilla romanticists throughout the world pin responsibility for all the deaths and destruction of the past ten years on the PDPA and the Soviet Union but conceal the fact that the civil war/counter-revolution was started by the Islamic oppositionists before the Soviet troops arrived, and that the Mujahedeen are responsible for mind-boggling atrocities, including blowing up schools and orphanages.

Similarly, the PDPA governments have been slandered as “puppet regimes” without any internal support, but somehow the Mujahedeen’s dependence on the CIA, Pakistani army, and Saudi Arabian money is considered above reproach.

My recent two-week trip to Kabul and extensive talks with ordinary people, government officials and party members convinced me that the government has a considerable social base of support and many loyalists in the military.

The reorganization of the conventional army and the establishment of small mobile fighting units (including women’s militia) add to the government’s capacity. Further in January, party members underwent military training and all are now armed, including the women and teenagers (members of the youth organization).

These are among the reasons why the government and the army did not collapse immediately after the Soviet withdrawal, and why the Mujahedeen are finding it difficult to take the cities.

Hobson’s dogmatic insistence on socialist support for any and all “national liberation” movements is truly untenable — and yes, one does have to elaborate on why “national independence is a goal we support.” What, after all, does Hobson have to say about the Sikh movement for an independent Khalistan? Why on earth should socialists support that? I will repeat my own formulation — support for national liberation should be extended on the basis of the movement’s program.

That program has to include a commitment to women’s rights, or else it is unworthy of support. In this regard, the Mujahedeen are fundamentally unlike the Eritreans and the Palestinians, for whom national liberation does not entail the degradation of women. National liberation should not be carried out on the backs of women. This is the blind spot in Hobson and La Botz, which ultimately makes their position anti-socialist.

May-June 1989, ATC 20

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