Rwanda, Yemen, Bosnia, Korea: Behind the false ‘peace’, capitalist barbarism

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Behind the banners of 'peace', 'civilization' and 'democracy', the greatest military powers of the world have just celebrated with all due pomp the anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy. The festivities organized for the occasion, the repulsive live shows enacted at the very scene of the butchery fifty years ago, the sonorous congratulations and hymns to their own glory exchanged by the most powerful heads of state on the planet - all this was the subject of a vast media operation on a world scale. The message was put across very clearly: "we, the great industrialized states and our democratic institutions are the heirs of the liberators who freed Europe from that incarnation of evil, the Nazi regime. Today as yesterday, we are the guardians of civilization, peace and humanity against oppression, terror, barbarism and chaos".

These people want us to believe that today, like yesterday, barbarism is the fault of ... someone else. The old lie that the 1939-45 butchery, its 50 million dead, its train of atrocities and suffering, was all the fault of the barbaric madness of Hitler and not of capitalism as a whole, not of the sordid imperialist interests of all the camps involved. We have been sold this lie for half a century, in the hope that a lie repeated a thousand times will become a truth. And if it's all served up to us again now, it's with the aim of once again excusing capitalism, and in particular the great 'democratic' powers, from the responsibility of the massacres, wars, genocides and growing chaos ravaging the planet today.

Half a million people involved in the operation, the most gigantic military expedition of all time, a frightful slaughter which, in the space of a few hours, left tens of thousands of corpses on the ground. This is what, in the name of 'peace', the crowned heads and presidents of the 'international community' celebrated this June 6 1994. Gathering hypocritically in front of the rows of white crosses, upon which are inscribed the ages of these children they call 'heroes' - 16, 18, 20 years old - the only true emotion this crowd felt was regret for the loss of the good old days of fifty years ago, when the working class was defeated and was ready to supply such abundant cannon-fodder (see the article '50 years of imperialist lies ' in this issue).

All of them, Clinton, Major, Mitterand and the rest, go on and on about peace. They did the same thing five years ago, when the Berlin wall fell. And it was in the name of peace that this same 'international community', a few months later, unleashed 'Desert Storm' on Iraq, with its tens of thousands of victims. They told us that out of this unspeakable butchery a 'new world order' would arise. Since then, it's again been in the name of peace and civilization that they've made their presence felt in Yugoslavia, in Africa, in the countries of the former USSR, in the Middle East and the Far East. The more these regions have been ravaged by war, the more the great powers set themselves up as defenders of peace, the more active they have become in all these conflicts, in order to defend the only 'just cause' that any capitalist state knows about: its own imperialist interests.

There can be no peace under capitalism. The end of the Second World War may have pushed war away from Europe and the most developed countries, but it only displaced it towards the periphery of the system. For 50 years, the imperialist powers large and small have not ceased confronting each other through local conflicts. For decades, these incessant local wars were moments in the rivalry between the two great imperialist blocs over the division of the world. The collapse of the eastern bloc and, as a result, the break-up of the western bloc as well, far from putting an end to the war-like and imperialist reality of capitalism, was the signal for it to intensify without limits.

In a world now ruled by the principle of every man for himself, yesterday's allies are fighting over spheres of influence all over the planet. The celebrations of D-Day, where the most powerful states got together to congratulate each other on having chased war away from Europe 50 years ago, took place at the very time that war has returned to this continent, to Yugoslavia - and it is a war that has been nourished actively by the rivalries between the great 'civilized' states.

No, the military chaos ravaging the planet today can't be explained away as the simple result of the return of 'ancestral hatreds' between backward populations - another version of the argument that barbarism is always someone else's fault. Everywhere it is being fed, sharpened, kept up, when it's not provoked outright, by the imperialist rivalries and ambitions of the very same states who give us such fine speeches about their humanitarian, peaceful and civilized intentions.

Rwanda: rivalries between France and America are responsible for the horror

A terrifying bloodbath. Entire populations coldly murdered with machetes and nailed clubs, children slaughtered in their cots, families hunted by hordes of killers to their last places of refuge and savagely massacred. The country transformed into a vast charnel-house and Lake Victoria polluted by thousands of rotting corpses. The number of victims? At least half a million, no doubt more. The scale of the genocide is not known. Never in history has there been such an exodus, in such a short time, of populations blindly fleeing from massacres.

The way the 'democratic' bourgeois media has portrayed this holocaust has been designed to get across this message: "look at the horrors that are the result of the ancestral racial hatreds that divide the backward populations of 'savage' Africa. In the face of all this the civilized states are powerless. But you should be glad to live in democratic countries which are shielded from such chaos. The day-to-day reality of poverty and unemployment that you have to put up with is a paradise compared to the massacres these populations are subjected to".

