It is usually forgotten that the state of the world today is the result of a history of colonial atrocities perpetrated by Europeans. Previous invasions of non-Western lands by European imperialists allowed them to gradually institutionalise the global dominance of their nation-states. Contrary to conventional opinion, the Western powers have managed to maintain this global dominance and influence on the affairs of non-Western nations despite a process of apparent decolonisation, thereby continuing to exploit their wealth and resources to this day. Colonialism served fundamentally to shape these structures of contemporary society, to the extent that today’s international politico-economic structures are the logical culmination of colonial history. Though the Western academic world sometimes expresses shame and regret regarding these colonial exploits, their history has been more or less wiped out from the consciousness of Western society. It suffices for us to consider briefly what the colonial years consisted of, since it is these years that provided the foundations for the building of the contemporary world. In this way, history throws significant light on the real character of Western civilisation and its development.
Western colonial exploits commenced around 1500AD. The now famous, and even much revered, colonial pioneers included personalities such as Columbus and de Gama, who ‘discovered’ the Americas and India respectively.
Before European merchants invaded and set up trading outposts in Africa, Asia and Latin America, these continents had in fact achieved high levels of cultural and economic development. Many were civilised to an extent which at least matched those of medieval Europe – and in some ways, could be seen as possessing a sophistication and civilisation that surpassed Europe – for instance, in terms of compassion, fraternity and community (e.g. the culture of the Native Americans). However, the common notion that they were hopelessly undeveloped prior to the advent of the Western invasion that began towards the end of the Middle Ages – and would remain that way – is inaccurate. In short, therefore, ‘pioneers’ such as Columbus and de Gama, advanced upon non-European territory with the objective of establishing European dominance.
Their superior military technology endowed the invading Europeans with the material advantage over non-European populations, allowing them to impose highly exploitive trading terms, and often opening up opportunities for them to indulge in undisguised looting. Imposed trading terms usually amounted in effect to loot and plunder. Indeed, in Latin America open looting of the indigenous population constituted a substantial source of profits. The overall result was that enormous amounts of wealth from Asia, Africa and Latin America were transferred to Europe. Consequently, in the wake of intense social oppression these continents underwent vast economic decline. European nation-states eventually established full control of these lands as their own, converting the indigenous populations into their colonies. They thereby occupied, governed and adapted these continents according to their own interests in extending European hegemony.
As a result, European nation-states imposed not only economic dominance, but also political and cultural dominance following their violent acquirement of overseas colonies via conquest. Gradually, a global structure – an international system – of generic economic and political relations developed in which European elites dominated and controlled non-Western populations, exploiting them for the formers’ material profit.
In many places, a decline in population accompanied the vast loss of wealth. In Asia, the introduction of European diseases was a source of sweeping death for vulnerable indigenous people. In Africa, millions were lost to slavery. In Latin America, between 1500 and 1650, the population declined from about 40 million to 12 million, because of forced labour, malnutrition, disease and slaughter. We should consider the fact that prior to colonisation, states on each continent (such as India, China, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Java, Sumatra and South America) had socio-economic structures as advanced as those of pre-Renaissance Europe, and had already attained a sophisticated level of political development. These ended up degenerating – economically and politically – in the face of Western commerce, firepower and disease.
Once indigenous people were militarily subjugated by a combination of mass murder and enslavement, economic hegemony could be extended accordingly. Tax-systems were instituted, along with the proliferation of capitalist industries from colonialist home countries. Colonies were used as protected market outlets that were closed to rivals. In the agricultural field, colonies were moved in the direction of monoculturism while their own original industries were undermined and abolished. Greater areas of arable land on which staple foods were grown, were brought under the cultivation of one or two cash crops. Consequently, less and less of such staple foods were available for indigenous populations. Due to the fact that cash crops are highly sensitive to fluctuations in world demand, combined with the fact that the economies of these colonies were entirely dependent on only one or two cash crops, their economies would flourish and degenerate in correspondence with world demand. Colonies thus developed ‘boom and bust’ economies. This total dependence on one or two primary products continues to haunt former colonies from Cuba to Kenya to Sri Lanka, which therefore persist to suffer.
In consolidating their hegemony, the Europeans began transferring their capital, technology, methods of production, forms of social organisation, political and legal structures, and cultural and religious ideas to their colonies, which even now, some argue, constituted a positive element of colonialism. New Right theorists, such as Peter Berger, attempt to stress these allegedly beneficial aspects of the colonial imposition, betraying what amounts to an unfortunately prejudiced Eurocentric outlook. In arguing that colonialism had the benevolent effect of developing the non-European countries and bringing them into the wake of ‘civilisation’, New Right theorists only confirm their presupposition of the same Eurocentric values adopted by the colonialists: European superiority. The stark reality of colonialism is enough to demonstrate that these theorists fail to appreciate the degree of devastation, oppression and injustice of the overall Western impact, including its continuing legacy in the stark inequality between the North and the South, and within the South.
