The USSR in Afghanistan vs. Russia in Ukraine


Marv Gandall
 

Many commentators, including on the left, have drawn a parallel between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, and have justified the considerable role played by US imperialism in both cases. The two events are not analogous:

1) The Soviet Union was not a capitalist state, as is the Russian federation, 2) the Soviets did not invade Afghanistan as a hostile power but intervened with the support of the internationally-recognized government in Kabul, and 3) the US equipped an Islamic insurgency in Afghanistan seeking state power rather than, as in Ukraine, a government already holding it.

I supported the Soviet intervention and the government in Kabul because, despite their considerable shortcomings, they nevertheless acted in defence of the progressive forces and reforms in Afghan society against Islamic fundamentalist reaction, and because then as now I regarded US imperialism as the main threat to global stability and progress.

What’s fundamentally changed is that the Soviet Union no longer exists and US imperialism is now supporting one capitalist state against another, both of which have rolled back the economic and social gains of the USSR to which they once belonged. Working class conditions won’t improve in either society as a result of the war, with US imperialism and certain capitalist sectors as the only beneficiaries. It follows that neither side is worthy of support, and an immediate cessation of hostilities is urgent.

What is missing in the above account which would justify the combined war aims of NATO and the Ukrainian state and the continued sacrifices of the “patriotic” masses on their behalf?


Michael Meeropol
 

the appropriate analogy (IMHO) to the Russia invasion of Ukraine (with US imperialism supporting Ukraine, admittedly ...) is the US invasion of VIetnam (which Noam Chomsky dates from 1962, when Kennedy launched what was called "special war" featuring Green Berets and "strategic hamlets" and other bullshit covers for a colonial war) ----

The Soviets helped the VIetnamese and deterred the US from using nuclear weapons (which Dan Ellsberg says were on the table a LOT ...) --- the US is helping the Ukrainians and trying to deter Putin from using nuclear weapons.

Both "allies" of the independence fighters had their own self interest --- fighting their enemies to the last (Vietnamese) Ukrainian .... Both allies were not to be trusted --- 

(in sometime around 1957 or 58 the Soviet Union recommended that both "North" Vietnam and "South" Vietnam be admitted to the UN --- so much for support for a brother communist nation (!!!) --- I bet many in the US ruling class would love to force the Ukrainians to "compromise" because of the disruptive effects on the world economy of the war and sanctiions against Russia ....)

By the way, Marv is not quite right about the SOviet intervention --- YES, they intervened to save the Afghan government BUT, the actual government in place (led by Amin) did not want Soviet intervention --- the Soviet army had to defeat Amin's palace guard --- and in that bloody battle, Amin himself was killed  The Soviets then installed Barbrak Karmal.

--- which led to a long war that contributed mightily to the end of the Soviet Union ...


Mark Baugher
 

On Nov 20, 2022, at 12:29 PM, Marv Gandall <marvgand2@...> wrote:

Working class conditions won’t improve in either society as a result of the war,
So you think Ukrainian workers would not be worse off if their country were occupied by Russia?

Mark


Marv Gandall
 

Michael writes: "Marv is not quite right about the SOviet intervention --- YES, they intervened to save the Afghan government BUT, the actual government in place (led by Amin) did not want Soviet intervention --- the Soviet army had to defeat Amin's palace guard --- and in that bloody battle, Amin himself was killed  The Soviets then installed Barbrak Karmal.”

I stand corrected about Soviet troops having been invited into the country by the Afghan government. Amin was a leader of one of the factions of the faction-ridden People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) which seized power in the wake of a popular uprising against the monarchy in 1978. It established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and was headed by the pro-Soviet leader and new head of state Muhammed Taraki.  Amin wanted the party to distance itself from the Soviets, and his faction was responsible for the assassination of Taraki within a year of the revolution. Amin was himself in office for barely two months, during which short interregnum the Soviets invaded and he in turn was assassinated. It’s not clear to me whether Amin was killed in a clash with the other pro-Soviet faction led by Karmal or by Soviet troops or both.
 
