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Conflict and national and regional security in Africa

The African continent has for some three decades been the theatre for numerous conflicts, some constant and some recurring, internal and external and often entailing foreign intervention. The development economist can purport to overlook these conflicts as they are outside his discipline. The

African intellectual cannot accept surrender to such useless exercises: what sense does 'development' make in Chad, Uganda. Ethiopia, or in the countries on the South African and Israeli front line?

To act effectively in putting a stop to these situations mortgaging any development requires an accurate scientific analysis of the causes of the insecurity in question. Are vague general theories enough in such a case'? Some will see the conflict as basically a result of capitalist competition, and others as the exacerbation of fundamental and spontaneous communal loyalties that may be based on national, religious or tribal criteria; a third group will see it as the projection on to African soil of the conflict of the superpowers. Yet others will prefer to take each conflict case by case and account for them by an eclectic mix of varying causalities.

It seems to us useful to make some preliminary observations on conflict theory, before addressing the question of national and regional security in Africa.

Towards a conflict theory based on a global analysis of the system

It has been said that war is 'nothing but the continuation of politics by other means'. Studying the conflicts is therefore studying a chapter of politics. It must be admitted at the outset that our tools of analysis in this field are particularly weak. It is not our intention here to put forward a general theory of politics. We shall offer no more than a few critical comments on the theories - often more implicit than explicit - underlying the various concrete analyses made in studies of some past and present conflicts.

We shall begin with Lenin's proposition that politics is economics in tablet form. There is some truth in this proposition, but it is useful to see how far it goes, for the proposition is meaningful only for the capitalist era of history. By that we mean that capitalism is a mode of social organization characterized by the predominance of the economic dimension. It is not the same for pre-capitalist societies, characterized by the predominance of the political and ideological dimension. And how does it apply to the so-called socialist post-capitalist societies?

We have here two schools of thought, both of which may claim to be Marxist. For some, the essence of capitalism is the fundamental class contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat. Hence all political phenomena (including the wars of the capitalist era) must in the final analysis be explained by this fundamental conflict and the means employed to resolve it - albeit temporarily - and to relieve its acuteness. In this spirit, political attitudes adopted by this or that side must be judged from a 'proletarian class position'. Others take the view that 'really existing' capitalism (as opposed and compared with the capitalist mode of production taken in the abstract) has brought to the fore another contradiction' the driving force of history, setting the peoples of the peripheries (we say peoples advisedly, that is, a non-homogeneous collection of popular classes, and not nations, or states, or proletariats) against worldwide dominant capital. Politics and the wars are, then, largely a regulatory factor of this contradiction.

We shall move nearer to a specific analysis by defining more precisely the operation of the 'dominant capital' in question. We might make the hypothesis that the relevant question is how and to what extent is there a correlation between the emergence of a national bourgeoisie as the dominant class in a given social formation, the establishment of its state and the crystallization of capitalist interests. This has certainly been the case in the past. The formation of a nation-state in Britain, France, Germany, the United States. Japan, has corresponded to the emergence of a national (English. French, and so on) bourgeoisie and national capital. Dominant capital has plural forms, and politics (and wars) were largely governed by conflictive competition between national capitals, particularly to ensure domination over the peripheral regions subjected to the needs of the logic of the expansion of those national capitals. In this sense, as Oliver Cox, Herb Addo and generally speaking the 'world economy' school argue, imperialism (and the conflict of imperialisms)4 is a permanent feature of capitalism, and not a fairly recent phenomenon (the 'highest stage of capitalism', as Lenin saw it).

But is this always so? The long crisis of contemporary capitalism, beginning with the American decline at the end of the 1960s, is accompanied by a worldwide expansion of capital that seems to be taking on qualitatively new characteristics. Certainly the establishment of 'transnationals' in the period before the post-war upsurge (1945-70) initiated this evolution. The economic interests of the 'transnationals' might be in conflict with those of the national capital from which they emerged, and hence their strategy could clash with that of the national state, to the extent that the latter expressed the collective interest of national capital. But two factors limited the extent of these contradictions. The first is that the transnationals were so only in their field of activity, as control over their capital remained national. It was a matter of US, British, German or Japanese transnationals. The second is that United States hegemony was asserted over them just as it was asserted over other capitalist states.