Essential to the idea that colonialism had beneficial effects on colonies is the effort to ignore the realities of this vast inequality. For the sake of justifying the colonial atrocities which have culminated in contemporary Western dominance, one has to disregard the confusion and distortion of cultures that has taken root in the East, and the ultimately narcotising fruits of political, economical and social impotence, dependence, fragmentation, despondency, corruption. If the New Right would recall the degree of confusion, helplessness and social disorder enveloping the victims of modern and postmodern colonialism, they would not be able to redundantly discuss its supposedly beneficial side-effects, relying on their presupposed notions of the superiority of Western ideologies. This is especially clear when one recalls that many of these countries prior to colonisation were fairly advanced with unique civilisations of impressive complexity, as has been indicated above. In this regard, we should take note of colonialism’s general implications for non-Western countries. British historian Mark Curtis, former Research Fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs é now an analyst for Action Aid é points out:
As regards the promotion of the principles noted above – peace, democracy, human rights and Third World economic development – much of Britain’s history is embarrassing by virtually any standards, with the defeat of Nazism in the Second World War intervening as an outstanding example. Since Britain led the [Western] world in enslaving what is now known as the Third World by a series of human slaughters and military conquests before instituting an economic imperialism that enforced virtual (and real) slavery on tens of millions of people while using their resources for Britain’s enrichment, it is perhaps a wonder that any allegiance to the actions of the British state (patriotism) can still be invoked by state leaders to create support for British policies in the Third World. Theorists who thus identify advantages to Third World countries in light of their colonial experiences, such as parliamentary democracies, legal structures, educational systems, and so on – all modelled upon the West – simply overlook the most critical facts. Pinpointing these as beneficial, without accounting for colonialism’s overall impact on indigenous people, only demonstrates the existence of underlying assumptions rooted in Eurocentric prejudice – it is as if the mere modelling of a country’s structures upon the West, even in name only, logically necessitates that the country has undergone ‘development’. It is obvious when one glances beyond such absurd rhetoric that the overall Western impact on the Third World has not ultimately been advantageous. Such an idea is the outcome of a conceptual confusion between the nature of ‘modernity’ and the nature of ‘civilisation’. The substantial result of colonialism was simply the infiltration of Western ideology to the benefit of the Western powers, which has consequently aimed to disfigure and destroy the original cultures and philosophies of Third World countries, and indeed to enslave them to dependence on, and allegiance to, a self-interested West. The colonial impact on the Third World cannot be spoken of as beneficial unless one tries hard to ignore their actual implications, as such theorists unfortunately do, which include the impoverishment and helplessness of the masses, as well as political, economical and legal shambles; this certainly includes cultural subservience to the West. As Director of the Africa Business Information Service, Tunde Obadina, observes:
Whatever may have been its pluses and minuses, colonialism was a dictatorial regime that denied peoples’ right of self determination. It brought death, pain and humiliation to millions of its victims. The notion that colonialism was a civilising mission is a myth – the system was propelled by Europe’s economic and political self-interest.
Concentrating on the example of Africa he notes:
é to meet their economic and administrative needs colonial powers built some infrastructure, like railways, to carry export commodities, and they educated a few Africans to help them run the colonies. But nowhere in Africa were positive contributions made to any substantial extent. Countries like Nigeria and Ghana, which were among the better endowed colonies were left with only a few rail lines, rudimentary infrastructure and a few thousand graduates. The New Right is thus essentially an advocate of a world system that encourages Third World enslavement to the Western ideology and, accordingly, general Western dominance, politically, economically and culturally. In reply to this essentially racist conception which elevates European civilisation to a status of universal superiority, we may recall the cuttingly wry observations of Mark Twain: “In many countries we have chained the savage and starved him to death… in many countries we have burned the savage at the stake… we have hunted the savage and his little children and their mother with dogs and guns… in many countries we have taken the savage’s land from him, and made him our slave, and lashed him every day, and broken his pride and made death his only friend, and overworked him till he dropped in his tracks.” “There are many humorous things in the world; among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than other savages.”
Indeed, even the supposedly beneficial developments galvanised by the Europeans demonstrate that this colonial programme was essentially an attempt to establish European dominance in the political, legal, cultural and economic fields. Colonial imperatives essentially included the acquirement of other peoples’ wealth, minerals and resources; the manipulation and domination of the lands in which these could be found; the institutionalisation of slavery as a source of cheap labour; the infiltration of indigenous consciousness with the mentality of subjugation to European superiority. This colonial programme was exceedingly successful – indeed, its consequences remain with us to this day. Undertaking a cursory inspection of the predicament of Asia, Africa and Latin America, one does not fail to see that even today the majority of the population are in various degrees of impoverishment and powerlessness, in a system dominated by wealthy elites who operate in tune to the melody of Western capitalism. The Western powers continue to enjoy their monopoly over Third World resources, by which the populations of these lands primarily become poor, powerless, uneducated, diseased and hopeless, merely so that Western elites and their Eastern counterparts can continue upon what constitutes an unashamed path of over-consumption. As Obadina acknowledges:
The prime legacy of colonialism was the integration of colonies into the international capitalist economy. The main force keeping economies in the global system and sustaining imperialism is the market itself. For people with the means to pay the market is a very seductive place, offering everything and anything.
