pfeil zeigt auf logo migration


[ 26. Dec 2001 // letzte änderung: 26. Dec 2001 ]

Social Struggles, Genocide and World Market Integration in Africa

This following introduction is part of a longer paper which can be found on the homepage of the german journal: "Materialien fuer einen neuen Antiimperialismus" (Materials for a New Antiimperialism)
The german Bernhard Schaefer author is working within the Network of "No One is Illegal".


Introduction This paper is an attempt to analyze the ongoing brutal wars and massacres in a lot of African regions in order to understand the reasons for eradication, destruction and enslavement. It is an attempt to understand the strategy of imperialist forces acting in a sometimes less visible but very effective manner, in order to conclude strategic options for political action joining in the struggles of the dispossessed and addressing the immediate needs of the anti-war-opposition.

This short essay is part of a more thorough investigation which starts with the question why so many million lives have been wiped out in Africa in the 1990s also in areas where raw materials do not occur. Is it for the sake of forced state formation, for the sake of world market integration? And is the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone or the Hutu militia Interahamwe in Rwanda and the Kivu region leading a kind of class struggle against traditional aristocrats or are they deprived and mad or even an instrument of imperialist penetration?

To acknowledge the links and anticipate the dialectic in the enduring and large scale fighting would be very important with regard to the transnational global justice movements of our time. If the World Bank and IMF has to be abolished then because of the responsibility of their structural policy in the beginning, moderation and prolonging of these wars.

In this paper it is attempted to link the investigation of genocide, displacement and various forms of terror with recent capitalist accumulation in the context of social struggles of several regions in Africa. First I want to outline some theoretical points. Then we can recall the rise of social movements in the continent arising at the beginning of the 1990s. Two focuses are Togo and Cameroon. Main theses of research are stated referring to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, the Congo and the Great Lakes Region, the Sudan and the COMESA Project, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. An in-depth analysis of the current wars from the mid 1980s through the 1990s still has to be written. Here it is attempted to draw certain parallels between the different theatres of war which are considered the most important.

Recent academic literature about the genocide in Rwanda and the civil wars in Liberia and Sudan is presented by the scientific and NGO staff advising diplomatic staff (Stephen Ellis 1999 on Liberia; William Reno 1998 on Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Zaire/ Congo; Gerard Prunier 1995, Ren"© Lemarchand, Jean Claude Willame 1997, Filip Reyntjens on Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region; Dieter Neubert and Peter Uvin 1998 respectively for the NGO"s). Most of the available literature refers to a "crisis in a certain state", plays on the "catastrophe of the breakdown of the state", or is even affirmative in a way that "civil wars" are considered ambivalent in such a way that though they bring death, they also "bring progress". The social background of insurgencies and refusal is denied. There is however everyday-resistance against expropriation and exploitation, opposition to war and militarism, attacks on warlords, but it is rarely known outside one country or local area. This is not to say, that
this behaviour goes unnoticed. Analyses even stay half non-public. This has to change entirely.

In popular discourse and much of the media explanations for widespread violence, genocide and war are restricted to a narrow perspective up to now. Among the mainstream theses are:

- Refusal of power sharing of the old elite and power struggles among the elites
- The arms trade and lack of its controls, too cheap AK 47
- Poverty, seen as static object, from above, as consume restriction or growth failure
- Competition over primary resources, lack of education
- Breakdown of the state, and subsequently murder as a typical behaviour in chaos

Human rights activists often call the failure of democratization as among the primary sources of violence. While this is certainly true, it is not clear for which kind of violence in which direction. Is the president hit in the face for not be willing for democratic decisions or is a baby killed out of racism? Is the street protest violent or are whole villages slaughtered? Until now the debate on violence sterilizes social movements and community action. Non-violence is presented as a kind of an educational prevention concept of NGO"s.
It is also said frequently that African political leaders resort into attacking the voter"s basis of their competitors and in killing a large number of them they reduce the threat of losing elections. In a similar image, people like Hutu sometimes start chopping off Tutsi legs in order to correct or turn around the fact that Tutsi are taller. So this would be some kind of justice.

These theories are pure racism and help explain nothing. They come out of stupid minds labelling Africans as barbarians. They have even an aspect of tourist cynicism. All in all these "explanations" do not show any real interest in the reasons of genocide and the escalation of mass violence.

As revolutionaries however, we can not at all ignore the problematic.
To give one example, from July to August 1997 in Brazzaville (Congo) 40.000 people have been murdered in an at hoc nightmare lasting 5 weeks (especially in the quarter of M"­Pila). How was this possible? It has been shown as an excess of the rivalry between election candidates Denis Sassou-Nguessou and Bernard Colelas. The thesis here is that this explosion of exterminatory violence is a kind of war against subsistence in the city, against sharing behaviour which has no worth to transnational capital, which is seen as outside the labour force potential and regarded as an unruly crowd of unproductive consumers who hide their survival strategies behind patrons of modern professions, the public sector and especially politicians with access to money. That would be to say that the weeks of murder in Brazzaville have been planned intentionally out of internal and external elites and interests behind the scenes of so-called elections and so-called troubles are to get rid of "surplus population". It is well documented that French Elys"©e networks and French multinationals like ELF-Aquitaine and their intelligence services have their big influence in this area. But I think it is more complex. We need to get to know the antagonist relationships behind the scenes. For this we need a radical investigation. The outcome could be a lot of new knowledge of the ways of class struggle, social struggles against the practice of capital. Even knowledge about complete unruliness.