What can be seen 15 years or so on? As André Gunder Frank has shown, since the end of the 1960s recessions have come at an accelerated rate, every three or four years, and each recession has been deeper than the previous ones in real economic terms (productive employment, growth, employment), and these recessions are separated by increasingly fragile and feeble abortive recoveries, to the point that the conjuncture is one of long crisis with an unpredictable outcome. This succession of unfavourable conjunctures has brought a flurry of financial speculation manifested in Third World external indebtedness and a dual external and internal indebtedness of the United States, as the financial market-place has turned into overgrowth divorced from the material base of the economy.5 In this flurry of financial speculation a new form of worldwide finance capital seems to have been constituted, divorced from any national base. Furthermore, certain new productive capitalist interests (in industry and non-financial services) seem to be established on the basis of a consortium of interests on a national basis of varying origin: 'European' capital. US and Japanese capital, worldwide capital. Oligopolies that had previously had a decisive national base from which they extended their 'multinational' antennae gradually became multinational oligopolies in the full meaning of the expression. Japanese capital, for instance, which had previously pursued a systematic policy of reinvestment of profits in the building-up of an industrial fortress in Japan, began to transfer the seat of its productive activities (such as the Honda motor cars) to the United States. Some forecast that this transfer could reach such proportions that the oligopoly in question could no longer be regarded as Japanese by virtue of its main headquarters and nationality of control over its capital, but rather as a new Americano-Japanese oligopoly.

We are not convinced that the extrapolation of these trends is entirely legitimate and that the future is already defined in terms of a worldwide expansion of capital going beyond capital's national bases. But the hypothesis of an evolution in this direction and to this point of no return is no longer out of the question. If this does happen the correlation of state and capital, that has been characteristic of capitalism so far, will be gone and in its place will be a new contradiction between the multiplicity of states and the worldwide expansion of capital. For it is obvious that the construction of a unified Americano-Euro-Japanese political state is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

This new contradiction makes it necessary to review the question of politics and conflicts that until now could be analysed in terms of conflictive competition of imperialist national capitalisms. Until now, hegemonies were exercised by national states - Britain from 1815 to 1880, the United States from 1945 to 1970 - during fairly short periods of advance for the capital of these nations at all (technological and financial) levels and for their state at the military level (British naval supremacy. US virtual nuclear monopoly until the early 1960s and a politico-military intervention capability unchallenged until the defeat in Vietnam in 19751. The rule was chiefly one of conflict of imperialisms, Britain and France throughout the 18th century, the five great powers-Britain, United States. Germany. France and Japan - from 1880 to 1945, including the 'thirty years war' (1914-45) between Germany and the United States for the succession to Britain (we owe this image to Giovanni Arrighi).6 In the hegemonic phases, unity of the world system was to the fore-British free trade in the 19th century and American free enterprise after the Second World War - but in the phases of conflict the system had a greater tendency to break up into rival zones, crystallized in colonial empires and spheres of influence, especially between 1880 and 1914 and then during the 1930s.

The worldwide expansion of capital made it impossible to continue this schema of break-up. At the same time it also ruled out the re-establishment of the hegemony of a police state, in the absence of a new Americano-Euro-Japanese state. Some would say that this impossibility gave a second wind to United States hegemony, for want of a viable competitor. But in that case the fatal hiatus between the interests of worldwide capital and US policy (necessarily dictated by the demands of the dominant social alliance in the United States) would lead only to a disorder ungovernable by any rationality.

Within the framework of this theoretical analytical scheme of politics and international conflicts comes the national dialectic between politics and economics. This means that the stability of the bourgeois national state depends on an internal social alliance determining the scope for possible political manoeuvre. As an illustration of this proposition, it might be said that in the 19th century the French bourgeois state depended on an alliance of capital with the middle classes of the time - the then numerous peasantry, petty craft production, and so forth - intended to isolate the working class, excluded from power and the social contract. Since the end of the 19th century the social contract has gradually integrated the working class, on the basis of Fordism and the welfare state, first in the US and then throughout the developed West. The language of 'consensus politics', outside right-left divergences, that makes the running in all contemporary Western electoral democracy, shows the reality of this new aspect of politics.

If we return to Lenin's dictum on the relations of economics and politics, we note that unless these shades of meaning are introduced as we have tried to do, we shall inevitably slip into reductionist language deftly formulated by Jaurès on the lines that capitalism harbours war as the cloud does a storm. Capitalism harbours war or peace according to circumstances. It harbours war only when the contradictions it encounters in its expansion - and whose characteristic has still to be situated within the proposed theoretical framework - cannot be overcome by other means. Such wars will be largely the expression of conflicts between bourgeois national states: the emergence of new states and their rejection by the old one, wars of the 1870 kind; inter-imperialist conflicts such as the two world wars: localized conflicts over the dividing up of the peripheries such as the Balkans wars: conflicts between expanding imperialist states and peripheralized peoples: internal conflicts of the civil war kind when the bourgeois hegemonic social alliance fails to take shape.

