The Morning Star (unlike some other left wing publications) did not hail the fall of Kabul and the Taliban takeover as any kind of “triumph” or “victory” for “anti-imperialism”. In fact the Morning Star of 16 August described the situation as a “disaster unfolding” and quoted a member of the Afghan diaspora now living in Norway saying: “Dark times are ahead as women and ethnic groups like the Hazara will face the same fate as they did in the 1990s”.
But it has been completely incoherent on the underlying politics.
The Morning Star claimed (editorial 17 August) that any suggestion that the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has ever supported the Taliban is a “baseless slander”. That it did, in a backhanded and by-implication way to be sure, is well known to all who were involved in the StWC when it was first established in 2001 and witnessed the organisation’s leaders blocking criticism of the Taliban and indeed initially refusing to condemn the 9/11 attacks. (Eventually, under pressure at a StWC conference, Lindsey German said “of course” StWC would condemn 9/11).
These days, the StWC has become more sophisticated and issued a statement including this (which also appeared, in the form of quotes from StWC convener Lindsey German, in the Morning Star of 16 August):
“[W]e argued that military occupation of Afghanistan could not lead to stable governance, and would be rejected as a foreign imposition by many Afghans. We asserted then and believe now that democracy and human rights can rarely be imposed externally, and must be the product of the efforts of the peoples themselves if it is to prove durable.”
This may not seem remarkable, but in reality it is: the StWC has not, in the past, had much to say about democracy or human rights. The same statement goes on to mention “the rights of the Afghan people, women in particular.” An innocent reader would assume that the StWC leadership are firm supporters of democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular, just not the idea of “imposing” such things from “outside”.
The rest of the paper’s coverage has been all over the place: an article by one Marc Vandepitte (18 August) rehashes an old conspiracy theory, put forward by film-maker Michael Moore in his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, that the war from 2001 was really all about oil and gas reserves around the Caspian Sea and the Bush family’s alleged commercial interest in building a pipeline across Afghanistan to bypass Iran. (The pipeline never happened).
Perhaps the strangest contribution came on 19 August in the form of a piece by Nick Wright, describing his “experiences travelling [in Afghanistan] during its 14 years of socialism under siege.” Comrade Wright does not give us the exact dates he was there, but it seems to have been sometime between the Russian invasion of 1979 and the Islamist war to overthrow the rump Stalinist regime following the defeat and withdrawal of the Russians in 1988.
Ignoring the indiscriminate bombing of the countryside and the colonial nature of the Russian occupation, Wright describes how “impressed” he was with Mohammed Najibullah’s semi-Stalinist PDPA government. It seems some attempts to impose modernity “from outside” are more admirable than others – though in fairness it should be pointed out that PDPA administration managed to hang on in Kabul, with no Russian military support, until 1992.
An article by Communist Party of Britain (CPB) general secretary Rob Griffiths (25 August) “Why did the Soviet Union collapse?” doesn’t even mention what happened in Afghanistan.
I had assumed that the Morning Star’s hostility to the Taliban stemmed from its position on the Russian invasion, but I’ve been put right on this: following the British Communist Party, the paper condemned the invasion and published honest and highly critical accounts of what was happening in Afghanistan by the Party’s international secretary at the time, Jack Woddis.
It seems the Morning Star and the CPB have now retreated into total confusion — apart from “tankie” Nick Wright, who retrospectively supports the Russian invasion.