The lie is all the bigger, this time around, in that the so-called ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis was directly created by the imperialist powers in the period of colonization. At that time Hutus and Tutsis corresponded much less to 'ethnic' criteria than to social castes. The Tutsis were the reigning feudal caste who initially had the support of the colonial powers. Inheriting the Rwandan colony when the German empire was carved up by the victors of the First World War, it was Belgium who introduced the reference to people's ethnic group on their identity cards, sharpening the hatred between the two castes in order to gain support from the Tutsi monarchy.

In 1959, Belgium made an about-face and supported the Hutu majority which had taken power. The famous 'ethnic' identity card was maintained and so was discrimination between Tutsis and Hutus in the various spheres of social life.

Several hundred thousand Tutsis fled the country and wound up in Burundi or Uganda. In the latter country they were to be a recruiting base for the clique around the current President Museveni, who took power in Kampala with their support in 1986. In return, the new Ugandan regime gave arms and aid to the Tutsi guerillas, leading to the formation of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) which entered into Rwanda in October 1990.

In the meantime, Belgian imperialism's control over Kigali was replaced by France. The latter gave unstinting military and economic support to Habyarimana's Hutu regime, which imposed a reign of terror on the country and reinforced ethnic resentments against the Tutsis. It was thanks to the support of French imperialism which armed it and sent military reinforcements to help it that the regime was able to check the advances made by the RPF, which was discretely supported by the US, via Uganda which armed it and trained it.

From there the civil war took off, anti-Tutsi pogroms multiplied at the same time as those carried out by the RPF against all those suspected of 'collaborating' with the regime. In the name of 'protecting the innocent' Paris has sent in an expeditionary force. In reality the French state is simply defending its position against the offensive of the USA, which since the collapse of the eastern bloc has been trying to deprive France of its spheres of influence in Africa. The RPF guerillas are the spearhead of an American offensive aimed at bringing down the pro-French regime in Kigali.

In order to save the regime, France set out a 'peace' plan in August 93, comprising a more 'democratic' constitution, transferring some power to the Tutsi minority as well as the various opposition cliques.

This plan proved to be unrealizable. Not because 'ancestral hatreds' were too strong, but quite simply because the imperialist maneuvers and strategic calculations of the great powers could not accommodate it. On the very eve of the inauguration of the new constitution, the Rwandan and Burundi presidents were assassinated, burying the plan and unleashing the bloodbath.

The recent revelations in the Belgian press (Belgium has its own reasons for doing down its French rival in Africa) directly implicated French military elements in the 6 April assassination, suggesting that Paris could well have ordered the killings in the hope that, by pointing a finger at the RPF rebels, it would give the government army all the justifications it needed to put an end to the Tutsi rebellion. If that was the case, reality went beyond all its hopes. But it matters little which of the two cliques, the government or the RPF, and behind them France or the USA, had the greater interest in elevating the Rwanda conflict from simmering guerrilla war to all-out war. The very logic of capital pushes it in that direction: 'peace' is no more than a myth in capitalism, at best a pause during which new conflicts are being prepared. In the last instance war remains capitalism's only way of life, its only way of resolving its contradictions.

Today the sorcerers' apprentices are making a show of emotion about the scale of the conflagration they themselves have lit. However, for months all these good people allowed the massacre to go on while deploring the "impotence of the UN". The decision adopted by the UN Security Council in mid-May - more than a month after the war had begun and 500,000 were already dead! - to send 5,000 men in under the aegis of UNIMAR, wasn't even supposed to be carried through until July! Even if certain African states in the region have declared that they are ready to supply troops, among the great powers, who are charged with supplying equipment and finances, sloth and apathy have reigned, leading one UNIMAR official to protest: "it's as if we had become totally unfeeling, as though we were indifferent to all this". To which the diplomats of the Security Council replied: "in any case, most of the massacres are over, we have to wait and see what happens next". The other UN resolutions, which are supposed to stop war supplies through Uganda and Zaire, have had no more effect. And quite understandably so: we've see the same 'impotence' in Bosnia. It merely reflects the divergence of imperialist interests between those who present themselves as the 'forces of peace'.

