A WORLD TO WIN    #32   (2006)

Neither Imperialism nor Islam –

Interview with Afghanistan Maoist Leader

 The following is an excerpted interview conducted in winter 2006 with the General Secretary of the Communist Party (Maoist) of Afghanistan, a participating party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. –AWTW

 Q. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the ruling parties calling themselves “communist” imposed a reactionary oppressive rule on the people. What challenges does this pose to genuine communists?

 A. Their pseudo-communist claims have created incorrect perceptions about communism among the vast majority of the people. Right from the beginning of the uprising against the Soviet social-imperialists the subjective and objective conditions had a negative and destructive impact on the left movement, which caused it to make deeper deviations. These deviations of the left also contributed to the anti-communism in society, by further attributing communism to the crimes of the social-imperialists.

Anti-communism, as an international endeavour, tries its utmost to portray the defeat of the social-imperialists in Afghanistan as the defeat of communism. However, the Islamic anti-communism during the rule of the Jihadis and the Taleban could not dress up anti-communism any better than it was done by the social-imperialist puppets. This weakened anti-communism to some degree. But the subjective and objective factors, locally and internationally, are still heightening anti-communism. Consequently, the challenges facing the genuine communists are continually arising, which requires them to patiently continue in principled struggle.

One of the challenges is that, along with the social-imperialists’ defeat, the left in the war of resistance was also defeated. These two realities help anti-communists deduce that communism has no place in Afghanistan, and this weighs heavily in the minds of sections of the people. The Islamic anti-communists specifically conclude and promote that Afghanistan is an Islamic society, and that communism, based on dialectical materialism against religion, has no place in that country.

To overcome this challenge a significant section of the left in Afghanistan adapted the theory under the guise of Islam, and made that part of their programme. Other sections, although they did not formally adopt this theory, widely practiced the same thing.

The present liquidationists conclude that Afghanistani society is very backward, and that for as long as backwardness is not dealt with, revolutionary communism has no chance.

Another challenge is the incorrect understanding of internationalism among communists. Anti-communists propagate communism as “an imported ideology”, so that people do not willingly accept it; the idea that communism can only be imposed on the people of Afghanistan by foreign powers still has shaky foundations in the society.

Another aspect of this challenge facing the genuine communists is the lack of a foreign government to support them, and, therefore, without such support, the difficulty of establishing themselves in Afghanistan.

Still another challenge is the accusation that communists are oppressive. As we know, the rule of the social-imperialist occupiers and their puppets was based on suppression of the masses. This oppression in communist disguise ultimately impacts on genuine communists, as the anti-communists try hard to generalise and attribute it to the genuine communists as well.

So, due to the reactionary oppressive rule of the social-imperialists and their puppets, the challenge facing the genuine communists can be summarised as follows: communism has no room in Afghanistan, unless it is imposed on the people by oppression and suppression or invasion and occupation, and even then it will not last long. As has been seen, this challenge is not absolutely specific to the situation in Afghanistan; genuine communists in other countries more or less face the same challenge internationally. As Afghanistan took the brunt of the Soviet social-imperialists and their native puppets, this challenge is more widespread and intense in Afghanistan than in other countries.

The only proper response to this challenge is to courageously take the programme of the genuine communists, that is the programme of the Communist Party (Maoist) of Afghanistan, among the masses in a principled way, so that people can distinguish genuine communists from social-imperialist puppets.

Q. How can the masses comprehend the differences between the revisionist social-imperialists’ programme and the programme presented by the genuine communists?

A. There are three key issues and two grounds requiring struggle:

1) Differences between Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and revisionism; differences between proletarian internationalism and social-imperialism.

2) Differences between new-democratic revolution and what the social-imperialists and revisionists practiced in Afghanistan and other places; differences between Maoist socialist revolution as well as the transition from socialism to communism from the Maoist perspective versus what the revisionists say and practice.

3) Differences between the Maoist people’s war strategy, which is based on the mass line, versus revisionist parliamentary strategy, which is based on coups supported by the social-imperialists.

