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close this bookMaldevelopment - Anatomy of a Global Failure (United Nations University)
close this folder4. complexities of international relations: Africa's vulnerability and external intervention
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAfrican economies' vulnerability vis-à-vis the challenge of capitalism's new worldwide expansion
View the documentSome specific aspects of Africa's economic integration in the world system, ACP-EEC association and Euro-American mercantile conflict1
View the documentSpecial links with France: the Franc zone2
View the documentEvolution in Euro-Arab relations: interwoven economics and politics
View the documentConflict and national and regional security in Africa
View the documentThe Middle East conflict in a world perspective
View the documentAfrica and the Arab world in the world system
View the documentNotes


The arguments of the preceding chapters have put a finger on the spot: the African continent is par excellence one of extreme vulnerability to foreign interference. Here we shall consider the forms and effects of this vulnerability in regard to the following questions:

(i) The economic association of African states (which form the majority in the ACP) with the European Economic Community (EEC). Does the association restrict the development options in Africa? How does it relate to Europe's global strategy? It is also worth making special mention of the peculiarities of the Franc zone.

(ii) The bloody conflicts on the continent. These conflicts arise from various internal and external factors and take varying shape. How are they interrelated? How do they relate to the global strategies of the superpowers and Europe?

(iii) The South-African conflict? What are the prospects for the armeds truggle waged by the South African people against the apartheid regime? How does it relate to the global prospects for Africa, particularly in the Southern African region?

(iv) The economic and political strategies of the West (and of Europe in particular) towards the Arab world. Are these strategies compatible with a unitary Arab renaissance? How do they relate to the Palestinian conflict?

African economies' vulnerability vis-à-vis the challenge of capitalism's new worldwide expansion

If the quarter century (1945-70) after the Second World War was one of worldwide expansion reaching a qualitatively new stage (with the inter-nationalization of imperialism, and US hegemony that provides the framework for this almost unprecedented upsurge), for the particular region of Europe and Africa the period was one of European construction (with an impact on southern Europe) and of development of the Arab plan for unitary and popular liberation (and its confrontation with the Palestine issue) and of independence for Africa in general. European construction, initiated with the Marshall Plan and formalized with the Treaty of Rome, which came into effect in 1958, reached a new stage with its extension to Southern Europe, not without worsening the contradictions of interest between the latter and the wealthier Europe, and in a period of crisis. The post-war upsurge has, however, already had a substantial impact on the givens of the North-South issue in Europe. For the upsurge has, with its wider world impact, entailed a substantial speeding-up of the modernization of the European peripheries to such an extent that the states of Southern Europe are now so integrated into the European and world system that it is virtually impossible for the dominant political forces of these countries to envisage a response to the crisis by a withdrawal into themselves. There is a striking illustration of this change in the contrast between the attitudes of these countries in response to the crisis of the 1930s - a semi-autarkical withdrawal of populist or fascistic bent - and the current belief that acceptance of the rules of the game of worldwide competition is 'unstoppable', as is said on the right and the left.

Nevertheless, European construction remains ambiguous in meaning and prospects; and the challenges of the current crisis, far from attenuating these ambiguities, serve rather to reveal the irresolute and indecisive attitudes of the European partners.

The European construction had, from the outset, been conceived as a necessary venture to avoid the spectre of 'communism' that has today totally disappeared, if it ever really existed. In this sense, it was conceived as an integral part of the economic, political, military and ideological strategy of US domination. European economic integration, far from aiming at the creation of a new autonomous pole competing with the United States, was conceived as a sub-set of the worldwide whole. Europe was open to the Atlantic military alliance and the penetration of the US transnationals who have played a decisive role in its economic modernization. It remains so. First since it remains under the supposed protection of the United States nuclear umbrella and has not developed an autonomous defence, in the absence of which an autonomous economy is inconceivable. With a touch of bizarre economic shortsightedness, it has been suggested that savings on military expenditure will allow a better economic performance. The intention of autonomy, which De Gaulle obviously favoured, never went beyond the stage of irresolute actions. Furthermore, in response to the challenges of the crisis. Europe has rallied behind the United States in a common Western offensive intended to 'recompradorize' the Third World.

This final ambiguity leads us to the issue of imperialism in general, and of European imperialism towards the Arab and African worlds in particular. Great Britain and France had virtually shared out the Arab and African world between them: and on the morrow of the last world war they did not yet suspect that they would have to bow to the decolonization that was imposed upon them by the liberation movement and acceptable under certain conditions to American hegemony. Decolonization did not come about without conflict' and the Algerian war was colonialism's death throe.

European construction had prepared nothing in this regard, except to put the former French colonial empire in Africa at the disposal of the capital of the Community of the Six, with collective neo-colonialism replacing the former imperial colonialism and little more. Without taking up time with issues that are treated elsewhere, it is necessary to recall here:

(i) that France has de facto retained privileged status in its former colonies, notably by the bias of control over the Franc zone;

(ii) that the conventions of the association of the African states to the EEC show a concern for reserving privileged status for Europe in regard to American and Japanese competitors, despite the general opening-up of Africa implied by worldwide expansion;

(iii) that with Britain's membership of the EEC and the association of the African states, the jockeying for influence by the various powers in Africa is even more overt;

(iv) that the kind of unequal relations renewed in this framework in no sense represents progress towards the liberation of Africa and development of its peoples, but on the contrary their restriction to obsolete mining and agricultural specializations that are to Europe's advantage. In that sense Europe bears a heavy responsibility for the crystallization of the power of the new local ruling classes and thereby in the continent's economic, social and political disaster.

The European view of the Arab world, especially North Africa, scarcely goes any further, except that it had to take into account the greater stability of the local ruling classes. The association agreements, drawn up with Morocco and Tunisia, made do with providing preferential and provisional access to the European market for the countries' agricultural exports (until the integration of Southern Europe into the EEC provoked a crisis for these exports), and with relocation (also provisional) of labour-intensive (mainly textile) industries directed towards European exports (until the current crisis called these concessions into question). The strategic view implicit here plunged the Arab partners deeper in the impasse of peripheral capitalism clinging to expansion of the European centre. It was the same in the end for the other Arab countries. If the oil producers among them (Algeria, Libya, Iraq and the Gulf states) believed they could mobilize their financial resources to speed up their industrialization, their ruling classes could imagine only a kind of industrialization that would offer a new outlet for the exports of developed capitalism - European, but American and Japanese too. This could only strengthen the tendency towards worldwide expansion and not offer a decisive step towards an autocentric national or regional development. Once the crisis had come, this closer entanglement proved deeply catastrophic, as is evidenced by the external debt' rudely aggravated by the conjuncture of stagnation and the impact of the American counter-attack.

In these circumstances, Saudi Arabia, Washington's traditional client, has opted, as might be expected, for unconditional support to the financial and monetary system that is the instrument of worldwide expansion and the counter-attack aimed at restoring US hegemony. If there has been any attempt at autocentric development, it has been incomplete, erratic, limited by the very character of the ruling classes of the progressive countries engaged upon it, whether they were oil producers (Algeria and Iraq) or not (Egypt and Syria). What should be noted here is that these attempts, supported by the USSR, have been fought by the West as a whole, Europe included.

To what can one ascribe this European refusal to envisage any relations with the Arabs and Africans other than neo-imperialist relations, whether they are chiefly open to US and Japanese competition (above all when the local partner insists) or relatively reserved for the Europeans?

An examination of Europe's structural and conjunctural position in international competition sheds light on this question. Europe covers the deficit on its relations with the United States and Japan by the surplus on its exchanges with the Third World and the countries of the Eastern bloc. To remain a player in the worldwide game, Europe has to maintain unequal relations within the sphere of its particular dependencies. Europe has found the main outlet for its expansion through modernization of its own peripheries (Southern Europe to be precise) and its own internal modernization. Unlike the United States and Japan who export their capital more widely (especially to Latin America and South-East Asia) in order to dominate the process of export-oriented relocation of industry in the Third World, Europe is open to massive importation of Third World manpower necessary to keep up with the rate of its internal expansion. It is also not by chance that this immigration is, in the main, precisely by those in areas of European dependence (the Arabs, the Africans, the West Indians] that are much more affected than Latin America and South-East Asia by the unequal capitalist development that Europe's strategy entails. It is now well-known just how far this immigration has created a political atmosphere inimical to improved relations with the Third World. Finally, Europe, with a paucity of natural resources in comparison with the United States, attaches much greater importance to securing its supplies. As it has renounced autonomous military powers, Europe has condemned itself to dependence upon American good will, and relies only on its rapid intervention forces {directed against the Third World of course) that are now almost entirely the essence of the European military vision.

All this inspires little confidence in the European talk of the Third World, along the lines of a Euro-Arabo-African 'trialogue'. We should not necessarily go so far as to conclude that it would be better to be dependent directly on the masters of the world -hegemonic imperialism - than on its lieutenants. That would leave out of account the military dimension of the problem, and rule out the possibility of internal change, less difficult to imagine in Europe perhaps than in the United States.

Does the crisis open new and different prospects for Euro-Arab relations? How will the conflict of economic interests henceforth between Europe and the United States be resolved, or the East-West and North-South conflicts? We shall consider these questions in Chapter 8.

Some specific aspects of Africa's economic integration in the world system, ACP-EEC association and Euro-American mercantile conflict1

The Berlin Act of the 1880s divided the African continent that was almost entirely subject to direct colonialism by the European powers, mainly Britain. France, Belgium and Portugal. Already by that time Britain's hegemony was declining, and until 1945 the world system was marked by constant conflict between the main imperial powers over the inheritance. It is understandable that from 1880 to 1945, the British and French metropolises should treat their colonies as preserves. The crisis of the 1930s further emphasized these 'imperial boltholes' by giving the Sterling area and Franc zone a system of strict preferences. But, at the same time, it must be admitted that Africa as a whole (apart from South Africa and North Africa) played only minor subordinate roles in imperialist exploitation of the world, in comparison with Asia and Latin America. As can be seen, the primitive forms of the exploitation of peasant labour reduced the potential size of the colonial African market. Colonization in Africa, predicated on the exploitation of mineral resources, gave no thought to industrialization and intensified agriculture.

But by the end of the Second World War the United States emerged as the new, world hegemonic power, and in this capacity insisted on relinquishment of the preserves; this was its motive for 'an/i-colonialism'. Britain and France tried for a while to resist American pressure, and the adventurist Suez War of 1956 marks the end of their colonial nostalgia. The Franco-British defeat in this adventure hastened the process of decolonization of Africa, at the same time as it was an encouragement to join the path of 'European construction' inaugurated in the Treaty of Rome signed in 1957. As London was for a long time blackballed from membership of the EEC, Paris had to play the decisive political role, even if the gradual rebirth of Germany was to shift the centre of gravity of the European economy to the east of the Rhine. France brought as dowry to the EEC its African colonies, not without first ensuring the permanence of its own political and control, among other means by maintaining the rigid structures of the Franc zone. The conventions of association between the newly independent African countries and the EEC put a legal garb on European privileges in Africa, while the dual membership of former British colonies and other African countries in this association, and of Britain in the EEC, broadens the Euro-African association. But if for a decade or so there was nothing more remarkable on this theme, the general crisis the world system entered from the 1970s reopened the discussion. New prospects for reorganization were opened. The decline of US hegemony, beginning in the crisis, put on to the agenda contradictory reactions from its partners in the world system. Would Europe embark on a road ensuring it greater collective autonomy with regard to Washington? Would it therefore envisage a tightening-up of neo-imperial control over Africa? Or would it rather commit its future to a polycentric approach more favourably balanced towards the Third World, accept revision of its privileged links with Africa and agree to support a process of autocentric popular development to the south of the

Mediterranean and the Sahara? The entire ambiguity of the Euro-African association comes within this purview.

