Rise of Capitalism and Colonialism

 

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Table of Contents

Colonial vs Decolonized Narratives

Rise of European Capitalism

Capitalism + Imperialism = Colonialism

African Colonization

American Settler Colonialism

Neocolonialism

Post Colonialism and Modern Impacts of Colonialism

Decolonizing


Colonial vs Decolonized Narratives

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Colonial Narrative: There are rich and poor countries, developed and developing countries, and they’ve always been this way.

Decolonized Narrative:  There are countries got rich from colonizing other countries and there are countries that got poor from being colonized

“When you only consider what the world looked during our life time it is easy to think of the world as static – the rich, healthy and educated parts of the world here and the poor, uneducated, sick regions there – and to falsely conclude that it always was like that and that it always will be like that” Our World in Data

“To know the present, we must look into the past, and to know the future we, must look into the past and the present.” This is a scientific approach. We can at least be sure that the conclusions will not be marred by subjective distortions.

It is clear, especially after reading Rodney’s exposition, that throughout the last decade, we have been posing the wrong questions regarding economic backwardness. We did not “look into the past to know the present.” We were told, and accepted, that our poverty was caused by our poverty in the now famous theory of the “vicious circle of poverty and we went around in circles seeking ways and means of breaking that circle. Had we asked the fundamental questions which Dr. Rodney raises in this work, we would not have exposed our economics to the ruthless plunder brought about by “foreign investments,” which the exponents of the vicious circle theory urged us to do. For, it is clear, foreign investment is the cause, and not a solution, to our economic backwardness

Are we not underdeveloped now because we have been colorised in the past? There is no other explanation to the fact that practically the whole of the underdeveloped world has been colonized either directly or indirectly by the Western powers. And what is colonialism if it is not a system of foreign investments” by the metropolitan powers? If it has contributed to our underdevelopment in the past, is it not likely to contribute to our underdevelopment now, even if the political reins are in our hands? Put in this way, the question of underdevelopment is immediately rendered more intelligible, even to the uninitiated. And this is how Dr. Rodney is directing us to pose our

The inevitable conclusion is that foreign investment does not only help to undermine our economics by extracting enormous profits, but it does more serious damage to the economies by distorting them into lopsidedness. If the process is not arrested in time, the distortion could be permanent. As long as we continue, as we have done for centuries, to produce for the so-called world market, which was founded on the hard rock of slavery and colonialism, our economies will remain colonial. Any development will be entirely incidental, leaving the vast majority of the population wholly uninvolved in the economic activity. The more we invest in export branches in order to capture the “world market,” the more we divert away from investing for people’s development and, consequently, the less effective our development effort.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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Colonial Narrative: Although there were a lot of bad things that happen during colonial times, overall it was worth it because European Colonizers brought civiliazation and other benefits to countries that were uncivilizied
Decolonize Narrative:  These countries were civilizied.  They just weren’t capitalistic, Christian, and White.  The myth that these countries were uncivilized was used to justify horrors Capitalism, Christianity, and White supremacy brought with them.  Everything that was brought to colonized countries was bad, exploitative and have set these countries back generations.

“Defining the aboriginal American populations as cannibals, devil-worshippers, and sodomites supported the fiction that the Conquest was not an unabashed quest for gold and silver but was a converting mission, a claim that, in 1508, helped the Spanish Crown gain for it the blessing of the Pope and complete authority over the Church in the Americas. It also removed in the eyes of the world and possibly of the colonizers themselves, any sanction against the atrocities which they would commit against the “Indians,” thus functioning as a license to kill regardless of what the intended victims might do. And, indeed, “The whip, gibbet, and stock, imprisonment, torture, rape, and occasional killing became standard weapons for enforcing labor discipline” in the New World” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

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Colonial Narrative: Industrial Revolution and slavery were separate things
Decolonize Narrative:  The industrial revolution only happen because of the excess materials and resources extract from enslave labor

Colonial Narrative: Manifest Destiny – Colonized land was empty and being unused and white people were able to use the land.
Decolonize Narrative:  There were millions of indigenous people who were killed, terrorized, and forcibily removed for colonization.  The myth that the land was empty are not being used was meant to erasure indigenous history and falsely claim something is only being “used” if its exploited for capitalism.

Colonial Narrative: African leaders are responsible for the African slave trade by selling their own people
Decolonize Narrative:  There would not have been a slave trade if Europeans weren’t so eager to buy enslaved African people. Even African leaders who refused to particpate had to eventually participant out of the fear of the arms race Europe was causing by trading advance weapons for enslaved people.

“Many guilty consciences have been created by the slave trade. Europeans know that they carried on the slave trade, and Africans are aware that the trade would have been impossible if certain Africans did not co-operate with the slave ships. To case their guilty conscience, Europeans try to throw the major responsibility for the slave trade on to the Africans. One European author of a book on the slave trade (appropriately entitled Sins of Our Fathers) explained how many other white people urged him to state that the trade was the responsibility of African chiefs, and that Europeans merely turned up to buy the captives — as though without European demand there would have been captives sitting on the beach by the millions! Issues such as those are not the principal concern of this study, but they can be correctly approached only after understanding that Europe became the centre of a world-wide system and that it was European capitalism which set slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in motion.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Colonial Narrative: Capitalism was a natural and peaceful transition from Feudalism to create a better world.
Decolonize Narrative:  Capitalism wasn’t the revolution to feudalis.  It was the counter revolution, created by the arisotracy, the church, and a new upper class, to the centuries of peasant revolts fighting for a better world.  This counter revolution found new ways to maintain the same exploitation of land and labor, in order to create an enormous amount of wealth.  Capitalism created to the plantation system which was export during colonialism to every corner of world and created 

  • Capitalism: Revolution or Counter Revolution?
    • Rise of capitalism
      • Created capital accummulation and classes
        • Primitive accumulation of capital
          • Adam Smith’s perspective
            • Primitive accumulation depicted a peaceful process, in which some workers laboured more diligently than others and gradually built up wealth, eventually leaving the less diligent workers to accept living wages for their labour.” Wikipedia: Primitive accumulation of capital
          • Karl Marx perspective
            • “primitive accumulation “entailed taking land, say, enclosing it, and expelling a resident population to create a landless proletariat, and then releasing the land into the privatised mainstream of capital accumulation. This would be accomplished through violence, war, enslavement, and colonialism.” Dave Harvey, Accumulation by Dispossession: A Marxist Critique
  • Marx, Feminist, Black Perspective
    • Capitalism wasn’t the revolution that came from the decline of fuedalism
      • Capitalism was the counter revolution wage by artiscracy, church and a new upper class
        • To main systems that exploit labor and the poor to generate large wealth among upper class
      • This system was refined into the plantation system
        • Based on creating as much wealth as possible through stealing land and exploiting labor
        • This system was exported around the world during European colonialism
      • To justify the brutality of the plantation system, particulary with African slavery and Native ethnic cleansing, Europe created racism
      • The foundations of these plantation system and the racism that justified it are still present today worldwide

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Rise of European Capitalism

“capitalism was not the product of an evolutionary development bringing forth economic forces that were maturing in the womb of the old order. Capitalism was the response of the feudal lords, the patrician merchants, the bishops and popes, to a centuries-long social conflict that, in the end, shook their power, and truly gave “all the world a big jolt.” Capitalism was the counter-revolution that destroyed the possibilities that had emerged from the anti-feudal struggle – possibilities which, if realized, might have spared us the immense destruction of lives and the natural environment that has marked the advance of capitalist relations worldwide. This much must be stressed for the belief that capitalism “evolved” from feudalism and represents a higher form of social life has not yet been dispelled.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“In the natural sciences, it is well known that in many instances quantitative change becomes qualitative after a certain period. The common example is the way that water can absorb heat until at 100° C it changes to steam (a qualitative change of form). Similarly, in human society it has always been the case that the expansion of the economy leads eventually to a change in the form of social relations. Karl Marx, writing in the 19th century, was the first writer to appreciate this, and he distinguished within European history several stages of development. The first major stage following after simple bands of hunters was Communalism where property was collectively owned, work was done in common, and goods were shared out equally. The second was Slavery, caused by the extension of domineering elements within the family and by some groups being overwhelmed by others. Slaves did a variety of tasks, but their main job was to produce food. The next was Feudalism where agriculture remained the principal means of making a livelihood, but the land which was necessary for that purpose was in the hands of the few, and they took the lion’s share of the wealth. The workers on the land (now called Serfs) were no longer the personal property of the masters, but they were tied to the land of a particular manor or estate.

When the manor changed hands, the serfs had to remain there and provide goods for the landlord – just keeping enough to feed themselves. Just as the child of a slave was a slave, so the children of serfs were also serfs. Then came Capitalism, under which the greatest wealth in the society was produced not in agriculture but by machines – in factories and in mines. Like the preceding phase of feudalism, capitalism was characterised by the concentration in a few hands of ownership of the means of producing wealth and by unequal distribution of the products of human labour. The few who dominated were the bourgeoisie who had originated in the merchants and craftsmen of the feudal epoch, and who rose to be industrialists and financiers. Meanwhile, the serfs were declared legally free to leave the land and to go in search of employment in capitalist enterprises. Their labour thereby became a commodity – something to be bought and sold.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Rise of Feudalism

  • Serfdom developed in Europe, between the 5th and 7th centuries A.D
    • Reformed system from the Imperial Rome Slaves
    • Lords gave protection and land to peasants
      • At cost of their freedom
      • “while slavery was never completely abolished, a new class relation developed that homogenized the conditions of former slaves and free agricultural workers (Dockes 1982:151), placing all the peasantry in a subordinate condition, so that for three centuries (from the 9th to the 11th), “peasant” (rusticus, villanus) would be synonymous with “serf””Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation
  • Slave like exploitation
    • Serfs had to farm lord’s farms, pay taxes, go to war, get permission to marry
    • But serfs held means of production (mostly land) and had common areas
      • Serfs receives a plot of land which they could support themselves on
        • And pass down to their children
      • “this arrangement increased the serfs’ autonomy and improved their living conditions, as they could now dedicate more time to their reproduction and negotiate the extent of their obligations, instead of being treated like chattel subject to an unconditional rule. Most important, having the effective use and possession of a plot of land meant that the serfs could always support themselves and, even at the peak of their confrontations with the lords, they could not easily be forced to bend because of the fear of starvation. True, the lord could throw recalcitrant serfs off the land, but this was rarely done, given the difficulty of recruiting new laborers in a fairly closed economy and the collective nature of peasant struggles.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation
    • Surfs also had the “Commons”
      • “With the use of land also came the use of the “commons” — meadows, forests, lakes, wild pastures — that provided crucial resources for the peasant economy (wood for fuel, timber for building, fishponds, grazing grounds for animals) and fostered community cohesion and cooperation” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation
  • 11-1400s – Centuries of peasant resistance and revolts against feudalism
    • Serfs were fighting
      • To keep hold of their surplus-labor and products
      • Decrease work requirement on their lord’s land
      • Decrease taxes
      • Obligation to provide military services at wartime
      • Increased economic and juridical rights
      • Access to commons
    • Gain many reforms
      • “privileges” and “charters”
        • That gave greater autonomy in the running of the village community
      • Reduced taxes and military services
      • Commutation of labor services with money payments (rent)
        • Placed the feudal relation on a more contractual basis.

“To the well-to-do peasants who, possessing large tracts of land, could earn enough money to “buy their blood” and employ other laborers, commutation must have appeared as a great step on the road to economic and personal independence; for the lords lessened their control over their tenants when they no longer depended directly on their work. But the majority of poorer peasants – who possessed only a few acres of land barely sufficient for their survival – lost even the little they had. Compelled to pay their dues in money, they went into chronic debt, borrowing against future harvests, a process that eventually caused many to lose their land…From the beginning of the fourteenth century the tax registers show a marked increase in the number of impoverished peasants, who appear in these documents as “indigents,” “poor men” or even “beggards” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“The commutation to money-rent had two other negative consequences. First, it made it more difficult for the producers to measure their exploitation, because as soon as the labor-services were commuted into money payments, the peasants could no longer differentiate between the work that they did for themselves and that which they did for the landlords. Commutation also made it possible for the now-free tenants to employ and exploit other workers, so that, “in a further development,” it promoted “the growth of independent peasant property,” turning “the old self-employing possessors of the land” into a capitalist tenant.

The monetization of economic life, then, did not benefit all people, contrary to what is claimed by supporters of the market economy, who welcome it as the creation of a new “common” replacing land-bondage and introducing in social life the criteria of objectivity, rationality, and even personal freedom (Simmel 1900). With the spread of monetary relations, values certainly changed, even among the clergy, who began to reconsider the Aristotelian doctrine of the “sterility of money” (Kaye 1998) and, not coincidentally, to revise its views concerning the redeeming quality of charity to the poor. But their effects were destructive and divisive. Money and the market began to split the peasantry by transforming income differences into class differences, and by producing a mass of poor people who could survive only on the basis of periodic donations ”  Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  • 1350s – Black Death plague killed 1/3 of population
    • On top of periodic famine and the Hundred Years War (1337–1453)
      • Significantly decreased population
    • Serf labor became much more valuable
      • With a reduced labor force serfs could leave their lords land for another
        • Gave lots of power to serfs to not stay against abuse
        • Rent strikes, refusing labor services, refusing to pay taxes, etc.

