The White Noise of Forgetfulness: How Imperialism and Racism Remain Central to Capitalism

Steven L. Foster | Social Economics | Analysis | March 29th, 2018

Michael Corleone in the The Godfather II (1974) is son of the Godfather seeking legitimacy for the family's amassed Mafia fortune. It was attained by violent extortion from those considered more vulnerable and lesser people, through mass murder, general mayhem supporting groveling servitude, sexual slavery, and other gruesome activities. The money needed protection and cleansing, so Michael invested it into enterprises respected by the business community. The fortune was placed into legal gambling in Las Vegas because there's nothing more respected in capitalism than gambling against money tendered by other people. He achieved a veneer of acceptability.

He accomplished this by working with high level politicians while gaining respect from prominent members of the community. Even the church hierarchy paid him homage. Yet, while his son (and heir) was being baptized, the real ways the family gained wealth was busily doing what they do; murder and mayhem by systematically eliminating any, and all, potential rivals. Terrified fear as respect was always legitimacy to Mafioso. When questioned before the Congressional committee investigating him, he tells a story wholly unrelated to the truth, and may have even been convinced of his own confabulatory history.

Confabulation is a psychological term where historical recollections leave out important details, while making things up and twisting meanings placating personality dysfunctions-like narcissistic disorders. Argentinian born scholar, Enrique Dussel, has applied the term to western ways of narrating history.

The west has forgotten important details of an inordinately violent imperialist past supporting capitalism and central for making formerly marginal world cultures fabulously rich and globally dominating to this day. When the topic of imperialism is discussed, it's often treated as an artifact from an unfortunate past. Or, it recasts itself as the beneficent patron without which all of humanity would be in a far worse place had it not arrived. It's been deemed as socially evolutionary.

My purpose in taking us on a very short not so magical history tour is for clearing away the white noise of the west's forgetful self-deception about capitalist imperialism and the necessary racism accompanying it. My claim: capitalism has been devolutionary to human flourishing and not evolutionary as claimed by many supporters. I want to show that my Godfather illustration is more than mere metaphor.

In doing so, my intention is not berating people of western origins since the Scots represent half of mine. However, to understand the present and change the future, an honest and courageous appraisal of our pasts is indispensable.

A simple syllogism outlining my argument is: Western imperialism is (essentially) racist. Capitalism is imperialist. Therefore, capitalism is racist.

In western modernity imperialism, racism, and capitalism is a single historical package. You may define them as separate, but, historically they are inseparable as I hope to show.

Without segueing into what constitutes capitalism as a cultural construct, I'd like to use the term generally to include its various historical forms: mercantile, 19th century "free market", Keynesian, mixed-market, neoliberalism and whatever other flavors may be so bandied. The types and when they appear, disappear, and reappear, or even if present all at once in history, doesn't affect my use of the term since all types have directly, or indirectly, benefitted from imperialism throughout modern history.

Importantly, my charge regarding racism is: if capitalism can't use people of color as labor commodities driving down costs as much as possible for maximizing profits, the tendency is for killing them in vastly large numbers to gain what was wanted from them. Using racial difference has helped provide a certain relaxed ease in making the whole earth into one large mass grave for racially designated 'others.'

I refer to the attribute "white" in this essay as an artificial construction deeply situated in the legacy of the racist lexicon used for denoting an ingrained idea of "higher" and "lower" human natures.

First, let me briefly define in theory what are imperialist activities. Then I'll touch on only a few historical points from imperialist practices.

(To track sources and citations, I use a purposefully short bibliography of recent scholarship at the end of the essay [a number of them award-winning] so my argument won't be considered "dated", referring to last names in the narrative and locations in their works when necessary. It makes, hopefully, for an easier read.)

Mann defines imperialist actions as: "a centralized, hierarchical system of rule acquired and maintained by coercion through which a core territory dominates peripheral territories" (pg. 17). By "core" territories he follows Immanuel Wallerstein who assigns core to the original capitalist nation/states, like: Spain and Portugal (infant forms of capitalism), the Netherlands, Britain, France, Japan, and once colonies that gained independence like: the U.S.A., Canada, South Africa, Australia, etc. Those on the periphery would be the geographic areas and peoples pillaged by the core countries controlling their resources, institutions, labor, and cultural self-understandings, among other needful things between the core and periphery; as well as, dictating how the peripheries are to conduct relations with each other.

There are decidedly racial differences between core and periphery that can't be historically blurred. There was no such thing as a make-believe "melting pot."

Many post-colonial thinkers suggest capitalism as a globalizing social system began with Columbus. So, we'll start with him.

Columbus: Trail-Blazing Slaver

There are increasing histories written about the horrors of the African slave trade and who profited and how, but, few dealing with the enslavement of Amerindians. With apologies, my cursory focus will be more on the American Indigenous enslavement while still referencing the African occurrence because both were indispensably central to Europe's wealth accumulation.