The character of the conflicts indicated above, among which class conflicts in the proper meaning of the expression play only a small part, is the factual basis for the non-Marxist schools of thought on conflicts. Bourgeois political thought wipes out economics as a system governed by the laws and demands of reproduction and expansion of capital and retains only discrete scraps of economic reality. It can therefore be made - realistically - to take into account access to natural resources, the opening-up of markets or the protection of profits. But it does so on an ad hoc basis, without accepting a general theory of capitalism. It is essentially concerned with research into possible conflict. In fact it comes within a simple sociological hypothesis that states are always potential competitors of each other and seek almost spontaneously to ensure their 'dominance'. In this respect contemporary political thought is the follower of Hobbes, Machiavelli and political thinkers of the absolutist and mercantilist state, without really going any further. From the 19th century it complements this hypothesis with that of the nationalism of peoples, presumed to desire the establishment of homogeneous national states and thereby in competition and always potentially in conflict. Later, colonial conquest and the ethnology it inspired grafted on to the other forms of pre-national community (ethnic group, tribe, religious community) the characteristics of spontaneous collective aggressiveness attributed to the nation-states.

The conflict thus becomes the effect of a nature inherent in humankind and its organization into gregarious communities going beyond any particular social organizational form. A fine example of this simple and absolute psychology comes in the inaugural Constitution of UNESCO where the Anglo-Saxon ideologues of the time declared that 'since wars begin in the minds of men.

The scientific weakness of the thesis goes without saying. But the facts, that is, the frequency of violent conflicts between states, nations and communities, more common than the relatively peaceful class conflicts in the proper meaning of the expression, might seem to support the hypothesis. The political man of action might be satisfied with concrete analysis of conflictive contradictions at the immediate level, without questioning their roots. The 'realpolitik' inspiration of such analyses (the writings of a political figure such as Henry Kissinger for example) is a factor of politics and not of political science. Its reasoning in terms of geopolitics might be effective for action within the system but does not lead to an understanding of the system's character.

It must be regretted that many of the political thinkers of the Third World, trained in the American school, reproduce its cliches without more critical feeling. Hence the Persians are portrayed as the inevitable potential adversaries of the Arabs, Ethiopians of Somalis. Christians of Muslims, and so on, just as in the past the French, the British and the Germans were portrayed as 'hereditary enemies'. This evades the issue of the character of the social system and its characteristic contradictions, the social forces and ideologies operating in these contradictions, to focus only on an abstract and empty generality. This leaves no scope for formulating a strategy of change to bring Persians and Arabs or Ethiopians and Somalis together. The discussion is caught up in the ideological language of adversaries outside the liberation of the peoples in question, and in that of local authorities tossed about on vicissitudes of fortune they are unable to grasp.

The supposedly realistic acceptance of this purportedly fundamental fact of the aggressiveness of human nature, enjoined upon lay creatures from the European renaissance on, gradually obscured another ideological tendency, namely the humanist idealism of religions (Christianity and Islam and undoubtedly others). Among its principles this humanist idealism proclaimed the essential need to overcome this aggressiveness and build a world of peace. The socialist movement of the 19th century proposed a synthesis of this idea with its discoveries about the social mechanism. Socialism - and Marxism in particular - asserted that violence has its roots deep in the social system of exploitation of the labouring classes (and in our modern era in the exploitation of labour by capital). By this token the conflict of states, nations or other communities is merely a manifestation of this more basic and profound latent conflict. This analytical thesis had the necessary corollary in the principle of action to the effect that abolition of exploitation (that is, in our era, abolition of capital) must ensure peaceful human relations. The withering away of the state (conceived mainly as an expression of the need for class exploitation) and of nations and sub-national communities in a liberated humankind followed this view of the social reality and the direction of its possible and desirable evolution.

This kind of programmatic language is no longer tenable. For some 70 years various states claiming to be Marxist socialist have come into being. This did not stop Sino-Soviet antagonism at one stage going to the brink of war, Vietnam invading Laos and Kampuchea, or the resurgence of unfulfilled nationalisms in the Baltic. Soviet Central Asia, Tibet. Yugoslavia, or the Hungarian minority in Romania and Turkish minority in Bulgaria. Bourgeois political thought owes much of its renewed glory to this: the facts showed that nation transcended class, that nations (even without classes) expressed themselves as states (which did not wither away), and that states continued to be driven by the desire to dominate. The ideological language of the socialist powers in question, the arbitrary justifications bending according to circumstances, could only strengthen the belief that 'realpolitik' was all there was.

It is time to break out of these two-fold shackles that keep social reflections in a double impasse. This requires at the start a better understanding of the post-capitalist transition and hence the character of the contradictions operating in the societies emerging from so-called socialist revolutions. We have suggested here a framework of analysis based on the thesis of the fundamental character of inequality in capitalist expansion. We derive the corollary that the post-capitalist transition cannot be reduced to 'socialist construction'. Through its national and popular character it has the real task of resolving an inequality that is inescapable in the framework of 'currently existing' capitalism - a world system based on a polarization of centres and peripheries. We have therefore proposed analysing the post-capitalist societies as revolving around conflictive and dynamic compromises between three social tendencies: socialist, capitalist, and national-statist. We have further suggested that the so-called socialist revolutions and the national liberation movements belonged to the same great historical movement challenging the capitalist system and differing only in the degree of their achievements.

