The Left Berlin News & Comment

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News from Berlin and Germany, 1st October 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



The recounting period begins now

After Sunday’s chaotic election, the state election commissioner in Berlin has already drawn consequences and offered her resignation. Meanwhile, recounts are scheduled for several constituencies. The reason: very close or very conspicuous results. Election administrations are also on their own initiative checking whether ballot papers need to be recounted. During some deliveries to the polling stations, copies for Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf got mixed up with the ballot papers. On 14 October, the state election committee will have to make a final assessment as to whether repeat elections are necessary. Not every irregularity has an influence on the result. Source: rbb


AfD fan kills petrol worker for asking him to wear a mask

According to information from the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND), the suspected murderer of Idar-Oberstein is 49-year-old Mario N. The perpetrator shot a 20-year-old petrol station employee in Idar-Oberstein, after the latter had repeatedly pointed out to him that masks were compulsory. On a Twitter account that was actively used until 2019, N. identified himself as a fan of the AfD. He also followed several right-wing journalists and media portals, most of which were not right-wing extremist. Police found both the suspected murder weapon and several other weapons in Mario N.’s flat. According to police, he did not legally possess any of these weapons. Source: waltroper zeitung

Germany’s election and the cultural sphere

It might take some time before Germany forms a new government, and its outcome will have strong implications for German´s cultural policy. Themes such as looted art, colonialism, representation abroad, digitalization and the pandemic, are among those to be dealt with, and each party pays more (or less) attention to them. Many parties want to optimize the “Künstlersozialkasse” — the social insurance for cultural and media professionals. Also, there is a good chance of the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) to be upgraded to the status of a federal ministry of culture. Source: dw

Left parliamentary group in the Bundestag leaves personnel questions open

So far, Amira Mohamed Ali and Dietmar Bartsch will carry on leading the Left Party (die Linke) at the Bundestag. The party now has 39 MPs. According to Bartsch, decisions will be made by the constituent session of the new Bundestag, which is expected to be on 26 October. On the agenda of the first parliamentary party meeting was a substantive discussion on the causes of the Left’s outcome in the federal election. It was important to pull together and learn the right lessons, Mohamed Ali said. Source: nd

The difficult path to a new government

The picture of the two Green Party leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck with FDP leader Christian Lindner and the Secretary General of the Liberals, Volker Wissing, was a sensation last Wednesday. Looking for common ground, something not feasible some years ago, they will have to find a way of dealing with themes such as climate protection, and its instruments (e.g, EU emissions trading X laws and regulations). It seems that there will be many rounds, and with not much information immediately available, as in the past – when the coalition with those two parties failed. Source: dw

Green Youth: “There is no reason for Jamaica”.

The Green Youth has given a clear rejection to a coalition of CDU, Greens and FDP. “There is no reason for Jamaica,” said the spokesperson of the independent youth organisation of the Greens, Georg Kurz. The Green Youth represents about 15,000 members and is considered much more left-wing than the party itself. In recent weeks, the Green Youth had run an independent election campaign, campaigning for a coalition with the SPD and the Left. However, the Green Youth is also skeptical about a traffic light coalition with SPD and FDP. Source: nd


Landslide victory for the Austrian Communist Party in Graz

How did a communist mayor win Austria’s second largest city?

While die Linke sustained gutting losses in Germany, and achieved only 14% in Berlin in Sunday’s elections, in Graz, Austria’s second largest city, the KPÖ (Communist Party of Austria) became the largest party and will lead the next city government. Elke Kahr, the chair of the KPÖ, will most likely become the city’s mayor, ending the 18-year tenure of Siegfried Nagl and the conservative ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party). The KPÖ surged from 20% to 29%, while the ÖVP lost 12% and its right-wing populist coalition partner, the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) also lost a significant proportion of its vote share. This, in a country where the communist party gets barely 1% at the national level.