The significance of the Euro-African association goes beyond the limited framework of the association 'agreements'. The Yaoundnd Lomonventions grant preferences on the European market for some African products (those that do not compete with European agricultural products), and - in the other direction - some trading advantages to the European partners. But in fact these 'mutual advantages' are virtually negligible. The conventions envisaged financial aid from Europe to Africa. But, so far, this has been scarcely more than to carry on the bilateral aid that the former metropolises would probably have gone on supplying the states, which it must be said are often client states. The conventions also envisaged 'establishment rights' ensuring that the African countries would be open to European capital. But so far, to our knowledge, Africa is not closed to other capital (notably the American): moreover, the European negotiator has never denied that these establishment rights were not synonymous with an open door, and the states could set - even strict - limits on their extent, and control the investments in question, provided that they put their European partners on an equal footing with third parties (American or Japanese). In other words, the African countries could determine that the 'association' should be devoid of content: a symbolic preference would be enough, without excluding control over foreign trade or over investments by local authorities, in return for which the states might benefit from financial and technical aid they could still turn down. Their sovereignty therefore remained virtually limitless. This recognized sovereignty has no greater limits than those of African inter-state relations. These are not expected to follow the same approach as in regard to the European partner preferences actually granted to some may be less for others, an open door for some may be closed to others.

So what is at stake in association? Whether or not an associate, what difference does it make to Africa? Why does Europe cling to the symbol and the US fuss about it with such force? Are the Europeans so ingenuous as to believe that, in competition with the United States, a symbolic duty of half a per cent of value on exports is decisive, and are the Americans for their part afraid of this 'injustice'? Certainly not.

If these things occur it is because both know that what is at stake goes further than the letter of the agreement. It is a question of whether the governments in Africa will initiate a 'pro-European' policy - it has to be seen whether this conceals a singular or plural component - or hence 'an/i-American' policy, or the reverse. Accepting or refusing the association agreement is, therefore, a political act, a very broad statement of intent on this issue. The trick was in seeing in the texts only secondary issues, the 'inheritance', and not foreseeing the true lines of debate, the issues that would arise along with the 'development' of Africa. Hence, positions should retain the flexibility that international uncertainty enjoins.

It has already been shown in Chapter 2 how, in the 1970s, the Third World waged a battle for a revision of the international division of labour to enable it to embark on industrialization, and how the world redeployment of capital related to this change. Over the next 15 years or so the international division of labour was changed, although more slowly than the plans for the NIEO and redeployment expected. But if these changes have occurred, it is certainly not in Africa that they have changed the terms of international specialization, but in Latin America, India and East Asia. The decline in status of Africa - trapped in its (ruinous) agricultural and mining role - is the other vector of this global evolution. Is Europe to blame? In part it is, since the EEC-ACP asociation and other forms of its presence in Africa - gives it a particular responsibility. To say the least, the association has not been mobilized to hasten the evolution of Africa. Of course it is still true that responsibility for the disaster also and primarily falls on the local ruling classes. But were not the latter largely the traditional clients of Europe?

In these circumstances, competition between Europe and the United States disguised in the crisis operates on African territory only within the narrow limits of mercantile competition.

Special links with France: the Franc zone2

In addition to the special relations the African continent enjoys with the EEC, France has retained, in most of its former sub-Saharan African colonies, a position that is unmatched anywhere else in the Third World. The monetary system of these countries is, in effect, based on the principle of free and absolute movement of capital at a fixed exchange rate (subject to change by common agreement) guaranteed by the metropolis. In return for this guarantee the local central banks are permitted to support African treasuries only within very narrow limits. Furthermore, the main commercial banks operating in these countries are branches and subsidiaries of metropolitan banks, and can therefore always counter the monetary policy that the local central banks want to pursue, in the event that this policy is not attractive to them, by the simple expedient of transferring funds to or from their Paris headquarters. There is no lack of examples of this: local banks have been known to make massive transfers of their capital to France to take advantage of higher interest rates. In these circumstances the country's monetary integration in the metropolitan finance economy is total, equivalent to that of a metropolitan province; the local central banks do not deserve the description as they are no more than issuing houses circulating a French Franc printed with an unusual design: there is only one central bank for the whole of the Franc zone: the Banque de France. We have suggested calling this system the 'zone of the Franc' rather than the Franc zone. For the African countries in question, IMF membership makes no sense, and is something of a legal fiction: and the IMF interventions make no more sense, as the metropolitan system is responsible for the monetary administration of these countries.

As can be seen, the system is that of total liberalism that the 'theories' made fashionable under Reagan, proposed as a model on the world scale. To the extent that France is wide open to the worldwide financial system, this total liberalism has no boundaries. The theory of the market on which it is based is, in turn, a manifestation of the assumption that the only development 'possible' requires the open door. A malicious mind would note that the African countries in question belong to the group of least developed countries; consequently, reasoning on the basis of the correlation to which the advocates of these economic theories are so partial, would show the opposite of their assumption as the widest open door is associated with the least satisfactory performances.

In fact even on the view that the structures of the centres-peripheries imbalance are not based on monetary integration, which is only a consequence, and after the illusion is dropped that there can be a 'monetary solution' to this profound imbalance, it has still to be admitted that the forms of this monetary integration are an additional severe handicap to any attempt at autocentric national or regional development. All the African states that did hope to guide their development in this direction had to break out of the yoke of the Franc zone. If they have sometimes 'become bankrupt', and have even sustained the monetary illusion we are criticizing, the reasons have nothing to do with an inevitable failure of national monetary management.

The monetary management of African countries in the Franc zone is, as has been shown over and over again, 'passive', in the sense that the currency issue is adjusted to the needs of the system's reproduction without giving it any power to play any significant part in its qualitative evolution. It follows 19th century style financial orthodoxy, which has no match in other Third World countries, or in modern developed capitalism, including metropolitan France, again despite the assertions of the fashionable Reaganite-lMF theology. This systematically deflationary policy at local level does not prevent the automatic importation of possible inflation from the metropolis. We add that the organic ties between the local banks and the old colonial trading monopolies, who own the industrial plants in most of the countries in question, provide a de facto privilege to the economic interests of the metropolis that is no less obvious, however difficult to quantify.

The inherent faults of this system are such that it seemed to be on the verge of explosion in the 1970s. Reasonable reform proposals were put forward, to allow more substantial monetary and financial co-operation with local treasuries (for development purposes) and the expansion of productive activities, plus flexible controls over transfers. Moreover, the proposals in question were for the purpose of maintaining regional monetary unions, while taking into account the variety of situations inherited from unequal regional development; they therefore contradicted the argument currently advanced that the Franc zone was a 'factor for unify' in Africa. The general drift the African economies have suffered since the end of the 1970s put a stop to these proposals. The Franc zone in its most traditional form is again flying high, has regained some of the countries that had left and is attracting new members. This innovation is part of the widespread compradorization under way.

Evolution in Euro-Arab relations: interwoven economics and politics

The intensification of Euro-Arab relations that occurred after the Second World War must be reassessed in the context of the overall worldwide expansion.3 It is not even necessary to draw a detailed picture of these economic relations as they are today, or as they have developed in recent history. It is enough to reiterate, as is well-known, that these relations are highly intensive in all fields. In the field of commercial exchanges, the flow from South to the North, namely Europe, assures the North the major part of its energy supplies. The flow from North to South is also significant for the Arab region: Europe is second in meeting the Arab agriculture and food shortfall and first in meeting the import requirements in producer goods for the Arab countries. This means that the relations are not only important quantitatively (revealing growth rates after the Second World War faster than the overall rate of growth in world trade), but also qualitatively crucial for both sides. The commercial exchanges are reinforced and completed by financial flows, especially since 1973 when, through the recycling of part of the surplus of some Arab countries (but less and less) some of the surplus has been invested through Euro-Arab financial institutions. These flows have considerably speeded up the transfer of technology or to be more precise the sale of turnkey factories. The earlier contribution of the Arab world to the creation of the labour force in Europe was significant; it has now become of vital importance. This migratory flow from South to North, although slowing down in the current crisis, seems destined to play an increasing role in the long term.

Post-war expansion was, however, also characterized by the deployment of a plan for national bourgeois development throughout the Third World, and especially in the Arab region. Thus from 1945 to 1970, along with the rise of the national movement, there has been apparent in the Arab world an attempt at crystallization of an Arab national bourgeoisie, or Arab national bourgeoisies, believing itself capable of forming a hegemonic political and social force at national level and becoming an equal partner in the world system.

If the Arab national plan has proved impossible to achieve, as is demonstrated by its current degeneration occasioned by the crisis, the failure is due also to internal causes (the bourgeois character of the plan) and to the fact that the West, far from supporting the development, has fought against it and continues to do so.

An analysis has already been made of the plan's internal contradictions, its historical limits and extreme vulnerability, which have in the end led to its failure (cf. Chapters 2 and 3). We insist on the point too often hidden that the internal causes' have not operated in isolation, or in an atmosphere conducive. Or even neutral, to the plan. On the contrary, the world system - central domination, with or without hegemony (US in this case) - is far from being favourable to homogenization of the system by the gradual crystallization of new partner centres (as all versions of the 'stages' of development theory suppose), but has had rather the reverse effect of further reproduction of the centres/peripheries asymmetry

In the Arab region, the Nahda plan began an attempt at unitary national construction, of which Nasserism was the highest point. The distant past is of great significance here despite the eight or nine centuries of degeneration that followed - a past including the character of social formations in the Arab world in its first glory (the first three or four centuries of Islam) marked by unification of the dominant class on the basis of statist/mercantile centralization of the surplus (in contrast with European feudal fragmentation), and hence the unification of culture and language. The renaissance that appeared on the horizon from the beginning of the 1 9th century was built progressively on Arab unitary nationalism, breaking with Ottoman influence and Pan-lslamism. But the arrival of the necessary elements for the plan's implementation, namely liquidation of the Ottoman Empire and British and French colonizations, set up obstacles. The Arab states, one by one, regained their independence but in disunion. Gradual reinforcement of these new realities, far from narrowing the differences that had been opened in the preceding centuries and worsened by colonization, served rather to entrench the differences. The Arab bourgeoisie began to be aware of its possible collective emergence only when it had given way to a series of local bourgeoisies, each integrated separately into the world system.

For all kinds of reasons, some general and fundamental (the West's hostility to the emergence of new centres in Asia and Africa), others more specific to the region (the markedly popular dimension of the national liberation struggles, conflict between states, the Palestinian question to which we shall return), the hostility of the capitalist West was unyielding and particularly violent. To recall the facts: the 1956 aggression against Egypt, the decision taken by the Americans in 1965 to go to war to bring Nasser down, and put into effect in 1967 by Israel and its sleeping partners, the prolonged Algerian war (l954-62), the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the annexation of the Golan Heights and the West bank of the Jordan by Israel, and so on.

What is important to note here is that while this constant conflict between Arab nationalism (bourgeois though it be) and imperialism has been one of the ways in which the USSR escaped the isolation to which the Atlantic alliance sought to confine it. Europe has never dissociated itself from the United States in the conflict. The supply of Soviet weapons to Egypt in 1955 clearly marks the Soviet Union's entry on the Arab scene.

