1). Colonial origins of our most recent history of capitalist exploitation

The history of mankind shows that from the beginning of the world, the rich of all countries have been in a permanent state of conspiracy to keep down the poor of all countries, and for this plain reason – because the poverty of the poor man is essential to the riches of the rich man. No matter by what means they may disguise their operations, the rich are everlastingly plundering, debasing and brutalising the poor. All the crimes and superstitions of human nature have their origin in this cannibal warfare of riches against poverty. The desire of one man to live on the fruits of another’s labour is the original sin of the world. It is this which fills the world with fiction and hypocrisy and has made all past history to be what Gibbon so justly described ‘a record of the crimes, absurdities and calamities of mankind’. It is the parent injustice from which all injustice springs.” Bronterre O’Brien, the British Chartist Movement, 1835. 1

Colonization and Christianization · Caliban and the Witch: Amerigo Vespucci landing on the South American coast in 1497. Before him, seductively lying on a hammock, is “America.” (Jan Van der Straet)
{*Please Note: it is now disputed that Amerigo Vespucci actually embarked on an expedition in the years 1496-1497.}


The history of mankind shows us that throughout the world, many different nations and empires have come and gone over time, having been both usurped and been usurpers of other peoples, kingdoms, empires and nations. Before briefly exploring the legacy of the European and Judeo-Christian civilisation and the Imperialism of colonising countries of Western Europe leading right up to today and how new empires have consolidated their domination in the modern age, since this analysis chiefly configures the colonialism process in Africa, it is best to first be mindful of the fact that African enslavement predated by a millennium the European encounter. As S.I. Martin outlines in his book “The British Slave Trade”, quoting Dr Akosu Perbi, a lecturer at the University of Ghana: “In the 4th century AD, Ghana became part of what we know as the trans-Saharan network of trade, which covered the whole of West Africa. There’s also evidence that Ghana was receiving slaves along the trans-Saharan route into the country, as well as some evidence that from about the 1st century to the 15th, Ghana was trading with its African neighbours, from Senegal right down to Nigeria.”2

In the words of B F Bankie:
Internationally, it is generally accepted that there exists within the African continent two nations – the Arab Nation and the African Nation. Certainly, the Arabs as a people, be they in the Middle-East or within continental Africa, distinguish themselves from the blacks who are, in general, found south of the Sahara. That was why they created their Arab League in the 1940s, to bring the Arab Nation together within one structure. War in the Afro-Arab Borderlands, stretching from Mauritania on the Atlantic Coast, through Mali, Niger and Chad to Sudan on the Red Sea, has been going on since time immemorial. Cheik Anta Diop, the Senegalese nuclear physicist and Egyptologist, established in western scholarship that Egypt was originally populated by Africans. Africans originally populated present day Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. The Arabs came to Sudan through the Nile Valley after conquering Egypt, passing through the desert from Libya and Maghreb.3

Africans have been pushed southward in the Borderlands for many years. In Sudan only 39% of Sudanese regard themselves as Arabs. Click here for a recent history of events in Sudan.
The Age of Exploration & colonization:
The Age of Exploration was the beginning of territorial expansion for several European countries. The Imperial nations sent out their missionaries and diplomats, with their gunboats following closely behind. Empire building based on a claim of superiority, whereby anthropomorphized nation states, with their insistence on the right of self expression based on religious dogma, acted in an arena where venture capitalists supported or in association with the imperial nations they derived from, competed with eachother for trade routes and colonial spoils. With the advance of sailing ships and seafaring and with it international trade and naval warfare referred by historians as the ‘Age of Sail’ (usually dated as 1571–1862), came the competition between the major European powers – Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, France & Spain — all changing alliances multiple times to prevent the hegemony of one nation or alliance, with numerous battles/wars occurring throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, notably the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).

European colonization began in 1486 when Portugal first invaded Benin for the exploitation of resources and subjugation of its peoples (European Transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans began in 1444). European colonization of Latin America began in 1492 when a Spanish expedition headed by the Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in the Americas – what came to be known to Europeans as the “New World”. At the request of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, in 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull giving Spain the right to conquer lands which Colombus had already arrived at and lands which he might discover, and a further papal bull in 1493 outlined a line of demarcation between Portugese and Spanish territorial claims. Columbus’s first two voyages (1492–93) reached the Bahamas and various Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba, where Columbus was greeted by well-established communities of Taino peoples living harmoniously with nature and amongst themselves (whom the Spanish went on to brutally subjugate and in the case of Hispaniola, completely wipe-out in a genocide of the natives largely attributed to have been initiated by Columbus). In 1498, sailing from Bristol on behalf of England, John Cabot landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus’s third voyage reached the South American coast. As the sponsor of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, Spain was the first European power to settle and colonize the largest areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America. Other powers such as France also founded colonies in the Americas: in eastern North America, a number of Caribbean islands and small coastal parts of South America. Portugal colonized Brazil, tried colonizing the eastern coasts of present-day Canada and settled for extended periods northwest (on the east bank) of the River Plate.

Following the path of the original explorer Colombus from the early 16th century onwards, imperial powers starting with Portugal and Spain began colonising areas both through use of both naked force and the cooperation of tribal warlords and kings, whom they traded with. The colonial powers’ primary motivation was always the appropriation of minerals and commodities from the new colonies. Gold and silver were exploited from the colonies of Latin America from the 16th century onwards. Trade in gold from the Gold Coast of Ghana started with the Portuguese who arrived there in 1471, and who soon took part in the trading of slaves from Senegal and Nigeria for gold. 4

Slavery was a common practice in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans, as different American Indian groups captured and held other tribes’ members as slaves. In Jamaica, the Arawakan people, now known as the Taino who arrived between 65Moorish [Dart-moor eh!}0 AD and 900 AD from the Dominican Republic who came originally from the Orinoco region in Venezuela, enslaved the already residing Saladoids (who were the first wave of Arawakan peoples to come from South America), making them a labouring underclass who were denied Taino luxuries such as hammocks and cassava.

In what is now Central America referred to historically as Mesoamerica, captives were forced to undergo human sacrifice in Amerindian civilizations such as in Mayan and Aztec civilisations.

