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From: Glenn Kissack <gkissack <at> nyc.rr.com>
Subject: Samir Amin on Mali
Newsgroups: gmane.politics.marxism.marxmail
Date: Thursday 24th January 2013 19:36:01 UTC (over 5 years ago)
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I saw this on another listserv. It's a translation of what is published on
a French left wing website:


I was surprised by it. Isn't Amin considered a Marxist and published by
Monthly Review? Here he says he condemns "all military interventions by
Western power in the countries of the South" -- and then he proceeds to
explain why he's making an exception when it comes to the French invasion
of Mali. One of his arguments is that Hollande understands that France
wouldn't benefit from the creation of a Sahelistan, with huge deposits of
valuable resources, and therefore is moving to protect its own interests.
Okay, but isn't Amin then just supporting his own bourgeoisie?


MALI : Analysis by Samir Amin

Text by Samir Amin published by the M’PEP with the author’s
authorization. Samir Amin, a Franco-Egyptian economist, is the director of
the Forum du Tiers-Monde.

Jan. 23, 2013

I am one of those who out of principle condemn all military interventions
by Western powers in the countries of the South, these interventions being
by nature subject to the requirements of the deployment of control of the
planet by the capital of the monopolies that dominate the system. 

Is the French intervention in Mali an exception to the rule? Yes and no.
This is the reason why I call to support it, without nevertheless thinking
the least in the world that it will provide the answer that is necessary to
the continual decay of the economic, social and political conditions not
only in Mali but in all the countries of the region, which is itself the
product of the policies of the deployment of the capitalism of the
monopolies of the imperialist triad (U.S., Europe, Japan) which are always
at work, as it is at the root of the implantation of political Islam in the

I. Reactionary political Islam, the enemy of the peoples concerned and the
major ally of the strategies of the imperialist triad. (1)

Political Islam – beyond the apparent variety of its expressions – is
not a “movement of renaissance of religious faith” (whether you like
that or not), but an arch-reactionary political force which condemns the
peoples who are the final victims of the exercise of its power to
regression in every way, making them thus incapable of responding
positively to the challenges with which they are confronted. This power is
not a brake on the continuation of the process of decay and pauperization
which has been going on for three decades. On the contrary, it accentuates
its movement, on which it feeds itself.

Such is the fundamental reason for which the powers of the triad – such
as they are and remain – see in it a strategic ally. The systematic
support provided by these powers to reactionary political Islam has been
and remains one of the major reasons for the “successes” that it has
chalked up: the Talibans in Afghanistan, the FIS in Algeria, the
“Islamists” in Somalia and the Sudan, those in Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia
and elsewhere have all benefited from this support at a decisive moment for
their seizure of local power. None of the components described as moderate
of political Islam has ever truly dissociated itself from those who commit
terrorist acts on the part of their so-called « Salafist » components.
They have benefited and continue to benefit from “exile” in the
countries of the Persian Gulf, when necessary. In Libya yesterday, in Syria
still today they continue to be supported by these same powers of the
triad. At the same time the exactions and the crimes that they commit are
perfectly integrated into the talk that accompanies the strategy based on
their support: they make it possible to give credence to the thesis of a
“war of civilizations” which facilitates the “consensus” rallying
of the peoples of the triad to the world project of the capital of the
monopolies. The two lines of speech – democracy and the war on terrorism
– complete themselves mutually in this strategy.

You need a good deal of naivety to believe that the political Islam of some
– described on account of this as “moderate” – would be soluble in
democracy. There is of course a sharing out of chores between them and the
“Salafists” who they say exceed them with a false naivety by their
fanatic, criminal and even terrorist excesses. But their project is the
same – an archaic theocracy that by definition is the polar opposite of
even minimal democracy.

II. Sahelistan, a project in the service of whose interests?

De Gaulle had cherished the project of a “Great French Sahara.” But the
tenacity of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) and the
radicalization of the Mali of the Sudanese Union of Modibo Keita thwarted
the project, definitively from 1962-1963. While there are perhaps some who
are nostalgic about this project in Paris, I do not believe that they are
able to convince politicians with a normal intelligence of the possibility
of resuscitating it.

In fact, the Sahelistan project is not France’s – even if Sarkozy
supported it. It is that of the nebula that is political Islam that is in
question and benefits from the possibly favorable view of the United States
and in its wake of their lieutenants in the European Union (which does not
exist) – Great Britain and Germany.