The military-humanitarian pose was adopted most stridently by the French government in June, after a cease-fire was immediately violated. "We can't tolerate this anymore" claimed the French minister for Foreign Affairs, proposing an intervention "in the framework of the UN" but on condition that the operation should be under French command. The initiative immediately provoked the reaction of RPF representatives who said indignantly that "France can't stop the genocide that it has helped set in motion". As for the other big powers, they are doing all they can to hamstring the French, particularly the USA. First because if France aims to take charge of the operation, it's in order to conserve its role as the dominant power in the country, to put all its weight behind stopping the RPF's advance. Second because the USA, for their part, are not only supporting the RPF on the ground, but also want to make it clear that no one else except themselves can take on the job of gendarme. This is what really lies behind this new outbreak of 'humanitarian' posturing; it's got nothing at all to do with the fate of the massacred population.

Yemen: the strategic calculations of the great powers

Born out of the  reunification of the two Yemens four years ago - in the euphoria created by the collapse of the eastern bloc, which suddenly left Aden and its one-party YSP regime without a backer - the newly unified Yemeni republic hasn't lasted long. The secession by the south and the renewed military conflict between the two parts of the country is yet another demonstration of what the 'new world order' really means: a world of instability and chaos, of states being torn to shreds by the pressure of social decomposition. But as in Rwanda or Bosnia, the chaos has been nourished and fed by the imperialist powers of the region and beyond, who are still trying to pull irons out of the fire for their own benefit.

Regionally the Yemen conflict has been fuelled on one side by Saudi Arabia, which reproaches the Islamic factions in the north for being too sympathetic to their menacing neighbor Iraq and to the regime in Sudan. It's Saudi, and behind it its powerful ally America, who has thus supported the secessionist clique in Aden with the aim of weakening the pro-Iraqi factions. On the other side, by supporting the northern offensive, Khartoum is defending its regional imperialist influence, in particular against its local rival Egypt, another American stronghold.

The stakes of this struggle are none other than control of the eminently strategic position of the port of Aden, which faces the French stronghold in Djibouti. And who is behind the military-Islamic Sudanese regime? As it happens, it's discretely backed by France which is seeking to counter the US offensive in Somalia which has threatened its position in Djibouti.

The hidden warfare between the great powers, particularly the US and France, in Africa and the Middle East, has led to this sordid reality which has seen France denouncing Islamic obscurantism in Algeria, where it is destabilizing its own sphere of influence with the blessing of the USA which is supporting the FIS more or less openly; at the same time we have seen the USA denouncing Islamic fundamentalism when it goes against its interests in Arabia, while France, forgetting its anti-clerical soul, finds militant Islam rather to its taste when it helps it to defend its imperialist interests at the entrance to the Red Sea. Yet another ideological justification which has collapsed in the face of the squalid reality of imperialism.

Bosnia: 'peaceful' missions fuel the war

The same cynicism, the same great power duplicity has been revealed in the war in Bosnia (see the article 'The great imperialist powers foment war' in International Review 77). The recent evolution of the diplomatic-military imbroglio between the great powers, as the massacres continue unabated, has given the lie to all their 'humanitarian' pretenses, which are just a cover for using the Serbian, Croatian and Muslim populations to advance their imperialist designs.

The Bosnian theatre, which for a long time has been a favorite hunting ground of the various European powers, has today become one of the cornerstones of the American offensive. With the NATO ultimatum and the threat of air attacks on Serb forces, Washington managed to regain the initiative in a very convincing manner, to slap down Russia's new pretensions in the region and to expose the total impotence of Britain and France, who have had to accept the American intervention that they have up till now rejected and sabotaged with all means at their disposal. And the USA has made further advances by overseeing the creation of the Croat-Muslim Federation. All of a sudden Germany's intention to use Croatia as a springboard to the Mediterranean has been kicked into touch. Here again, all these grand military-diplomatic maneuvers have nothing at all to do with 'the return to peace'.

As we said in our previous issue, "the Croatian-Muslim alliance which the USA is overseeing - if it does get realized - will take the confrontation with Serbia onto another level. The European powers which have just received a slap in the face won't hesitate to throw oil onto the fire". The vote of the American senate for lifting the embargo on arms supplies to the Bosnians - which received unexpected support from a handful of French armchair diehard intellectuals - can only encourage the Bosnian army, which has already been armed by the American bourgeoisie, to resume its military offensive. And the massacres won't be halted by the European plan for the partition of Bosnia, which is totally unacceptable to the Muslims, and to which the White House, in apparent disagreement with Congress, has pretended to support. Its predictable failure, and Washington's support for the new Croat-Muslim anti-Serb front, will make the widening of the war inevitable.

