Sudan 2023: a vivid illustration of the decomposition of capitalism

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The horror show of imperialist war unfolding in Sudan is a continuation and extension of the decomposition of capitalism, which has been visibly accelerating since the beginning of the 2020s[1]. It expresses the profound centrifugal tendency towards irrational and militaristic chaos that will affect more and more regions of the planet. Whatever the specifics of the two military gangs fighting in Sudan – and we look at these a bit closer below – the major culprit in this latest outbreak of war is the capitalist system and its representatives in the major powers: USA, China, Russia, Britain, followed by all the secondary powers active in Sudan: the UAE, Saudi, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Libya, etc.  Towards the end of last year, December 5, the British Foreign Office released a statement on the democratic future of Sudan which began thus: “Members of the Quad and Troika (Norway, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States) welcome the agreement of an initial political framework. This is an essential first step toward establishing a civilian-led government and defining constitutional arrangements to guide Sudan through a transitional period culminating in elections. We commend the parties’ efforts to garner support for this framework agreement from a broad range of Sudanese actors and their call for continued, inclusive dialogue on all issues of concern and cooperation to build the future of Sudan.”[2] Just weeks before heavy fighting broke out on April 8, the above “international partners” of Sudan were still talking about an “imminent return” to civilian rule and a democratic government involving the two main components of the Sudanese government: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fatah al-Burham and the Rapid Strike Force (RSF)[3] led by General Hamdam Dagalo aka “Hemediti”. It was abundantly clear just days after the fighting between these two Sudanese military factions began, that this “democracy” – just as anywhere else – is an illusion and all of the immediate options and longer-term perspectives for the population of Sudan and the surrounding region are going to go from bad to much worse This is exemplified in Sudan with its capital, the relatively peaceful and bustling Khartoum, previously spared the horrors around it and filled with refugees from the 2003 “Darfur conflict” (i.e., ethnic genocide[4]) onwards, is now being reduced to ruins in a matter of days. Lack of water, electricity, health services is accompanied by slaughter and rape from both sides of the ex-government forces.

The “inner disintegration” of capitalism

In 1919, the Communist International laid out its future perspectives for capitalism: "A new epoch is born! The epoch of the dissolution of capitalism, of its inner disintegration. The epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat[5]. The reality of this epoch of capitalism has been confirmed by over a century of ever-growing imperialist war, its only answer to its permanent economic crisis. We have now been through over 30 years in the final phase of this process of capitalist decadence, the phase of decomposition. And since the Covid pandemic and even more with the war in Ukraine we are seeing a tragic acceleration. The profound putrefaction of this mode of production can be today measured by a veritable spiral of destruction on a global scale, and in particular through the multiplication of wars and massacres (Ukraine, Myanmar, Yemen, Tigray...). In Sudan today we can see the breakdown of the “international community’s peace process”; of the Sudanese state and the military government of Sudan, immediately demonstrating a wider tendency for these agents of the major powers to function as unreliable, irrational elements that are first of all motivated by “look after number one”: this is demonstrated by the Russian Wagner Group[6] (active in Sudan, Chad and Libya under General Khalifa Haftar) which seems to be increasingly falling out with Moscow and taking on a dynamic of its own. And this tendency of each for themselves is further underlined by the fact that any one of the countries mentioned in the first paragraph is quite capable of taking their own unilateral actions that will further exacerbate the tendencies to further chaos in Sudan and the surrounding region.

“Save our nationals”... and the devil take the hindmost

Sudan was a British Crown Colony until 1956 when the US undermined the role of British imperialism in the wake of the Suez crisis As in many of its colonies the British had introduced the practice of divide and rule, using ethnic and geographic divisions in order to facilitate control. The long-term consequences of this policy could be seen in 2011 when the country was cut in half between an Arab-dominated North and an African South. Sudan, full of natural resources, is adjacent to the Red Sea, borders Egypt and Libya in north Africa; Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn; the east African state of South Sudan and the Central African states of Chad and the Central African Republic. It is thus a focus for all the regional and global imperialist rivalries which are being played out across Africa and the Middle East.

With the outbreak of the present conflict, the main concern of the hypocritical “partners” of Sudan was first to get their diplomats and then their nationals out of the country, burning and shredding evidence of their murderous culpability as they did so. Echoing capitalism’s “war of the vaccines” during the Covid-19 pandemic, we witnessed the scrabble of “each for themselves” as competitive “national interests” overrode any sort of co-operation; flights left half-empty because the necessary papers weren’t shown or they weren’t on the list of nationals of those controlling the flights. When other nationals were given places on evacuation procedures it was done as a cynical PR exercise or to gain some sordid diplomatic advantage. And what those fleeing powers left behind was a complete mess of their own making and a grim future for the region.

