The academic life at universities and colleges, along with their usual esoteric and bourgeois concerns and pursuits. Also carries the implication that those who live and work there are divorced from the struggles of the masses in the real world. Of course, there have been an atypical few who have managed to contribute to the revolutionary struggles of the people even while holding down positions at universities. But on the whole academia has a well-deserved bad reputation among serious revolutionary Marxists.
“Who would want to have to talk always with intellectual skunks, with people who study only for the purpose of finding new dead ends in every corner of the world!” —Marx, after being well rid of any prospect of finding a professorship at a university.
ACCIDENTS OF HISTORY
“It is not always that there is a strong reason for a great event.”
[Of course anything that happens came about for quite sufficient reasons. However, one bit of truth in Johnson’s comment is that occasionally those causative reasons seem at first to be very tiny and apparently inconsequential. Moreover, even if there were huge and irresistable forces leading to some particular major event, it may still have been actually triggered in the end by some minute “accidental” cause. —S.H.]
ACCUMULATION (Of Capital)
Accumulation (i.e., the accumulation of capital in the capitalist mode of production) occurs through the continuing transformation of much of the surplus value generated by the employment of existing capital and the exploitation of workers into additional capital. That is to say, the aim of capitalist production is to endlessly expand the exploitation of labor, to generate more and more surplus value, and to turn (most of) that surplus value into additional capital.
See also: CAPITAL—ACCUMULATION OF, PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION
“Actually, however, capitalist society cannot exist without accumulating, for competition compels every capitalist on pain of ruin to expand production.” —Lenin, “On the So-called Market Question” (1893), LCW 1:104.
“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” —Wyatt Earp, Old West lawman and gun-fighter.
ACTION AT A DISTANCE [Philosophy of Science]
The supposed ability of one material thing (or system) to affect another material thing (or system) even though there is some distance between the two and there is no material contact between them. At a bowling alley a player can knock down the bowling pins at a distance, but this is only because he or she rolls a bowling ball down the lane to do so. In talking about “action at a distance” we are excluding such situations, and talking only about cases (or supposed cases) where there is no relevant intervening material connection of any kind, including via sound waves, light waves, etc. Such genuine action at a distance, if it were to truly exist, would seem to be a challenge to a materialist conception of reality.
Philosophical idealists, for example, often suppose that mere thoughts might be able to cause a distant object to move, or that “God” can alter any aspect of physical reality just by willing it. We materialists reject such things outright as pure nonsense. However, it is true that a person may “will” their hand to move (i.e., decide to move it) and it will (normally) do so. How is this possible? It is because this “willing” of the movement is actually just a high-level way of viewing part of a chain of physically connected material actions (including the complex generation of the “decision” by electro-chemical neural networks in the brain and the transmission of the appropriate nerve impulses to muscles, etc.).
Even in ancient times there was the dominant feeling among thinkers that there is really no such thing as “action at a distance”, that really there is always some intervening material connections or forces. The notion of action at a distance was rejected by the atomists and by Aristotle, for example, and in more recent times by Newton and Einstein.
The primary argument for the existence of action at a distance is gravity, which keeps the moon orbiting around the earth and the earth-moon system orbiting around the sun despite the vast vacuum of space between them. Nevertheless, there are ways to make sense of this from a materialist perspective. One way is to postulate gravitational fields which permeate the space between objects and transmit an attractive force (such as via particles called gravitons), in a way similar to a magnetic field which exists around a magnet and may cause iron filings to move even without direct contact with the magnet itself. Einstein, with his general theory of relativity, provided an alternative materialist explanation for gravity, namely that space (or space-time) is itself a special form of material substance which is warped by ordinary matter and thus leads moving objects to alter their speed and/or direction of motion. In either case modern physics interprets gravity in a way that rejects the notion of any true action at a distance. What may appear to be action at a distance turns out on closer investigation to involve physical connection of one sort or another through an intervening medium (which is not really empty as was originally supposed).
“I have not yet been able to discover the cause of these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses.... It is enough that gravity does really exist and acts according to the laws I have explained, and that it abundantly serves to account for all the motions of celestial bodies. That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one another, is to me so great an absurdity that, I believe, no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking could ever fall into it.” —Isaac Newton, in a letter to the theologian Richard Bentley, 1693.
“Coulomb’s Law [of electrostatic attraction or repulsion] and Newton’s
Law of Universal Gravitation are examples of what physicists sometimes refer to as
‘action at a distance’ laws—in the sense that when the laws were formulated, no known
mediator of the interaction existed....
