27 December 2007

Why Afghanistan Shuns May Day

“We observe Labour Day by working,” Afghans say. May 1 is not a festive day in Afghanistan; there is absolutely no commemoration. It was not always like this. During the Soviet time, in the Eighties, demonstrations and parliaments were organised on Labour Day, Afghans who lived in that time remember.

In fact, the USSR invaded Afghanistan under the banner of giving power to the working class and to fight for its rights. The Afghan People’s Democratic Party –the political machine used by the Soviets to achieve their objectives – also defined itself as the “workers’ party which fights for true emancipation after centuries of oppression and exploitation,” according to the propaganda of that time.

The book, ‘Afghanistan, the revolution continues’ – published in 1984 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the political formation and now a historical relic found in some Kabul bookshops at an exorbitant price – underlines the supposed industrial, agricultural and educational achievements of pro-Soviet Afghanistan and there are abundant pictures of Afghan men and women demonstrating or working.

Now Afghanistan does not celebrate Labour Day, nobody even knows of it for a simple reason: the link with Soviet invasion and, as a consequence, years of repression, persecution and war. The celebrations were wiped off the calendar at a stroke of the pen when fundamentalists entered Kabul in 1992 and the tradition has not been revived.

In fact in Afghanistan today, everything to do with erstwhile USSR is rejected. For example, it is not well received if someone declares themselves as politically Left and even in Dari, one of the official Afghan languages, words like ‘comrade’, used in the past by Communist Party members, is avoided. The current political class in power – a good part of whom are former warlords – has the tendency of blaming the Soviets for all that is wrong. Last year, many common graves were found and the first fingers were pointed at Russian troops.

Afghanistan is fourth last in the human development index. Unemployment levels are not known but it is certain that there is not enough work.

Source (and photographs): El Mundo

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