It’s pointless quoting numbers of casualties or the destruction caused because the “official” figures are increasing exponentially every few days: tens of thousands killed and seriously injured and millions of refugees and displaced, with around 15 million already living on the scraps of the aid agencies (themselves an integral part of imperialism and warfare) and acute malnourishment among pregnant women and children, according to a UN statement on April 11. Those nationals lucky enough to get back to were met with flags and jingoistic press headlines while the vast majority in Sudan have no way out of war and famine and are condemned to their misery by the same flag-waving national interests of the capitalist states that came to bring “democracy” to the country.

To add to the whole mess of Khartoum and beyond, around 20,000 prisoners have escaped or been let out of jail with some of these being convicted ex-government mass murderers and war criminals who, in their respective sides, will be welcomed back into the free-for-all at even more cost to the population and its forlorn hopes for any sort of “peace”. As well as staggering inflation, the organised looting of supplies, assaults and robberies by armed militias, the population has to deal with the ubiquitous and dangerous checkpoints that have sprung up on many streets. And to add to their emotional turmoil, cease-fires and truces are called one after the other making no difference whatsoever to the ongoing warfare[7].

The decomposition of capitalism guarantees the military free-for-all

The two major warlords, Generals Dagalo and Hemediti, the west’s “democratic partners” and Moscow’s “friends and allies”, are locked into a ferocious battle between each other with the SAF having the advantage of air power. It’s not a great advantage in this sort of war but if the battle is to continue both sides will need re-supplying with weaponry soon: will the Russians supply the RSF with anti-aircraft missiles or more through Wagner? Will Russian-backed Haftar of Libya step up the supplies and support he is and has been providing for the RSF? Will Saudi and Egypt get more involved in stepping up the ante with weaponry to the SAF, and are Abu Dhabi and Riyadh at loggerheads over the issue? And will the backers of the RSF in the UAE – who see the former as part of their wider plan for control over the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa – consolidate and strengthen their support? Could Britain and America get further involved through some of these vectors? Given the deep instability of the situation and all the players involved, there are too many uncertainties to make any sort of predictions - except that the war will continue and the overall framework of decomposing capitalism will ensure that it will become more extensive.

China is well involved in Sudan and in machinations with both factions of the army in order to maintain its “Belt and Road” thrust which has come to grief in neighbouring Ethiopia. The US is playing catch-up with China but President Biden has recently stepped up US military activity here with extra military resources deployed in order to “fight terrorism”. But there’s no doubt it has been flatfooted in its response and embarrassed with its and the UK’s assertion that we were days away from “civilian rule” in Sudan. Russia has also dealt with both factions of the army and both have talked favourably about a possible Russian port on the Red Sea. Both factions are open to a deal with Russia but the whole region now resembles a highly volatile can of worms.

The Sudanese evacuations are largely over to date and true to form the war is cynically relegated away from the headlines as the country sinks back into an even greater misery. Sudan is one example of capitalism’s dynamic and there are many others: dangerous imperialist fault-lines are opening up with military tensions rising in the Middle East, around ex-Yugoslavia and the Caucasus and generally over the globe as militarism is the main outlet left to the capitalist state. The war in Ukraine with its local and global effects rages on. In early April this year, Finland became the 31st country to join NATO and its 1300km border has doubled the front line with Russia. As it has done in other front-line states with Russia, NATO will be cautious at first and then build up its forces and weaponry along the border, forcing Russia to militarise its side.

The longer-term perspective for imperialism is the growing confrontation with China being prepared by the United States, but there are uncertainties and variables here also. In the meantime capitalism sinks into irrational war and barbarity and Sudan is one more example of its “inner disintegration”.

Baboon, 3.5.2023


[3] The RSF has its roots in the dreaded Jangaweed militia, an Arab-based killing and raping military machine that became part of the Sudanese government after the ousting of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The Jangaweed was a product of imperialism in the 1980’s and was integrated into Sudan’s government under its intelligence services with the support of the west.

[4] It is very likely that this “ethnic cleansing” element – a growing factor of decomposing capitalism everywhere – will again resume with full force in Darfur where it hasn’t really stopped for years.

[6] The Russian Wagner Group has dealt directly with both Sudanese military factions, reportedly since 2018, and has been active around the Port of Sudan with British intelligence stating that it is a “big hub” for them (quoted in The Eye newspaper, April 29); also that the Group is aiming “to establish a ‘confederation’ of anti-Western states”. Apart from some training and activity in Sudan and around the region, and its close involvement with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of Libya, the Group has also been involved, through its “M Invest, Meroe Gold” front established by Moscow and the Sudanese dictator Bashir, in sending volumes of the precious metal out of the country.

[7] During the war in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990, thousands of cease-fires were called and ignored. Lebanon was something of a “template” for the onset of capitalist decomposition and the appearance of “failed states”. To date Lebanon has been joined by Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and now Sudan (with Pakistan not far above the relegation zone). These regions have virtually no possibility of any effective reconstruction under capitalism.



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