15-11-2020: On October 20, reports emerged of the alleged killing of 12 protestors at two locations in Lagos, (Lekki and Alausa) Nigeria’s most populous city. The protestors were claimed to be part of the #EndSARS movement. “SARS” refers to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit set up in 1992. Ostensibly, this is a movement of Nigerian youth against police brutality. In reality, it is yet another covert attempt at regime change in Africa, which serves the ends of Washington in a struggle for relevance in their period of economic and political decline. Whenever a protest movement rapidly moves from the stated reason for protests (in this case police brutality) to calls for the leader (in this case President Muhammadu Buhari) to step down, you can smell the interference of the US state department from miles away. Even as the Nigerian government responded to the #EndSARS movement by renaming the SARS unit the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit, the protests moved seamlessly into calls for Buhari to step down. #EndSARS became #Buharimustgo, and the fig leaf covering the movement was blown away.
What really happened?
The #EndSARS movement claims that the military opened fire on peaceful protestors at Lekki, but this appears fallacious. Both the Nigerian military and the police emphatically deny shooting at protestors. Nigeria’s army said the shootings were “fake news”, while the Police Minister Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi told the BBC that troops were NOT ordered to open fire on protestors, and that soldiers are denying their involvement. Major Osoba Olaniyi, a spokesperson for the 81st division of the Nigerian Army, insisted that soldiers did NOT shoot at #EndSARS protestors. What occurred was that there was an outbreak of violence amongst #EndSARS protestors, or some elements intent on hijacking the movement. Several police stations were attacked and burnt, some police officers were killed, some suspects in police custody were released and weapons were carried away. In response to the violence and anarchy, the Lagos state government decided to call in the military to restore order after a 24 hour curfew was imposed. Far from the fanciful narrative of the #EndSARS movement, the Lagos state government responded in the same manner as many governments around the world would, if it experienced terroristic violence being waged against it.
We have seen such tactics many times before, in US orchestrated attempts to paint a government targeted for removal as “brutal” or “authoritarian”. Create, fund and even arm an opposition within the country, provoke a reaction from the security forces, claim “oppression” from a “dictator”, garner political backing from liberal establishments the world over, and ramp up the political pressure internationally. It has been attempted, with varying degrees of “success” in Serbia, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Hong Kong, and the list goes on. In Africa, similar attempts have recently been made in Algeria and Sudan. Now it is the turn of Nigeria, but this time, claimed political legitimacy is dispensed by Black Lives Matter (BLM), foot soldiers of big capital who ransacked parts of the US itself in order to dethrone US President Donald Trump, and install Democratic candidate Joe Biden. This appears to have “succeeded” in the US, but the stakes are just as high on the African continent.
BLM imperialist foreign policy
Over and over again, L Trotsky, co-leader of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, stressed that the politics of a party, organisation or individual cannot ultimately be assessed on the basis of their positions “at home”. To grasp a real sense of their politics, their international positions must be identified and examined. One can shout to the heavens about how strongly one backs social justice at home, but this unravels the moment an organisation sides with “its own” ruling class against its real or imagined international enemies. The fact that BLM has never uttered even one word against any US imperialist war over the last 7 years of its existence speaks volumes. As Tony Cartalucci correctly notes, black lives cannot just matter at home, they must matter everywhere. In fact, Black, Brown and Asian lives must matter everywhere, and US imperialism must be opposed whenever and wherever it imposes its will politically, economically and militarily.
BLM arose around 2013, but they maintained radio silence on the US/NATO war on Libya, which destroyed the entire state and resulted in fratricidal war ever since. What is more, in its place stepped the reappearance of black slavery, where the slave trade under Green Libya had been punishable by death. BLM matter remained unmoved and maintained its silence over the entirety of the US/NATO war of regime change against Syria, and blatant US regime change efforts in Venezuela, amongst others. Yet BLM wasted no time whatsoever in issuing a statement in support of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, claiming “pan-Africanist solidarity is central to the global Black Lives Matter movement”. For class aware workers, such opportunism should ring alarm bells.