Concrete politics and a commitment to housing

Although the scale of the victory was a surprise, for many in Graz the rise of Elke Kahr was not. The communist party has steadily gained support in the last few elections, garnering 20% of the vote in 2012 to become the second largest party. For nearly three decades, the KPÖ has pursued a very concrete politics, focusing on the issue of housing and helping tenants in tangible ways. Despite never being part of the ruling coalition, the KPÖ has held executive roles in the city senate since 1998 and has gained a reputation for protecting tenants and social housing. This began in the early 1990s, with Ernest Kaltenegger, chair of the Graz KPÖ and Housing Councilor, who established an emergency hotline and legal counselling for tenants. He paid two thirds of his salary into a social fund with which the KPÖ could then provide unbureaucratic, direct help to tenants facing social emergencies. This was in response to aggressive tactics used by property developers trying to clear houses of tenants to make way for renovation and speculation with properties.

Alongside setting up the tenant’s emergency hotline and providing financial support, as housing minister Kaltenegger also carried out the renovation of substandard social housing. In 2004, around the same time the Red-Red (SPD-Linke) government in Berlin privatized swathes of its housing, the KPÖ managed to block the privatization of Graz’s public housing stock. They did this by gathering more than 10,000 signatures for a petition against privatisation and putting the question to a referendum. When 96% of the population voted against selling off the housing units, the topic of privatising public housing was not brought up by any party again.

Another reason for the groundswell of support for the KPÖ this election was the building frenzy in the past few years. Siegfried Nagl, the conservative ÖVP mayor of 18 years, has come to be known as ‘cement Sigi’ (Beton Sigi) because of his friendly relationship towards investors and his approving numerous construction projects on green spaces in the city. This has led even steadfast ÖVP voters to switch their vote this election.

Credible politicians, a politics from below

Elke Kahr has been involved in municipal politics in Graz since 1993. Over this time she has established herself as a credible politician, genuinely committed to helping people in tangible ways. She is known for her open office hours in which she provides practical support, whether legal advice, help filling out forms, or even direct financial assistance. As Ernest Kaltenegger put it, Elke Kahr is interested in ‘helping not talking’, she has never had a spin doctor because ‘she doesn’t need one’. Rather, she is in constant contact with the people she serves and demonstrates in practical ways that you can help people in their everyday struggles.

Robert Krotzer, second on the KPÖ list this election and head of the Department of Health and of Caregiving since 2017, has taken a similar approach to governing. During the pandemic he worked with grassroots organizations to set up a telephone chain to spread information to vulnerable and hard to reach communities (such as the elderly and migrant communities) and find out what they needed. Based on this, the KPÖ then provided concrete support, such as connecting isolated people with shopping services, providing them with grocery vouchers and even buying rapid antigen tests out of their own pocket to distribute to care homes when the central government failed to make these available.

Like all party functionaries of the KPÖ in the city senate and the Styrian parliament, Kahr gives away the majority of her salary to people in need, keeping only 1,800 Euros a month to live on. Over the course of her political career, she has given away 900,000 Euros. Krotzer described this practice not as charity, but rather a commitment to understanding the people they serve. In an interview in Jacobin, he said ‘I think it’s hard to speak genuinely empathically with someone who works full time for €1,200 a month, when you earn three, four, five times that much. After all, as Marx said: Being determines consciousness.’

Building a politics from below, working with activist organisations and providing tangible support, especially on the issue of housing, is a model that could be emulated by the Left in Berlin as well. Despite missing out on direct election, the campaigns of several Die Linke activist candidates in Berlin, such as Elif Erlap in Kreuzberg and Lucy Redler in Neukölln made huge gains because they were rooted in the communities around them and spoke directly and radically to the needs of these communities.

A Bittersweet Election Super Sunday for the Left in Germany

The German elections were a disaster but there were some small beacons of hope in Berlin

At six o’clock in the evening on Sunday, the German public television stations ZDF and ARD published their first electoral projections as the polling stations closed. Die LINKE was facing the abyss as it fell below 5%, the threshold that keeps political parties out of the Bundestag unless they win at least three directly mandated deputies in the districts.

The German voting system is a double ballot: one for the district (personal) candidacy and one for the party. If the party vote is above 5% of the overall ballot, the seats for deputies in the lower house are then distributed accordingly.