The colonial period:
The colonial phase of imperialism involved the utilisation of Royal Charters to mercantile capitalists to appropriate commodities from the colonies abroad. Silver and gold was supplied from Latin America to Europe in huge quantities through the 16th century. The original intention of colonisation was for pioneering private capitalist venturers granted by imperial decree to discover and capture new territory to exploit interior environments to access resources for economic benefit in the new world*, under the wing of the imperial state. [*Note: Knowledge/awareness of the New World had been acquired from other explorers belonging to the Ottomans and Moorish cultures and older maps were traded by merchants of Venice. Africans from African civilisations had previously discovered ‘America’, such as black Egyptians led by King Rameses III, during the 19th dynasty in 1292 BC]. In England in 1578, Sir Humphrey Gilbert received letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I to sail in search of remote heathen and barbarous lands and territories not possessed by any Christian princes [source]. To the coloniser, this was rationalised by an interpretation of Christianity allied with utilitarianism presenting as masquerade for unequivocal privateering and piracy by the prevailing social order given license to venture overseas by those commandeering the levers of power within the imperial powers. Utilitarian objectives allied with and enhanced by the scientific and intellectual advances underway in western Europe with the Renaissance, underpinning the rationale for ‘the greater good’ as applied to the exploitation of resources conferred upon themselves and their own nationhood was justified by the raison d’etre and prospective outlook that material advancement would benefit the ‘greater good’ of human progress and humanity overall. Central to this process within the cultural ethos of the colonial mindset was racism (white supremacy), inextricably linked in tandem with the material and perceived cultural advancement relative to ‘uncivilized natives’ or ‘savages’ (‘the other’). As such, racial difference automatically configured as analogous to the perception of superiority in the comparison of one’s own perception of their civilisation or ‘civilised status’ relative to any new native peoples’ social and economic situation (however, the distinction grew cruder over the course of the next few centuries, with the massive growth and expansion (‘industrialisation’) of slavery and the slave-trade, with humans traded like cattle, every last sinew of sweat and toil rung out of them whilst held in what may be considered to have been death-camps, starting with the slave plantations in Virginia and later in the colonies in the Caribbean; slaves were viewed either as savages or subhuman chattel or persons with feelings who were exploitable for slave-owners own ends, largely mirroring the view of native peoples centuries earlier when they were first encountered by white European man).

Demand for African slaves from Spanish and Portugese colonies began towards the end of the 16th century. In the UK, the trailblazer in this regard (the triangular trade) was pioneering naval commander John Hawkins who sold supplies to colonies and traded for African slaves which he transported to the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century. In 1618, James I granted the first charter to the Guinea company, delivering their first cargo of slaves to Virginia. For a time, Royal Charters began to be exclusively provided to mercantile state-capitalist monopolies (for example, in the UK, the Royal African Company, and in Holland, the Dutch West India Company), with the establishment of particular imperial outposts throughout the New World in the wake of the original colonial expeditions of the imperial powers. Imperial protection of colonial trade routes transformed into outright colonial occupation of more and more territory of the New World, most notably amongst the islands of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica which was captured by Britain in 1656 under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. In Africa, Bunce Island, in an estuary of the River Sierra Leone, had been occupied by the British since the 1670s, when it had come under the ownership of the Royal Africa Company, and was used as a slave-trading station/prison/holding place for the purchase of slaves by slave-traders. There do not exist much in the way of accounts of what occurred there, suffice to say there is little doubt that it was a location of unspeakable horror, a veritable hell-on-earth.

The Royal African Company monopoly ended in 1698, when transatlantic traffic became ‘opened up’ to ‘private traders’.

With colonial occupation, the colonial powers justified their occupation of the colonies as a long-term policy to ‘civilise’ native populations, which they considered needed “civilising”, as part of the crusade to spread the word of God (the Bible) and Christianity – with the objective belief held that the heathen natives could be saved spiritually, morally and socially in their ways of livelihood as far as could be possible. In effect, however, it was cover for the exploitation of interior environments to access resources for the economic benefit of the invaders. “Civilisation” actually meant the spread of values accustomed to the traditions and main tenets upon which western society rested for the purpose of securing alignment of particular (wealthy) class interests in positions of power and influence to manage the use and distribution of resources under the guise of promoting these values, primarily the rule of law and property rights. Throughout all of the colonies, during the initial process of colonisation by the European powers, the means of brokering these values across the perceived cultural void of these colony-subjects was grounded in a mindset rooted in humankind’s age-old time-immemorial patriarchy and cultural tendencies such as competition, appetite for power and domination over other people. The veil of Christianity was used (and it’s essential principles perverted) to justify an open license for colonisers to ingress and dominate, meted-out often with brutal subjugation if necessary, for what was perceived as a ‘civilising’ process (in the way any owner of capital or magistrate acting on behalf of the ruling class might quell insubordination) for those viewed as not as human as the white anglo-saxon race (in effect, the native races were viewed as subhuman). (a brief interpolation: right-click here [& open-link-in-new-tab] for a musical interlude or accompaniment to listen to alongside reading this text).

In the colonies, the colonial powers simply stole the land from tribal communities. For instance, on the island that became known as Jamaica, the original Arawak Indians were wiped out by the Spanish. In response to some enslavement of natives in the Caribbean during the early years, the Spanish Crown passed a series of laws prohibiting slavery as early as 1512. A new stricter set of laws was passed in 1542, called the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of Indians, or simply New Laws. These were created to prevent the exploitation of the indigenous peoples by the encomenderos or landowners, by strictly limiting their power and dominion. 5 This helped curb some Indian slavery, albeit never completely. Later, with the arrival of other European colonial powers in the New World, the enslavement of native populations increased, with these empires lacking legislation against slavery until decades later. The population of indigenous peoples declined (mostly from European diseases, but also from forced exploitation and atrocities). “The process of enclosure, including control of population movement and the guarantee of exclusive possessory title (first started in the British Isles in the 17th century onwards), were transferred to Britain’s overseas colonies, with the dual mandate system maintaining individual settler rights alongside residual tribal or customary rights for the indigenous or ‘native’ peoples”(quote from: Robert Home & Hilary Lim, “Demystifying the History of Capital”).6

Inspired by the Spanish riches from colonies founded upon the conquest of the Aztecs, Incas, and other large Native American populations in the 16th century, the first Englishmen to settle permanently in America hoped for some of the same rich discoveries when they established their first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. They were sponsored by common stock companies such as the chartered Virginia Company financed by wealthy Englishmen who exaggerated the economic potential of this new land. The main purpose of this colony was the hope of finding gold. For these first settlements, Tobacco later became a cash crop for export and the sustaining economic driver of Virginia and the neighboring colony of Maryland.

