EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 26. Iran and Afghanistan
Posted by archivearchie on December 17, 2009
A major issue for the left today is its response to radical Islam. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the approach Big Flame took to developments during its time. I have been able to find articles in the Big Flame newspaper which discussed events in Iran and Afghanistan, although many of the articles where written by one person and there were no articles in Revolutionary Socialism or the Discussion Bulletin.
Its worth recapping what happened in the two countries during the period of BF’s life.
Iran: The Iranian Revolution began in January 1978, leading to the Shah’s flight in January 1979. Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in February. Banisadr was President from January 1980 until impeached in June 1981. Iraq had invaded Iran in September 1980, leading to a war which continued for eight years. From early on the repression of the Mojahedin and leftist groups began, with many killed or arrested. In June 1981 the Mojahedin went underground to engage in a military struggle.
Afghanistan: In May 1978 the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the regime of Mohammad Daoud. The Soviet Union intervened militarily in Afghanistan in December 1979 to support one of the PDPA factions – Parcham. A war between Soviet and government troops and the CIA-funded Mujahideen continued throughout the 1980s.
Iran 1979: Can Popular Power win?: Paper February 1979. Written just after the departure of the Shah. Sees both progressive and reactionary elements amongst the forces opposed to the Shah. The left is trying to develop workers’ councils, but is “very weak” and “can only play a marginal role at present”. It is already being physically attacked by religious militants.
Khomeiny’s two front war: Paper December 1979. The Khomeini regime “does not know what it is doing” and the country is in a “state of semi anarchy”. There has been a massacre of Kurds and leftists are under threat of execution.
Iran: the Reality is much more Complex: Paper May 1980. Argues that there is a need to look beyond the general picture of reaction. There is a remarkable level of politicisation amongst ordinary people. There are anti-government protests, with more opportunities for the opposition than under the Shah. The potential for a new wave of repression is “very real”.
Gulf War: Paper October 1980. Written immediately after the Iraqi invasion. Saddam Hussein’s regime is “power hungry” with ambitions to dominate the region.
Clerical Fascism: Paper July-August 1981. A struggle to succeed Khomeini is predicated. Following the ousting of Banisadr, a crackdown on the left has begun. A “new fascism” of the Ismalic Guards has come to the fore, and Islamic laws introduced.
Iran: what to make of the Mojahedin?: Paper April-May 1983. The Mojahedin is the largest organisation fighting Khomeini in Iran. Its positions are examined. It is found to present a socialist face in the west, and a different one when recruiting in Iran. The Mojahedin has formed the National Council of Resistance with Banisadr, which has a very moderate programme. One of the main criticisms the author makes of the Mojahedin is its view of women “trapped very much within reactionary Islamic anti-feminist dogma”.
Some other left groups in Britain took a totally uncritical view of the Iranian revolution, before shifting to a totally negative position. Big Flame tired to analyse the contradictions and struggles which were underway.
Soviet Troops out of Afghanistan!: Paper March 1980. A statement agreed by the Big Flame National Committee condemned the “Soviet invasion” and called for the withdrawal of its troops. It sated “we do not believe socialism can be imposed by force, from above”. The army had not been sent to Afghanistan to benefit the people of the country, or to defend a popular progressive movement, but to protect the Soviet Union’s regional interests. The statement did acknowledge that a defeat for the troops would be “a victory for western imperialism”.
Big Flame as either a paper or an organisation was not around in 1988-89 to see the withdrawal of Soviet troops, or to comment on what happened after that.
Note: Titles of articles or documents in red and bold are links to the full version. Press on them to bring up a PDF of the document.