First Published: in Struggle! No. 118, July 3, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Huang Hua, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Zaire recently to meet with President Mobutu and discuss the possibilities of Chinese military aid for this African country. Shortly afterwards, two delegations of Chinese military advisors arrived in Zaire to train some of the country’s 800 sailors, artillerymen and tank drivers.
The visits of the Chinese leaders are linked to the current situation in that part of the world. For the second time in 14 months, Zaire has had to appeal for foreign military aid to fight off invasion of its territory by Katangan mercenaries trained and oufitted by Soviet imperialists and their Cuban agents in Africa. To counter these attacks, Morocco intervened in March 1977 in support of Zaire by sending an expeditionary force of 3,000 men airlifted into the area on planes provided by France. More recently, France, Belgium, Great Britain and the United States have had to bail out Zaire by providing soldiers, technicians and military equipment to throw back the invaders.
The current leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) consider this an important victory. They commented on events in 1977 by saying:
During the Zaire event last year, Moscow’s plot was smashed, thanks to the persistent struggle of the international united: front against hegemony. (Peking Review, April 21, 1978)
During his recent visit to Zaire, Huang Hua added:
...the Zairian people under the leadership of President Mobutu are capable of defending the independence, national sovereignty and unity of the country and repulsing all aggression from outside. (Peking Review, June 9, 1978, our emphasis).
So the current leaders of the CPC consider that the intervention of the “united front” of French, Belgian and US imperialists was a good thing. Furthermore, Mobutu’s regime should be cause for rejoicing for his leadership has apparently helped safeguard his country’s independence and sovereignty and thwart the hegemonic designs of the superpowers, particularly those of Soviet social imperialism, the “main enemy of and the major threat” facing “African countries and people”, according to Peking Review, June 3, 1977. In short, supporting Mobutu and his allies amounts to working in the interests of the peoples of the world.
But what is really happening? First, who is Mobutu? Whose interests does he really represent?
Mobutu, a former parachutist trained in Israel, was an officer in the Belgian colonial army before Zaire’s formal independence. This already suggests that the interests he defends aren’t automatically compatible with the liberation of the people of Zaire. Furthermore, the lot of the labouring masses in Zaire today is enough to make us suspect what kind of “leadership” Mobutu is giving.
Indeed, how can Zairian workers have confidence in a regime that keeps them in misery, a regime that doesn’t even bother covering up its corruption, it regime that has presided over the collapse of their standard of living (taking 100 as an index for 1960, it fell to 26 in 1976 and 15 in 1977)? How can they leave their fate up to a president who undoubtedly learned how to rule by terror while serving in the colonial army? His bloody repression of peasant revolts in the Idiofa region, and the activities of the “national documentation centre”, a kind of secret police charged with detecting and crushing all opposition to the regime, testify to this.
In fact, Mobutu is far form being a great defender of the people’s interests. He is instead a worthy representative of that class of parasites who grow rich on the sweat and misery of the Zairian masses, and who make the Zairians pay for the disastrous state of the economy, the decline in production, the public debt of $4 billion, etc.
Doesn’t advising the Zairian people to submit to such “leadership” amount to advising slaves to grovel at the feet of the overseer?
When the leaders of the CPC declare that under the leadership of Mobutu the Zairian people are capable of defending the independence and sovereignty of the country, are they really unaware of how closely linked Mobutu is to imperialism, including US imperialism, one of the two superpowers? That France, Belgium and even the United States have intervened militarily twice in Zaire is neither a coincidence nor a demonstration of their desire for “dialogue”. Although Zaire has been formally independent since 1960, the colonialists of yesteryear have not abandoned their interests. They still dominate the Zairian people today, thanks to the agents they have trained. One of these is Mobutu, a leader clearly on the payroll of the Western imperialist bloc. Since 1975, he has offered to reimburse the imperialists 40% and then 60% and even, in certain cases, 100% of the capital confiscated in the 1973 nationalizations. The result is that today, nearly all the key sectors of the Zairian economy are controlled by foreign interests. in 1976, Mobutu went so far as to grant Otrang, a German company, rights to the “complete and integral usage” of more than 100,000 square kilometers of Zairian territory near the Tanzanian border. To top it all off, in June he confided the administration of the country’s economy to the international Monetary Fund, an economic organization controlled by the American superpower.
It is, for the least, a strange way to “defend the independence and national sovereignty” of the country. Similarly, when the CPC leaders applaud the intervention of the united front of imperialist countries like France, Belgium and Great Britain in Zaire, are they not erroneously hushing up the aggressive interventions of these imperialist States against the people of Zaire? Like the superpowers, these States defend the interests of their respective bourgeoisies first and foremost in their dealings with countries like Zaire, and it so happens that these interests are served by the plundering of Zaire’s natural resources and the savage exploltation of its workers. Belgians haven’t invested $800 million in Zaire to guarantee the sovereignty of its people; rather, their investments mean intensified exploitation of this people so as to extract superprofits and ensure the Belgian investors a better position in their rivalry with other imperialist States on international markets.
The positions adopted by the CPC leadership in the question of Zaire are not unrelated to its defence of the three worlds theory as the strategic guideline for the struggle of the international proletariat at the present time. This theory divides the world into three groups of countries (the developing countries of the “Third World”; the superpowers, the USA and the USSR; and the developed countries of the “second world”), and declares that the way to respond to the hegemonic designs and threats of aggression of the two superpowers and in particular those of the USSR, the more dangerous – is to work at uniting all the other countries and peoples in a broad anti-hegemonic front. According to the leaders of the CPC, Mobutu and countries like France, Belgium and Great Britain are included in this united front.
But, as the example of Zaire emphasizes, how can one hope to strengthen Mobutu and French or Belgian imperialists, all of them enemies of the Zairian people, and at the same time support the revolutionary struggle of the people, who have the task of weakening and overthrowing these same enemies? How can one hope to fight Soviet social imperialism by relying on other, equally imperialist, States that are also competing for a larger and larger share of international makets?
Calling on the peoples to submit to reactionary leaders like Mobutu and collude with the imperialism that oppresses them – is that not abandoning a truly revolutionary line?