The tension was evident in Die LINKE headquarters. There was silence in the places where the militants were gathered, worried faces, some tears and clenched fists. The projections from the first counts were not at all flattering and there were even some that showed 4.9% – a fateful situation that would mean the disappearance of any party to the left of the Social Democracy in the Bundestag. If anyone wondered, the Greens would not be that leftwing alternative.

However, at around ten o’clock in the evening, there was finally some good news. Although the projections still kept Die LINKE outside parliament in the vestibule of a Dantesque hell, it was confirmed that three direct candidacies were entering the Bundestag. Firstly, the immortal Gregor Gysi (73 years old) once again swept up the Berlin-Treptow-Köpenick constituency with 20% of the poll, well ahead of any other candidate. Secondly, Gesine Lötzsch kept her place for the sixth time in her direct mandate in Berlin-Lichtenberg. By contrast, die LINKE lost its direct mandate in other historically left-wing districts such as Berlin-Pankow or Berlin-Marzahn-Hellersdorf.

Last, but by no means least, as this confirmed Die LINKE’s participation in the forthcoming parliament, was the anti-fascist resistance in Saxony (which is otherwise dyed with the blue of AfD on the electoral maps). Sören Pellmann once again kept his seat for the second election running in the district of Leipzig II, extending his winning margin compared to 2017.

What happened to Die LINKE at the federal level?

Although the scare of being banished from parliament has now receded, the concern at how close it was has not diminished. The result is frankly, bad. And even with the results still hot out of the oven, there are already some clues as to what happened.

For less politicized people, it is clear that the 2021 election has been a pragmatic vote to try to oust the ruling CDU/CSU conservative party, now missing its leader Angela Merkel, German Chancellor for the last 16 years. The competition between Analenna Bärbock, leader of the Greens, and Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrat SPD, to win the hegemony of the center to the left, has pulled many votes from Die LINKE over to these parties.

This becomes clear when one sees the double direction of the vote in Berlin, where Die LINKE held on to 14% (-1.6%) in the elections to the city-state’s house of representatives while at the same time only obtaining 11.4% (-7.3%) in the elections to the Bundestag within the traditionally left wing German capital.

For more politicized people, however, there are more clues. Die LINKE had neither succeeded in establishing its own profile in the campaign nor in making its candidates, Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch, well known to the voters. This could have been because there was too much discussion about possible government coalitions and not about the program itself.

On the other hand, a certain Die LINKE politician called Sahra Wagenknecht has had her own very divisive effects on this election. The best-known Die LINKE leader has continued to monopolize the party’s representation on television, blocking any possible change of ideological leadership at least within the public mindset. Her lack of solidarity and her eagerness for the limelight is evident on all television stations, which are currently her last resort to defend political theses that are in the minority within Die LINKE ranks and which, moreover, have been unsuccessful. As a candidate of Die LINKE in North Rhine-Westphalia, she obtained a miserable 3.7% and has lost more than 50% of the electoral support. In Berlin, which would be the core of the left that she despises, the loss of support has been much smaller.

It is worth remembering the role that Sahra Wagenknecht has played in weakening Die LINKE in this last year. While the party was proposing a program where important issues such as climate justice, solidarity with migrants or feminist and LGTBI+ policies were opening the way, Sahra Wagenknecht published a book entitled Die Selbstgerechte, mein Gegenprogramm (the self righteous ones, my alternative programme), where she charges against Fridays for future, against the activism of social movements and makes a conservative and in certain aspects nationalist-worker retreat far removed from the theses supported by the majority and from a German society that is not the same as that of the 60s or 70s. Her stubborn effort to win support in the media for what she has lost in the party and not to accept her campaign’s results has also damaged Die LINKE in these elections.

Wagenknecht’s campaign has led to a wave of disaffiliations from the party, mainly in North Rhine-Westphalia, her stronghold, and has alienated possible new supporters from social movements. Her acolytes have also distanced themselves from Die LINKE by accusing the party of putting her in the moral dock, an inference only derived from the fact that Wagenknecht has toured the televisions as if she was a victim.