Columbus was a seasoned sea-merchant operating in the Mediterranean early capitalist mercantile system before setting sail in a profit-making venture for his investors and himself. He correctly believed by travelling west he'd find a trading passage to the rich East, thereby circumventing hostile Muslims who dominated trade by controlling the Silk Road networks connecting Europe to the East. At Columbus' time, dissimilarities in human essences were deeply ingrained in the European mind (defined as 'the races' early in the 16th century and becoming solidified in the vocabulary during the 17th century). Papal pronouncements declared "blood" differences between Christians, Muslims, and Jews providing divine sanction for the permanent enslavement of non-Christians who were taken captive through "religious" crusades. Those definitions were extended to include the Indigenous of the Americas and African peoples, even though they were not at war with the Europeans as were Muslims.

Columbus visited the Portuguese fortress-Sao Jorge da Mina (later known as Elmina located in modern Guinea), 10 years prior to his famous voyage. At the time of Columbus' visit, it was already fast becoming a notorious port that ended up disembarking millions upon millions of enslaved Africans over the next centuries for the very lucrative Atlantic slave trade with human "product" destinations in the Caribbean, Americas and elsewhere in the world.

Todorov documents that the Europeans had not run into any people like those they met in the Caribbean on Columbus' first voyage. As Resendez remarks, the climate was like Africa, but the people were not as dark as African slaves, having straight hair, their physical features more like the Europeans, hence were considered cleverer than Africans. Columbus noted their mental capacities, but, recorded seeing them as "weaker and less spirited" than the Europeans, and therefore, ripe for domination. He wrote of their ingenuity and docility, how they shared things in common and freely gave gifts, were scantily dressed without immodesty, all characteristics Europeans thought people from hotter climates possessed, "making them suitable as slaves," like those sold from Africa (Resendez, pg. 22).

Columbus' voyage was a commercial venture above all else as he was to receive hefty percentages from all future wealth generated by his trip when Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain underwrote the endeavor. Mainstream histories have made much of Columbus' wish to "Christianize" the pagans of the "new" world when he "discovered" it. However, as his letters and diary entries attest, he was far more interested in finding gold than bringing new converts to God, using gold as motivation to keep potentially mutinous crews in line. Finding gold was a European preoccupation. An Amerindian lead the Spanish to where it may be found thinking no consequence in it. How wrong he was.

The curiosity displayed by Columbus toward the Caribbean peoples changed dramatically after initial quantities of gold were pointed out. The docile potential future subjects of the crown suddenly became labelled as savage, pagan idolaters and cannibals, not making for good vassals under civilized rule and suitable only for slavery.

Part of the return voyage's cargo included a couple dozen "Indians" (believing he had actually reached the Orient). They served as tokens of his success because quantities of gold were disappointing and they could possibly serve as interpreters for planned future voyages. Columbus' pressed business plans urging the crown to consider wholesale slavery from the Americas.

It was the reason the destination of Columbus' second commissioned voyage, consisting of seventeen ships carrying provisions and fifteen hundred colonists looking for golden opportunities, carried him further southwest in exploring any business potentials the hotter climates were thought to possess.

Resendez notes that 1600 Indigenous slaves were brought to port for the second voyage's return to Spain, 550 of which were crammed into four small boats since most of the colonists returned disappointed in not finding enough gold. Provisions and booty needing room were also loaded. Over 200 slaves perished on the voyage with half arriving in Europe very weakened and ill. Columbus again pressed his slaving proposal to Isabella and Ferdinand and indicated that he could easily ship 4,000 slaves, commanding large profits according to his most conservative calculations, but it would require a sizable number of ships in order to accomplish the task with less damage to the cargo. Resendez suggests Columbus wished to transform the new European outposts in the Caribbean into a similarly lucrative slave port like the one he witnessed on the West African coast.

Slavery was not readily accepted by the Spanish monarchy when there wasn't a war involved, the practice becoming technically illegal by Spain in the mid-16th century. Yet, it continued by the Spanish for centuries as it was firmly entrenched in the encomienda systems where land and everything contained on it, including human inhabitants, was given to loyal recipients. The English (along with other Europeans) quickly filled the role of legal slaving of those from Africa and vastly expanded it.

Since the African slave trade was legal, its extent could be readily quantified by comparing shipping bills of laden, formal property assessments, etc. This is not easily accomplished with the Indian slave trade in the Americas. Yet it was a thriving practice as Resendez uncovers, paralleling the profoundly inhuman trade in human flesh of the African slaves even though Indigenous numbers were ravaged by genocidal land grabs. He and Horne consider the slave trade of the Amerindians and Africans (along with a host of other scholars) playing the dominate role in what Todorov considered the greatest genocidal catastrophe in human history.

