Imperialist Hypocrisy and
the Taliban Oppression of Women

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA

Revolutionary Worker #1124, October 28, 2001, posted at

Has anyone noticed the glaring hypocrisy in the fact that many of the same assholes--all the way up to the highest levels of government--who have tried to prevent women from having the right to abortion and reproductive freedom in general are all of a sudden pretending to be outraged by the oppression of women under the Taliban?!

What is done by the Taliban, in the name of Islam, is in essence no different from what would follow from the literal interpretation of the Bible that many "Born Again Christians" like Falwell, Robertson, and a number of Bush's closest advisers (not to say Bush himself) insist upon. If you don't believe it, read the Bible!

Now the apologists for U.S. (and "Western") imperialism are opportunizing on outrage about the egregious forms of the oppression of women carried out by the Taliban (and more generally the overt forms of inequality and oppression that women are subjected to in "the Muslim world") as part of the justification for their "campaign" and even to generally assert (whether noisily and crudely or more "softly" and subtly) the "superiority of Western civilization" over Islamic civilization. Given all this, it is important not only in general but specifically in relation to this whole crisis and war to continue to do hard-hitting exposure of the oppression of women, in its many different forms, in the U.S. and other "advanced" and "modern" imperialist countries.

In this connection, there is relevance and importance to the point in Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones that there is a fundamental unity between the "traditional" (and "fundamentalist") forms of the oppression of women touted by the Bible-toting Christian Fascists, on the one hand, and on the other hand, "end of the empire" forms of the oppression of women--the widespread pornography and the widely promoted commodification of women's bodies and sexuality, the enslavement of millions of women in the "sex trade" that "services" men mainly in the imperialist countries, the fact that at least 1 out of every 4 women in the U.S. will be subjected to some form of sexual assault, and on and on.

These different forms and manifestations of degrading and subjugating women are "mirror opposites" and are all part of the overall oppression of women in the imperialist-dominated world today.

Preaching was speaking particularly about the imperialist countries themselves, and more particularly the U.S.--and focusing on the Christian Fascist program vis-a-vis that of more "laissez faire" bourgeois democracy and decadence. But this basic point also applies to the relationship between the "traditional" and "fundamentalist" forms of oppression of women in much of the "Middle East" and other "Islamic countries" (and much of the Third World more broadly--including countries in which Christianity is the dominant religion--where the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society has not been carried out, or carried out only partially and incompletely) vis-a-vis the bourgeois-democratic imperialist countries themselves. In short, while it may take some different forms, brutality against women, inequality and subordination and degradation in every sphere of society is no less a fundamental and indispensable feature of "modern" bourgeois-imperialist countries than it is in "Islamic" and other societies where there are significant aspects of pre-capitalist forms of oppression and exploitation.


Now, we do have to take into account the argument that, after all, even if there are many outrages in terms of the oppression of women in a country like the U.S., it is still qualitatively better than what it is like under the Taliban.

This is a difficult and "tricky" contradiction to deal with. On the one hand, the fact is that the way women are shrouded and shackled under the Taliban--and everything that this symbolizes and encapsulates about their oppression under Taliban rule--does represent forms of oppression that are essentially (or largely) eliminated with the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society. And, of course, we support even bourgeois-democratic reforms in opposition to feudal (and other pre-capitalist) relations of oppression.

In a way, this is analogous to the point that--if these are the terms we accept--bourgeois democracy is "better" than fascism. But the more fundamental truth--and point to be emphasized--is that these are not the terms in which things should be understood and posed: the "choice" must not be limited to bourgeois-democratic society--with its forms of exploitative, oppressive, and repressive relations and rule--vs. feudal (or fascistic) forms of rule, repression, and oppression. And we should also never forget that bourgeois rule--that is, bourgeois dictatorship--in its "democratic" form, can be transformed into open, unvarnished dictatorship--fascism--which is an especially relevant and important point with regard to what is unfolding in U.S. society today.

We must not allow things to be cast in--and confined to--the question of which forms of oppression and exploitation, and reactionary dictatorship, are "better."

More specifically, and more especially in present circumstances, we must not allow things to be cast in such a way as to fall in line with the notion (or the pretense) that the U.S. (and other) imperialists somehow represent "progress" or "liberation," either in terms of the oppression of women or more generally, with regard to Afghanistan or in the world as a whole.

To help illustrate this, it can be pointed out that the various governments that were installed or at least backed by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan actually attempted to carry out reforms--not only land reforms but also reforms extending rights and opportunities for women, in education and many other fields--that, taken in isolation, are much better than what is represented by the Taliban, and by other mujahedeen forces who fought the Soviet- backed regimes and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, with massive U.S. backing. But the attempt by what was then Soviet social-imperialism to impose such reforms through its own brand of imperialist domination did not in fact represent "liberation"--and led to anything but "liberation" for Afghan women or the Afghan people as a whole. This liberation must be the result of their own conscious revolutionary struggle and can never come through any imperialist aggression, invasion, occupation, domination.

What we must emphasize is the fact that both bourgeois-democratic and feudal (and other pre-capitalist) social relations embody horrendous oppression of women, even if in somewhat different forms (along with many of the same forms) and there is a need for a radical rupture with all of this--with both pre-capitalist as well as bourgeois (including bourgeois-democratic) forms of oppression and exploitation (and repression).

In the world today, this radical rupture is represented by and is being actively struggled for by MLM and the MLM forces in countries all over the globe, including in Afghanistan. We must support and forge unity with masses rising up against all these various forms of oppression and exploitation, worldwide, while the most fundamental support must go to the MLM forces who represent the only road for the masses out of all this madness--the only path to overthrowing, uprooting, and finally, completely abolishing all forms of the oppression of women, and all exploitation and oppression of human beings, everywhere in the world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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