In Berlin, Die LINKE resists and the expropriation referendum sweeps through

While it is true that Die LINKE has lost some positions in Berlin, the constant mobilization of the militancy during the last year, against the background of Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen, the referendum to expropriate 240,000 houses from the big real estate companies, has kept Die LINKE with its own defined and combative profile in the German capital. In Berlin, it was the only party with parliamentary representation which clearly and unequivocally supported the referendum. The 14% it acquired in the state elections, although lower than desired, shows that mobilization, coherence and persistence are the best allies for the left.

However, Die LINKE Berlin has not managed to channel the full force of the expropriation movement despite being the only party to strongly support it. The referendum had a historic turnout of 75%, with a YES support of 56.4% and a NO of 39%, far from the tight results that the polls were suggesting. 1,034,709 people voted to expropriate the big real estate companies and now it is up to the Berlin chamber to decide whether to legislate or not.

Franziska Giffey, leader of the Berlin Social Democrats and (almost certainly) future mayor, has declared on several occasions that she does not want to expropriate, despite the fact that the referendum has a majority support among her voters, among the party’s youth and in a good part of the rest of the party.

The Greens in Berlin declared that they only wanted to convert the expropriation into law “as a last resort”, ignoring the fact that it is already the last resort, since the German Constitutional Court overturned the rent regulation, the Mietendeckel (rent cap), using the justification that Berlin did not have the competence to enact it. Die LINKE has found room here to continue defending the legislation of expropriation and socialization of housing, to exert pressure and to continue setting a coherent profile of its own that keeps militants and like-minded people mobilized.

After all, the combative wave generated by the expropriation movement is not going to be diluted from one day to the next, especially if the parties do not comply with the democratic mandate. In all this context, it is not known whether the left-wing coalition in Berlin will be renewed or whether Giffey’s SPD, the most conservative wing of the party, will turn to the liberals.

The elections, especially for those of us who live in Berlin and are members of Die LINKE, have left a bittersweet taste in our mouths. The worrying trend at the federal level has been compensated for by a decent result in Berlin and a very promising referendum result. Now it is time to draw the future of the left in Germany, to achieve the definitive generational change in Die LINKE, to strengthen the policies of climate justice and to defend the argument that we must change the capitalist system to save the planet. We must continue defending international solidarity and the right to asylum and migration, extend the right of the vote to people without German nationality, as well as continuing to denounce the social inequalities of a system that suffocates health workers, pensioners and young people who cannot find stable and quality employment.


Jaime Martínez, Izquierda Unida Berlín / Die LINKE. Steglitz-Zehlendorf

This article first appeared in Spanish in Mundo Obrero. Translation Jaime Martinez / John Culatto. Reproduced with permission

Das Glück zu Leben / The Euphoria of Being

A film showing 90-year old Holocaust survivor and dancer Éva Fahidi is just breath-taking.


Close to the start of the film we view the laying of some Stolpersteine – the metal squares embedded into the street which commemorate Holocaust victims. They’re all over Berlin (and rightly so, Never Forget), but I presume these are in Hungary. They’re commemorating the family of Éva Fahidi. We watch her telling a reporter that 49 of her family members died in the Holocaust.

The film then goes back 10 months to a letter Éva received from the choreographer Réka Szabó. Szabó wanted to make a dance show “Strandflieder” (sea lavender) about Éva’s history, starring a young dancer, Emese Cuhorka, who looks like the young Éva. Éva herself is also to perform. This would require months of rehearsal, and the premiere will be around Éva’s 90th birthday. She agrees without question.

Now, of all the art forms, dance is the one with which I’ve had the most difficulties. I can appreciate the dancers’ impressive control of their bodies, just as one can appreciate the performance of gymnasts. But when a dance piece is supposed to be about something – the form is just too abstract for my brain to be able to make that leap.

Szabó’s piece helps people like me by including readings of Éva’s reminiscences of her experience in Auschwitz. These readings are both moving and heart-breaking. There’s an old cliché about art taking your breath away, but at times listening to Éva I really did have trouble breathing.

