[Marxism] Chad, What's That Got to do With Sudan and Darfur and Uncle Sam?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 29 06:48:28 MDT 2004

Tony Abdo wrote:
> ANSWER- There is all sorts of material, if one just loses the myopia of 
> the moment, case-by-case mind set that  fliberalism has on the issue of 
> Darfur and the Sudan and other similar political regions under attack by 
> US imperialism.  I  could flood the list with background stuff worth 
> reading.  

The first indication that I get that you (or anybody else) is flooding 
the list with anything, I will put my finger in the dike.

You don't seem to get it. Let me try again. The ZNet piece was really 
quite good. It urged antiwar activists to oppose US or imperialist 
intervention without getting associated with the gangsters in Khartoum, 
who would be about as capable of defending the sovereignty of the 
country as Saddam Hussein was of defending Iraq. This is abc. Reflecting 
on your original swipe at this article, it astonishes me that you would 
even think otherwise. Well, maybe not...

In terms of what we need to understand about Sudan (or Chad), I think we 
all understand that there is oil there and that the imperialists want to 
get their hands on it. That is also abc. We and the Chomskyites at ZNet 
are opposed to imperialist interventions to secure oil or any other 
mineral, whether in the name of human rights or some other excuse. 
Chomsky and Howard Zinn were outstanding critics of the war on 
Yugoslavia even though they had a different estimation of Milosevic. 
That is not a litmus test for opposing imperialism, even though the 
ultra-Zionist Jared Israel would make it so.

Rather than crossposting articles about the fact that there is oil in 
the Sudan, which we all know, we would benefit from an analysis of the 
ongoing, near-genocidal wars that require a serious class analysis. 
Since this is a Marxism list, we would expect contributors like yourself 
to address these questions. You don't have to be a Marxist to assert 
that Sudan has oil, after all.

Sudan is a complex mixture of class, ethnicity and religion. Sorting out 
the contending factions and their political interests requires thought 
and concentration. We need more of this, not less. Here are some of the 
questions that challenge us:

1. Is the claim for self-determination by the Southern Sudanese just?

2. Is there any basis for claiming that Sudan is a slave society?

3. Is the "Islamic radicalism" of the Northern region objectively 

4. What is the role of the environmental crisis in precipitating the 
most recent crisis in Darfur?

Now, I informed you that a google search might reveal some useful 
information on Sudan. Just to show you concretely what I am talking 
about, I just did a search on Sudan + environmental and came up with the 
following. I would suggest to you that this is the kind of background we 
need, not simply reciting the fact that there is oil in the country.


The three and a half million people living in Darfur region, 
geographically isolated and neglected by central government in Khartoum, 
have been adversely affected by conflict since the early 1980s. The 
relatively peaceful equilibrium between its ethnic groups has been 
destroyed by environmental degradation - the spread of the desert and 
the effects of the Sahel drought - coupled with the divide-and-rule 
tactics of central government and the influx of modern weaponry. Members 
of the elites of the major ethnic groups are engaged in a struggle for 
political status, and failing to tackle the underlying problems of 
equitable allocation of water and land. Meanwhile outside access to the 
region is now so tightly controlled that detailed information about the 
current plight of the indigenous people is increasingly difficult to 

Darfur was an independent sultanate until 1917, when it was the last 
region to be incorporated into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The Arabic word 
Dar roughly means homeland, and its population of nearly four million is 
divided into several Dars; not only of the Fur people, as its name 
suggests, but also of several other communities, determined by 
livelihood as much as ethnicity. These ecological and social 
distinctions are more meaningful than the administrative divisions 
imposed by government. Ethnicity is not in itself clear-cut, given the 
long history of racial mixing between indigenous "non-Arab" peoples and 
the "Arabs", who are now distinguished by cultural-linguistic attachment 
rather than race.

The Fur, largely peasant farmers, occupy the central belt of the region, 
including the Jebel Marra massif, the richest and most stable area in 
terms of soil fertility and water resources. Also in this central zone 
are the non-Arab Masalit, Berti, Bargu, Bergid, Tama and Tunjur peoples, 
who are all sedentary farmers.

The northernmost zone is Dar Zaghawa, part of the Libyan Sahara, and 
inhabited by camel nomads: principally the Zaghawa and Bedeyat, who are 
non-Arab in origin, and the Arab Mahariya, Irayqat, Mahamid and Beni 
Hussein. It is the most ecologically fragile of the three main zones and 
most acutely affected by drought. Its occupants have frequently been 
active in armed conflicts in the region - either against settled farmers 
or amongst themselves - amid growing competition for access to water and 

Cattle rather than camels are herded by the Arab nomads of the eastern 
and southern zone of Darfur, who comprise the Rezeigat, Habbaniya, Beni 
Halba, Taaisha and Maaliyya. The area is less severely affected by 
drought than the northern zone, although still highly sensitive to 
fluctuations in rainfall and less ecologically stable than the central 

In addition to the distinction between cattle and camel herders on the 
one hand and settled farmers on the other, there is a significant urban 
population of traders, government officials and other professionals.

Armed raids on rich agricultural areas and skirmishes with rival groups 
are part of the historical way of life for the nomadic herders, and 
constitute a survival strategy in the face of natural calamity and 
threatened destitution, enabling the maintenance of their social fabric. 
While the Fur and other cultivators did not traditionally have the same 
degree of military organisation, their relations with the nomads 
alternated between negotiation and hostility over the intrusion of 
nomads' herds on to farming land.

The pattern of conflict changed from low-intensity, small-scale 
outbreaks from the 1950s to the 1970s, to high-intensity, persistent and 
large-scale battles in the mid-1980s. The earlier conflicts were 
predominantly clashes between nomadic groups over accesss to pasture and 
water, or theft of animals. Since the mid-1980s there has been a more 
systematic drive by the nomads to occupy land in the central Jebel Marra 
massif, on the scale of a civil war, with entire villages wiped out and 
thousands of lives lost on both sides. While drought-stricken livestock 
herders attempt to survive by encroaching on the fertile central zone, 
the Fur have fought back to retain what they see as "their" land.

full: http://www.sudanupdate.org/REPORTS/PEOPLES/Darf.htm

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