From Ukraine to the Sahel: the wars of imperialism are not workers’ wars

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 7, 2023

The war in the Sahel is likely to escalate if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS - a coalition of the countries bordering on Niger) uses military force against the general who led the coup there. The region’s poorer classes will suffer the ravages of new armed gangs and there will be an exacerbation of the existing divisions that are based on ethnicity or nationality.

The tensions in Africa, just like all conflicts and rivalries around the world, are heating up with the climate of war being spread by imperialist world leaders to guarantee the dominance of their capitalists and to stop their Russian and Chinese rivals from growing stronger.

The war opposing the US and Russia has been taking place on European soil for the last eighteen months. It has been claiming the lives of the Ukrainian and Russian populations. This so-called “high intensity” war is affecting millions of people, destroying cities, grain reserves and dams. Tens of thousands of soldiers are being killed. Deadly twenty-first-century technology is being added to trench warfare resembling that of the First World War.

More and more, this war is pitting two opposing sides against each other on a worldwide scale. In Niger, for example, French government officials and journalists accused Moscow as soon as the first anti-France demonstrations broke out.

As if the people of Niger didn’t have every reason to reject France’s presence there! As if France and its imperialist rivals hadn’t drawn arbitrary borders in the Sahel, exploited the inhabitants there, shamelessly plundered all the mining resources while leaving the countries in a state of underdevelopment. We can only share the indignation of one demonstrator who said: “They’ve been mining our uranium for years, and we have no electricity”.

The putschists are taking advantage of this legitimate anger, but they don’t represent the interests of the laboring classes. Putin is using it to pose, quite wrongly, as an anti-imperialist champion and to send in Wagner mercenaries. But when Macron and his army generals allude to Russia’s presence in Niger it’s so that we close ranks and stand behind them. We mustn’t fall for this.

By using the Russian threat and by encouraging the intervention of ECOWAS, the imperialist leaders want to make neighboring countries take a stand and follow their lead. They are putting the same pressure on every country in the world against China and Russia.

The leaders of the great world powers speak of freedom and defending democracy but they are preparing a more wide-ranging war.

They are preparing for it technically by testing their deadly arsenal on a large scale and by inventing new devices no matter how costly they are. They are increasing military budgets everywhere which couldn’t make Dassault, Thales and other industrialists happier as their profits soar. A German arms dealer, for example, was overjoyed by the fact that “the major changes in order and security around the world” are opening up “a situation offering great opportunities”!

Even before the war becomes more widespread, laboring classes around the globe are paying the price. Speculation is rampant because trade routes have completely changed due to fighting and embargoes which are causing prices to soar and leading to shortages and famine. Billions are being spent on missiles and warplanes while thousands of beds are closed in hospitals and working-class neighborhoods are abandoned.

Workers mustn’t let themselves be sacrificed for capitalists’ profits. Quite the opposite: it would be legitimate to requisition all the profits stolen by arms dealers to meet the population’s needs.

In order to lead their high-intensity war, army generals and heads of state don’t only need drones and tanks. They need soldiers ready to die. Such soldiers will be recruited among working-class youth, and they have already started to indoctrinate them through the General National Service.[1]

In imperialist countries, anything goes in order to get us to stand in line behind the state apparatus and obey. State officials will claim that we must defend “our interests” and “our values”. But workers and capitalists don’t have the same interests or the same values!

In Africa and in other countries dominated by the world powers, politicians and army generals will pretend to be anti-imperialist so that they can get into or remain in power.

In all countries, the workers and poorer classes must refuse to march behind their exploiters.


[1] The General National Service (Service national universel or SNU in French) was implemented by Macron in 2021. It is a month-long voluntary military service for citizens aged 16 to 25 that could become mandatory in the future.