“The events of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries intervened in the processes through which feudalism was ultimately displaced by the several forms of capitalism.59 The consequence of those events were to determine the species of the modern world: the identities of the bourgeoisies that transformed capitalism into a world system; the sequences of this development; the relative vitalities of the several European economies; and the sources of labor from which each economy would draw.

The momentous events of which we speak were: the periodic famines that struck Europe in this period, the Black Death of the mid-fourteenth century and subsequent years, the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), and the rebellions of peasants and artisans. Together they had a devastating impact on western Europe and the Mediterranean-decimating the populations of cities and countryside alike, disrupting trade, collapsing industry and agricultural production-leveling, as it were, the bulk of the most developed regions of western European bourgeois activity. Denys Hay has summed it up quite well:

The result of prolonged scarcity, endemic and pandemic plague, the intermittent but catastrophic invasions of ruthless armies, and the constant threat in many areas from well-organized robber bands, was seen not only in a dwindling population but in roads abandoned to brambles and briars, in arable land out of cultivation and in deserted villages. Contraction in the area of cultivation in its turn made dearth the more likely. There was in every sense a vicious circle. A sober estimate suggests that “in 1470 the number of households was halved in most European villages compared with the start of the fourteenth century”; the reconquest of forest and waste of the arable is “an episode equal in importance to the drama of the earlier clearings.”*1

This general economic decline in Europe of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was marked in a final and visible way by social disorders much more profound than the territorial wars. Such wars, after all had been in character with feudal society. The appearance of peasant movements was not:

In the boom condition of the thirteenth century there had been in rural areas a degree of over-population which made many peasants.-day labourers, poor serfs very vulnerable. Now the countryside was more sparsely occupied and a better living was possible for those who remained. … What was new in the slump conditions of the fourteenth century was a bitterness in the lord’s relations with the villagers.

As Hay indicates, the most intense of the peasant rebellions occurred in Flanders (1325-28), northern France (the Jacquerie of 1358), and England (1381). But such movements erupted over much of Western Europe during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. In France, and especially Normandy (precipitated surely by the final savaging of the peasants by the forces of the Hundred Years War), in Catalonia (1409-13 and later), in Jutland (1411), in Finland (1438), and in Germany (1524), peasants arose, seizing land, executing lords, clergy, and even lawyers, demanding an end to manorial dues, petitioning for the establishment of wage-labor, and insisting on the dissolution of restrictions on free buying and selling.” Cedric J. Robinson: Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

“However, the most important consequence of the plague was the intensification of the labor crisis generated by the class conflict; for the decimation of the work-force made labor extremely scarce, critically increased its cost, and stiffened people’s determination to break the shackles of feudal rule…the scarcity of labor which the epidemic caused shifted the power relation to the advantage of the lower classes. When land had been scarce, the peasants could be controlled by the threat of expulsion. But after the population was decimated and land became abundant, the threats of the lords ceased to have any serious effect, as the peasants could now freely move and find new land to cultivate (Dyer 1968: 26). Thus, while the crops were rotting and livestock wandered in the fields, peasants and artisans suddenly became masters of the situation. A symptom of this new development was the growth of rent strikes, bolstered by threats of a mass exodus to other lands or to the city….By the end of the 14th century the refusal of rent and services had become a collective phenomenon. Entire villages jointly Organized to stop paying fines, taxes and tallage, and no longer recognized the commuted services, or the injunctions of the manorial courts, which were the main instrument of feudal power” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“Past societies are never as simple or homogenous as we make them out to be. But by and large, Medieval Europe operated on a feudal or manorial system, in which most of the rural population was essentially servile, owing rent and/or services to aristocratic landowners in exchange for the use of their land. Peasants could have myriad different statuses, but in general, the archetypal serf was legally bound to their lord — although they could buy their freedom (or run away). Serfs worked the lord’s fields (called the demesne), and in exchange, the serf was given a home and their own plot of agricultural land, from which they could eke out a living.

The archetypal serf was not paid for their work in the lord’s fields — that was their obligation to the lord in exchange for the use of the lord’s land. The modern equivalent would be if your landlord was also your boss, and in order to live in your apartment, you had to sign away your freedom and that of your children, in perpetuity. Not only that, the medieval lord was also the primary unit of legal, civic and military power, often serving as the first stop for legal matters and the first defense against brigands and rival kingdoms.

In the wake of the Black Death, however, the shortage of labor and the abundance of land empowered peasants to negotiate better terms with their lord, and the lord, with no one to work his fields, was in no place to refuse. This was especially the case in England, where the aristocracy was more dependent on the cultivation of the demesne. With perhaps half the population gone, there were simply not enough peasants to work the land, and the average income of the English lord declined significantly. In response, the lord’s wheat fields were increasingly turned over to livestock, or rented out to tenant farmers, who would pay the lord a fixed rent, keeping the agricultural produce for themselves.

The ambitious commoner could now acquire sizable tracts of land, and with the agricultural product of that land entirely at their disposal, commoners were incentivized to maximize the productivity of their land and sell the surplus at market for a profit. This transition is often referred to as the birth of Agrarian Capitalism.

Urban laborers and craftsmen also benefitted from rising wages. The average lifespan increased, and standards of living improved across the board. The shortage of skilled tradesmen even created new opportunities for urban women: the widows of merchants and craftsmen were encouraged to run their husbands’ businesses, and the number of female apprentices in London increased significantly at this time.

The aristocracy, however, were predictably appalled by the newfound power of the common rabble, and the elite sought to maintain their position by imposing artificially low wages and by compelling laborers to accept any available work. Sumptuary laws, which restricted what commoners could wear and eat, also became common during the 14th and 15th Centuries. However, these laws do not appear to have been effective, and tensions continued to mount between the aristocracy and the wider populace, who were increasingly impatient for change.

This, combined with the soaring fiscal burden of near-constant war, set off a series of uprisings, most notably the French Jacquerie of 1358 and the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The aristocracy responded with force wherever they could, but they could not turn back the clock.

Even in war, their role was changing. While the medieval lord was renting out his fields, the knight was increasingly losing his place on the battlefield. This was, in theory, the primary purpose of the secular aristocracy: to be professional killers, to defend the realm and to protect the clergy and the peasantry. But starting in the 14th century, infantry units comprised of commoners, like the Swiss pikemen and English longbowmen, began to win a series of decisive victories against mounted knights, revolutionizing military tactics and hastening the obsolescence of the feudal aristocracy.

All the while, a new intellectual spirit was taking root across western Europe. Influential thinkers like John Wycliffe and Marsilius of Padua began to question the worldly authority of both the Church and the state, arguing that power rested ultimately with the populace rather than the ruler, and the unworthy ruler could lose their right to govern. Writers and philosophers were increasingly concerned with the here and now, the individual and the observable, rather than the abstract and the universal. The works of Chaucer, Petrarch and Christine de Pizan celebrate the uniqueness of the individual, savoring the moment and often drawing attention to the messiness of the human experience. William of Ockham directly challenged the tedious abstraction of medieval philosophy, famously advocating for more efficient and rigorous reasoning à la Ockham’s Razor.

A new confidence in scientific thought began to blossom, as precocious scholars like Nicole Oresme and Jean Buridan postulated the rotation of the earth and the law of inertia, more than a century before Copernicus and Isaac Newton. In the wake of the Black Death, plague doctors were among the first to believe they had surpassed the knowledge of the Greek and Roman world; ironically, they were wrong, but the lower mortality of later outbreaks led many doctors to proclaim they had cured the disease, which instilled a new faith in scientific progress. This was the beginning of a paradigm shift, the repercussions of which have shaped our modern world, and the calamitous 14th century was the crucible through which this new paradigm came into being.” Saloon: The Black Death led to the demise of feudalism. Could this pandemic have a similar effect?

  • New Peasant freedoms caused European nobleman to crack down harder
    • Causing many peasant revolts, rebellions, and wars
      • 1381 English Peasant Rising, 1476 – Germany Peasant Wars
    • Peasants won many concessions
      • “Golden Age of the European Proletariat”

“In all these cases, the rebels did not content themselves with demanding some restrictions to feudal rule, nor did they only bargain for better living conditions. Their aim was to put an end to the power of the lords…What followed has been described as the “golden age of the European proletariat”…Thorold Rogers has painted a utopian image of this period in his famous study of wages and living conditions in medieval England. “At no time,” Rogers wrote, “were wages (in England) so high and food so cheap”(Rogers 1894:326ff). Workers sometimes were paid for every day of the year, although on Sunday and the main holidays they did not work. They were also fed by their employers, and were paid a viaticum for coming and going from home to work, at so much per mile of distance. In addition, they demanded to be paid in money, and wanted to work only five days a week…What this meant for the European proletariat was not only the achievement of a standard of living that remained unparalleled until the 19th century, but the demise of serfdom. By the end of the 14th century land bondage had practically disappeared (Marx 1909, Vol. 1: 788). Everywhere serfs were replaced by free farmers who would accept work only for a substantial reward.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  • Counter Revolution
    • New alliance between the bourgeoisie and the nobility
      • Bourgeoisie were upper class peasants

“The development of capitalism was not the only possible response to the crisis of feudal power. Throughout Europe, vast communalistic social movements and rebellions against feudalism had offered the promise of a new egalitarian society built on social equality and cooperation. However, by 1525 their most powerful expression, the “Peasant War” in Germany or, as Peter Blickle called it, the “revolution of the common man,” was crushed….It was in response to this crisis that the European ruling class launched the global offensive that in the course of at least three centuries was to change the history of the planet, laying the foundations of a capitalist world-system, in the relentless attempt to appropriate new sources of wealth, expand its economic basis, and bring new workers under its command.  As we know, “conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, in brief force” were the pillars of this process…

Marx introduced the concept of “primitive accumulation” at the end of Capital Volume I to describe the social and economic restructuring that the European ruling class initiated in response to its accumulation crisis, and to establish (in polemics with Adam Smith)6 that: (i) capitalism could not have developed without a prior concentration of capital and labor and that (ii) the divorcing of the workers from the means of production, not the abstinence of the rich, is the source of capitalist wealth. Primitive accumulation, then, is a useful concept, for it connects the “feudal reaction” with the development of a capitalist economy, and it identifies the historical and logical conditions for the development of the capitalist system, “primitive” (“originary”) indicating a precondition for the existence capitalist relations as much as a specific event in time.

Marx, however, analyzed primitive accumulation almost exclusively from the viewpoint of the waged industrial proletariat: the protagonist, in his view, of the revolutionary process of his time and the foundation for the future communist society. Thus, in his account, primitive accumulation consists essentially in the expropriation of the land from the European peasantry and the formation of the “free,” independent worker, although he acknowledged that.

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, (of America), the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black skins, are… the chief moments of primitive accumulation… ” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  1. The expropriation of European workers from their means of subsistence, and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans to the nines and plantations of the New World,” were not the only means by which a world proletariat was formed and “accumulated.”
  2. This process required the transformation of the body into a workmachine, and the subjugation of women to the reproduction of the work-force. Most of all, it required the destruction of the power of women which, in Europe as in Anerica, was achieved through the extermination of the “witches.”
  3. III. Primitive accumulation, then, was not simply an accumulation and concentration of exploitable workers and capital. It was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as “race” and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.
  4. We cannot, therefore, identify capitalist accumulation with the libertion of the worker, female or male, as many Marxists (among others) have done, or see the advent of capitalism as a moment of historical progress. On the contrary, capitalism has created more brutal and insidious forms of enslavement, as it has planted into the body of the proletariat deep divisions that have served to intensify and conceal exploitation. It is in great part because of these imposed divisions – especially those between women and men — that capitalist accumulation continues to devastate life in every corner of the planet.