“For both Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law, one might think that the respective forces involved are instantaneously affected by a change in locations of the relevant objects. However, this is not the case. For example, for Coulomb’s Law, if one of the two charges is moved, then the force acting on the second charge does not immediately change. We know from Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity that signals do not propagate faster than the speed of light; thus, if one charge is moved, then a time delay must exist for the second particle to ‘become aware’ of this movement. Moreover, if the first charge were suddenly plucked from the experiment, the second charge would be sensitive to this removal only some time later.
“The same kind of delay applies to masses with a gravitational attraction, such as the case for Earth circling the Sun. If the Sun were suddenly removed, Earth would keep orbiting about the missing Sun for several minutes because the gravitational influence cannot travel faster than light speed. During the time needed for this influence to propagate, one body continues to experience an electrical or gravitational influence from the other body as if the missing object still existed.” —Clifford Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking (2008), pp. 153-4.
[This time delay in the interaction is a further proof that there is no true “action at a distance”; either the force fields which exist in the intervening space, or—perhaps the same thing—the characteristics of the space itself, changes locally and is only over time propagated by a long series of local changes to the distant object. —S.H.]
“ACTUALLY EXISTING SOCIALISM”
This is a phrase that was (and sometimes still is) used by those who recognized that many countries which called themselves “socialist” (especially the Soviet Union during its last decades) had severe shortcomings, but who could still not bring themselves to admit that these countries were not really socialist at all! In other words, this is a phrase that was used by those who were unable to recognize revisionism and phony socialism when it stared them in the face. This syndrome was especially common among older Marxists who had developed emotional attachments to the Soviet Union in its earlier socialist period, and who could not face the fact that the nature of the Soviet Union had fundamentally changed from socialism to state capitalism.
A person who uses mathematics and statistics to calculate insurance and annuity premiums, reserves and dividends.
AD HOC PATCHES TO SCIENTIFIC THEORIES
[To be added...]
See also: PHLOGISTON THEORY
[In India:] A sharecropper. (One of several terms used in India for sharecroppers.)
A term used in India (often not capitalized) to refer to what is in English often called a “tribal”, or person of a tribal community, most of whom live in the hilly, forested areas of a number of states in east-central India. The word Adivasi literally means “old inhabitant”, and is a general term for any of a variety of ethnic and tribal groups who are believed by many to be descendants of the earliest inhabitants of what is now India. They are a substantial minority of the population in India, constituting about 8.2% of the population, or over 84 million people as of the 2001 census. One major concentration of Adivasis is in the Jangalmahal region. Because the Adivasis live closer to nature than most Indian societies, they are particularly vulnerable to the environmental degradation frequently caused by capitalist corporations. Their lands are frequently stolen from them for agricultural, mining or industrial development. For these reasons, many Adivasis have joined the Maoist revolutionary movement in India.
See also: “JAL, JUNGLE AND JAMEEN”
“Tribals are the most marginalized section of Indian society, worse off than even the Dalits (formerly referred to as Untouchables). Around 49.5% of tribals live under the official poverty line, 76.2% are illiterate and almost 30% have no access whatsoever to doctors in clinics. Displaced from their land and discriminated against in the industrial job markets [they] are now fighting to keep their [remaining] land, their only remaining resource.” —Sudha Ramachandran, “India Drives Tribals into Maoist Arms”, Asia Times, Jan. 16, 2010.
A college or university professor who teaches individual courses for a very low salary at one or more schools but who has no tenure nor health care or other benefits. The fact that ever larger sections of the higher education faculty are adjunct professors is another blatant sign of the rapid deteriorization of the educational system in the U.S.
“On April 8, 2013, the New York Times reported that 76 percent
of American university faculty are adjunct professors—an all-time high. Unlike tenured
faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of
$2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits.
“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.” —Sarah Kendzior, “Academia’s Indentured Servants”, on an online blog, April 11, 2013.
ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM)
A loan (or mortgage) to buy real estate (buildings or land) for which the interest rate is periodically adjusted, often every 6 months. The new rate is determined in relation to some common short-term interest rate, such as that of the 6-month U.S. Treasury bill. ARMs are designed to transfer the risk of rising inflation from the loaner to the borrower. While many ARMs specify a maximum interest rate, it is always much higher than the initial rate. Moreover, in recent years banks and financial companies have marketed ARMs which set the initial rate artificially low for a certain limited period as a come on. The family taking out the loan is then hit with a massive shock of a much higher monthly interest payment when the first interest “adjustment” is made.