Almost to a rule, Hollywood and other celebrities also chime in with US imperialist escapades. In this case, rapper Kanye West, footballer Rio Ferdinand, singer Trey Songz, Star Wars actor John Boyega all put their names to the anti-SARS campaign. Beyonce and Rihanna also threw their hats into the ring, alongside – wait for it – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey !! Fresh from blocking and banning Twitter uses who post about Joe Biden’s corruption, we are expected to believe that Twitter now stands against alleged police violence in Nigeria? Socialists can – perhaps – excuse actors and celebrities who are not particularly politically aware, but not Big Tech which is a key arm of global capitalist censorship of the internet. When BLM and Twitter align as if one, the fix is on – and not just that of the US presidential elections. We are dealing squarely with liberal imperialism.
East versus West in Africa
To entertain the notion that #EndSARS is an innocent movement for the rights of Nigerians is a fantasy. In reality, #EndSARS is part of a hybrid proxy war for Africa waged by Washington against Moscow and Beijing. As the US economy staggers and US “leadership” of the world becomes ever more redundant, more and more African countries are, not without reason, turning to the Russian Federation for security assurances, and to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for economic assistance. Ditto for many other countries in Central and South East Asia, and Latin America. Russia, with its superior military technology, is uniquely placed to offer a deterrent against US imperialist destablisation. The PRC, with its gargantuan and still expanding socialist economy, is uniquely placed to offer economic and developmental aid, especially with regard to the building of much needed roads, railways, ports, and key infrastructure. As both Russia and the PRC are emphatically non-imperialist powers, such aid is proffered with “no strings attached”. For African countries, co-operation with Russia and the PRC is therefore a no-brainer.
In fact, Russia and Nigeria had been co-operating for at least several years, both in an economic and security sense. In 2017, Russia and Nigeria agreed to step up co-operation with developing a nuclear industry, infrastructure projects, and the export of Russian industrial products to Nigeria. They also cemented ties in the struggle against the terrorism of various groups such as Boko Haram, wreaking havoc in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa. In August 2013, Russia, Nigeria and Niger signed an explicit security pact, with the emphasis on countering the terrorism of Boko Haram. The agreement even goes so far as to enable the training of Nigerian servicemen and women in Russian military establishments. Such agreements are a vital necessity for Nigeria, regardless of what the Pentagon – and Black Lives Matter – may think about them.
PRC investment in Nigeria is no small beer, either. In 2017, PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Nigerian President Buhari to confirm an additional $40 billion investment in Nigeria by PRC firms. In coming years, this figure could reach between $60 and $80 billion. In 2019, Ye Shuijin, the Managing Director of the China Geo-Engineering Company, stated that his company has offices in 30 Nigerian states, and had a workforce which is 95% Nigerian – comprising over 200 000 staff. What is more, in 2018, Nigeria joined the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or New Silk Road), alongside scores of other countries. Yet projects not specifically linked to the BRI already built and completed by PRC firms in Nigeria include: the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway line, a rail mass transit system in Abuja, a new terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway line, the Port Harcourt International Airport, the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, and the Lekki deep sea port project, amongst others. An impartial observer could not but agree that all of this investment and infrastructure will greatly assist Nigeria’s overall economic development.
NATO powers intervene “against” Boko Haram
The response of the NATO powers is not at all to co-operate alongside other countries assisting Africa, but to use any and all means to disrupt Africa-Russia-PRC ties, up to and including regime change via covert backing of armed mercenaries, a la “the Syrian option”. BLM backed protest movements against spurious claims of police brutality and “bad governance” then provides civilian liberal political cover for the violent terrorism of Boko Haram and others. Like ISIS in Syria, it is completely implausible that a mob of rag-tag terrorists could be waging war across multiple countries in Africa without serious state support. In fact, Boko Haram, Ansar Al-Sharia and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) all operate in the Sahara-Sahel region. AQIM obtained serious weaponry from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which in turn was armed through NATO, in its war against Green Libya. Some sources trace Boko Haram funding to the United Kingdom and the Saudi Arabian monarchy, as their violence stretches across Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Chad.