“Islamic” Sahelistan would make possible the creation of a big country
covering a good part of the Algerian, Nigerian, Mauritanian, and Malian
Sahara rich in important mineral resources: uranium, petroleum and gas.
These resources would not mainly be open to France, but in the first place
to the dominant powers of the triad. This “kingdom”, like what Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf Emirates are, could easily “buy” the support of its
sparse population, and its emirs could transform into fabulous personal
fortunes the fraction of the rent that would be left to them. The Persian
Gulf remains, for the powers of the triad, the model of the best useful
ally/servant, despite the ferociously slave-owning and archaic character of
its social management – I would say thanks to this character.  The powers
in place in Sahelistan would abstain from pursuing terrorist actions on
their soil, without for all that refusing to possibly back them elsewhere.

France, which managed to safeguard from the project of the “Great
Sahara” control of Niger and its uranium, would only occupy a secondary
place in Sahelistan. (2)

It was up to François Hollande – and it is to his honor – to have
understood and refused. We should not be amazed to see that the
intervention which he decided on was immediately backed by Algiers and a
few other countries which however are not classed by Paris as
“friends.” The Algerian government demonstrated its perfect lucidity:
it knows that the objective of Sahelistan also targets southern Algeria and
not just northern Mali. (3) Nor should we be astonished that the “allies
of France” – the United States, Great Britain, Germany, not to mention
Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are in reality hostile to this intervention,
which they only barely accepted because they were confronted with a fait
accompli – F. Hollande’s decision. But they would not be unhappy to see
the operation bog down and fail. That would give new vigor to the taking up
of the Sahelistan project.

III. Winning the Sahara war.

I am hence one of those who wishes and hopes that the Sahara war will be
won, that these Islamists will be eradicated from the region (Mali and
Algeria in particular), Mali restored to its borders. This victory is the
unavoidable necessary condition, but it is far from being a sufficient
condition, for a later reconstruction of Malian society and government.

This war will be long, costly and painful and its outcome remains
uncertain. Victory demands that certain conditions be met. Indeed it will
not only be necessary for the French armed forces not to abandon the ground
before victory, but in addition for a Malian army worthy of the name to be
rebuilt rapidly. Because you must know that military intervention by the
other African countries cannot constitute a decisive element in the

The reconstruction of the Malian army is something that is entirely
feasible. The Mali of Modibo was able to build an armed force that was
competent and devoted to the nation, enough to dissuade aggressors like
today’s AQMI Islamists. This armed force was systematically destroyed by
Moussa Traorés dictatorship and has not been rebuilt by his successors.
But because the Malian people have full consciousness that their country
had the duty to be armed, the reconstruction of its army benefits from a
favorable terrain. The obstacle is financial: recruiting thousands of
soldiers and equipping them is not within the possibilities of the
present-day means of the country, and neither the African countries, nor
the United Nations will consent to make up for this poverty. France must
understand that the only means that will permit victory obliges France to
do it. Becoming bogged down and defeat would not only be a catastrophe for
the African peoples, it would also be one for France. Victory constitutes
an important means for the restoration of France’s place in the concert
of nations, even beyond Europe.

Not much is to be expected from the countries of the CEDEAO. The praetorian
guards of the majority of these countries are an army in name alone. Of
course Nigeria disposes of equipped and numerous forces, unfortunately
little disciplined is the least one can say; and many of its higher
officers pursue no other objective than looting the regions where they
intervene. Senegal also disposes of a competent and in addition disciplined
military force, but a small one, on the size of the country. Farther away
in Africa, Angola and South Africa could contribute effective support, but
their geographical distance, and perhaps other considerations, make it
likely that they will not see the interest.

A firm commitment from France, determine and for the whole necessary
duration implies that Paris’s diplomacy understand that it has to
distance itself with regard to its teammates in NATO and Europe. This is
far from being a sure thing and nothing indicates for the moment that F.
Hollande’s government is capable of daring to do it.

IV. Winning the diplomatic battle.

The visible conflict between the honorable objectives of the French
intervention in Mali and the pursuit of the present diplomatic line of
Paris will rapidly become intolerable. France cannot fight the
“Islamists” of Timbuktu and support them in Aleppo!

French diplomacy, hooked onto NATO and the European Union, shares the
responsibility of its allies in the successes of reactionary political
Islam. It has furnished the shining proof in the Libyan adventure whose
only result has been (and this was foreseeable and certainly desired, at
least by Washington) not to liberate the Libyan people from Kaddafi (a
clown more than a dictator) but to destroy Libya, which has become a
terrain for operations by warlords, directly behind the reinforcement of
AQMI in Mali.