The societies and states of 'current socialism' are riddled with new and specific contradictions, differing from those typifying capitalism. To make sense of the conflicts to which these states are party, one must start with these contradictions that can be classified in two groups.

The socialist societies and states are perceived as adversaries by the capitalist West. They are such to the degree that the national and popular construction they are pursuing escapes the logic of surrender to the demands of worldwide capitalist expansion. These states, conscious of their vulnerability, do, however, seek 'peaceful coexistence', to use the phrase they have themselves coined. But the West sees this weakness as just another reason to exert on them the pressures it regards as necessary in order to destroy the prospect of successful national and popular construction. According to time and circumstance, these pressures may take the form of cold or hot war, or the arms race, while at a particular conjuncture the balance of 'détente' may diminish the intensity. Here, the ideological language and revolutionary claptrap change place: it is the Western media that play the resonant leitmotivs (the devilish 'autocracies' of the East, their total disregard of principles, and so on) whose purpose is obviously to build up a Western 'anti-socialist consensus'.

The constant hostility to the societies and states of 'really existing socialism' is similar in kind to that the West harbours in regard to national liberation, since this too is part of the same historical movements of challenge to 'really existing' capitalism. 'Anti-Third-Worldism' is the ideological expression of this hostility.

In such circumstances the states of the East, like the Third World states at moments of radicalization of their national liberation struggle, are faced with the need for active resistance to the West's plan for 'driving back'. Their alliances, supports and interventions are at least in part explicable in this context. Are there any general principles to focus the study of this web of circumstance? Bourgeois political thought looks for them at its standard workbench, with preference nowadays, of course, for the data of geopolitics and geo-strategy demanded by modern military equipment. But even if this kind of analysis does give food for thought, it by-passes the principle that seems to us fundamental to an understanding of the global strategy of the countries of the East (the USSR and China in first place). The principle is that interventions by the USSR and China outside their borders (notably in alliance with the national liberation forces in bitter conflict with the West) are means of 'counter-pressure' to make the West lessen the pressure it exercises on the two socialist powers. These 'counter-pressures' can therefore be reduced once Western pressure is reduced.

The liberation movements of the capitalist Third World are ill-equipped to understand the logic of the strategy described above. They themselves fall short of the stage of strong national and popular crystallization characteristic of the so-called socialist societies. As they are engaged upon an unequal struggle against capitalist imperialism, obliged by their own weaknesses to aim low, often forced back on the retreat, they are tempted to blame their own shortcomings on the vacillations and shifts of their external ally. It is the task of the popular forces within the country in question to push their own national liberation movement to the point where they can impose a national and popular revolution. 'Anti-imperialist solidarity' is no substitute for basic shortcomings at this level.

The 'external' contradiction between the 'socialist' societies and states (and the radical national liberation states) and world capitalism is clearly not unconnected with the 'internal' contradictions - the second group - peculiar to the societies described as national and popular. The interweaving of these two groups of contradictions - internal and external - is such that it is virtually impossible to adduce general principles as to their mode of operation. A case by case study must be done. Nevertheless as a warning perhaps, it is possible to signal what may be a risky over-simplification to the effect that the socialist forces operate in an ideological mode, on the basis of the principles of anti-imperialist solidarity, while those of national capitalism and statism, pragmatic by temperament and interest, are more easily seduced by the compromise, or cynicism, of 'realpolitik'.

The problematic of African conflicts7

Africa and the Middle East are the theatre for numerous and virtually permanent conflicts, whose variety and apparent insolubility are enough to discourage many analysts, whether they are political figures from within the countries or abroad. Some people stop trying to understand on the view that 'as in feudal Europe' - the African societies, victims of their own backwardness, are the ground of continual confrontations between 'tribes', peoples and communities, on which are grafted the race for power of autocratic potentates, who call into play unprincipled alliances with such powers as will play this destructive game, whether to retain an economic and 'cultural' presence, or for overall geostrategic motives. It is a simple picture; this view, however, that gains ground as the illusions of the 1960s are thrown out, remains false.

Every case has its particularities that cannot be overlooked. Concrete analyses are therefore irreplaceable. In nearly every one of these countless cases it is possible to see, interwoven in some particular way, four sources of conflict: first, the unresolved conflict between the demands of national and popular liberation and the logic of surrender to capitalist expansion imposed by imperialism; second, the internal conflicts arising from the frailty of the national society, its popular forces and ruling classes; third, the East-West conflict whose projection on to the continent has its own logical rules; fourth, trading competition between the capitalist powers with interests in the region.

This order of presentation of the sources of conflict corresponds to their order of importance. This reflects the degree of potential violence attached to the cause of conflict and in consequence the relative significance of the results of a solution of that conflict.