As with all history the history of the recent transformation of Africa since 1980 is done through the establishment of facts from below and counter-facts from above. The history of ideas is just a reflection of material, social and institutional relations and forces. In line with this, science is mostly a reflection of the intention to reorganise domination and accumulation. We not only need a critique of science as a critique of ideology but a critique of science as policy advice for the destruction of Solidarity in Africa. First of all, slaughtering whole villages is not ambivalent, it is a nazi-like crime. We must not get used to crimes against humanity. This is why we need human rights reports.

It is our common responsibility to be vigilant on sharp community conflict, especially if it is not expressed in a language common to political activism of the left. We needimpressions from the current struggles of re-appropriation from below and how social movements possibly generalize and extend. There might arise intense social revolutionary forces inside one region out of mass poverty, but if we don"t get toknow them we only get the news of the success of counter-insurgency later on. In Rwanda 1994 this was the case. As negative dialectic, the counter-reaction to these warfare-dispossessions can be the rise of new collective, cultural, monetary and political autonomies in all domains of society - and via migration, which is for itself a social movement. Reports might show how people make a good living.Let"s act in line with the survivors, individuals, families, comrades in the fight for dignity and equal rights.

The black continent currently undergoes rapid change and severe transformation. The main thesis of this paper is, that this change is going on mainly through war, mass eradication, new enslavement, and mental deprivation. If we sum the estimates of the wars in Mo"§ambique, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone, Liberia and in the current Congo war we arrive at a number of 12 Million people who have died altogether. Africa is the terrain of contemporary holocaust. Millions more have been forced to flee and are internally displaced in fenced or road blocked refugee camps. It is genocide against social revolution.

To the imperialist regime war is productive, because the productivity building process lies in the eradication of all forms of subsistence, against the social bonds and affiliations of people which tied the land to the labour and the people and their labour to each other (Rosa Luxemburg, Imperialism and the Accumulation of Capital ed. Kenneth Tarbuck, London Allen Lane 1972 (1913) I read her as a great
fighter). These ties have been reproduced personally, spiritually, mythically and in the orally consented local rights of clan based access to resources. In The Gambia, for example, large compounds with up to 100 people (the extended family) maintained the right to exist for each member in such a way as the better harvest of one group was brought in to share with a worse of others. The means of subsistence were collected and re-distributed in an average-like way, in disregard of one"s personal immediate productivity. Such structures are an offence to capital: either capital is able to destroy such collectivity or this kind of collectivity can absorb and level off accumulation. Hence the struggle process.

The brutality of the current wars in Africa have a certain functionality. This functionality lies in a kind of alternative, yet cruel path to modernization. It consists of rape, traumatization and mutilation as part of a strategy of capital to reorganize and regain control through weakening of the African proletariat after the old patterns of power and command structures have eroded from below. This violence is a way to organize behaviour: fears and frustrations are manipulated and collective aggression is mobilized in recruitment, indoctrination and instigation, and directed against those parts of society which are considered unproductive, hence worthless.

The transformative war is a war to disable subsistence. In cults of violence every individual and collective memory is to become damaged to enable alienation (Ken Wilson 1992). Thus, the more these social ties of care and support are refreshed to re-establish existence guarantees the more aggressive is the external stroke to break them up. Today child soldiers seem to reverse all social values from within. The use of the viewpoints "external" and "from within" might be confusing at first instance. I hope this can be made clear in the following.

One first aspect is that the colonial powers not only tried to restore order (as an answer to increasing precolonial migration and the dissolution of precolonial kingdoms) in the way of territorial conquest since the 1860s, they also made use of "traditional" institutions. As theorists and revolutionaries like Amilcar Cabral have pointed out, a programme of independence and equality also needs a reconsideration of all local customary institutions and constitutions to strengthen emancipation from below.
So, it is absolutely wrong to consider current capitalist penetration as the way of modernizing African living conditions, enlightening the backward through development and NGO"s and so on. To the contrary, for the sake of the protection of newly introduced private property not only the downtrodden French age old colonialism, but also the new US-American strategy for democracy-and-fair-elections ("trade instead of aid") can resort into the meanest restoration of conservative populism (the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and its use of class issues or Charles Taylor"s rule in Liberia since 1997 are just two examples).
The issue is not "traditions" against "modernity", and barbaric backwardness against progress with "civil society"-commodities. It is rather the destruction of self-managed equal relations for the sake of barbaric progress, and the militarisation of the economy for the sake of alienation. What is in need is land, peace and freedom. What is in need is mental rehabilitation.

--> read the whole paper