Be that as it may, the Islamic fundamentalists were meanwhile waging guerrilla war against the regime with the increasing support of the United States and its allies.  On the Marxist left, this was not only the decisive consideration for the pro-Moscow Communist parties, but also for that wing of the Trotskyist movement identified with the SWP in the US and its prominent public intellectuals Ernest Mandel in Belgium and Tariq Ali in the UK. They gave the Soviets and the PDPA regime what they described as critical support. The state capitalists and the Maoists, on the other hand, disregarded that the Afghan resistance was led by the fundamentalists and supplied by US imperialism, calling  instead for the revolutionary overthrow of the regime and the expulsion of Soviet forces.
 
Mark writes: "So you think Ukrainian workers would not be worse off if their country were occupied by Russia?”  
 
As I’ve mentioned any number of times, I’m for ending the war with no annexations or indemnities, taking my cue from the Zimmerwald left during WW I which opposed both sides. If I could, I’d order the withdrawal of Russian forces to the pre-February border, leaving Ukraine in sovereign control of the eastern provinces. But I’d also order an internationally-supervised referendum to ascertain whether the predominantly Russian-speaking population in the Donbas and Crimea wanted to obtain special status within Ukraine or to separate from the country and remain independent or join the Russian federation.That’s why I supported the direction taken by the Minsk accords.
 
But of course it's not up to us. The outcome will be decided by the relationship of forces. And as I’ve also frequently mentioned, as recently as a couple of days ago, my main concern is that this conflict not spill over into a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the NATO states.
 
Probably our single point of agreement is that we continue to talk past each other.


Dayne Goodwin
 

On Sun, Nov 20, 2022 at 1:52 PM Michael Meeropol <mameerop@...> wrote:
>  . . .
> (in sometime around 1957 or 58 the Soviet Union recommended that both "North" Vietnam and "South" Vietnam be admitted to the UN --- so much for support for a brother communist nation (!!!) ---
...
> By the way, Marv is not quite right about the SOviet intervention --- YES, they intervened to save the Afghan government BUT, the actual government in place (led by Amin) did not want Soviet intervention --- the Soviet army had to defeat Amin's palace guard --- and in that bloody battle, Amin himself was killed  The Soviets then installed Barbrak Karmal.
  .  .  .

Informative message Michael.  My comments are on two of your points (copied above).  On the first one i'm quoting from Elly Leary and Bill Fletcher, Jr.'s recent article -
Q&A: Navigating the Left’s Ukraine Debate
by Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Elly Leary, Convergence, Nov. 15, 2022
https://convergencemag.com/articles/qa-navigating-the-lefts-ukraine-debate/

"When the Vietnamese were resisting the US, there were those who called upon the Vietnamese to make concessions and to hold off on their struggles. In fact, in 1954 both the USSR and China appealed to the Vietminh to accept the “temporary” division of Vietnam into two regions as a means of ending the conflict. We see where that ended."

and if anyone is curious, wants to know more about the situation in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union militarily intervened December 24/25 1979, i remember the book "Revolutionary Afghanistan" by Beverley Male (originally published 1982) as invaluable.  The book/text is available at the Marxist Internet Archive  https://www.marxists.org/history/afghanistan/archive/revolutionary-afghanistan.pdf