Because the hydra of reactionary political Islam recruits as much in the
sphere of organized crime as among the madmen of God. Beyond the
“jihad”, their emirs – who proclaim themselves intransigent defenders
of the faith – get rich from trafficking drugs (the Talibans, AQMI), arms
(the Libyan warlords) and prostitution (the Kossovars).

Now up to today French diplomacy supports these same groups, in Syria for
example. The French media give credit to the communiqués of the supposed
Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a known front for the Muslim
Brotherhood, founded by Ryad El Maleh, backed by the CIA and the British
intelligence services. You might as well give credence to the communiqués
of Ansar Eddine! France tolerates that the so-called “National Coalition
of the forces of opposition and revolution” is presided over by Sheikh
Ahmad El Khatib, chosen by Washington, Muslim Brother and the man behind
the burning of the Douma neighborhood in Damascus.

I would be surprised (but it would be an agreeable surprise) if F. Hollande
dared to upset the table, as De Gaulle had done (leaving NATO, practicing
in Europe the policy of the empty chair). We don’t demand that he do so
much, but only to turn his diplomatic relations in the direction demanded
by the pursuit of the action in Mali, to understand that France counts more
adversaries in the camp of its “allies” than in that of its
“enemies”! It would not be the first time that it would be thus when
two sides clash on diplomatic terrain.

V. Reconstruct Mali

The reconstruction of Mali cannot be the work of the Malians. Still it
would be desirable that we help them rather than to put up barriers that
make this reconstruction impossible.

French “colonial” ambitions – to make Mali a client state like a few
others in the region – are perhaps not absent among some of those in
charge of Mali policy in Paris. French neocolonialism still has its
spokespeople. But they do not constitute a real danger, still less a major
one. A reconstructed Mali will also be able to affirm – or to reaffirm
– quickly its independence. On the other hand a Mali wrecked by
reactionary political Islam would be incapable, for a long time, of
conquering an honorable place on the world and regional chessboard. Like
Somalia it would risk being wiped off the list of sovereign countries
worthy of the name.

In the days of Modibo, Mali had made progress in the direction of social
and economic progress like its independent affirmation and the unity of its
ethnic components.

The Sudanese Union managed to unite in one nation the Bambara of the south,
the Bozo fishermen, the Songhai peasants and the Bella of the Niger Valley
from Mopti to Ansongo (today one forgets that the majority of the
inhabitants of northern Mali is not made up of Tuaregs), and even got the
Tuaregs to accept the liberation of their Bella serfs. It remains that the
lack of means – and of will following the fall of Modibo – the
governments in Bamako afterwards sacrificed the projects to develop the
north. Some of the Tuareg demands are perfectly legitimate. Algiers which
recommends distinguishing between the rebellion of the Tuaregs (who
henceforth are on the sidelines) with whom one must talk, from the
jihadists come from elsewhere – who are often perfectly racist with
regard to “Blacks” – is proving its lucidity on this point.

The limits of the realizations of Mali under Modibo, but also the hostility
of the Western powers (and of France in particular) are at the root of the
directionlessness of the project and finally the success of the odious coup
d’etat of Moussa Traoré (backed to the end by Paris) whose dictatorship
is responsible for the decomposition of Malian society, for its
pauperization and its impotence. The powerful movement of revolt of the
Malian people succeeded, at the price of tens of thousands of victims, in
overthrowing the dictatorship, and fed big hopes for the renaissance of the
country. These hopes have been disappointed. Why?

Since the fall of Moussa Traoré the Malian people have benefited from
unparalleled democratic freedoms. Nevertheless this does not seem to have
served any purpose: hundreds of phantom parties without a program, impotent
elected parliamentarians, generalized corruption. Analysts whose minds are
not always freed of racist prejudices hurry to conclude that this people
(like Africans in general) is not ripe for democracy! One pretends not to
know that the victory of the struggles of the Malian people coincided with
the “neoliberal” offensive which imposed on this extremely fragile
country a model of lumpen-development recommended by the World Bank and
backed by Europe and France, a motor for social and economic regression and
limitless pauperization.

It is these policies that bear the main responsibility for the failure of
democracy, which is discredited. This involution has created here as
elsewhere a favorable terrain for the increase in the influence of
reactionary political Islam (financed by the Persian Gulf) not only in the
north captured afterwards by AQMI but also in Bamako.