From the beginning of Virginia’s settlements in 1587 until the 1680s, the main source of labour and a large portion of the immigrants were indentured servants looking for new life in the overseas colonies. During the 17th century, indentured servants constituted three-quarters of all European immigrants to the Chesapeake region. Most of the indentured servants were teenagers from England with poor economic prospects at home. Their fathers signed the papers that gave them free passage to America and an unpaid job until they became of age. They were given food, clothing, housing and taught farming or household skills. American landowners were in need of labourers and were willing to pay for a labourer’s passage to America if they served them for several years. By selling passage for five to seven years worth of work they could then start out on their own in America.7 Many of the migrants from England died in the first few years.

Colonisation of America and displacement of Native American communities stepped up a gear through the 17th century as religious zealots called Puritans were joined by other British settlers to seize land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. Ref: Read about the 1637 Pequot massacre: ​The REAL Story of the Annual U.S. Thanksgiving. Populations of Native Americans were decimated mostly by the spread (sometimes deliberately) of European diseases such as smallpox.

Racial segregation first became codified in law in 1661 in Barbados, when the first comprehensive ‘slave code’ was developed called an Act for the better Ordering and Governing of Negroes. The act stipulated that enslaved persons found guilty of certain crimes other than those of a public nature were to be punished by being branded, whipped, having their noses slit or having a limb removed. For crimes of a public nature, such as rebellion, the act stated that capital punishment must be administered. In the Act, the enslaved were declared not merely as chattel, but real-estate in that the island’s treasurer could compensate ‘owners’ for their loss of capital if the slave were tried and executed for a crime of a public-nature.

Colonial Rule and Imperial Power
Power vested in the monarch of the ruling imperial powers established new hierarchical systems/structures of governance over new territories, either through outright conquest, completely replacing previous principalities and kingdoms, or usurping power from principalities and kingdoms through usurpation by stealth (political destabilisation, divide & rule .etc, as occurred in the case of the British conquest of India spearheaded by the pursuit of commercial advance of the East India Company). In what is now South Africa, in 1652, the Dutch intensified efforts to establish a colony at Cape of Good Hope, with colonizing Boers (farmers of Dutch, German or Huguenot descent) claiming the land to be “Terra nullius’ (land which belonged to nobody), establishing large farms and driving out the non-Bantu San and Khoikhoi. 8 Imperial powers competed with eachother with their colonial ventures such as the competing colonial expeditions of the French East India Company (established in 1664) and the English East India(later British) and Dutch East India companies in the East Indies. The English East India Company – which was originally referred to simply as the ‘East India Company’ (and later on as the ‘British East India Company’)- was incorporated by royal charter on December 31st 1600 and was started as a monopolistic trading body so that England could participate in the East Indian spice trade, winning the battle for supremacy over the French company by the middle of the 18th century. At the height of its rule in India, the British East India company had a private army of about 260,000—twice the size of the British Army. 9 (Source – The Guardian) The company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and seizing administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of the Indian subcontinent in the form of the new British Raj.



The Slave Trade (& the role of slavery in building the wealth of Empires, including the foundations of the United States)
The triangular slave trade really took off by the mid-18th century; in the UK, by the 1780s, enslavement reached it’s peak as one slave ship was estimated to have left Britain every other day (see also: The City of London and slavery: evidence from the first dock companies, 1795–1801, by Nick Draper). On the Gold Coast, the transition from activities such as mining to slave export becoming the main economic activity was rapid within a period of a few years between 1700 and 1710 (10(Rodney)), a trade which spread to many other parts of the African continent, including West and Central Africa, such as eastern Nigeria, the Congo, northern Angola, Dahomey and Senegal. Violent upheaval and kidnapping, causing major social upheavals, whilst labour supply for agriculture and other economic activities was reduced, became the reality of experience for many peoples across the continent, as the new economic activity of slave procurement spread.

The triangular slave trade involved the shipping of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and America to work on the cash-crop plantation systems there (only a proportion of slaves transported across the ocean ever survived the journey), the transport of commodities such as sugar, cocoa and tobacco from the Caribbean and America back to Britain, and the return of the ships to Africa with precious metals and other gifts such as chocolate for tribal warlords in exchange for more slaves. It is estimated that between the middle of the 16th century and the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, upwards of 10 million Africans were traded to ships slaving to the New World.11



A poster of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship showing how enslaved people were transported in dreadful conditions

Meanwhile, on what we know as the American continent, in 1776, the founding of the first 13 states of America commenced on land seized after the genocide of dozens of Native American eastern-seaboard tribes. The declaration of independence from the British Empire on 4 July 1776 enshrined the belief of European settler supremacy by declaring Indian peoples to be “merciless Indian savages”. America adopted it’s constitution in 1786. Article-6 established it’s treaties as “the supreme law of the land”. Treaties with sovereign nations for that moment onwards would be superseded by overarching federal legislature, such as in 1823 in the case of Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh where the Supreme Court ruled that the first nations’ right of occupancy was subordinate to the United States divine right of discovery – a landmark ruling which provided legal cover for government policies that would claim white Christian supremacy as justification for stealing indigenous lands and for the genocide of native peoples.

The native workers in the new frontier called America were replaced by Africans imported through a large commercial slave trade.

Walter Rodney from his book “HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA”: “When Europeans reached the Americas, they recognised its enormous potential in gold and silver and tropical produce. But that potential could not be made a reality without adequate labour supplies. The indigenous Indian population could not withstand new European diseases such as smallpox, nor could they bear the organised toil of slave plantations and slave mines, having barely emerged from the hunting stage. …At the same time, Europe itself had a very small population and could not afford to release the labour required to tap the wealth of the Americas. Therefore, they turned to the nearest continent, Africa, which incidentally had a population accustomed to settled agriculture and disciplined labour in many spheres. Those were the objective conditions lying behind the start of the European slave trade, and those are the reasons why the capitalist class in Europe used their control of international trade to insure that Africa specialised in exporting captives.12

In the 17th to 19th centuries, the slave trade was key to the growth of the City of London. However, the City also benefited from the end of slavery. The UK trade in slaves ended in the early 19th century with the passing of the 1807 Slave Trade Act after the campaigning crusade of campaigners spearheaded by William Wilberforce, though slavery itself continued for another generation (slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of native Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from the beginning of the nation in 1776 until President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 leading to passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865; however, it was the first country to have slavery abolished by five of the Northern self-declared states during the 1780s: Pennsylvania in 1780, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1783, and Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784.). By the 1810 Anglo-Portuguese treaty, Portugal agreed to restrict its trade into its colonies; in the 1813 Anglo-Swedish treaty, Sweden outlawed its slave trade; and in the 1814 Treaty of Paris, France agreed with Britain that the slave trade was “repugnant to the principles of natural justice” and agreed to abolish the slave trade in five years. In the 1814 Anglo-Dutch treaty, the Netherlands outlawed its slave trade, and the 1817 Anglo-Spanish treaty called for Spain to suppress its trade by 1820. By the time slavery was finally abolished in the United States in 1865 after the Union victory in the American Civil War, part of the persuasive argument that enabled the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 was that it had become apparent to many that in the midst of the collapse of the southern economy in the war, slavery had become a system which in purely capitalist terms had been overtaken by the simple principle of cheap labour exploitation as opposed to the continued running cost of maintaining the slave gang. Extreme economic exploitation replaced slavery such as the in sharecropping, where white landowners hoarded the profits of Black workers’ agricultural labour, trapping them into poverty and debt for generations. Black people who challenged this system of domination faced threats, violence, and even murder.