On Sun, Nov 20, 2022 at 1:52 PM Michael Meeropol <mameerop@...> wrote:
>
> the appropriate analogy (IMHO) to the Russia invasion of Ukraine (with US imperialism supporting Ukraine, admittedly ...) is the US invasion of VIetnam (which Noam Chomsky dates from 1962, when Kennedy launched what was called "special war" featuring Green Berets and "strategic hamlets" and other bullshit covers for a colonial war) ----
>
> The Soviets helped the VIetnamese and deterred the US from using nuclear weapons (which Dan Ellsberg says were on the table a LOT ...) --- the US is helping the Ukrainians and trying to deter Putin from using nuclear weapons.
>
> Both "allies" of the independence fighters had their own self interest --- fighting their enemies to the last (Vietnamese) Ukrainian .... Both allies were not to be trusted ---
>
> (in sometime around 1957 or 58 the Soviet Union recommended that both "North" Vietnam and "South" Vietnam be admitted to the UN --- so much for support for a brother communist nation (!!!) --- I bet many in the US ruling class would love to force the Ukrainians to "compromise" because of the disruptive effects on the world economy of the war and sanctiions against Russia ....)
>
> By the way, Marv is not quite right about the SOviet intervention --- YES, they intervened to save the Afghan government BUT, the actual government in place (led by Amin) did not want Soviet intervention --- the Soviet army had to defeat Amin's palace guard --- and in that bloody battle, Amin himself was killed  The Soviets then installed Barbrak Karmal.
>
> --- which led to a long war that contributed mightily to the end of the Soviet Union ...
>


Michael Pugliese
 

On Sun, Nov 20, 2022 at 4:37 PM Marv Gandall <marvgand2@...>
wrote: ,'"considerable shortcomings,' of the PDPA regime, folded
within his support for it. A # of books have formed my considerably
more critical viewpoint towards it, Afghanistan : the Soviet invasion
and the Afghan response, 1979-1982 , by an Afghan scholar, M. Hassan
Kakar , who knew many of the leading figures , and was imprisoned by
the regime. He was accused of being a Maoist by the regime.Hundreds of
Maoists were killed by the regime. The PRC gave support to the
insurgency , see,
https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745319179/unholy-wars/ , chapter 4
entitled ,"Deng Xiaoping." Islamist fighters were trained in Xinjiang,
Tons of really oversimplified accounts , riffing off of
https://therealnews.com/zbrzezinski1218gpt1 ,would benefit from
reading this academic paper in Diplomatic History, "The Myth of the
“Afghan Trap”: Zbigniew Brzezinski and Afghanistan, 1978–1979,"
https://sci-hub.se/https://doi.org/10.1093/dh/dhz065 .

Full text , chapter by chapter of Kakar, is hyperlinked here,
https://libcom.org/article/soviet-invasion-and-afghan-response-1979-1982-m-hassan-kakar
. Among his cited sources is , Raja Anwar, ,"Tragedy of Afghanistan :
A First-Hand Account," published by Verso, with an introduction by
Fred Halliday . Anwar , was also imprisoned, in the Pul-e-Charkhi
jail, by the PDPA regime.

The chapter : KhAD as an Agency of Suppression ,
https://libcom.org/library/9-khad-agency-suppression , from the book
by M. Hassan Kakar , details how brutal was the Intelligence Agency of
the Regime. "Islamic Resistance Organizations," chapter 4,
https://libcom.org/library/4-islamic-resistance-organizations , as
well as , the book ,"Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan," by Oliver
Roy, Cambridge University Press ,
http://library.lol/main/3F4DEBCA56A840D01CC384A1296A3E7F , is also
quite good. See the first chapter,
https://sci-hub.se/https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511563553.003 , for
a fine grained neo-marxist class analysis of how ham handed and crude
were the class categories used in the implementation of land reform .
Reminded me of the account in , 'The Best Sons of the Fatherland:
Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization," in the chapter on
the 25,000 , by Lynne Viola. Oliver Roy, who had some involvement with
the French Maoists , in the late 60's, via Gauche Prolétarienne , did
extensive field work in Afghanistan , on which he is interviewed here,
https://www.google.com/books/edition/In_Search_of_the_Lost_Orient/PC0zDwAAQBAJ?hl=en
. There are many more sources I can cite and recommend such as, "The
long torment of Afghanistan," by Jonathan Neale ,
https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/neale/2001/xx/taliban.htm
, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isj2/1981/isj2-012/neale.htm
, from 1981 , "The Afghan Tragedy,"
https://newleftreview.org/issues/i112/articles/fred-halliday-revolution-in-afghanistan
, "The Communist Regime in Afghanistan 1978-1992: Institutions and
Conflicts," by Fred Halliday and Zahir Tanin ,
https://www.jstor.org/stable/153920 . I intend to get around to
finishing , https://www.versobooks.com/books/3939-the-forty-year-war-in-afghanistan
, by Tariq Ali. Sugar coated articles like
https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/afghanistans-socialist-years-the-promising-future-killed-off-by-u-s-imperialism/
, or longer accounts like
https://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Afghanistan-Reappraisal-Routledge-Revolution-ebook/dp/B09NQMR41R/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2KMYKDCSL2R63&keywords=revolutionary+afghanistan&qid=1668995759&sprefix=revolutionary+afghanistan+%2Caps%2C255&sr=8-1&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.fa474cd8-6dfc-4bad-a280-890f5a4e2f90
or , https://www.intpubnyc.com/browse/afghanistan-washingtons-secret-war/
, while I do "recommend" them , do so mainly to provide balance , from
viewpoints I do not agree with or share. If I only read what i agreed
with , I would just be another ideologue.

