2d. Inter-imperialist rivalries leading to war

Inter-imperialist rivalries leading to war

maybe even if they pick a new president things will never change…People come from here [Britain], come from everywhere to steal our things, and they still send us back there, they know what is happening there…The minerals, coltan, diamond, gold, many things, they [the British ruling class] couldn’t even…[let] people…get peace, because now [if] Congo gets peace…they [the Congolese people] will never let…[the British ruling class] go in there and take something [minerals] (refugee woman, arrived in Britain in 2002)

The dependence of the most powerful capitalist countries on investments abroad continues to necessitate competition on a national basis, ultimately leading to militarism and war. Powerful economic interests have been linked to the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, its government had been making deals with China and Russia, and had begun to trade its oil in Euros. The jockeying that ensued between the major imperialist powers in the lead up to the war, rooted in struggles for strategic influence and opportunities for profit, underscored the continuing salience of inter-imperialist rivalries.[1] In Afghanistan, the invasion was rapidly followed by the privatization and purchase by imperialist multinationals of the country’s healthcare, water, electricity, oil, gas and mining.[2] In other cases, wars have not been carried out by imperialist states themselves, but by their proxies within oppressed countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a United Nations report in 2002 found that ‘high level political, military and business networks are stealing the DRC’s mineral resources, and by 2002, they had transferred at least $5 billion of assets from the state mining sector to private western companies, including 18 British firms such as Anglo American, DeBeers, Afrimex and Barclays Bank’. Under cover of a conflict with Rwanda that was presented as ‘ethnic’ in origin, exports of coltan, casserite, gold and diamonds increased five times, and fifteen flights a day were found to be leaving the DRC to transport these minerals to the European Union (EU) and US via Rwanda and South Africa.[3]

These contemporary rivalries are rooted in a fundamental shift in the balance of economic power between the major imperialist countries (Table 1 gives a selection of indicators).


Table 1            Economic indicators for United States and European Union in 2008[4]

% of Global GDP 23.4% 30.2%
% of Global Exports 9.3% 13.7%
% of Global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)   Accumulated Stock 19.5% 49.9%


The size of the EU economies present a clear challenge to US dominance, but these relative economic strengths have not yet been translated into a corresponding shift in the balance of military and political power, and the US can be expected to do everything it can to prevent such a re-division of the world from happening. In the past, such re-divisions have only been achieved with horrific consequences for humanity. As David Yaffe points out:

‘It is important to remember that after the US replaced Britain as the strongest economic power, it took two world wars, the great depression and fascism before the US became the dominant global imperialist power.’[5]

[1] Rayne, T. (2003). ‘Inter-imperialist rivalry: a fight of hostile brothers’. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!(172 April / May).

[2] Perkins, J. (2004). Confessions of an Economic Hitman. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler; Kundnani, A. (2007). The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain. London: Pluto Press.

[3] UN Security Council. (2002). Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. New York; Kayembe, I. (2006). ‘DR Congo: imperialists organise war and plunder’. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!(192 August / September).

[4] Source: http://www.wto.org and UNCTAD. (2009). World Investment Report.

[5] Yaffe, D. (2006). ‘Britain: parasitic and decaying capitalism’. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!(194 December 2006 / January2007).


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