ADLER, Victor (1852-1918)
A leading founder of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (in 1888-89). Later a prominent revisionist and reformist politician in that country during the period of the Second International. He took a centrist position during World War I, advocating “class peace” and opposing any revolutionary uprisings by the working class.
ADULTERATION OF FOOD
See: FOOD ADULTERATION
[To be added... ]
See also: VANGUARD ACTION
ADVANCED AND BACKWARD
Divisions among the people based on their relative political understanding and activity. Sometimes this is simply a bifurcation, or conceptual division of the population into two categories. On other occasions it is a 3-way division which includes an “intermediate” section of the population. Of course it is also possible to create even more categories, such as the “very advanced”, the “somewhat advanced”, the “partially backward”, and the “extremely backward”. There is no single “absolutely correct way” of doing this; it all depends on the purpose of the analysis.
In addition, it is quite possible to be advanced in one respect and backward in another. For example a man might have a high degree of class consciousness but be quite backward with regard to his attitude toward women and their unequal treatment and oppression. Or someone might be quite concerned and active with regard to the issue of the anti-war struggle, but have little interest or concern about the economic exploitation of the working class. In deciding how to categorize an individual at some particular time and place it is often necessary to understand which issues are presently at the forefront of social and political struggle. And of course it is also important to try to use a person’s strengths, and their advanced characteristics, to help them overcome their weaknesses or areas of relative backwardness.
“In any society and at any time, there are always two kinds of people and views, the advanced and the backward, that exist as opposites struggling with each other, with the advanced views invariably prevailing over the backward ones...” —Mao, “In Refutation of ‘Uniformity of Public Opinion’” (May 24, 1955), SW 5:172. [Of course we must acknowledge that in the short run the advanced views do not always prevail over the backward ones; it may take a prolonged struggle. —S.H.]
Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller (c. 620-564 BCE) who used fanciful tales (or fables) to instill various morals or practical conclusions in his readers. That is, he put forward various ideas in a quite round-about way.
Because of the oppression and censorship by the ruling bourgeoisie, Marxists and other revolutionaries have also often been forced to put forward their ideas in “round-about” or euphemistic ways that are frequently referred to as Aesopian language. For example in Russia in the 1890s, revolutionaries frequently had to refer to the followers of Marx and Engels as “the disciples” (rather than Marxists) when writing in the legal press. Similarly, while in prison during the Mussolini fascist period in Italy, the Communist leader Antonio Gramsci had to use the circumlocution “modern theory” when he simply meant Marxism. Of course it is always better to speak plainly and openly when we can!
“This pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorhip. Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution, by hints, in an allegorical language—in that accursed Aesopian language—to which tsarism compelled all revolutionaries to have recourse whenever they took up the pen to write a ‘legal’ work.” —Lenin, from the Preface to his 1917 edition of “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, LCW 22:187.
“The moonlike phases of Venus impressed Galileo, who noted that they
supported the Copernican theory that the planets orbit the Sun. Observing Venus in 1610,
Galileo conveyed the potentially heretical news to Johannes Kepler in the form of a
Latin anagram: Haec immatura, a me, iam frustra, leguntur—o.y.—‘These things not
ripe are read by me’—which, suitably rearranged, reads Cynthiae figuras aemulatur
Mater Amorum, ‘The Mother of Love [Venus] imitates the phases of Cynthia [the Moon].’”
—Timothy Ferris, Seeing in the Dark (2002), p. 91. [In 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for, among other things, supporting the Copernican theory. Thus the need for extreme caution in this letter by Galileo, even to a fellow scientist! —Ed.]
Works of art (including works of literature and music) may be evaluated, or judged as to how good or bad they are, in various ways and from various different perspectives. For example they may be judged from a moral or political perspective. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do (though some people object to it). On the other hand, a common bourgeois perspective for judging works of art is according to their price, with one work being considered “better” than another if it can be sold for a higher amount. All of these are examples of evaluation from non-aesthetic points of view. But of course works of art may also be evaluated on the basis of their aesthetic merits.
But aesthetic merit itself may vary according to different points of view, or the different expectations and desires that one person rather than another seeks in works of art (or for the same person on different occasions). One person may enjoy a painting if it soothes them; another if it portrays a beautiful person or a beautiful landscape; a third may seek works that excite their imagination; and so forth. Thus there are subjective views about aesthetic merit, or about whether some particular work of art is good or bad.