Indian numbers were thought by the Spanish as rather plenteous and could be used up and discarded as easily replaceable commodities. This assessment turned out to be wrong as whole language groups were eliminated from human history in the Caribbean and on the American continents. As slaves, the Indigenous endured unspeakable cruelty-similar to the Africans that followed, being used as beasts of burden in place of domesticated animals with the women from largely matriarchal societies forced into sex slavery in utter cultural humiliation.

Silver extracted from the Americas washed the European continent making it rich beyond compare. It became the preferred precious metal backing credit and trade. It was Indigenous slave labor digging the silver producing ore, often taken from mountains at perilous heights. As Resendez documents, Potosi in Bolivia has a peak of over 15,000 feet, many mine entrances at 12,000 feet. Tunnels were hand-dug hundreds of feet into the mountainsides and the ore was brought to the surface on the backs of Indigenous slaves who would then crush the rock into powder extracting the silver using mercury and lead, both known today as highly toxic materials causing severe disabilities and death. This mine alone was productive for centuries, to the extent that Spain built a minting factory near it. Hundreds upon hundreds of silver mines dotted the Latin American landscape, with over 400 in Mexico alone-that territory's top producing mine at its height yielded 14 times the amount of gold produced during California's gold rush bringing over 300,000 migrating prospectors for work in the western United States. This provides an indication of the amount of slave labor used to mine just silver alone.

As Horne documents, "From the advent of Columbus to the end of the nineteenth century it is possible that five million Indigenous Americans were enslaved (pr. 7)." Moreover, for reasons not just due to mining, the obliteration of an Indian labor force made the vast importation of African slaves a necessity for monocrop production that was then exported to European markets. As Horne indicates, this influx of African slaves represented two-thirds of those coming to the "new" world in the 17 th century alone. Against their will of course, and as hugely profitable commodities.

Horne, Ortiz, and Resendez follow a number of modern scholars who have convincingly refuted the allegations that up to 90-95 percent of the Indigenous died from diseases carried by immune Europeans for which Indigenous were biologically unprepared to thwart. The initial waves of disease were devastating. But, so were the plagues in Europe which decimated 40 percent of the populations in some areas, with plagues still occurring even at the time of Columbus. In Europe, not over 90 percent died from 'initial contact' from plagues. Horne suggests "Population may have fallen by up to 90 percent through devilish means including warfare, famine, and slavery, all with resultant epidemics (pg. 8)." Ortiz similarly comments that Jews were used as slave labor in the Nazi war production system, work from which an overwhelming majority went to their deaths because of diseases. Not all six million deaths came through the gas chambers and other means of directly systematic executions.

But, confabulated disease theories continue shrouding history helping frightened consciousnesses not question capitalist benevolence claimed by the imperial victors writing their own histories.

Sequels of the Same Saga

Those from the Iberian Peninsula sought treasure using slaves for its extraction. The English saw "empty" land in America as something to improve-meaning, English-style tilling making it materially profitable for capitalist agricultural production. It was a divine mandate: "subdue the earth" as God's useful creation to be mastered by humans; and natural law: idle land demands profitable use (Fields). Permanent colonies were needed for carrying out these mandates.

What constituted 'productive use' was being systematically defined (culminating with John Locke) as making land a commodity to be owned and used as the owner saw fit-as long as it was made profitable and tilled properly. Therefore, when the first permanent English colony survived at Jamestown, they had a narrow understanding of how land's productivity should look. Amerindians were considered wasting a divine gift! (Of note: a few short years after Jamestown survived as a colony, they purchased African slaves to work the land they ethnically cleansed of its inhabitants.)

Fields writes of two schools of thought about how wasted, empty land could be obtained from the Indians: "…the English could acquire Indian land lawfully by purchasing it." (Buying and selling land was a totally foreign concept for First Peoples). Or, they "could lawfully take Indian land (his emphasis)." Either way, 'lawful' is a key condition for ownership, and laws changed over time. Therefore, it's not surprising that taking the land from savages was the better cost option and this view gained widespread appeal after being introduced earlier in colonization by clergymen such as Robert Gray. He and a raft of other men-of-the-cloth underwent the utter demonization of the Amerindians, describing them as little more than violent animals with a propensity toward cannibalism. After the American Revolution, the foreboding portrayal of the ruthlessly savage won over land-hungry imaginations. First Peoples became cleansed from the land and any remaining were 'at-will' tenants with no rights to land claims against settlers enclosing their environments.

As the land was cleansed, plantations and smaller land holdings established, African slaves were imported by the 100 of thousands, with totals amounting to over 13 million during legal slavery in America. In some areas, slaves significantly outnumbered the "whites" who controlled them.

