Recommended cross-reference: Report on the seminar on ‘How historians address the Legacy of Colonialism‘, at the University of Johanneburg on 5 March 2018
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell, 1984.
Slavery & imperialism were the means to achieve the ends, of sustained world domination by a few big players in the world economy. Without it, nation states, multinational corporations and banks would not have the power base they enjoy now at the start of the 21st century. Private capitalists, monarchs and feudal Lords waded through blood to colonise country after country and loot these countries’ human and natural resources. It is a process that continues today in Africa if one cares to delve into the recent history of what has happened in the Congo. See also: The Plunder & Depopulation of Central Africa
The original motives for the colonial mission were plainly expressed by Cecil Rhodes, the ‘founder’ of “Rhodesia”. “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories”. [From “The Ecologist”, 1992].
By way of example, the British Empire was simply an extension abroad of the exploitation of the British people by royalty and the privileged few which had been going on in England systematically since the time of William the Conqueror. Furthermore, there was the colonial power’s imposition of models of enclosure upon countries of the South ie. sociological/cultural trends in the North’s historic development in terms of private landownership and command over the resource of land became a sociological/cultural construct imported into countries of the South. Direct colonial control of African territory was the final straw that brought about the disruption of the internal autonomous development of African societies. African societies were transformed into monoproduct/monocultural economies, with each society tasked to produce commodities either mineral or agricultural for European markets. Colonies were meant to be self-sustaining and yet produce a surplus that could be repatriated to the metropolitan country. The attempt to exploit colonies for wealth inadvertently brought into being an African working class formed out of tribal people that had been dispossessed of their means of production (following a similar pattern to the process of land expropriation of the victims of land enclosure in the UK in the 17th century) or had been forced by the monetisation of African societies to seek employment in the colonial economic sector to pay various taxes that were levied on them by the colonial powers (words courtesy of Tokunbo Oke – 1st paragraph of article taken from ‘Kilombo’ featured below).
Post-colonialist Africa, characterised by land areas previously divided by colonial rulers into territories on a map, has since World War II witnessed a legacy of civil wars, military-coups, and crises of disorder and chaos. Blame for this “disorder” can be largely put at the door of continued imperialist interference in the domestic politics of countries, (for e.g. whereas the cold war situation saw political destabilisation in country after country throughout the African continent, such as in Angola, where the US financed the Unita rebels while the Soviets funded the MPLA government, post-war interference has been just as telling, for instance the current situation in Central Africa of the US’ backing of Uganda and Rwandan rebel insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo owes much to connivance between US imperialism and multinationals to grab control over the region’s vast mineral wealth). Every ruler knows that as soon as the profit margin of the transnational giants starts to fall, an ambitious army officer or chief of some oppressed tribe will be found to replace them. Thus they are driven to ever-greater excesses of brutality to ensure the constant supply of profits.
In Africa, the entrenchment of power relations between the bourgeoisie and the working class/rural proletariat, has encouraged a proliferation of conflict and tension in relation to state power and ethnic division, which in terms of the latter, African elites have exploited and used as a means of mobilising support for the contestation of power and resources (Ref.“War & Conflict in Africa: A Bird’s-Eye View“, by Kwesi Kwaa Prah, 2000). Working in tandem with this expansion of warlordism under the wing of multinational collusion is the continued exploitative economic relations between the North and the South – as the imperial powers replaced direct colonial control with indirect neocolonial relations based upon the export-orientated primary production economic structure of the national economies of countries in the South.
The means by which neocolonial relations have sustained beyond post-colonial independence in countries across the South has been through the widespread adherence to neoliberal structural adjustment policies, enforced through the carrot of debt-cancellation as a bargaining tool to relieve the financial burden of the so-called “Third World debt” (the accumulated compound interest on non-existent capital which – in Africa – was paid to corrupt leaders). The North’s capitalist advancement (led by the USA) occurs at the expense of the Neo-Colonial state, a process which is sustained by the fierce worldwide market domination of multinationals over global commodity markets (80% of world trade takes place in ‘value chains’ linked to transnationals). It is safe to say that world market prices are largely set in the stock exchanges of the North. Meanwhile, financial deregulation – the removal of barriers-to-entry to financial speculation – as enforced by global institutions (eg. the International Monetary Fund & World Bank) has occurred around the world to serve the interests of those countries in the North.
The burning question for the developing world as it seeks freedom from this very modern enslavement of a one-way traffic of shareholder return and human resources to the developed North is, how can they sustain independence from the colonial legacy that is western financial capital attached to dubious conditionality? THE LAND IS OURS believes that part of the solution is unconditional debt cancellation so that countries such as Indonesia caught within debt entrapment are not pressured into maximising export sales at the expense of environmental considerations (by the start of 2005, Indonesia had accumulated a total externally-owed (multilateral) debt of $95 billion – 57% of her GDP*). In the case of Indonesia, pressure to export has meant pressure to maximise yield of the cash-crop Palm Oil at the expense of destruction of rainforest areas to clear the way for more plantations. Eliminating this pressure, the alternative could be rural resources more easily redirected towards rural development so that the rurally impoverished may enjoy access to redistributed resources and sustainable institutions working in their own interests (smallholder agricultural research, village-scale irrigation projects, forest-biodiversity protection zones ..etc).
[*Note: Indonesia’s External Debt as a percentage of its GDP reached an all-time high of 58.3 % in Dec 2003, reducing to 34.2 % of the country’s Nominal GDP by 2016].
Read the Lead-Article for the Legacy of Colonialism Forum:
Colonial vicissitudes & the final passage of 20th Century Capital
One Legacy – The re-colonisation of Africa (click here)
Globalization Wiping Out Languages, Natural Links
To subscribe to the LegacyofColonialism Forum e-mail group, visit: http://www.yahoogroups.com/subscribe/LegacyofColonialism You can join it by clicking on the email webpage link and clicking on ‘Join Group’ (if you don’t have a yahoo-id, you will have to create one, by clicking on ‘sign-up’)
The Legacy of Colonialism Forum seeks to make these links between previous imperialist systems of injustice and the current processes driving the world economy. The unremarkable recognition is made that the same underlying process of expropriation and profit for the benefit of a few has been the driving-force underpinning both the ruthless colonial looting that occurred in Africa, Asia, Eire, Latin America and the West Indies, and present-day corporate investments that rely on speculation without respect of labour or environmental standards. For example, at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in the Philippines, 207 factories purely dedicated to producing export brands such as Nike, IBM and Gap recently employed 50,000 workers, who worked 12 hour days in military-style underpaid drudgery. The only difference now is that the whole process is accelerating at an alarming rate, wholly because the debt-based money system generates more and more perceived “value” on stock markets, within financial trading, and in the ever-faster rates-of-return of speculative investments. And this acceleration process continues because the money system based on debt is spiralling out of control, as we are also attempting to explore.
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