However, enough people have similar interests in art that a certain sort of objective aesthetic evaluation of any individual work is also quite possible. Each work may be viewed as being in one or another artistic style. Each such style is defined (either explicitly, or more usually, implicitly) in terms of a list of stylistic standards. A work of art in some style may then be evaluated in terms of how well the work meets the standards appropriate to that style. A good work of art is thus one which does a good job in meeting the standards appropriate to the style the work is viewed as being in.
A different form of aesthetic evaluation of a work of art comes from considering the theme of the work, whether it is an important or powerful theme, for example. But this also connects up with the primary method of objective aesthetic evaluation, since the importance of the theme in a work is itself something that may vary in different styles.
From our Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective, an all-round evaluation of a work of art includes its evaluation from both an aesthetic point of view and from a political point of view.
“I once heard a radio broadcast in which the naturalist and animal
expert Roger Caras remarked: ‘In judging dogs at a dog show each dog is measured against
its own breed standard.’ What an excellent analogy this is to the situation in art, to
the aesthetic evaluation and criticism of art! It would obviously be ridiculous to judge
a Dachshund as better than a St. Bernard ‘because the Dachshund is lower to the ground
like a dog should be’—when in fact this is a standard for Dachshunds but not for St.
Bernards. And it would be just as ridiculous to claim that ‘all waltzes are bad music
because you can’t march to them’, as if this stylistic standard of marches applied to
waltzes as well. Of course nobody would say such a thing about waltzes—it’s too obvious
of a case. But the history of art and art criticism is full of examples of new artistic
works in new styles being absurdly judged by the standards of older styles.” —S.H., from
an unpublished manuscript on aesthetics.
[However, you might ask, if each dog at a dog show is judged against its own breed standards, how is the “best of show” dog selected from among all the different breeds? The answer is that the St. Bernard might be selected as “best of show” because it did a much better job of meeting its own breed standards than the Dachshund and other dogs did in meeting their respective breed standards. Of course there may also be some few standards that do apply to all the breeds, such as healthiness and obedience. —S.H.]
A work of art. Most of the philosophical discussion around this topic centers on whether a work of art is a physical object, or some other kind of thing (such as an “idea”, “illusion”, or even something that “doesn’t really exist at all”!). In the case of a painting or a statue it seems at first quite reasonable to say that the work of art is a physical object, either the physical canvas covered with paint or the physical statue made of bronze, wood, or some other material. But what about a woodblock print that exists in multiple copies, none of which is more “original” than any of the others? What about a song? Or a new dance? Are they physical objects? Or a novel? Is it “really” the original manuscript (even if that differs from the final changed printed version that the author approved, and which exists in a million equal copies?). Or what about a poem that is recited verbally and never written down at all? These are the sorts of questions that arise. To cut a long story short, in my own opinion a work of art of any kind is actually a pattern or arrangement of some sort that is created by the artist and which can—in theory at least—be replicated in many individual copies, each of which is a token of that particular type. (See: types/tokens.) This, by the way, is not an idealist theory, but rather a materialist theory that undercuts idealism on this issue. —S.H.
See: STYLISTIC STANDARDS
Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy concerned with art. In popular usage, as well as in older bourgeois philosophy, aesthetics is often viewed as being focused on “the beautiful”, but actually the explication of beauty is just one of many issues in aesthetics, and not even the most important issue. Some of the many other questions in the philosophy of art are:
What sort of thing is a work of art? (Is it a physical object? An abstraction? An “illusion”, as some have claimed? Or what?) (See AESTHETIC OBJECT entry above.)
What makes a work of art a good work?
Why does art have such an impact on human beings?
What is the relationship of art to society?
See also: Philosophical doggerel on aesthetics.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (Also known as “ObamaCare”)
A pathetically inadequate national health care plan enacted in the U.S. during the Obama Administration, which was designed—first of all—to protect and enhance the profits of the health care and insurance industries. It did, however, extend some medical insurance coverage, at great individual and government expense, to large numbers of people who previously had no health insurance at all.
“The consolidation [mergers of hospitals and mergers of insurance companies] on both sides gave hospitals and insurers together even greater clout. By the time Congress considered the Affordable Care Act, the two groups had enough leverage in Washington to ensure that the legislation would boost the profits of both the big insurers and the giant hospital systems. They made their support of the proposed legislation contingent on a requirement that everyone buy insurance and not get a ‘public option’ to choose Medicare-like public insurance over private insurance. Their winnings have amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. Directly or indirectly, the rest of us pay.” —Robert Reich, a liberal bourgeois economist who was the Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton Administration, Saving Capitalism (2015), p. 44.
