Your Playstation Has Real Blood On It

Your Playstation Has Real Blood On It


There has been recent interest in the news lately on a report by the liberal activist group Toward Freedom around what has been dubbed the “Playstation War.” It describes how the demand for a key metal used in the Sony Playstation 2 video game console was a driving force in the ongoing wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Stories about the demand for this metal, called coltan, and the wars behind it in sub-Saharan Africa, are nothing new (1). What is new about this report is that it links one specific consumer product to this conflict.

The Playstation video game console, like others on the market, is solely used for leisure and entertainment. Priced for hundreds of dollars and purchased by consumers in Amerika and other First World nations, the Playstation is a byproduct of the leisure time and disposable income available to Amerikans. Along with the console itself there are thousands of video games that are made for it, along with fan magazines and websites. According to the Entertainment Software Association video game sales reached $9.5 billion in 2007, and tens of thousands of people are employed in this industry to meet consumer demands (2). The indirect economics in terms of research and development, sales, advertising, and marketing are also vast. Video games are just one byproduct of imperialist parasitism, and in the case of the Playstation it is a direct contributor to war and suffering.

Imperialism is a system based upon exploitation and war. The production cycle of the Playstation illustrates the rabid bloodshed and exploitation imperialism brings, and the parasitism that it feeds in the core imperialist nations.

The African World War and the Playstation

The conflict known as Africa’s World War has involved eight nations and over 25 militias. It has killed and displaced millions of people over a ten year period, and its effects still linger today. According to Toward Freedom, this war also became known as the Playstation War. They state:

“The name came about because of a black metallic ore called coltan. Extensive evidence shows that during the war hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coltan was stolen from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The UN and several NGOs claim some of the most active thieves were the Rwandan military, several militias supported by the Rwandan government, and also a number of western-based mining companies, metal brokers, and metal processors that had allegedly partnered with these Rwandan factions…. And while allegations of plundering coltan from a nation in desperate need of revenue seem bad enough, the UN also discovered that Rwandan troops and rebels were using prisoners-of-war and children to mine for the “black gold.”

“Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,” said British politician Oona King, who was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2005.”(3).

Coltan is used to make the metal tantalum, which in turn is used to make capacitors for tiny electronic devices. Up to eighty percent of the world’s coltan reserves lie in the DRC (4). Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of this metal has been stolen from the DRC during this war in order to satisfy the growing demand for electronic items like cell phones, laptops, I-Pods, and video games.

The report links the demand for the Playstation in 2000 to a spike in the price of coltan. At the same time the Rwandan military and its allied militias forcefully took over land in DRC that had coltan mines. A United Nations investigation alleged Western mining companies:

“…directly and indirectly fueled the war, paralyzing the DRC government, and [used] the conflict to keep the coltan flowing cheaply out of the Congo. Some companies were also accused by the UN of aligning with elements of the warring parties.”

Toward Freedom further states:

“David Barouski, a researcher and journalist from Wisconsin, says it is certain that the coltan from this conflict is also in SONY video game consoles across the world. ‘Sony’s PlayStation 2 launch (spring of 2000) was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan that began in early 1999,’ said Barouski, who has witnessed the chaos of eastern DRC firsthand.”

Sony of course engages in plausible deniability, saying it cannot really know where everything it manufactures comes from. Really, gee whiz.

Congo’s Long History of Meddling Imperialists

The DRC has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, despite being so rich in mineral resources. The cause of this contradiction is its long history of being a victim of imperialist intervention. It has long been a site of theft, plunder, and murder by U.$. and Western imperialism. It was once known as the Belgian Congo, named after its former colonial strangler. It achieved independence from Belgium in 1961. Its first leader after independence was Patrice Lumumba, who described 80 years of colonial oppression as a “humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force” (5). Lumumba, a national leader too independent for U.$. imperial interests, became a victim of an assassination orchestrated by the CIA and Belgian intelligence shortly after he took power. He was replaced by a subservient kleptocracy led by Gen. Joseph Mobutu, head of the national army. Mobutu and his cronies went on to steal billions from the nation he renamed Zaire, while starving millions of its citizens. Mobutu also allowed the CIA free use of the country as a proxy to destabilize the rest of the region for U.$. interests against the USSR during the Cold War.

