Conflict Seen Through Marxist IR

Marxism focuses specifically on economic structure. Class and economic tension defines how agents act, and can thus explain events. From the example of the Rwandan genocide through Marxist analysis, we can see which aspects are important and how they would prevent further instances.

Lemarchand (French researcher) warned of class exploitation by the Hutu when hired to evaluate a World Bank project in the region. They were doing this systematically through favouritism and theft to encourage economic dependency.

The ‘commodity crash’ of the 1990s hit hard poor countries such as Rwanda dependent on their exports. The Hutu government relied upon these exports, as well as foreign aid to maintain their class structure. Amid famine and hardship the Rwandan government accepted a restructuring programme that devalued their currency, cut social welfare, and inflated prices. Other consequences of austerity were disease and malnutrition.

Instability and uncertainty due to economic woes caused actual conflict in the form of both war and genocide. Whilst it is debatable still whether the Hutu or the Tutsi first struck, both died in huge numbers due to a severely weakened government and economy.

One of the less graphic images of the genocide.

Other theories, such as Liberalism stress cooperation and community within the international sphere. Marxism refutes this. For instance, the economic dependency of Rwanda on international aid (especially that of the French who have fought previously in the name of freedom and human rights) meant that substantial influence was not used to stop the genocide or war and instead to maintain economic domination.

Countries such as China (which sold over 500,000 machetes) and Egypt (which financed interest-free loans in order to sell weapons to Rwanda) could too have used their economic position to promote peace. Marxist theorists would be worried that there is a real danger of re-igniting conflict today. Despite austerity being implemented, Rwanda has higher debt levels now than in the 1990s and there are a whole myriad of social problems that are yet to have been solved.