Revolution Can Never Succeed Without Mass Support
interview with Adil Khan
Adil Khan is a central leader and member Central Committee of Sazman-e-Inqlabi Kargaran-e-Afghanistan (Afghan Labour Revolutionary Organisation-ALRO). Adil has been active in Afghan socialist movement for last 21 years. All his family has been active in this movement and has offered great scarifices. One of Adil s brothers was hanged .He himself has served a nine-year jail term and has been short injured. Farooq Sulehria interviewed Adil Khan in November 2000 for Weekly Workers Struggle (WS). Adil spoke at length on the history of Afghan left. The events following September 11 have generated a wide interest across the world in Afghanistan. This interview gives an insight into the Afghan left movement. Excerpts.
WS: First of all, could you please narrate a little bit about the history of Afghan left? Adil: The left movement in Afghanistan started building up in early 1960s. The Afghan left was, from its beginning, divided into two camps i.e. pro-Mascow and the Maoists. The Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) represented pro-Masco trend while Sazmanan-e-Jawnan-e-Mutraqi (Progressive Youth Organisation) held Maoist ideology and believed in armed struggle. Noor Muhammad Tarakai, Sulman Laiq, Babrak Karmal and Noor Ahmad Noor were the leading PDPA leaders. They would get help as well as advice from Masco. The PDPA believed in forming a government through electoral process. In 1968, the PDPA split into two factions following differences between Tarakai and Babrak Karmal. Both factions became famous following their respective organs i.e. Parcham (Flag) and Khalaq (People). The same year Peoples Youth Organisation launched a paper called Shoala-i-javaid (Forever Flame) but it was banned after its 11th publication. The members of Progressive Youth Organisation became famous as Sholai following their paper s name. Similarly Parcham and Khalaq members were known as Parchami and Khalaqi. Shoala-i-javaid propagated the ideas of armed struggle and was very vocal against feudalism. In 1079, a faction led by Engineer Usman split from the Shoalais. The other faction led by Dr Faiz Ahmad formed Sazman-e-Rahai Afghanistan (Afghan Labour Organisation-ALO). The ALO sent a big chunk of its urbanised cadre to countryside in order to organise peasantry but this urbanised cadre couldn t withstand the hardships of countryside life and returned to the cities. This policy did not prove a success rather it led to a split. This split organised itself as Ittehad-e-Rah-e-Communist (Communist Path Alliance-CPA). The Communist Path Alliance also launched a paper called Akhgar (Iskra in Russian). In 1978, the PDPA formed a government following an army coup led by PDPA members. WS: Would you like to narrate something about Afghan revolution? Adil: In 1973 when Daud Shah with Soviet Russian support dethroned Zahir Shah, the PDPA welcomed it. Two of the PDPA leaders, Faiz Muhammad and Hassan Sharq, became ministers in Daud s cabinet Both were KGB agents. Daud was very close to Moscow and was famous as Red Prince. In 1977, Daud toured Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Europe. Following his tour, he allied himself with the USA and was no more a friend of Moscow. On April 22, 1978 a Parchami leader Akbar was murdered. This murder was a conspiracy. There was a big protest in Kabul against this murder. Tarakai, Hafiz Ullah Amin and Babrak Karmal were jailed for leading this demonstration. The PDPA members inside armed forces decided to go for a coup and led by Aslam Watanyar, Afghan army attacked the Royal Palace. Daud along his family was killed in the bloody coup. Aslam Watanyar made Ailan-e-Inqlab (Announcement of Revolution) while Hafizullah Amin addressed the nation. All these events are still fresh in my memory. WS: How did your party react to the PDPA government? Adil: A debate was initiated inside ALO on the question of lending support to PDPA government. But ALO rather decided to launch an armed struggle .Not only ALO but other left groups decided so as well. ALO formed an alliance with nationalist parties and launched an armed struggle. In 1978, ALO went through another split led by Majeed Kalaqani. Kalaqani raised the slogan that *Soviet Russia s enemy is our friend . He also had differences over the question of people s war and guerrilla war, party membership. He was arrested along with Mir Fakharud Din, Aziz Rasul Jurat, and Engineer Nadir Ali in 1980.All was hanged. His faction, however, is still active. The ALO decided to launch an insurrection on August 5, 1979. This insurrection was led by ALO at the head of a ten-party alliance. The failure owed to inexperience and imamturity. Despite taking over radio station and few army cantonments, the attempt to take over the government met a failure. The PDPA government initiated a campaign of terror against our party. Hundreds of party workers were hanged. Thousands were sent to jail. Me myself along with my three brothers was arrested. I was not active then politically. I was arrested because of my brothers. Following the insurrection, whatever forces were left, these forces were re-organised in independent areas . Work among the students was also re-organised. Fortnightly Front and Gul-e-Surkh (Red Flower) were launched while a paper called Siam-e-Aqrab was launched from Germany. But since that insurrection till today, it has been a period of extreme hardships and miseries. The PDPA targeted us as well as the fundamentalists left no stone unturned to eliminate us. Our 12 thousand comrades have been either killed or kidnapped by the fundamentalists. Some of the comrades are still