Ron Brown for me will be remembered as one of those very few courageous socialists in Britain who realised that whilst one may have questions about the precise nature of the "Afghan Revolution" back in the late 1970's , it was infinitely preferable to the alternatives being armed and supported by the USA, and the "House of Saud".
Soviet support to the beleagured Afghan revolutionary government was always going to be characterised as an 'invasion' by the reactionaries and imperialists, but the condemnations from the Left were particularly shameful, the revisionist leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) condemned it, and virtually all of the Trotskyist Left did, with the honourable exception of the Spartacist League, whose headline 'Hail Red Army' in their paper will remain with me as a memory for ever. The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) now a scourge of the Left's appeasement of radical islamic fundamentalism , was then strongly condemnatory of the Soviet aid to the beleagured Afghan progressives. I recall Leading AWL luminary Jim Denham, of the excellent Shiraz Socialist blog being almost Daily Telegraph reader-like in his pompous derision of the Sparts as they attempted to sell their "Hail Red Army" paper to him one evening in the Mermaid bar in the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.
Ron was to become pilloried as "Afghan Ron" by the parliamentary Labour Party, because of his support for the Afghan government against the Mujahideen...Remember those brave fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan taking on the might of the "Soviet Empire" armed only with flintlock muskets and......'Stinger' surface to air missiles? Ron Brown made the very valid point that whatever one's view of the credentials of the Afghan pro-soviet government in power assisted by the USSR, it was infinitely preferable to what the mujahideen had in store for Afghanistan, and as it would transpire, the world. Lurking as a young leader amongst the Afghan mujahideen was Osama Bin Laden, and many of the fighters around him in Afghanistan would become the founders of Al Qaeda.
Of course neither Ron, nor I and the other communists who supported the Afghan revolution knew fully what was coming down the road, culminating in the Twin Towers atrocity of the 11th September 2001. What we did know was that the fundamentalists trying to bring down the Afghan government were, raping and lynching any female school teachers they encountered, (flaying alive any male teachers they captured). They were also barbarically committed to returning Afganistan to a kind of illiterate medieval feudal theocracy, in which the atrocity of female circumcision (cliterectomy to the less squeamish amongst you) would be mandatory .
This and the other quite apparent 'policies' of the Mujahideen was fervently supported by the West and most of the so called 'Left' dutifully followed suit choosing to overlook the more unsavoury aspects of these anti-soviet 'heroes' , and thoroughly carried away on a wave of anti-soviet sentiment and a teary eyed romantic idea of gallant little 'David's' taking on the Soviet 'Goliath' .
Ron Brown to his eternal credit was not one of these, he warned many times on platforms throughout the UK and elsewhere that what the USSR and the Afghan government of the time were fighting, was something quite new and uniquely menacing, which if it triumphed in Afghanistan would provide a base for its spread elsewhere. I remember Ron Brown being pilloried for having the temerity to call the Afghan mujahideen 'terrorists'. Ron Brown may have made some personal and political blunders in his later years, but his stance on Afghanistan, once a source of ridicule, can now be viewed as courageous and remarkably perceptive. Condolences to all the Brown family, the socialist movement has lost a remarkable comrade.
Anyone who doubts that the arming of the Afghan mujahideen by the USA was not a fore-runner to the extremism of Al Qaeda need only look at this clip of Afgan mujahideen bring down a Soviet helicopter with a US Stinger Missile, once the helicopter is hit listen to the blood thirsty screams of "Allahu Akbar", a chilling fore-runner of things to come.
Theres also an excellent Russian tribute to the Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan on