A full analysis of France’s imperialist invasion of Mali requires a look at the relations among the different peoples of this West African country and the history of their struggles. It also involves the contradictions among the imperialist powers for hegemony in Africa and the world.
But sometimes you can see clearest by looking from a distance.
Step back far enough to see the Berlin Conference on Africa of 1884. Then 14 European states met to organize the seizure of Africa’s wealth while reducing the fighting among themselves. Most of Africa went to the biggest colonialists — France and Britain — and the rest to Portugal, Italy, Germany and Belgium.
French colonialism wound up exploiting 1.8 million square miles of territory in West Africa alone, including Mali and Algeria, or about nine times the area of European France. Starting in the 1950s, most of these countries either fought to win independence or gained at least nominal independence from France. Many wound up in the French West African trading bloc and used a currency tied first to the French franc and then to the euro.
Now the former colonialists want to revert back to direct rule.
The current intervention is French imperialism’s attempt to directly control Mali and its abundant natural resources, rather than depend on an unstable Malian government. At stake are deposits of gold, various ores, oil, gas and, most essential for France’s power needs, uranium.
U.S. imperialism now plays a major role in Africa, as in the rest of the world, due to the Pentagon’s overwhelming destructive power. It and Britain, Germany and other NATO imperialist states, despite their competition, have joined to try to reconquer the former colonial world now that there is no longer a Soviet Union to counter them.
French President François Hollande’s claim that the intervention is to help the Malian people is a lie. This is the “humanitarian” pretext.
The imperialists’ claim that they are waging a war on al-Qaida is equally a lie. This is the “fear” pretext for intervention.
The truth is that the imperialists have manipulated and used the al-Qaida-type groups both to destroy independent states and as a pretext for war.
In the 1980s, Washington used Osama Bin Laden himself to destroy the progressive government in Afghanistan, covertly paying for every murder of women teachers and students. NATO used similar reactionary groups against Libya in 2011 and now against Syria.
The same groups, heavily armed from their fight against Moammar Gadhafi, moved into Mali. Switching gears, the imperialists cynically expose these groups’ backward positions on all social issues to demonize anyone fighting imperialist intervention and to justify the French intervention.
It is also the U.S.-backed French invasion of Mali that is responsible for causing the tragic deaths of dozens of workers in Algeria this week. Without the invasion these workers would have been left alone. These deaths, too, are another imperialist crime.
Every workers’ organization, every progressive should oppose the French offensive. It is past time to take this struggle into the streets. French, U.S. and all imperialist hands off Mali!