COMMENT : Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war on West Africa — Dr Saulat Nagi
In the human development index, Mali is ranked lower than Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Its economy is in dire straits
According to Ralph Emerson, “If a man will kick a fact out of the window, when he comes back he finds it again in the chimney corner.” The fact is that after scourging the innocent people of Libya and Syria, imperialism has fostered another foe in the form of Mali, an African state inundated by bullion and other mineral resources. For a blitzkrieg, a country in a state of tragedy — in the midst of a civil war — provided an ideal opportunity to the imperialist forces, clad in a cloak of democracy. France, the former colonial ruler, smelling the scent of minerals, has unleashed its repressive might against a Frankenstein who had been created on purpose. The only exception is the change of face: the previous aggression was led by Nikolas Sarkozy, a conservative but charismatic knight in shimmering armour. This time around, the sword is unsheathed by Hollande, an unassuming, rudderless ‘socialist’. The theme and pretence are reassuringly the same. France is defending democracy against al Qaeda and its allies. The question to be asked is, which democracy are we talking about? The one that was overthrown by the US-trained army officers who then quietly and timidly conceded a large swath of northern territory to the religious forces, or the one that imperialism would like to impose upon Mali once the foreign aggression completes its devastation, and consequently, akin to Afghanistan, leaves the country in the grip of an unending civil war? One such civil strife is already haunting Mali, which, while setting the Sahel ablaze, has left 300,000 Malians as refugees.
France, like other hegemonic states, has repeatedly proved that when it comes to her imperial interests, otherwise sacrosanct democracy is dislodged from its much revered stature and animosity, if any, against al Qaeda is put on the backburner. Against Moammar Gaddafi, France openly sided with the rebels whose religious agenda was hardly a mystery to the imperialist forces and their invincible guard — NATO. In Syria, France, while putting all ethical qualms aside, is brazenly supporting the Al-Nusra Front, which happens to be an offshoot of al Qaeda. Why this volte-face, one wonders!
Noam Chomsky revealed the truth in the following words: “The Eisenhower administration identified three major global problems: Indonesia, North Africa, and the Middle East — all oil producers, all Islamic [political forces, which were then secular].” The crisis of the Middle East, as desired by imperialism, has turned into a volcano, which has every sign of engulfing the whole world in its inferno. The massacre of the Indonesian communist party members had neutralised the simmering problem of that region. And the French brutality took care of north Africa. The atrocious crimes against humanity committed in Algeria are one such example of its bleak character.
The Republic of Mali, formerly known as French Sudan, gained its independence from France in 1960; however, in the absence of economic freedom, political independence remains a hoax. Through globalisation, peripheral capitalism was imposed on a tribal society. Democracy remained highly non-inclusive. Consequently, today half of the population lives below the international poverty line. The infant mortality rate in Mali is the highest in the world. In the human development index, it is ranked lower than Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Its economy is in dire straits. In 2011, its economic growth was trotting at a meagre 1.1 percent. Such conditions are highly conducive for extremism to thrive. A large number of jobless Tuaregs (and militants of different hue) have also returned home after the fall of Gaddafi’s regime where they were employed in the army. The ongoing crippling crisis of capitalism has proved to be a double whammy for the masses of this luckless country, which will not be a lone victim, given that this whole region is bursting with easily accessible mineral wealth.
Only a cursory glance at the statistics will be enough to reveal the real intent of imperialism, which is working laboriously to masquerade its nefarious designs behind a democratic facade. Niger is drenched in uranium, and the French multinationals have already monopolised its exploration and control. Algeria is gifted with hydrocarbons; it has the 10th largest gas reserves in the world, while it ranks 16th in oil reserves. Burkina Faso is the fourth largest gold producer in Africa (after South Africa, Mali and Ghana). Not to mention Senegal, whose major exports include petroleum and gold. All these countries are ruled through the barrel of a gun — overtly or covertly. Their lame duck governments are only in power due to the backing of imperialism. France happens to be its face here, though the Americans are not lurking much behind.
Imperialism is fully conversant with the fact that neither democracy can be imposed by forceful external means nor militancy can be bombed out of existence. About this premise, if there was ever any doubt, the events in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved an eye-opener. Violence is virulent, and any violent attempt to exterminate it invariably breeds more violence. Only by redressing the socio-economic grievances can a real and lasting solution be achieved. Hunger and poverty cannot be eliminated by substituting them with drones. Only capitalism can come up with such a shallow solution since its overproduction of goods goes hand in hand with overproduction of human beings. For its realisation, both of these have to be taken care of. Hence, war becomes a necessary option and terror a salubrious business that thrives in the ruins. It is the only logic that capitalism is aware of, the only dynamic it survives upon. While analysing this phenomenon, Rosa Luxemburg states: “Imperialism is not the creation of any one or of any group of states. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations, and from which no nation can hold aloof at will.” Hence, for any single nation, there is no escape or respite from this hideous business.
The invasion of Mali by the French army represents “a huge historical complex of events, whose roots reach deep down into the Plutonic deeps of economic creation...events before whose all-embracing immensity, the conception of guilt and retribution, of defence and offence, sink into pale nothingness” (Rosa Luxemburg). France is backed by the US, Britain and other allies within NATO and outside of it. Many African governments are ready to send their forces into this plunder of natural resources, Nigeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso to name a few. It is a war for the absolute hegemony of capital.
Hollande is backed by the French Right, which comes as no surprise, but it’s amazing and equally unfortunate that the majority of the French population is apparently weighing itself on his side of the scale. Perhaps this signifies the alienation of the French people from the real world — a typical symptom of economic decadence. Capitalism will not spare them either. Taking advantage of a high tide of approval ratings, Hollande has already started a crackdown on the working class. Labour market reforms are already in place, which will have far reaching effects. In this process, the French Left has also been exposed. They were the ones who gave Hollande unconditional support in the second round of elections. This also shows that when crunch time comes, European socialists prove as loyal to capitalism — if not more — as the conservatives and the so-called liberals. This happens to be the real face of social democracy all over the world and this is the culture it stands for all its socialist sloganeering. Sartre reminds the working class in his own unique style, “For the only true culture is that of the Revolution; that is to say, it is constantly in the making.” If ‘Europe’ is substituted by ‘capitalism’, the words of Frantz Fanon seem all the more pertinent: “[capitalism] now lives at such a mad, reckless pace...[that] she is running headlong into the abyss; we would do well to avoid it with all possible speed.” Is another fact, as stated by Barrington Moore, “to democratise the villages without altering property relationships is simply absurd”, sitting near the chimney corner?
The writer is based in Australia and has authored books on socialism and history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org