From a post I made on lbo-talk decades ago : "Pg. 5, talking about the
Soviet-Afghan War from '78 to '89. "Nearly 2 million Afghans have been
killed so far, (as well as 15,000 Soviet soldiers), and 600,000 to
2,000,000 wounded. More than 6 million Afghans fled to Iran and
Pakistan, creating the worlds largest refugee population since 1981,
while 2 million Afghans were internally displaced. Thus more than 50 %
of Afghanistans indigeous population (estimated at 15-17 million at
war's beginning, now estimated to be 22 million) became casulties,
killed, wounded or refugees.

From the next paragraph, "The Soviet Army and the Afghan communist
government planted an estimated 30,000,000 land mines throughout the
country, most of them completely unmarked and unmarked. Afghanistan's
natural resources, particularly the natural gas reserves near
Shiberghan, flowed north to the Soviet Union in the 80's and
Afghanistan's economy collapsed."

Pg. 57, "In the early spring of 1979 war came to the cities of
Afghanistan, In mid-March there was a general uprising in Herat. More
than 100 Soviets were reportedly hunted down and killed in savage
violence that claimed 3 thousand to 5 thousand lives....The government
in Kabul felt the pressure generated by the uprisings in the
countryside, particularly the savage fighting in Herat and the
defection of its troops in Jalalabad [previous paragraph said Afghan
Army strength went from 80,000 to 30,000 from late '78 to spring '79).
In April Afghan government troops with Soviet advisors massacred 1,170
men and boys in Kerala village in Kunar, near the border with
Pakistan." The book I was quoting from ,
https://uwapress.uw.edu/book/9780295980508/afghanistans-endless-war/ .

From another post I made at lbo-talk . Covert Aid to Afghan Mujahdeen
in the 80's , http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2001/2001-December/028084.html

Pg. 146, Larry P. Goodson, "Afghanistan's Endless War, " Univ. of
Washington Press.

1980 $30 Million 1981 $35 M 1982 $$35-50 M 1983 $80 M 1984 $122 M 1985
$280 M 1986 $470-550M 1987 $600M 1988 $400M 1989 $400-550M

Citing NYT, Washington Post, Henry Bradsher, "Afghanistan and the
Soviet Union, Duke Univ. Press, 1985.

Soviet and Chinese Aid...

Besides being one of the first regimes to recognize Pinochet after
9-11-73, along with the USG giving Savimbi lotsa weaponry, the PRC
also gave arms to the anti-Soviet mujahadeen in the 80's through the
ISI pipeline.
From Larry P. Goodson, "Afghanistan's Endless War, " Univ. of
Washington Press, pg. 99. "The Soviet Union supplied $36-$48 billion
(yes B!) to the communist Kabul regime from 1978 to the early 90's.
Over the course of the war, the United States, Saudi Arabia and China
supplied $6-12 billion to the mujahdeen..."