The abrupt end of the trade was actually damaging to the economies of African societies at the time, who had substantially geared their productive base to supplying the trade. Alternatives to the trade were rapidly sought after. Rodney: “As soon as inhabitants of any region found that they had a product which Europeans were accepting in place of the former slave trade, those inhabitants put tremendous effort into organising the alternatives: namely ivory, rubber, palm products, groundnuts.13 Desire for acceptance was driven by desire to continue overseas trade in order to continue receiving European goods. The trade in ivory – a product not demanded to any extent within African society – thrived in several East African societies in particular. Rodney argues how dependence on overseas markets for trade in ivory became pronounced since ivory was a product derived through elephant hunting which rapidly exhausted in any given region on a large-scale, leading to a continuous struggle to secure new supplies. Rodney argued that with the rise in the volume of trade, “there was a decrease in the capacity to achieve economic independence and self-sustaining social progress” because the ivory trade required any African society which took this export trade seriously to “restructure it’s economy to make the ivory trade successful14

As Rodney also says, the British, having resolved to end slave-trading, gained imperial advantage in using this outward stance to “justify deposing rulers on the grounds that they were slave traders, such as Arab rulers still engaged in slave trading”. The British, meanwhile, were also crushing political leaders in places such as Nigeria, like Jaja and Nana “who had by then ceased the export of slaves and were concentrating instead on products like palm oil and rubber15

Imperial conquest and the spread of Direct Colonial Rule:
As already mentioned, competition between rival European powers – Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, France & Spain — was ongoing from the late 16th century onwards for several centuries, with the rival powers all changing alliances multiple times to prevent the hegemony of one nation or alliance, with numerous battles/wars occurring throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, notably the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). European monopoly firms and merchant traders, and later, North American and Japanese capitalists, inextricably working in tandem with the naval and financial support of their respective nation states, “forced by the internal logic of their competitive system16 competed against eachother to further secure control over the supply of raw materials crucially important for their capitalist endeavours, in which they also sought greater access to foreign markets and profitable fields of investment. In terms of the latter, as the scope for expansion became limited inside their national economies, “attention turned to less-developed economies where it was anticipated there would be minor opposition to the penetration of foreign capitalism”,17 where 2 centuries of concerted underdevelopment owing to the slave trade and initial unequal trading patterns with imperial nations had prepared the ground for this market penetration and the next stage in the growth of world capitalism.

All of the imperial/colonial powers saw the continents and their peoples as extensions of the Mother country, both politically and culturally. The colonial state was simply an extension of the imperialist empire, responsible for the administration and exploitation of the colonies. In India, after the rebellion in 1857, the British government nationalised the East India Company – transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (titled ‘Empress of India’) in 1858, taking all its property and assets, as well as obligations and contracts (shareholders continued to receive a hefty yearly dividend of 10.5% on their shareholdings for decades, as agreed in a deal with the British state, all of which – £12m (about £1.6bn today) – came from Indian taxpayers, with the interest on this debt continued to be paid by the people of India for 70 years).

Extension of colonial territories abroad remained and were further extended upon the culmination of the Berlin Conference in 1884 (by 1885, however, the British Empire had already consolidated the northern half of Sudan, which fell under the management of Egypt as part of Britain’s North African Empire, while the south of Sudan was comprised within their East African (Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya) Empire). Each of the European powers embarked upon direct political control or colonisation whereby each of the different European powers targeted their own well-established spheres of influence on the continent, which they’dd developed by virtue of centuries of trade. These monopoly firms fought against eachother to be the first to invest in new profitable ventures inside or outside their countries. The need for raw-materials by the European capitalist powers intensified as Europe’s economic capacity expanded. The new movement towards direct occupation, ratified at the Berlin Conference 1884, started as soon as one European power declared an area a protectorate, raising tariffs against competing European powers, and so, generating a competitive battle between the imperial powers for territory. (It would be a rivalry which would reach it’s ultimate culmination in firstly World War I and 21 years after in 1939, World War II).

In 1889, a Royal Charter was granted to the British South Africa Company (BSAC) to exploit the mineral wealth of southern Africa. The board of BSAC included pioneering colonialist Sir Cecil Rhodes – founder of the De Beers Mining Company. The BSAC settled and administered territory which ended up being named after Rhodes – namely Northern Rhodesia (which became Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Rhode’s signature project was the building of a railway across the African continent that linked the Cape to Cairo, to facilitate the mass export of minerals to Europe. In Southern Rhodesia, Rhodes, assisted by a missionary Charles Helms, deceived Chief Lobengula into signing away mineral rights of his country, in what was known as the ‘Rudd Concession’ (30 Oct 1888).18 Lobengula relied on Helms to translate what had been agreed, and Helms wrote the agreement in so abstract a way as to it being easily misintepreted to mean that all mining concessions be given to Rhodes. The company granted large tracts of land to the pioneer white settlers with no regard to the distribution of the native African population. As early as 1894, the Company started setting aside land in Matabaleland for exclusive occupation of Africans in areas that were dry and previously uninhabitated. The official view was that land of inferior quality was more suited to native than to European occupation. The policy marked the beginning of the setting up of ‘reserves’ for the exclusive occupation of Africans. By 1925, a Land Commission chaired by Morris Carter concluded that “until the native had advanced very much further on the paths of civilisation, it is better that the points of contact …should be reduced” (Land Commission Report, 1925, p-4-5). The Commission’s recommendations were given legal effect by the Land Apportionment Act (1930). The Act was to become the most contentious piece of legislation ever passed by a Rhodesian Government. The right of an African to land ownership anywhere in the country was rescinded. Under the provisions of the Act, no African could hold or occupy land in the designated European Area.19