Also, the 'new' lands were colonized as a release valve from the social tensions occurring in England and other European territories due to a plethora of wars, with many displaced and unemployed because of the land enclosure processes occurring first on the British Iles and then throughout the continent that didn't end until the early 20th century. Ortiz records that approximately half of those coming to America financed their way by indentured service-some contracts of bond slavery lasting up to seven years-a very profitable capitalist ploy in leveraging the distress of others and gaining low-cost labor in return. Yet, as difficult as the work would be for bond-service, they knew they'd be better off than those considered beneath them as humans: First Peoples and African slaves. And, they'd be free after service ended to pursue their dreams of owning and farming their own land.

But, there was a difference in the promise of land and the fact of its actual possession. Therefore, waves of colonists functioned both as settler-farmers, and well-armed militia, cleansing the land of its original inhabitants. As new immigrants arrived to an independent America from different parts of Europe, it became a culturally normal duty slaughtering Indigenous as African slave importation filled the need for workers in areas newly claimed through conquest. Killing heathen became a socially unifying venture, a perverse right-of-passage into the higher "white" race while building a sense of pride in a national mission given by God- a "manifest destiny"- as land grabbing and massacre was later described in the 19th century.

The whole mission helped gloss over real class divisions between capitalists and those Europeans immigrants exploited by them (see Ortiz).

What the settlers turned into Ortiz describes as a "culture of conquest, violence, expropriation, destruction, and dehumanization (pg. 32)." Ortiz references historian John Grenier describing America's "first way of war" as it was fought against Amerindians: "razing and destroying enemy villages and fields; killing enemy women and children; raiding settlements for captives; intimidating and brutalizing enemy noncombatants; and assassinating enemy leaders…." (pg. 56). These were methods of war that Europeans found largely abhorrent when fighting amongst themselves in Europe prior to emigration (though it did occur), or even during the American Civil War, but, thoroughly applicable when dealing with those not considered fully human.

Imperialism needs justification for its missions. Theology and natural law joined science with the political/economic intentions of the times in the later portion of the 19th century. Evolution became the ultimate rationalization for exterminating those standing in the way of "white" control of resources and wealth marking an idea of progress. As summarized by an iconic American literary hero in the second half the century, Walt Whitman: "The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated; it is the law of the races, history…. A superior grade of rats come and then all the minor rats are cleared out" (quoted in Ortiz, pg. 117).

The enslavement and genocide of humans inhabiting the Americas and Africa for the sake of profit, as well as the monumental exploitation of resources, positioned collections of backwater cultures in Europe for violent world dominance. This is especially true of England whose rise as an empire had extensive control throughout the world. Populations not useful, or in the way, were massacred without mercy.

Liberal Democracies and Very Illiberal Behaviors

The nineteenth century has been labeled by Immanuel Wallerstein as "centrist liberalism triumphant." Political leadership and capitalist elites felt it was either provide a degree of salient state support for their populations, or, the rabble would pummel the system into submission. Initiated by Bismarck in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, some of the rudiments of the modern welfare state were instituted deterring revolt against capitalism. Other countries began to recognize its value (England and France), with America's New Deal (though never completely implemented) becoming supposedly standard fair after WWII. Capitalism could now remain intact and any democratic processes would be controlled enough by monied concerns ensuring capital would hold sway over governments.

However, liberalism's rise is also called the "age of imperialism," and "the new age of empires" when a 'scramble for Africa' occurred, the push for America to reach "sea to shining sea" was being completed, and British gun-boat diplomacy was subduing China and other parts of the world. Western nations of all stripes joined the ravenous quest for resource extractions in order to better position themselves in the context of unequal international "free trade." Yet, as if oblivious to imperial history, Western historians nostalgically referred to the time-frame from Napoleon's demise-1815, to the Great War's outbreak in 1914, as the "100 Years Peace." And except for the intense ruckus internal to nation/states because of restive populations under thumbs of capitalist elites, there were very few international conflicts by warrior Europe's prior historical standards.

Contrastingly, the 100 years of European international peace should be juxtaposed to the rest of the world's conflagration at the hands of, in-truth, not-so-peaceful Europeans.

The inordinate violence and forced labor by capitalists only accelerated all over the world during this time of liberal democratic visions, especially after Africa was carved into spheres of influence following the Conference of Berlin in 1885-a meeting setting the rules for colonization and resource extraction from the periphery ensuring core states would stay away from conflict with each other. Mann reports grisly casualty figures for non-Europeans: over 50-60 million Africans and Asians were massacred at the hands of the imperialists scratching for raw materials. Ninety percent of these casualties were civilian.

And the rationale for the carnage? The now universal mission statement used by "white" cultures: "survival of the fittest"- the phrase coined by the influential English intellectual, Herbert Spenser. His views on natural selection saw the elimination and supersession of 'others' by European cultures as a necessary component for evolutionary progress (see the Whitman quote above).

After all, savages do not have the capacity for understanding what resources they possess and are profligate-mismanaging their treasures a civilized world could make better use of-a tried and true argument used for centuries. It was a "white man's" burden on an evolutionary mission dragging all of humanity toward progress.