Capital, Marx wrote, comes on the face of the earth dripping blood and dirt from head to toe (1909, Vol. I: 834) and, indeed, when we look at the beginning of capitalist development, we have the impression of being in an immense concentration camp. In the “New World” we have the subjugation of the aboriginal populations to the regimes of the mita and cuatelchis under which multitudes of people were consumed to bring silver and mercury to the surface in the mines of Huancavelica and Potosi. In Eastern Europe, we have a “second serfdom,” tying to the land a population of farmers who had never previously been enserfed. In Western Europe, we have the Enclosures, the WitchHunt, the branding, whipping, and incarceration of vagabonds and beggars in newly constructed work-houses and correction houses, models for the future prison system. On the horizon, we have the rise of the slave trade, while on the seas, ships are already transporting indentured servants and convicts from Europe to America.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  • 1500s – Counter Revolution and Transition to capitalism
    • Primitive accumulation of capital
      • Adam Smith’s perspective
        • Primitive accumulation depicted a peaceful process, in which some workers laboured more diligently than others and gradually built up wealth, eventually leaving the less diligent workers to accept living wages for their labour.” Wikipedia: Primitive accumulation of capital
      • Karl Marx perspective
        • “in the words of David Harvey, primitive accumulation “entailed taking land, say, enclosing it, and expelling a resident population to create a landless proletariat, and then releasing the land into the privatised mainstream of capital accumulation”. This would be accomplished through violence, war, enslavement, and colonialism.” Wikipedia: Primitive accumulation of capital
    • Loss of land reverse many benefits workers gain from peasant revolts
      • Methods of land loss
        • Land privatization
        • Enclosures of commons
          • Removal of poor homes/villages that didn’t have land rights
          • Losing collectivism
        • Peasant land loss due to
          • Evictions of tenants, rent increases, increased state taxation

“In the 16th century, “enclosure” was a technical term, indicating a set of strategies English lords and rich farmers used to eliminate communal land property and expand holdings.24 It mostly referred to the abolition of the open-field system, an arrangement by which villagers owned non-contiguous strips of land in a non-hedged field. Enclosing also included the fencing off of the commons and the pulling down of the shacks of poor cottagers who had no land but could survive because they had access to customary rights. 25 Large tracts of land were also enclosed to create deer parks, while entire villages were cast down,to be laid to pasture.  Though the Enclosures continued into the 18th century (Neeson 1993), even before the Reformation, more than two thousand rural communities were destroyed in this way (Fryde 1996: 185)…

…Briefly put, the argument proposed by “modernizers,” from all political perspectives, is that the enclosures boosted agricultural efficiency, and the dislocations they produced were well compensated by a significant increase in agricultural productivity. It is claimed that the land was depleted and, if it had remained in the hands of the poor, it would have ceased to produce anticipating Garret Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons”),26 while its takeover by the rich allowed it to rest. Coupled with agricultural innovation, the argument goes, the enclosures made the land more productive, leading to the expansion of the food supply. From this viewpoint, any praise for communal land tenure is dismissed as “nostalgia for the past,” the assumption being that agricultural communalism is backward and inefficient, and that those who defend it are guilty of an undue attachment to tradition…

…As soon as they lost access to land, all workers were plunged into a dependence unknown in medieval times, as their landless condition gave employers the power to cut their pay and lengthen the working day…Not surprisingly, with land expropriation came a change in the workers’ attitude towards the wage. While in the Middle Ages wages could be viewed as an instrument of freedom (in contrast to the compulsion of the labor services), as soon as access to land came to an end wages began to be viewed as instruments of enslavement (Hill 1975: 181ff).” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  • Labor exploitation
    • Losing means of production
    • Enclosures/eliminated commons
      • 1760-1810, five million acres of common fields were enclosed
    • Game Laws
    • Creating debt peonage
      • Slavery by paying rent, slavery by wages
    • Wages declining, prices rising, etc

“The separation of workers from their means of subsistence and their new dependence monetary relations also meant that the real wage could now be cut and women’s could be further devalued with respect to men’s through monetary manipulation. It is not a coincidence, then, that as soon as land began to be privatized, the prices of food stuff, which for two centuries had stagnated, began to rise…one-third in England (Laslett 1971:53) — had no access to land and had to buy the food that they had once produced, and because the ruling class had learned to use the magical power of money to cut labor costs. In other words, prices rose because of the development of a national and international market-system encouraging the export-import of agricultural products, and because merchants hoarded goods to sell them later at a higher price. In September 1565, in Antwerp, “while the poor were literally starving in the streets,” a warehouse collapsed under the weight of the grain packed in it. Rising prices ruined the small farmers, who had to give up their land to buy grain or bread when the harvests could not feed their families, and created a class of capitalist entrepreneurs, who accumulated fortunes by investing in agriculture and money-lending, at a time when having money was for many people a matter of life or death…

It took centuries for wages in Europe to return to the level they had reached in the late Middle Ages. Things deteriorated to the point that, in England, by 1550, male artisans had to work forty weeks to earn the same income that, at the beginning of the Century they had been able to obtain in fifteen weeks. In France, (see graph, next page) wages dropped by sixty percent between 1470 and 1570 (Hackett Fischer 1996: 78).43 The wage collapse was especially disastrous for women. In the 14th century, they had received half the pay of a man for the same task; but by the mid-16th century they were receiving only one-third of the reduced male wage, and could no longer support themselves by wage-work, neither in agriculture nor in manufacturing, a fact undoubtedly responsible for the massive spread of prostitution in this period.44 What followed was the absolute impoverishment of the European working class, a phenomenon so widespread and general that, by 1550 and long after, workers in Europe were referred to as simply “the poor.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“After feudalism in Europe had ended, the worker had absolutely no means of sustenance other than through the sale of his labour to capitalists. Therefore, to some extent the employer was responsible for ensuring the physical survival of the worker” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

    •  Impoverishment of the rural population
      • Fueling the labor force for industrial revolution
    • Elimination of collective labor
      • Replaced with individual contracts
    • Numerous anti-enclosure rebellions and struggles
      • Many lead by women

“As with the commutation, women were those who suffered most when the land was lost and the village community fell apart. Part of the reason is that it was far more difficult for them to become vagabonds or migrant workers, for a nomadic life exposed them to violence, especially at a time when misogyny was escalating. Women were also Mobile on account of pregnancies and the caring of children, a fact overlooked by scholars who consider the flight from servitude (through migration and other forms of nomadism) the paradignatic forms of struggle. Nor could women become soldiers for pay, though some joined armies as cooks, washers, prostitutes, and wives:38 but by the 17th century this option too vanished, as armies were further regimented and the crowds of women that used to follow them were expelled from the battlefields (Kriedte 1983:55) Women were also more negatively impacted by the enclosures because as soon as land was privatized and monetary relations began to dominate economic life, they found it more difficult than men to support themselves, being increasingly confined to reproductive labor at the very time when this work was being completely devalued…With the demise of the subsistence economy that had prevailed in pre-capitalist Europe, the unity of production and reproduction which has been typical of all societies based on production-for-use came to an end, as these activities became the carriers of different social relations and were sexually differentiated. In the new monetary regime, only production-for-market was defined as a value-creating activity, whereas the reproduction of the worker began to be considered as valueless from an economic viewpoint and even ceased to be considered as work. Reproductive work continued to be paid — though at the lowest rates — when performed for the master class or outside the home. But the economic importance of the reproduction of labor-power carried out in the home, and its function in the accumulation of capital became invisible, being mystified as a natural vocation and labelled “women’s labor.” In addition, women were excluded from many waged occupations and, when they worked for a wage, they earned a pittance compared to the average male wage.

These historic changes — that peaked in the 19th century with the creation of the full-time housewife — redefined women’s position in society and in relation to men. The sexual division of labor that emerged from it not only fixed women to reproductive work, but increased their dependence on men, enabling the state and employers to use the male wage as a means to command women’s labor. In this way, the separation of commodity production from the reproduction of labor-power also made possible the development of a specifically capitalist use of the wage and of the markets as means for the accumulation of unpaid labor.

Most importantly, the separation of production from reproduction created a class of proletarian women who were as dispossessed as men but, unlike their male relatives, in a society that was becoming increasingly monetarized, had almost no access to wages, thus being forced into a condition of chronic poverty, economic dependence, and invisibility as workers.

As we will see, the devaluation and feminization of reproductive labor was a disaster also for male workers, for the devaluation of reproductive labor inevitably devalued its product: labor-power. But there is no doubt that in the “transition from feudalism to Capitalism” women suffered a unique process of social degradation that was fundamental to the accumulation of capital and has remained so ever since.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

      • Widespread famines and starvation

“That the transition to capitalism inaugurated a long period of starvation for workers in Europe — which plausibly ended because of the economic expansion produced by colonization is also demonstrated by the fact that, while in the 14th and 15th centuries, the proletarian struggle had centered around the demand for “liberty” and less work, by the 16th and 17th, it was mostly spurred by hunger, taking the form of assaults on bakeries and granaries, and of riots against the export of local crops.45 The authorities described those who participated in these attacks as good for nothing” or “poor”and “humble people,” but most were craftsmen, living, by this time, from hand to mouth,

It was the women who usually initiated and led the food revolts. Six of the thirtyone food riots in 17th-century France studied by Ives-Marie Bercé were made up exclusively of women. In the others the female presence was so conspicuous that Bercé calls them “women’s riots.”’46 Commenting on this phenomenon, with reference to 18th-century England, Sheila Rowbotham concluded that women were prominent in this type of protest because of their role as their families’ caretakers. But women were also those most ruined by high prices for, having less access to money and employment than men, they were more dependent on cheap food for survival. This is why, despite their subordinate status, they took quickly to the streets when food prices went up, or when rumor spread that the grain supplies were being removed from town. This is what happened at the time of the Cordoba uprising of 1652, which started “early in the morning… when a poor woman went weeping through the streets of the poor quarter, holding the body of her son who had died of hunger” (Kamen 1971: 364). The same occurred in Montpellier in 1645, when women took to the streets “to protect their children from starvation” (ibid.: 356). In France, women besieged the bakeries when they became convinced that grain was to be embezzled, or found out that the rich had bought the best bread and the remaining was lighter or more expensive. Crowds of poor women would then gather at the bakers’ stalls, demanding bread and charging the bakers with hiding their supplies. Riots broke out also in the squares where grain markets were held, on along the routes taken by the carts with the corn to be exported, and at the river bank where… boatmen could be seen loading the sacks.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

      • Outlawing Peasants ability to survive on their own
        • Game Laws
          • prohibited peasants from hunting
        • Enclosure
          • fencing the commons into smaller lots

“despite what you might have learned, the transition to a capitalistic society did not happen naturally or smoothly. See, English peasants didn’t want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in shitty, dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of landowning capitalists. And for good reason, too. Using Adam Smith’s own estimates of factory wages being paid at the time in Scotland, a factory-peasant would have to toil for more than three days to buy a pair of commercially produced shoes. Or they could make their own traditional brogues using their own leather in a matter of hours, and spend the rest of the time getting wasted on ale. It’s really not much of a choice, is it?

But in order for capitalism to work, capitalists needed a pool of cheap, surplus labor. So what to do? Call in the National Guard!

Faced with a peasantry that didn’t feel like playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.

The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy,” writes Perelman. “In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as ‘‘primitive accumulation.’’

Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery…

…Arthur Young, a popular writer and economic thinker respected by John Stuart Mill, wrote in 1771: “everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” Sir William Temple, a politician and Jonathan Swift’s boss, agreed, and suggested that food be taxed as much as possible to prevent the working class from a life of “sloth and debauchery.

Temple also advocated putting four-year-old kids to work in the factories, writing ‘‘for by these means, we hope that the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them.’’ Some thought that four was already too old. According to Perelmen, “John Locke, often seen as a philosopher of liberty, called for the commencement of work at the ripe age of three.” Child labor also excited Defoe, who was joyed at the prospect that “children after four or five years of age…could every one earn their own bread.’ Yasha Levine, The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves

“Accordingly, the single biggest subsidy to modern corporate capitalism is the subsidy of history, by which capital was originally accumulated in a few hands, and labor was deprived of access to the means of production and forced to sell itself on the buyer’s terms. The current system of concentrated capital ownership and large-scale corporate organization is the direct beneficiary of that original structure of power and property ownership, which has perpetuated itself over the centuries.

For capitalism as we know it to come about, it was essential first of all for labor to be separated from property. Marxians and other radical economists commonly refer to the process as “primitive accumulation.”

“What the capitalist system demanded was… a degraded and almost servile condition of the mass of the people, the transformation of them into mercenaries, and of their means of labor into capital.” That meant expropriating the land, “to which the [peasantry] has the same feudal rights as the lord himself.” [Marx, “Chapter 27: The Expropriation,” Capital vol. 1]

To grasp the enormity of the process, we must understand that the nobility’s rights in land under the manorial economy were entirely a feudal legal fiction deriving from conquest. The peasants who cultivated the land of England in 1650 were descendants of those who had occupied it since time immemorial. By any standard of morality, it was their property in every sense of the word. The armies of William the Conqueror, by no right other than force, had compelled these peasant proprietors to pay rent on their own land.

J. L. and Barbara Hammond treated the sixteenth century village and open field system as a survival of the free peasant society of Anglo-Saxon times, with landlordism superimposed on it. The gentry saw surviving peasant rights as a hindrance to progress and efficient farming; a revolution in their own power was a way of breaking peasant resistance. Hence the agricultural community was “taken to pieces … and reconstructed in the manner in which a dictator reconstructs a free government.” [The Village Labourer 27-28, 35-36]….

