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Revolution in Afghanistan, continued

Beginning is here

4. 1978-79: the Khalq program in action

Every revolution has two aspects: one is political-military, and the other is social-economic. The military overthrow of the old regime is easier than social-economic development of society. A party aiming to take power should have ready a social-economic plan upon taking power.

M.A. Gareev, in "My last war":

"In 1978 the CC PDPA published its program 'Main directions of revolutionary problems'. It involved radical political and social-economic changes to eliminate feudal and pre-feudal relationships, asserting in the country a revolutionary-democratic regime, limiting large landholding through expropriation of excessive land from the landlords without compensation, and endowing the landless peasants with land and also those who have very little land. Democratization of public life was announced, negation of social privileges, cessation of all kinds of oppression and exploitation.

A modern program for Afghanistan should address the following problems: 1) land - collectivization, 2) national problem - relations between the Pushtun, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Khazars, etc., 3) industrialization - development of oil and gas, plutonium mining, providing electricity, Internet and computer illiteracy, building roads and railroads, 4) overcome religion and other feudal institutions5) women's problems - providing for equality of sexes by establishing special institutions, such as centers for upbringing children6development of systems of education and medicine. A preliminary conditions for realizing this program is military defeat of NATO occupation and various Islamic groups.

What follows is a quick review of what the Khalqis tried to do once they were in power.

1) The land problem

Soviet general A. A. Lyakhovsky mentions a need to create a social support for the regime among the landless peasants, and those who have had very little land. For this purpose, the state transferred to them land expropriated from the large landowners:

"Before the April revolution 76% of the population of Afghanistan did not have land. The feudal lords rented it so that out of every six bags of corn harvested only one went to the peasant. The poverty was universal.

In the course of the land reform the state expropriates from 35 thousand landowners 740 thousand hectares of land. Out of these, 665 thousand hectares were given for free to 296 thousand families of landless peasants, 40 thousand hectares were allotted for organization of state farms and 33.5 thousand hectares for municipal needs.

However, the land reform was too radical, and was conducted without taking into account the realities of Afghanistan. Also, no mechanism was created ensuring its realization. After having obtained the land for free, the peasants did not know what to do with it afterward, as they didn't have neither the tools for working it, nor the seeds, nor the money. Religious peasants believed that the land is divided up by Allah, and hence nobody can divide it anew. Tribe and clan traditions were strong among the peasants, enforced by the elders and the feudal lords. Many were taken aback by the fact that the land reform was conducted only through administrative means, through repression and terror. Often there was mishandling of power, e.g. giving the best land to relatives, fellow tribe people, friends, bribery, etc. In addition, no one had the assurance that tomorrow the land will not be taken away as easily, as it was given.

The land reform did not bring the expected progress in the agriculture, but jus the opposite, it destroyed the existing system of production, sharpened the food problem, created injustices and in itself was one of the factors which strengthened the rebellions. It undermined the trust of the peasants for the ruling regime and instead of good brought poverty. In the final evaluation, the regime of PDPA fell because the reforms which it undertook gave nothing to the peasants, and they were the majority of the population of the country."

The PDPA gave land to the peasants, but didn't give them the necessary tools to work it. The next wave of revolution should correct that, for example by creating state farms well equipped with agricultural machinery. Socialist revolution in Afghanistan is envisioned as part of a global revolution, for the necessary machinery and technical knowledge will have to be imported from the very countries which occupy Afghanistan now.

Soviet writer M.F. Slinkin, writing from a Parchami point of view, criticizes the land reform conducted by Khalq for violating the interests of the middle peasant:

"the limit for landholding of 6 hectares meant negation not only of the feudal landholding, but also the well-to-do peasants, who owned, as a rule, from 4 to 10 hectares of land and supplied the major part of commodity production. A consequence of the measure was dividing up of peasant landholding and decreasing the commodity production in agriculture, and in the sphere of politics - withdrawal of support for the new regime from well-to-do peasants and those who originated from its midst: the junior army officers, parts of the bureaucratic apparatus and intelligentsia."