Pg. 142, Goodson again. "The Soviets took natural gas from the
Shiberghan fields (for example 2.4 Billion cubic feet in 1986, 50% of
Afghanistan's total export value) and supplied essential commodities
(including wheat)along with arms, machinery and transportation
equipment." The gas was "sold" at BELOW market rates to the fSU.


Michael Pugliese
 

The Palace Plot , via https://libcom.org/library/1-2-why-did-soviet-union-invade

Between 11 and 14 September the rival groups plotted against each
other. While Amin worked to weaken Taraki by removing Sarwari,
Watanjar, and Gulabzoy from their posts, the latter tried to do away
with him. Taraki told his associates that Amin intended to remove him
by a coup. When Amin’s supporters tried to bring AGSA under their
thumb, Taraki’s supporters gunned them down. Amin’s associates, Nawab
Helmandi, Sur Gul Khateez, and Khair Mohammad were the victims. Amin
asked Taraki to dismiss Sarwari and others from their posts; Taraki
proposed a compromise, but by then a compromise had become unworkable.
Amin insisted on his demand. As the first minister and the strong man
in the party and the government, Amin could dismiss his enemies, but
he preferred that Taraki do it, not only to wean him from his
partisans but also to help unify the party. Taraki was, after all,
general secretary of the party, president of the Revolutionary
Council, chief commander of the armed forces, and president of the
Defense Committee of Afghanistan. He had let himself become entangled
with men who had become Amin’s uncompromising enemies. Finally Taraki
decided, with Sarwari and others, that Amin was to be invited to the
palace to resolve the differences in line with the principle of inner
democracy and collective leadership. He was to be given guarantees for
his safety, but when he arrived he would be done away with. To
persuade Amin to come, Alexander Puzanov was to be invited and asked
to mediate.

Anwar was the first to describe the incident in the palace. In his
book, which is an apologia for the Soviet policies on Afghanistan, he
implies that what happened on 14 September occurred without the
presence of the Soviet ambassador.[17] The reports leaked out of the
palace, the two-sheet publication issued for the benefit of party
members, and the events themselves speak otherwise. The publication
states that Amin, having received “assurances” from Puzanov and his
own “comrades,” accepted the invitation, much against the advice of
Sayyed Daoud Tarun. Amin arrived at half-past five in the afternoon at
the palace entrance. When he entered the corridor of the second floor,
the presidential guards fired at him, but shot Tarun instead, killing
him. Amin escaped. Puzanov and the two generals were present with
Taraki. Amin rushed to the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense and
took control of the situation, ordering a siege of the presidential
palace, where Taraki was. In the confusion the ambassador and the two
generals left. By Amin’s order Taraki was detained and, on 9 October,
suffocated. The hastily convened meeting of the politburo replaced
Taraki with Amin as head of party and the state. Amin formed a new
government of persons loyal to him.

Amin implicated Puzanov in the plot. It seems inconceivable that Amin
would have made such a charge had it not been true. It was a matter of
common sense for Amin to be wary of the consequences of accusing the
representative of the Soviet Union. It is a fact that not only Puzanov
but also Generals Ivanov and Pavlovsky were present at the time of the
incident. The KGB official Alexander Morozov writes, “The generals and
Ambassador Puzanov took off for yet another meeting at the House of
the Nation. Taraki asked Amin to attend it as well. However, the
latter refused point blank, citing the possibility of an attempt on
his life as an excuse. But yielding to Taraki’s insistence he agreed
and demanded guarantees of his safety from Puzanov. The latter gave
him the guarantee, speaking to Amin over the phone.”[18]

The triumphant Amin started to rule with the view that the Soviet
Union would back him. Once again he was mistaken. The Soviet leader,
Leonid Brezhnev, looked on the killing of Taraki as a personal
insult.[19] Afterward the Soviet leaders changed their policy on
Afghanistan.