missing. WS: These comrades were killed and kidnapped by the fundamentalists in Afghanistan or in Afghan immigrant s camps in Pakistan. Adil: Both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dr Faiz was kidnapped and martyred in Pakistan by the group led by Gulbadin Hikmatyar. It’s a long list of comrades who were killed, kidnapped and went missing. We have compiled a list in the form of a book that lists ten thousand comrades who were killed or went missing. While if comrades killed by the PDPA government is included in this list then the number reaches a figure of 23 thousand. WS: Was nt it a mistake not to support the Afghan revolution? Adil: Not at all. We did not approve of the strategy of a coup. We don t believe in that even today. A revolution without mass support can never succeed. Also the PDPA after forming its government never made an endeavour for left unity. Rather it launched a campaign of terror against other left groups. For the PDPA government, Enemy Number One was not the fundamentalists but we Shoalais. The PDPA government bombed the villages. They annoyed the masses. The reforms were imposed from above through state apparatus without a change in the mass consciousness. Babrak-Tarakai differences were another reason behind the degeneration of PDPA government. Initially, Tarakai posted Babrak Karmal and Dr Najib and other important Parcham leaders as ambassadors to other countries. The PDPA control was taken over by Khalaq faction led by Tarakai.Tarakai was known as Superman and Lenin II. But the Khalaq faction itself became factionalised. Tarakai on his way home from Havana via Moscow was arrested by Hafizullah Amin group and was secretly murdered. Hafiz also could not stay in power more than three months. The state repression reached its peak under Hafiz. On December 27 came the soviet armies. I can still remember these scenes. These scenes flash before my eyes like a movie. The Parcham members were congratulating each other .in Kabul one could see soviet soldiers all over the town. Hafiz was murdered along his family. Babrak was put in his place with a full support from Moscow. A new era of terror was unleashed. Perhaps even Stalin s period was not so repressive as was this. The Pul Charkhi prison in Kabul had 70 thousand prisoners. Dr Najib was heading the secret service these days. In case a Shoal was arrested, Najib himself investigated him. Our comrade, Engineer Faiz was tortured to death by Dr Najib himself. He was jumping over Faiz stomach till he died. It was a bad time for Khalaqis as well but they were not killed but sent to jail. But we were given no concession. Arrest meant death. WS: But why the resistance to the PDPA government was not led by ALO but it was taken over by the fundamentalists despite it was ALO that launched it? Adil: Initially it was led by us. We attracted the masses.Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Daud Siaf were in Pakistan since Daud days because they were facing a treason case. When soviet armies came to Afghanistan the CIA decided to settle score. They started organising and patronising the fundamentalists. They were given both money and guns. While we were targeted both by the PDPA government and the fundamentalists. WS: Why the Afghan revolution was not able to sink its roots despite radical reforms? Adil: The PDPA government abolished the feudalism. It introduced education reforms. Art was promoted through film and television. Selling of women for marriage was banned. But the question is unless the mass consciousness is changed; a revolution can not succeed. We must realise that 95 per cent of Afghans are illiterate while 85 per cent of the population lives in the countryside. Religion is a big influence. The feudalism is still present in its most crude form. When land reforms were introduced, feudal lords and mullahs (Muslim priests) declared it contrary to Islam saying that the feudal lords were blessed with the land by Allah and the government was not authorised by the Islamic teachings to deprive them of their land. The peasants refused to take the land. They thought it contrary to Islam. In 1987, Dr Najib replaced Babrak Karmal. He celebrated the return of soviet forces a s the Day of Deliverence . Took many initiatives to please the masses. The PDPA was renamed as Hizb-e-Watan (Motherland Party). Afghanistan was renamed as Democratic Afghanistan. But it was too late. WS: How is Hizb-e-Watan these days? Adil: All the Hizb ministers were corrupt. The were hated by the masses. Their ideological degeneration can be gauged from the fact that recently their central leader Salman Laiq declared that we were not communists neither we are even now. WS: When was your party formed? Adil: We are a split from ALO. The new leadership that took over the party in 1986 after Dr Faiz refused to follow the line set by Dr Faiz. Differences arose over the question of tactics. In 1990, we gave a notice to the party leadership. But it was in vain. In 1996 we finally split from them. WS: Where does your party have most of its basis? Adil: In Afghan camps in Pakistan but also in Afghan areas where Taliban do not hold control. I cannot reveal details owing to the risk to the lives of our comrade. WS: What sort of difficulties your party is facing these days? Adil: We don t have any party office, no full-timer. The party has to take care of the families of martyred comrades. At the minutes, party is taking care of 45 such families. The party is trying to organise its newspaper. Recently we published one issue. WS: What is the immediate solution to Afghan crisis? Adil: First of all, we want democracy so that we have freedom of expression.