The butchery which has now been raging in ex-Yugoslavia for three years now is not about to end. It is potent proof of how the wars and chaos born out of the decomposition of capitalism are aggravated by the big imperialist powers. And also that, in the name of 'humanitarian intervention', the only alternative they can propose is either to bomb the Serb forces or arm the Bosnians. In other words, faced with the war and chaos provoked by the decomposition of the capitalist system, the most powerful and industrialized nations can only respond by adding more war.

Korea: towards new military clashes

While areas of conflict proliferate, another one is smoldering around North Korea, which is seeking to equip itself with a nuclear arsenal. The reaction of the USA, which has threatened Pyongyang with an escalating series of sanctions, has once again been presented to us as the attitude of a responsible and 'civilized' power concerned to stop the arms race and defend the peace. In fact this 'major crisis' is very similar to the USA's showdown with Iraq four years ago, which ended with the butchery of the Gulf war. And, as then, the pretensions of North Korea (which is already one of the most militarized countries in the world, with a million-strong army), its ambition to add nuclear weapons to an already huge arsenal, are basically just a pretext.

Behind the 'Korean crisis' and the media intoxication about Pyongyang's aggressive intentions towards its southern neighbor, we can see the USA reacting to the threats to its hegemony, to its status as world cop, posed by the alliance being formed between the two giants of the region: China and Japan. In threatening to go "as far as it takes", America's real targets are not Pyongyang but the former two countries. All this is part of the White House's pressure on China, which on the one hand is holding out the carrot of "Most Favored Nation" status, and on the other hand the stick, via its threats against its little North Korean protégé.

The aim behind deliberately raising the tension with North Korea is to force China and Japan to range themselves behind the USA, to oblige Beijing to break solidarity with Pyongyang, cut through the Sino-Japanese axis and stamp on any pretensions towards political independent these countries might have. Exactly the same as in the Gulf crisis, when the USA even provoked the crisis by encouraging Saddam Hussein's ambitions towards Kuwait, with the sole aim of forcing the European powers to line up behind the USA and, contrary to their own interests in the Middle East, to make an act of allegiance to America's military power. The operation was a great success then. The imperialist ambitions of the USA's European rivals were for a while smothered, at the cost of a revolting butchery.

Whether or not the USA goes all the way this time, repeating its bloody 'exploit', whether or not it unleashes its enormous military machine with the aim of bringing the Asian powers to heal, this new crisis shows the future that capitalism is preparing for us.

Capitalism is war

The ceremonies commemorating D-Day also had the aim of reminding everyone that it is the USA which lays down the law in 1994, just as it did in 1944. The slap in the face given to the Germans, who were visibly excluded from the festivities, was intended to remind it who lost the Second World War and to make it understand that it would not be a good idea to try to obtain a new status in the world imperialist balance of forces. The even more striking absence of Russia - which did not fail to protest against the fact that its participation in the victory of 1945 was being 'forgotten', as were the millions of proletarians it sacrificed on the altar of the world butchery - was also aimed at repudiating Moscow's ambition to regain a place among the leading powers of the world. As for the hypocritical speechifying of those who were invited, proclaiming their common concern to act 'for peace', all this cannot really hide the sordid reality of the confrontations between them all over the planet.

There will be no pause in the acceleration and spread of military conflicts. Since its birth, war has been part of capitalism's history. In the period of its decay, it has become the system's permanent way of life. The bourgeoisie wants us to believe that all this is inevitable, that there's nothing we can do except rely on the good intentions of the great powers and their efforts to limit the most devastating effects of all this. Nothing could be more false. As we have just seen, the great powers are the world's main warmongers. And for a very simple reason: this war-like chaos, this militarist folly has its roots in the accelerating downfall of the capitalist economy.

The answer is in the hands of the proletariat

Turn over this coin of the war and barbarism spreading all over the underdeveloped countries, and you will find the poverty and mass unemployment that are growing throughout the big industrialized countries. Permanent war and catastrophic economic crisis are both expressions of the same bankruptcy of the capitalist system. Capitalism is not only incapable of doing away with these scourges; as it rots on its feet, it can only offer more poverty, more unemployment, more wars.

There is an alternative to the frightful future that capitalism promises us. It is in the hands of the international working class and it alone. It is above all up to the workers in the great industrialized countries, who are being hit full tilt by the dramatic consequences of the crisis of the system, to develop this alternative by struggling on their class terrain in the most resolute, united, and conscious manner possible.

Against the feelings of powerlessness that the ruling class wants to inject it with, against its attempts to pull it behind its military adventures, the working class must respond by developing its class response to the attacks of capital. This is the only possible response to the barbarism of the system, because only the working class has the capacity to destroy capitalism before its murderous logic leads to the destruction of humanity. The future of the human species is in the hands of the proletariat.

PE, 19.6.94


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