The western military presence in Afghanistan is presented as a means of pushing the country towards “democracy” and “progress”. Nothing could be further from the truth! The elections earlier this year were a sham. The system being propped up by western troops is utterly corrupt. Here an Afghan reader of our site comments on the situation.
The politico-legal coup d’état
Before and during the 20th of August this year, the international media was propagating to the world that “Afghanistan decides”. What they were talking about was, indeed, a political drama, namely the presidential and provincial council elections which were marked by huge fraud, rigging, sale of ballot cards and offers of bribes to voters. In fact, it was more like a presidential selection than a presidential election. This drama was a politico-legal coup d’état against the people of Afghanistan with roots in “Bonn Agreement” of December 2001 and whose aim was to legitimize the perpetual continuation of the reign of the incumbent corrupt regime in the country. This coup d’état has two central elements to it: political and legal. Its political element comprises the use of such political mechanisms as the “Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan”, etc., and its legal elements are the legal mechanisms such as the contradictory constitution, election law, etc., which were adopted to safeguard the interests of the current reactionary regime. Thus, it was an organized maneuver but against the vast majority of the population of the country.
The current regime in Afghanistan is a kleptocracy dominated mainly by a gang of kleptomaniacs who are masters in plundering public wealth and natural resources.
The so-called presidential elections in Afghanistan will not change the structure and distribution of power in the country in the interest of the Afghan masses nor will it bring any fundamental change in the daily lives of workers, peasants, toiling masses and other oppressed and vulnerable layers of Afghan society. The results are already known: desired elements belonging to the Old Reaction (former Mujahedeen who form the present imperialist-backed regime) and/or the New Reaction (former Leftists who have abandoned Marxism-Leninism and have embraced liberalism, reformism, etc.) or a combination of the two will be brought into the highest state positions. World imperialism in Afghanistan, headed by US imperialism, has made necessary investments for perpetuation of the power of its long-time local allies, the Old Reaction. Participation in this so-called elections amounts to taking part in this politico-legal coup d’état against the toiling masses of Afghanistan.
There were 41 candidates who ran for president. The candidates came from two main backgrounds: 1-The Old Reaction i.e. Jihadists and former Taliban commanders (who had taken part in the imperialist war against the Soviets in Afghanistan), 2-The New Reaction i.e. sections of the Left (those who have embraced liberalism, opportunism, etc.). Most of the candidates were/are criminal warlords-drug lords-turned-politicians or their associates including the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, and his “main rival” Abdullah Abdullah who served as the foreign minister until 2006. Many of the candidates including the incumbent president participated in the race under the backing of foreign countries.
None of the candidates had any electoral platform which could offer the people of Afghanistan what they were/are looking for: fundamental change. Instead, they all played the cards put forth by the occupying imperialism according to the divide and rule policy. Demographic presentation of the supposed votes cast clearly depicts ethnic, linguistic and regional affiliations of the voters but once more demonstrating the success of imperialists in creating divisions among the toiling masses of Afghanistan and pushing them far from the main issues affecting their lives.
It is very important to highlight the fact that elections did not go ahead according to the expectations and wishes of the dominating reaction and their imperialist backers. Even according to official figures, voter turnout was between 30 to 35 per cent as compared with 75 per cent in the 2004 elections. Unofficial figures put it between 5 to 10 per cent. This clearly demonstrates that the people of Afghanistan now disapprove of and distrust the dominating reactionary regime and their imperialist occupiers. The government of reaction and the entire international and local media were quick to downplay voter turnout and link it with threats of attacks by the reactionary opposition: the Taliban.
In the 2004 presidential elections, the people participated with high hopes and expectations for change in their daily lives. That did not come true. There is now, as before, a great gap between the people and the government of reaction and their imperialist masters.
The problems facing the people of Afghanistan have deep socio-economic roots; they cannot be solved by unfair, non-free and non-democratic elections. The Old Reaction and the New Reaction are two faces of the same coin; they are nothing but the executers of policies of world imperialism in an occupied country. Therefore, the vast majority of the Afghan people clearly understood that voting for either of them will not bring any change they need. They clearly understood too, that voting for either the Old Reaction or the New Reaction amounted to voting for the policies and programs of world imperialism! Thus, the silent boycott of the elections was a strong expression of protest and disapproval.
The people of Afghanistan know that all talk by imperialism about democracy, freedom, human rights and reconstruction of the country were merely false, deception and hypocrisy. They are desperately looking for an alternative to the status quo.
Imperialism was and still is, divided over the course of the elections and the course the country shall take in the years to come. They intervened (as they do in all affairs of the country) in the course of the elections in favor of their desired candidate. While the Americans are pushing hard for a wholesale recount of the votes fearing the disapproval of the final outcome by a part of the reaction will result in destabilization of the country, the Europeans want to maintain the current results according to which the incumbent Hamid Karzai is the winner.
On September 14th, there were reports of a split among senior officials of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Kai Eide, the chief of the UN mission in Afghanistan (a former Norwegian diplomat), and his American deputy, Peter Galbraith, had a serious verbal clash over the final results of the election. While the latter, who is a friend of Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is advocating a wholesale recount of the votes, the former is seriously opposed to it.