It is stylish nowadays to think that political independence has put a stop to the era of national liberation and that, as a consequence, the subsequent development is mainly the result of the dynamic of 'infernal causes' peculiar to the Third World societies and states. The first proposition takes little account of the fact that the capitalist Third World states gained their independence under circumstances precluding their 'delinking' and have generally increased their unequal integration in the worldwide capitalist system. These circumstances contrast with those characteristic of societies that have experienced a 'socialist revolution' end definitively delinked in the narrow sense we have given the term. The result is, that the aim of national liberation, necessary to embark upon a path that can efface the legacy of unequal capitalist development, has still to be achieved. As the local bourgeoisies, who to varying degrees have controlled the former national liberation movement (leading to independence) have pursued a developmental approach that did not challenge worldwide capitalist expansion, the responsibility for national liberation reverts to the popular classes victimized in the new state of peripheral capitalist development. The corollary of the proposition we arc criticizing is that the external factor, always unfavourable and increasingly so, still largely conditions the evolution of the internal factors. The conflict between imperialism and the national and popular movement will always be just as violent.

Are not the most violent conflicts in the contemporary Third World just those where direct confrontation is in the forefront Nicaragua in Latin America, the permanent Israeli-Arab conflict, the conflict the South African people wage in their struggle against the white apartheid regime? These two main conflicts in South Africa and the Middle East will be considered below.

The Middle East and South Africa are of course not the only areas of conflict between national and popular aspirations and Western imperialism. It may be said without any exaggeration that the entire African continent is the theatre of this greater and permanent conflict. In the past three decades various experiences in some half of African states have sought a way beyond neocolonialism (Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Mali, Guinea. Guinea Bissau. Burkina Faso, Cape Verde. Ghana, Benin, Congo. Zaire. Ethiopia Somalia, Tanzania. Uganda. Zambia' Zimbabwe. Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius. Seychelles). All these attempts have in some way or other and to varying degrees met with hostility from the West, ranging from the use of economic and financial pressures to conspiracy and even military intervention. Undoubtedly the national aspirations of the various governments in question did not display the same degree of radicalization and often lacked sufficient popular support fend sometimes these governments did not want to see the popular movement acquire the autonomy its energy deserved). These attempts were so weak that many drifted down of their own accord - at least on the surface - and fell back into the rut of neo-colonialism. Others were unable to overcome the contradictions among their own people (including the ethnic contradictions). It is also true that the economic and political apparatus left by Europe in the wake of independence was not intended to support the popular forces but to maintain the neo-colonial order they confronted. It is scarcely surprising that there were so many 'rapid interventions' by paratroopers deployed to put back into the seat of power a dictator who was at the end of his tether but entirely devoted to Western interests. There is a strong element of hypocrisy in Western discourse when it laments the condition of Africa and its peoples, without ever mentioning the unstinted support that the West - in unison - provides to the most retrograde and corrupt of local forces, albeit against more honest forces whose errors and shortcomings the West is only too ready to point out.

Africa's association with the EEC must be seen in this framework of perpetuation of neo-colonial relations Some of our European friends revive the argument that Africa is not ripe to go further and that the popular forces are weak. Others note that even if the association works to the advantage of neo-colonial interests, there is scope for manoeuvre within the texts and the institutions but one that is sadly under-utilized by the forces of the left in

Europe (who could influence their own governments and the EEC) or by the popular and national forces in Africa. This argument is admissible, if one believes, as we do, that choosing the worst policy is rarely the best way to work for change in the strategic relations of power. But it must not cast a shadow on the prospect of a national and popular delinking, valid here as elsewhere. Africa will not develop through the agency of a 'good paternalism' as utopian as the 'good colonialism' of the past that some sections of the European left hope to see, perhaps sincerely. The African peoples cannot escape the general rule: stand up or succumb.

It is in no way our intention to draw up a table where the conflicts Africa suffers are aligned according to their anti-imperialist aspect. The list of inter-ethnic conflicts, for example, is as long as that of conflicts between African nationalism and the West: Zaire. Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Chad, have been or still are theatres of violent conflict, to the extent of civil war in some cases. In other countries the conflict is latent, if it has in some instances been contained so far by repression. There is a not insignificant list of conflicts by states over frontiers or overt or hidden territorial ambitions: Ethiopia. Somalia and Sudan; Algeria and Morocco (and Western Sahara); Mali and Burkina Faso are some examples.

None of these conflicts are entirely 'fabrications' of services outside Africa. The local diplomatic talk that sometimes suggests this is hardly credible, even if, as is often the case, various external forces do seize the opportunity they are given to support one group or impede another, in the light of their own strategic or tactical objectives and in a spirit of cynicism.