We need to differentiate ourselves from the revisionists, not only on the theoretical front, but also we need to distinguish ourselves from the revisionists in the implementation of our programme in practice. In other words, we must understand the importance of our struggle on both the theoretical and practical fronts. The Maoist movement in Afghanistan, along with the new-democratic movement, made a relatively clear demarcation between themselves and the revisionist social-imperialists in the 1960s. Although the movement could not mobilise the masses of peasants and that is why it collapsed, as pointed out by martyred Comrade Yari, it did establish bases among intellectuals, workers and the petite bourgeoisie in the cities.

During the resistance movement against the coup regime installed in April 1978, and in the war of resistance against the social-imperialist invaders, Maoist Sholaites militantly participated in the resistance and widely joined the masses. Unfortunately, overall, their participation in the mass movement was not based on correct principles. Even so, within the first few years of the war of resistance, people could see the difference between the revisionists and the Maoists, both in theory and practice, although not so clearly and decisively, because of the mistakes that the Maoists made.

Sections of the people still remember the struggle of the Maoists, and, despite its limitations, this can be relied upon to begin our initial activities among the masses; and the newly emerging communist movement, during the last twenty years, has used this opportunity. As a result of the Maoists’ struggle in the past, sections of the masses distinguish the “Sholaites” from the “Khalqite-Parchamites”. In other words, the challenges facing the genuine communists in implementing their programme, although quite widespread, are not absolute, there are relatively ready-made bases that can be relied upon. Our Party is a witness to this fact.

In addition, in the current situation, based on our Party activities and under the leadership of the Party, democratic organisations among the masses of people, among women, youth, trades unions, labourers and other sections of society can be used to establish wider links between the masses and the Party. By combining underground activities with open and semi-open work among the masses, we can take our programme among the masses to show them the differences between our programme and those imposed on them by the revisionists. To achieve this end, we need to find and utilise both illegal and legal channels through working relatively openly among the people.

The key issue is to remind ourselves that each and every activity carried out in any situation must serve the goal of preparing and initiating the peoples’ war of resistance, which is the concrete form of people’s war in the present situation of Afghanistan.

Q. After the Soviets the Taleban came to power… What is it that attracts people to Islam? How can the communists draw the people from the Islamists to their own side?

A. If we are to talk about the “Islamic mobilisation” that dates back to the 1960s, it was during this period that various political groups, with different ideological and political stances, relatively widely emerged on the scene. The communist movement (Maoism) was born then and the new-democratic movement stood tall; the revisionist party (Peoples Democratic Party), from which two factions emerged, “Khalq” and “Parcham”, both tied to the Soviet social-imperialists, and other bourgeois-nationalist groups and political forces also appeared. Against this backdrop, the reactionary religious feudal forces reacted and organised a reactionary religious movement under the auspices of the Afghanistani government that was supported by the reactionary Arab regimes and regimes in the region that were supported by Western imperialism.

The prevalent feudal culture in society, the pseudo-communist pseudo-progressive claims put forward by the Russian puppet regime, and the Islamic regimes in the neighbouring countries of Iran and Pakistan, unconditionally supported by Western imperialists and reactionary Arab states, all and all, contributed to bringing the spontaneous war fronts of resistance increasingly under the influence of reactionary forces. The communist and revolutionary forces tailing the spontaneous movement prepared the ground for the Islamic forces to further influence the war of resistance against social-imperialism. That is how the Islamic forces, by prevailing in the war of resistance against social-imperialism, took over the government after the collapse of Najib’s regime.

Islam was not the only factor bringing the Islamists into power…. The dramatic advances made by the Taleban, who evolved from a small force into a major power claiming to govern the entire country, was supported by three powerful imperialist/reactionary factors. The US and British imperialists not only worked behind the scenes to organise the “Islamic mobilisation”, but also directly and indirectly supported them afterwards. So of the three major factors propelling the Taleban into power, only one of them was Islam. This factor, Islam, was mainly used by the Taleban against other Islamists, not so much against communists, to combat the “corruption and decadence” that was prevalent among other Islamists. This was to justify and legitimise the “war among Muslims”.

Overall, the reactionary Islamic forces are consolidated in the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” current and are supported by the US imperialists and their allies as foreign supporters of the regime. Therefore, what we see as the Taleban today cannot be taken as the main model of Islamism in Afghanistan. By looking at the other Islamic countries and around the world, one can see that anti-American pan-Islamism (the Al Qaeda type) does not constitute the major portion of the Islamists.