In broad terms, colonial subjugation occurred both through colonial peoples being 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) and/or through 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). In southern Africa, legislation spearheading this eventual wider trend across all British-controlled territory included the 1892 Franchise and Ballot Act in South Africa limiting the native vote by financial and educational qualifications and the 1894 GLEN GREY ACT which was an act of the parliament of the Cape Colony, instigated by the government of Prime Minister Cecil John Rhodes, which established a system of individual (rather than communal) land tenure, and created a labour tax to force Xhosa men into employment on commercial farms or in industry, and seems to have been aimed at Africans only (Marais 1938: 253, note 5).20 The act was so named because, although it was later extended to a larger area, it initially applied only in the Glen Grey district (Glen Grey is a former name for the area around Lady Frere, east of Queenstown, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa). Together with “various other proclamations and enactments (which were to be extended and elaborated from time to time until the 1930s) the GLEN GREY ACT laid down the rule of one-man – one-plot in the reserves” (Wolpe 1972). 21 It further “excluded property ownership altogether as a voting qualification for blacks who held property under Glen Grey title” (Davenport 1987: 108).22 See also the CAPE PARLIAMENTARY REGISTRATION ACT of 1887.

BSAC administered Northern and Southern Rhodesia with paramilitary forces until 1924 when it was replaced by direct British rule, but continued to own Zambia’s railways until 1947 and their mineral rights* until 1964 when Zambia achieved independence. Southern Rhodesia did not achieve independence from colonial rule in the same way, assuming the status of a protectorate by virtue of BSAC’s treaties with local rulers, and British legislation, and thereafter came to be known merely as ‘Rhodesia’ until achieving full sovereignty as the new state of ‘Zimbabwe’ in 1980.
[* Massive Copper deposits were discovered in Northern Rhodesia in the 1920s, and European prospectors and industrialists flooded into the country; Africans who worked the mines were paid, but had to pay a substantial part of their income paying off a ‘hut tax’ imposed throughout colonial rule].

The following extract inserted into this section is taken from “Whose Common Future? – Development as Enclosure”, The Ecologist, 1992:
But in order to create an international constituency of eager consumers, the colonialists first had to build up a labour force with access to cash – and to achieve this they first had to commandeer land. This they did by dispossessing indigenous communities of the greater part of their traditional territories: in effect, by enclosing the commons. Throughout the colonies, it became standard practice to declare all “uncultivated” land to be the property of the colonial administration. At a stroke, local communities were denied legal title to lands they had traditionally set aside as fallow and to the forests, grazing lands and streams they relied upon for hunting, gathering, fishing and herding.

Where, as was frequently the case, the colonial authorities found that the lands they sought to exploit were already “cultivated”, the problem was remedied by restricting the indigenous population to tracts of low quality land deemed unsuitable for European settlement. In Kenya, such “reserves” were “structured to allow Europeans, who accounted for less than 1% of the population, to have full access to the agriculturally rich uplands that constituted 20% of the country.”23 In Southern Rhodesia, white colonists who constituted just 5% of the population, became the new owners of two-thirds of the land. In Northern Rhodesia, the policy of reserving the best land for European agriculture was explicit, the 1932 Agricultural Survey Commission stating:
Any land that had poor soils, inadequate water supplies, low nutrition grasses unsuitable for European cattle or [was] overgrown with impenetrable bush, was not suitable for Europeans and should be allocated to Africans.24

Once secured, the commons appropriated by the colonial administration were typically leased out to commercial concerns for plantations, mining and logging, or sold to white settlers. In India, the British designated vast tracts of forest as “reserve forests”. The rights of access which villagers had traditionally enjoyed were curtailed and large areas were logged to supply timber for ship-building and sleepers for the expanding railway system. In French Equatorial Africa, the granting of commercial concessions proceeded at such a pace that by 1899, 70% of the country had been leased to just 40 such companies, with one company receiving 140,000 square kilometres.25

Afforded little protection under the law, local peoples found themselves liable to eviction even from “the cultivated” land that was, in theory, theirs. Boer settlers in South Africa regularly drove local farmers off their tribal lands on the grounds that the “natives were merely subsistence farmers and deserved to be treated as squatters since they were not engaged in any systematic forms of agriculture.” 26 Even where “reserves” had been set up, the indigenous population were without legal security of tenure. In Kenya, the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915 which supposedly “guaranteed” tribal land rights, made explicit provision for any part of a reserve to be cancelled if it were decided that the land was “needed” for railroads and highways or any public purpose 27

Not content with dispossessing the indigenous population of vast areas of land, the colonial authorities also sought to break up communal systems of tenure and to substitute private ownership. In the Philippines, Malaysia, India and parts of Africa, land laws were passed actively encouraging individuals to register their plots as private holdings. In North Africa, the French deliberately set about breaking up the collectively owned lands of local nomadic herders by decreeing in 1873 that families would not enjoy any land rights under French law unless they established and registered their own individual holdings. Under the new law, “individualisation” of the entire group holding was mandatory if any one individual in the group desired registration, regardless of the wishes of the other collective owners. The new laws were exploited by both French colonists and indigenous urban elites to acquire large tracts of the best land, the number of French landholdings in Algeria alone doubling between 1870 and 1890. 28

Forced Labour
If dispossession was the favoured means of securing land for the colonial economy, finding labour presented a more intractable problem. Where elements of the commons remained, local peoples were still largely self-reliant and had little incentive to grow crops for export to London, Paris or Amsterdam, nor any incentive to indulge in backbreaking labour down mines, on plantations or building roads and government offices. As an editorial in the Rabaul Times noted of New Guinea in the mid 1930s:
One of the greatest contributing factors to the unsatisfactory services rendered by native labourers in this country is their economic independence. For it must not be forgotten that every native is a landed proprietor, and nature has endowed New Guinea with a prolific soil, which provides adequate sustenance for a minimum of labour. Dismissal from employment, if he fails to carry out his duties, holds no terrors for the New Guinean native…..Unless and until our natives reach such a stage of development that they must work to obtain sustenance or a livelihood, they will never make suitable indentured labour for the average white resident.29

Typically, in the early years of colonial rule, indigenous labour could only be recruited by force. Throughout the Americas, for example, the violent subjugation of the Indians was integral to the imposition of the export-orientated economy that the Spanish colonists required. Resistance to enforced assimilation has been continuous. In Guatemala alone there has been an average of one Indian rebellion every sixteen years since the Conquest in 1524. 30