Another form of expropriation, which began in late medieval times and increased drastically in the eighteenth century, was the enclosure of commons–in which, again, the peasants communally had as absolute a right of property as any defended by today’s “property rights” advocates. Not counting enclosures before 1700, the Hammonds estimated total enclosures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at a sixth or a fifth of the arable land in England [Village Labourer 42]. E. J. Hobsbawm and George Rude estimated enclosures between 1750 and 1850 alone as transforming “something like one quarter of the cultivated acreage from open field, common land, meadow or waste into private fields….” [Captain Swing 27].

The ruling classes saw the peasants’ right in commons as a source of economic independence from capitalist and landlord, and thus a threat to be destroyed. Enclosure eliminated “a dangerous centre of indiscipline” and compelled workers to sell their labor on the masters’ terms. Arthur Young, a Lincolnshire gentleman, described the commons as “a breeding-ground for ‘barbarians,’ ‘nursing up a mischievous race of people’.” “[E]very one but an idiot knows,” he wrote, “that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” The Commercial and Agricultural Magazine warned in 1800 that leaving the laborer “possessed of more land than his family can cultivate in the evenings” meant that “the farmer can no longer depend on him for constant work.” [Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 219-220, 358]. Sir Richard Price commented on the conversion of self-sufficient proprietors into “a body of men who earn their subsis- tence by working for others.” There would, “perhaps, be more labour, be- cause there will be more compulsion to it.” [Marx, “The Expropriation….”].

Marx cited parliamentary “acts of enclosure” as evidence that the commons, far from being the “private property of the great landlords who have taken the place of the feudal lords,” actually required “a parlia- mentary coup detat… for its transformation into private property.” [“The Expropriation….”]. The process of primitive accumulation, in all its brutality, was summed up by the same author:

These new freedmen [i.e. former serfs] became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire [“Chapter 26: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation,” Capital Vol. 1].

Even then, the working class was not sufficiently powerless. The state had to regulate the movement of labor, serve as a labor exchange on behalf of capitalists, and maintain order. The system of parish regulation of the movement of people, under the poor laws and vagrancy laws, resembled the internal passport system of South Africa, or the reconstruction era Black Codes. It “had the same effect on the English agricultural labourer,” Marx wrote, “as the edict of the Tartar Boris Godunov on the Russian peasantry.” [“The Expropriation…”] Adam Smith ventured that there was “scarce a poor man in England of forty years of age… who has not in some part of his life felt himself most cruelly oppressed by this ill-contrived law of settle- ments.” [Wealth of Nations 61].

The state maintained work discipline by keeping laborers from voting with their feet. It was hard to persuade parish authorities to grant a man a certificate entitling him to move to another parish to seek work. Workers were forced to stay put and bargain for work in a buyer’s market [Smith 60-61]….” Kevin A. Carson: The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege

      • Outlawing poor
        • Laws against poor, landless, vagrants, women, etc
          • Anti-vagabond laws prescribing enslavement and capital punishment in cases of recidivism
        • Vagabonds in work-houses and correction houses
          • Establishment built after the passing of the Elizabethan Poor Law (1601), places where those who were “unwilling to work”, including vagrants and beggars, were set to work.
          • most common charges against prisoners were prostitution, petty theft, and “loose, idle and disorderly conduct”
        • English Bloody Code had over 50 “crimes” punishable by death
          • Cutting down trees or hunting on private land, etc
          • In the 16th and 17th centuries, the hatred for wage. labor was so intense that many proletarians preferred to risk the gallows, rather than submit to the new conditions of work …the response of the bourgeoisie was the institution of a true regime of terror, implemented through the intensification of penalties (particularly those punishing the crimes against property), the introduction of “bloody laws” against vagabonds, intended to bind workers to the jobs imposed on them, as once the serfs had been bound to the land, and the multiplication of executions. In England alone, 72,000 people were hung by Henry th15e VIII during the thirty-eight years of his reign; and the massacre continued into the late 16th century. In the 1570s, 300 to 400 rogues were “devoured by the gallows in one place or another every year” (Hoskins 1977: Holinshed, 1577). In Devon alone, seventy-four people were hanged just in 1598 101In the 16th and 17th centuries, the hatred for wage. labor was so intense that many proletarians preferred to risk the gallows, rather than submit to the new conditions of work” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation
      • Controlling reproduction
        • Woman’s labor was devalued

“For the working classes in Great Britain, the immediate and terrible consequences of Industrial Age are generally, if not precisely, known. In purely economic terms, there is the direct evidence of the workhouses that began in the eighteenth century achieved their more permanent character in the two decades following Rev. Robert Lowe’s experiment in deterrent welfare in 1818 at Bingham. Though pauperism (which Hobsbawm defines as “the permanent core of poverty”10) as we have suggested earlier was by no means a new phenomenon in England or western Europe before the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in England, at least, the numbers of paupers increased somewhat rapidly during this latter period. This seems to have been the direct result of both the interruption of rural life by the adoption of reaping and threshing machines, and by the policy of land enclosures inspired by agricultural capitalism that, between 1760 and 1810, included five million acres of common fields. Elsewhere, in the industrial cores, unemployment accompanied the severe business cycles of the period.12 The workhouse, whose truest function was to act as asylums of last resort for the poor, was one response of the ruling classes. Characteristically, this response was the rationalization of an almost total misperception of basis of pauperism: the presumption that the dispossessed and unemployed lacked work discipline.” Cedric J. Robinson: Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

“By this time women were losing ground even with respect to jobs that had been their prerogatives, such as ale-brewing and midwifery, where their employment was subjected to new restrictions. Proletarian women in particular found it difficult to obtain any job other than those carrying the lowest status: as domestic servants (the occupation of a third of the female work-force), farm-hands, spinners, knitters, embroiderers, hawkers, wet nurses. As Merry Wiesner (among others) tells us, the assumption was gaining ground in the law, in the tax records, in the ordinances of the guilds) that women should not work outside the home, and should engage in “production” only in order to help their husbands. It was even argued that any work that women did at home was “nonwork” and was worthless even when done for the market (Wiesner 1993: 83ff). Thus, if a woman sewed some clothes it was “domestic work” or “housekeeping,” even if the clothes were not for the family, whereas when a man did the same task it was considered productive.” Such was the devaluation of women’s labor that city governments told the guilds to overlook the production that women (especially widows) did in their homes, because it was not real work, and because the women needed it not to fall on public relief. Wiesner adds that women accepted this fiction and even apologized for asking to work, pleading for it on account of their need to support themselves. Soon all female work, if done in the home, was defined as “housekeeping,” and even when done outside the home it was paid less than men’s work, and never enough for women to be able to live by it. Marriage was now seen as a woman’s true career, a women’s inability to support themselves was taken so much for granted, that when a single woman tried to settle in a village, she was driven away even if she earned a wage. Combined with land dispossession, this loss of power with regard to wage employment led to the massification of prostitution… But no sooner had prostitution become the main form of subsistence for a large female population than the institutional attitude towards it changed. Whereas in the late Middle Ages it had been officially accepted as a necessary evil, and prostitutes had benefited from the high wage regime, in the 16th century, the situation was reversed. In a climate of intense misogyny, characterized by the advance of the Protestant Reformation and witch-hunting, prostitution was first subjected to new restrictions and then criminalized…

Though women’s waged work, housework, and (paid) sexual work are still studied all to of ten in isolation from each other, we are now in a better position to see that the discrimination that women have suffered in the waged work-force has been directly root in their function as unpaid laborers in the home. We can thus connect the banning of prostitution and the expulsion of women from the organized workplace with the creation of the housewife and the reconstruction of the family as the locus for the production of labor-power…an important factor in the devaluation of women’s labor is the campaign that craft workers mounted, starting in the late 15th century, to exclude female workers from their work-shops, presumably to protect themselves from the assaults of the capitalist merchants who were employing women at cheaper rates…

It was from this alliance between the crafts and the urban authorities, along with the continuing privatization of land, that a new sexual division of labor or, better, a new “sexual contract.” in Carol Pateman’s words (1988), was forged, defining women in terms – others, wives, daughters, widows — that hid their status as workers, while giving men Come access to women’s bodies, their labor, and the bodies and labor of their children…

…With their expulsion from the crafts and the devaluation of reproductive labor poverty became feminized, and to enforce men’s “primary appropriation” of women’s labor, a new patriarchal order was constructed, reducing women to a double dependence: on employers and on men. The fact that unequal power relations between women and men existed even prior to the advent of capitalism, as did a discriminating sexual division of labor, does not detract from this assessment. For in pre-capitalist Europe women’s subordination to men had been tempered by the fact that they had access to the commons and other communal assets, while in the new capitalist regime women themselves became the commons, as their work was defined as a natural resource, laying outside the sphere of market relations.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

        • Women were exploited to make more laborers
        • Anything against baby making (birth control, infanticidae, etc) was criminialized
          • Burned at the stake, called witches etc.
          • Sexual contract

“But the main initiative that the state took to restore the desired population ratio was the launching of a true war against women clearly aimed at breaking the control they had exercised over their bodies and reproduction. As we will see later in this volume, this war was waged primarily through the witch-hunt that literally demonized any form of birth-control and non-procreative sexuality, while charging women with sacrificing children to the devil. But it also relied on the redefinition of what constitutes a reproductive crime. Thus, starting in the mid-16th century, while Portuguese ships were returning from Africa with their first human cargoes, all the European governments began to impose the severest penalties against contraception, abortion and infanticide…The outcome of these policies that lasted for two centuries (women were still being executed in Europe for infanticide at the end of the 18th century) was the enslavement of women to procreation. While in the Middle Ages women had been able to use various foms of contraceptives, and had exercised an undisputed control over the birthing Process, from now on their wombs became public territory, controlled by men and the state, and procreation was directly placed at the service of capitalist accumulation…the female body was turned into an instrument for the reproduction of labor and the expansion of the work-force, treated as a natural breeding-machine, functioning according to rhythms outside of women’s control.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

  • The Great Witch Hunt in Europe (1550 to 1750)
    • hundreds of thousands of women were burn hanged, and tortured in less than two centuries
      • Typically downplayed and victim blame
        • Only kill the crazy and sexually deviant
      • Reality it was about eliminating the power of woman through terrorism and mass murder

“It should also have seemed significant that the witch-hunt occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of the populations of the New World, the English enclosures, the beginning of the slave trade, the enactment of “bloody laws” against vagabonds and beggars…

What has not been recognized is that the witch-hunt was one of the most important events in the development of capitalist society and the formation of the modern proletariat, For the unleashing of a campaign of terror against women, unmatched by any other persecution, weakened the resistance of the European peasantry to the assault launched against it by the gentry and the state, at a time when the peasant community was already disintegrating under the combined impact of land privatization, increased taxation, and the extension of state control over every aspect of social life. The witchhunt deepened the divisions between women and men, teaching men to fear the power of women, and destroyed a universe of practices, beliefs, and social subjects whose existence was incompatible with the capitalist work discipline, thus redefining the main elements of social reproduction. In this sense, like the contemporary attack on popular culture,” and the “Great Confinement” of paupers and vagabonds in work-houses and correction houses, the witch-hunt was an essential aspect of primitive accumulation and the “transition” to capitalism.”Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

    • Witch hunting was supported by institutions and laws

“It was after the mid-16th century, in the very decades in which the Spanish conquistadors were subjugating the American populations, that the number of women tried as witches escalated, and the initiative for the persecution passed from the Inquisition to the secular courts (Monter 1976:26). Witch-hunting reached its peak between 1580 and 1630, in a period, that is, when feudal relations were already giving way to the economic and political institutions typical of mercantile capitalism…

It was the Carolina — the Imperial legal code enacted by the Catholic Charles V in 1532 — that established that witchcraft be punished by death. In Protestant England, the persecution was legalized by three Acts of Parliament passed in 1542,1563 and 1604, this last introducing the death penalty even in the absence of any damage inflicted upon persons and things. After 1550, laws and ordinances making witchcraft a capital crime and inciting the population to denounce suspected witches, were also passed in Scotland, Switzerland, France, and the Spanish Netherlands. These were re-issued in subsequent years to expand the number of those who could be executed and, again, make witchcraft as such, rather than the damages presumably provoked by it, the major crime…

The mechanisms of the persecution confirm that the witch-hunt was not a spontaneous process, a movement from below to which the ruling and administrative classes were obliged to respond…a witch-hunt required much official organization and administration. Before neighbor accused neighbor, or entire communities were seized by a panic.”a steady indoctrination took place, with the authorities publicly expressing anxiety about the spreading of witches, and traveling from village to village in order to teach people how to recognize them, in some cases carrying with them lists with the names of suspected witches and threatening to punish those who hid them or came to their assistance …The political nature of the witch-hunt is further demonstrated by the fact that both Catholic and Protestant nations, at war against each other in every other respect, joined arms and shared arguments to persecute witches. ”