The numerous crimes committed by the “Jihadi” and “Taleban” Islamists during the “Islamic State” of “Jihadis” and the “Islamic Emirate” of the Taleban have indeed faded the old glory of Islam in the eyes of the masses. This situation alone provides a good opportunity for the communists to draw people from the Islamists onto their own side.

The prevalent feudal culture, in the absence of a powerful non-religious force, namely the communists, generates and regenerates masses that would support various shades of Islamists in an endless circle, or masses that would live a life indifferent to politics.

As far as the Islamism packaged in the Constitution is concerned, it is supported by the imperialist invaders, as well as by the reactionary Arab regimes and Islamists in the region, who march under the imperialists’ drum-beat. A large section of the feudal and bourgeois comprador classes is the main supporter of Islamism. Naturally, for as long as the dominance of semi-feudal, semi-colonial power is not challenged by a national revolutionary war of resistance, they will continue to retain their mass base.

As far as Islamism in its specific Afghanistani form of the Taleban and global Al Qaeda is concerned, it involves some other factors as well. Suppressing this form of Islamism is an excuse for the American imperialists’ campaign.

In other words, the Taleban fights as part of an extensive international force. Naturally, this is an important factor drawing the masses onto the side of the Taleban. In fact, the lack of a strong revolutionary communist or even anti-American nationalist movement, including in Afghanistan, is the reason why the masses commit themselves to crazy Islamism, creating an oppressive reactionary religious movement that is used to justify the American imperialists exporting “progress and democracy”. If a strong revolutionary alternative existed in Afghanistan and in other Islamic countries, Islamism, mainly serving the invaders and their lackeys, would not have appeared in the form of the Taleban or Al Qaeda – and even if it did, it would not have been this powerful. In order to draw the masses away from them to their own side, the struggle of the Afghanistani communists must take the form of an international struggle. Such a struggle must be based on the context of resistance against the imperialist occupying invaders and their puppets, and it should be carried out at the global, regional and Afghanistani national level. For as long as we are unable to play a powerful role in the struggle against the invaders, the Taleban will always be able to utilise the anti-American sentiments of the masses to organise them for their own organisational interests.

Taleban Islamism has some serious problems. During their rule in the name of the “Islamic Emirates” they severely oppressed non-Pashtun people. That is why the Taleban’s Islamism is not supported by people of other nationalities. This lack of support for the Taleban among non-Pashtun people provides suitable conditions to organise against the invaders and their lackeys. This does not mean we have no opportunity for organising the masses of people among the Pashtuns. Such an opportunity does exist, because the masses of Pashtun people have had their “fair share” of the Taleban’s oppression.

Communists in their struggle against Islamic theocracy can successfully utilise opportunities when there is a broad secular movement. This requires ideological struggle against idealism to propagate dialectical materialism. On another level this struggle should be carried out against Islamic politics and economics by propagating the principles of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist politics and economics. Without such a struggle the communist party cannot establish a mass base for itself. Indeed, we should be mindful of the nature of the struggle, which is protracted. But that does not mean we should negate such a struggle…. Islam in Afghanistan and other countries, such as Iran, is not a question of the religious belief of the masses. We are facing Islamic rule and we are struggling against an Islamic Republic. In our situation, Islamic politics is armed with the sword of anti-communism. Communists cannot ignore an all-around struggle against such an enemy that is armed with this sword.

Q. The U.S. imperialists have raised the banner of “democracy” in order to justify their aggression in Afghanistan and other places. How do you respond?

A. Our response is that the banner of democracy is a smokescreen to further their imperialist campaign. Our party has always insisted that in a country occupied by imperialists, peoples’ sovereignty is trampled on, people cannot exercise their democratic rights, not even at the semi-colonial level of democracy. At the same time, foreign imperialist invaders who deprive a country of its sovereignty cannot bring democracy. The hodgepodge of democracy that the American imperialists are offering the people of Afghanistan is used only to create the myth that the people have a voice in determining their future and their country’s future.

Another important issue is that the clique ruling the US is trampling and violating the democratic civil rights of their own people, rights that have been established and practiced for years and years. They use terrorism as an excuse. Just as this excuse cannot justify trampling the bourgeois-democratic rights of the people in America, the invasion of a country by force is the cruellest act against the people of a country.

