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Boko Haram's Crimes Are Obscene, But Global Oppressors Are Not the Answer

May 19, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


For weeks now the eyes of the world have been trained on the West African country of Nigeria. On April 15, Islamic fundamentalist militias of Boko Haram raided a girls' secondary school, set it on fire, and kidnapped more than 250 girls taking a physics exam. Boko Haram later released a video with their leader saying the girls should not have been in the school and instead should be married, saying, "Allah instructed me to sell them... I will carry out his instructions."

I've got some thoughts on this.

Boko Haram and associated Islamic fundamentalist forces are a nightmare for the people. For anyone with a heart and soul, seeing these kidnapped young girls on the "auction block" to be sold as wives and slaves makes your blood boil.

But as I see Google News filling up with proclamations by the so-called "international community" that the global powers and their African lackeys are going to "intervene" in Nigeria and move on Boko Haram, I have to sound an alarm: The global outrage at this kidnapping is being mis-channeled into lining up people behind even worse crimes.


Look at the world this kidnapping took place within: Over two million women are dragged into sex slavery every year—20 percent of them children! And overwhelmingly this takes place through the workings of modern-day capitalism, not Islamic fundamentalism!

How does Boko Haram fit into this picture? And what can people DO to put an end to the enslavement of women and all oppression, everywhere?

In what is now Nigeria, the development of major oil fields and imperialism's rapacious thirst for fossil fuel turned the Niger River delta region into an environmental hell-on-earth. Raging oil fires and leaks in Nigeria, like the one in this photo, have become commonplace over the last 50 years, claiming people's lives and destroying their crops and fishing, and severely impacting the overall ecology. Photo: AP

Since the beginning of colonial domination of Africa—in the name of "modernity" and "civilization"—capitalist powers waged brutal wars against the people of Africa. They instigated and orchestrated bloody conflicts between African peoples. They promoted Christianity, even as they worked through oppressive traditional Islamic authorities. They imposed structures, including judicial and educational systems and most of all armed enforcers, that facilitated slavery and exploitation. And they are doing all that today.

In what is now Nigeria, the development of major oil fields and imperialism's rapacious thirst for fossil fuel have turned the Niger River Delta region into an environmental hell-on-earth. Millions live amidst near-continuous poisonous oil spills that dwarf disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the U.S. yet hardly make a ripple in the world's media. Meanwhile, other regions of Nigeria, including areas where Boko Haram has a base and holds power, have been basically abandoned by the central authorities.

Boko Haram fills a void in two ways: It serves as an enforcer for reactionary traditional oppressive social relations, and it poses itself as an "alternative" (a false alternative) to the horrors people see as coming from "the West," including an opposition to educating girls.


Apologists and cheerleaders for capitalism claim that opening education to women is the key to "empowerment," even to their "liberation." They deny the need to tear up the whole network of economic and social relations that enslave half of humanity. But when and where capitalism integrates women into its machinery of global exploitation, oppression, and environmental devastation, it doesn't end their oppression. It evolves and adapts forms through which women are subjugated.

Capitalism doesn't liberate women. Look at India, with its large numbers of university-educated women and its epidemic of sadistic, violent rape. Or look no farther than the USA, where women hold high positions in business, academia, and politics, but society is inundated with pornography, popular culture saturates society with degrading images of women, and rape rages out of control on campuses, in the military, and in prisons.

But Islamic fundamentalist forces like Boko Haram are threatened by changes in the forms through which women are subjugated. Boko Haram basically translates as "Western education is an abomination." For them, young girls should be child brides, not studying science. Part of the appeal of forces like Boko Haram is that many people in countries like Nigeria associate the integration of women into the "modern world" with traditional society being torn up and no good alternative in sight. Where and when this kind of draconian Islamist fundamentalism is a fit (even if not a perfect fit) for the needs of capitalism, defenders of the current world order will find some way to soft pedal their crimes, or portray them as "making progress on women's rights" (think Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Afghanistan). Where fundamentalist Islam is in sharp conflict with the interests of imperialist powers, it is met with drones, mercenaries, and torturers, and a hellish cycle sets in.

In this clash of reactionary forces, it is capitalism-imperialism whose workings and policies—including its military aggression—is the overall driving factor. Every drone attack, every torture chamber, and every massacre by agents of U.S. imperialism serves as a recruiting poster for Islamic fundamentalism.

The last thing the people of Nigeria or anywhere else need is any more of ANY of that whole dynamic!


The terrible situation in Nigeria, the clash of two reactionary forces, poses with great urgency the need to bring forward the REAL REVOLUTIONARY ALTERNATIVE TO CAPITALISM. That alternative is Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, which builds on the overwhelmingly tremendous accomplishments of the first stage of communist revolution while confronting and advancing beyond serious shortcomings within that.

Making this REVOLUTION can set in motion a whole new force in this world, and model and serve communist revolution everywhere. The situation in Nigeria means we have work to do. And it should be, for all of us, an impetus to intensify and accelerate our work to make that happen.


Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of women dragged into sex slavery each year.

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