For those without such means, however, there remains only marginalisation. For instance, in Africa alone, the vast majority of the population “gained little or nothing from colonialism. But its elites bloomed as a result of it.” As with the other continents colonised by Europe, “They were given a ladder to climb the global pyramid. African millionaires who today live on the upper layers of the pyramid with bank accounts in Western capitals, certainly owe their fortune to colonialism”, in just the way the West today owes its dominance to the same. “So the answer to the often posed question, ‘did Africans benefit from colonialism’ is, the elites definitely gained while the poor majority did not.” As far as the global legacy of colonialism is therefore concerned, we find that:
At the bottom are the absolute poor, the majority of humanity who are too impoverished to participate fully in the economic, cultural and political life of their society. At the apex of the pyramid is a tiny minority of super-rich. In between are layers of people of varying degrees of wealth and access to local markets and the global economy. The richest fifth of the world’s population consumes more than eighty per cent of global wealth. Most Africans are in the bottom fifth, consuming less than 1.5 per cent of global wealth. “For centuries the capitalists have behaved in the underdeveloped world like nothing more than war criminals”, notes Frantz Fanon. “Deportations, massacres, forced labour, and slavery have been the main methods used by [the West] to increase its wealth, its gold or diamond reserves, and to establish its power.” As a brief case study of unacknowledged colonial fascism, it is useful to scrutinise the European invasion of the Americas, pioneered by Columbus. Washington Irving declared Columbus “a man of great and inventive genius, [whose] ambition was lofty and noble, inspiring him with such high thoughts and an anxiety to distinguish himself by great achievement. In newly found countries he sought to colonize and cultivate them to civilize the natives.” William H. Prescott provides yet another example of such American love for this “Christ-bearer”, when he wonders at how “the Finger of the historian will find it difficult to point a single blemish in his moral character.” As the reader will know, the Americans accordingly celebrate the advent of their nation every October on Columbus Day, since they still largely believe that their nation was formed not through conquest but through “consent”, as John Quincy Adams asserted in a Fourth of July address about two centuries ago:
The first settlers… immediately after landing, purchased from the Indian natives the right of settlement upon the soil. Thus was a social compact formed upon the elementary principles of civil society, in which conquest and servitude has no part. The slough of brutal force was entirely cast off: all was voluntary: all was unbiased consent: all was the agreement of soul with soul. Unfortunately for the United States, rhetoric cannot take the place of reality, and sugarcoated speeches cannot change historical facts. Despite Morrison’s infatuation with the glory of the Columbus persona, he admits, “the cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in a complete genocide”. A glance at history therefore discloses the rather horrifying facts that the citizens of the US – as well as the other Western nations – have, quite astoundingly, managed to erase from their consciousness. When the Americans celebrate Columbus Day they fail to realise that they are celebrating the systematic slaughter of the entire indigenous population of the Americas: Genocide was a central factor in the establishment of the United States.
There were originally an estimated 80 million Native Americans in Latin America when Columbus discovered the continent, and approximately 12 to 15 million more north of the Rio Grande. By the year 1650, 95 per cent of the native population of Latin America had been massacred. Michael A. Dorris observes that by the time the continental borders of the United States were established, the entire population had been decimated “to a low of 210,000 in the 1910 census.” Even Columbus expressed his admiration for the culture of the South American ‘Indians’ whom he subsequently slaughtered, describing them as “so free and so naive with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask them for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer their share with anyone”. A French Jesuit priest similarly observed of the Iroqouis tribe: “No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers… Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common.” é are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world… they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy… They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds. However, this Native American culture of altruism, fraternity, and mutual compassion was to be replaced by other more important European values. The indigenous population “would make fine servants”, noted Columbus. “With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Las Casus, the distinguished Spanish priest and historian, documented numerous accounts of the atrocities perpetrated by the colonialists against the Native Americans, including hanging them en masse, roasting them on spits, hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog food, among other horrors. He reported that the Spanish attacked the natives “like ravening wild beasts… killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples” with “the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before”. The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to carry out massacres and practice strange cruelty among [the Native Americans]. They attacked the towns and spared neither children nor aged nor pregnant women not those in child labor, all of whom they ran through the body and lacerated as though they were assaulting so many lambs. They made bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, would slit a man in two or cut off his head or spill out his entrails. They tore babes from their mothers and dashed their heads against the rocké laughing and joking… They burned the Indians alive… They cut off the hands of all they wished to take alive and hung them round the victim’s neck… They made wooden grid irons of stakes; bound the Native chiefs upon them and made a slow fire beneath… The officer who was burning them gagged them with his own hands… I saw all the above things and numberless other. He further observed:
The common ways mainly employed by the Spaniards who call themselves Christian and who have gone there to extirpate those pitiful nations and wipe them off the earth is by unjustly waging cruel and bloody wars. Then, when they have slain all those who fought for their lives or to escape the tortures they would have to endure, that is to say, when they have slain all the native rulers and young men (since the Spaniards usually spare only women and children, who are subjected to the hardest and bitterest servitude ever suffered by man or beast), they enslave any survivors. With these infernal methods of tyranny they debase and weaken countless numbers of those pitiful Indian nations.