“It is well known that the Affordable Care Act, so reviled by Trump and other Republicans, emerged from a market-based model that was developed by Stuart Butler, the director of Heritage’s Center for Policy Innovation [of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank], and adopted in 2006 by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.” —Jacob Heilbrunn, “Donald Trump’s Brains”, The New York Review of Books, Dec. 21, 2017, p. 32.
AFGHANISTAN — History of Resistance to Foreign Invaders
“The history of Afghanistan is one of resistance to various conquerors,
armed bands, and coups d’etat. It is interesting that Alexander the Great, while
conducting his conquest toward the east, took five years to break the resistance of
the Pushtun tribes. Ten centuries later, Arab conquerors met the desperate resistance
of the Afghan tribes. Six times they launched an offensive against Kabul and the area
of the central plateau. Each time, they were forced to withdraw, having suffered heavy
“In the 1830s, the Kabul Kingdom began expansion, but this was interrupted by the English invasion of 1838. The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1838 to 1842, began when an English corps entred southeast Afghanistan and, by 1839, occupied Kandahar, Gazni and Kabul. However, the Afghans resented the foreign conquerors and began guerrilla warfare against the British. This led to a massive rebellion in Kabul in Novermber 1841 that resulted in the destruction of the occupation army and the death of Shah Shuja, the British-supported figure head. The remaining English forces withdrew at the end of 1842.
“Dost Mohammad was the leader of the unified forces of the Afghan government in their common armed conflict and victory over the aggressor.... His successor, Emir Sher Ali, ... strengthened the central power of the government and significantly increased the strength of the army, which showed a determined resistance to the second British invastion of 1878 to 1880.
“As before, a British occupation corps (over 36,000 strong) invaded Afghanistan and seized Kandahar in January 1879.... [Although they forced a treaty, it...] elicited a powerful popular insurrection against the British that began in September 1879. On 27 July 1880, Afghan forces annihilated a British Brigade at Maiwand, near the city of Kandahar. Simultaneously, the British garrison in Kabul was caught in the grip of a seige by some 100,000 Afghan rebels. England was forced to abandon her plans for the conquest of Afghanistan and withdraw her forces from the country... [though an agreement] left Britain in control of Afghanistan’s foreign affairs....
“In February 1919, Emir Amanullah Khan decided to take advantage or the results of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the civil war in Russia. He declared Afghanistan’s independence on 28 February. This served as the cause for the Third Anglo-Afghan War (3 May to 3 July 1919) in which the 340,000-man British Army met the 40,000 Afghan Army. At first, the British forces prevailed in the Battle for the Khyber Pass. On a different axis, through Waziristan, advancing Afghan forces were checked at the Thai fortress on 27 May. Simultaneously, the Pushtun tribes along the border rose in revolt. This uprising reinforced the independence movement in India. These uprisings forced London to seek a truce, which they signed in Rawalpindi on 8 August 1919. Preliminary peace talks continued, and the final peace treaty between Great Britain and Afghanistan was signed in November 1921.”
—The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost (2002), by the Russian General Staff, pp. 6-7. [Since this time there have been two more major invasions and wars against the Afghan people, by the social-imperialist Soviet Union (1979-1989) and the U.S. imperialist war there which began in 2001 and still continues as of 2019. The imperialists never seem to learn their lesson in Afghanistan! —Ed.]
AFGHANISTAN — British Imperialist Invasions Of
“From 1838 to 1919, British imperialism launched three wars of
aggression against Afghanistan. When the third war broke out in 1919, Emir Amanullah,
supported by the tribes, rose in resistance to the aggressors. At the time, tribal
uprisings in the frontier areas threatened British imperialist rule in northern
India. In August 1919, Britain was forced to sign an armistice agreement with
Afghanistan and recognize its independence and freedom.
“Stalin cited Afghanistan to illustrate a point he made in his The Foundations of Leninism in 1924. He said: ‘The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary or a republican programme of the movement, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement.’ He pointed out: ‘The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.’” —Reference note, Peking Review, #48, Nov. 25, 1977, pp. 27-28. [While the point that Stalin makes here is correct, it does not of course mean that the anti-imperialist struggle can be in safe and steady hands unless it is led by the revolutionary proletariat, nor is this a matter of a truly revolutionary struggle with regard to the social classes and rule within a country like Afghanistan. —S.H.]
AFGHANISTAN — Soviet Social-Imperialist Invasion Of
An imperialist war from late 1979 to early 1989 waged by the state-capitalist Soviet Union which attempted to maintain their control of Afghanistan through military support for their puppet regime there. In the end the Soviet imperialists were defeated by a very determined people’s war, but one based almost exclusively on nationalist and religious ideology.
