Consider the many wars and conflicts in Africa, which is poorly covered in the bosses’ media and not well understood by many readers. The bosses’ racism obscures the significance of Africa in the inter-imperialist imperialist world-system. Its huge labor force has scarcely begun to be exploited by industrial capitalists, even in Nigeria and South Africa. It is rich in oil, minerals, and agricultural resources. And with more capitalist development it is potentially a huge untapped market, as the Chinese and Indian bosses, now moving into Africa in a big way, well know. But the main effect of inter-imperialist rivalry in Africa has been to fuel and manipulate its many devastating wars.

Imperialists lust after African Wealth and Labor

African oil (Algeria, Sudan, and the Atlantic oil states such as Nigeria and Angola) is increasingly vital to imperialists old and new. The Horn of Africa is strategically located by the Middle East oil routes. In that region, the U.S. backed its ally Ethiopia in the invasion and occupation of Somalia and may join imperialist navies to combat pirates in that area. Ominously, the U.S. military has also just formed AFRICOM, a special military command for the whole of Africa. The French lend their African military bases to AFRICOM, in Djibouti, in Gabon, in Senegal, since the U.S. has no African bases of its own as yet. From the Djibouti base on the Red Sea U.S. naval vessels launch missile strikes into Somalia in the name of the war on terror. At the same moment as AFRICOM is active in the Horn and France in Chad and Sudan, China sends military supplies to the Sudanese ruling party and Zimbabwe’s dictator Mugabe. Beating the U.S. to the punch, China’s military is also supplying the Nigerian ruling class with patrol boats to try to clear rebels from the oil fields in the Niger delta. When rebels based in Darfur almost overran Ndjamena in 2008 the capital of another oil state, Chad, the Chadian regime was aided by the resident French military. A few months later the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (allied to Chad) sent a fighting force all the way to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the battle there resulting in 200 dead. We will eventually find out, in the rebel attacks on Ndjamena and Khartoum, what role the U.S., France, and China played—on opposing sides. This is the prevailing pattern of inter-imperialist rivalry in Africa.

The Congo

Instability of this type is also endemic in Congo, "Africa’s world war," where forces from many African states have been involved for years in a fight over the strategic minerals in the east, a war leaving no fewer than 4 million dead. Rwanda, Uganda, and Angola have all intervened in Congo, each of them allied with one imperialist or another—Rwanda and Uganda with the U.S., Angola leaning to France (and recently China). Even Kenya, a U.S. ally planned as the stable center in East Africa of U.S. "humanitarian imperialism," erupted in serious civil strife when two presidential candidates clashed and the U.S. became unsure of their loyalties. In all this, Africa, racked by war and famine, unemployment and displacement, is a clear case of how capitalism has failed workers. Because of that and their great tradition of struggle, which ended colonialism and smashed apartheid, African workers will eventually lead us all closer to the day when "the international working class will be the human race."

Darfur: China, U.S., Local Capitalists, and Oil

Consider Sudan as a case study. How is the carnage in Darfur linked to inter-imperialist rivalry? Even asking that question puts us on the right track for understanding Darfur. If the Save Darfur movement aimed to save Darfurian workers from imperialism, it would be a different movement. In fact, we argue that any given crisis like Darfur (or like New Orleans, Myanmar, the Sichuan earthquake, Sri Lanka, and Nepal) has to be traced back to the imperialists’ policies in that area. Local factors are at work too, as rival African capitalists maneuver for their own benefit in an imperialist world system and workers and farmers battle for their own interests against both imperialists and local capitalists. But we need to become skilled at seeing the imperialist hand in the terrible conflicts raging in Sudan, Somalia, and Congo. Certainly the media obscure it, serving U.S. and French interests by presenting Darfur as an "Arab" genocide against "Africans." Darfur is a terrible example of capitalist brutality, but what it is really a civil war between rival Sudanese capitalists looking to exploit oil wealth, in the context of Chinese and U.S. rivalry over that oil. It continues the half-century of civil war between the central Khartoum-based Islamic capitalists and rivals in the peripheral areas, first the South, now the West. There is a new flare-up of fighting between the Khartoum rulers, allied increasingly with China, and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, backed by the U.S., in the oil region of Abyei. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between northern and southern capitalists threatens to unravel over Abyei, and Darfur only complicates it further.

The imperialist hand in Sudan is plain to see. China is the largest owner in the Sudan oil consortium and buys over half Sudan’s oil output, as well as building pipelines and oil port facilities and supplying bank loans and weapons. The Save Darfur movement targeted China’s Olympics over this. It is true that China is complicit in the slaughter in Darfur and Abyei, but the U.S. bosses’ interest is not to save Sudanese workers from China but to replace China in exploiting them! There is no direct U.S. military presence in Sudan—yet. If the north-south war resumes, we will see if AFRICOM enters on the side of the SPLM. Concerning Darfur, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, Susan Rice, now Barack Obama’s UN ambassador, once called for U.S. bombing of Sudan military sites and an embargo on its Red Sea oil port, Port Sudan. This strategic port is another reason the U.S. wants to displace China there.

Other African examples show the shifting sands of inter-imperialist rivalry in Africa. In South Africa, where industrial capitalism is most advanced on the continent, the U.S. is losing its sphere of influence. South Africa opposes the U.S. diplomatically and welcomes Chinese and Indian imperialist banks, steel, and auto bosses who see South Africa as their springboard into the rest of Africa. In Zimbabwe, the outcry against Mugabe may be justified, but also expresses the U.S./UK wish to replace him with a more compliant regime for their exploitative purposes. When Durban dockers refused to unload Chinese weapons destined for Mugabe, they were acting in international solidarity. But they were also falling in line with U.S. anti-Mugabe and anti-China maneuvering. It’s a complex world! In Nigeria, pro U.S. analyst Stephen Morrison proclaims: "The Chinese are very competitive players and we have to come to terms with that. They are going to places that really do matter." The U.S./China conflict is sharpening all over Africa.

The Only Solution Is Revolution, and Power to the Working Class!

Workers must understand the world in order to change it and to run it. We all have a lot to learn. We will do it together, across all the bosses’ borders. The more workers we win now—all over the world—to study these communist ideas, to unite with PLP in class struggles over everything that affects our lives, and to join the Party and become communist organizers, the closer we bring the day when we can actually begin to construct a new society out of the ashes of the old. We see that old world heading for ruin now the bosses are riding high, with no significant communist movement to challenge them. In time workers will see what that means for us, and when the Party turns that vision into organization, a communist world will again be ours to win.

Contact the Progressive Labor Party at,

PO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202