Las Casus also described in horrifying details the grave consequences of the genocide as it progressed:
[T]his island of Hispaniola, once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three millions), has now a population of barely two hundred persons. The island of Cuba is nearly as long as the distance between Valladolid and Rome; it is now almost completely depopulated. San Juan and Jamaica are two of the largest, most productive and attractive islands; both are now deserted and devastated. On the northern side of the Cuba and Hispaniola lie the neighboring Lucayos comprising more than sixty islands including the those called Gigantes, beside numerous other islands, some small some large. The least felicitous of them were more fertile and beautiful than the gardens of the King of Seville. They have the healthiest lands in the world, where lived more than five hundred thousand souls; they are now deserted, inhabited by not a single living creature. All the people were slain or died after being taken into captivity and brought to the Island of Hispaniola to be sold as slaves…
More than thirty other islands in the vicinity of San Juan are for the most part and for the same reason depopulated, and the land laid waste. On these islands I estimate there are 2,100 leagues of land that have been ruined and depopulated, empty of people.
As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. The newly established United States continued this policy of ruthless genocide that Columbus himself had begun, and that other European colonialists continued to perpetrate in his wake. Mass extermination was eventually followed by a programme of mass ethnic cleansing, under the ‘Indian Removal’ policy, which was implemented to clear land for white settlers. ‘Clearing’ included military slaughter of tribal villages, bounties on native scalps, and even biological warfare. After the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the natives were marched off their land at bayonet-point to relocation settlements. The combination of genocide and ethnic cleansing initiated by Columbus and his merry band of explorers, in which they invaded and established control over the American continent, is rarely openly acknowledged even today. In earlier days, however, its acknowledgment would be accompanied by its justification. The European explorers, despite being responsible for seizing the land of another people and systematically slaughtering its native population, were said to have acted on the right of ‘self-defence’ against Native American ‘aggression’. The indigenous population was therefore blamed.
Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, Noam Chomsky – who as the author of over 30 critically acclaimed books on US foreign policy is also one of America’s most prominent political analysts é makes the following ironic observation on this unfortunate fact:
In the nineteenth century, when we were wiping out the Native American population, we were defending ourselves against savage attacks from British and Spanish sanctuaries in Canada and Florida and therefore we had to take over Florida, and we had to take the West to defend ourselves from these attacks. In 1846, we were compelled to defend ourselves against Mexico. That aggression began deep inside Mexican territory, but again, it was self-defense against Mexican aggression. We had to take about a third of Mexico in the process, including California, where the explanation was that it was a preemptive strike. The British were about to take it over, and, in self-defense, we had to beat them to it. And so it goes all the way back.é And if American history were actually taught, people would know these things. Of course, it is clear that such myths were merely redundant attempts to legitimise the brutal invasion and occupation of the land of another population, along with the systematic genocide of that population. Indeed, the Native Americans fought only to defend their land, property, and lives from European invaders. Today however, it is still important to forward the myth of Europe’s benign virtue as the basis of the formation of a system that cannot afford to admit its fascist roots, roots that may remind it of its ongoing hypocrisy. This is because a cursory inspection of the record brings to light the systematic, profit-orientated, historical atrocities that have shaped contemporary structures and institutions, thereby calling into question the benevolence of the contemporary order. As the American journalist T. D. Allman remarks that in the minds of the invaders, the Native Americans “were not human beings; they were only obstacles to the inexorable triumph of American virtue, who must be swept away to make room for a new reality of American freedom” a freedom which naturally meant that “our own solemnly proclaimed rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness totally superseded the rights of the peoples whose lives, liberties and happiness we were expunging of the face of the earth”. “Their reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls”, elaborates Las Casus, “is that the Christians have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves in riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits.