The decrepitude of the Malian government which resulted is the source of
the crisis which led to the destitution of President Amani Toumani Touré
(since a refugee in Senegal), to the unconsidered coup d’état of Sanogho
and then the putting of Mali under guardianship with the “nomination”
of a “provisory” president – said to be transitional – by the
CEDEAO, whose presidency is exercised by the Ivory Coast president A.
Ouattara who has never been anything except a civil servant of the IMF and
the French ministry of cooperation.

It is this president, whose legitimacy in the eyes of the Malians is close
to zero, who called for the French intervention. This fact considerably
weakens the strength of Paris’s argument, although it is diplomatically
impeccable: that Paris responded to the call of the “legitimate” head
of state of a friendly country. But then in what is the appeal of the
Syrian head of state – incontestably just as legitimate – for the
support of Iran and Russia “unacceptable”? It is up to Paris to correct
its aim and to look again to its language.

But it is above all the reconstruction of Mali which henceforth depends on
the pure and simple rejection of the free trade “solutions” which are
at the root of all its problems. Now on this fundamental point the concepts
of Paris remain those that are current in Washington, London and Berlin.
Paris’s “aid to development” concepts do not go beyond the dominant
free trade litanies (4). Nothing more. Even if France wins the battle of
the Sahara – which I hope for – France will remain poorly placed to
contribute to the reconstruction of Mali. The certain failure would then
allow the false friends of France to take their revenge.

Dans le souci de conserver à cet article sa brièveté et sa centralité
sur la seule question malienne j’ai écarté des développements sur les
questions majeures adjacentes, réduits à des indications en notes de bas
de pages, évitant ainsi de longues digressions.
L’article ne traite pas de l’agression d’In Amenas. Les Algériens
savaient que s’ils ont gagné la guerre majeure contre le projet d’Etat
dit islamiste du FIS (soutenu à l’époque par les puissances
occidentales au nom de la « démocratie » !) le combat contre l’hydre
reste permanent, à mener sur deux terrains : la sécurité, la poursuite
du progrès social qui est le seul moyen de tarir le terrain de recrutement
des mouvements dits islamistes. Sans doute l’assassinat d’otages
américains et britanniques contraint-il Washington et Londres à mieux
comprendre qu’Alger a opéré comme il le fallait : aucune négociation
n’est possible avec des tueurs. Je ne crois malheureusement pas qu’à
plus long terme cette « bavure » des terroristes infléchisse le soutien
des États-Unis et de la Grande-Bretagne à ce qu’ils continuent de
qualifier d’Islam politique « modéré » !
[1] Ce rappel bref de ce qu’est réellement l’Islam politique
réactionnaire s’impose en introduction. L’utilisation stratégique des
mouvements en question par les forces du capitalisme/impérialisme dominant
n’exclut pas les couacs. La mobilisation d’aventuriers « djihadistes
» (« terroristes ») est le moyen incontournable par lequel l’Islam
politique réactionnaire peut imposer son pouvoir. Ces aventuriers sont
évidemment enclins à la criminalité (le pillage, la prise d’otages,
etc.). De surcroît les « fous de Dieu » parmi lesquels ils recrutent
leurs « armées » sont toujours, par nature, capables d’initiatives
imprévisibles. Le leadership du mouvement (le Golfe wahabite) et celui de
l’establishment des États-Unis (et par ricochet les gouvernements des
alliés subalternes européens) sont conscients des limites de leur
capacité de « contrôler » les instruments de la mise en œuvre de leur
projet commun. Mais ils acceptent ce chaos.)
[2] La France a maintenu son contrôle sur le Niger et son uranium par le
moyen d’une politique « d’aide » à bon marché qui maintient le pays
dans la pauvreté et l’impuissance. Voir note (4). Le projet du
Sahélistan balaye les chances de la France de pouvoir maintenir son
contrôle sur le Niger.
[3] Faisant contraste avec la lucidité d’Alger, on constatera le silence
du Maroc, dont la monarchie avait toujours exprimé ses revendications sur
Tombouctou et Gao (villes « marocaines » !) dans des discours tonitruants
répétés. Une explication de ce repli de Rabat reste à être donnée.
[4] Yash Tandon (En finir avec la dépendance de l’aide, CETIM, 2009) a
démontré que « l’aide » associée à la conditionnalité commandée
par le déploiement de la mondialisation libérale n’était pas un «
remède » mais un poison. Dans l’introduction de cet ouvrage j’en ai
moi-même fourni un exemple, précisément celui du Niger.

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