“The Hungarian authorities deported us in such a tempo, that there wasn’t time for anything. The barracks in which were were supposed to be housed were not finished. Nothing was finished. And more and more people came. And the worst of this hectic was that the gas chambers could have killed everyone, they had the capacity for that, but the four crematoria which were working day and night could not burn everyone. So the corpses were burned in an open fire. Can you imagine the stench?”

To say that Éva is more agile than most people half her age is to make a great understatement. In her youth she danced – but never professionally and she never had lessons. But she has all the moves and is both energetic and spritely. And yet, her body is not what it used to be. In a later scene we see her struggling to open the door of the theatre in which she’s about to perform.

“I sleep in the dust among a thousand other people. Wrapped in my father’s dressing gown. Cattle trucks were rolled in the brickyard. There is no air in the trucks. There is no water. There are no toilets. My uncle Tóni, who the Gendarmes beat up at the last minute, died quietly. His body is full of wounds, scratches, swellings. He is not conscious.”

As a child, Éva used to dance naked in front of the mirror in her parents’ bedroom. She didn’t want to be encumbered with material things. These thoughts move her mind on to thinking about the dirty, naked bodies in the women’s cells in Auschwitz. Were they abused by the soldiers because of their nakedness? No, their bodies were so stinking, so dirty that it was hard to think of them as human, let alone as the objects of sexual desire.

“A crowd of people arrives there. 437,000 people to be precise. And they sort out those who are able to work, and ready. The others are there to be murdered. Very quickly two queues form, one with men, the other with women. Everything happens very quickly. Everyone must go past the selection committee and are classified as able to work – or not. The female members of my family had to present themselves in a row of five. Me, my cousin, who was 8 years older than me, and had a six month old baby, my sister, who was 8 years younger than me, my mother, and my cousin’s mother. And as we came before the selections committee, they cut the row where I was. This small gesture, which showed you the direction you should go. I went in one direction, and all the others in the other. And that was it.”

The performance – together with Cuhorka – requires a high degree of athleticism. Sometimes Éva has to take a break, because her body is hurting. At one point she thinks that maybe she’s broken a toe, but probably not – this sort of thing happens all the time now. When Éva is too injured to carry on dancing, they don’t seem to stop. They use the time for Éva to relate more parts of her history to Szabó and Cuhorka.

“I know that Zyklon-B is most effective at 26 degrees. That is the optimal temperature to kill someone within 20 minutes. On average is lasts 20 minutes until a group of people dies. I keep on seeing my mother and my sister, they clasp their hands together… The weakest die first, and the strongest climb on their corpses. At the end a mountain of corpses forms in the gas chamber. The strongest is right at the top and dies last.”

Das Glück zu Leben is a remarkable film about a remarkable person. It’s not that she wasn’t damaged by her history – she clearly had difficulties living in a world that did what it did to her family. And yet she insists in carrying on, as the alternative is even worse.

And it’s not over. After the first performance around her 90th birthday, Éva carried on. As the film closes, she was 93, and still performing. Strandflieder had already been performed 77 times. As Éva is now 95, I guess there have been more since. It, and this film, are artistic responses to the Holocaust which are both necessary and compelling.

Das Glück zum Leben is in German cinemas from Thursday

Afghanistan, feudal reaction and imperialism – a battle continues

How did the people of Afghanistan get saddled with another Taliban government? A history of over 100 years of imperialist intervention


In 2021, poverty and theocracy in Afghanistan strikes us as an anachronism. How did the people of Afghanistan get saddled with another Taliban government? While a plethora of articles attack the Taliban (rightly), most avoid the real history. Simply put, colonial type countries struggling towards modernity are faced by imperialist demands for political subservience. This is the terrible recent story of Afghanistan. The ‘Iron Amir’, Abdur Rahman Khan expressed the dilemma in 1900:

“How can a small power like Afghanistan, which is like a goat between these lions [Britain and Tsarist Russia], or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?”

In the 20th century, on top of feudal rural oppression and national and tribal divisions, came repetitive turns of the imperialist screw. British power-plays, Russian invasion, Pakistani secret service manipulation, and USA and NATO killings – all ruthless. So far all these imperialisms have been allied to differing factions of feudal reactionaries. Now, it is likely that a new imperialist turn will entail Chinese penetration.