    • Rarely appears in history books

“That the victims, in Europe, were mostly peasant women may account for the historians’ past indifference towards this genocide, an indifference that has bordered on complicity, since the elimination of the witches from the pages of history has contributed to trivializing their physical elimination at the stake, suggesting that it was a phenomeonon minor significance, if not a matter of folklore…While deploring the extermination of the witches, many have insisted on portraying them as wretched fool afflicted by hallucinations, so that their persecution could be explained as a process “social therapy,” serving to reinforce neighborly cohesion (Midelfort 1972: 3) or could be described in medical terms as a “panic,” a”craze,” an “epidemic,” all characterization that exculpate the witch hunters and depoliticize their crimes.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“contrary to the view propagated by the Enlightenment, the witch-hunt was not the last spark of a dying feudal world. It is well established that the “superstitious” Middle Ages did not persecute any witches; the very concept of “witchcraft” did not take shape until the late Middle Ages, and never, in the “Dark Ages,” were there mass trials and executions, despite the fact that magic permeated daily life and, since the late Roman Empire, it had been feared by the ruling class as a tool of insubordination among the slaves” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

    • Was about destroying women’s power during a time when women were integral to fighting capitalism

“Witch hunting was also instrumental to the construction of a new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources. This means that the witch hunters were less interested in the punishment of any specific transgression than in the elimination of generalized forms of female behavior which they no longer tolerated and had to be made abominable in the eyes of the population. That the charges in the trials of ten referred to events that had occurred decades earlier, that witchcraft was made a crime exceptum, that is, a crime to be investigated by special means, torture included, and it was punishable even in the absence of any proven damage to persons and things — all these factors indicate that the target of the witch-hunt — (as it is often true with political repression in times of intense social change and conflict) — were not socially recognized crimes, but previously accepted practices and groups of individuals that had to be eradicated from the community, through terror and criminalization. In this sense, the charge of witchcraft performed a function similar to that performed by “high treason” (which, significantly, was introduced into the English legal code in the same years), and the charge of “terrorism” in our times. The very vagueness of the charge – the fact that it was impossible to prove it, while at the same time it evoked the maximum of horror — meant that it could be used to punish any form of protest and to generate suspicion even towards the most ordinary aspects of daily life.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“Even more significant is the coincidence between the intensification of the persecution and the explosion of urban and rural revolts. These were the peasant wars” against land privatization, including the uprisings against the “enclosures” in England (in 1549, 1607, 1628,1631), when hundreds of men, women and children, armed with pitchforks and spades, set about destroying the fences erected around the commons, proclaiming that from now on we needn’t work any more.” In France, in 1593-1595, there was the revolt of the Croquants against the tithes, excessive taxation, and the rising price of bread, a phenomenon that caused mass starvation in large areas of Europe.

During these revolts, it was often women who initiated and led the action. Exemplary were the revolt that occurred at Montpellier in 1645, which was started by women who were seeking to protect their children from starvation, and the revolt a Cordoba in 1652 that likewise was initiated by women. It was women, moreover, who (after the revolts were crushed, with many men imprisoned or slaughtered) remained to carry on the resistance, although in a more subterranean manner. This is what may have happened in Southwestern Germany, where a witch-hunt followed by two decades end of the Peasant War” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

“In Europe, the attack waged on women justified the appropriation of their labor by men and the criminalization of their control over reproduction. Always, the price of resistance was extermination. None of the tactics deployed against European women and colonial subjects would have succeeded, had they not been sustained by a campaign of terror. In the case of European women it was the witch-hunt that played the main role in the construction of their new social function, and the degradation of their social identity.

The definition of women as demonic beings, and the atrocious and humiliating practices to which so many of them were subjected left indelible marks in the collection female psyche and in women’s sense of possibilities. From every viewpoint — socially economically, culturaly, politically — the witch-hunt was a turning point in women’s lives; it was the equivalent of the historic defeat to which Engels alludes, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), as the cause of the downfall of the matriarchal world. For the witch-hunt destroyed a whole world of female practices, collective relations, and systems of knowledge that had been the foundation of women’s power in one-capitalist Europe, and the condition for their resistance in the struggle against feudalism.

Out of this defeat a new model of femininity emerged: the ideal woman and wife passive, obedient, thrifty, of few words, always busy at work, and chaste. This change began at the end of the 17th century, after women had been subjected for more than two centuries to state terrorism. Once women were defeated, the image of femininity constructed in the “transition” was discarded as an unnecessary tool, and a new, tamed one took its place. While at the time of the witch-hunt women had been portrayed as savage beings, mentally weak, unsatiably lusty, rebellious, insubordinate, incapable of self-control, by the 18th century the canon has been reversed. Women were now depicted as passive, asexual beings, more obedient, more moral than men, capable of exerting a positive moral influence on them. Even their irrationality could now be valorized, as the Dutch philosopher Pierre Bayle realized in his Dictionaire Historique et Critique (1740), in which he praised the power of the female “maternal instinct,” arguing that that it should be viewed as a truly providential device, ensuring that despite the disadvantages of childbirthing and childraising, women do continue to reproduce.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

      • Colonialism and slavery
        • Financed by upper class

“That in the industrializing regions of Europe, by the 19th century, the most extreme forms of proletarian misery and rebellion had disappeared is not a proof against this claim. Proletarian misery and rebellions did not come to an end; they only lessened to the degree that the super-exploitation of workers had been exported, through the institutionalization of slavery, at first, and later through the continuing expansion of colonial domination…

The plantation system was crucial for capitalist development not only because of the immense amount of surplus labor that was accumulated from it, but because set a model of labor management, export-oriented production, economic integration and international division of labor that have since become paradigmatic for capitalist class relations.

With its immense concentration of workers and its captive labor force uprooted from its homeland, unable to rely on local support, the plantation prefigured not only the factory but also the later use of immigration and globalization to cut the cost of labor In particular, the plantation was a key step in the formation of an international division of labor that (through the production of consumer goods”) integrated the work of the slaves into the reproduction of the European work-force, while keeping enslaved and waged workers geographically and socially divided.

The colonial production of sugar, tea, tobacco,rum, and cotton- the most important commodities, together with bread, in the production of labor-power in Europe – did not take off on a large scale until after the 1650s, after slavery had been institutionalized and wages in Europe had begun to (modestly) rise (Rowling 1987:51,76,85).1t must be mentioned here, however, because, when it did take off two mechanisms were introduced that significantly restructured the reproduction of labor internationally. On one side, a global assembly line was created that cut the cost of the commodities necessary to produce labor-power in Europe, and linked enslaved and waged workers in ways that pre-figured capitalism’s present use of Asian, African, and Latin American workers as providers of “cheap “consumer” goods (cheapened by death squads and military violence) for the “advanced” capitalist countries.

On the other side, the metropolitan wage became the vehicle by which the goods produced by enslaved workers went to the market, and the value of the products of enslaved-labor was realized. In this way, as with female domestic work, the integration of enslaved labor into the production and reproduction of the metropolitan work-force was further established, and the wage was further redefined as an instrument of accumulation, that is, as a lever for mobilizing not only the labor of the workers paid by it, but also for the labor of a multitude of workers hidden by it, because of the unwaged conditions of their work.

In reality, like the Conquest, the slave trade was an epochal misfortune for European workers. As we have seen, slavery (like the witch-hunt) was a major ground of experimentation for methods of labor-control that were later imported into Europe. Slavery also affected the European workers’ wages and legal status for it cannot be a coincidence that only with the end of slavery did wages in Europe decisively increase and did European workers gain the right to organize.

It is also hard to imagine that workers in Europe profited from the Conquest of America, at least in its initial phase. Let us remember that it was the intensity of the antifeudal struggle that instigated the lesser nobility and the merchants to seek colonial expansion, and that the conquistadors came from the ranks of the most-hated enemies of the European working class. It is also important to remember that the Conquest provided the European ruling class with the silver and gold used to pay the mercenary armies that defeated the urban and rural revolts, and that, in the same years when Arawaks, Aztecs, and Incas were being subjugated, workers in Europe were being driven from their homes, branded like animals, and burnt as witches.

For most proletarians, in the 17th and 18th centuries, access to the New World was through indentured servitude and “transportation,” the punishment which the authorities in England adopted to rid the country of convicts, political and religious dissidents, of the vast population of vagabonds and beggars that was produced by the enclosures..

…As for the European proletarians who signed themselves away into indentured servitude or arrived in the New World in consequence of a penal sentence, their lot was not too different, at first, from that of the African slaves with whom they often wocked side by side. Their hostility to their masters was equally intense, so that the planters viewed them as a dangerous lot and, by the second half of the 17th century, began to limit their use and introduced a legislation aimed at separating them from the Africans. But only at the end of the 18th century were racial boundaries irrevocably drawn (Moulier Boutang 1998). Until then, the possibility of alliances between whites, blacks, and aboriginal peoples, and the fear of such unity in the European ruling class’ imagination, at home and on the plantations, was constantly present. ” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

    • Massive accumulation of wealth to newly crested upper class (bourgeoisie)
        • Land privatization and the commercialization of agriculture did not increase the food supply available to the common people
          • But more food was made available for the market and for export for profit for upper class

“Also in view of these developments, we cannot say, then, that the separation of the worker from the land and the advent of a money-economy realized the struggle which the medieval serfs had fought to free themselves from bondage. It was not the workers – Diale or female — who were liberated by land privatization. What was “liberated” was capital, as the land was now “free” to function as a means of accumulation and exploitation, rather than as a means of subsistence. Liberated were the landlords, who now could unload onto the workers most of the cost of their reproduction, giving them access to some means of subsistence only when directly employed. When work would not be available or would not be sufficiently profitable, as in times of commercial or agricultural crisis, workers, instead, could be laid off and left to starve.”

“But these arguments do not hold. Land privatization and the commercialization of agriculture did not increase the food supply available to the common people, though more food was made available for the market and for export. For workers they inaugurated two centuries of starvation, in the same way as today, even in the most fertile areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, malnutrition is rampant due to the destruction of communal land-tenure and the “export or perish” policy imposed by the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs. Nor did the introduction of new agricultural techniques in England compensate for this loss. On the contrary, the development of agrarian capitalism “worked hand in glove” with the impoverishment of the rural population (Lis and Soly 1979: 102). A testimony to the misery produced by land privatization is the fact that, barely a century after the emergence of agrarian capitalism, sixty European towns had instituted some form of social assistance or were moving in this direction, and vagabondage had become an international problem (ibid.: 87)…

…The same considerations apply to the “commons.” Disparaged in 16th century literature as a source of laziness and disorder, the commons were essential to the reproduction of many small farmers or cottars who survived only because they had access to meadows in which to keep cows, or woods in which to gather timber, wild berries and herbs, or quarries, fish-ponds, and open spaces in which to meet. Beside encouraging collective decisionmaking and work cooperation, the commons were the material foundation upon which Peasant solidarity and sociality could thrive…

…This web of cooperative relations, which R.D.Tawney has referred to as the primitive communism” of the feudal village, crumbled when the open-field system was abolished and the communal lands were fenced off (Tawney 1967). Not only did cooperation in agricultural labor die when land was privatized and individual labor contracts replaced collective ones; economic differences among the rural population deepened, as the number of poor squatters increased who had nothing left but a cot and a cow, and no choice but to go with “bended knee and cap in hand” to beg for a job (Seccombe 1992), Social cohesion broke down;30 families disintegrated, the youth left the village to join the increasing number of vagabonds or itinerant workers — soon to become the social problem of the age — while the elderly were left behind to fend for themselves. Particularly disadvantaged were older women who, no longer supported by their children, fell onto the poor rolls or survived by borrowing, petty theft, and delayed payments. The outcome was a peasantry polarized not only by the deepening economic inequalities, but by a web of hatred and resentments that is well-documented in the records of the witch-hunt, which show that quarrels relating to requests for help, the trespassing of animals, or unpaid rents were in the background of many accusations.” Silvia Federici: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

    • Rise of Merchant class

“The relatively static feudal way of life, which had endured for centuries, began to break down at the beginning of the 16th Century. A primary cause of the shift away from feudalism was increased foreign trade, which led to the emergence of a new class of merchant capitalist. These new merchants amassed great fortunes by purchasing foreign goods cheaply and selling them on at huge profits to Europe’s aristocracy.

This boom led to many European countries growing rich from taxes and attempting to boost their share of trade by establishing colonial empires. Once a country established a colony, it would try to impose a trading monopoly by banning foreign merchants and ships. For example, the riches of Spanish colonies in the Americas could only be exported to Spain, where they were traded on to other European countries at a tremendous mark up, enriching both Spanish merchants and the Spanish state.