On another tack. Europe, one need hardly recall, after dragging out its efforts to hold on to colonial possessions (the Algerian war and the Anglo-French attempt against Egypt in 1956 are evidence of this) simply walked off-stage to leave the US policeman and its Israeli subordinate to act for the entire West. At least until 1973 when the 'oil crisis' sharply woke up the Europeans and reminded them of their own vulnerability and of the selfishness of the United States. But what has Europe done since? Its 'comeback' in the Orient coincided with the decline of the Arab nationalist plan; Europe was happy to show a good face - for the sake of business - to the new ruling Arab forces, especially the most reactionary and the most susceptible to accepting the compradorization underway. This cannot be said to be 'supporting an Arab attempt at autonomous development', but merely enrolling as a partner - albeit a trading competitor - in the US plan for the region.

The post-war upsurge, followed by the crisis, far from narrowing the North-South gap has widened it, setting the two shores of the Mediterranean further apart than ever, through the closer integration of Southern Europe on the one hand and the rejection and sinking of the Arab plan on the other.

How do these conflicts relate to the East-West conflict? This conflict must be situated in the context of the broad offensive of imperialism against the South in general and the Arab world in particular. Europe, through the Atlantic alliance, has opted so far to act against the Arab revival. In the West, the media often portray the Middle East conflict as an East-West conflict, in which the Soviet Union is currently embroiled through Syria, and in the past through Egypt. This in no way corresponds to the truth. But the argument is used to justify the shift of NATO's military strategies towards the South and the placing of missile bases in Sicily, not aimed at the Soviet Union but at the Arab world. So under cover of a hotting up of conflict with the East, conditions are created for aggression against the South. The Mediterranean is no longer NATO's southern flank against the Soviet Union, but NATO's central flank against the South. The strategy seeks, therefore, to recompradorize the enormous space that covers, among others, all the Arab and all the African peoples.

Seen in this perspective, Euro-Arab relations are unlikely to develop in a way favourable to the liberation and progress of the Arab peoples. Euro-Arab relations are currently at a conjuncture highly unfavourable to Arab popular interests. On one side we have a Europe that after erratic changes of heart towards the Arabs between 1973 and 1980 has totally gone over to the US and Zionist plan for the region. On the other, there is the Arab world of infiath, a disintegrating Arab world where a half or more of the powers are already openly compradorized.

Does this mean there is no room for any other economic and political relations between Europe and the Arab world? There is, but on condition that the relations are within the prospect of reinforcing the autonomy of the states and peoples in regard to dominant US imperialism. In such a perspective of widening European and Arab states' and peoples' autonomy, one might imagine that some kind of mutual support is not impossible, despite the past and despite the difference in levels of development. This is the prospect of a non-alignment reinforced by a European non-alignment and a restored Arab non-alignment.

Conflict and national and regional security in Africa

The African continent has for some three decades been the theatre for numerous conflicts, some constant and some recurring, internal and external and often entailing foreign intervention. The development economist can purport to overlook these conflicts as they are outside his discipline. The

African intellectual cannot accept surrender to such useless exercises: what sense does 'development' make in Chad, Uganda. Ethiopia, or in the countries on the South African and Israeli front line?

To act effectively in putting a stop to these situations mortgaging any development requires an accurate scientific analysis of the causes of the insecurity in question. Are vague general theories enough in such a case'? Some will see the conflict as basically a result of capitalist competition, and others as the exacerbation of fundamental and spontaneous communal loyalties that may be based on national, religious or tribal criteria; a third group will see it as the projection on to African soil of the conflict of the superpowers. Yet others will prefer to take each conflict case by case and account for them by an eclectic mix of varying causalities.

It seems to us useful to make some preliminary observations on conflict theory, before addressing the question of national and regional security in Africa.

Towards a conflict theory based on a global analysis of the system

It has been said that war is 'nothing but the continuation of politics by other means'. Studying the conflicts is therefore studying a chapter of politics. It must be admitted at the outset that our tools of analysis in this field are particularly weak. It is not our intention here to put forward a general theory of politics. We shall offer no more than a few critical comments on the theories - often more implicit than explicit - underlying the various concrete analyses made in studies of some past and present conflicts.

We shall begin with Lenin's proposition that politics is economics in tablet form. There is some truth in this proposition, but it is useful to see how far it goes, for the proposition is meaningful only for the capitalist era of history. By that we mean that capitalism is a mode of social organization characterized by the predominance of the economic dimension. It is not the same for pre-capitalist societies, characterized by the predominance of the political and ideological dimension. And how does it apply to the so-called socialist post-capitalist societies?

We have here two schools of thought, both of which may claim to be Marxist. For some, the essence of capitalism is the fundamental class contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat. Hence all political phenomena (including the wars of the capitalist era) must in the final analysis be explained by this fundamental conflict and the means employed to resolve it - albeit temporarily - and to relieve its acuteness. In this spirit, political attitudes adopted by this or that side must be judged from a 'proletarian class position'. Others take the view that 'really existing' capitalism (as opposed and compared with the capitalist mode of production taken in the abstract) has brought to the fore another contradiction' the driving force of history, setting the peoples of the peripheries (we say peoples advisedly, that is, a non-homogeneous collection of popular classes, and not nations, or states, or proletariats) against worldwide dominant capital. Politics and the wars are, then, largely a regulatory factor of this contradiction.

We shall move nearer to a specific analysis by defining more precisely the operation of the 'dominant capital' in question. We might make the hypothesis that the relevant question is how and to what extent is there a correlation between the emergence of a national bourgeoisie as the dominant class in a given social formation, the establishment of its state and the crystallization of capitalist interests. This has certainly been the case in the past. The formation of a nation-state in Britain, France, Germany, the United States. Japan, has corresponded to the emergence of a national (English. French, and so on) bourgeoisie and national capital. Dominant capital has plural forms, and politics (and wars) were largely governed by conflictive competition between national capitals, particularly to ensure domination over the peripheral regions subjected to the needs of the logic of the expansion of those national capitals. In this sense, as Oliver Cox, Herb Addo and generally speaking the 'world economy' school argue, imperialism (and the conflict of imperialisms)4 is a permanent feature of capitalism, and not a fairly recent phenomenon (the 'highest stage of capitalism', as Lenin saw it).

But is this always so? The long crisis of contemporary capitalism, beginning with the American decline at the end of the 1960s, is accompanied by a worldwide expansion of capital that seems to be taking on qualitatively new characteristics. Certainly the establishment of 'transnationals' in the period before the post-war upsurge (1945-70) initiated this evolution. The economic interests of the 'transnationals' might be in conflict with those of the national capital from which they emerged, and hence their strategy could clash with that of the national state, to the extent that the latter expressed the collective interest of national capital. But two factors limited the extent of these contradictions. The first is that the transnationals were so only in their field of activity, as control over their capital remained national. It was a matter of US, British, German or Japanese transnationals. The second is that United States hegemony was asserted over them just as it was asserted over other capitalist states.

What can be seen 15 years or so on? As Andrunder Frank has shown, since the end of the 1960s recessions have come at an accelerated rate, every three or four years, and each recession has been deeper than the previous ones in real economic terms (productive employment, growth, employment), and these recessions are separated by increasingly fragile and feeble abortive recoveries, to the point that the conjuncture is one of long crisis with an unpredictable outcome. This succession of unfavourable conjunctures has brought a flurry of financial speculation manifested in Third World external indebtedness and a dual external and internal indebtedness of the United States, as the financial market-place has turned into overgrowth divorced from the material base of the economy.5 In this flurry of financial speculation a new form of worldwide finance capital seems to have been constituted, divorced from any national base. Furthermore, certain new productive capitalist interests (in industry and non-financial services) seem to be established on the basis of a consortium of interests on a national basis of varying origin: 'European' capital. US and Japanese capital, worldwide capital. Oligopolies that had previously had a decisive national base from which they extended their 'multinational' antennae gradually became multinational oligopolies in the full meaning of the expression. Japanese capital, for instance, which had previously pursued a systematic policy of reinvestment of profits in the building-up of an industrial fortress in Japan, began to transfer the seat of its productive activities (such as the Honda motor cars) to the United States. Some forecast that this transfer could reach such proportions that the oligopoly in question could no longer be regarded as Japanese by virtue of its main headquarters and nationality of control over its capital, but rather as a new Americano-Japanese oligopoly.

We are not convinced that the extrapolation of these trends is entirely legitimate and that the future is already defined in terms of a worldwide expansion of capital going beyond capital's national bases. But the hypothesis of an evolution in this direction and to this point of no return is no longer out of the question. If this does happen the correlation of state and capital, that has been characteristic of capitalism so far, will be gone and in its place will be a new contradiction between the multiplicity of states and the worldwide expansion of capital. For it is obvious that the construction of a unified Americano-Euro-Japanese political state is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

This new contradiction makes it necessary to review the question of politics and conflicts that until now could be analysed in terms of conflictive competition of imperialist national capitalisms. Until now, hegemonies were exercised by national states - Britain from 1815 to 1880, the United States from 1945 to 1970 - during fairly short periods of advance for the capital of these nations at all (technological and financial) levels and for their state at the military level (British naval supremacy. US virtual nuclear monopoly until the early 1960s and a politico-military intervention capability unchallenged until the defeat in Vietnam in 19751. The rule was chiefly one of conflict of imperialisms, Britain and France throughout the 18th century, the five great powers-Britain, United States. Germany. France and Japan - from 1880 to 1945, including the 'thirty years war' (1914-45) between Germany and the United States for the succession to Britain (we owe this image to Giovanni Arrighi).6 In the hegemonic phases, unity of the world system was to the fore-British free trade in the 19th century and American free enterprise after the Second World War - but in the phases of conflict the system had a greater tendency to break up into rival zones, crystallized in colonial empires and spheres of influence, especially between 1880 and 1914 and then during the 1930s.

The worldwide expansion of capital made it impossible to continue this schema of break-up. At the same time it also ruled out the re-establishment of the hegemony of a police state, in the absence of a new Americano-Euro-Japanese state. Some would say that this impossibility gave a second wind to United States hegemony, for want of a viable competitor. But in that case the fatal hiatus between the interests of worldwide capital and US policy (necessarily dictated by the demands of the dominant social alliance in the United States) would lead only to a disorder ungovernable by any rationality.

Within the framework of this theoretical analytical scheme of politics and international conflicts comes the national dialectic between politics and economics. This means that the stability of the bourgeois national state depends on an internal social alliance determining the scope for possible political manoeuvre. As an illustration of this proposition, it might be said that in the 19th century the French bourgeois state depended on an alliance of capital with the middle classes of the time - the then numerous peasantry, petty craft production, and so forth - intended to isolate the working class, excluded from power and the social contract. Since the end of the 19th century the social contract has gradually integrated the working class, on the basis of Fordism and the welfare state, first in the US and then throughout the developed West. The language of 'consensus politics', outside right-left divergences, that makes the running in all contemporary Western electoral democracy, shows the reality of this new aspect of politics.