é It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that [the invaders] have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say this from my own knowledge of the acts I witnessed. Similarly, we find a confession from Columbus regarding the real reasons behind the colonial programme he conducted in his journal entry written on 15 November 1493, where he expresses his excitement over the lucrative potential for enrichment: “There is in these lands a vast quantity of gold and the Indians I have on board do not speak without reason when they say that in these islands there are places where they dig out gold, and wear it on their necks, ears, arms and legs, the rings being very large.” Indeed, in tandem with the critical wealth factor came the imperious influence of the European superiority complex, providing ample ideological justification for the facist notion that all the world’s wealth and resources should be under the control of the inherently enhanced Western civilisation of the so-called ‘white race’. In the Americas, like everywhere else in the world, the Europeans saw themselves as harbingers of a superior culture bringing ‘civilisation’ to an inferior culture. This is quite clear from the record. In the name of what Washington Irving called “civilising” the natives while bestowing upon them the blessings of European “culture”, the colonialists brought nothing but death, rape, pillage, slavery and the expansion of European politico-economic hegemony. In one passage in his journal, Columbus observed of the natives: “They would make good and industrious servants” (11 October 1492). Elsewhere he concludes: “They are fit to be ruled.” (16 December 1492). In another previously noted passage he gloats over the prospect of what he elsewhere called “subjugating them all” – of course, in the name of bringing the native “cannibals” the European version of “humanity”: “The conveyors could be paid in cannibal slaves, fierce but well-made fellows of good understanding, which men wrested from their inhumanity, will be, we believe, the best slaves that ever were.” (Jan. 30, 1494) “From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold, as well as a quantity of Brazil [timber]. If the information I have is correct it appears that we could sell four thousand slaves, who might be worth twenty million and more.” (1498) We should consider what was understood by “wresting” these “cannibals” from their “inhumanity”. Michael de Cuneo, a nobleman of Saveno at the time, described in detail the “humanising” conditions faced by the masses of consequently enslaved Native American men, women and children:
When our caravels… were to leave Spain, we gathered in our settlement one thousand six hundred male and female persons of thee Indians, and of these we embarked in our caravels on Feb. 17, 1495, five hundred fifty souls among the healthiest males and females. For those who remained we let it be known in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired; which was done. And when each man was thus provided with slaves, there still remained about four hundred to whom permission was granted to go where they wished. Among them were many women with children still at suck. Since they were afraid that we might return to capture them once again and in order to escape us the better, they left their children anywhere on the ground and began to flee like desperate creatures and some fled so far that they found themselves at seven or eight days distance from our community at Isabella, beyond the mountain and across the enormous river; consequently they will henceforth be captured only with great difficulty… But when we reached the waters off Spain, around two hundred of these Indians died. I believe because of the unaccustomed air which is colder than theirs. We cast them into the seaé We disembarked all the slaves, half of whom were sick. While conventional opinion has it that global expeditions such as those undertaken by Columbus were for the purpose of exploration, such evidence reveals that the actual motivation behind such European ‘explorations’ was the urge to expand and consolidate the European empire, thereby appropriating land, wealth and cheap labour. Colonialists manipulated Christianity to manufacture religious justification for their atrocious policies. Thus, in accord with the task of propagandising the threadbare indigenous population that remained after having been massacred, colonial Jesuits set up forts in which indigenous populations were forcefully incarcerated, indoctrinated with Christian concepts based on prevailing interpretations of the Bible, and coerced into manual labour. Meanwhile, indigenous culture was almost entirely eliminated. For instance, children at boarding schools were forbidden to speak their native language and harshly disciplined, this usually involving verbal and physical abuse. Though some Native American children managed to run away, others died of illness and homesickness. These children who had been forcibly separated from their parents were indoctrinated by their colonial captors. When they were returned to their parents at adulthood they were unable to relate to their own families, had forgotten their own language, and effectively became strangers in their own country. As a result they became outsiders, having lost their capacity to belong to both the colonial culture, and their own native culture. This led to immense confusion, depression, degradation of cultural identity, and ultimately drinking, suicide and violence. Forced separation of families was another factor in the final solution. Husbands and wives were not allowed to see each other for eight to ten months. When they met they could not procreate. Exhaustion and depression took their toll. For the few newly born, the moments of life were short. Mothers, ‘overworked and famished’, had no milk with which to nurse them. One witness recorded the deaths of 7,000 children in Cuba in three months. A tendency to commit suicide was the logical and natural result of the atmosphere in which the Natives lived. A tradition of individual and group suicide started. Mothers also killed their babies to save them from the European butchers, and out of depression. The policies of killing, forced labor and separation of families were continued for decades. The net result was the death of a nation. In tandem with the slaughter and cultural imposition designed to eliminate Native Americans impeding European settlement and enrichment, measures were imposed to minimise the indigenous population’s birth rate. We may consider the Indian Health Service hospital in Claremont (Oklahoma) as a representative example. Seventy-five per cent of the sterilisations performed here were non-therapeutic. Native American women were being convinced to sign sterilisation forms that they did not understand, under the false impression that such operations were reversible. As a result, the hospital was sterilising 3,000 Indian women per year. This was, of course, implemented to further eliminate the Native American population. It is therefore undeniable that colonialism was ultimately based on an enduring form of European fascism that reduced the position of indigenous people to a status of inherent inferiority in the name of power and profit. In this respect, it is certain that European colonialism constituted a form of facism, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nazism.
Clearly, the historical record demonstrates that the celebration of Columbus Day is basically obscene. The record is also striking in revealing the ability of contemporary society to rewrite history simply to avoid facing unsavoury facts which, having shaped contemporary structures and institutions, call into fundamental question the benevolence of those structures and institutions. The almost total elimination of such horrifying historical realities from contemporary consciousness therefore bears testimony to the capacity of contemporary society to deceive itself.
