The Fake Trotskyists and the War in Afghanistan

By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 19 August 2021,

In a war between oppressed nations and the imperialists, revolutionary Marxists support the military defeat of the imperialists and the military victory of the oppressed nations regardless of the political nature of the movement and parties that lead the fight against the imperialists. That does not mean we give political support to bourgeois or petit-bourgeois leadership of these movements whether they are secular or religious.

For these “Marxists” who fail to understand the difference between military and political support we refer them to Lenin during the Kornilov’s attempt to bring down Kerensky government in a military coup. Lenin said, “We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is rather a subtle difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten.” [1]

This was the position of Trotsky and the revolutionaries around him in the Spanish civil war: the military defense of the popular front’s government without giving it any political support. A caricature of this position was held by the American sectarian LRP who equated the slogan victory to an oppressed nations fighting imperialism with political support. In other words, for them the victory of the oppressed is a defeat for them. No wonder they ended like Max Shachtman with support to the imperialist Democratic party under Biden. Sectarians are really reformists who are afraid of their own shadows.

Some other centrists who call themselves “Trotskyists” refuse to take the side of the movements led by Islamists when they fight the imperialists. We saw it in the case of Syria, in the case of the wars of Hamas and Hezbollah with imperialist Israel, and we see it again in Afghanistan. Their position reflect the pressure of their own capitalist class and the Islamophobic reactionary imperialist ideology.

The Anti-Colonial Struggle of the Islamist Rif Republic in the 1920s

The early Communist International when it was still a world revolutionary party supported the Islamist Rif Republic:

“On September 11th, 1924, l’humanité published a telegram sent the day previous by Pierre Sémard, General Secretary of the Parti communiste français (PCF) and Jacques Doriot, leader of the Federation Federation des jeunesses communistes, to the leader of the Republic, Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi. It reads: ‘We hope that after the definitive victory over Spanish imperialism, it [the Republic] will continue, with the French and European proletariat, the struggle against all imperialists, including the French [français y comprise], until the complete liberation of Morocco’s soil”. [2]

Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi was the son of a Qadi (judge) of the Aith Waryaghal tribe. He became a judge in Melilla in 1915. In 1917, Al Khattabi was imprisoned for opposing Spanish colonialism. In 1919 he escaped from prison and returned to Ajdir where, with his brother’s assistance, he began to unite various tribes demanding independence. Al Khattabi proclaimed the Confederate Republic of the Rif in 1922. It was the first republic that was the outcome of an anti-colonial revolt in the 20th century. Al Khattabi created a parliament that included tribal heads that appointed a government. The government applied the Sharia. In 1926 the Rif was defeated by the Spanish and French imperialists who deployed an army with the combined strength of 450,000 soldiers.

The French Socialist Party, that betrayed the international working class already in August 1914, stood with the French imperialists against the Rif. The “Cartel des Gauches“, the alliance of the Radicals (a bourgeois party) and the socialists won the elections in May 1924. They sent the French imperialist army to crush the revolt, but it took them two years to do it. For them, the Berber of the Rif were primitive Muslims who dared to raise their heads against the European masters, barbarians who dared to attack civilization.

The position of supporting the oppressed nations in a war against imperialism was buried by the Stalinists who copied the “Cartel des Gauches”, in the policy known as “popular front”. In Spain, the popular front with the participation of the Stalinists and the socialists with a section of the bourgeoisie ruled Morocco as a Spanish colony. This betrayal allowed Franco to recruit Moroccan soldiers against the popular front which was one of the reasons for the defeat of the Spanish republic. The policy of the popular front from 1935 onwards, was the end of the Stalinists as centrists and put them on the other side of the class’s Rubicon.

Trotsky on Anti-Imperialism

Trotsky explained the attitude of the revolutionary Marxists to the anti-imperialist wars led by reactionaries against the colonialists and the imperialists

“We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy … at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a “savage tyrant” against the “democracy.” The party of Leon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Riffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war. Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semi-colonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.

In the Far East, we have a classic example. China is a semi-colonial country which Japan is transforming, under our very eyes, into a colonial country. Japan’s struggle is imperialist and reactionary. China’s struggle is emancipatory and progressive.

