Afghanistan, Democratic Republic Of
- The April 1978 “Saur Revolution” in Afghanistan heralded the creation of a Marxist government whose 11-year reign was to be perennially beleaguered by the country’s position as something of a Cold War pawn between the Soviet Union and the United States.Afghanistan had partially embraced Soviet politics under the thenpresidency of Muhammad Daud, who had initiated five- and sevenyear economic plans underwritten with financial and military aid from Moscow. The center-left Daud, who assumed control of the country from his cousin the king in 1973 and declared Afghanistan a republic, was overthrown in the Saur Revolution by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a Marxist group containing many of his own supporters. The PDPA pronounced the birth of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which was to be governed by a “Revolutionary Council” under the guardianship of inaugural leader, President Nur Muhammad Taraki. The PDPA, buoyed by a freshly signed 20-year treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union, soon announced their revolutionary program of reforms. They called for the abolition of feudal power in rural areas and the transformation of Afghanistan from feudalism to socialism. In addition, the PDPA proposed, and often delivered, the introduction of free healthcare, a mass education scheme, the release of 13,000 political prisoners, freedom of religion, and, significantly, equality for women. However, these rapid innovations were not wholeheartedly embraced in many rural areas, and, further motivated by PDPA repression of perceived “opponents,” armed resistance to the government soon manifested itself. The resistance movement was led by the Mujahedin guerrilla faction, which obtained covert funding from the United States.The events of 1979 paved the way for those of the next decade, beginning with the February assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, and the murder of President Taraki by supporters of his deputy Hafizullah Amin the following month. By October, Amin had ascended to the position of president, and immediately begun repairing relations with Washington. This proved an anathema to the Soviet Union which, having already increased its military presence on the appointment of Amin, in December sent in further troops and abetted his assassination. Amin’s replacement was the pro-Soviet Babrak Karmal. By now, in the eyes of oppositional fighters the presence of vast numbers of Soviet soldiers had turned a factional civil war into an all-out liberation movement. Mujahedin guerrillas, their ranks swelled by those released from prison as part of the PDPA general amnesty, were for the next decade and beyond to maintain a sustained attack upon the Marxist government which inhibited their reformist agenda entirely. Coupled with consistent U.S. aid and aggressive Soviet military tactics that saw vast areas of agricultural land leveled and a legacy of starvation left in their place, the Mujahedin made rapid ground.Having failed to quell the Mujahedin movement’s progress, President Karmal made way in May 1986 for Dr. Muhammad Najibullah. Najibullah displayed reformist tendencies early on in his term of office, dropping the government’s nascent Marxism–Leninism in favor of a watered down, general socialist orientation. In Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika modification programs meant that by 1987 Soviet troops began to disengage. By February 1989, they had withdrawn entirely, and though Najibullah held on to power for three more years under vaguely socialist auspices, the Marxist era in Afghanistan was over. In 1992, the finally victorious Mujahedin ousted the leader, and proclaimed the beginning of the Islamic State of Afghanistan.The development of Marxism in Afghanistan was stunted by the double thorns of foreign interference and war, and the progressive reforms made in the late 1970s were soon undermined by bureaucratic Muscovite influence, and the government’s basically Stalinist approach to political opponents. Before these distortions the PDPA aimed to shun orthodox Marxist stage theory and take Afghanistan straight from feudalism to socialism, a doctrinal belief echoing to an extent those of Fidel Castro in Cuba. However, internal turmoil accentuated by external intrusion meant ideological development was difficult.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.
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