On the Crisis In Niger

The recent coup by a military junta in Niger requires clarity from communists in the US. We must oppose all US and NATO intervention, as well as intervention from rival imperialist nations including Russia and China. Though we recognize why many of the desperately poor population support the junta, ultimately our solidarity is with Nigerien workers and their demands for a workers’ democracy.

by | Sep 24, 2023

The starting point for developing a revolutionary Marxist approach to the Niger crisis begins with the recognition that the right to determine who governs Niger and how it is governed belongs to Nigeriens and them alone. 

This is an especially important lesson of the class struggle to take to heart at a time when the pro-NATO and Nigerian-dominated Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are openly threatening a military invasion of Niger for the purposes of deposing the military junta established on July 26th and placing former Niger President Mohamed Bazoum back into the position of Niger’s chief executive. The government of France and other outside forces want this because they know full well that Bazoum, unlike the July 26th military junta, is staunchly committed to maintaining Niger’s position as the linchpin of the existing pro-NATO military alliance of Sahel and Central African states.

Colonial and imperial subjugation of a people

The Nigerien people have very good reason to not want to continue laboring under the thumb of a NATO puppet government. The dominant NATO state with regard to Niger is France. And over the span of a century — first as an official French colony and since 1963 as a French semi-colony — the Nigerien people have learned the bitter truth that French rule for them means subjugation and misery. Under the yoke of French imperialism, the oppressed and exploited of Niger have suffered to a degree few other peoples in the world have suffered. On the UN Human Development Index, Niger is ranked 189th out of 191 countries. Niger is also the seventh poorest country in the world.

To marshal popular support, the new junta, officially calling itself the National Council for Guarding the Homeland (NCGH), has instituted a series of measures directly challenging French imperialist domination of Niger. Soon after taking power the military junta abrogated the five main agreements of military cooperation between France and Niger. Several weeks later the NCGH ordered the 1,500 French troops in Niger to vacate the country. Most recently the military junta has ordered the French ambassador to promptly exit the country. In the midst of all this, Presidential Palace Guard commander Colonel Abdourhamane Tchiani has emerged as the de facto head of the military junta.

The Nigerien people have very good reason to not want to continue laboring under the thumb of a NATO puppet government. The dominant NATO state with regards to Niger is France. And over the span of a century — first as an official French colony and since 1963 as a French semi-colony — the Nigerien people have learned the bitter truth that French rule for them means subjugation and misery.

The moves taken by the NCGH to undercut France’s century-old domination of Niger have proven immensely popular in Niamey. Day after day thousands of Nigeriens have poured into the streets of the nation’s capitol in mass demonstrations enthusiastically supporting the military junta.. At the same time these  Nigeriens are voting with their feet against the return to power of the elected but unloved social democrat Bazoum.

Virtually the only public expressions of support in Niger’s capital for Bazoum’s return to power are coming from the embassies, including the US embassy, representing NATO and ECOWAS-allied countries. The US has a thousand troops and maintains Africa’s most advanced drone base stationed in Niger.

The perils of Chinese and Russian intervention

The idea that Moscow or Beijing represent a reliable anti-imperialist counterweight in Niger to NATO’s and ECOWAS’s imperialist encroachments is simply fantasy. By maintaining control over the Nigerien oil industry during Bazoum’s time in power, Beijing has made clear it is perfectly willing to accommodate Western imperialist hegemony over Niger as long as Chinese imperialism gets a generous piece of the country’s economic pie. 

Russia, also an imperialist power, is no more a reliable supporter of national liberation than China. Currently preoccupied with its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has expressed zero enthusiasm for the July 26th Coup. At this point, for geopolitical reasons, Vladimir Putin is far more interested in using Niger as an opportunity to curry favor with Chinese imperialism than anything else. And this means, in practice, defending material interests in Niger currently under Beijing’s control. What’s more, the radical restructuring of the Wagner Group in light of its recent attempted coup all but eliminates any possibility of Moscow providing any meaningful military assistance to Niger’s military junta in the foreseeable future

Liberation for Niger means liberation for the working class

Liberating Niger from imperialist domination will require the enthusiastic support and leadership of the nation’s working class and peasantry. The social force best equipped to free Niger from economic colonial bondage is the Nigerien working class. It is the working class who are best positioned to seize control of the nation’s key export industries, uranium and gold, from French monopoly capitalists. These Nigerien workers would have a strong material interest in seeing that these industries stay under Nigerien control.

On the military front, the forging of a mass militia of the oppressed and exploited, under worker and peasant control, represents a powerful and achievable anti-imperialist force capable of making enormous contributions to Niger’s struggle to fend off the inevitable security challenges from NATO, ECOWAS, and Islamist rebels.

And it is the ranks of Nigerien workers that can provide the numbers, the discipline and the leadership needed for a public-works program to provide the country with meaningful progress towards an infrastructure that Niger needs and deserves. French domination has left Niger’s infrastructure vastly underdeveloped at best. Rectifying this appalling infrastructure situation is conditioned upon the country’s oppressed and exploited emerging as the political vanguard in the struggle to liberate this land from the stifling vestiges of French colonial and semi-colonial servitude.

How should communists in the US respond?

Communists in the US have important contributions to make that can help the cause of Nigerien liberation. Our first and foremost obligation is to oppose US and NATO intervention and imperialist domination. We call for Washington to withdraw its military forces from Niger at once. We oppose any other foreign military’s intervention as well — and any NATO or US presence is, above all else, an invitation to foreign aggression. We also support the demand for the immediate expulsion of the French ambassador from Niger.

We need to expose the hypocritical nature of the US call for democracy. The US has been quite willing to back military dictatorships to enhance its economic and military position — including the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile 50 years ago, just to name one example.

Finally, though we oppose US action against the junta, we give our full solidarity to socialists in Niger who demand workers’ democracy against the military dictatorship. Nigeriens should govern Niger. Neither Paris, nor Washington — nor Beijing nor Moscow for that matter — should have a say in the country’s future.

Mike Howells
(he/him) is an at-large member of Firebrand in New Orleans.
Categories: articles

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