“The Limited Contingent of Armed Forces of the Soviet Union entered the territory of Afghanistan in the last days of December 1979 ‘with the mission of rendering international aid to the friendly Afghan people and establishing advantageous conditions to prevent possible actions by the governments of neighboring countries against Afghanistan.’ Thus, with these extremely vague goals and limited military planning time, the Soviet peoples were cast into a bloody war that would last for nine years, one month, and eighteen days. The war took the lives or health of 55,000 Soviet citizens and did not result in the desired victory of the government.” —General Staff introduction, The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost (2002), by the Russian General Staff, p. 1.
“For Soviet forces, the war in Afghanistan concluded with the
withdrawal from the country on 15 February 1989. The Soviets should have withdrawn
earlier, but it was first necessary for the Afghan leadership to begin the slowly
developing politics of ‘national reconciliation’ in the country in 1986....
“During its entire sojourn, the Soviet forces in Afghanistan compellingly demonstrated the results of the lack of political support for its actions by the government of the USSR. When the highest political leaders of the USSR sent its forces into this war, they did not consider the historic, religious, and national particularities of Afghanistan. After the entry, these particularities proved the most important factors as they foreordained the long and very difficult nature of the armed conflict. Now it is completely clear that it was an impetuous decision to send Soviet forces into this land. It is now clear that the Afghans, whose history includes many centuries of warfare with various warring groups, could not see these armed strangers as anything but armed invaders. And since these strangers were not Muslim, a religious factor was added to the national enmity. Both of these factors were sufficient to trigger a large mass resistance among the people, which various warriors thoughout history had been unable to overcome and which the Soviet forces met when they arrived in Afghanistan.”
—Conclusion [by the Russian General Staff], ibid., pp. 304-305. [They go on to say that the Soviet difficulties were compounded by the decision to use many Soviet troops from Central Asia (Uzbeks, Tadjiks and Turkmen), which did not recognize the historic enmity of the Afghans toward these peoples, and their long history of mutual warfare. —Ed.]
“There are some disturbing revelations in this book [by the
Russian General Staff, summing up their war in Afghanistan]. First, the real Soviet
casualties from the war are still a secret, but almost double the official figures
released by the Gorbachev regime in a great show of glasnost (openness). The
official figures are 13,833 40th Army [of the Soviet Union] dead, but the actual
figures are in the vicinity of 26,000. Second, the Soviet military had thoroughly
penetrated the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) long before the invasion.
Soviet advisers permeated the ministries of government and the units of the
military. Soviet military advisers were found down in each battalion of the DRA
Armed Forces. A battalion of Soviet Special Forces (Spetsnaz) provided security
for the DRA president. This battalion of Soviet Central Asian commandos dressed in
Afghan Army uniforms and helped secure the offical residence. A Soviet squadron of
Central Asian pilots wore Afghan Air Force uniforms and flew aircraft with Afghan
tail markings throughout the country. These units were in place up to a year prior
to the invasion. Third, despite the Soviet Union’s penetration and lengthy
experience in Afghanistan, their intelligence was poor.... Consequently, the
Soviets never fully understood the Mujahedeen opposition nor why many of their
policies failed to work in Afghanistan.
“Several facts place the Afghan War in proper perspective and permit its proper assessment in the context of Soviet military, political, and social development. First, although violent and destructive, the war was limited and protracted. Its tempo and decisiveness did not match that of the series of short Arab-Israeli wars that scarred the Cold War years. It lacked the well-defined, large-scale military operations of the Korean War and the well-defined political arrangements that terminated that war. It also differed significantly from the oft-compared U.S. war in Vietnam. In Vietnam, American military strength rose to over 500,000 troops, and the Americans resorted to many divisional and multi-divisional operations. By comparison, in Afghanistan, a region five times the size of Vietnam, Soviet strength varied from 90,000 to 120,000 trooops. The Soviet’s four divisions, five separate brigades, three separate regiments, and smaller support units of the 40th Army strained to provide security for the 29 provincial centers and the few industrial and economic installations and were hard-pressed to extend this security to the thousands of villages, hundred of miles of communication routes, and key terrain features that punctuated and spanned that vast region.