Imperialist domination is the key to Afghanistan’s horrendous recent history.

1. ‘Divide and Rule’ – British imperialism in Afghanistan sets the fuse

The strategy of ‘divide and rule’ was learnt by British colonists in Ireland. But it was refined to a pinnacle in the Indian ‘jewel’ of British Empire. Over three Anglo-Afghan wars, the British formally lost battles, but they won the war. It imposed the 1893 ‘Durand Line’ on Afghanistan, placing pieces of Pashtun and Baluch territory into Imperial India. This sore fostered Pushtunistani nationalism obsessing later Pakistani leaders.

After World War 2 direct colonial rule was replaced by indirect neo-colonialism.  Sir Stafford Cripps admitted to parliament:

“What, then, were the alternatives which faced us? These alternatives were fundamentally two… First, we could attempt to strengthen British control in India (with) a considerable reinforcement of British troops. The second alternative was that we could accept the fact that the first alternative was not possible… We had not the power to carry it out”.

The 1947 Partition into ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’ was not by ethnicity, but based on religious belief.  Empire property divided between two Dominions, created permanent tension strengthening continued domination. Migrations, refugees and persecuted minorities ensued.

The Durand line became the frontier dividing Pashtuns between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Baluchistan was now an oppressed nation under the dominant Punjabi nation of the state of Pakistan. The long fuse of the ‘Pushtunistan’ national question burns today. The tribal feudal character of Afghanistan is the backdrop to this question.

2. Reforms of feudal and rural economy was obstructed

Land-locked, multi-national Afghanistan is dominated by Pashtuns, speaking Dari or Pushtu, comprising 40% of the population. In the Hindu Kush, there are Persian speaking Hazaras (9%) and Tajiks (about 25%). Further North, Uzbeks (about 9%), Turcomans, Krgyz and others speak Turkic languages. Until the 1980s, it was an agricultural economy with a large nomadic population. The predominant mode of production was tribal feudalism where the khan was:

“Economic lord and master of peasants, and their unquestioned military, tribal, and administrative leader.” [1]

The mullah was a landowning religious man. [2] Maliks (administrative official) and mir-i-aab (owner of water) were appointed by khans. Together – khan, malik, mullah, and mirab controlled rural life. Inherited debts dispossessed small land-parcels. Peasants became a landless agricultural proletariat working for pay. Only 12% of land was arable, which became concentrated in few hands:

“In 1978… 5% of the landowners possessed 45% of all cultivable land.” [1]

The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) attempted reforming the feudal state of Afghanistan. Decree no.6 targeted rural mortgages-debts; No.7 marriage and bride-prices; No.8 land tenure. But despite their landless situation, Afghan peasants opposed land reform – Why?

Feudal landlords and reaction was fervently organised by Pakistan and the USA, to destabilize the government. USA National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezhniski’s adopted the policy: “Sowing shit – in Russia’s backyard.” [2] This began the transformation of khans into paid warlords, Gulbuddin Hekmetayr was the pioneer.

In the Middle East two dominant powers, revisionist Russian and USA jockeyed for position. But Amin’s PDPA failed to balance them off. Yuri Andropov invaded. Hafizullah Amin was killed and compliant puppets installed; first Babrak Karmal, later Muhammed Najibullah. By 1984 150,000 military and 10,000 non-military ‘advisers’ and Russian troops occupied Afghanistan. Immediate resistance grew, becoming the National Islamic Front in 1979, including ‘Afghan Arabs’ of Osama bin Laden. They made up the armies of the Mujahadeen.

3. A warlord economy serving Pakistani aims and USA imperialism

The Mujahadeen was financed (and controlled) by the Pakistani secret service (ISI) and the CIA. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – both beholden to USA paymasters, favoured Pashtun Hekmetyar, over Ahmed Shah Masud a Tajik Sunni – but allied to Hazara Shiites. Pakistan wanted to secure ‘Durand’ borders against Pushtun separatism, and to build a Kashmiri mujahedeen against India. Saudi Arabia maneuvering against Iran, was strongly anti-Shia. Cash stakes for the Afghan warlords were enormous, even excluding extras like ‘Stinger’ missiles:

“Congress secretly allocated $470 million for Afghan covert action in 1986.. upped to $630 million in 1987, with matching funds from Saudi Arabia… A regional commander drew CIA retainer of $20,000-$30,000 a month… more influential leaders $50,000 a month.” [3]

Mujahadeen rivalries escalated into open civil war fueled by the ISI and the CIA. Revenues, ethnic, tribal and religious affiliations drove rivalry. Revenues came from arms, foreign relief aid, opium, smuggling and money-laundering, and were often invested overseas.