The whereabouts of Sarwari and his associates—with the exception of
Mizdooryar, who had been arrested—was a source of concern for Amin.
The conspirators first stayed at the villa of the TASS correspondent,
and later Puzanov managed to smuggle them to the Soviet Union in
nailed wooden boxes. Amin asked Puzanov to hand them over, but the
latter was unwilling. In this connection a story was told that is
apparently unbelievable. According to the story, Amin one day summoned
Puzanov to his presence and accused him not only of having hidden his
opponents in the embassy but also of having plotted against him. When
Puzanov denied the accusations and, further, argued that as a diplomat
he could not be treated as an accused person under investigation, Amin
slapped him in the face and poured forth insulting words in Pashto on
Marx, Lenin, and Brezhnev.[20] This impulsive outburst should have
made Amin more cautious in his dealing with the Soviets. In any case,
Amin’s relations with Moscow became strained.

Amin must have concluded that with Puzanov in Kabul, his relations
with Moscow were not likely to improve. But after the failed palace
coup Puzanov became supportive of Amin, concluding, “We are facing a
fait accompli: Amin has come to power. Taraki failed to withstand
Amin’s push for power. Frankly, Taraki was a weakling and a dawdler.
He never was as good as his word. On the contrary Amin is strong, and
we must do business with him and support him.”[21] Amin’s displeasure
with Puzanov surfaced on 6 October, when Foreign Minister Shah Wali,
while addressing ambassadors of the communist countries with the
exception of China, “accused Puzanov of complicity in the abortive
attempt to remove Amin, saying Puzanov was in Taraki’s office when he
assured him on the phone that it was safe to go to the palace.”[22]
Puzanov was represented at the meeting by Vasily Safronchuck, another
embassy diplomat. “As a result of the distrust of Puzanov, and as a
warning to the Kremlin about meddling in Afghan affairs, Wali as
foreign minister officially asked the Soviet Union to replace its
ambassador.”[23] Shah Wali also said that Moscow had invited Amin to
Moscow to discuss the Afghan domestic issue, but he had refused to go.
It was another event that the Kremlin leaders could not digest. Other
events also adversely affected Amin’s relations with Moscow...

"Fariduddin’s description of his torture is typical, though
incomplete. “They started cursing me,” he says, “with foul language,
then beating me with their fists and clubs. Then they kicked me. Then
came the electric shocks. They [tied] wires to my feet, and they
strapped my hands and legs to a chair and gave me electric shocks.”
Electric shocks were given even to the most sensitive parts of the
body: “They also give you electric shocks in your ears, on your head,
your mouth and the private parts of your body.” The intensity of the
torture was such that not many people could stand up to it. Again in
the words of Fariduddin, “No matter how strong you are, you must
confess. The only way to stop them is to say, ‘Yes, yes, I am what you
say I am. I did what you say I did.” ’ Naturally, Fariduddin’s view of
the interrogators is unfavorable: “No matter how much you scream and
no matter how much you plead, they do not listen. They are savage
human beings. They are worse than wild beasts. Even animals are not
that cruel.”[23] The Italian journalist Fausto Bilolavo has vividly
described the condition of the victims of torture in his cell: “I was
surrounded by human wreckage: people with their backs smashed to
pieces, dislocated jaws, twisted nasal septa, their bodies covered
with scars of every description and bearing the hallmarks of
cigarettes [snuffed] out against their skins.”[24]

Other tortures were applied when the lesser ones did not lead to a
confession. Among the main ones were those intended to rob the accused
of dignity. Men were threatened with having glass Fanta soft drink
bottles forced into their rectums, while women were threatened with
having hot eggs forced into their vaginas. Worse still was the
situation in which accused males were threatened with having their
wives or female relatives sexually assaulted in their presence.

Via https://libcom.org/library/9-khad-agency-suppression , which also
has a section , "Prisoners of Pul-e-Charkhi," the jail noted in my
previous post.