Indeed, the covert agenda behind the American elite’s desire to celebrate the annihilation of a people é an agenda that highlights the fundamentally facist nature of European colonisation – has been discussed by the late John Henrik Clarke, Professor Emeritus of African World History at Hunter College, an internationally reknowned scholar and one of the world’s foremost authorities on African American history:
The voyages of Columbus mark a starting point of world capitalism and the beginning of European colonial domination of the world. That is what the ruling powers want everyone to celebrate… The Columbus anniversary is a celebration of mass murder, slavery, and conquest. More: it exalts the continuing oppression of billions of people today. Columbus is something only oppressors (or fools) could celebrate… Because for the modern ruling class, the important point is not the actual contact between people – it is the world-historic growth of capitalism in Europe made possible by the plunder of the Americas. And that did not start before Columbus.
Columbus, an “opportunist and willful murdereré set in motioné the basis of Western capitalism and exploitation of both Africans and Indigenous Americans who had committed no crimes against European people, and did not know of European intention to conquer and enslave them.”
In his seminal study Christopher Columbus & the Afrikan Holocaust, Professor Clarke notes specifically the linkage between the historical phase of European colonialism that was pioneered by Columbus, and its legacy in the continuing dominance of a Western ruling elite under the existing international economic system:
In his period, he set in motion an act of criminality that influences our very life today. He laid the basis for western racism, misconceptions about people and extensive use of organized religions as a rationale for the enslavement of people. It’s a reoccurring event in history and it told us – as nothing has told us before – that history is never old, everything that ever happened continues to happen. What we are dealing with now is more than the second rise of Europe, we’re dealing with the rise of a concept that has taken hold of the mind of most of the world. People throughout the world are now fighting to get away from that concept and most of the world are now prisoners to that concept… What he actually did – and he should be credited for this – [Columbus] set in motion the exploitation of two continents for European domination… an attitude that is still with us. The assumption was – because Europeans had the ships and the basic technology – they had the right to go into other people’s country and exploit their mineral resources, take their women and rape them at will.
The European invasion and occupation of Aboriginal Australia is another characteristic example of outright genocide committed by colonialists intent on acquiring land and wealth, which has similarly been dispensed to the memory hole. Sir Ronald Wilson, President of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission stated: “Genocide is the attempt to destroy a people, a culture. The first act was the dispossession of Aboriginal people of their children. The land was stolen. The children were stolen. What is the third act going to be?” Australian historian Bruce Elder comments that:
The blood of tens of thousands of Aboriginal Australians killed since 1788, and the sense of despair and hopelessness which informs so much of modern-day Aboriginal society, is a moral responsibility all white Australians share. Our wealth and lifestyle, the much-touted ‘Aussie way of life’, have all been achieved as a direct consequence of Aboriginal dispossession. We should bow our heads in shame. The consequences continue to plague the indigenous population. Today, 40 per cent of Aborigines are so poor they still lack “the most basic needs imaginable.” Such dire conditions are part of the legacy of Australia’s colonial history. Dr Keith Wollard, President of the Australian Medical Association, notes that: “Much of the poverty and disease in Aboriginal communities is a result of the dispossession of their lands.” Ideological justification for colonial values – values akin to facism é are deeply rooted in Western culture. As acknowledged by the eminent cultural critic and historian Edward Said, Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Columbia University: “By the beginning of World War I Europe and America held 85 percent of the earth’s surface in some sort of colonial subjugation. This, I hasten to add, did not happen in a fit of absentminded whimsy or as a result of a distracted shopping spree.” While noting the extensive documentation confirming that this colonial programme was the outcome of specific politico-economical processes, he points out that:
[C]ulture played a very important, indeed indispensable role. At the heart of European culture during the many decades of imperial expansion lay what could be called an undeterred and unrelenting Eurocentrism. This accumulated experiences, territories, peoples, histories; it studied them, classified them, verified them; but above all, it subordinated them to the culture and indeed the very idea of white Christian Europe. This cultural process has to be seen if not as the origin and cause, then at least as the vital, informing, and invigorating counterpoint to the economic and political machinery that we all concur stands at the center of imperialism. And it must also be noted that this Eurocentric culture relentlessly codified and observed everything about the non-European or presumably peripheral world, in so thorough and detailed a manner as to leave no item untouched, no culture unstudied, no people and land unclaimed. All of the subjugated peoples had it in common that they were considered to be naturally subservient to a superior, advanced, developed, and morally mature Europe, whose role in the non-European world was to rule, instruct, legislate, develop, and at the proper times, to discipline, war against, and occasionally exterminate non-Europeans. This inextricable linkage between Western culture, ideology and genocide has also been thoroughly examined by Ward Churchill, associate Professor of American Indian Studies and Communications at the University of Colorado, in Fantasies of a Master Race and Indians Are Us? Due to the fact that these facist values were so deep-rooted in European culture and ideology, the process of decolonisation did not result in the genuine independence of former colonies. Since 1945, under the guise of decolonisation, the Western powers under American leadership covertly instigated a novel programme of domination that could maintain Third World subjugation to Western authority. Continuing the cultural, political and economic processes of hegemonic expansion and consolidation that had already been unfolding for several centuries, the Western powers embarked upon the arbitrary division of colonial territories, the manufacture of nationalities that were played off against one another, the installment of corrupt puppet regimes, and the perpetration of direct military interventions. In other words, the global Third World Holocaust was to continue.