Even tiny Belgium was economically transformed during liberalism's growing prevalence. It became the sixth largest economy in the world within less than a generation, making its King-Leopold II one of the earth's richest men. According to Prashad, the piece of Africa Belgium received after 1885, the Congo-immensely rich in raw materials, was eighty times the size of their home country. And, populating the Congo was a ready-made work force for Belgium's profitable exploitation. Heads were cut off as an encouragement for others to work harder. In a single day 1,308 severed hands were sent to an official showing that those under his charge were being optimally motivated for doing their jobs. Mutilation, rape and torture, were prevalent. The imperial brutality reduced the size of the Congo's population from 20 million to 10 million during the short period 1885-1908 (Prashad).

Of course, when the gruesome actions came to light, there were outcries of bloodthirstiness levelled against Belgium; ironically, especially from the British. Yet during this period, as Prashad continues: "…much [the same] had been standard for the English elsewhere…the Putumayo region between Colombia and Peru followed the same kinds of barbarism, the U.S.-based United Fruit Company in Central America…, and in Portuguese Angola as well as French and German Cameroon…. (pg. 18)."

Horne, Ortiz, Prashad, and Resendez, from our short bibliography, document the war-driven nature of imperial Europe's technology (and capitalist Japan during liberalism's rise). Through their technological applications they've been able to inflict mass punishment from the 16th century until the rise of industrial levels of killing during liberalism's triumph. The new technologies were field tested on those of color.

Then, Europeans turned the weaponry on themselves in 1914.

It occurred at a time when Europe controlled 85 percent of the earth's surface for capitalist goals of insatiably competitive profiteering. Competition between capitalist countries was key in driving them into the Great War. As newer technologies for mass slaughter were invented, the ability in detaching a combatant from the carnage wrought through distance helped desensitize them from the results they inflicted. Destruction from long-range through the incessant artillery shelling caused 60 percent of the war's casualties. However, killing by dirigible and then plane was to revolutionize devastation from a distance. Yet, before the annihilating capacity of flying machines was used in the Great War, it had already been tested on non-whites.

Prashad quotes R.P. Hearne from Airships in Peace and War (1910), "In savage lands the moral effect of such an instrument of war [the air bomber] is impossible to conceive. The appearance of the airship would strike terror into the colored tribes," for these machines can deliver "sharp, severe and terrible punishment," and save "the awful waste of life occasioned to white troops by expeditionary work (pg. 42)." It became "standard policy" (Prashad) by Italians in North Africa, the British in India and Iraq, the Americans in Nicaragua, and other European nations visiting the Basques and Moroccans with air-born weapons.

When the Great War didn't end all wars between the imperium, the Second War brought its own new technological horrors that also included "The Bomb."

Much overlooked are the preparations a culture requires for dehumanizing others to the point of genocide. For the West, their preparation is marked by centuries of imperial debauchery against 'others' considered less human. Once practiced, it becomes easier for transferring supreme malice to anyone deemed 'other.'

The racist violence of the Nazis did not suddenly appear from a void. Germany already possessed a racist legacy destroying populations in Namibia, Uganda, Cameroon, and Tanzania prior to the Great War in 1914. German ideas of racial superiority provided license for invading eastern Europe in the late 1930s and executing 'master race' designs against "lesser" Slavs, and first and foremost-Jews. After using "commies" as warmups in populating the concentration camps, the sites would become thoroughly modern administrations of genocide.

Following the horrific revelations of the Nazi holocaust during the war crime trials, Martinique intellectual, Aime Cesaire, suggested what was being shockingly evaluated and brought to justice at Nuremburg had been occurring against non-whites for centuries. However, when genocide is committed by Westerners on people indistinguishable from themselves, breasts are pounded in anguished soul-searching despair.

The U.S. economy after WWII was unscathed by the war-and running at full tilt in need of trading partners. With its military prowess (it had demonstrated it would use the atomic bomb), the U.S. provided a needed role as the leading Western imperial power-an exhausted and bankrupt Britain relinquishing the hegemonic "burden." It's mission: making the world- it thought it "owned" (Noam Chomsky), safe for democracy American style. In reality, the mission is administrating the global capitalistic system.

The processes of rebuilding selected capitalist countries, including war nemeses Germany and Japan, were heavily controlled and financed by three U.S. dominated international institutions: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) - both established in 1944 (Bretton Woods institutions) dictating international monetary policy and providing loans for reconstruction. Additionally, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) -effective in 1947- had goals of lowering tariffs and quotas on imported goods and services while opening doors to outside investments for promoting international trade.

The United Nations was founded in 1945 in hopes of achieving international cooperation and peace, what an earlier League of Nations failed to do. With high ideals, the UN General Assembly issued The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In it, the humanity of all people on the earth was outlined mandating respect for basic human needs no matter the geographic and racial origins.

