Imperialism’s new objectives

Another dictatorship looks set to fall. After ruling Zaire for 32 cruel years, the regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko is now on the verge of collapse. Rebel forces are poised to take the capital city of Kinshasa. A general strike was declared in Kinshasa at the beginning of the week in a bid to hasten the demise of Mobutu, despite the fact that his regime had declared a military state of emergency and had threatened to “use its powers to the full” against any protesters.

Mobutu’s increasingly frantic and desperate efforts to cling on to power were dealt the final death blow last Wednesday when the United States - the world’s only remaining superpower - issued an open condemnation of the Zairean dictatorship. “Mobutuism is about to become a creature of history,” declared a White House spokesperson. We should not be surprised of course by the fickleness of US imperialism. With the disappearance of the Soviet ‘threat’, it has been steadily dropping its backing for tyrannical regimes and promoting ‘democratic’ alternatives. Who needs the likes of Mobutu now that the ‘war against communism’ has been won?

It is an open secret that US imperialism is backing the rebel forces, primarily Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. The Alliance captured the key southern town of Lumbumbashi last week and is now in control of half the country, including the rich mineral areas. Kabila has rechristened the territory he holds as the Democratic Republic of Congo - as the country was known when it declared independence from Belgium in 1960. Colonel Joseph Mobutu, who with the aid of the CIA in 1965 seized power in a coup, renamed the country Zaire in 1971 and has maintained an iron grip ever since.

This might seem paradoxical to some, given Kabila’s reputation as a ‘Marxist’. This derives from his association with the legendary Argentinean revolutionary communist, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who fought alongside Kabila against Mobutu during the 1965 coup. However, ever since his slightly mysterious re-emergence - most people had though he was dead - Kabila has become a much more palatable figure. His ‘Marxist’ past seemingly exorcised, his stated aim is “national unity” and “democracy”, objectives perfectly compatible with the interests of US imperialism. This fairly obvious deduction seems to evade Martin Woollacott of The Guardian though. He writes: “America wants Mobutu out but he does not want the old Marxist Kabila to win” (April 10). US imperialism is quite happy to live with, and do deals with, the “old Marxist” Kabila, as he represents potential stability - something Western imperialism in general craves. Western troops, including UK ones, are ready to extricate Mobutu from Kinshasa at a moment’s notice, and to throw a cordon sanitaire around the city in order to ensure a peaceful transition of power to the rebel forces.

We must understand that from the viewpoint of imperialism, the US in particular, the entire African continent appears deeply irrational - therefore, deeply frustrating as well. Its ability to exploit the African masses in a ‘rational’ way is inhibited, and blocked, by the inability of real capitalism to penetrate this vast territory. These regimes have behaved more like leeches on society in many respects rather than governments, whose only aim has been to amass vast personal fortunes. The Mobutu regime has been called a kleptocracy, which saw the dictator build up a nest egg of at least $1 billion. From the perspective of bourgeois normalcy this is hardly ‘efficient’ or admirable, as such behaviour inevitably leads to collapse and anarchy. The erratic conduct of such regimes is also a permanent embarrassment, especially in these post-Cold War days. Mobutu’s decision to appoint Etienne Tshisekedi as prime minister, then promptly send in the troops to arrest and beat him on the very day he was due to take office is just one of myriad examples.

This yearning for ‘normal’ rule and exploitation was expressed in The Independent, which observed: “The main concern of the mining companies, as always, is the social discipline necessary to make profits and the government compliance necessary to repatriate them. Democracy is useful to them, if it furthers these ends. The main concern of Western governments is likely to be - as always - ‘stability”. It ends by praising Kabila’s “taste for power by consent” and says he “should be encouraged” (editorial, April l5).

The Zairean masses long to see the back of Mobutu. Given the prolonged horrors of Mobutuism, it is only to be expected that Kabila’s Alliance is looked upon with hope and expectation. But his imperialist-backed ‘programme’ will only provide a short breathing space for the masses at best. His regime will continue to exploit and rob the masses, even if it is in a more ‘civilised’ manner.

Eddie Ford