Aside from these general points, let’s look at the nature of what the imperialists and their lackeys call democracy in Afghanistan. In the Afghanistani government, as reflected in the constitution, political parties, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in short all civil and individual rights are restricted by Islam and Islamic Sharia [religious laws – AWTW], nothing is permitted beyond that and everything is illegal. In this aspect, the main difference between the current Islamic Republic regime and the Islamic Emirates regime of the Taleban is that the current regime is a multi-party Islamic regime, while the Taleban regime was a single-party Islamic regime. In this “Republic”, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, communist beliefs and others, are not permitted. Some people like to call such a regime “Islamic democracy”. But “Islamic democracy” is a misnomer, just like “Islamic Republic”. Democracy makes sense only when there is a secular regime. Some theoreticians of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan say that in Afghanistan democracy is applied as a method, it is not an outlook. In other words, the outlook of Islamic Sharia cannot be modified by those who implement it. As a method, democracy is utilised to dress up the anti-democratic religious Islamic nature of the regime as being modern.

That is why our task is to widely expose the deceit of the occupying invaders that disguise themselves with so-called democracy. It is our task to expose the exported pseudo-democracy widely and consistently. This must be done with the aim of preparing for a national revolutionary war of resistance against the invaders and their lackeys.

The majority of the people are not fooled by the exported democracy of the occupiers. As seen, the presidential election was a failure in itself, the majority of the people did not participate in that election. The failure of the provincial elections is even more clearly known to people, so much so that the imperialists and their lackeys even had to admit it.

We need to present our model of democracy, new-democracy, to the people and convince them that our democracy is superior to the “democracy” of the invaders. We must vigorously bring the strength of the earlier new-democratic regimes to the forefront, so that the masses of people can see that democracy does make a difference to their lives. We should show the masses that our democracy is far beyond the bourgeois democracy practiced in capitalist countries, let alone the pseudo-democracy of the semi-feudal, semi-colonial regime of Afghanistan.

Indeed, we cannot limit ourselves to propagating and agitating around new-democracy. We must vigorously defend the achievements of previous socialist revolutions, and that should be the focus of our propaganda and agitation. In our struggle, we must show that by implementing socialism, democracy can be far better in a socialist society than democracy in a capitalist imperialist system; we must emphasise the importance of the proletarian cultural revolution launched in China.


Q. Why has “frontism” – the tendency that communists bury their role in united fronts – been so strong in your country? What lessons can be learnt about the defeat of the communists in independently raising their flags in the war of resistance against the Soviet Union?


A. The Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO), the founding organisation of the communist movement in Afghanistan, had an erroneous understanding about underground work. The organisation, during its second meeting, held in October 1965, decided to publish two newspapers, one democratic and the other communist, to act as an unconditional organ for revolution. The communist newspaper was never published. However, the democratic newspaper, Sholeh Jawid, was applied for and was authorised for publication by the government’s publishing office. Sholeh Jawid was banned by the government after publishing 11 issues. In publishing the newspaper, the organisation collaborated with two other leftist groups outside the organisation. But the organisation kept its programme secret from the groups, pretending that the Yari group and Mahmoudi group were both operating independently from each other. While the new-democratic movement grew exponentially, expanding throughout the country, the PYO continued to limit recruitment of its members from among supporters on an individual basis. The problem was not limited to the organisation keeping its programme secret; an even more serious problem was the outlook that existed, that a party and organised leadership was not necessary, that the mass movement sufficed. The PYO never discussed struggling for the formation of a communist party.

Sholaites were trained with this mentality, of not paying attention to organised work under the leadership of a centralised organisation; this outlook at different times and at different levels later on bequeathed the legacy of disorganisation and frontism in the movement after the April 1978 coup, and during the war against the Soviet social-imperialist invasion of Afghanistan.

“Sorkha” was the first left organisation that proposed frontism in the left movement. “Sorkha” proposed that there are too many differences in the movement to form the communist party, however, fighting against the coup regime was a common ground among the left; the left can be united in fighting the regime. In fact, this proposal was to avoid the ideological and political struggle for establishing the communist party as the immediate task of the movement, procrastinating it to an unknown time. The proposal never got off the ground. The proposal was never implemented and no united front was formed among the left.