But Chiang Kai-shek? We need to have no illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, his party, or the whole ruling class of China, just as Marx and Engels had no illusions about the ruling classes of Ireland and Poland. Chiang Kai-shek is the executioner of the Chinese workers and peasants. But today he is forced, despite himself, to struggle against Japan for the remainder of the independence of China. Tomorrow he may again betray. It is possible. It is probable. It is even inevitable. But today he is struggling. Only cowards, scoundrels, or complete imbeciles can refuse to participate in that struggle.” [3]

He also wrote: “I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semi-fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be. I will answer for myself—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to the national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks, one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!” [4]

The Useless Centrists for the Working Class and The Oppressed

In this part we compare the revolutionary position of Trotsky and the French Communist Party in 1924 to the positions of the centrists of today.

The IMT of Ted Grant and Alan Woods

In an article written by Hamid Alizadeh on 16 August 2021 he wrote: “America’s longest war has ended in abject shame and humiliation for US imperialism. Twenty years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the most powerful military force the world has ever known has been dealt total defeat at the hands of a band of primitive religious zealots”… In the last week, there has been a sharp contrast between the valiant phrase-mongering of the army commanders and politicians – who all vowed to fight to the bitter end – and their complete, treacherous failure to put up any resistance when the time came for it. In one city after another, the same people who had been thumping their chests only days before handed power to the Taliban and either escaped the country or in some cases, switched sides and offered their services to the new regime”…. “While the likes of Ghani and his cohorts were busy looking after themselves, swarms of Taliban fighters descended on the capital without any resistance. Now the Afghan masses, who have suffered so much at the hand of US imperialism, are bracing themselves for the return of theocratic rule. The return of the Islamic fundamentalists struck terror into the hearts of the Afghan people. As the insurgent forces approached Kabul, panic erupted in the capital.”

Thus, this useless position for the working class and the oppressed put on the same level the imperialists and their servants and the fighters of the Taliban. Alizadeh did not even ask himself how a small army poorly armed of at most 75,000 destroyed an army of 300,000 trained soldiers who preferred to run away or capitulate rather than fight? For him, the defeat of the imperialists is a disaster rather than a reason to celebrate. Just compare his idiotic lines to the positions of Marx, Engels Lenin, and Trotsky.

Shamelessly he wrote: “Despite the official proclamations of the Taliban that it will respect women’s rights and grant amnesty to all those who do not resist it, reports are surfacing of intellectuals and women being killed. In Herat yesterday, female students were turned away from the university and female bank employees were told to go home”. In reality as France 24 wrote that: “Afghan girls return to school in Herat after Taliban takeover The scenes — which many feared would be banned under the Taliban — were filmed by an AFP cameraman this week, just days after fighters from the hardline Islamist group took the city following the collapse of government forces and local militia.” [5]

There is a known working-class song: “On which side are you on?“Florence Reese, a thirty-year-old miner’s wife in Eastern Kentucky, wrote it during the coal wars of the early 1930s. Sung to the traditional tune of “Lay the Lily Low,” it spoke of the “good news” of the union, the violence of the gun thugs, the hardships for workers and families, and the necessity of deciding “which side are you on”. [6] It is not difficult to guess on which side Alan Woods is on. [7]

The IMT is sick with Islamophobia. Their newspaper “Socialist Appeal” characterizes the Iranian reactionary regime that we call to overthrow by a working-class revolution “the most reactionary form of bourgeois counter-revolution in history” [8]. Really? What for example about the Nazis taking power in Germany? The implication of their position is that in a case of a war between imperialist state like Israel and Iran to refuse to defend Iran which is not an imperialist state. This is the same method that led them to support British imperialism in the Malvinas War in 1982 because Argentina was ruled by the military junta led by Lieut. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri.

The roots of their position can be found already in WWII. At that time, Ted Grant – the late founder of the IMT and its predecessor, the CWI – called the British Eight army “our army“. In his book “History of British Trotskyism“, published in 2002, Grant still defended his social-chauvinist statement from 1943 which reflected nothing but support for the British imperialist army: “We have a victorious army in North Africa and Italy, and I say, yes”, I stated to the WIL conference. “Long Live the Eighth Army, because that is our army. One of our comrades has spoken to a number of people who have had letters from the Eighth Army soldiers showing their complete dissatisfaction. We know of incidents in the army, navy and other forces that have never been reported, and it is impossible for us to report. It is our Eighth Army that is being hammered and tested and being organised for the purpose of changing the face of the world. This applies equally to all the forces.” [9]


The ISA – a half-sister of the IMT as it split with the CWI in 2019 – has the same line expressed in an article by Tom Crean. “After 20 years, the U.S. effort at “nation-building” has predictably ended in utter failure. No evidence keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan for another 20 years would change the outcome. The Biden administration has been forced to accept the weakening of U.S. imperialism in the region and is abandoning Afghanistan to be able to pursue its interests more vigorously in East Asia. A Taliban victory would have disastrous implications for the rights of ordinary people in Afghanistan, especially women. The Taliban did not allow girls to attend school when they were in power in the 1990s and their ideology defends the complete subjugation of women.” [10]

Thus, for the ISA we have the same question: On which side are you on? According to their argument, the life of the Afghanis, especially women, was much better under imperialist rule. This was true for the capitalists, the opium dealers, the upper-middle class while most Afghan women and men were broken and poor.