This is on top of actual US troops crawling across the African countries, while pointing the finger at Russia and the PRC when questions are raised. US Special Ops commandos currently operate in 22 African countries, a much greater presence than even the Middle East. Libya was the first US/NATO war which was overseen by AFRICOM (US Africa Command), and its role has only grown since then. In 2014, African Renaissance News compiled a report which wondered aloud whether Boko Haram was a covert CIA operation to take control of Nigeria. The previous year, US Major General Carter F. Ham told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that AFRICOM is “concerned” about AQIM in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al Shabaab in Somalia. The pattern is clear – the US/NATO powers covertly aid and assist Takfiri-Salafist terrorist groups across Africa who create chaos, then US/NATO sends in their troops to shadow box with them. The conflict, war, death, and destruction that results then makes it more difficult for Russian and Chinese investment in infrastructure and the hydrocarbons industry to be in any way functional. African countries remain poor and war-ridden, with US imperialism still posing as a saviour.
Anti-racist movements must be anti-imperialist
Even if we ignore the funding for BLM from billionaire financier and colour revolution creator George Soros, BLM can be condemned simply on its pro-imperialist politics. We are speaking here of BLM the organisation, rather than BLM the movement. There may well be many who attend BLM actions who sincerely believe they are struggling for racial justice – but this is an illusion. As long as those who attend BLM actions leave the politics and tactics to the BLM organisation, they are being used for ends the very opposite of what they imagine they are fighting for. BLM’s rioting, looting, and burning across the US this year is merely the small-scale version of the violent terrorism which US imperialism enables and feigns to fight “against” in Africa. The two are inextricably linked in more ways than one. For example, BLM was not only rolled out to politically bolster the coming imperialist wars of Joe Biden and the Democrats abroad. BLM was used to enforce the fraudulent “pandemic” which is being wielded domestically by Western imperialist governments against “their own” working class at home. No group was a stronger believer in the Covid-19 lies than BLM, who were given extraordinary permission to demonstrate despite the savage lockdown orders on everyone else.
A campaign against racism, under any description, must first strongly oppose US/EU/NATO imperialism and its political, economic, and military war on working people across the globe. If it does not reach this first bar, workers are correct to suspect that something is fishy. The liberal bourgeoisie waxes lyrical about how “anti-racist” it is – while underpinning the very capitalist system which causes racism in the first place. BLM is the first among equals in this opportunistic and faux “anti-racism”. Imperialism also knows how to manipulate an anti-police brutality movement for its own ends also, but workers should smell a rat when one is transferred wholesale to an underdeveloped African nation.
Marxists are the last ones to oppose investment, trade and security ties between African nations and the Russian Federation and the PRC. Indeed, such agreements should be defended from disruption from overt interference, e.g. war and US troops on the ground, and also covert interference, e.g. proxy terrorist wars and fake “good governance” campaigns waged internally and externally with the help of the likes of BLM and other Western backed fronts. At the same time, revolutionaries recognise that both Russia and the PRC will only offer development assistance which aids the stabilisation and growth of capitalism in Africa – which will ultimately not solve underlying political problems.
Russia obviously has no drive towards socialism, but neither does the PRC, even though it operates a socialist economy and maintains a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state at home. The Communist Party of China (CPC) rigidly adheres to the anti-Marxist theory of “socialism in one country”, which today means that it seeks to fortify capitalism in all countries outside its borders. While any economic assistance to poverty-stricken countries in Africa is welcome, genuine Leninists would at the same time be, where possible, propagandising for socialism amongst the workers of all countries. That is, while it is the right and the duty of a workers’ state to seek out and secure investment and trade opportunities for its domestic industries, the duty of the political leadership of that state is to reach out politically to the workers of the capitalist state it is seeking to invest in, to gather forces internationally for the victory of world socialism. As can be seen, the CPC is not up to this task. The mission for African and international workers remains the forging of vanguard parties which uphold Permanent Revolution, to finally break the chains of imperialist subjugation through an international struggle for liberation.