Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ron Brown RIP


When John Donne famously wrote 'ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee' he was suggesting the humane insight that the death of any one of our human race diminishes us all to some degree.It is best then to celebrate the contribution made by the deceased than to dwell on his or her shortcomings. The late Ron Brown former Labour MP for Leith was one such character, he possessed many of the weaknesses and flaws we all can possess, and frankly a substantial amount of his later political difficulties arose from his over indulgence in the demon drink, sadly he died of liver failure at the ridiculously young age (these days) of 69.

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.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=1ypYdzm4gUw

Theres also an excellent Russian tribute to the Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan on

http://youtube.com/watch?v=X1uS_IuEHYo&mode=related&search=

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

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 2000.

surely 2001?

Gabriel said...

you are of course correct...apologies and thanks.. gabriel

straight_talk said...

An excellent post comrade, apart from the namecheck for an anti communist blog, currently cheerleading for the Israel lobby in its hounding of labour movement supporters of sanctions against the Israeli oppressors.

It is worth pondering on the fate of the late Comrade Mohammad Najibullah, leader of the PDPA, murdered at the hands of the Taliban reactionaries while supposedly under UN protection.
It has been reported that:

"Invading Taliban soldiers dragged Najibullah from his refuge in a United Nations compound in the heart of the beleaguered Afghan capital Kabul in September 1996. Throughout the night they tortured Najibullah and his brother, then they hanged their bloated bodies outside the presidential palace for two days."

http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/96/1011/nat1.html

And this in the name of democracy and progress.

Gabriel said...

Shiraz Socialist is not a blog I agree with,but I do find Denham's fulminations amusing. The stance they are adoptung viz a vis Israel is bizzarre, and adds to my impression that the AWL are part of that great moving right show first exemplified by the ill fated RCP (the next step) now loony right wing Libertarians. As Matgamna and Denham et al get more and more reactionary, partly due to their visceral anti-sovietism and in part due to their sectarian hatred of the SWP, it seems to me that they will get worse not better, first drop 'Socialist' from your name....replace 'Liberty'...They could be rebranded as 'Trot Lite'.

bob said...

I supported the Soviet war in Afghanistan, seeing the anti-soviet forces as clerical fascists. I now think I was wrong. The correct position would have been "a plague on both your houses".

Southpawpunch said...

As a communist, that is a Trotskyist, I supported the national liberation struggle of the Afghans against the Soviet invasion (as I do now against the US/UK invasion).

If you think 'socialism' can be exported by the Red Army, if you think that the actions of the Najibullah government did anything other than discredit the red flag through being but puppets
for Soviet interests (as the Stalinist besmirching of 'socialism' in E Europe means it is still many years before authentic communism will be seen as progressive and attract an audience in that region), then you have no idea of the communist concept of self determination for nations.

The Islamists are, in the main, a deeply reactionary bunch but they have a point in their favour - their anti-imperalism.

As the Indian Communist Party lost all credibility post independence for having had dropped the fight against the British so any communist in Iraq now will have no status once the US has been removed unless they play a part in this progressive and popular action.

Any chance for communism to have existed in Afghanistan would have been through a record of fighting alongside those labouring to expel the invaders - Soviet and American.

Gabriel said...

Thanks for your comments South Paw punch but I guess that being a Trotskyist means that you fail to see the significant advance that 'existing socialism' however distorted or flawed was in contrast to a uni-polar world dominated by US imperialism. Your statement
'The Islamists are, in the main, a deeply reactionary bunch but they have a point in their favour - their anti-imperalism.' pres-supposes that the USSR was imperialist in relation to Afghanistan, instead it is more accurate to say it was trying desperately to assist a government which was trying to drag Afghanistan from feudalism, those Afghan fighters became the tools of imperialism, with their own agenda of establishing a feudalist theocracy in Afghanistan, they succeeded and promptly turned their eyes towards western bourgeouis democracies who are equally anathema to these feudalist theocrats. I would be extremely uncomfortable cheering on forces in Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter who wish to institute a state that models itself on the Islamic Caliphates of the 7th Century. That is the objective position adopted by Trotskyists when the Mujahideen fought the Afghan and Soviet armies, it seems an odd form of 'anti-imperialism' to me.

Gabriel said...

Thanks for your comments South Paw punch but I guess that being a Trotskyist means that you fail to see the significant advance that 'existing socialism' however distorted or flawed was in contrast to a uni-polar world dominated by US imperialism. Your statement
'The Islamists are, in the main, a deeply reactionary bunch but they have a point in their favour - their anti-imperalism.' pres-supposes that the USSR was imperialist in relation to Afghanistan, instead it is more accurate to say it was trying desperately to assist a government which was trying to drag Afghanistan from feudalism, those Afghan fighters became the tools of imperialism, with their own agenda of establishing a feudalist theocracy in Afghanistan, they succeeded and promptly turned their eyes towards western bourgeouis democracies who are equally anathema to these feudalist theocrats. I would be extremely uncomfortable cheering on forces in Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter who wish to institute a state that models itself on the Islamic Caliphates of the 7th Century. That is the objective position adopted by Trotskyists when the Mujahideen fought the Afghan and Soviet armies, it seems an odd form of 'anti-imperialism' to me.

Southpawpunch said...

Gabriel,

Thank-you for your reply.

As an orthodox Trotskyist I do not think the USSR was an imperialist power and indeed I would have defended the deformed and degenerated workers against imperialism. I should have been clearer in what I said about the Islamists- I mean they now are anti-imperialists; against the Najibullah regime they would have been nationalists.

I don’t think any regime, like that of the PDPA, which assumed power in a coup, and which showed no sign of allowing workers democracy whilst in power and also had a leader, Najibulah, who himself said to have assumed control through using his CPSU support to oust a rival is a good position to make inroads against feudalism and build support. Some measures it took were progressive but it would never have overcome the hatred it would have attracted for its dictatorial measures and the latter occupation by the Soviets.

In the same way, that the PCF and French Trotskyists fought alongside what became Gaullists and even monarchists against German occupation but they organised separately and were completely political opposed to each other. So I think any communist now in Afghanistan is bound to fight to expel the mass murderers dropping bombs from planes and fight alongside the small scale murderers (the Taliban) killing with AK47s to do so.

Gabriel said...

Sorry, I'm afraid we will have to differ here,more on the Left should have understood the crucial difference the USSR made in its period in existence in tipping the balance in favour of progress throughout the world.As for defending the USSR I rarely met a Trotskyist who did anything but criticize the Soviet Union, the 'defend' clause would seem to have been applicable only in the event of an actual nuclear strike. In fact many 'Trotskyists' in particular Schachtmanites would have little difficulty in being as anti-soviet as any arch reactionaries of the Conservative right, for example take the drivel currently emanating from the British based Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) who now seem to have embraced Zionism to accompany their long established visceral anti-soviet attitudes...

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