In West Africa, the French and British also responded to labour shortages by imposing forced labour, even though both powers were nominally committed to the abolition of slavery. The colonial mind ‘resolved’ this potential moral dilemma by “declaring slavery to be uncivilised and forced labour to be a necessary way of instructing primitive people about the advantages of modernity” 31 The French Minister of Commerce stated in 1901:
The black does not like work and is totally unaccustomed to the idea of saving; he does not realise that idleness keeps him in a state of absolute economic inferiority. It is therefore necessary to use …slavery to improve his circumstances and afterwards lead him into an apprenticeship of freedom32

In Senegal alone, the corvee provided an estimated five million person-days of free labour every year in the early 1920s. Even in the 1930s, nine-tenths of the public work in French West Africa was undertaken through corvee labour, until it was finally abolished in 1946.33 The conditions were so bad that, according to one observer, “the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have prosecuted me if I had given a dog the same quantity and quality of food and shelter34 The death toll in some work gangs was as high as 60%.35

Taxed into the Market
But the colonial “mission” went beyond simply the expropriation of land and the coercion of local people into the labour force. Central to colonial enterprise was the drive to build up a cash economy and with it, a market for goods from the industrial North. To achieve that task, the colonial authorities set about the systematic dismantling of those elements of the commons that stood in the way of market penetration. To that end, widespread use was made of such economic instruments as taxation – “a strategy that not only introduced the need to earn cash but which also (by requiring village elders to collect it) undermined the balance of power that is central to the maintenance of the commons.36

Taxes were levied on whatever the colonial authorities deemed most vital to villagers. In Vietnam, a poll-tax was imposed followed by a tax on salt, opium and alcohol, with a minimum consumption level being set for each region and village leaders rewarded for exceeding the quota.37 In the Sudan, crops, animals, houses and households were singled out for taxation.38 To meet their tax obligations, rural people throughout the colonies had little option but to sell their labour or to grow crops for sale. In French colonial West Africa, punishments for “tax evasion” included “holding women and children hostage until the dues had been paid, burning huts, whipping and tying up people and leaving them without food for several days.39

Similarly, a combination of force and taxation was used to destroy indigenous craft industries, particularly textiles and to harness traditional trading patterns to the needs and interests of Western Europe. In South Asia, elaborate regional trading patterns, developed over at least two millenia, were ruthlessly commandeered as the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British carved out their own areas of control through military force and subsequently, by imposing a system of monopolies. Thousands of native traders and seafarers, deprived of their livelihoods, resisted by turning to piracy, giving the imperial powers an excuse for further intervention.40 In French West Africa, the authorities deliberately set out to dismantle traditional inter-regional trading patterns by imposing, in 1905, special levies on all goods which did not come from France or a region under French control, thus forcing up the price of local products to the ruin of local artisans and traders. Within five years, nearly half of the goods imported into France’s West African colonies came from France.

In Sudan, the British used similar tactics. “Along the middle reaches of the Rahad River, for example, peasants preferred the cloth produced by their traditional methods from cotton they grew themselves to the more expensive Manchester cloth. As a result, the British banned private cotton cultivation in Blue Nile Province (and others nearby) and when the peasants persisted by moving their cotton plants inside their fenced compounds, the police searched them out and burned them. In either case, the result was the substitution of a regular cash need for a key indigenous handicraft industry.41                                                                                                       __________________________________________________________                                     (end of insert)


The stark reality is that the overall colonisation process was one which entrenched inherently economically exploitative endeavours, largely for the benefit of the wealthy investors and speculators of the rich colonising nations. In Africa, peasants growing cash crops were exploited down a long-chain of middlemen and commodity-exporting foreign traders, starting with local businessmen who were usually of a different ethnic group, e.g in West Africa, Lebanese and Syrians took this role, whilst in East Africa, it was the Indians and Arabs in Zanzibar. However, it was colonial trading companies who extracted the most profit along this chain from producer to consumer. Forced labour of cash crops occurred under French rule in Algeria, Equatorial Africa and French Sudan in the 1930s, Tanganyika under German rule and in Portuguese colonies.
                                                    Photo: Namibian slaves under German occupation

Rodney identifies several reasons why the African labourer was more crudely exploited than a European worker: “Firstly, the alien colonial state had a monopoly of political power after crushing all opposition by superior armed force. Secondly, the African working class was small, very dispersed and very unstable owing to migratory practices. Thirdly, while capitalists were willing to exploit all workers everywhere, European capitalists in Africa had additional racial justifications for dealing unjustly with the African worker; the racist theory that the black man was inferior led to the conclusion that he deserved lower wages, and interestingly enough, the light-skinned Arab and Berber populations of North Africa were treated as “blacks” by the white racist French”. Rodney: “Wages paid to workers in Europe and North America were much higher than wages paid to African workers in comparable categories. [For instance], a Nigerian coal miner at Enugu earned 1 shilling per day for working underground and 9 pence per day for jobs on the surface. Such a miserable wage would be beyond the comprehension of a Scottish or German coal miner who would virtually earn in an hour what the Enugu miner was paid for a 6-day week”.42Black South-African workers recovered gold from deposits which elsewhere would be regarded as ‘non-commercial’. And yet, it is the white section of the working-class which received whatever benefits were available in terms of wages and salaries43

Rodney continues: “In the final analysis, the shareholders of the mining companies were the ones who benefited most of all. They remained in Europe and North America and collected fabulous dividends every year, from the gold, diamonds, manganese, uranium ..etc, which were brought out of South African subsoil by African labour” Significant mining operations across Africa during the colonial period included regions such as: South Africa, Rhodesia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia (all gold, diamonds, iron ore & bauxite), Nigeria (tin), Ghana (gold & manganese), Tanyanyika (gold & diamonds) and Uganda and Congo Brazzaville (copper).44

Imperial nation’s economic growth through colonial expansion, specifically their colonial expropriation, which in tandem over time caused Africa’s long-term underdevelopment, came about due to one main trend – namely unequal exchange, which continues to a smaller extent to this day. Unequal exchange is the difference between the massively deflated low price of African primary exports and the much higher price of imported manufactured goods from the Imperial nations, whereby the buying and selling prices were set by a relatively small number of capitalists who had either monopolistic power or were part of an oligopoly in regard to particular trade routes. This is illustrated by the example of cotton, which was one of the most widespread cash-crops in Africa. Walter Rodney: “The Ugandan farmer grew cotton which ultimately made it’s way into an English factory in Lancashire or a British-owned factory in India. The Lancashire factory owner paid his workers as little as possible, but his exploitation of their labour was limited by several factors. His exploitation of the labour of the Ugandan peasant was unlimited because of his power in the colonial state, which insured that Ugandans worked long hours for very little. Besides, the price of the finished cotton shirt was so high that when re-imported into Uganda, cotton in the form of the shirt was beyond the purchasing power of the peasant who grew the cotton 45
Refer here also to King Cotton and the Enclosure of Markets

In the 19th century, after the “war of the Pacific” when both Peru and Bolivia lost territory to Chile, it was the British businessman John Thomas North who acquired the lands where vast reserves of saltpetre – highly in demand as fertiliser for the tired fields of Europe – underlaid the sub-strata.46 Meanwhile, in the East, entrepreneurs made a fortune smuggling opium grown in British India into the ancient civilisation of China. When Imperial China launched a vigorous anti-narcotics campaign, the Royal Navy served as ‘muscle’ to protect the British drugs barons in what became famously known as the ‘Opium Wars’.