Later on frontism was officially and unofficially expanding in the movement.

The National Liberation Front of Sama and the Mujahedin Warriors Front of Rehayee were organised – both with an Islamic Republic as their perspective. This outlook not only tailed the spontaneous movement of the people against the coup regime, mainly with a religious tone, but also reflected the capitulationist line of the Islamic parties as well.

Sama as an organisation officially never claimed to be communist, and its internal programme was democratic. However, it openly… demanded an Islamic Republic.

The Revolutionary Group of the People of Afghanistan (later named Rehayee after its newspaper, in the Autumn of 1978) linked itself with the Chinese revisionist rulers, and negatively developed its economist line to revisionism. The Revolutionary Group of Afghanistan and Rehayee not only demanded an Islamic Republic but also proposed an Islamic revolution. Sama fought independently during the war of resistance against the social-imperialists in several regions for several years, but this was done under the disguise of an Islamic republic (a programme openly presented to the public). In some areas it sneaked in under the direct banner of the Islamic forces. Rehayee during the war of resistance, except in the coup, staged in Balahisar under the name of Mujahedin Warriors Front, fought throughout the country under the banner of an Islamic republic.

These two organisations, which deemed participation in the war of resistance an absolute necessity, not only liquidated democratic struggle, but also, at the same time, by fighting under the banner of Islamism, gave up fighting for nationalism and secularism.

Most of the left organisations, despite the fact that they did not adopt a call for an Islamic republic in their programmes (some even pretending to work seriously for the formation of the Communist Party in Afghanistan), in practice disguised themselves as Islamic parties, never having the will or the power to fight independently.

That is how the left organisations as a whole not only gave up struggling independently during the war of resistance, but also gave up fighting for nationalist democracy and secularism as well.

Communists must play a leading role in the united front. Naturally, first and foremost that requires their independence within the united front. Without independence in the united front there can be no talks about the leadership of communists in a united front; with the acknowledgment that independence in the united front is not sufficient for leadership of the united front. When communists not only buried their role of leadership in the war fronts of resistance, but also buried their independence in the democratic and national struggle, obviously, as Comrade Avakian said, these communists are not communists and they cannot be considered democrats or nationalists.

The communists that were not communist and could not raise the independent banner of communism in the war of resistance against social-imperialism were defeated. They did not have the line to raise the banner of communism in the war; if some did that, it was only in words, they did not insist on it in their deeds. After the defeat, when the new communist movement reorganised into small groups, they were caught up in the ideological and political work to drive out confusion; they did not have the time and strength to participate in the war of resistance in order to raise the banner of communism independently in practice.

Once again we are facing the challenge of fighting independently against the occupying US imperialist invaders, their allies, and their puppet regime; we need to respond to this challenge as soon as possible. To embrace this challenge we have the following to rely on:

1. The experience of the war against social-imperialism.

2. A Party that we did not have during the war against social-imperialism.

3. A militant Revolutionary Communist Party in the belly of the occupying beast, a great opportunity for Afghanistani Maoists to independently lead the masses of people. This opportunity did not exist during the war of resistance against social-imperialism.

4. The Taleban Islamists, who are fighting against the Americans and the Karzai regime, are yesterday’s US men. Furthermore, during their reign they committed countless crimes against the people.

It is in this context that our Party raises the banner of the revolutionary war of resistance against the imperialist occupiers and their hand-picked regime. This is the war that the Maoists and the masses under their leadership should initiate and carry out. This is the war of resistance, that is, resistance against the aggressor and imperialist occupiers, as well as against their lackeys, in order to gain the independence of the country; it is not an Islamic Jihad. This war is a national war; it is not a religious war, specifically it is not an Islamic war against Christians. This is a peoples’ war, that is, a war based on the popular classes, not on the feudal and bourgeois comprador exploiting and oppressing classes. In other words, this war is a war aimed at new-democratic revolution and socialist revolution.

At the present time we are preparing for such a war. Our hope is to complete the preparation stage successfully and as quickly as possible. With the support of the international communist movement, specifically with the support of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, Afghanistan Maoists will step forward with their independent banner. n