If we return to Lenin's dictum on the relations of economics and politics, we note that unless these shades of meaning are introduced as we have tried to do, we shall inevitably slip into reductionist language deftly formulated by Jauron the lines that capitalism harbours war as the cloud does a storm. Capitalism harbours war or peace according to circumstances. It harbours war only when the contradictions it encounters in its expansion - and whose characteristic has still to be situated within the proposed theoretical framework - cannot be overcome by other means. Such wars will be largely the expression of conflicts between bourgeois national states: the emergence of new states and their rejection by the old one, wars of the 1870 kind; inter-imperialist conflicts such as the two world wars: localized conflicts over the dividing up of the peripheries such as the Balkans wars: conflicts between expanding imperialist states and peripheralized peoples: internal conflicts of the civil war kind when the bourgeois hegemonic social alliance fails to take shape.

The character of the conflicts indicated above, among which class conflicts in the proper meaning of the expression play only a small part, is the factual basis for the non-Marxist schools of thought on conflicts. Bourgeois political thought wipes out economics as a system governed by the laws and demands of reproduction and expansion of capital and retains only discrete scraps of economic reality. It can therefore be made - realistically - to take into account access to natural resources, the opening-up of markets or the protection of profits. But it does so on an ad hoc basis, without accepting a general theory of capitalism. It is essentially concerned with research into possible conflict. In fact it comes within a simple sociological hypothesis that states are always potential competitors of each other and seek almost spontaneously to ensure their 'dominance'. In this respect contemporary political thought is the follower of Hobbes, Machiavelli and political thinkers of the absolutist and mercantilist state, without really going any further. From the 19th century it complements this hypothesis with that of the nationalism of peoples, presumed to desire the establishment of homogeneous national states and thereby in competition and always potentially in conflict. Later, colonial conquest and the ethnology it inspired grafted on to the other forms of pre-national community (ethnic group, tribe, religious community) the characteristics of spontaneous collective aggressiveness attributed to the nation-states.

The conflict thus becomes the effect of a nature inherent in humankind and its organization into gregarious communities going beyond any particular social organizational form. A fine example of this simple and absolute psychology comes in the inaugural Constitution of UNESCO where the Anglo-Saxon ideologues of the time declared that 'since wars begin in the minds of men.

The scientific weakness of the thesis goes without saying. But the facts, that is, the frequency of violent conflicts between states, nations and communities, more common than the relatively peaceful class conflicts in the proper meaning of the expression, might seem to support the hypothesis. The political man of action might be satisfied with concrete analysis of conflictive contradictions at the immediate level, without questioning their roots. The 'realpolitik' inspiration of such analyses (the writings of a political figure such as Henry Kissinger for example) is a factor of politics and not of political science. Its reasoning in terms of geopolitics might be effective for action within the system but does not lead to an understanding of the system's character.

It must be regretted that many of the political thinkers of the Third World, trained in the American school, reproduce its cliches without more critical feeling. Hence the Persians are portrayed as the inevitable potential adversaries of the Arabs, Ethiopians of Somalis. Christians of Muslims, and so on, just as in the past the French, the British and the Germans were portrayed as 'hereditary enemies'. This evades the issue of the character of the social system and its characteristic contradictions, the social forces and ideologies operating in these contradictions, to focus only on an abstract and empty generality. This leaves no scope for formulating a strategy of change to bring Persians and Arabs or Ethiopians and Somalis together. The discussion is caught up in the ideological language of adversaries outside the liberation of the peoples in question, and in that of local authorities tossed about on vicissitudes of fortune they are unable to grasp.

The supposedly realistic acceptance of this purportedly fundamental fact of the aggressiveness of human nature, enjoined upon lay creatures from the European renaissance on, gradually obscured another ideological tendency, namely the humanist idealism of religions (Christianity and Islam and undoubtedly others). Among its principles this humanist idealism proclaimed the essential need to overcome this aggressiveness and build a world of peace. The socialist movement of the 19th century proposed a synthesis of this idea with its discoveries about the social mechanism. Socialism - and Marxism in particular - asserted that violence has its roots deep in the social system of exploitation of the labouring classes (and in our modern era in the exploitation of labour by capital). By this token the conflict of states, nations or other communities is merely a manifestation of this more basic and profound latent conflict. This analytical thesis had the necessary corollary in the principle of action to the effect that abolition of exploitation (that is, in our era, abolition of capital) must ensure peaceful human relations. The withering away of the state (conceived mainly as an expression of the need for class exploitation) and of nations and sub-national communities in a liberated humankind followed this view of the social reality and the direction of its possible and desirable evolution.

This kind of programmatic language is no longer tenable. For some 70 years various states claiming to be Marxist socialist have come into being. This did not stop Sino-Soviet antagonism at one stage going to the brink of war, Vietnam invading Laos and Kampuchea, or the resurgence of unfulfilled nationalisms in the Baltic. Soviet Central Asia, Tibet. Yugoslavia, or the Hungarian minority in Romania and Turkish minority in Bulgaria. Bourgeois political thought owes much of its renewed glory to this: the facts showed that nation transcended class, that nations (even without classes) expressed themselves as states (which did not wither away), and that states continued to be driven by the desire to dominate. The ideological language of the socialist powers in question, the arbitrary justifications bending according to circumstances, could only strengthen the belief that 'realpolitik' was all there was.

It is time to break out of these two-fold shackles that keep social reflections in a double impasse. This requires at the start a better understanding of the post-capitalist transition and hence the character of the contradictions operating in the societies emerging from so-called socialist revolutions. We have suggested here a framework of analysis based on the thesis of the fundamental character of inequality in capitalist expansion. We derive the corollary that the post-capitalist transition cannot be reduced to 'socialist construction'. Through its national and popular character it has the real task of resolving an inequality that is inescapable in the framework of 'currently existing' capitalism - a world system based on a polarization of centres and peripheries. We have therefore proposed analysing the post-capitalist societies as revolving around conflictive and dynamic compromises between three social tendencies: socialist, capitalist, and national-statist. We have further suggested that the so-called socialist revolutions and the national liberation movements belonged to the same great historical movement challenging the capitalist system and differing only in the degree of their achievements.

The societies and states of 'current socialism' are riddled with new and specific contradictions, differing from those typifying capitalism. To make sense of the conflicts to which these states are party, one must start with these contradictions that can be classified in two groups.

The socialist societies and states are perceived as adversaries by the capitalist West. They are such to the degree that the national and popular construction they are pursuing escapes the logic of surrender to the demands of worldwide capitalist expansion. These states, conscious of their vulnerability, do, however, seek 'peaceful coexistence', to use the phrase they have themselves coined. But the West sees this weakness as just another reason to exert on them the pressures it regards as necessary in order to destroy the prospect of successful national and popular construction. According to time and circumstance, these pressures may take the form of cold or hot war, or the arms race, while at a particular conjuncture the balance of 'dnte' may diminish the intensity. Here, the ideological language and revolutionary claptrap change place: it is the Western media that play the resonant leitmotivs (the devilish 'autocracies' of the East, their total disregard of principles, and so on) whose purpose is obviously to build up a Western 'anti-socialist consensus'.

The constant hostility to the societies and states of 'really existing socialism' is similar in kind to that the West harbours in regard to national liberation, since this too is part of the same historical movements of challenge to 'really existing' capitalism. 'Anti-Third-Worldism' is the ideological expression of this hostility.

In such circumstances the states of the East, like the Third World states at moments of radicalization of their national liberation struggle, are faced with the need for active resistance to the West's plan for 'driving back'. Their alliances, supports and interventions are at least in part explicable in this context. Are there any general principles to focus the study of this web of circumstance? Bourgeois political thought looks for them at its standard workbench, with preference nowadays, of course, for the data of geopolitics and geo-strategy demanded by modern military equipment. But even if this kind of analysis does give food for thought, it by-passes the principle that seems to us fundamental to an understanding of the global strategy of the countries of the East (the USSR and China in first place). The principle is that interventions by the USSR and China outside their borders (notably in alliance with the national liberation forces in bitter conflict with the West) are means of 'counter-pressure' to make the West lessen the pressure it exercises on the two socialist powers. These 'counter-pressures' can therefore be reduced once Western pressure is reduced.

The liberation movements of the capitalist Third World are ill-equipped to understand the logic of the strategy described above. They themselves fall short of the stage of strong national and popular crystallization characteristic of the so-called socialist societies. As they are engaged upon an unequal struggle against capitalist imperialism, obliged by their own weaknesses to aim low, often forced back on the retreat, they are tempted to blame their own shortcomings on the vacillations and shifts of their external ally. It is the task of the popular forces within the country in question to push their own national liberation movement to the point where they can impose a national and popular revolution. 'Anti-imperialist solidarity' is no substitute for basic shortcomings at this level.

The 'external' contradiction between the 'socialist' societies and states (and the radical national liberation states) and world capitalism is clearly not unconnected with the 'internal' contradictions - the second group - peculiar to the societies described as national and popular. The interweaving of these two groups of contradictions - internal and external - is such that it is virtually impossible to adduce general principles as to their mode of operation. A case by case study must be done. Nevertheless as a warning perhaps, it is possible to signal what may be a risky over-simplification to the effect that the socialist forces operate in an ideological mode, on the basis of the principles of anti-imperialist solidarity, while those of national capitalism and statism, pragmatic by temperament and interest, are more easily seduced by the compromise, or cynicism, of 'realpolitik'.

The problematic of African conflicts7

Africa and the Middle East are the theatre for numerous and virtually permanent conflicts, whose variety and apparent insolubility are enough to discourage many analysts, whether they are political figures from within the countries or abroad. Some people stop trying to understand on the view that 'as in feudal Europe' - the African societies, victims of their own backwardness, are the ground of continual confrontations between 'tribes', peoples and communities, on which are grafted the race for power of autocratic potentates, who call into play unprincipled alliances with such powers as will play this destructive game, whether to retain an economic and 'cultural' presence, or for overall geostrategic motives. It is a simple picture; this view, however, that gains ground as the illusions of the 1960s are thrown out, remains false.

Every case has its particularities that cannot be overlooked. Concrete analyses are therefore irreplaceable. In nearly every one of these countless cases it is possible to see, interwoven in some particular way, four sources of conflict: first, the unresolved conflict between the demands of national and popular liberation and the logic of surrender to capitalist expansion imposed by imperialism; second, the internal conflicts arising from the frailty of the national society, its popular forces and ruling classes; third, the East-West conflict whose projection on to the continent has its own logical rules; fourth, trading competition between the capitalist powers with interests in the region.

This order of presentation of the sources of conflict corresponds to their order of importance. This reflects the degree of potential violence attached to the cause of conflict and in consequence the relative significance of the results of a solution of that conflict.

It is stylish nowadays to think that political independence has put a stop to the era of national liberation and that, as a consequence, the subsequent development is mainly the result of the dynamic of 'infernal causes' peculiar to the Third World societies and states. The first proposition takes little account of the fact that the capitalist Third World states gained their independence under circumstances precluding their 'delinking' and have generally increased their unequal integration in the worldwide capitalist system. These circumstances contrast with those characteristic of societies that have experienced a 'socialist revolution' end definitively delinked in the narrow sense we have given the term. The result is, that the aim of national liberation, necessary to embark upon a path that can efface the legacy of unequal capitalist development, has still to be achieved. As the local bourgeoisies, who to varying degrees have controlled the former national liberation movement (leading to independence) have pursued a developmental approach that did not challenge worldwide capitalist expansion, the responsibility for national liberation reverts to the popular classes victimized in the new state of peripheral capitalist development. The corollary of the proposition we arc criticizing is that the external factor, always unfavourable and increasingly so, still largely conditions the evolution of the internal factors. The conflict between imperialism and the national and popular movement will always be just as violent.