Slinkin fails to account why, after Karmal came to power, and the land reform was curbed, the regime got no support from the population.

Soviet agricultural specialists advised the Taraki government on the course of the land reform. Here is an excerpt from a note of a leader of a group of Soviet agricultural specialists, dated from December 1978:

"Among 22 thousand biggest land owners there are 7 thousand who own more than 1 million of the best lands. Confiscation should have began with them, followed by allotting the land to landless peasants and organization of model state farms. As for 250 thousand landowners who have average size lots of land (from 4 to 20 hectares), they should have been drawn to the side of the people's government through programs of support and stimulation of commodity production, till the time the state sector should grow strong enough. This was stressed several times in conversations with the minister of agriculture and land reform S. M. Zerai and his deputy F. R. Rahim."

In the future, expropriations should begin with people like Hekmatiyar and Rabbani, i.e. large capitalists, landowners and traders.

However, simply expropriating the large landlords would not provide enough land for everybody:

"According to preliminary data of the ministry of agriculture and land reform of DRA, the land was needed by 667 thousand landless peasants and 154 thousand nomads, or a total of 821 thousand families. In addition, there were 600 thousand peasants who had little land. Therefore, the 1.2 million of hectares of land discussed above was not enough for completely satisfying the three categories of village dwellers. At least 400 thousand more hectares would be needed, which could be obtained from cultivating the virgin lands."

An editor of "Pakistan Forum", Feroz Ahmed, interviewed in 1980 in New York, says that PDPA did not have much cadres in the villages. They were mostly an urban, Kabul party. This was especially true for "Parcham". As a result, PDPA did not have the necessary people and knowledge to carry out its reforms: "there has been a lot of enthusiasm about the land reform which I witnessed. But some young people who went out into the countryside to carry out land reforms later told me that sometimes they would go and give a document to the peasant and say 'This land belongs to you'. The peasant would be embarrassed and say: 'No, how can we do that? This is khayanat'. Many peasants did feel it was their right to have the land, but what after they got the document? They had been dependent on the landlords for management: for seeds, for implements, for marketing credits. When the landlords struck back, there was nobody to protect the peasants. And the same sort of things is repeated with implementation of other reforms. Abolition of usury was a very popular measure: Millions of Afghani peasants and city people were indebted to money lenders, their properties were mortgaged. When the government issued its proclamation writing off debts and ending usury, this had a liberating effect and was welcomed by the people. But the Party and the government were not able to mobilize the people against the reaction of the vested interests and usurers. They relied on state power rather than on people's power."

2) The nationalities problem

"Afghanistan is peopled by more than 30 nationalities which speak more than 20 languages. The majority of the population are Pushtuns, who always occupied the dominant positions. National minorities (Tajik, Uzbek, Khazar, etc.) were always oppressed and did not enjoy equality. They could be drawn to the side of revolution by giving them a certain degree of autonomy, but in the new power structures the Pushtuns continued to dominate". 

Marriages between ethnic groups are a taboo, and people face death threats if they dare to marry someone from another ethnic group (for example, the couple in the photo).

3) The women's problem

The government of PDPA  banned Vulver (a bride-price) and introduced a compulsory female education (which was later resisted by the backward villagers and mujahideen).

PDPA was responsible for introducing women to social and political life. On the photo: students at Kabul University in 1980, many of them women. A prominent example of a woman in politics was Anahita Ratebzad, a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous New Kabul Times editorial (May 28, 1978) which declared that "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country".

4) The religion problem

Soviet general A. A. Lyakhovsky writes:

"Without a preliminary enlightenment, PDPA declared an Islamic radical organization "Muslim brothers" as enemy #1. Without explaining the antigovernment activity of different mullahs, the regime started to conduct towards them extreme repressive measures. For example, many religious men were shot in front of the faithful."

Of course, political Islam is going to be enemy #1 in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. But religion is a function of low material culture of people. Hence, it is necessary to fight it through raising their material culture, first of all, e.g. introducing computer and Internet. The problem of completely overcoming religion can be solved only in the course of building a socialist societythrough building schools, hospitals, more humane relations between people.




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