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SPGB Socialist Opposition To War - War in Mali

War in Mali

Following on fast from its military intervention in Libya, the French have entered into Mali with 2,500 troops in an attempt to push Islamist rebels back into the desert wasteland to the North of the Country in order to protect its raw resource, trade route and strategic interests in the region.

Why the political adventurism?

First there are the gold mines and mineral deposits to be found in Mali, some of which have already been mined.

Second, there is the increasing competition with China in the continent of Africa for uranium and oil supplies for their respective economies.

Third, Mali is a key country in the middle of West Africa, and is an important route to Niger, the main supplier of uranium for French nuclear power plants; French nuclear energy firm Areva mined 100,000 tons of uranium since 1968 in neighboring Niger and plans to open the world’s second-largest uranium mine there in 2014.

And the fourth, and perhaps more important reason for French capitalism and the West generally is securing the potential strategic transport route for Sub-Saharan oil and gas exports through to the West where there is also the possibility of a connection from the Taoudeni basin to European markets through Algeria and its coastal ports. Algiers has five strategic coastal ports the main one being at port Algiers.


The problem for Western capitalism is not only the aggressive competition in the region from countries like China and Russia but also from the hostile terrain in which Western capitalist companies have to mine and drill. The principle function of capitalist governments is to protect the private ownership of the means of production and distribution. And when it comes to the protection or plunder of raw resources, trade routes and strategic points of influence then military action is a considered option.

The use of the armed forces to protect the strategic interests of a capitalist country is entered into whether the government is avowedly capitalist or claims to be “Socialist” as in the case of President Hollande’s “Socialist” Party. Capitalist governments will use military force to further the interests of the capitalist class no matter what the government calls itself and the excuses it gives to the working class to justify this military action; “war on terrorism”, “Democracy” and so on.

And neighbouring Algeria has recently demonstrated the very real vulnerability that can occur to gas and oil production. At stake are billions of dollars in the wider Maghreb and West Africa region in which dozens of Western companies operate and now need security from potential threats to their commercial interests.

The Islamic terrorist attack on the Amenas gas facility in the remote South Eastern part of the country in January 2013 has meant further military intervention in the region is unavoidable; whether it be military action taken by one country alone like France or from a combination of NATO countries like in the case of Libya.

Continued conflict and war in the region is likely for decades to come; a point David Cameron underlined to the House of Commons shortly after committing British support to France. Micro wars appear to be how war is to be fought in the 21st century although the increasing clash of interests in the Pacific area between the US and China might lead to even a greater conflict. History might just repeat itself; the rush to Africa in the late 19th century set a path to the First World War while the struggle over trade routes and access to raw materials set in train which led the conflict in 1942 between the US and Japan during the Second World War.

Raw resources like oil and gas are a constant problem for capitalist countries and the reason for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The continent of Africa is no different. As Fadel Gheit, a senior energy analyst at the New York City – based investment Oppenheimer & Co remarked:

“Oil companies will have to factor in completely different security measures. These facilities are absolutely naked”

And it will fall on companies to either hire mercenary security guards – a huge and growing industry in its own rights as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan where it is currently worth £6 billion - or the oil industry will have to be protected by continuous State intervention from the respective governments of oil, gas and mineral companies working in the region.

None of this comes as a surprise to Socialists.

Capitalism is divided up into competing nation states over the struggle for raw resources, securing strategic points of influence and the protection of trade routes.

What of the capitalist left huddling under the tattered umbrella of the “Stop the War Coalition”. They do not know who to support. They do not know whether to support the Islamists or someone else so long as it is not the US and its allies. At an International Conference “Confronting War Today”, speaker after speaker from the Stop the War Coalition gave angry speeches about the iniquity of President Obama, David Cameron and President Hollande. There was plenty of moral outrage but no Socialist analysis of war and the cause of war. And nor was there any discussion on what practical Socialist political action was needed to actually stop war. Given that the main speakers were Tariq Ali and Tony Benn it is hardly surprising.

While the capitalist Left decide who to support in the conflict in Mali, Socialists take no sides in the periodic conflicts which afflict world capitalism. We do not give support to one capitalist class, say Israel, against a potential capitalist in Palestine just as we do not give support to one capitalist government against a potential ruling class who happen to have embedded themselves within Islamic terrorist groups in the region.

Instead Socialists call on the working class to recognise capitalism as the cause of conflict and war. War is caused by capitalism and national rivalry. The working class has no interest in war or engaging in war on behalf of their employers. As Marx rightly said “workers have no country”. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a long history of opposing all war on the ground of class. We have constantly told the working class that the only way of preventing war is to abolish capitalism and establish Socialism.

And such recognition by a working class majority can only lead to a conscious and political socialist movement to abolish capitalism and commodity exchange for profit and replaced with common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society in which production just takes place to meet human need.

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