French Imperialism Lick its Wounds


13 French soldiers died in Mali during colonialist combat mission


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 29 November 2019,




France – Europe most important imperialist power besides Germany – suffered a humiliating blow on 25 November. 13 soldiers died in a crash of two helicopters in Mali’s Liptako region while supporting French commandos on the ground during a combat mission against supposedly Islamist militants. This is France’s worst single loss of troops for 36 years.


French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “deep sadness”. He wrote on Twitter: “These 13 heroes had only one goal: protecting us. [1] This is an extraordinary cynical statement. In reality, these French soldiers did not die because they were “protecting us”, i.e. the French or any European or African people. They died because they were protecting the interests of imperialist interests of the ruling class in Paris!


France has been, besides Britain, the leading colonial power in Africa’s history. While its global influence has declined since then – today the U.S., China and Russia are certainly more influential Great Powers – France remains an important imperialist state. [2] This is particularly the case in Western and Central Africa. France’s operation in that region is its largest overseas military mission and involves 4,500 personnel. They are part of the “Operation Barkhane”, a military campaign which is led by Paris and which also involves thousands of African troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger (called the “G5 Sahel”). The purpose of this campaign is to secure the interests of French imperialism and other Great Powers as well as those of the local ruling classes.


Characteristically, many local troops died in recent weeks in clashes with so-called Islamist fighters while they were protecting convoys for a Canadian mining company which exploits Mali’s raw materials. [3]


However, France’s military intervention faces increasing resistance of local forces. Since 2013, at least 44 French soldiers have died. The G5 Sahel Force is not able to provide sufficient support. Paris is now looking for help from other imperialist states. In June Macron urged European powers to provide Special Forces to support the G5 Sahel force. However, a recently published report of the news agency Reuters quotes a western diplomat in West Africa that the European Union’s “commitments so far had been minimal and the deaths of the French troops would not encourage more”. “No European government is keen on body bags,” the diplomat said. [4]


Paris is becoming increasingly disillusioned. General Francois Lecointre, chief of staff of the armed forces, said in an interview that France’s military role in the Sahel region was “useful, good and necessary”, but it was hard to see the moment when the war would finally be won. He added pessimistically: “We will never achieve a definitive victory.


No one should have any illusions about the true character of France’s military intervention. The “G5 Sahel Force” are, similar to the AMISOM troops in Somalia, “foot soldiers for imperialism”. [5] Naturally, we are opposed to the political ideology of petty-bourgeois Islamist forces. However, their resistance against the French imperialist intervention is a legitimate struggle. Mali and Western Africa cannot be free without the expulsion of imperialist forces and their local allies! [6]


We reiterate the conclusion from the RCIT’s programmatic document on the struggle against imperialist wars: “In cases of imperialist wars and occupations of semi-colonial countries (e.g. US in Afghanistan since 2001, in Iraq since 2003, France in Mali since 2013, Russia in Syria since 2015, Israeli settler state occupying Palestine), socialists call for the defeat of the imperialist aggressors and the military victory of the forces representing the oppressed people. The same tactic is required in cases of aggressions by proxy armies for the Great Powers (e.g. AU forces in Somalia, G5 forces in the Sahel countries in West Africa) [7]




International Bureau of the RCIT


[1] 13 French soldiers killed in helicopter collision in Mali, Thomson Reuters, Nov 26 2019,

[2] On the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019. The book can be read online or downloaded for free here:

[3] Baba Ahmed and Sylvie Corbet: 13 French soldiers killed in helicopter collision in Mali, Associated Press, 2019-11-26

[4] Sophie Louet, Tiemoko Diallo : As France mourns 13 soldiers, top general says full victory in Africa impossible, November 27, 2019,

[5] See on this e.g. RCIT: Somalia: Drive Out the AMISOM and Western Occupation Forces! Daring Guerilla Attack against U.S. Army Base and EU Military Convoy, 30 September 2019,

[6] See on this e.g. RCIT: Manifesto for the Revolutionary Liberation of Black Africa,

[7] RCIT: Theses on Revolutionary Defeatism in Imperialist States, 8 September 2018,