Does this suggest that these conflicts are 'inevitable' as the result of the potential hostility inherent in every human 'community', as superficial political thought imagines? We suggest the hypothesis that, many of these 'communal' conflicts are the result of struggles within the ruling class, or between segments of it. What these ruling classes have most obviously in common is their fragility: whether they are comprador classes, able to operate only within the narrow limits allowed by control from world capital, or often not even attaining the status of a comprador bourgeoisie (with their own economic interests subordinated by their integration in world capitalism) but rather a comprador bureaucracy (the apparatus of a comprador state); or whether they are strata and groups with nationalist aspirations who have failed to become the intelligentsia of an alliance of genuinely popular forces. In both instances the temptation is strong for the various segments of a class of this kind to hold power by mobilizing fractions of the population behind 'symbols' that leave them masters of the game. Ethnic or religious symbols are often highly suited to this kind of competition for power.

The cause of these conflicts is not some kind of ethnocentric atavism that compels the peoples not to recognize other realities than those of the communities to which they belong, nor another sort of autocratic atavism that compels the leaders to manipulate the 'ethnic devils'. It is the weakness of the peripheral society as a whole that is at issue and especially that of its ruling classes.

The national and popular outlook therefore requires a strategy that is both democratic and unitary, that is, moving towards the maintenance - or even creation - of broad space (hence great states) commensurate with the challenges demanded by national and popular delinking, and mindful at the same time of diversity within that broad space. The rights of peoples to self-determination must be implemented within this political perspective.

The global conflict of the superpowers does not entail any necessary symmetry between the aims and the actors. The United States takes the leadership of the capitalist forces with the conservative aim of preserving the neo-colonial integration of Africa in the global system. The forces of national and popular liberation cannot therefore avoid a clash. Neither the Soviet Union, nor still less China, have the ambition - and if they did, the capability-to sustain a progressive transformation of the African continent. At most if serious and enduring detente came about, the socialist superpowers would accept an 'African retreat', left to its own peoples and solitary confrontation with internal and external enemies. But in the absence of such detente, a 'presence' in Africa may be deemed useful from two points of view. First as a means of pressure to encourage the adversary to that very detente. Then, in the still possible hypothesis of extensive armed conflict, as a location for bases in the direction of the Mediterranean, North and South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It is true that according to some specialists on military issues, this kind of geostrategic concern tends to become less relevant in an age of intercontinental missiles or Star Wars. But is the concern over in so far as the risk of conflagration is not all or nothing, but one of intermediate options where control over a regional initiative has some significance?

So long as this is so, diplomacy will keep its options: states - Soviet and Chinese like the others - tend to consider only what is there, that is the powers in situ. It would be ingenuous to believe - or even hope - that longer term concerns (the desire for 'socialism') mean more that ideological discourse, albeit sincere. Furthermore, the constraints of diplomacy will not in the future, any more than they did in the past, prevent certain backsliding that might be described as 'opportunist' by anyone of the view that the national and popular objective is an inescapable condition of progress. Such backsliding will occur whenever the alliance of the more or less national local power (and hence to some extent in conflict with the West) and the 'socialist' states operates in such a way as to block rather than encourage this power's evolution to the desired irreversible national and popular crystallization.

We come finally to the last section of our fourfold analysis: Euro-American competition. What we say will be brief as we do not see that this competition entails any political conflict for Africa and the Middle East. On the contrary, the resources of the United States and those of Europe complement each other. In this region, Europe is so far perfectly in step.

The conflict in South Africa8

For a century, imperialism maintained a system of overall domination of the Southern African region in which the white settler colony of South Africa played an essential part. The discovery of the region's mineral wealth (gold and diamonds in South Africa, copper in Katanga and Northern Rhodesia, rare minerals), at the very moment when capitalism was embarking on a new phase of monopolistic expansion, inspired a special formula of colonization, the 'reverse economy'. This was the division of a country forcing the African peasantries, who were herded into 'reserves" purposely inadequate to ensure subsistence in the previously traditional ways, to provide the necessary proletarianized migrant labour for mining. The agricultural economy of the European plantations (in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia) and later the manufacturing industry also benefited from this system.

Apartheid, from the outset, was part of this form of expansion of peripheral capitalism, in contrast with the forms implemented in other parts of the continent, notably the coastal trade economy in West Africa. Contrary to stubborn belief it was not the Boers who in an excess of racism of their own invented the system. Until then the Boers had developed only a crude concept of their society - agrarian and patriarchal - that entailed the conquest of land and not of men, with the latter to be driven out or exterminated rather than integrated in an effectively capitalist exploitation. In short they behaved as the Zionists hoped to treat the Palestinians. But the defeat inflicted on the Boers by British imperialism gave them a new place and role in the system, invented by the British governors brought up on an interpretation of race and class inspired by an Oxbridge reading of Plato. Contrary also to a widespread prejudice, nurtured by these same British who set up the system but attributed paternity to the Boers, apartheid is not a 'remnant' in conflict with the needs of capitalist expansion, but rather in perfect harmony with this expansion. Bourgeois ideology seeks to justify the 'progressive' character of capitalism by pretending that equality before the law and electoral democracy are absolute imperatives of this mode of production. The reality suggests another interpretation stressing the qualitative difference between the centres and the peripheries in this overall capitalist expansion. If, in the centres, the struggles fought by the bourgeoisie against the absolutism of former regimes, followed by the struggles waged by the working class, have in fact imposed bourgeois democracy as we know it, in the periphery the roles assigned to the conquered peoples imposed gross forms of exploitation. Slavery in the Americas, apartheid in South Africa, colonization (and the negation of basic rights it comports) are necessary forms of capitalist expansion as it truly is, in contrast to the mythical view that bourgeois ideology attaches to it. If apartheid is under challenge nowadays in South Africa, it is not because this form is an obstacle to capitalist expansion, but because the struggles of its victims in the black people of South Africa are making it unworkable.