There is also a division among imperialism on who should take control of the southern part of the country, which is home to the greatest part of the overall opium production in Afghanistan, amounting to billions of dollars. The Americans are pushing hard to take control of this region while the British are seriously opposed to such a move considering it an “intervention” in their “sphere of influence” in the country.
Position of the Afghan left
The Left of Afghanistan stayed away from the so-called elections and demanded an active boycott not only because there were not even the minimum conditions and atmosphere for holding democratic elections in this country but because the nature and content of the incumbent regime is anti-democracy and anti-people.
The election was a move from top to the top; from right to the right. It was centered on reaction: the Old Reaction (Evil Brotherhood) and the New Reaction (whom I call the Modern Brotherhood). The Afghan revolutionary Left, in principle, is not against participation in parliamentary or bourgeois-reactionary elections. There are many historical examples of Marxist revolutionaries participating in elections. Participation in elections, however, is effective and beneficial only when the real representatives of the toiling masses represent them in the political structure. This is not the case in Afghanistan.
The realization of the rightful demands and needs of the absolute majority of the Afghan people-workers, peasants, and toilers-is subject to the united and strong presence of the real representatives of these layers of society in the political life of the country. Sad to say, real representatives of workers, peasants, toilers and other oppressed and vulnerable layers of the Afghan society have no strong presence in the politics of the country. Until and unless the revolutionary left presents an alternative to the status quo, the Old Reaction and the New Reaction will keep people’s fates in chain.
It is painful to assert that at least for the next few years, the people of Afghanistan will suffer from the injustices prevailing in Afghan society. Insecurity, poverty, pauperization, mass unemployment, absence or lack of housing, corruption in the current nacre-mafia state, cultivation, trafficking and local consumption of drugs, and presence of mafia-like structures of power in the country are some of the major problems affecting the lives of our people.
Nevertheless, the ongoing struggle of the Afghan revolutionary Left will never end unless the toiling masses of Afghanistan are emancipated from the yoke of all kinds of exploitation and oppression.
What is to be done?
The occupying world imperialism and their puppet regime in Kabul are propagating to the world that the election in Afghanistan is an important issue in the lives of its people. IT IS NOT. The election will not change anything fundamentally in the country. It will bring to power the best servants of imperialist policies. Nothing in the lives of the people of Afghanistan will be changed by this election or similar ones. The basic needs and fundamental demands of the people of Afghanistan are food, clothes, shelter, peace and security. World imperialism and its puppet regime have failed to deliver this for the people despite deafening and stupefying promises. The levels of poverty, endemic corruption, local drug addiction (now up to two million Afghans are addicted), human rights violations, violence against women and other social evils prevailing since the invasion of Afghanistan by world imperialism in 2001 are unprecedented in the history of this country. More than half of the Afghan population lives below the poverty line and between 20 to 30 per cent more will fall below the line in the next few years. Afghanistan is now the poorest country in South and Central Asia. In Afghanistan where, according to the UNDP “estimation”, per capita income is USD 335, there are now multi-hundred millionaires and even billionaires thanks to imperialist invasion and drug economy. While a very tiny number of people have gained gigantic fortunes, the vast majority of the ordinary people of Afghanistan have been condemned to extreme poverty. The capital city of Kabul, with a population of nearly 5 million, is home to social contradictions: highly luxurious lifestyles and hundreds of slums without electricity and running/drinking water.
More of the civilian population, compared to the numbers of Taliban and other former-freedom fighters-now-terrorists, have been the victim of military operations in the country. The number of civilian casualties according to official figures stands at a shocking rate: more than 12000. The recent example of such shameful brutality was the targeting by NATO air strikes of two fuel tankers in the northern province of Kunduz in which reportedly at least 90 civilians were killed. According to the eye-witnesses the number is more than that reported in the media. This also highlights the escalation of violence and war to the relatively stable northern regions of the country.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration is pursuing the military policy of the Bush administration towards Afghanistan despite the huge tragedy for the Afghan people and the never-successful history of military adventures in this country. President Obama’s decision earlier this year to send some 17000 US troops to Afghanistan was a confirmation of never-ending ferocious greed of warmongering imperialism. Nonetheless, according to The Guardian, later last month Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal the top US commander in Afghanistan hinted at more troop deployment to Afghanistan to “turn around” what he deems a so far “unsuccessful strategy”. Any more troop deployment will further escalate the situation in Afghanistan whose only victims are the ordinary people. Military action is not the solution. Afghanistan’s problem is not so-called “international terrorism”; it is, on the contrary, imperialist terrorism against the Afghan people. Indeed, the international terrorists were created, financed, armed, and supported by world imperialism and their regional allies in the 80s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Taliban and other such armed groups are gangs of reactionaries like their incumbents now holding power in Kabul; their presence on the battle field is a justification for the presence of imperialist occupiers in Afghanistan. But regional powers such as Russia, China, Iran and especially Pakistan try to play them off to ensure their own vested interests.
There is an urgent need to get the people of Afghanistan out of this mess and mayhem created by imperialism and its puppet regime in Kabul. Imperialist occupiers must leave Afghanistan NOW. A democratic government must replace the current anti-democracy, anti-people, corrupt and puppet regime in Kabul. That requires the establishment of a vanguard revolutionary party of the workers, the peasants and other toiling masses and oppressed layers of Afghan society. That is the only alternative for the people of Afghanistan. And that necessitates a revolution!
(September 17, 2009)