After the Cold War ended Mobutu was of no use to the imperialists, and was finally overthrown in 1997. His replacement also became a pawn of the imperialists. The nation, renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, was led by president Kabila, who made deals with Western and Amerikan mining companies for access to its valuable mines. He had the backing of neighboring armies who wanted in on its resources. The five-year war that officially ended in 2003 was known as the African World War, the deadliest war since World War II. So far over 5 million people have died as a result. This is just one symptom of the long legacy of imperialism in this region.

Who Plays, Who Works? Electronic Sweatshops

Like almost all consumer products, the Playstation and other electronics are manufactured in Third World sweatshops that take advantage of cheap labor and few regulations.

News reports state that Sony is contracting with Foxcomm, a Taiwanese contractor with factories based in China, to build their new Playstation 3 (6). Other reports about Foxcomm factories that assembled the iPods give an indication of the conditions that these toys are made in. One factory in China has 200,000 workers, and advertises for workers over age 16 (7):

“Inside Longhua, workers labor a 15-hour day building iPods, for which they usually earn about $50 per month. When they’re not on the assembly lines, they live in secluded dormitories that each house 100 people and prohibit visitors from the outside world. The workers are allowed ‘a few possessions; and a ‘bucket to wash their clothes.’”

From one worker:

” ‘We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It’s like being in the army,’ Zang Lan, one of the workers at Longhua, told the Mail. ‘They make us stand still for hours. If we move we are punished by being made to stand still for longer. The boys are made to do pushups.’ ”

The report states the iPod Nano is assembled in a five-story factory that is secured by armed police officers. The super-slim digital music player is said to include over 400 parts which arrive from component manufacturers all over the world (8).

Another factory in Suzhou, Shanghai that manufactures iPod shuffles is completely surrounded by barbed wire. The workers take home $99 a month, with half of that income going to food and shelter. The factory advertises for women workers, because it considers them more honest. China, now under capitalist imperialist exploitation, is touted for its “low wages, long hours and industrial secrecy, [making] the country attractive to business, especially as increased competition and consumer expectations force companies to deliver products at lower prices (9).”

The End Game

“Amerikan imperialism takes the products created by the exploited labor of the Third World and passes it off to Amerika’s aristocratic ‘workers.’ From here, Amerikan ‘workers’ are overpaid to basically tinker around with the products before they are sold. In turn, Amerikan ‘workers’ use their inflated wages to buy these products, thus making possible the final realization of profit for the overall system. In this manner, Amerika uses global exploitation to keep its domestic mall economy afloat and enable its existence as an entire nation of parasites.”

-Parasitism: The Economics of Imperialism (RAIMD) (10)

Amerika’s economy is a service economy. The wealth of this country comes from the exploitation of resources and labor from outside of its borders, all so Amerikans can live overly comfortable lives. The Playstation is no exception. Millions have died and billions suffer for your entertainment. The world’s majority won’t stand for it for too much longer.

Amerikan imperialism will lose in the end. So join with the world’s oppressed majority and become a revolutionary anti-imperialist. It’ll be more fun than your Playstation anyway!





3). Lasker, John. “Inside Africa’s Playstation War.” Toward Freedom, July 08, 2008. All info on the DRC and Playstations, except noted, is from the Toward Freedom article.

4). _the_congo




8). Ibid.

9). Ibid.



Filed under Africa, Imperialism, News and Analysis, Political Economy, Youth

3 responses to “Your Playstation Has Real Blood On It

  1. MK

    eh, don’t think just because you don’t play video games you’re exempt. Columbite-Tantalite is used in many things aside from just video game consoles. Coltan ore is fashioned into capacitors for basic circuitry; thus your cell phones, computers, televisions, and DVD players all possess this “dirty” ore. No one is exempt from feeling like the weight of this shouldn’t be on their shoulders, and if they do it just goes to show the smugness and awesome power behind first world radicals hypocrisy.