However, in matters of security and UN troop deployment, the U.S. dominated through the five-permanent member UN Security Council with allies in tow (Britain France), (the other two-Russia and China). The Council's determinations are legally binding with overriding power on questions of where and when to engage in violence, negating the General Assembly decisions of all UN nations.

UN human rights aspirations were placed on hold when tensions between the U.S. and Russia reached a very dangerous point in a Cold War. With the 1949 Maoist victory in China, battlegrounds of the Cold War took place in a "Third World" hungry for their own self-determination, but, consigned as pawns in an international struggle not of their making. Violence broke out in Korea, a country divided by Russia and the U.S. after WWII, with likely unifying elections in that country subverted by the U.S. War was waged in Korea and mass extermination of 'others' from a distance was brought to new heights.

The amount of munitions dropped from the air in the Pacific campaign during WWII amounted to 503,000 tons of ordinance in total. The U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of aerial munitions, mostly on civilian centers north of the Korean division which included 35,000 tons of napalm - the jellied gasoline bombs used in 1945 decimating Tokyo's civilian populations principally living in wooden structures.

Following an unresolved cease-fire on that peninsula, Third World revolutions for independence struggling to wrest control away from imperialism raged all over the globe. Irrepressible desires were recorded through the UN General Assembly's declaration of December 1960: On the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. It expressed conditions towards reversing direct and indirect types of western imperialism entrenched for centuries.

America intervened in a number of countries before the 1960 statement and then militarily entered a fray in Vietnam, a former French colony winning independence after a long bloody struggle with the colonizer, American involvement occurring in more deliberate fashion after the statement by the UN.

The U.S. dropped on Vietnam the equivalent of a 500-pound bomb for every child, woman, and man, a country comprised largely of poor farmers with a total population numbering 12 million. Napalm was liberally used on civilian populations as was the defoliating chemical Agent Orange. The conflict also included an American "secret war" in Laos and Cambodia with Henry Kissinger's desire to "bomb them into the stone age" - a fact hidden from an American public's view.

Laos, a nation with a population of about 2.5 million, attained the dubious distinction of the world's most bombed country in history, receiving 3.4 million tons of ordinance including over 250 million cluster bombs. Today, many of these initially unexploded bomblets are being accidentally detonated by farmers working in fields and kids playing unwittingly in infected areas causing 34,000 Laotian deaths, with many more maimed, since the Vietnam war ended.

Post WWII, liberal democracy's leader- the U.S., has very illiberally been directly or indirectly involved in overturning approximately 50 governments across the world, many democratically elected (Noam Chomsky), in spite of the UN declarations. In the process, the U.S. and its allies have supported some very undemocratic regimes for imperial interests, funding killing machines in Iran, Guatemala, Uganda, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Cambodia, Iraq, and many, many more. According to research provided by James A. Lucas in a November 2015 report for Global Research, since WWII, America has been involved with their clients in killing more than 20 million people in 37 countries, overwhelming territories of "color," with the U.S. directly accounting for approximately half of those deaths through military conflicts and economic wars of sanctions-like the 1990's Iraqi sanctions causing 500,000 child deaths according to UN studies.

Former U.S. Defense Secretary under George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about Iraqi casualties, stated, "We don't do body counts." Nevertheless, others do. The levels of civilian deaths in the Middle East are frighteningly atrocious.

Underscoring the deep cynicism in which liberal democracy is embroiled in its foreign affairs, technology is now exploring small-scale versions of nuclear weaponry for tactical use with one trillion dollars in developmental appropriations authorized by the first African-American president of the U.S., and a 2008 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Keep in mind though, as I stated earlier in the essay, if cost-saving labor might be attained from those of "color," at the cheapest rates possible, ways to control that will be found.

Tummy Tucks Over Rotten Guts: Imperialism by Other Means

A new imperial mission statement has superseded the older ones. This occurred following the unavoidable independence of a Third World. The mission: development. More innocuously attractive than a phrase like "civilizing mission," or, "survival of the fittest," it's nevertheless mere cosmetics masking real intentions that have always accompanied capitalist imperialism: maximally making more money at the expense of non-western populations.

The meaning of development in the peripheries during the decades following WWII has changed. Development has shifted from "New Deal capitalism" or "social capitalism"-governmental redistribution of some wealth for financing state administered programs for people, to something else. As Robinson explains, now development means fostering "…laissez-faire, comparative advantage, free trade, and efficiency…." (pg. 54), an "ideology, a culture, a philosophical worldview that takes classical liberalism and individualism to an extreme. It glorifies the detached, isolated individual-a fictitious state of human existence-and his or her potential that is allegedly unleashed when unencumbered by state regulation and other collective constraints on 'freedom' (pg.55)." Neoliberalism drives our current international developmental regime.

Both forms of development, New Deal and neoliberal, are capitalist impositions of social ordering too often with little regard for real internal needs expressed by the populations being developed. Plus, to receive money, both demand strict criteria be met through aligning with the economic and political goals of the core countries doing the developing. Both have profitably exploited the periphery while claiming unmitigated beneficence.