Director of Research of the California-based Institute for Economic Democracy, Dr. J. W. Smith, observes that through this devastating historical process, Western civilisation has been “responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and causing the death of 100s of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people. Unknown as it is, and recognizing that this has been standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990.” He adds that, “One hundred and fifty thousand to 300,000 of these were tortured and killed by death squads set up by Western intelligence agencies, primarily the CIA.” Thus, despite the ostensible process of decolonisation whereby the European powers apparently withdrew from the territories which they had invaded and plundered, endowing upon their colonies the unprecedented gift of ‘independence’, the Western powers continued to implement a strategy for dominion by which to retain control over these territories – especially in terms of retaining their colonial material advantages. In particular, the previously British/European hegemony was reordered into an American hegemony. European colonial exploits were thus developed into an overall process in which those exploits became adopted as the natural policy of the Western powers, newly adapted to maintain Western hegemony in new, more complicated, global circumstances.
As explained by French historian Marc Ferro of the Paris-based Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences, also Co-Editor of the Journal of Contemporary History:
In the name of principles, of the big stick policy, of the Monroe doctrine, Theodore Roosevelt had ‘liberated’ Cuba (and the Philippines) from Spanish domination. In the name of their ‘security’ the Americans from that time on controlled Central America and Panama: a policy which has lasted throughout the entire twentieth century – military intervention in Haiti in 1915, in Guatemala at the end of the Second World War, support for the landing in the Bay of Pigs against Castro’s Cuba, a host of interventions in the policies of the small States of the banana empire during the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century, then against the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. Noam Chomsky has correctly demonstrated that there is a correlation between the amount of funds handed over by the State Department or by the CIA to Latin American governments and the crimes committed in these countries against human rights, especially in 1976, when Latin America again opened its doors to foreign, more particularly North American, investors…
… In actuality, this American practice… was also directed, after their accession of independence in the 1960s, at states under surveillance which had to be kept away from Communism, such as South Korea and Indonesia. In Vietnam this policy was the result of the cause of one of the most cruel wars in history…
… As for the ‘aid’ which accompanied this policy, it has resulted in the enrichment of the leaders of the poorest countries, and in the impoverishment of the poorest inhabitants of these countries.
Ferro points out about this process that “educational moralism was used to justify very evident material advantages, but its main goal was to perpetuate a relationship of domination. The master always remains the master.” This process of Western consolidation was, of course, not restricted to the United States. The European powers, including Britain, succeeded in perpetuating the privileged links between themselves and former colonies, for the benefit of their own industries. The relations between Western-orientated elites in the former colonies and the political and financial elites of the Western powers, were institutionalised so that a favourable system of covert political and economic domination could endure under the guise of independence and the ‘free market’. First President of the Republic of Ghana (formerly British colony of the Gold Coast) and proponent of the concept of ‘neo-colonialism’, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was one of the first Third World political theorists to outline the features of continued exploitation of former colonies after the attainment of formal political independence. As early as 1965, he wrote that the “essence of neo-colonialism consists of the fact that a state which is in theory independent and endowed with all attributes of sovereignty actually has its policies directed from outside.” The political, economic and cultural processes that thus began with colonialism, culminated in the institutionalisation of an international global political economy dominated by the Western powers at the expense of the rest of the world, which under the guise of liberalism, as Marc Ferro observes, began “replacing a visible presence by the invisible government of the big banks: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and so on”: a system which Ferro describes as “multinational imperialism”. Like a teacher with a class full of students, the IMF uses its ability to mold the economies of other nations through direct loans or the ability to foster corporate investmenté [T]he validity of these measures is called into question when the IMF response to crisis is essentially the same, regardless of the nature of the problem involved. What is troublesome is that because of this ‘one size fits all’ mentality Washington Consensus solutions, while powerful, may not be the correct solution for every problem and come at the cost of freedom of choice for nations who have the right to find solutions for themselves. Under this international regime of formal political independence, the Third World countries now continue to be exploited by the West in the framework of an international capitalist system, where it is virtually impossible for any country to disassociate itself from the overall structure. As more and more countries were integrated into this global system, an international division of labour developed with countries of the Global South dominated by the United States and other European powers. Leading dependency theorist Theotono Dos Santos notes that the dependence of the Third World is “an historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favours some countries to the detriment of others and limits the development possibilities of the subordinate economicsé a situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected.” While it is true that trade policy can be used for achieving largely non-political economic objectives, when trade policy is used in a way that is detrimental to the economy it is obvious that there are ulterior motivations at work. While Western democracies often trumpet both the free-market nature of their own trading practices as well as the unbiased assistance they give to developing nations, in practice these actions are far from benevolent. In recent years international political objectives, and the ideological bias of trade negotiators have politicized international trade policy to the point where the primary purpose of trade policy for organizations such as the IMF have been