January 26th saw ‘Glasgow Uni Left Society’ hold a successful first meeting of the year. More than twenty people came to hear Scottish Socialist Party National Spokesperson Colin Fox and Sherry Shamasi of The Struggle, the Pakistani section of the International Marxist Tendency, speak about the war in Afghanistan.
Colin began his speech by highlighting the hypocrisy of the political establishment on the Afghanistan War. His letter to Members of the Scottish Parliament asking them to declare a position on the issue had received only 9 of 129 replies. Of those who had replied one MSP chose to send a reply merely registering that he had received the letter and noted the concern! Colin went onto highlight the hypocrisy of American and British Imperialism; whilst the Taliban constituted an ‘evil regime’ they had been more than happy to deal with them to attempt to gain a pipe line through Afghanistan to bypass the Russia sphere of influence. Beyond this, this was the same American and British imperialism that happily supported other ‘evil regimes’ such as the Pinochet government in Chile when it was in its interests.
Colin also pointed out how this apparent war for democracy bypassed the will of the Afghan people. According to a recent opinion poll 80% of Afghans want to see an end to the occupation of their country. The occupation only reinforces the Taliban, and the insurgency as a whole, which reflects the traditional Afghan response to invaders in a country where British Imperialism and the Soviet Union were militarily defeated. The so called Afghan government of Ahmed Kharzi’s democratic credentials were exposed as a farce following the recent elections and it is increasingly unable to maintain control of the country even with the backing of NATO forces. The US led coalition has already announced that it is willing to talk with the Taliban, and it is likely to eventually leave Afghanistan in the hands of a faction of them in order to stabilise the situation.
Sherry went on to give the current situation in Afghanistan a historical context explaining that the country was not always renowned for Islamic fundamentalism. The current conflict in Afghanistan has its roots in the revolution of 1978 which saw the Afghan communist party, known as the People’s Democratic Power, take power with the assistance of the military. This event struck fear into the heart of the American government who saw the potential for a Soviet sphere of influence to extend across Afghanistan and affect the rest of the Indian subcontinent. As a result the CIA funded the Mujahedeen and taught it to finance itself through the sale of heroin to the international drug market.
Following the Soviet withdrawal and the collapse of the PDP regime, the Taliban faction of the Mujahedeen eventually emerged as the dominant force in the country. The US government was happy to back this regime, offering it huge sums of money to build an oil pipeline. However, in light of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the American military saw the opportunity to go one better and channelled the grief of the population into legitimacy to invade Afghanistan. In the time since the invasion the drugs trade has rocketed it is now a $52billion industry whilst the war has crept into Pakistan and only succeeded in destabilising the region further.
Discussions and questions included questions over the employment of British workers in arms manufacturing. Colin argued that this simply demonstrated the wastefulness of capitalism and said that under socialism the skills of these workers would be out to use for the benefit of society. Sherry argued that issues like these demonstrated the need for an internationalist approach to the class struggle and the need for a Marxist international. He went onto conclude that the only way out for the Afghan people was through a socialist revolution, which could not stay in Afghanistan but must reach out to the Indian subcontinent and ultimately the world. Anything less will only open the road to further intrigue from imperialist powers.
Colin’s timely conclusion emphasised the need for the Left Society to hold more meetings but also to play an active role in emerging struggles against the capitalist crisis in Glasgow. At the end of the meeting leaflets were distributed for a Unison picket of the City Chambers against budget cuts and for a meeting to discuss Glasgow University’s restructuring plan which students and staff fear could result in cuts. Members of the Left Society attended the Unison picket on Thursday 28th January, this followed on from a meeting the previous Saturday. The meeting called by Glasgow City Unison branch was also attended by representatives of various community groups who are at risk following a £30m cut to the council’s budget. This already follows on from the closure of over 20 primary schools last year. It’s clear there is the mood for a fight back. A steering group of community and trade union activists was formed to guide the struggle against the cuts after the meeting. Over thirty people attended the lunch time picket and it is possible that there will be industrial action against cuts.
Speakers at the picket and the meeting, as well as at the anti-cuts meeting at the University were all clear that these cuts were political in nature and arose as a result of the banker’s crisis and the government decision to bail them out. There will be more meetings at the university as the details of the plan become more apparent. Representatives of the anti-cuts steering group were present at the University meeting and offered their support. We are quickly learning in practise that the only way to end imperialist wars and ensure that it’s the bankers and not us who pay for their crisis is through students fighting alongside workers in struggle.