Dominant British imperialism constructed this complex system based on fundamental alliances between the interests of dominant mining monopoly capital and white settler colonialism, direct, semi-indirect or indirect British colonial rule according to regions. Belgian rule in the Congo and subordinate Portuguese rule in Angola and Mozambique. The place of the 'natives' in these alliances was virtually nil. A few kings and chiefs were involved with day to day issues of the 'reserves' in question (notably in Swaziland and Lesotho): there was no subordinate African bourgeoisie (not even in the rural areas), or embryo of a political bourgeoisie. From the end of 19th century to 1984 this system operated without a major crisis to challenge the dominant interests of monopoly capital. In fact, as British hegemony was already waning at the end of the 19th century it brought in North American capital into the venture from the start, as is evidenced by the establishment of Anglo-American institutions. Until the crisis of South Africa reached a decisive phase that is, until 1984 the United States had no need of active political intervention in the region. The British baton bearer until 1948, then the South African baton bearer, was enough to maintain 'order'. The gradual decline of British hegemony gave the Boers an opportunity to avenge their previous defeat. By breaking away from the mother country in 1948, white South Africa became the senior partner in the maintenance of order for the benefit of the overall imperialist strategy in the region. The attempt by Ian Smith to do similarly in Southern Rhodesia did not have the same capacity to succeed, for reasons we explained at the time.

The crumbling of British and Belgian colonialism did not mean the destruction of the overall system of imperialist domination in the region. The national liberation movements in the Belgian Congo, in British Southern Africa (the Rhodesias, Nyasaland, the enclave protectorates in South Africa) and East Africa (Tanganyika), similar to others in the continent, were in the end persuaded or obliged to respect essential 'western' interests. It is true that according to the class character of the alliance within these movements and the twists and turns of their political and ideological evolution, the range of post-colonial approaches and practices is broad, ranging from the avowed neo-colonialism of Malawi. Swaziland, Lesotho and Zaire, to the national efforts of Tanzania and Zambia. But the latter have remained vulnerable and frail.

The later collapse of Portuguese colonialism in 1974 and of the UDI regime in Rhodesia in 1980 have, however, taken the threat to imperialist interests to a higher level. Undoubtedly the West does not think it has definitely lost the battle in Angola or Mozambique. The internal limits to the nationalist systems newly in power have sometimes obliged them to respect the interest of monopoly capital (as with Angola's oil), and have, in any event, kept them within the system of dependent economic relations governing the capitalist world as a whole. The Soviet Union is neither able nor even willing to replace the Western partners in this respect. In Zimbabwe, the path to independence negotiated in the Lancaster House agreement has to say the least prolonged the survival of the former economic system, left virtually untouched in the rural areas (no land reform to redistribute settler land for the benefit of the peasantry) and in industrial areas (respect for the predominance of the interests of local private capital in association with worldwide capital). It is true that for political and historical reasons, and in consequence of the South African challenge (in Namibia in particular), the regimes in these three countries remain 'unreliable' in the eyes of the West. The West has regarded it as positive and useful - for it - that South Africa pursues its destabilizing military aggression against Angola and Mozambique since 1974 and against Zimbabwe since 1980. These aggressions are complemented on the economic level by the destabilizing aggression of the IMF acting for imperialism's global account and profiting from the -sometimes serious - weaknesses and errors of local policies. The results of this strategy, aimed at establishing overtly neo-colonial regimes, are unfortunately not disappointing for imperialism. Angola was obliged to appeal to Cuban military assistance, to face up to South African ventures, Mozambique to sign the Nkomati agreement, without this bringing security to the country, Zimbabwe to observe the Lancaster House spirit, Tanzania and Zambia to pass through the Caudine forks of the IMF. The 'Soviet presence' in the region, the rear bases for liberation in Namibia and South Africa (SWAPO, ANC, PAC), are pretexts rather than genuine reasons for the West's offensive strategy. The presence is a result - and not a cause - of the West's refusal to accept other than neo-colonial regimes in Africa and to face up to decolonization in Namibia and South Africa.