    Hell even to a point, everyone owns goods that contain this substance. First worlder’s, Second Worlders, Third Worlders; We all have our fuckin TV’s, Cell phones, and Ipods. So really complaining about this as if there is some mysterious connection that our buying power directly funds the genocide ripping the DRC apart sounds rather asinine. If you would read on whats going on in the DRC at the moment, its basically several power structures trying to rip at each others heads while permitting American business to appropriate contracts to mine this shit.

    So if in the event an honest power figure can come out of this struggle, what makes you think they would shut down mining operations anyways? The next step for these people would be to rebuild and build on top of that, which means the government needs to appropriate lots of money for this process.

    Its not like America came in big bad bully and all and just stole all the mineral wealth of this country. The African leaders and interlopers are just as responsible, if not more, for whats going on. You have around 5 to 6 different factions fighting to control areas of wealth, 4 of which didn’t even originate in the DCR. So what does that say? Not a whole shitload of alot about the evils of imperialism when there was no American muscle flexed here, and certainly no military might on behalf of America. This is a case of Africans selling Africans to the fire, this is about the corrupt bastardized leaders of developing countries and not so much about the American enterprise that decided to exploit their weaknesses. Unless you can provide me with solid documentation that Motorola, Sony, and Mitsubishi(Japan in on it too?!) directly fund and I mean DIRECTLY FUND Hutu exiles, Rwandan Defense Forces, Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistancy Army, The Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, and The South Sudan Independance Movement, then I refuse to see this as a clear cut matter of American imperialism. These forces are selling Coltan to producers of American goods at the expense of slave labor, thereby funding militaristic operations within the state to gain control of more property and even more mineral wealth. If this is American imperialism, I would like to know what you call any other sort of foreign interests that countries participate in worldwide. Fuck if that were the case, We’d all be imperialists!

    It’s about fucking time we took a look around and stopped siding with who is supposed to be the supposed victims and seriously consider that the enemy is everywhere. Its not about blind patriotic support of the third world anymore, its about recognizing the problem for what it really is. Despite the sad truth you may or may not like to see from the outcome of it, IT IS THE TRUTH. This is why I don’t support the message you send with this because, its never been just one faction to cause a problem, It takes two to tango after all. All sides exacerbate a situation and this is how it becomes a problem.

    Saying we indirectly fund death in the Congo is too far of a stretch for a conclusion. it has the ability to become diluted by making the reader connect the dots, turning it into a simple summation of a topic that is far from simple. Its like someone saying, “Bush did 9/11”. It just completely protracts from any wisdom being shed onto the situation for people who want to know but are put off by such large generalizations on the topic.

  2. Cooked Coke

    MK is a white chauvinist reactionary who can’t bear to have amerikan konsumers slandered.

    How many Africans are buying playstations, i-pods, cell phones, etc.? How many African mining companies own all the precious minerals? How many African arms manufacturers are there? Who the fuck steals most of the profits from Third World countries like the DRC? Amerika and other imperialists.

    Of course amerika is funding the war in the DRC. Amerika bankrolled and militarily supported the kleptocratic Mobutu regiems from the start, up until the point where it knew he had to be replaced. Amerika has since supplied Rwandan and Ugandan troops and fostered anti-Kabila ethnic and tribal tensions in the Congo, wreaking havoc so that any elected governmnet must be a comprador neocolonial puppet government… or else the proxy war is back on.

    Amerika hates even a hint of independence for any Third World country? Is your head so far up your ass MK, that you don’t know the difference between an imperialist and an imperialist puppet?

    All amerikans are imperialists. Wake up and smell the coltan.

  3. First, it is always good to see anyone approach our material in a thoughtful, open, yet critical manner. Nevertheless, I disagree strongly with MK’s theoretical approach.