The British SWP in the Tradition of Tony Cliff

The British SWP is the “mother” section of the IST whose organization in Egypt – the RS – first supported politically Morsi in 2012 and afterward sided with the bloody military coup against him in July 2013. It wrote an interesting article with some real facts but without the revolutionary conclusion of the support for the military victory of the Taliban without giving them political support: “US president Joe Biden broke open decades-long lie on Monday. Seeking to justify his policies, he said the brutal war on Afghanistan was never about “nation-building”. That is directly contrary to what George Bush and Tony Blair claimed the “war on terror” was for.

British, US, and other troops from their alliance committed atrocities that flowed from the imperialist nature of the war. They used Afghan civilians as target practice in broad daylight, raided homes at night to execute people, and tortured “suspected” Taliban fighters. It was the occupation and its brutalities that drove support for the Taliban. Soldiers took pictures with murdered victims, or collected body parts as “trophies”—as in the Maywand District murders from June 2009 to June 2010 …. In the Kandahar massacre in March 2012, US soldiers intentionally murdered 16 civilians and injured a further six. Nine of their victims were children. And the Wech Baghtu US airstrike caused 37 civilian deaths and 27 injuries at a wedding.US soldiers also backed Afghan warmongers with a history of corruption, murder, torture, and rape. True numbers of civilian deaths have been purposefully covered up. One airstrike in December 2001 blew up 65 civilians. The US’s Bagram airbase was, until this week, a prison full of torture and abuse for some 5,000 people. And Britain held a prison at Camp Bastion—where captives were held indefinitely without charge. It is a result of a war that should never have been started, and which continued far too long.” [11]

Really and what if it was a shorter imperialist war? Israel’s war in 1967 was short – it took only six days. Was it than a good war, or an imperialist war on the part of Israel?

Socialist Action (USA)

This organization, that the master head of their site includes the Stalinist Castro and Hugo Chavez, is the most prominent force in the so-called left opposition within the Mandelite “Fourth Internatuonal”. It condemns the US occupation of Afghanistan and still they call the victory of the Taliban a humanitarian catastrophe rather than the military victory of the oppressed: “It gives me no pleasure to say that what has happened in Afghanistan is exactly what the anti-war movement foretold in 2001 and that today’s humanitarian catastrophe is a direct result of the political choices of Bush and Blair at that time. After the attacks of 9/11, the US pursued regime change in Afghanistan. They got involved in a long-running civil war by backing the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, intending to install a friendly puppet regime. But they had not read their history books. Foreign forces with their agenda trying to impose an unpopular government on another country never end well, as centuries of colonial history demonstrates. Every people want to determine their destiny not have it decided by war criminals in the White House or 10 Downing Street, those who saw themselves as gods to decide the fate of millions. Maybe Blair didn’t look at the history of UK intervention in Afghanistan. Maybe Bush didn’t reflect on the lessons of the Vietnam War. Now, 20 years on, it’s time to acknowledge that US and NATO forces should never have been in Afghanistan. The new propaganda developing in the media, that the withdrawal is a mistake and may lead to further terrorist attacks in the west, is whole to be rejected and condemned“. [12]

There is not a substantial difference between these centrists and the position of the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic party, which shows that the centrists who called themselves revolutionaries are opportunistically adapting to reformism.

“Progressive lawmakers are calling on the U.S. to accept Afghan refugees as the Taliban has taken over the country, forcing at least thousands of residents to attempt to flee.

The U.S. has yet to announce any mass refugee resettlement plans. President Joe Biden has been relatively quiet, and, on Friday, Reuters reported that the U.S. is searching for countries willing to temporarily house Afghan refugees who have worked for the U.S. government.

Progressives on Twitter say that the U.S. should open its doors to refugees immediately — not just because of the morality of the matter, but also because of the U.S’ role in imperializing the country and killing civilians, adding to chaos and destruction in the country over the past two decades.