Are not the most violent conflicts in the contemporary Third World just those where direct confrontation is in the forefront Nicaragua in Latin America, the permanent Israeli-Arab conflict, the conflict the South African people wage in their struggle against the white apartheid regime? These two main conflicts in South Africa and the Middle East will be considered below.

The Middle East and South Africa are of course not the only areas of conflict between national and popular aspirations and Western imperialism. It may be said without any exaggeration that the entire African continent is the theatre of this greater and permanent conflict. In the past three decades various experiences in some half of African states have sought a way beyond neocolonialism (Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Mali, Guinea. Guinea Bissau. Burkina Faso, Cape Verde. Ghana, Benin, Congo. Zaire. Ethiopia Somalia, Tanzania. Uganda. Zambia' Zimbabwe. Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius. Seychelles). All these attempts have in some way or other and to varying degrees met with hostility from the West, ranging from the use of economic and financial pressures to conspiracy and even military intervention. Undoubtedly the national aspirations of the various governments in question did not display the same degree of radicalization and often lacked sufficient popular support fend sometimes these governments did not want to see the popular movement acquire the autonomy its energy deserved). These attempts were so weak that many drifted down of their own accord - at least on the surface - and fell back into the rut of neo-colonialism. Others were unable to overcome the contradictions among their own people (including the ethnic contradictions). It is also true that the economic and political apparatus left by Europe in the wake of independence was not intended to support the popular forces but to maintain the neo-colonial order they confronted. It is scarcely surprising that there were so many 'rapid interventions' by paratroopers deployed to put back into the seat of power a dictator who was at the end of his tether but entirely devoted to Western interests. There is a strong element of hypocrisy in Western discourse when it laments the condition of Africa and its peoples, without ever mentioning the unstinted support that the West - in unison - provides to the most retrograde and corrupt of local forces, albeit against more honest forces whose errors and shortcomings the West is only too ready to point out.

Africa's association with the EEC must be seen in this framework of perpetuation of neo-colonial relations Some of our European friends revive the argument that Africa is not ripe to go further and that the popular forces are weak. Others note that even if the association works to the advantage of neo-colonial interests, there is scope for manoeuvre within the texts and the institutions but one that is sadly under-utilized by the forces of the left in

Europe (who could influence their own governments and the EEC) or by the popular and national forces in Africa. This argument is admissible, if one believes, as we do, that choosing the worst policy is rarely the best way to work for change in the strategic relations of power. But it must not cast a shadow on the prospect of a national and popular delinking, valid here as elsewhere. Africa will not develop through the agency of a 'good paternalism' as utopian as the 'good colonialism' of the past that some sections of the European left hope to see, perhaps sincerely. The African peoples cannot escape the general rule: stand up or succumb.

It is in no way our intention to draw up a table where the conflicts Africa suffers are aligned according to their anti-imperialist aspect. The list of inter-ethnic conflicts, for example, is as long as that of conflicts between African nationalism and the West: Zaire. Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Chad, have been or still are theatres of violent conflict, to the extent of civil war in some cases. In other countries the conflict is latent, if it has in some instances been contained so far by repression. There is a not insignificant list of conflicts by states over frontiers or overt or hidden territorial ambitions: Ethiopia. Somalia and Sudan; Algeria and Morocco (and Western Sahara); Mali and Burkina Faso are some examples.

None of these conflicts are entirely 'fabrications' of services outside Africa. The local diplomatic talk that sometimes suggests this is hardly credible, even if, as is often the case, various external forces do seize the opportunity they are given to support one group or impede another, in the light of their own strategic or tactical objectives and in a spirit of cynicism.

Does this suggest that these conflicts are 'inevitable' as the result of the potential hostility inherent in every human 'community', as superficial political thought imagines? We suggest the hypothesis that, many of these 'communal' conflicts are the result of struggles within the ruling class, or between segments of it. What these ruling classes have most obviously in common is their fragility: whether they are comprador classes, able to operate only within the narrow limits allowed by control from world capital, or often not even attaining the status of a comprador bourgeoisie (with their own economic interests subordinated by their integration in world capitalism) but rather a comprador bureaucracy (the apparatus of a comprador state); or whether they are strata and groups with nationalist aspirations who have failed to become the intelligentsia of an alliance of genuinely popular forces. In both instances the temptation is strong for the various segments of a class of this kind to hold power by mobilizing fractions of the population behind 'symbols' that leave them masters of the game. Ethnic or religious symbols are often highly suited to this kind of competition for power.

The cause of these conflicts is not some kind of ethnocentric atavism that compels the peoples not to recognize other realities than those of the communities to which they belong, nor another sort of autocratic atavism that compels the leaders to manipulate the 'ethnic devils'. It is the weakness of the peripheral society as a whole that is at issue and especially that of its ruling classes.

The national and popular outlook therefore requires a strategy that is both democratic and unitary, that is, moving towards the maintenance - or even creation - of broad space (hence great states) commensurate with the challenges demanded by national and popular delinking, and mindful at the same time of diversity within that broad space. The rights of peoples to self-determination must be implemented within this political perspective.

The global conflict of the superpowers does not entail any necessary symmetry between the aims and the actors. The United States takes the leadership of the capitalist forces with the conservative aim of preserving the neo-colonial integration of Africa in the global system. The forces of national and popular liberation cannot therefore avoid a clash. Neither the Soviet Union, nor still less China, have the ambition - and if they did, the capability-to sustain a progressive transformation of the African continent. At most if serious and enduring detente came about, the socialist superpowers would accept an 'African retreat', left to its own peoples and solitary confrontation with internal and external enemies. But in the absence of such detente, a 'presence' in Africa may be deemed useful from two points of view. First as a means of pressure to encourage the adversary to that very detente. Then, in the still possible hypothesis of extensive armed conflict, as a location for bases in the direction of the Mediterranean, North and South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It is true that according to some specialists on military issues, this kind of geostrategic concern tends to become less relevant in an age of intercontinental missiles or Star Wars. But is the concern over in so far as the risk of conflagration is not all or nothing, but one of intermediate options where control over a regional initiative has some significance?

So long as this is so, diplomacy will keep its options: states - Soviet and Chinese like the others - tend to consider only what is there, that is the powers in situ. It would be ingenuous to believe - or even hope - that longer term concerns (the desire for 'socialism') mean more that ideological discourse, albeit sincere. Furthermore, the constraints of diplomacy will not in the future, any more than they did in the past, prevent certain backsliding that might be described as 'opportunist' by anyone of the view that the national and popular objective is an inescapable condition of progress. Such backsliding will occur whenever the alliance of the more or less national local power (and hence to some extent in conflict with the West) and the 'socialist' states operates in such a way as to block rather than encourage this power's evolution to the desired irreversible national and popular crystallization.

We come finally to the last section of our fourfold analysis: Euro-American competition. What we say will be brief as we do not see that this competition entails any political conflict for Africa and the Middle East. On the contrary, the resources of the United States and those of Europe complement each other. In this region, Europe is so far perfectly in step.

The conflict in South Africa8

For a century, imperialism maintained a system of overall domination of the Southern African region in which the white settler colony of South Africa played an essential part. The discovery of the region's mineral wealth (gold and diamonds in South Africa, copper in Katanga and Northern Rhodesia, rare minerals), at the very moment when capitalism was embarking on a new phase of monopolistic expansion, inspired a special formula of colonization, the 'reverse economy'. This was the division of a country forcing the African peasantries, who were herded into 'reserves" purposely inadequate to ensure subsistence in the previously traditional ways, to provide the necessary proletarianized migrant labour for mining. The agricultural economy of the European plantations (in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia) and later the manufacturing industry also benefited from this system.

Apartheid, from the outset, was part of this form of expansion of peripheral capitalism, in contrast with the forms implemented in other parts of the continent, notably the coastal trade economy in West Africa. Contrary to stubborn belief it was not the Boers who in an excess of racism of their own invented the system. Until then the Boers had developed only a crude concept of their society - agrarian and patriarchal - that entailed the conquest of land and not of men, with the latter to be driven out or exterminated rather than integrated in an effectively capitalist exploitation. In short they behaved as the Zionists hoped to treat the Palestinians. But the defeat inflicted on the Boers by British imperialism gave them a new place and role in the system, invented by the British governors brought up on an interpretation of race and class inspired by an Oxbridge reading of Plato. Contrary also to a widespread prejudice, nurtured by these same British who set up the system but attributed paternity to the Boers, apartheid is not a 'remnant' in conflict with the needs of capitalist expansion, but rather in perfect harmony with this expansion. Bourgeois ideology seeks to justify the 'progressive' character of capitalism by pretending that equality before the law and electoral democracy are absolute imperatives of this mode of production. The reality suggests another interpretation stressing the qualitative difference between the centres and the peripheries in this overall capitalist expansion. If, in the centres, the struggles fought by the bourgeoisie against the absolutism of former regimes, followed by the struggles waged by the working class, have in fact imposed bourgeois democracy as we know it, in the periphery the roles assigned to the conquered peoples imposed gross forms of exploitation. Slavery in the Americas, apartheid in South Africa, colonization (and the negation of basic rights it comports) are necessary forms of capitalist expansion as it truly is, in contrast to the mythical view that bourgeois ideology attaches to it. If apartheid is under challenge nowadays in South Africa, it is not because this form is an obstacle to capitalist expansion, but because the struggles of its victims in the black people of South Africa are making it unworkable.

Dominant British imperialism constructed this complex system based on fundamental alliances between the interests of dominant mining monopoly capital and white settler colonialism, direct, semi-indirect or indirect British colonial rule according to regions. Belgian rule in the Congo and subordinate Portuguese rule in Angola and Mozambique. The place of the 'natives' in these alliances was virtually nil. A few kings and chiefs were involved with day to day issues of the 'reserves' in question (notably in Swaziland and Lesotho): there was no subordinate African bourgeoisie (not even in the rural areas), or embryo of a political bourgeoisie. From the end of 19th century to 1984 this system operated without a major crisis to challenge the dominant interests of monopoly capital. In fact, as British hegemony was already waning at the end of the 19th century it brought in North American capital into the venture from the start, as is evidenced by the establishment of Anglo-American institutions. Until the crisis of South Africa reached a decisive phase that is, until 1984 the United States had no need of active political intervention in the region. The British baton bearer until 1948, then the South African baton bearer, was enough to maintain 'order'. The gradual decline of British hegemony gave the Boers an opportunity to avenge their previous defeat. By breaking away from the mother country in 1948, white South Africa became the senior partner in the maintenance of order for the benefit of the overall imperialist strategy in the region. The attempt by Ian Smith to do similarly in Southern Rhodesia did not have the same capacity to succeed, for reasons we explained at the time.

The crumbling of British and Belgian colonialism did not mean the destruction of the overall system of imperialist domination in the region. The national liberation movements in the Belgian Congo, in British Southern Africa (the Rhodesias, Nyasaland, the enclave protectorates in South Africa) and East Africa (Tanganyika), similar to others in the continent, were in the end persuaded or obliged to respect essential 'western' interests. It is true that according to the class character of the alliance within these movements and the twists and turns of their political and ideological evolution, the range of post-colonial approaches and practices is broad, ranging from the avowed neo-colonialism of Malawi. Swaziland, Lesotho and Zaire, to the national efforts of Tanzania and Zambia. But the latter have remained vulnerable and frail.