In it’s hey-day, the British Empire extended more across the globe than any previous empire ever has, under the dominion of the crown, with the United Kingdom at it’s centre. It depended upon seamanship, shipbuilding and the British Navy, as well as official tyrannies of landed and mercantile elites in the colony protectorates. At a superficial level, the popular view is that the Empire did provide peace and security amongst all the colony subjects (after systematically exploiting them and enclosing their economic survival within the machinations of colonial rule). In Ireland, whose land was enclosed by english landlords including those of aristocratic heritage after having been occupied by the British several centuries previous, the country fell victim to famine in the mid-19th century after a combination of factors including the country’s disproportionate vulnerability to a widespread potato blight meant the population’s food supply became compromised as the British deliberately allowed a situation of food scarcity to prevail in a country sustaining incredible population expansion [Ref: Irish Holocaust(usually referred to as the ‘Irish Famine’)].

At the turn of the 20th century, the British Empire ranged from the crowned republics of Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa – all practically independent and self-governing states under Crown dominion – to the Indian Empire and it’s own network of protected states including Burma and Nepal – to the partially self-governing communities (some British in origin) such as Malta, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Bermuda – to the crown colonies where the British had autocratic dominion, such as in Ceylon, Trinidad, Figi and Gibraltar – to tropical areas in Africa which were nominally protectorates with command and control over native chiefs through either a High commissioner (as in Kenya) or a chartered company (as in Rhodesia) – to the ambiguous possession of Egypt, still nominally part of the Turkish Empire, but whose monarch was under despotic British rule.47 *[Note: Nowadays, what is known as the Commonwealth holds together a united fraternity of republics, independent nations past associated with the British Empire, and self-governed dependent islands such as the Falkland Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla]. African territories under French, German, Dutch, Portuguese and Belgium authority were subject to more direct forms of administration.

Royal Crest of the Order of St Michael & St George. The basis of the Order was revised in 1868, whereby membership was granted to those who “hold high and confidential offices within Her Majesty’s colonial possessions, and in reward for services rendered to the Crown in relation to the foreign affairs of the Empire” (zoom-in on the image and you will observe that the pictorial representation purported to be of St Michael trampling over and subduing Satan is infact the scene of a white angel standing on the neck of a black-slave)

South Africa was one of the places where the political formula of the Anglo-Saxonists – federation and dominion status, as the new beacon of the latter days of British hegemony – was first applied, producing the Union of South Africa. The political basis of the Union of South Africa was the Anglo-Boer class alliance, founded on the harsher terms for the African population than those of the Boer Republics, as evidenced by the constitution and legislation such as the Land Act. “By the Land Act of 1913 about 7% of the land area was reserved for future land purchases by natives and the other 93% for purchase by whites. At the time, the native population exceeded the whites by at least fourfold.” (Quigley)48 This established the basis for Afrikaner/white racial Nationalism right up to the late 1980s, when it was finally overturned.

But no colonial venture was perhaps more egregious than King Leopold II of Belgium’s personal colony the Congo Free State, where the violence used by Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and a ruthless system of economic exploitation led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did by creating the Belgian Congo in 1908. 49 Walter Rodney on the Congo: “In the five years preceding independence, the net outflow of capital from Congo to Belgium reached massive proportions. Most of the expatriation of surplus was handled by a major European finance monopoly, the Societe Generale. The Societe Generale had as its most important subsidiary the Union Miniere de Haute-Katanga, which has monopolised Congolese copper production since 1889 (when it was known as the Compagnie de Katanga). Union Miniere was known to have made a profit of £27 million in a single year”.50

During the first few decades of the 20th century, with the exception of Southern Rhodesia, Uganda and parts of Kenya where rebellions of the Mau-Mau had to be faced down, the British continued to administer through indirect rule; in other words, through intermediaries. These intermediaries were comprised of either large numbers of locals or small numbers of powerful ambitious Africans, who thought their interests would be best served being ruled by colonial powers and co-operating with that power. Over time, the rulers and bureaucracy in colonial states were products of the education system of these imperialist nations, such as the private schools of Eton and Harrow and the universities of Oxbridge (which still serve a socio-economic international elite). The exceptions within this wave of colonisation were in Liberia, which was never colonised and was where free African Americans migrated to, supported by the American Colonisation Society who supported the migration of free African Americans to the continent of Africa, and Sudan – where the British were driven out by popular resistance.

The Middle East
In the Middle East, with the outbreak of World War I (which was a war between rival capitalist empires – Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empires, against the British, French and Russian imperial entente), the latter 3 Imperial powers carved up the region between them as the British took advantage of the assurances independently negotiated by T.E. Lawrence who had promised the Arab tribal leaders/sheiks all of the Ottoman territories, on the proviso that if they fought with Britain against their Turkish rulers, the British would support the creation of an independent Arab state after the war. However, at exactly the same time, the British, French and Russian foreign ministries were secretly signing the Sykes-Picot agreement.51 The colonial powers created Arab protectorates and outright territories, drawing the borders of states in such a manner as to ensure that there were oil-rich territorial states with small populations and oil-scarce states with large populations.52 Rebellions against the British in the new state of Iraq were brutally suppressed when Bomber Harris dropped poison gas on the Kurdish town of Sulaimaniya in 1925.