The race for new colonies inevitably led to conflict. England, being a relative latecomer to the international trade race, found that many of the prime sources of wealth had already been snapped up, so it embarked on nearly three centuries of war to establish its own colonial empire. Thus, it defeated Spain in the 16th Century, Holland in the 17th Century, and France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Having meanwhile spread its supremacy throughout Britain, England thus became the world’s mightiest seafaring and colonial power. Indeed, it was to engage in bloody wars right up to the second world war in an attempt to maintain economic power (ironically, after centuries of war, Britain finally lost her superpower economic status to a former colony and a close friend – the USA).

The growth in trade both outside and within Europe led to increased money exchange. This in turn led to inflation being injected into the feudal economies for the first time, so that the 16th Century witnessed a price revolution. For instance, in Britain, wheat prices, which had been static for centuries, more than trebled between 1500 and 1574.

Increased use of money and inflation began to undermine the feudal order. The gentry wanted money to buy the new luxury goods that flooded Europe. Meanwhile, spiralling prices meant they could make money either by producing and trading agricultural goods directly, or by renting the land to a growing class of large-scale farmers. Thus, capitalism was quick to penetrate into English agriculture, where part of the land-owning class formed a bloc with the new capitalist farmer.

These changes in the economy led to a dramatic change in social relations. The peasantry, who had been, to all intents and purposes, tied to the land and virtually owned by the lords, were set “free” – in other words, evicted. Evictions gathered pace as trade increased, especially as the growth of the textile industry raised the demand for high quality English wool. The landed gentry enclosed more and more common land, to raise sheep. Such land was owned collectively by the peasantry and was forcibly taken over – stolen – by the aristocracy. Some measure of the pace of evictions can be gauged from contemporary writers. Thomas Moore, at the start of the 16th Century, recorded that “the sheep swallow down the very men themselves”. By 1581, H. Stafford wrote:

“Gentlemen do not consider it a crime to drive poor people off their property. On the contrary, they insist that the land belongs to them and throw the poor out of their shelter, like curs. In England at the moment, thousands of people, previously decent householders, now go begging, staggering from door to door.”

Evicted from the land and faced with massive price rises for basic foods, the lives of an increasing number of landless peasants became ones of desperation and growing starvation. Evictions were to carry on in Britain for the next three centuries. As a result, today, it still has the smallest rural population in the industrialised world, and even amongst these, the majority neither own nor work on the land. (It is interesting to note that the transition from feudalism to capitalism took a different route in France due to the French revolution. The land, which under feudalism was jointly owned by the lord and the peasant, was taken from the defeated aristocracy and handed to the peasantry, making France a country of small-scale peasant holdingsthe opposite of what occurred in Britain.)

It was not just in the countryside that the feudal order was breaking down. In the towns throughout the 16th Century, the guild system also suffered due to the increased trade. The new merchant capitalists now bought goods locally for export. Hence, these were no longer produced for sale locally, but were instead sold to merchants. As merchants could travel the country to buy the cheapest goods, craftsmen soon found themselves competing with each other in a national market. This undermined the guild system, which could only operate through control of regional economies, maintaining monopoly production, and keeping market forces at bay. However, with the establishment of a national market, the regional monopolies were broken. Henceforth, market forces began to dictate patterns of trade, fundamentally affecting all aspects of production, consumption and pricing of goods.

The emergence of Capitalism

Capitalism started to emerge during the 17th Century. At first the merchants, or “buyer uppers”, as they became known, were a link between the consumer and producer. However, gradually, they began to dominate the latter, first by placing orders and paying in advance, then by supplying the raw materials, and paying a wage for the work done in producing finished goods.

The concept of a waged worker signalled a crucial stage in the development of capitalism. Its introduction was the final stage in the “buyer uppers” transition from merchant, (making money from trade), to capitalist (deriving wealth from the ownership and control of the means of production). The first stage of capitalism had come into being. This stage saw one new class, the primitive capitalists, exerting power over another new class, the waged workers.

Early capitalism also engendered new methods of production. The earliest was the ‘cottage industry’, which saw individual homes become mini-factories, with production directed by the capitalist. The cottage industry model became so widespread in the woollen textile industry that it became a method of mass production. In turn, the wool trade became Britain’s most important industry by the end of the 17th Century.

Importantly, the hundred-year transition from feudalism to primitive capitalism had strong state support. The regionally based feudal economies and the power of the aristocracy ran counter to the interests of this alliance between capitalism and the increasingly centralised state. The state gained the wealth it desperately needed to maintain its growing bureaucracy and standing army, by tapping into capitalism through taxes, customs, duties and state loans. In return, it conquered colonies, fought for dominance of the world’s markets, and took measures against foreign competition and the power of the aristocracy. Such measures included bans on the import of manufactured goods, restrictions on the export of raw materials destined for competitors, and tax concessions on the import of raw materials. Restrictions on exporting raw materials hit the aristocracy particularly hard as agricultural produce is, by its very nature, raw materials. Thus, bureaucrats and capitalists defeated the aristocracy – though a section did survive the transition from feudalism by forming an alliance with the new capitalists.

It is worth noting here that the alliance between the state and capitalism occurred across Europe, though in different forms.instance, in Germany, where capitalism was much less developed and therefore weaker, the more powerful state was able to exercise much more control. This was an early indication of the development of the social market in Germany under which the state has much more power. In Britain, capitalism was much more developed and so was able to exert much more influence, leading to the development of the free market system, under which the state has far less influence.

Social impact of capitalism

The establishment of capitalism was a time of upheaval and bitter struggles between new and old power-brokers. At the same time, the mass of the population were dragged unwillingly into an increasingly violent conditioning process. The new capitalists needed to be able to exert ever more pressure on their producers to produce more for less, so that the capitalists could maintain trading prices and increase profits. They looked to the state to ensure pressure was brought to bear on workers who, for the first time, were being forced to sell their labour in an increasingly competitive work environment, which was itself aggravated by the swollen ranks of the new landless and unemployed. Laws were passed setting a rate for the maximum wage payable to peasants. The aim of all this brutal legislation was to turn the dispossessed into a disciplined obedient class of wage workers who, for a pittance, would offer up their labour to the new capitalism. The state also clamped down on beggars, whose ranks were swollen by dispossessed peasants and ruined craftsmen. Able- bodied vagabonds were lashed or branded with red-hot irons, while persistent vagrants were liable to execution.

The problem of creating a disciplined and regimented workforce should not be underestimated. Viewed from our advanced modern industrial perspective, submitting to the routine of going to work daily, for a set number of hours, usually inside a building, appears the norm. From the perspective of 16th and 17th Century peasants, however, this routine would have been alien. The working day under a pre- capitalist agrarian system would have been shaped by hours of light and hours of darkness, as most work took place out of doors. The intensity and length of labour was dictated by seasonal considerations, such as planting or harvest periods. Similarly, holiday periods, even those marked by the Church, were seasonally derived and often based on ancient pagan festivals. The number and extent of these holidays helped define and shape the working year; up until the Reformation during the 16th Century, it is estimated that around 165 days a year, excluding Sundays, were given over to celebrations and festivals. .”Solidarity Federation: Origins of Capitalism

    • Rise of factories, manufacturing, and industrial revolution
      • Removing peasants ability to survived created a huge mass of poor people ready to join the harsh realities of 17th century factories

“…The working class lifestyle under the factory system, with its new forms of social control, was a radical break with the past. It involved drastic loss of control over their own work. The seventeenth century work calendar was still heavily influenced by medieval custom. Although there were long days in spurts between planting and harvest, intermittent periods of light work and the proliferation of saints days combined to reduce average work-time well below our own. And the pace of work was generally determined by the sun or the biological rhythms of the laborer, who got up after a decent night’s sleep, and sat down to rest when he felt like it. The cottager who had access to common land, even when he wanted extra income from wage labor, could take work on a casual basis and then return to working for himself. This was an unacceptable degree of independence from a capitalist standpoint.

In the modern world most people have to adapt themselves to some kind of discipline, and to observe other’ people’s timetables, …or work under other people’s orders, but we have to remember that the population that was flung into the brutal rhythm of the factory had earned its living in relative freedom, and that the discipline of the early factory was particularly savage…. No economist of the day, in estimating the gains or losses of factory employment, ever allowed for the strain and violence that a man suffered in his feelings when he passed from a life in which he could smoke or eat, or dig or sleep as he pleased, to one in which somebody turned the key on him, and for fourteen hours he had not even the right to whistle. It was like entering the airless and laughterless life of a prison [the Hammonds, Town Labourer 1:33-34].

The factory system could not have been imposed on workers without first depriving them of alternatives, and forcibly denying access to any source of economic independence. No unbroken human being, with a sense of freedom or dignity, would have submitted to factory discipline. Stephen Marglin compared the nineteenth century textile factory, staffed by pauper children bought at the workhouse slave market, to Roman brick and pottery factories which were manned by slaves. In Rome, factory production was exceptional in manufactures dominated by freemen. The factory system, throughout history, has been possible only with a work force deprived of any viable alternative.

The surviving facts… strongly suggest that whether work was organized along factory lines was in Roman times determined, not by technological considerations, but by the relative power of the two producing classes. Freedmen and citizens had sufficient power to maintain a guild organization. Slaves had no power–and ended up in factories [“What Do Bosses Do?”].

The problem with the old “putting out” system, in which cottage workers produced textiles on a contractual basis, was that it only eliminated worker control of the product. The factory system, by eliminating worker control of the production process, had the advantage of discipline and supervision, with workers organized under an overseer.

The origin and success of the factory lay not in technological superiority, but in the substitution of the capitalist’s for the worker’s control of the work process and the quantity of output, in the change in the workman’s choice from one of how much to work and produce, based on his preferences for leisure and goods, to one of whether or not to work at all, which of course is hardly much of a choice….

…Christopher Lasch, in his foreword to Noble’s America by Design, characterized the process of de-skilling in this way:

The capitalist, having expropriated the worker’s property, gradually expropriated his technical knowledge as well, asserting his own mastery over production….

The expropriation of the worker’s technical knowledge had as a logical consequence the growth of modern management, in which technical knowledge came to be concentrated. As the scientific management movement split up production into its component procedures, reducing the worker to an appendage of the machine, a great expansion of technical and supervisory personnel took place in order to oversee the productive process as a whole [pp. xi-xii].

The expropriation of the peasantry and imposition of the factory labor system was not accomplished without resistance; the workers knew exactly what was being done to them and what they had lost. During the 1790s, when rhetoric from the Jacobins and Tom Paine were widespread among the radi- calized working class, the rulers of “the cradle of liberty” lived in terror that the country would be swept by revolution. The system of police state controls over the population resembled an alien occupation regime. The Hammonds referred to correspondence between north-country magistrates and the Home Office, in which the law was frankly treated “as an instrument not of justice but of repression,” and the working classes “appear[ed]… con- spicuously as a helot population.” [Town Labourer 72]…

…British manufacturing was created by state intervention to shut out foreign goods, give British shipping a monopoly of foreign commerce, and stamp out foreign competition by force. As an example of the latter, British authorities in India destroyed the Bengalese textile industry, makers of the highest quality fabric in the world. Although they had not adopted steam-driven methods of production, there is a real possibility that they would have done so, had India remained politically and economically independent. The once prosperous territory of Bengal is today occupied by Bangladesh and the Calcutta area [Chomsky, World Orders Old and New].

The American, German and Japanese industrial systems were created by the same mercantilist policies, with massive tariffs on industrial goods. “Free trade” was adopted by safely established industrial powers, who used “laissez-faire” as an ideological weapon to prevent potential rivals from following the same path of industrialization. Capitalism has never been established by means of the free market, or even by the primary action of the bourgeoisie. It has always been established by a revolution from above, imposed by a pre-capitalist ruling class. In England, it was the landed aristocracy; in France, Napoleon II’s bureaucracy; in Germany, the Junkers; in Japan, the Meiji. In America, the closest approach to a “natural” bour- geois evolution, industrialization was carried out by a mercantilist aristocracy of Federalist shipping magnates and landlords [Harrington, Twilight of Capitalism].” Kevin A. Carson,  The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege

“The spread of capitalism meant that the feudal economic system and the power of the aristocracy was in terminal decline by the late 17th Century. The establishment of mass production, based on the cottage industry, meant England was well on the way to becoming a capitalist and industrially-based society. As the 18th Century progressed, this transition was completed.

During the 18th Century, a primitive form of manufacturing developed, which differed from cottage production in that workers did not work from home, but rather from single premises, or factory, owned by the capitalist. However, this early manufacturing differed from its later form in that it still depended on human physical power with little use of machinery. As such, early 18th Century manufacturing can be seen as a link between domestic production, based on cottage industry, and capitalist production, based on the mechanised factory system.

At first, the move towards factory production was driven by cost. Centralised production spared capitalists the cost of distributing raw materials to individual workers. Further, as the factory system developed, it soon became clear that it gave capitalism much greater control over the workforce, establishing tighter organisation of work and workers and thus higher productivity.