The later collapse of Portuguese colonialism in 1974 and of the UDI regime in Rhodesia in 1980 have, however, taken the threat to imperialist interests to a higher level. Undoubtedly the West does not think it has definitely lost the battle in Angola or Mozambique. The internal limits to the nationalist systems newly in power have sometimes obliged them to respect the interest of monopoly capital (as with Angola's oil), and have, in any event, kept them within the system of dependent economic relations governing the capitalist world as a whole. The Soviet Union is neither able nor even willing to replace the Western partners in this respect. In Zimbabwe, the path to independence negotiated in the Lancaster House agreement has to say the least prolonged the survival of the former economic system, left virtually untouched in the rural areas (no land reform to redistribute settler land for the benefit of the peasantry) and in industrial areas (respect for the predominance of the interests of local private capital in association with worldwide capital). It is true that for political and historical reasons, and in consequence of the South African challenge (in Namibia in particular), the regimes in these three countries remain 'unreliable' in the eyes of the West. The West has regarded it as positive and useful - for it - that South Africa pursues its destabilizing military aggression against Angola and Mozambique since 1974 and against Zimbabwe since 1980. These aggressions are complemented on the economic level by the destabilizing aggression of the IMF acting for imperialism's global account and profiting from the -sometimes serious - weaknesses and errors of local policies. The results of this strategy, aimed at establishing overtly neo-colonial regimes, are unfortunately not disappointing for imperialism. Angola was obliged to appeal to Cuban military assistance, to face up to South African ventures, Mozambique to sign the Nkomati agreement, without this bringing security to the country, Zimbabwe to observe the Lancaster House spirit, Tanzania and Zambia to pass through the Caudine forks of the IMF. The 'Soviet presence' in the region, the rear bases for liberation in Namibia and South Africa (SWAPO, ANC, PAC), are pretexts rather than genuine reasons for the West's offensive strategy. The presence is a result - and not a cause - of the West's refusal to accept other than neo-colonial regimes in Africa and to face up to decolonization in Namibia and South Africa.

But things have changed since 1984. The heightened struggle of the people of South Africa raises the question of the region's future in new terms of an alternative: overall neo-colonialism for Southern Africa, or national and popular liberation.

On this we shall make six general points that seem useful to clarify the character of the issues and possible strategies.

One: what is in direct, immediate and violent crisis in South Africa is the political regime of apartheid and the denial it implies of any regard for the basic rights of the African majority population. Although with a substantial urban proletariat, the relations of exploitation specific to capitalism are potentially at stake in the crisis, the main thrust of the blow is the claim for majority political power (majority rule versus minority rule and apartheid). This characteristic of the movement is quite natural in the current circumstances.

Two: in such circumstances, if the struggle does not develop to the level of a real challenge to the relations of production, a neo-colonial solution remains possible, even in South Africa. After all, some kind of Lancaster House would be quite acceptable to the West. Of course, some of the white settler interests in South Africa would be sacrificed: but just as it was done at the time of the defeat of the Boers at the beginning of the century! It would be useless to go much further with 'pseudo-forecasting' of possible scenarios. The latter might, to the benefit of the Africans, include more or less major land reforms and more or less broad political representation, and to the benefit of the colonizers, more or less detailed and firm 'guarantees'. What is essential for imperialism is to preserve the capitalist relations of production in industry and the mines and the international 'specialization' of the region that flows from them.

We must carefully distinguish the too ready arguments that this outcome is totally 'impossible'. It is said there is no black bourgeoisie in South Africa, as apartheid has made its existence impossible. Granted: but in many African countries this was the case and nevertheless a political bourgeoisie has quickly been able to take up the role. South Africa's nuclear power excludes any agreement, it is said, as the West would never allow the weapon to fall into the hands of a black government. Has the possibility of dismantling the weapons capability been excluded, if such were necessary? South Africa is the sole supplier of strategic minerals, unless importers turn to the Soviet Union. Granted: but is the neo-colonial solution aimed precisely at ensuring the continuance of these supplies? A final argument: white power in South Africa enjoys an autonomy sufficient to allow it to refuse 'plans' that require unpalatable sacrifices. The analogy is often made with Israel, also able to cock a snook at the West, demand unconditional support or even dispense with it. We venture to doubt the strength of this argument. South Africa would have great difficulty in withstanding sanctions, even the merely economic, and the white regime would crumble even more quickly if they were enforced. The spread of the war within the country could even of itself bring about the collapse.

Three: it is useless nowadays to see opposition between the possible strategies of the various partners in the imperialist system, including the United States, the European community and Japan. Certainly, as Lenin realized and studied in his day, imperialism was a conflict of economic imperialisms (and even military, as the two world wars showed). But these inter-imperialist relations have evolved since the Second World War. They have apparently ruled out resort to inter-imperialist war. But they have led also to a new stage of global interpenetration of interests. The European community. United States and Japan, especially in the mining sector essential for the region, deploy fully integrated company and state strategies. The argument that the EEC, out of concern for its African friendships, might diverge from its US competitor ally does not hold water, as the surrender of neo-colonial regimes and the vulnerability of those which offer a challenge is such that the European interests may sleep easily.

Four: the neo-colonial outcome is no more inevitable that its opposite, the outcome of national liberation of a popular bent and socialist vocation. It will all depend on the strategies of the struggle waged in South Africa. If the strategies have the sole aim of 'majority rule' and actively seek negotiations on this basis, the neo-colonial compromise may be achieved sooner than is expected. But if the strategies are based on a deepening of social aims (that is, a struggle for workers" control over the means of production and a peasant war for reconquest of land), the outcome would certainly be very different. The historical responsibility of the avant gardes lies here.

Five: is it a struggle eventually to build socialism (on the best hypothesis of the development of the struggle), or one that on this hypothesis would lead only to a national and popular power with merely a socialist mission? We shall return to this point in Chapter 8.

Six: so long as national and popular construction is not embarked upon in South Africa and in the region, relations between the countries of the region will remain marked by the inequality inherent to capitalist expansion, both in their relations with imperialism and their relations with each other. Hence the overall neo-colonial solution entails the segmentation of local and regional ruling classes, leading to a conflict of their interests. A pseudo South African 'expansionism', as the channel for worldwide capitalist expansion, would then be a real possibility and probability. But does the national and popular solution remove this possibility? Here again a dogmatic and vulgar concept of a conjunction of all the popular interests is not an adequate analysis, the current conflicts between the (so-called socialist) nationalist and popular regimes, between the USSR and Eastern Europe, China and the USSR. China and Vietnam, are not the result of 'ideological deviations'. Their being of a particular character (as they are not conflicts produced by the unequal development of capitalism) does not mean they do not exist. The contradiction and hence its solution in various ways (co-operation or conflict) and in particular situations, governs the post-capitalist society just as it governs the pre-capitalist and capitalist societies.

The Middle East conflict in a world perspective

The Middle East conflict, unbroken for more than 30 years, appears to set the Arab states - and behind them the Palestinian people - against the State of Israel. The Arab states appear motivated above all by the desire to acquire sufficient political and economic autonomy to become worthy partners in the world capital system from which they cannot envisage a divorce. In their pursuit of this objective, they constitute, according to Zionist fears, a 'deadly' peril to Israel.9

But behind these immediate protagonists stand other forces whose interests and strategies have a secondary effect on the actors in the forefront. These forces are the Arab peoples. Western imperialism and the Soviet Union. Raising the issue in these terms also raises a series of underlying issues, namely: (i) the extent to which the Arab states are really masters of the game, and the extent to which the conflict between them and their popular forces is without solution: (ii) the extent to which Zionism and the State of Israel are an autonomous force, with their own strategy and aims; (iii) the extent to which imperialism implements a common strategy towards the region and conversely the extent to which US and European interests, for example, may diverge; and finally (iv) to what extent the Soviet Union is capable of intervening in the region and the objectives it would pursue and the means it would have.

The conflict between the Arab peoples and the expanding capitalist West clearly does not date from 1947. It dates back to the very origin of the world capitalist system. The long history of this conflict is riddled with defeats of the A rate world, from the 1 6th century to 1950. From the Capitulations granted by the Ottoman Empire, inaugurating the era of unequal treaties, to the defeat of the Egyptian Pasha Mohamed Ali in 1840, from the conquest of Algeria from 1830, to the occupation of Egypt and Tunisia in 1982 then of Morocco in I 911, to the division of the Middle East between the British and the French in 1919, it is a long list of defeats. For the Arab peoples, partition of Palestine in 1947 and Israel's first expansion from 1948 are obviously in line with colonial European expansion, and just a more modern example.

Colonial European expansion here as elsewhere in Asia and Africa, encountered resistance that would eventually be insurmountable with the development of the national liberation movements. While in the decades after the Second World War all the Arab countries regained their political independence and effaced the marks of colonization, in these same decades, however, from 1950 to 1980. Zionist colonization came to the fore and expelled the Palestinian people from their ancestral home. This paradox of victorious colonization in the very period when colonization was being ousted from the Afro-Asiatic whole demands an explanation.

Any attempt at an answer requires an examination of the Arab national liberation movement. In Egypt and the countries of the fertile crescent (Syria, Palestine. Iraq) the British - imperialism then dominant governed the region through the channel of local authorities drawn mainly from the large landowners, who had benefited from integration in the world economic system carried out from the 19th century. The national liberation movement had first to manifest itself as an internal anti-latifundist (anti-'feudal', anti-imperialist) movement bringing together various peasant, popular and bourgeois social forces. Through various twists and turns this movement succeeded during the 1950s in overthrowing the reactionary defenders of the status quo first in Egypt then in Syria and Iraq. Nasserism, the dominant concept in the region in the 1950s and 1960s, was the climax of this story, carrying all Arab countries in its wake. The rise of the Ba'ath in Syria and Iraq and the Algerian war (1954-62) were concomitant. The 'progressive' nationalist regimes emerging from this phase shared common essential characteristics: for example, anti-latifundist land reform, nationalizations and industrialization, the establishment of a modernist state. This current was so strong that it forced the old British and French imperialism into a general retreat - and even into acceptance of independence for the countries and regions less forward in the struggle, from Morocco to the Gulf. It was also so persuasive that the 'moderate' states emerging from the withdrawal were obliged to align themselves, nominally at least, under Nasserist leadership.

The rise of Nasserism was, however, not without violent struggles against the new dominant imperialism, of the United States, which, taking over from Britain in Palestine after 1948, chose to turn its protege - Israel - into the spearhead of its intervention. Nasserism, in order to assert itself and a new political and economic standard, was obliged to lean on the United States' sole adversary, the USSR, as Europe had withdrawn and lined up with the United States.

This rise of Nasserism succeeded in transforming social reality throughout the Arab world. In varying degrees the new national authorities established bourgeois hegemonic alliances, crystallizing around a bourgeoisie of the industrial state, peasant (kulak) allies and petit bourgeoisie, sometimes with a popular element and, conversely, sometimes drawn from the former dominant classes (large landowners and traditional chieftains). Two distinct currents can be found in this broad spectrum: a radical bourgeois tendency aiming at the construction of a modernized, industrialized and autonomous national state as an 'equal' partner in the world system of states' and a moderate bourgeois tendency willing to play a subordinate role in the international division of labour that the radical wing rejected.

The entire strategy of the United States was aimed at smashing the radical tendency. It is not by chance that for this purpose the United States used the means of Israeli military intervention - the lightning war of 1967. The Egyptian and Arab defeat was part of the very historical limitations of this radical bourgeois tendency. The latter never really accepted a popular alliance endowed with an autonomy that might threaten its own class prospects. By this token it could not unhesitatingly play the card of Arab popular unity. For the rise of the anti-imperialist struggles of the Arab peoples had put the issue of Arab unity on the agenda.