“After 20 years of U.S. effort,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), “Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military. At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees.”

“If we don’t start putting everyday people first, no matter what country they’re born in, this will keep happening,” wrote Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) on Sunday. “Let’s start by opening our country to shelter refugees fleeing the consequences of our actions.”

Tlaib also pointed out that, while the U.S. has waged its forever war in Afghanistan, politicians and arms dealers have profited greatly from the conflict. “Innocent people suffer the horrors of war while political leaders and arms-dealing corporations sit back and make billions,” she said.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) pushed back against that idea over the weekend. “What’s happening in Afghanistan currently is a humanitarian crisis. Let’s be clear: there has never been, and will never be, a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan,” she wrote. “Our top priority must be providing humanitarian aid and resettlement to Afghan refugees, women, and children.”

Indeed, many progressive advocates have said for decades that the U.S. should never have engaged in war in Afghanistan to begin with, arguing that the war would and has done more harm than good, especially to the citizens of Afghanistan.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) argued as such last year when she introduced a proposal to accelerate the U.S.’s withdrawal from the country and end the war. But she was shot down by Republicans and a whopping 103 Democrats in the House who voted down her proposal.” [13]

What refugees are they speaking about? Those rats who served the imperialist’s occupation? These people are not different from the right-wing Cubans – the gusanos (“worms”), who escaped to the USA, the Iranians supporters of the Shah who escaped to the USA, or the right-wing Vietnamese serving the American war. In Afghanistan, there are 2.5 million internal refugees because of the imperialist war about them Sanders and his colleagues have nothing to say. Needless to say, they also do not call for the return of Palestinian refugees.

The Western imperialists presented WWII as a war of democracy against fascism. Nevertheless, those left-leaning members of the International Brigades fighting Franco and Hitler were persecuted by the Western imperialists.

Not only this but at the end of the war, the US and other imperialist states like Canada and Australia helped Nazi “refugees” to settle in the USA, Canada, and Australia in addition to countries in Latin America. These “refugees were right-wing anti-working-class elements that were helped by the imperialists for a reason: to be used against working-class uprisings. We saw their role in Chile as experts in torturing workers and the poor after Pinochet backed by the CIA brought down the popular front of Allende in 1973. They were present in the Argentinean military dictatorship’s detention centers. Some torturers even played Hitler speeches as they tormented their victims.

Liberal Canada that speak so nicely about human rights and the need to accept the suffering poor refugees from Afghanistan escaping the Taliban has an history of collaborating with US and British intelligence leading to the opening of Canada’s doors to Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. “Canada received 165,000 political refugees, so-called Displaced Persons (DPs). Anti-communist applicants were favored over others; Poles and Ukrainians constituted 39% of this group, as a total of 25,772 refugees of Ukrainian origin arrived in Canada between 1947 and 1951 through the efforts of the International Refugee Organization (IRO). Followers of Stepan Bandera (1909–1959), the leader of the radical wing of the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, known as OUN(b), constituted the largest political party. Others were the paramilitary wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (known under its Ukrainian acronym UPA (Ukrains’ka Povstans’ka Armiia). In 1950, the Ukrainian Nationalist community grew further, as Canada admitted between 1200 and 2000 veterans of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician).” [14] These are the kind of “refugees” the imperialists love. Their mass media present them as victims of cruel oppression.

The fake “Trotskyists” who speak of the catastrophic event speak the language of the Zionists. Today in the Time of Israel we can read an article entitled: “Catastrophe in Afghanistan — for Afghans, Israel, the region… and for America” [15] What is a Catastrophe for them is a reason to celebrate!


[1] V. I. Lenin To the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. August 30 (September 12), 1917


[3] Leon Trotsky: On the Sino-Japanese War (September 1937)

[4] Leon Trotsky: Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation. An Interview with Mateo Fossa (September 1938)




[8 ] Socialist Appeal, 10 March 2009

[9] Ted Grant: History of British Trotskyism, Wellred Publications, London 2002, p. 99,





[14] Per A. Rudling: Long-Distance Nationalism: Ukrainian Monuments and Historical Memory in Multicultural Canada


* * * * *

We refer readers to the latest statement of the RCIT on the imperialist defeat in Afghanistan:

Afghanistan: The Rats Are Fleeing! The fall of Kabul is a historic defeat for Western imperialism and a victory for the oppressed peoples! 17 August 2021,

We have compiled a number of RCIT articles on this issue on a special sub-page on our webiste:

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top