Complicating things, no longer is it core imperial states dominating periphery territories and nations. Now, domination comes in the form of multinational corporations and transnational finance. This makes imperial control opaque, hidden behind life's every-day routines. Describing the current form of imperialism, Screpanti explains in his introduction, "[global capitalism is] a system of international relations in which state policies are forced to remove the obstacles that national agglomeration place in the way of the process of accumulation [profits] on a global scale." Global markets dictate to nation/states forcing them to dismantle barriers to international trade and the profits reaped. Not surprisingly, most of the bases of operations of transnational corporations and finance are in the core countries made rich to begin with though imperialism exercised over centuries.

Central are the post WWII governing bodies already mentioned, Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)-born after several rounds of negotiations expanding GATT. The WTO administers and arbitrates the world's regional and global trade agreements. There's nothing democratic about these institutions even though they shape global economic policies in a time of liberal democratic triumphalism. (Authors in the bibliographic material below elaborate how they work because brevity beckons in this essay).

What has this meant for labor in developing the global periphery?

After all, hasn't poverty been reduced, jobs been added, hope primed into the previously dry pumps of hopeless futures? The short answer is: No. Appeals to GDP averages for a country's workers tell a very truncated story as they don't specifically provide how income is disseminated unless intentionally parsed for detailed information. Plus, cost of living change is excluded. Currently, inequality of wealth distribution is only increasing all over the world (See Oxfam reports and numerous university studies).

Economist John Smith introduced his work, stating: "The wildfire of [job] outsourcing spread during the past three decades is the continuation, on a vastly expanded scale, of capital's eternal quest for new sources of cheaper, readily exploitable labor-power." When a "crisis" of diminishing profits occurred in the core during the 1970s, elites began searching for cheaper labor pools as national worker costs were thought too high. As international investments took off in the 1980s and 90s-especially after 1995 with the expansion of the WTO, the whole world became a large labor resource from which capital could draw low-wage workers. Now, worker competition for jobs pits each against all in a global labor market. This is especially true in labor intensive manufacturing productions delivering most of the commodities exported from the periphery to the core. With advancements in technology, production formerly accomplished within a territory or nation, could now be done across the globe. The orchestrated poverty in the periphery under older forms of imperialism is being leveraged for low cost labor approaching near slavery status.

For example: The U.S. is the largest consumer of clothing in the world, but, makes only two percent of the clothing it purchases. Smith reports that in Bangladesh, a garment worker earns "1.36 euros in a day working 10-12 hours and producing 250 T-shirts per hour, or 18 T-shirts for each euro cent paid in wages.…" (loc 218). Nearly 85 percent of the garment workers are women because they are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. "The basic wage is barely one-fifth of what is necessary to nourish, house and clothe a garment worker, one adult, and two child dependents" (loc 244). This means lots of additional hours and multiple members of a family working just to get by. A cheap T-shirt may be marked up by 150 percent with low labor costs contributing to large profits on the item. More expensive clothing (and more heavily advertised) has mark-ups of over 700 percent, with some reported by Smith as much as 1800 percent.

Examining commodity supply chains, Smith shows how various components comprising a more complex product (like computers) needn't be made and assembled in a single location (the old corporate model of efficiency). Different tasks may be done in various countries completing segments in stages of a manufactured item assembled elsewhere. No longer is a multinational company compelled to invest in building overseas infrastructures for their operations and take cost responsibilities for maintaining an overseas work-force. Now, they can just issue contracts to different regions for various component production, keeping investment costs low and letting the lowest bidder perform the tasks demanded by the agreement. It's what Smith calls "arms-length" production. This lets the transnational corporation off the hook for any environmental degradation and worker exploitation. The foreign companies picking up the contract work and their governments are said to be responsible, making compliance to protections (if they exist) issues of the nationally based parties involved.

Additionally, because bids for pieces of product manufacture are very competitive, profit margins for those taking on the assigned operations are slim. A supplier's profit on the T-shirt example is claimed being in the single digits. It provides greater incentive in squeezing their workers and making the thin slice of profit for the company working on the consigned task thicker. Therefore, it's not only a race to the bottom for workers, it's also a similar situation for many contractors picking up arms-length agreements issued by large transnational companies, contractors often overtaken and put out-of-business by those from other geographic areas of exploited cheap labor doing a task for less.

Smith discusses Foxconn, International in China, the successful mammoth assembling arms-length contracted products for giants like Apple and Samsung. Foxconn puts together components made by low-paid employees from other global regions. And the Chinese workers' portion in the sale price of the iPhone? About 3.6 percent according to Smith's research. Foxconn is an example of Export-Processing Zones, "now found in over 130 countries…," all competing against each other for contracts with only a small fraction getting consistent business-like Foxconn has achieved. It's the logic of so called efficiency, meaning, the largest returns on investment over the shortest time for the benefit of transnational investors, regardless of social consequences. Social considerations, like the environment and basic worker needs being met, are externals deemed separate from business calculations.