The bourgeois radical wing of the Arab liberation movement could not play the card of Arab popular unity so long as within each of the existing states it refused to allow room for a popular political hegemony. The ambiguous attitudes of this radical wing in regard to the Palestinian movement itself, confined in some kind of 'protectorate', reveal the same limitations. But similar hesitations were shown in regard to relations with the Soviet Union. An alliance with the latter was sought only as a means of pressure to win acceptance by the true spokesman - the United States. The Arab bourgeoisie, even the radical wing, hoped to persuade the United States to cease relying on Zionism as the only card in the regional game and recognize the bourgeoisie as a major partner.

The United States did not see it in this way. The United States was determined to take advantage of the weaknesses of the radical Arab camp to smash it and to subject the region to its own perceptions. This process of subordination, and of recompradorization, clearly under way since 1967, has gone through three stages marking its indisputable triumph.

The first stage was the lightning war in 1967. This war marked the end of Nasserism, that is, a turning back of the Arab unitary current and a shift 'to the right' at internal level. Infitah, or open door policy, as a series of concessions to the local neo-comprador bourgeoisie and dominant world finance capital, began at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s in Egypt, but also in Syria. Iraq and Algeria.

Nevertheless, the radical wing of Arab nationalism tried to re-establish a less unfavourable balance. After long and costly preparations for war, with Soviet support, the successful crossing of the Suez Canal and the destruction of the Bar Lev line between 6 and 15 October 1973, were they going to allow this bourgeoisie to take its place at last an equal and respected partner? Arab solidarity was manifest on this occasion, the coincidence with the OPEC victory in securing the increase in oil prices, the intention attributed to Kissinger of ditching the Zionist alliance for one with the Arab bourgeoisie mobilized behind the new financial wealth of the Gulf made it credible.

But it came to nothing. On the contrary, 1973 paved the way for a new state of recompradorization. Undoubtedly the outcome of the October 1973 war was ambiguous. But above all the Arab bourgeoisie would line up with its 'moderates' win and play the American card without hesitation as was shown in Anwar Sadat's break with the USSR and the introduction of infiath. At the same time the new financial wealth of the Gulf, far from strengthening Arab hands, was to integrate the region further in the world capitalist system, by 'recycling' funds that further reduced the scope for Arab bourgeois autonomy. Saudi Arabia refused to provide an alternative financial solution for Egypt and rather made its financial aid conditional on Egypt's acceptance of the IMF plan, thus becoming an active agent of this recompradorization. What followed - with the Camp David agreements - was a new stage of implementation of the plan to subordinate the Arab world. Menachem Begin must have understood it in this way: by restoring the Sinai - perhaps temporarily - he secured the dismantling of the Egyptian army and left his hands free to embark upon definitive annexation of the West Bank of the Jordan. Gaza and the Golan Heights.

Israel, encouraged by its luck, went further and in July 1982 grabbed Lebanon to the gates of Beirut and secured the PLO's departure from that country. The Arab reaction to this new state of Zionist colonial expansion was, as we know, nil. The bourgeois radical wing was decisively beaten and dismantled, the Arab bourgeoisie as a whole accepted the fate dictated by imperialism as a subordinate comprador partner. Hence its only reaction was to place its hopes in the pleas it made - through the Fes plan for example - to the masters of the world system to which it belonged.

For 30 years the political life of the Arab world has been rendered more complex by the intervention of this peculiar protagonist: the Zionism of the State of Israel. Is this an autonomous force with its own objectives and means?

Zionism is a reactive response of Jewish communities to the oppression they suffered through centuries of European history, especially in modern day Eastern and Central Europe. In this sense the story is a chapter in the sad history of Europe and has nothing to do with the Orient. The interaction between European and Oriental history is born of the choice of Palestine as the 'land of return'. It was a murderous choice as it implied the expulsion or extermination of a people whose home Palestine had been for 14 if not 20 centuries! But the choice was very convenient for Europe of the 19th and 20th centuries: it would be rid of the embarrassing 'Jews' and use them to settle Arab lands. The leaders of Zionism seized their chance and included their plan within the broader one of European colonial expansion. Without Britain's mandate over Palestine the State of Israel would have been quite impossible. The occupying power not only accepted into Palestine massive immigration taking the Jewish population from 60,000 in 1920 to 600,000 in 1948, and tolerated their organization into a military power in the state, but also actively fought the Palestinian national liberation movement and terrorized its organization, particularly between 1936 and 1939, and thereby created the conditions for the Arab defeat of 1948.

The State of Israel, determined by the UN partition of 1947, never recognized the frontiers allocated to it and never accepted the very existence of the Palestinian people, Zionism saw its future in no other terms than indefinite expansion of its colonization. It never pinched at the means to attain its objectives: from the massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 to those at Sabra and Chatila in 1982 (massacres for which Israel is to blame, whatever is said), by way of the violent settlement on the West Bank and the Golan Heights, the story is no different from that of other colonizations. It became clear that Israel intended not only to annex the whole of Palestine, the Golan Heights and probably South Lebanon, but also that it had not given up hope of Sinai and the West Bank. The 'greater Israel' map - stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates - and the staggering declarations of its leaders about its 'sphere of intervention' - from Zaire to Pakistan! - (however exaggerated such pretensions might seem) are not the fruit of Arab imagination, but declared intentions whose seriousness is confirmed in three decades of history.

The ideology and strategy underpinning such a plan are of necessity extremely simple. It is an ideology founded on a basic racism that was never absent from the 19th century European perception of the Arabs. The Zionists not only fail to see the Arab nation, or Arab nations, but also deny the Palestinian or Lebanese people the right of nationhood. They see them as merely a motley conglomeration whose identity is no more than that of religious or pare-ethnic communities (Sunni Muslims, Shi'ites, Christians, Maronites, Druzes, and so on). Old colonial rubbish of the kind with which the French were besotted in North Africa until the day when they were proved worog by the factor of a previously denied national unity. This ideology, unbelievable in our day and shared only by the South African authorities (who in the same way are blind to any African reality except that of 'tribes') and for whom Zionism holds the greater esteem and friendship, is not exclusive to a few extremists. It is shared by Likud and the Labour Party, that is, by the main body of Israeli political forces.

The strategy adopted for the achievement of this colonial plan is itself, in the nature of things, extremely simple. Zionist expansion is not possible unless Israel's strategy sticks close to the strategy of more substantial external forces. The option of making Israel an instrument of US imperialism is a fundamental option that has never for an instant been challenged since 1948 by any Israeli political force (Labour and Likud). Israel is thus in a position to 'prove' to the United States that imperialism's utmost plan-compradorization of the Arab states - is within the bounds of possibility. If the Arab states are weak to the point of being negligible it is all the better for the interests of the West. The West takes as genuine partners only such as cannot be denied. Israel and Western imperialism share the same strategic aim: to prevent the Arab world from becoming powerful economically, socially and politically. The alliance between Israel and the West is not conjunctural. Contrary to what some imagine, it is not based on manipulation by a few 'lobbyists' motivated for one reason or another by concern for the Israeli electoral client. Israel has a key place in the United States' global strategy, it is not a formal member of the Atlantic military alliance but is de facto its most ardent member. It also provides for the Pentagon's strategists a test bed against Soviet weapons. When, as is currently the case, detente between the two superpowers is at a low ebb, the American-lsraeli military alliance takes on a new significance. Zionism counts on this confrontation as one of its major trump cards.

The United States will never, in the foreseeable future at least, abandon its unconditional support for Israel. That is why it continues to ensure Israel's absolute military superiority, as it has always done, again despite what some ingenuous or manipulated propagandists would have us believe. Israel, systematically equipped with offensive weapons, while the Arab armies have never had more than defensive capacity, has always had overwhelming air superiority (even in October 1973, which was the moment of closest military balance. Egypt could not control the air space further than 15 kilometres east of the Suez Canal). Israel's strength is that of the West as a whole. That is why talk of Israel's 'autonomy', following its own objectives and with the means to do so and compelling the West to go along with it, must be discounted, to say the least. The truth is rather the opposite: it is a bluff skilfully used by Zionist propaganda; a bluff that the Arab bourgeoisies believe - or pretend to believe-since they hope to 'persuade' Washington...

The ideological component of the confrontation must not be underestimated. Israel knows how to exploit anti-semitism when it exists and even how to incite and arrange the necessary provocations to this effect, so that by posing as the victim it can stir up a current of favourable opinion, especially in the usually anti-colonialist leftist circles. Israel also knows how to make the most of the very strong feeling of solidarity of 'European' peoples against the 'barbaric threat 'from Asia and Africa. Colonial and imperialist ventures have always benefited from this ambivalence in the popular classes and milieu of the European left. Obviously this pro-imperialist solidarity has objective foundations and the alignment of the European working-class parties with the imperialist policies of their bourgeoisies is neither new nor peculiar to the Israeli case. It has, on the contrary, been visible in a general way since the end of the 19th century and was denounced by Lenin as a betrayal. It should be noted that Israel's Labour Party remains a member of the Socialist International without embarrassment to that body's European members. It should also be noted that while the threats to the freedom of the Polish people disturb the European conscience, the threat of extermination of the Palestinian people disturbs it much less.

Israel is well aware that the themes of 'proletarian internationalism' and 'solidarity of the peoples against imperialism' are mere rhetoric of the left, whereas the appeal to pan-European solidarity against the peoples of Asia and Africa is a reality that still means something. Hence Zionism has succeeded in drawing on Western support from the right (and even sometimes the anti-semitic extreme right!) to the great majority of the left.

The Arab ruling classes and political readerships, unable to rely on themselves alone -or their peoples - must perforce seek the active intervention 'on their behalf, of the Soviet Union or even of the imperialist forces.

The radical wing of the Arab bourgeoisie relied for a while on Soviet support. And the results this gave - the least unpromising in modern Arab history-might encourage false hopes. The Soviet presence in the region was genuine from 1955 - date of the first arms shipments to Egypt - to the aftermath of 1973 - when Sadat made a definitive and unfettered commitment to the US camp. Despite the fears of the Arab bourgeoisie, and even of Nasser, the USSR had no desire to set up satellite regimes in the region, and gave pledges to this effect. It simply wanted to make the American camp understand that any attempt at encirclement and military pressure aimed at isolating it or even forcing it to 'roll back' was bound to fail. In this the USSR found a natural ally in the traditional Arab willingness to resist the imperialists. Undoubtedly the possibility of Soviet expansionism cannot be ruled out, although traditionally this was reserved for contiguous areas (Turkey, Iran and at a later date Afghanistan). In the future the Soviet Union may well to make Europe understand that in case of need it could block petrol supply routes. Intervention in the Horn of Africa, the presence in South Yemen and the Indian Ocean is part of this possible line of development. But it has not happened. In the Middle East the USSR has always been concerned to reconcile its support for Arab nationalism with the demands of co-existence and detente. It would have liked to solve the local conflict through peaceful negotiated means in agreement with the United States, and has made several attempts at this but in vain.