Keeping production under one roof also meant the possibility of speeding it up by breaking the process down into planned stages. This entailed workers specialising in one particular component of the production process. Within this new system, the worker’s role was reduced to repeating the same monotonous task over and over. This led to gains by the capitalist because of the greater speed of the production process and the better quality of the goods. Importantly, this division of labour into separate tasks significantly transformed the nature of work. It effectively de-skilled craftsmen and women who had been trained to produce finished goods by participating in the process of production from beginning to end and arguably, removing the sense of meaningfulness inherent in being present in the whole process of production to the point of completion.

These transformations, of the place and nature of work, lead to yet another fundamental change in social relations. Society rapidly evolved into two clearly defined social classes, the industrial capitalist and the waged worker. Capitalists broke their remaining links with their merchant past, giving up their commercial role to concentrate on organising the production process. Their sole source of income was profit, gained from the exploitation of the labour of the emerging working class.

Working class life also changed dramatically under the factory system. Even under the cottage industry system workers had had some independence. Owning their own basic tools and cultivating a plot of land enabled them to subsidise their income. This, and the fact that they worked unsupervised from home, gave them some degree of autonomy and control. In the factory, any semblance of autonomy was lost completely. Workers had to work a specific number of hours under the direct supervision of the capitalist, who owned the more specialised tools. With no land or tools to earn extra income from, workers became totally dependent on their ability to sell their labour. Thus, a clearly defined working class was emerging, separated totally from even limited control of the means of production. The wage slave had been born. New social relations within the factory also developed. With the division of labour it was necessary for someone to co-ordinate the actions of many workers. The job of overseer, or foreman, came into being, separate from the rest of the skilled workers. Also, as production was increasingly simplified, the unskilled worker came into the process; a concept which had never before existed. Though the creation of the primitive factory system did greatly increase productivity, the savings made were not enough to entirely eliminate cottage industries, which still had many advantages.

Under the cottage system, the capitalist did not have to pay for a factory and its upkeep. Wages could be kept to a minimum, as cottage labourers paid for much of their own upkeep through growing their own food and working on their own behalf. As a result, production was often integrated, with the first and last parts of the process based in the factory, and the intermediate parts done by cottage labourers. Through such developments, manufacturing grew out of the cottage industry in Britain. This contrasted with the rest of Europe, where the state generally remained stronger, and attempted to introduce manufacturing by planning, providing factories and recruiting the workforce. For example, in France, capitalism was far more state-directed, and this remains the case today.

The needs of capitalism changed as factory production developed and the state was again enlisted to ensure continued expansion. Under existing apprenticeship laws, the right to engage independently in industry was only granted to men who had served a seven-year apprenticeship and who were members of a guild. This severely limited the number of workers that could be hired, which hampered the spread of factory production. At first, manufacturers by-passed guild regulations by setting up in rural areas and new towns where the guild system didn’t operate and by investing in new industries not covered by guilds. However, as capitalism expanded, calls for an unregulated free labour market grew. The state responded by sweeping away the remaining restrictive guild regulations, bringing their power to an end. It also undermined the practice of local Justices of the Peace setting minimum wage levels. The free market form of British capitalism demanded and got a completely deregulated, unprotected workforce that it could then exploit to the full.

Capitalism developed quicker in Britain and was far more ‘productive’ than elsewhere – it produced more goods more cheaply. This brought calls from British capitalists for international free trade and for an end to protectionism. So, after centuries of building up the economy behind barriers to foreign competition, Britain suddenly decided that protectionism is an abomination. This tactic has been used since by all advanced capitalist countries including the US, Germany and Japan. Current attempts by the developed nations to force underdeveloped nations to open their borders to free trade under so-called free trade agreements should be viewed in this light.

The laws originally brought in by the state to protect the interests of capitalism against foreign competition were now a barrier, preventing the more dynamic sectors of British industry, most notably the cotton and metal trades, from exploiting overseas markets. By the late 18th Century, calls for free trade had gained widespread currency, particularly with the publication, in 1776, of Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations. These laissez faire free market ideas, upon which British capitalism developed, still dominate the British ruling elite’s thinking, and helps explain why the Thatcherite free market “revolution” occurred in Britain in the 1980s, rather than elsewhere.

The Industrial Revolution

By the early 1770s, the economic and social conditions were in place for the industrial revolution to explode on to the world’s economies. Powered by a number of new inventions, the primitive factory system was transformed, as machine power drove productivity to unprecedented levels. With the factories transformed by the new machinery, the cottage industries could not possibly compete and soon collapsed. Between the 1770s and the 1830s, there was a boom in factory production with all manner of buildings being converted into factories and the majority of waged labour taking place within factory buildings.

It would be over-simplistic, however, to see the industrial revolution merely as a result of the invention of machines that replaced many workers. As we have seen, the social relations needed for the industrial revolution to take place had taken centuries to evolve. Without the factory system, these inventions would have been meaningless. In the first place, the machinery introduced into the work places of late eighteen and early nineteenth century England was specifically intended for factories, as they had developed within the economic and social conditions of the time. In this sense, we can see that these inventions themselves were largely products of a particular context within history. In addition, it should be noted that the invention of machines to aid production was hardly new. Under feudalism their introduction had been opposed by the guilds, often violently, with the audacious inventor occasionally being put to death. For example, the Ripon loom was banned in the 16th Century after guild opposition. But the demise of the guilds meant the way was opened for the introduction of all manner of labour-saving inventions. The water wheel, the blast furnace, pumping machines for mines, improved transmission of power through cog-wheels and fly-wheels, were just a few of the innovations which paved the way for the industrial revolution.

Given the pre-conditions for the development of capitalist industry, it is hardly surprising that the industrial revolution first took off in the cotton industry. Cotton production only appeared in Britain in the late 17th Century and was free of any guild restrictions. Further, it had to compete with the well-established woollen industry.

Both these factors encouraged higher productivity, resulting in the invention of the spinning jenny in the 1730s, followed by the mule, followed by the mechanical loom.

However, it was not until the invention of the steam engine that the industrial revolution truly took off. Steam power replaced human power, first in the cotton and metal industries, then throughout the rest of industry. This explosion in productive power transformed Britain’s economy. As productivity increased, so the prices of manufactured goods plummeted, stimulating demand for British goods across the world. As a result, the value of British exports rose from £15million in 1760 to £59million in 1805. This new wealth, however, was not experienced by the workers whose labour had made it possible. Abroad, these were the black slaves upon whose backs the cotton industry in Lancashire grew and prospered. In Britain, it was concentrated amongst the few, capitalists who owned the means of production and ‘bought’ with capitalist-dictated wages, the labour of the workers.

It is important to note that ownership of the ‘means of production’ at this stage in the development of industrial capitalism meant not only the ownership of factories, machinery and the power to invest or withhold capital, but also the means of the production of knowledge. Capitalists who owned newspapers, for example, could exert great political influence to protect their own interests. Ownership of a newspaper meant not only the direct control of print workers, distributors and sellers, but control over the transmission of information. This could, for instance, extend to direct or indirect political influence through specific politicians or parties. It might also extend and protect capitalist interests by the spread of ideology and, less subtly, blatant propaganda.

Within the conditions engendered by the industrial revolution, workers faced up to eighteen hours a day in the factories and horrific living conditions in the “booming” manufacturing towns. The brutality of the new capitalist system is perhaps best summed up by its treatment of children. Women workers, from the onset of the industrial revolution, were used as cheap labour, while retaining child- raising responsibilities. With nowhere to leave children, women had little choice but to bring them to work. It was not long before they were seen by capitalism as an even cheaper source of labour. By the early 1800s, children as young as five could be found working up to twenty hours a day down mines, with conditions little better above ground in the factories. Orphanages systematised this slavery, handing over a steady stream of children to factory owners.

Along with terrible living and working conditions, wages fell in real terms, due to rocketing corn prices caused by the Napoleonic wars. In response to the rise in corn prices, and with an eye on the main chance, large farmers and the aristocracy rushed to grow wheat on every available patch of land. This caused the enclosure of yet more “common” land, emptying the countryside of ever-greater numbers of peasant farmers, and driving them into the misery of the industrial cities. This conclusive chapter in rural clearance completed the centuries-old process of transforming Britain from a feudal agricultural society into the world’s first capitalist industrial society. Demographic statistics of the period are extremely illuminating; in 1750 some 90% of the population of England lived in the countryside. By the time of the 1851 census the number of people living in urban settlements was greater than those living rurally.” Solidarity Federation: Origins of Capitalism

Further Readings

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Capitalism + Imperialism = Colonialism

“after the scope for expansion became limited inside of their national economies, their main attention was turned to those countries whose economies were less developed and who would therefore offer little or no opposition to the penetration of foreign capitalism. That penetration of foreign capitalism on a world-wide scale from the late 19th century onwards is what we call ‘imperialism’.  Imperialism meant capitalist expansion. It meant that European (and North American and Japanese) capitalists were forced by the internal logic of their competitive system to seek abroad in less developed countries opportunities to control raw material supplies, to find markets, and to find profitable fields of investment.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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“In the centuries before colonial rule, Europe increased its economic capacity by leaps and bounds, while Africa appeared to have been almost static. Africa in the late 19th century could still be described as part communal and part feudal, although Western Europe had moved completely from feudalism to capitalism. To elucidate the main thesis of this study, it is necessary to follow not only the development of Europe and the underdevelopment of Africa, but also to understand how those two combined in a single system — that of capitalist imperialism.

The European economy was producing far more goods by making use of their own resources and labour, as well as the resources and labour of the rest of the world. There were many qualitative changes in the European economy, which accompanied and made possible the increase in the quantity of goods. For example, machines and factories rather than and provided the main source of wealth; and labour had long since ceased to be organised on a restricted family basis. The peasantry had been brutally destroyed and the labour of men, women and children was ruthlessly exploited. Those were the great social evils of the capitalist system, which must not be forgotten; but, on the issue of comparative economics, the relevant fact is that what was a slight difference when the Portuguese sailed to West Africa in 1444 was a huge gap by the time that European robber statesmen sat down in Berlin 440 years later to decide who should steal which parts of Africa. It was that gap which provided both the necessity and the opportunity for Europe to move into the imperialist epoch, and to colonise and further underdevelop Africa.

The growing technological and economic gap between Western Europe and Africa was part of the trend within capitalism to concentrate or polarise wealth and poverty at two opposite extremes.

Inside of Western Europe itself, some nations grew rich at the expense of others. Britain, France and Germany were the most prosperous nations. Poverty prevailed in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Southern Italy. Inside of the British, French and German economies, the polarisation of wealth was between the capitalists on the one hand and the workers and a few peasants on the other. The big capitalists got bigger and the little ones were eliminated. In many important fields, such as iron and steel manufacture, textiles and particularly banking, it was noticeable that two or three firms monopolised most of the business. The banks were also in a commanding position within the economy as a whole, providing capital to the big monopoly industrial firms.

European monopoly firms operated by constantly fighting gain control over raw materials, markets and means of communications. They also fought to be the first to invest in new profitable undertakings related to their line of business — whether it be inside or outside their countries. Indeed, after the scope for expansion became limited inside of their national economies, their main attention was turned to those countries whose economies were less developed and who would therefore offer little or no opposition to the penetration of foreign capitalism. That penetration of foreign capitalism on a world-wide scale from the late 19th century onwards is what we call ‘imperialism’.

Imperialism meant capitalist expansion. It meant that European (and North American and Japanese) capitalists were forced by the internal logic of their competitive system to seek abroad in less developed countries opportunities to control raw material supplies, to find markets, and to find profitable fields of investment. The centuries of trade with Africa contributed greatly to that state of affairs where European capitalists were faced with the necessity to expand in a big way outside of their national economies.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Building on the work of the Black radical sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox, Robinson directly challenges the Marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary negation of feudalism. Instead, Robinson explains, capitalism emerged within the feudal order and grew in fits and starts, flowering in the cultural soil of the West-most notably in the racialism that has come to characterize European society. Capitalism and racism, in other words, did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of “racial capitalism” dependent on slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide…

…Driven, however, by the need to achieve the scientific elegance and interpretive economy demanded by theory, Marx consigned race, gender, culture, and history to the dustbin. Fully aware of the constant place women and children held in the workforce, Marx still deemed them so unimportant as a proportion of wage labor that he tossed them, with slave labor and peasants, into the imagined abyss signified by precapitalist, noncapitalist, and primitive accumulation. And how, can we suppose, was Marx’s conception of the mode-specific, internal development of European productive forces to accommodate the technological borrowings from China, India, Africa, and the Americas which propelled the West into industrialism and imperialism?’ As Andre Gunder Frank declares:

the original sin of Marx, Weber, and their followers was to look for the “origin”, “cause,” “nature,” “mechanism,” indeed the “essence” of it (capitalism, development, modernization) all essentially in European exceptionalism instead of in the real world economy/system. ” Cedric J. Robinson: Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

“Imperialism is essentially an economic phenomena, and it does not necessarily lead to direct political control or colonisation. However, Africa was the victim of colonisation. In the period of the notorious Scramble for Africa’, Europeans made a grab for whatever they thought spelt profits in Africa, and they even consciously acquired many areas not for immediate exploitation but with an eye to the future. Each European nation that had these short-term and long-term economic interests ran up its own flag in different parts of Africa and established colonial rule. The gap that had arisen during the period of pre-colonial trade gave Europe the power to impose political domination on Africa.