“Second, faced with this imposing security challenge, and burdened with a military doctrine, strategy, and operational and tactical techniques suited to a European or Chinese theater of war, the Soviet Army was hard-pressed to devise military methodologies suited to deal with the Afghan guerrillas. The Soviets formulated new concepts for waging war in nonlinear fashion, suited to operating on battlefields dominated by more lethal high-precision weapons. This new nonlinear battlefield required the abandonment of traditional operational and tactical formations, a redefinition of traditional echelonment concepts, and a wholesale reorganization of formations and units to emphasize combat flexibility and hence, survivability....
“Third, the inability of the Soviet military to win the war decisively conemned it to suffer a slow bloodletting, in a process that exposed the very weaknesses of the military, as well as the Soviet political structure and society. The employment of a draft army with full periodic rotation of troops back to the Soviet Union permitted the travails and frustrations of war and the self doubts of the common soldier to be shared by the entire Soviet population. The problems so apparent in the wartime army soon became a microcosm for the latent problems afflicting Soviet society in general. The messages of doubt were military, political, ethnic, and social. In the end they were corrosive and destructive.”
—Editors’ Preface (by retired U.S. Army colonel Lester W. Grau and former Soviet soldier Michael Gress), The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost (2002), by the Russian General Staff, pp. xix-xx. [It is interesting how these editors seem to be concerned to draw out the general lessons involved in this war from the point of view of U.S. imperialism as well as that of Soviet social-imperialism. They seem to be arguing that the Soviet imperialists might have prevailed in Afghanistan if they had sent in many more troops and somewhat revised their strategy and tactics. In this they continue the dreams of all imperialists, that they can eventually prevail in their endless wars if only they persevere and strongly intensify them while at the same time adopting the proper military methods. They also generalize the U.S. lesson learned in the Vietnam war that drafted soldiers in imperialist armies can be very dangerous for the imperialists themselves. —S.H.]
“During the war, draft-age Soviet youth increasingly tried to
avoid the draft and Afghanistan duty. Large bribes were paid to exempt or
safeguard the children of the privileged. A disproportionate number of youth from
factories and collective farms served in Afghanistan. The conscript’s morale was
not great when he was drafted. At the training centers, conscripts were told that
they were going to fight Chinese and American mercenaries. When they got to
Afghanistan, they soon discovered that they were unwelcome occupiers in a hostile
land. Morale further plummeted at this realization.... Many conscripts developed
a narcotics habit in Afghanistan. They financed their habit by selling equipment,
ammunition, and weapons. Some turned to violent crime. Soviet soldiers robbed
merchants and passersby. At Soviet checkpoints, the soldiers would search Afghan
civilians’ luggage for weapons. Routinely, those Afghans carrying large amounts
of money were ‘sent to Kabul.’ Being sent to Kabul meant isolating the civilian
and his luggage behind a wall and out of sight of the checkpoint. There, the
soldiers would kill the civilian and take his money. In the field, villages were
razed and the occupants murdered in retaliation for ambushes or suspected aid to
the guerrillas. Some of these incidents seem to have been officially sanctioned,
while others appear to have resulted from a breakdown in discipline.
“The Soviet policy terrorized the population and did little to win them over to the government’s side.... During combat, the Soviets called in artillery and air strikes on villages without warning the inhabitants. Press gangs followed many sweeps and Afghan youth were conscripted into the Afghanistan army on the spot. The most famous Soviet crimes against Afghans were prosecuted, but many more were ignored. Often Soviet actions seemed deliberately designed to harden the resolve of the resistance.”
—Editors’ comments (by retired U.S. Army colonel Lester W. Grau and former Soviet soldier Michael Gress), ibid., pp. 313-4. [All this is very reminiscent of the U.S. soldiers and their activities in Vietnam. It seems there are imperialist imperatives which lead every imperialist army to operate in more or less the same brutal, inhumane way in their attempts to suppress people’s wars. —Ed.]
AFGHANISTAN — Soviet War In — U.S. Covert Activity
During the Soviet imperialist war to maintain control of Afghanistan, the other “superpower”, United States imperialism, was also involved—on the other side, and in support of the Mujahedeen guerrillas fighting the Soviets. The Soviet Afghan War was indeed one of a number of “proxy wars” between the two leading imperialist countries in the world at that time. Millions of dollars worth of weapons and supplies were funneled by the CIA to the Mujahedeen and their Arab volunteer supporters led by the likes of Osama bin Laden. This was mostly done secretly, primarily through the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and also with the participation of the newly developing capitalist-imperialist regime in China. Bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization was in effect created by the CIA and U.S. imperialism itself, even though it later turned against its master in what the CIA refers to as “blowback”!