The October 1973 war made it look fore while es if Europe would intervene in a similar way, for a peaceful settlement with definitive frontiers being imposed on Israel, Israel ceasing to be a constant threat, and a Palestinian state being established. Hitherto Europe had in effect been absent from the state and had here as elsewhere entrusted responsibility for defence of the West's collective interest to the United States. But the oil shock of 1973 reminded Europe how vulnerable it was and how selfish the United States; with this crisis, the prospect of greater European autonomy became attractive. As Europe saw Camp David operating in the opposite direction of compradorizing the Arab world mainly to the benefit of the United States and encouraging Israeli expansionism, Europe between 1973 and 1980 was moving in a new direction, distancing itself from the United States and Israel. It must be noted that this new policy of European autonomy was always wavering, and has been on the retreat since 1980. Europe's alignment with the US strategy is shown by overt or concealed support to Israel in the Lebanese war, manoeuvres to hold back recognition of the PLO, and objective complicity with Israel, with Europe securing for Israel what it probably could not have secured alone - the evacuation of Beirut by PLO forces that left Palestinian civilians at the mercy of their murderers. In 1973 a great opportunity was lost of making Israel accept Arab and Palestinian co-existence. This would have meant Europe using all its influence to support the Soviet proposal fore peace conference. Europe did not do so. Did it succumb to anti-Soviet blackmail? Or was it merely the victim of its incapability of doing more than waver, as usual? The Atlantic pact's accommodation with Reaganite blackmail, making North-South relations (the problematic where the Middle East issue belongs) dependent on East-West conflict is not a positive omen for the foreseeable future.

All the Arab bourgeoisies could do then was surrender to US dictates and beg for mercy. Undoubtedly in the confusion of 1973 Nixon and Kissinger threw out a hint that they might revise their unconditional support for Israel and opt for a better regional balance, making room for the new financial bourgeoisie of the Gulf, their long-time faithful friend, which with the decline of Nasserism had become the spokesman of the Arab ruling classes as a whole. The sequel has shown that the United States reverted to its fundamental option: unconditional support for Israel's colonial plan and the no less unconditional subjection of the recompradorized Arab bourgeoisies.

Africa and the Arab world in the world system

The Arab and African region is perhaps the empty belly of the entire world. The region at the moment seems scarcely able to respond positively to the challenges of the crisis. The gross Euro-American neo-colonialism to which Africa is subjected, its break-up into national states, manipulation by the authorities in situ of the ethnic, religious and other heterogeneities make the continent extremely weak. In the Arab world, corruption associated with oil revenues the illusory 'compensatory' factor of neurotic recourse to 'specific character' - including religion - have deferred the unitary and socialist plan to the Greek calends. An uneasy balance of marginalized regions, abandoned to famine and despair (the Sahel for example) and poles of limited 'prosperity', associated with oil or mining royalties and their redistribution, is not an impossible prospect.

Since the remote time of the 15th century, the Mediterranean has been the centre of the regions of the old world to the west of the Indian and Chinese continents. Since the conquest of Alexander the region has borne the common imprint of Hellenism.

These were the foundations on which the Mediaeval Christian and Islamic universes were built. During a millenium we have here a constellation of interlocking societies enjoying cultural and ideological organic links and technological and trading exchanges sufficiently voluminous to be described as a system. Some of the constituent elements of capitalism (exchange and commodity capital' free wage labour, private property of land and enterprise) appeared in the region at an early stage and at certain moments - notably the first centuries of Islam and the period of the expansion of the Italian cities (from the 12th to 15th centuries - went so far as to form segments of that system, to the degree that it is possible to see the 'Mediterranean system' es the prehistoric forebear of the modern capitalist system.

The thesis of unequal development in the birth of capitalism is based on this contrast between the advanced (Italian and Arab) Mediterranean - that has become a handicap - and the backwardness of the European feudal periphery, that was to become an advantage in the birth of capitalism.

The Renaissance marks a qualitative break with the past, since it is then that the scattered ingredients of proto-capitalism crystallize to produce a new coherent social system, that of capitalism. By the same token the relation between power and wealth is inverted: until the Renaissance wealth had always depended on power, henceforth economic wealth would determine the content of political power. Likewise the old metaphysical ideological constructs (Hellenism, Christianity and Islam) coherent with the demands of a system based on the tribute-paying mode of production, would give place to a new political construct and a new kind of universalist aspiration. At the same time, the Renaissance saw the centre of gravity of the new capitalist world shift from the shores of the Mediterranean to those of the Atlantic. The former periphery of the Mediterranean system - north-west Europe - became the centre of the new European and Atlantic capitalist world system.

The Mediterranean region was in due course peripheralized in the development of the capitalist system. Its Arab southern shore would be colonized while the belated formation of the bourgeois national state in Italy and the Balkans would leave clear traces of underdevelopment. The Mediterranean ceased to belong to its bordering countries but became a geostrategic region for others, dominated by a hegemonic power, Britain, then the United States, or disputed by their rivals, Germany then the USSR.

The change created a new situation. Europeanism called the tune, since it was associated with the formation of the new capitalist and European centre, although it was henceforth impossible to separate the two aspects of the one reality. An avatar of Christendom? The creed, of Mediterranean and Oriental not to say Egyptian - origin, spread into the barbarian North where it flourished, while it faded out and gave place to Islam to the south of the inland sea. The new reality of Europe seeks its supposed roots and ideological justifications in the ancient Mediterranean world that nurtured it: from the Renaissance rediscovering Greece and Rome to contemporary talk in EEC Europe making Athens the cultural capital of Europe, there is no shortage of such a quest for origins. But it is interesting to note here that these supposed roots are sought exclusively in the regions of the Mediterranean area that have remained Christian. Recognition of the role of Egypt and Islam is left to rare specialists; an appeal to popular feeling here would be regarded as almost indecent.

The crystallization of the Arab nation was a product of reaction to the new challenge, nothing to do with the challenges of the previous centuries, even allowing for that of the Crusades. The Arabization and Islamization from the Atlantic to the Gulf are undoubtedly earlier, and so an Arab nation was fully in existence in the first centuries of Islam, then in its first glory. Evidence, too, of this region's lead over feudal and fragmented Europe: the centralization of surplus by the class of warrior merchants, the alliance of the cities they led and the Khalifate, to keep control of communications and the countryside, are the foundations of this nation. Yet it later decayed, with the decline of the great trade and the call for the help of the Turkish barbarians of Central Asia. The Ottoman reunification did not halt the process, but even to some extent accelerated it. Hence the renaissance of the Arab nation would come in dual reaction to the European challenge and Ottoman domination. This renaissance began early, since the threat of European advance was quickly felt in the 18th century, that is only a century or so after the gap first came into being. On the other side there was very quickly a consciousness of the danger of an Arab renaissance. The unrelenting hostility of Europe to Mohamed Ali's attempt to modernize the Nile Valley, to raise the dignity of and free the Arab Mashreq (in the first half of the 19th century) has turned into a constant feature of the West's strategy towards Egypt. The hegemonic powers of the capitalist centre-Britain in the 19th century, the United States nowadays - have always deemed it essential to their predominance to maintain Egypt in such a ruinous condition that it could not become the pivot of a revived Arab nation, that is, a genuine partner in the worldwide capitalist system. The plan of creating an artificial European state in Palestine to undermine such a possibility, was dreamed up by Palmerston in 1839, a score of years before Zionism even took shape.

Did not colonization, a recent (19th century) phenomenon, open a definitive divide and turn the Mediterranean into a frontier zone of the main confrontation of our time: between North and South? For colonization wrought inequalities of economic development considerably more reprehensible than in the past, difficult to reverse except by recourse to a diametrically opposite perspective to that of the expansion of the world capitalist system from its outset. Colonization has also revealed a moral and political contrast, and given the religious dimension (of Christianity and Islam) a weight it did not have in the past and one now capable of nurturing fanaticism.

It is clearly understood that as the hegemonic centres of the worldwide capitalist system lie outside the Mediterranean region, the Sea ceases to be the centre of its world to become a geostrategic zone for others. From the destruction of Napleon's fleet at Trafalgar, until 1945, Britain dominated the Mediterranean - which provided her shortest route to India. This was reluctantly ceded, after the Second World War, to give way to the era of the 'American Mediterranean'.

After the Second World the European Mediterranean countries, with the exception of Yugoslavia and Albania, were absorbed into Western reconstruction under the aegis of the United States, then gradually integrated into the EEC largely subject to the dominant forces of transnationalization. And if they do show economic take-off, their future development is bound up with that of their European associates and subsequently to the evolution of the developed capitalist centres as a whole. As for the Arab states, they have tried to reconstruct themselves as bourgeois national states without any success so far.

This dual evolution has dug the Mediterranean ditch so deep as to make it the frontier of North-South confrontation. In such circumstances the possibilities are wide open. Either the popular social forces will impose reconstruction within the unity of the Arab world, in the framework of a strategy that, in the nature of things, will be delinked from the logic of the overall expansion of transnational capital; on the best hypothesis this reconstruction would be part of a peaceful transition towards a polycentric world. For this Europe would have to distance itself from the Atlantic alliance and view with favour the Arab revival. Or the drifts already under way would continue and the confrontations grow more acute. The Europeans would then be in danger of pursuing a chimerical plan of an imperialist revival, with the aim of hitching the Maghreb, Iike Turkey, to their wagon, while Egypt and the Mashreq would be abandoned to the regional hegemony of the Zionist state.


1 Amin., Samir and Amoa, Kwame, Echanges internationaux et sous-dloppement, Paris. Anthropos, 1974: Amoa, Kwame, 'LomII, Critique of a Prologue'. Dakar, 1986, mimeo.

2. Amin, Samir, 'Pour un amgement du syst monire des pays de la zone franc'. Revue Franse d'Etudes Politiques Africaines, No. 41. 1969. See, too, Tremblay, R., (ad.), Zone franc et dloppement, Montreal, Universite Montr, 1972.

3. Amin, Samir, 'The conditions for autonomy in the Mediterranean region' in Yachir, Faysal, The Mediterrean: Prospects for Development, London, Zed Books, 1989. See too Amin, Samir, 'L'Avenir du Maghreb dnd-il de la CEE?'. Rabat, 1981; Les conditions d'une solidarituro-africaine, Paris. Berger-Levrault, 1982; 'Le Contexte Economique des Relations Euro-Arabes', Mons Symposium. 1984.

4. Cox, Oliver. Capitalism as a System. New York, Monthly Review, 1964: Addo, Herb. Imperialism the Permanent State of Capitalism. Tokyo. UNU, 1986.

5. Frank A. G., Crisis in the Third World, London. Heinemann, 1981; articles by Paul Sweezy in Monthly Review 1985-86.

6. See Giovanni Arrighi's contribution in Dynamics of Global Crisis; see too Kennedy. Paul. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, London, Unwin Hyman, 1988.

7 Hansen, Emmanuel, (ed.) Africa: Perspectives on Peace and Development, London, Zed Books, 1987.

8. Amin, Samir, 'Les perspectives de l'Afrique australe'. Tiers Monde, No. 77. 1979. See Samir Amin's preface to Amin, Samir, Chitala, Derrick, and Mandaza, Ibbo, (eds) SADCC: Problems and Prospects for Disengagement and Development in Southern Africa, London. Zed Books, 1987.

9. Amin, Samir, 'Le Conflict du Moyen Orient dans une Perspective Mondiale' in Khader. Bichara. (ed.) La Cooption Euro-Arabe. Louvain, 1982; Amin, Samir, 'Eurocentrisme et politique'. IFDA, No 65, 1988; Chapter I of Amin, Samir and Yachir, Faysal, 'La Mterrandans le syst mondial'.