Further, as Robinson documents, "capital-labor relations [are] based on deregulated, informalized, flexibilized, part-time immigrant contract, and precarious labor arrangements (pg. 52)." Robinson continues, "The International Labor Organization reported that 1.53 billion workers around the world were in such 'vulnerable' employment arrangements in 2009, representing more than 50 percent of the global workforce (pg. 53)." This means, in most countries (including those in the core), large segments of populations are working in so called "flexible labor" positions with little to no benefits and no guarantees of consistent future employment. Investment money may come and go freely across borders. People cannot do so when already insecure jobs leave with the investors. Expulsed workers in precarity are trapped in a system, if allowed to do so, that's driving wages toward the very profitable levels of quasi- slavery.

It seems approaching conditions of slavery is an ever-present goal for the capitalist. My, how things remain the same under the façade of change.

What happens when food prices jump because of market "forces"? - nearly 80 percent during the 2008 commodity crisis in some impoverished areas of the world causing food riots. A large portion of income for the majority of workers in the South goes toward food they can no longer grow themselves-unlike the slaves under former agrarian economies. Leech suggests violence should include human suffering "caused by social structures that disproportionately benefit some people while diminishing the ability of others to meet their fundamental needs…needs like food, health care and other resources… (loc 205)." Systemic violence by capitalism entails more than just imperial wars.


Are there specific counter-examples to my claims supporting something other than the contentions in the syllogism at the beginning of this essay? Of course. However, because all birds don't fly doesn't mean we stop saying that birds have the gift of flight. Look at the whole, not anomalies. Should someone reveal from actual history, while looking at the whole, that modern imperialism/capitalism isn't racist, or that actually existing capitalism didn't arise from imperial endeavors, unlike the paper-premises and theories from the Austrian School of Economics-Joseph Schumpeter's response to Lenin in particular, then let's talk about it. Have there been totalizing systems other than capitalism and its triumph through liberal democracy that have done better, like central state communism-Russian Soviet style, or state administered fascism? Not really, because both were imperialist, with fascism essentially wedding capitalist interests with the state and the U.S.S.R.'s massive bureaucracy controlling the "efficiencies" of quasi-capitalist style production; those forms invading others in superimposing their will. But, does that mean all options for the future are exhausted? Aren't we creatures who can dream of alternatives and work toward creating them?

But, what about capitalism with an Asian face in state dominated China? A new leader may fix it all.

Under new imperialist tenets called development, China is already looking for cheaper labor outside its borders to fuel its own budding consumerism while keeping costs down and profits up. No longer does it just wish to be the manufacturing work-shop of the world. Its massive financial tentacle is far-reaching with infrastructure projects all over the world benefitting its own economic necessity at the expense of local populations. This is expressed through ventures such as large dam, mining and deforestation projects displacing Indigenous peoples and destroying food producing land, high speed rail construction leading to important Chinese cities-remaking the urban spaces and environmental landscapes through which bullet-trains travel, continued fossil fuel activities, purchase of arable land in food insecure areas (East Africa and elsewhere) for feeding themselves by exporting agricultural production necessitating local populations' importation of food as they're displaced off ancestral lands, etc. Plus, defaults on loans provided to poor countries are occurring and looming in greater numbers. What pounds of flesh will be exacted from them? It's flexing its military muscle in the South China sea and squashing dissent at home with a leader who wants that position without term limits. Though leading in renewable energy, historically with capitalism-profit always trumps environmental prudence. Yes, they are in competition with the U.S., but, increasing threats of violence is part of a competitive capitalist past that's sealed in its very concrete history. China is new to capitalism, but already the logic is becoming deeply ingrained.

Michael Corleone would likely not bet on China for providing a legitimate cultural framework cleansing capitalism. He's well aware how murder and mayhem work.

For the future of human flourishing, capitalism in all its forms is essentially violently imperialist, and therefore, racist. It's devolutionary because it's ultimately parasitical, devouring the host, and therefore killing itself (Michael Hudson) along with our environments -both natural and cultural (if you can even divide the two). It's also devolutionary for the fewer and fewer people gaining from it because capitalism makes them competitively callous human beings, stifling the very human abilities of mutuality and empathetic concern. And, it's all for the sake of what capitalism has been designed to do by elite beneficiaries from the beginning: make more money above all else-including human life and all life on the planet.


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Fields, Gary, Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror, University of California Press, 2017.

Horne, Gerald, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in the Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean , Monthly Review Press, 2017.

Leech, Gary, Capitalism: A Structural Genocide, Zed Books, 2012 (Kindle book locations).

Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power: vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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Resendez, Andres, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2017.

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