But things have changed since 1984. The heightened struggle of the people of South Africa raises the question of the region's future in new terms of an alternative: overall neo-colonialism for Southern Africa, or national and popular liberation.

On this we shall make six general points that seem useful to clarify the character of the issues and possible strategies.

One: what is in direct, immediate and violent crisis in South Africa is the political regime of apartheid and the denial it implies of any regard for the basic rights of the African majority population. Although with a substantial urban proletariat, the relations of exploitation specific to capitalism are potentially at stake in the crisis, the main thrust of the blow is the claim for majority political power (majority rule versus minority rule and apartheid). This characteristic of the movement is quite natural in the current circumstances.

Two: in such circumstances, if the struggle does not develop to the level of a real challenge to the relations of production, a neo-colonial solution remains possible, even in South Africa. After all, some kind of Lancaster House would be quite acceptable to the West. Of course, some of the white settler interests in South Africa would be sacrificed: but just as it was done at the time of the defeat of the Boers at the beginning of the century! It would be useless to go much further with 'pseudo-forecasting' of possible scenarios. The latter might, to the benefit of the Africans, include more or less major land reforms and more or less broad political representation, and to the benefit of the colonizers, more or less detailed and firm 'guarantees'. What is essential for imperialism is to preserve the capitalist relations of production in industry and the mines and the international 'specialization' of the region that flows from them.

We must carefully distinguish the too ready arguments that this outcome is totally 'impossible'. It is said there is no black bourgeoisie in South Africa, as apartheid has made its existence impossible. Granted: but in many African countries this was the case and nevertheless a political bourgeoisie has quickly been able to take up the role. South Africa's nuclear power excludes any agreement, it is said, as the West would never allow the weapon to fall into the hands of a black government. Has the possibility of dismantling the weapons capability been excluded, if such were necessary? South Africa is the sole supplier of strategic minerals, unless importers turn to the Soviet Union. Granted: but is the neo-colonial solution aimed precisely at ensuring the continuance of these supplies? A final argument: white power in South Africa enjoys an autonomy sufficient to allow it to refuse 'plans' that require unpalatable sacrifices. The analogy is often made with Israel, also able to cock a snook at the West, demand unconditional support or even dispense with it. We venture to doubt the strength of this argument. South Africa would have great difficulty in withstanding sanctions, even the merely economic, and the white regime would crumble even more quickly if they were enforced. The spread of the war within the country could even of itself bring about the collapse.

Three: it is useless nowadays to see opposition between the possible strategies of the various partners in the imperialist system, including the United States, the European community and Japan. Certainly, as Lenin realized and studied in his day, imperialism was a conflict of economic imperialisms (and even military, as the two world wars showed). But these inter-imperialist relations have evolved since the Second World War. They have apparently ruled out resort to inter-imperialist war. But they have led also to a new stage of global interpenetration of interests. The European community. United States and Japan, especially in the mining sector essential for the region, deploy fully integrated company and state strategies. The argument that the EEC, out of concern for its African friendships, might diverge from its US competitor ally does not hold water, as the surrender of neo-colonial regimes and the vulnerability of those which offer a challenge is such that the European interests may sleep easily.

Four: the neo-colonial outcome is no more inevitable that its opposite, the outcome of national liberation of a popular bent and socialist vocation. It will all depend on the strategies of the struggle waged in South Africa. If the strategies have the sole aim of 'majority rule' and actively seek negotiations on this basis, the neo-colonial compromise may be achieved sooner than is expected. But if the strategies are based on a deepening of social aims (that is, a struggle for workers" control over the means of production and a peasant war for reconquest of land), the outcome would certainly be very different. The historical responsibility of the avant gardes lies here.

Five: is it a struggle eventually to build socialism (on the best hypothesis of the development of the struggle), or one that on this hypothesis would lead only to a national and popular power with merely a socialist mission? We shall return to this point in Chapter 8.

Six: so long as national and popular construction is not embarked upon in South Africa and in the region, relations between the countries of the region will remain marked by the inequality inherent to capitalist expansion, both in their relations with imperialism and their relations with each other. Hence the overall neo-colonial solution entails the segmentation of local and regional ruling classes, leading to a conflict of their interests. A pseudo South African 'expansionism', as the channel for worldwide capitalist expansion, would then be a real possibility and probability. But does the national and popular solution remove this possibility? Here again a dogmatic and vulgar concept of a conjunction of all the popular interests is not an adequate analysis, the current conflicts between the (so-called socialist) nationalist and popular regimes, between the USSR and Eastern Europe, China and the USSR. China and Vietnam, are not the result of 'ideological deviations'. Their being of a particular character (as they are not conflicts produced by the unequal development of capitalism) does not mean they do not exist. The contradiction and hence its solution in various ways (co-operation or conflict) and in particular situations, governs the post-capitalist society just as it governs the pre-capitalist and capitalist societies.

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