Having created 3-5 million refugees who flooded Pakistan and Iran; leaving 15,000 dead and costing Russia $5 billion per year – the Russian army finally retreated in 1988. Ultimately Kabul fell to Masud’s Tajiks and Uzbeks (under General Dostum). Hekmetyar shelled Kabul mercilessly. Disillusionment spread.

By 1994, ascetic students formed ‘Taliban’ (‘Talib’ seeking knowledge). Led by Mullah Mohammed Omar and embracing Bin Laden’s Wahhabis, they allied with Hekmetyar. Saudi petro-dollars formed the 1996 Taliban “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” under Sharia law. But after the 9/11 Wahhabi terrorist airplane attacks on New York, the USA launched open war. Carpet-bombing guaranteed high civilian casualties (“Collateral damage” said Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld).

The Taliban was overthrown by CIA coordinating Afghan forces. But the potential surrender of Taliban to Interim President Hamid Karzai in 2001 was rejected out of hand by Rumsfeld:

“The Taliban were completely defeated… Karzai envisioned surrender keeping militants from playing significant role… But “the US is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,” Rumsfeld said… “Omar captured or dead.” [4]

Such a surrender could have been a renewal for Afghanistan. Instead, under UN cover a comprador pro-USA government headed by Karzai was installed. International forces included the first NATO military operation outside Europe. To obtain infrastructure support, many pro-US warlords were brought back by CIA. [5]

But imperialist killings continued. Obama oversaw 542 drone strikes and an estimated 3,797 deaths including 324 civilians. “Obama told aides: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.” [6] All this perpetuated oppression of the rural peasants, as described by Gopal. Unsurprisingly both men and women in the countryside detested USA and NATO forces who killed indiscriminately. [5, 7, 8]

Over time, Taliban forces regrouped becoming a resistance to the USA and Hamid Karzai. William Dalrymple reported of Karzai that “fellow tribesmen view him as mere window-dressing for U.S.” [9]

Karzai again pursued a truce with the Taliban, but yet again was undermined by the USA.

4. The ongoing sore of Pashtunistan

Pakistan was also irked by both Karzai and Taliban, both rejecting the ‘Durand Line’:

“The Karzai government (and) insurgent groups operating in both states including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis in Pakistan do not recognise the legality of the border.” [10]

Complicating matters is the natural development of an anti-Pakistani Tahafuz movement developed in Pakistani held tribal lands:

“The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Protection Movement)… demanded an end to atrocities by Pakistan army and police in the Tribal Areas… A huge number of young Pashtuns (were) killed and abducted… labelled as terrorists for Pakistani Taliban.. feared as supporters of Afghanistan’s Greater Pashtunistan.” [11]

5. Western imperialists exit but Chinese entry maybe next?

The situation of the USA and NATO was untenable, and sooner or later the imperialists would have to leave. The extremely chaotic and messy exit left a grim preliminary balance sheets:

“2,500 Americans had died fighting on Afghan soil, along with almost 1,000 troops from allies like Britain and Canada.” But “the toll for Afghans has been far higher: At least 240,000 Afghans have died.. many civilians… (By) estimates, American taxpayers had spent two trillion dollars.” [4]

Yet despite the drastic humiliation, comprehensive calculations still place USA as imperialist nation No.1. But it is being challenged by China. [12] The EU will now also develop its own military force, which also indicates USA weakening. Similarly there are strong linkages between Germany to China and Russia. [13] Progressives and Marxists living in Europe must mobilise against EU militarisation.