“[In the summer of 1984 no one in the U.S. government] thought
the Chinese government would risk Soviet wrath by becoming a major arms supplier
to America’s efforts to aid the Afghan rebels. The discovery was made by a
brilliant, Mandarin-speaking CIA friend, Joe DeTrani. This Chinese connection
was a tightly held secret, and no more than ten people in the entire CIA were
aware of the program, according to [NY Times reporter Patrick] Tyler. The
Chinese still do not acknowledge that they provided such arms. In his book
Charlie Wilson’s War, George Crile reports that the first order was for
AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled antitank grenades, and land
“In 1984, Representative [Congressman] Charlie Wilson had drummed up $50 million to increase support for the rebels in Afghanistan. Crile reports that the CIA decided to spend $38 million of it to buy weapons from the Chinese government. The Washington Post in 1990 quoted anonymous sources that said that the total value of weapons provided by China exceeded $2 billion during the six years of Sino-American covert cooperation.” —Ex-CIA analyst Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marthon (2015), pp. 75-76.
“It should by now be generally accepted that the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 1979 was deliberately provoked by the United States.
In his memoir published in 1996, the former CIA director Robert Gates made it clear
that the American intelligence services began to aid the mujahidin guerrillas not
after the Soviet invasion, but six months before it. In an interview two years
later with Le Nouvel Observateur, President Carter’s national security
adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, proudly confirmed Gates’s assertion. ‘According to
the official version of history,’ Brzezinski said, ‘CIA aid to the mujahidin began
during 1980, that’s to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. But the
reality, kept secret until now, is completely different: on 3 July 1979 President
Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet
regime in Kabul. And on the same day, I wrote a note to the president in which I
explained that in my opinion this aid would lead to a Soviet military
“Asked whether he in any way regretted these actions, Brzezinski replied: ‘Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”’” —Chalmers Johnson, “Abolish the CIA!”, London Review of Books, Vol. 26, No. 20, Oct. 21, 2004.
AFGHANISTAN — U.S. Imperialist War
The longest lasting and most utterly futile U.S. imperialist war, which began in 2001 and still continues more than 17 years later with no possibility of a U.S. victory. Along with the endless destructive and self-destructive U.S. wars in the Middle East, this war in Afghanistan shows that the American imperialist domination of much of the world is rapidly coming to a whimpering and ignoble end.
“The people there are dead because we wanted them dead.” —Pentagon spokesman on the bombing of a village in Afghanistan that killed 93 civilians. Quoted in John Pilger, Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2007), p. 264.
“No other country in the world symbolizes the decline of the American
empire as much as Afghanistan. There is virtually no possibility of a military victory
over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy—facts
that Washington’s policy community has mostly been unable to accept.
“While many American troops stay behind steel-reinforced concrete walls to protect themselves from the very population they are supposed to help, it is striking how little discussion Afghanistan has generated in government and media circles in Washington. When it comes to Afghanistan, Washington has been a city hiding behind its own walls of shame and frustration....
“[The U.S. war costs] about $45 billion there annually. The total cost of the war could reach as high as $2 trillion when long-term costs are factored in, according to Brown University’s Cost of War Project. All that to prop up an unstable government that would most likely disintegrate if aid were to end....
“An abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan could conceivably provide a new symbol of the decline of American hard power.... The point is, we remain in Afghanistan out of fear of even worse outcomes, rather than in the expectation of better ones.
“The Chinese, Pakistanis, Russians, Indians and Iranians, meanwhile, may all be benefiting more from America’s military operations in Afghanistan than the United States is. Our presence may provide just enough security to allow their energy and transport corridors to take shape, while also helping guard against Islamic terrorism on their southern border. Thus, our rivals build their own empires on the back of our declining one....
“Spending billions and stationing thousands of troops there with no end in sight to stem a deepening chaos is simply not sustainable policy.” —Robert D. Kaplan, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, an American ruling class think tank, “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan”, New York Times, Jan. 2, 2019, op-ed section.
[This is the perspective of the more realistic and rational segment of the U.S. imperialist ruling class. However, it also shows that even after 17 years of futile efforts to advance “American interests” in Afghanistan, the majority view in ruling class circles may still be to keep the war going. The dominant part of the U.S. ruling class, including most liberal Democrats, still vainly hope for an eventual “victory” and therefore wants to continue the murderous imperialist war. —Ed.]
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (the government military forces).
AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
[Intro to be added...]
“If the ANC does not deliver the goods, the people must do to it what they have done to the apartheid regime.” —Nelson Mandela, quoted in John Pilger, Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2007), p. 177.
See: UNIFIED COMBATANT COMMAND
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