    Throughout Mk’s criticism, he constantly looks for direct connections, instead of material social connections. Right from the get go, MK says that,

    “eh, don’t think just because you don’t play video games you’re exempt. Columbite-Tantalite is used in many things aside from just video game consoles. Coltan ore is fashioned into capacitors for basic circuitry; thus your cell phones, computers, televisions, and DVD players all possess this “dirty” ore.”

    The problem here is that MK relates any benefit from exploitation to its direct use. Hence, if one could only live an extremely Spartan lifestyle, one could be exempt from being in an exploiter. Likewise, he fails to appreciate the different means by which the Third World is exploited. Instead of taking our Playstation article as supporting evidence of a larger phenomena , s/he treats as it’s sole mechanism.

    In the above quote, MK implies that one might think they are “expempt” by not consuming objects of exploitation. Even if First World anti-imperialists did spend all their time growing food and making clothes, we would still be part of a social group- a nation- which maintains a disgustingly exploitative relationship with the Third World. You can’t lifestyle or politicize yourself into being a part of the oppressed majority. RAIM-Denver has never implied otherwise.

    MK does correctly point to the diffusion of a few First World luxury goods to the Third World, however,s/he does not go into detail or address the larger picture. For instance, the average Amerika finds 4 hours and 35 minutes to watch TV every day. That’s a whole lot of time to be doing essentially nothing. Now add it to the time on a computer and playing video games. How do Amerika finds so much time to waste? The average Amerikan household also has more TVs than people. Do Third Worlders have regularly have so much free time or money to spend on grossly excessive luxury goods?

    MK pieces the article to mean that there is a direct connection between Amerikans buying power and genocide. Again, we never stated that. This article is merely evidence of the connection between Amerikans’ buying power and a system which, through a variety of channels, does often time fund civil wars and genocide, and creates the conditions by which they still happen today. Indeed, there is a connection, but again it is on a structural level, not a direct one.

    “Its not like America came in big bad bully and all and just stole all the mineral wealth of this country.”

    Actually, a big bad bully did go to Africa. It was called European colonialism. It did loot Africa for it resources, namely its people. It didn’t spare Africa’s mineral wealth either, coltan being one modern example. This has been a historical process and is directly linked to Europe and Amerika’s development from 1500’s(?) to today. Any talk about “Africans selling each other to the fire” sounds more like racist claptrap than anything else. Imperialism, and its predecessors, have been directly involved in the DRC for nearly 400 years. The world imperialism has created, one in which the resources from the Third World are consumed in vast quantities by people in countries such as Amerika, is primarily responsible for any ongoing situation in the Congo today.

    Are there Third World misleaders who sell out their people? Of course there are. Imperialism in the modern era couldn’t exist without them. And as the article states, imperialism- through means such as the CIA- has done much to promote and protect such leaders. They should be opposed as part of opposing imperialism.

    MK rounds up by saying that the problem is “everywhere” is the “truth”..and that it “takes two to tango.” Unfortunately, s/he doesn’t articulate what exactly the main problem is or the mechanisms by which it operates. Stopping at this vague point, MK neither offers up a strategy for resolution for this problem. For his/her incredible ability to criticize, there is nothing of substance offered as an alternative analysis besides a big, ‘it’s fucked.’

    So yes, i think Amerikans are involved in death in the Congo. Not in that our shopping habits directly fund death squads; in the sense that on a structural level Amerikans live at the expense of a system which creates cases such as the Congo. No-one is exempt from this system. Not the cracker-ass white liberals and First World consumers, not imperialist finance capital, not the African children in mines and Asian women in factories and not the Third World puppets and middlemen of imperialism. Not myself. All are connected.

    While MK is obviously wrong on a number of points, it is good see that s/he is willing to engage in the subject. I strongly encourage MK to keep it up and delve deeper into these manners, studying not just this specific case but also global trends and structures as well as the history to which such cases may be better put into context.

    Peace out,


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