China has independent interests in Afghanistan:

“to ensure Islamic extremism in Afghanistan does not spread to China’s Xinjiang region.” [14]

“Close to home along the Afghanistan-Pak frontier… The Turkestan Islamic Party is believed to be the successor to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.” [15]

Afghanistan is likely the beggar willingly coming to table:

“In 2018, 80% of Afghanistan’s $11bn public expenditure came from donors… Even during the Obama years, Washington encouraged China to invest in the Aynak copper mine because of the scale of revenue it could provide to Afghanistan.” [16]


“China’s long-term strategic investment (includes) the Belt-and-Road Initiative… If extended from Pakistan to Afghanistan… it would open up a shorter land route to markets in the Middle East… Kabul (makes) India’s resistance to joining less consequential.” [17]

There are important resources at stake. Even in 2002 [18] oil-lines across Afghanistan borders enticed:

“Oil and gas-rich Central Asian states, in particular Turkmenistan, saw Afghanistan as a possible pipeline route to connect to world markets.” [18]

Now other lucrative assets are discovered:

“Afghanistan rests upon vast mineral and energy reserves, which the US Geological Survey values at $1 trillion and the Afghanistan Minister of Mines values at about $3 trillion… total amount of Chinese investment in Afghanistan reached $521 million and construction contracts reached $899 million by the end of June 2016.” [17]

To summarise:

“Afghanistan has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building… and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including critical industrial metals such as lithium, iron, copper and cobalt. [19]

To Conclude

Marxists in both Afghanistan and the West who wish to assist peoples of colonial type countries, must support breaking away from imperialist sway – while simultaneously creating independent Marxist movements moving towards socialism away from nationalism. Obfuscating USA imperialist power, German or EU imperialism, or rapidly rising Chinese imperialism – only serves reactionary ends.

For more detailed history, see Footnote 15



1 Raja Anwar, ‘Tragedy of Afghanistan’; London; 1988; p.125-135

2 Beverley Male; ‘Revolutionary Afghanistan’; London; Palgrave; 1982; p.148; p.65-70.

3 Steve Coll, ’Ghost Wars – secret history of CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden”; 2004; New York; p.151.

4 Alissa J. Rubin; ‘Did War in Afghanistan Have to Happen?’ NYT; 08/23/2021

5 Anand Gopal; ‘The Other Afghan Women’; New Yorker; 09/13/2021

6 Micah Zenko, Obama’s Drone Strike Data; Council of Foreign Relations; 01/20/2017;

7 Nancy Lindisfarne & Jonathan Neale – ‘Afghanistan: end of occupation’; 08/20/2021; Mondoweiss

8 Anand Gopal; ‘Democracy Now; ‘09/16/2021;

9 William Dalrymple, ‘A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India; 05/25/2013; ‘Brookings Institution; at:

10 Amina Khan; ”Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations : Post 2014 Challenges”; Strategic Studies. 34(2/3):20-46

11 Pravesh K.Gupta, ‘Pashtunistan Factor In Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations’; Himalayan; 2019, Vol. 23 (3/4); p.96-123

12 Tony Norfield, World Power; 09/14/2021;

13 Hari Kumar; Merkel’s Legacy; 25/07/2021 Berlin Left;

14 A.Hatef and L.R.Luqiu; ‘Afghanistan in China’s grand project? One Belt, One Road; Communication Gazette 2018, Vol. 80(6) 551–569

15 Michael Clarke, ‘One Belt, One Road’, China’s Emerging Afghanistan, Dilemma’; Australian Journal Of International Affairs, 2016, Vol. 70(5), p.563–579

16 Vincent Ni, “China tread carefully in navigating the Taliban’s return”; Guardian August 17, 2021.

17 Azeta Hatef and Luwei R.Luqiu ‘Afghanistan in China’s grand project – One Belt, One Road’; International Communication Gazette 2018, Vol. 80(6) 551–569

18 Hari Kumar; February 2, 2002; republished ‘Marxist-Leninist Currents Today’; 08/21/ 2021; The Afghanistan War Of 2002

19 Zhou Bo, ‘In Afghanistan, China Is Ready to Step Into the Void’; New YT; 08/20/2021