In Palestine, Theodor Herzl persuaded the British that a Jewish presence in the region would help to protect British interests in the Suez Canal, setting forth a plan for inducing the Ottoman Empire to grant Palestine to the Zionists: “Supposing his Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could, in return, undertake to regulate the finances of Turkey. We should there form an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism”.53 The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and by the early 1880s, Rothchild banking interests, based since the 17th century in Germany, France and Britain, had acquired effective control of the Suez Canal. “Starting in 1882 [the Rothchilds] also began sponsoring Jewish colonisation schemes in Palestine. This was launched at the very moment Britain occupied Egypt (including Cairo and the Nile as far as the Sudan) – banishing the Egyptian nationalist leader Arabi Pasha to Ceylon after suppressing the rebellion he led against the British in Alexandria – to secure their control of the canal. British concern to control such a vital link to its empire in India is seen in the rise of English shipping tonnage through its locks almost 10 times between 1870 and 1880, from 309,560 to 3,040,800 tons. A large and growing portion of this traffic was oil being brought in tankers from the Dutch East Indies, by Shell Oil, controlled by the Samuel brothers from a prominent London Jewish banking family. 54 It led to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – which first began the process towards the setting up of the creation of the state of Israel.55 Herzl was not alone in his understanding that European Jews were indeed Europeans embarking on a colonial venture. Zionist leader and later Israel’s first President Chaim Weizmann did not mince words when in 1930 he explained what Zionism sought: “[we] wish to spare the Arabs as much as we can of the sufferings which every backward race has gone through on the coming of another, more advanced nation”.56 Such views – typifying the Zionist and Israeli outlook about Palestinians to the present – were expressions of a racism integral within colonialism and imperialism.

See also: Banksy’s “Walled-off Hotel” installation, commemorating 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and rearranged the furniture



United Fruit & Yankee Imperialism
As European countries furthered their economic penetration of Africa and Asia during the 19th century, the United States continued its westward expansion, extending its borders to the Pacific. While the United States had had an interest in the Western Hemisphere since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, it was only after the Spanish-American War in 1898 that this nation began to exploit the economic potential in Central American countries. The introduction of the banana into the United States in 1870 started businessmen and companies thinking about profits they could make in Central America. For economic as well as political reasons, President Theodore Roosevelt became interested in areas south of the border and instituted the “Big Stick” policy. Later, President Taft, stressing the areas’ economic importance, pursued a policy of “dollar diplomacy.” With governmental approval, the stage was set for U.S. businesses to enter underdeveloped nations. United Fruit was one such corporation. It set out to make it’s mark in Central America and establish a monopoly in the banana trade.

Although United Fruit was not the only company to produce and trade in Central America, it was by far the largest and by its very name came to be associated with “Yankee Imperialism.” From its inception in 1899 — an amalgam of several other companies — it grew to such proportions that it accounted for 65% of banana exports to the United States before World War I. How this came about says much about the history of so called “banana republics” — nations whose internal affairs were heavily influenced, or even taken over, by foreign business interests. It is a study of brilliant organization and initiative in seizing control of a profitable market. However, United Fruit’s success was not only due to hard-nosed entrepreneurship. It was also characterized by destructive tactics toward competition, illegal activities and clout with local politicians. One key factor, though, that made all the others work: control over natural resources. For United Fruit was a giant not only in the business of agriculture but also in the role of landowner, and that was how the company secured its dominance.

United Fruit’s growth in the banana republics went hand in hand with its acquisition of natural resources. The company owned vast areas in countries such as Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and Cuba. In Honduras, United Fruit controlled over 400,000 acres, 40% obtained free due to grants. In country after country, this firm was a leading real estate holder, owning or leasing over three million acres before World War II. Control of these lands made United Fruit the most successful corporation in Central America.

To sell huge quantities of bananas to American consumers, it was necessary to transport them quickly from the interiors of the jungles to the ports. It was expeditious, therefore, that United Fruit get control of the railroads and also engage in railroad construction, through its various subsidiaries. As an inducement, local governments granted the company from 250 to 500 acres for each: miles of railroad construction. United Fruit received alternate blocks of land, with each other section going to the people of the nation where track was being laid (similar to the railroad land grant system in the United States). However, since large areas are required for banana cultivation, the company had intermediaries lease the land back from native landholders. This enabled the company to obtain vast acreage with a minimal investment. United Fruit was thus able to use much of each nation’s agricultural land and at the same time reap high profits for its stockholders. Other American companies, too, gained control of natural resources and thus monopolized trade. This monopoly of land created an atmosphere where many landless peasants had little choice but to work for American companies. Controlling natural resources was an important step in monopolising other stages of the banana trade, which United Fruit accomplished with tremendous success.

For the Imperial powers in general, then, pre-war colonial occupation was a period characterised by conquest, plunder and brutal repression. The Inter-war period saw a period of stability in many of the colonies, while post-WWII was a period of reform. Along with the criticisms of exploitation and slavery and the associated sea of human misery for which former colonial powers have still yet to apologise for, the widely accepted notion that the historic legacy of colonial empire has been how it provided a political-cultural foundation for the continuity and stability of colonised communities, later transformed into nation states, has had questionable credibility with the frequency with which elites and dictators seized power in nation after nation after the swift, and in many cases rushed handover of governance in many of the former colonies with the wave of independence after World War II.

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2). S.I.Martin, (1999): “BRITAIN’S SLAVE TRADE”, (p-25).
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4). Ibid, S.I. Martin, (p-25)
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15). Ibid, Walter Rodney (p-137)
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17). Ibid Walter Rodney, (p-152)
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42). Ibid, Walter Rodney, (p-138)
43). Ibid, Walter Rodney, (p-139)
44). Ibid, Walter Rodney, (p-152)
45). Ibid, Walter Rodney, (p-160)
46). Eduardo Galeano: “BOLIVIA: THE COUNTRY THAT WANTS TO EXIST”, (taken from Issue 12 of the Bulletin of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Jan-March 2004).
47). H.G.Wells, (1945): “A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD”, (Ch. LXIV)
48). Carrol Quigley, (1966): “TRAGEDY & HOPE: A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN OUR TIME”, Macmillan, New York (p-139)
49). Pakenham, Thomas, “The Scramble for Africa 1876-1912”
50). Ibid, Walter Rodney, (p-6)
51). Richard Becker, “THE BATTLE FOR IRAQI OIL: US CORPORATE SKULDUGGERY SINCE WW1”, Workers World, October 31st, 2002.
52). Ankie Hoogvelt, (2001): “GLOBALISATION & THE POST-COLONIAL WORLD, The New Political Economy of Development”, (Palgrave, Hampshire, UK,) (p-205).
53). Shunpiking Magazine’, “Dossier on Palestine”, ‘ Vol.7, No.43 – October 28th 2002
54). Ibid Shunpiking
55). Jan Nederveen Pieterse: “EMPIRE & EMANCIPATION”, (Praeger, New York, 1987).
56). Joseph Massad, “ROME AND JERUSALEM REVISITED”, AL-AHRAM Online, 19th – 24th February 2004, Issue No. 678, Published in Cairo


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