subjugated in favor of blind allegiance to ideology and the personal gain of developed nations. The inherently devastating impact of the global economy on the Third World as a result of the socio-historical processes through which its structure arose, has thus been discussed by economists Vincent Ferraro and Melissa Rosser, who observe that “there are genuine issues of responsibility that deserve to be made explicit. The debt ‘crisis’ is only a symptom of an international economic system that tolerates growing and abysmal poverty as a normal condition. This need not, and should not, be the case.” Other leading world-systems theorists such as Andre Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein have endeavoured to analyse and reveal the fundamental elements of this global system of Western dominance and exploitation of the Third World, and its historical causes. Frank for instance, Professor Emeritus of International Studies at the University of Amsterdam, notes that “historical research demonstrates that contemporary underdevelopment is in large part the historical product of past and continuing economic and other relations between the satellite underdeveloped and the now developed metropolitan countries. Furthermore, these relations are an essential part of the capitalist system on a world scale as a whole.” The general validity of this understanding of the international order’s systematic engineering of Third World dependency has been ratified by such world authorities as economist Raul Prebisch, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America. Studies by Prebisch and his colleagues showed that economic activity in the advanced industrial countries of itself systematically generated serious economic problems in the poorer countries. Jerry Mander elaborates that the new order that has emerged from the phase of colonisation is based on the Western powers’ “freedom to deploy, at a global level through the new global free-trade rules, and through deregulation and economic restructuring regimes large-scale versions of the economic theories, strategies and policies that have proven spectacularly unsuccessful over the past several decades wherever they’ve been applied.” Rather than bringing prosperity and well-being to a majority, on the contrary they “have brought us to the grim situation of the moment: the spreading disintegration of the social order and the increase of poverty, landlessness, homelessness, violence, alienation and, deep within the hearts of many people, extreme anxiety about the future.” Indeed, these practices:
é have led us to the near breakdown of the natural world, as evidenced by such symptoms as global climate change, ozone depletion, massive species loss, and near maximum levels of air, soil and water pollution. We are now being asked to believe that the development processes that have further impoverished people and devastated the planet will lead to diametrically different and highly beneficial outcomes, if only they can be accelerated and applied everywhere, freely, without restriction: that is, when they are globalized. It is therefore absolutely clear that the Western European colonial imperative has not ceased, but rather has continued in a more developed form in accordance with the new conditions of the international political economy. This has necessarily resulted in the continuation, if not indeed the exacerbation, of Third World devastation. Ferraro and Rosser aptly comment in this regard that:
Before the debt crisis, global poverty had reached staggering proportions… In 1988, one billion people were considered chronically underfed. Millions of babies die every year from complications from diarrhea, a phenomenon that typically causes mild discomfort in the advanced industrialized countries. Millions of people have no access to clean water, cannot read or write their own names, and have no adequate shelter.
“And this misery will only continue to spread”, because the ruinous impact of the international economic system on the Global South in particular “has a self-reinforcing dynamic.” Money that could be invested in sorely needed public services in the undeveloped countries “is now going to the advanced industrialized countriesé
To raise foreign exchange, developing countries are forced to sell more of their resources at reduced rates, thereby depleting nonrenewable resources for use by future generations. Capital that could have been used to build factories and provide jobs is now sent abroad; as a result, the problems of unemployment and underemployment will only get worse in poor countries. These facts highlight the systematic nature of the international economy’s marginalisation and devastation of the Third World population, a new form of global exploitation in which the basic values and principles of colonialism have culminated in a global order that continues to implement such self-interested principles through novel, more sophisticated structures and institutions.
Historian Marc Ferro’s encapsulation of this new global system as a process of “replacing a visible presence by the invisible government of the big banks: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and so on”, whose defining characteristic is “multinational imperialism”, is entirely accurate. The colonial imperative which constitutes the historical foundation of the development, expansion and consolidation of Western European hegemony, continues to be active in this new period of globalisation through the international institutions of multinational imperialism. It is thus clear that the actual history of Western European civilisation calls into fundamental question the conventional view that benevolence, democracy and humanitarianism is deeply rooted in the West. On the contrary, the contemporary world system under the hegemony of Western civilisation was born of centuries of genocide, subjugation and exploitation, and continues to promulgate these symptoms systematically within the framework of the current international order.
British Foreign Policy Since 1945, Zed Books, London, 1995, introduction. It is important to further note that even the West’s defeat of Nazism was not at all undertaken for humanitarian motives. For more on this see Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, Harper & Row, New York, 1980; also see Shalom, Stephen R., ‘The US Response to Humanitarian Crises’, Z Magazine, September 1991 and the revised version in Shalom, Imperial Alibis, South End Press, Boston, 1993. Z Magazine is the monthly journal of the US-based Institute for Social and Cultural Change.
figures cited in Dorris, Michael A., ‘Contemporary Native Americans’, Daedalus, Spring 1981; also see Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, op. cit., for more on the glorious roots of the United States and the global system largely under its control.
 Chomsky, The Chomsky Reader, op. cit., p. 330
 Santos, Theotonio Dos, ‘The Structure of Dependence’, in Fann, K. T. and Hodges, Donald C. (eds.), Readings in US imperialism, Porter Sargent, Boston, 1971, p. 226
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