Pre-colonial trade in slaves, ivory, gold, etc., was conducted from the coasts of Africa. On the coasts, European ships could dominate the scene, and if necessary forts could be built. Before the 19th century, Europe was incapable of penetrating the African continent, because the balance of force of their disposal was inadequate. But the same technological changes which created the need to penetrate Africa also created the power to conquer Africa. The firearms of the imperialist epoch marked a qualitative leap forward. Breech-loading rifles and machine guns were a far cry from the smooth-bored muzzle loaders and flintlocks of the previous era. European imperialists in Africa boasted that what counted was the fact that they had the Maxim machine gun and Africans did not.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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African Colonization

Vox: European colonialism conquered every country in the world but these five

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*There is also debate as to whether Ethiopia could be considered the sixth country never subjugated by European colonialism. Italy colonized neighboring countries, and Ethiopia ceded several territories to Italian colonization as part of an 1889 treaty. The treaty was also intended to force Ethiopia to cede its foreign affairs to Italy — a hallmark of colonial subjugation — but the Amharic version of the treaty excluded this fact due to a mistranslation, leading to a war that Italy lost. Later, Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1935 and annexed it the next year, but this lasted only until 1941. While some consider this period of Italian rule to be a function of colonialism, others argue that it’s better understood as part of World War Two and thus no more Italian colonization than the Nazi conquest of Poland was German colonization — although it could be certainly be argued that these fascist expansions were in fact a form of colonialism, as many eastern Europeans might.

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Aamer Rahman Reverse Racism and a Summary of European Colonialism

Why was Europe able to colonize much of the world?

  • Geography benefits (Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, And Steel)
    • Silk Road
      • Only major trade route that stay along similar latitudes
        • Allowed for nations experiencing same climates to share and grow simliar technologies
          • Also to build resitence to simliar endemic diseases
        • Such as guns, which originated in China but was improved in Europe
          • Europe used advance guns to start an arms race in Africa
            • Many African nations traded enslaved people for arms to keep up with arms race
          • Slave trade removed millions of productive adults from Africa society
            • Significantly reducing its growth
  • European capitalism
    • Which created more wealth by labor exploitation
      • African countries and other colonized countries were still operating in feudalism when Europe colonization began
    • Europe was able to export their systems of exploitation for profit across the world during Europe colonialism through
      • Brutal force backed by advance technology and diseases
        • Advance weapons
        • Quinine
        • Steam Engine, telegraph, rubber tires, etc.
    • Capitalist imperialism
      • Big monopoly industrial firms
        • Financed by European banking
      • Look to the rest of the world for resources and exploited labor
        • Creating an enormous amount of wealth that continue to finance this vicious cycle
      • “after the scope for expansion became limited inside of their national economies, their main attention was turned to those countries whose economies were less developed and who would therefore offer little or no opposition to the penetration of foreign capitalism. That penetration of foreign capitalism on a world-wide scale from the late 19th century onwards is what we call ‘imperialism’.  Imperialism meant capitalist expansion. It meant that European (and North American and Japanese) capitalists were forced by the internal logic of their competitive system to seek abroad in less developed countries opportunities to control raw material supplies, to find markets, and to find profitable fields of investment.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“In the centuries before colonial rule, Europe increased its economic capacity by leaps and bounds, while Africa appeared to have been almost static. Africa in the late 19th century could still be described as part communal and part feudal, although Western Europe had moved completely from feudalism to capitalism. To elucidate the main thesis of this study, it is necessary to follow not only the development of Europe and the underdevelopment of Africa, but also to understand how those two combined in a single system — that of capitalist imperialism.

The European economy was producing far more goods by making use of their own resources and labour, as well as the resources and labour of the rest of the world. There were many qualitative changes in the European economy, which accompanied and made possible the increase in the quantity of goods. For example, machines and factories rather than and provided the main source of wealth; and labour had long since ceased to be organised on a restricted family basis. The peasantry had been brutally destroyed and the labour of men, women and children was ruthlessly exploited. Those were the great social evils of the capitalist system, which must not be forgotten; but, on the issue of comparative economics, the relevant fact is that what was a slight difference when the Portuguese sailed to West Africa in 1444 was a huge gap by the time that European robber statesmen sat down in Berlin 440 years later to decide who should steal which parts of Africa. It was that gap which provided both the necessity and the opportunity for Europe to move into the imperialist epoch, and to colonise and further underdevelop Africa.

The growing technological and economic gap between Western Europe and Africa was part of the trend within capitalism to concentrate or polarise wealth and poverty at two opposite extremes.

Inside of Western Europe itself, some nations grew rich at the expense of others. Britain, France and Germany were the most prosperous nations. Poverty prevailed in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Southern Italy. Inside of the British, French and German economies, the polarisation of wealth was between the capitalists on the one hand and the workers and a few peasants on the other. The big capitalists got bigger and the little ones were eliminated. In many important fields, such as iron and steel manufacture, textiles and particularly banking, it was noticeable that two or three firms monopolised most of the business. The banks were also in a commanding position within the economy as a whole, providing capital to the big monopoly industrial firms.

European monopoly firms operated by constantly fighting gain control over raw materials, markets and means of communications. They also fought to be the first to invest in new profitable undertakings related to their line of business — whether it be inside or outside their countries. Indeed, after the scope for expansion became limited inside of their national economies, their main attention was turned to those countries whose economies were less developed and who would therefore offer little or no opposition to the penetration of foreign capitalism. That penetration of foreign capitalism on a world-wide scale from the late 19th century onwards is what we call ‘imperialism’.

Imperialism meant capitalist expansion. It meant that European (and North American and Japanese) capitalists were forced by the internal logic of their competitive system to seek abroad in less developed countries opportunities to control raw material supplies, to find markets, and to find profitable fields of investment. The centuries of trade with Africa contributed greatly to that state of affairs where European capitalists were faced with the necessity to expand in a big way outside of their national economies.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  • Unequal trade partnerships (unequal exchange)
    • Europeans destroyed many industries in poorer countries
      • Forced poorer countries to focus on resource extraction to export to Europe for not much value
      • And to import the manufactured products
        • Allowing European countries to capture most of the value
    • Indian and African textile industries
      • During early European/African/Indian trade Europeans relied heavily on Indian cloths for resale in Africa
        • Also purchased cloths on several parts of the West African coast for resale elsewhere.
      • Europeans reversed that by
        • Destroying local textile industries in India
        • European textiles industry receive advanced technology in late 18th Century that other countries did not receive due to colonialism, slavery, and uneqal exchange
        • “Europe benefitted technologically from its external trade contacts, while Africa either failed to benefit or actually lost. Vital inventions and innovations appeared in England in the late 18th century, after profits from external trade had been re-invested. Indeed, the new machinery represented the investment of primary capital accumulated from trading and from slavery.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“It has already been indicated that in the 15th century European technology was not totally superior to that of other parts of the world. There were certain specific features which were highly advantageous to Europe-such as shipping and (to a lesser extent) guns. Europeans trading to Africa had to make use of Asian and African consumer goods, showing that their system of production was not absolutely superior. It is particularly striking that in the early centuries of trade, Europeans relied heavily on Indian cloths for resale in Africa, and they also purchased cloths on several parts of the West African coast for resale elsewhere. Morocco, Mauretania, Senegambia, Ivory Coast, Benin, Yorubaland and Loango were all exporters to other parts of through European middlemen. Yet, by the time that Africa entered the colonial era, it was concentrating almost entirely on the export of raw cotton and the import of manufactured cotton cloth. This remarkable reversal is tied to technological advance in Europe and to stagnation of technology in Africa owing to the very trade with Europe.

Cloth manufacture in the world went through a stage of handlooms and small-scale craft production. Up to the 16th century, that was the general pattern in Africa, Asia and Europe: with Asian cloth makers being the most skilled in the world. India is the classic example where the British used every means at their disposal to kill the cloth industry, so that British cloth could be marketed everywhere, including inside India itself. In Africa, the situation was not so clear-cut, nor did it require as much conscious effort by Europeans to destroy African cloth manufacture, but the trend was the same. Europe benefitted technologically from its external trade contacts, while Africa either failed to benefit or actually lost. Vital inventions and innovations appeared in England in the late 18th century, after profits from external trade had been re-invested. Indeed, the new machinery represented the investment of primary capital accumulated from trading and from slavery.

African and Indian trade strengthened British industry, which in turn crushed whatever industry existed in that is now called the ‘underdeveloped’ countries African demand for cloth was increasing rapidly in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, so that there was a market for all cloth produced locally as well as room for imports from Europe and Asia. But, directed by an acquisitive capitalist class, European industry increased its capacity to produce on a large scale by harnessing the energy of wind, water and coal. European cloth industry was able to copy fashionable Indian and African patterns, and eventually to replace them. Partly by establishing a stranglehold on the distribution of cloth around the shores of Africa, and partly by swamping African products by importing cloth in bulk, European traders eventually succeeded in putting an end to the expansion of African cloth manufacture.

There are many varied social factors which combine to determine when a society makes a breakthrough from small scale craft technology to equipment designed to harness nature so that labour becomes more effective. One of the major factors is the existence of a demand for more products than can be made by hand, so that technology is asked to respond to a definite social need-such as that for clothes. When European cloth became dominant on the African market, it meant that African producers were cut off from the increasing demand. The craft producers either abandoned their tasks in the face of cheap available European cloth, or they continued on the same small hand-worked instruments to create styles and pieces for localized markets. Therefore, there was what can be called ‘technological arrest’ or stagnation, and in some instances actual regression, since people forgot even the simple technique of their forefathers. The abandonment of traditional iron smelting in most parts of Africa is probably the most important instance of technological regression.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“There were certain areas of Africa in which European investment was meant to get immediate super-profits. The mines of South Africa, the loans to North African governments, and the building of the Suez Canal were in that category. The Suez Canal also ensured the greater profitability of European investment in and trade with India. However, Africa’s greatest value to Europe at the beginning of the imperialist era was as a source of raw materials such as palm products, groundnuts, cotton and rubber. The need for those materials arose out of Europe’s expanded economic capacity, its new and larger machines and its increasing wage-earning population in towns. All of those things had developed over the previous four centuries; and again it needs to be repeated that one of the important factors in that process was the unequal trade with Africa.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  • Anti-black and anti-indigenous racism
    • Justified committed indigenous ethnic cleansing and creating a new slave system based on race
      • Anti-Black – Portugal starts the transatlantic slave trade – 1453
        • Prince Henry commissioned writer Gomes Eanes de Zurara to document the first voyage to sub saharan Africa to siege slaves directly
          • Rather than buying from Northern African slave traders.
        • Prince Henry wanted Gomez to glorify Portugal bringing Christianity to Africa
          • While dehumanizing Africans to justify enslaving them.
        • Gomes writes the Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, in 1453
          • which depicts black people as inferior beasts and slavery was an improvement over freedom in Africa.
          • He wrote, “They live like beasts. They had no understanding of good but only knew how to live in beastial sloth.” Gomes combined all the different ethnic groups that Prince Henry captured and combined them into one group “black people” and described this group as inferior.
          • These ideas of “all black people representing one race”, “black inferiority”, “black people were beasts” spread throughout Europe as more European countries entered the slave trade.
          • These racist beliefs became common beliefs across European , expanded by other intellectuals, and carried across Atlantic by European immigrants to help justify slavery in the new world.
      • Anti-indigenous – Catholic doctrines – 1450s
        • Allowed slavery only for non-Christians or “heathens”
        • Doctrine of Discovery – 1493
          • Allowed non-Christian land/people to be “discovered”
            • Legally conquered and exploited by Christian rulers
          • Became basis of all European claims in Americas and the US western expansion
            • Upheld by SCOTUS 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, denying Natives right to their land

“The subject of Africa’s contribution to European development reveals several of the factors which limit a writer’s representation of reality. Language and nationality, for instance, are effective barriers to communication. Works in English seldom take account of the effect brought about in France, Holland or Portugal by participation in slaving and other forms of commerce which exploited Africa in the pre-colonial period.  (put in narrative section) The ideological gulf is responsible for the fact that most bourgeois scholars write about phenomena such as the Industrial Revolution in England without once mentioning the European slave trade as a factor in primary accumulation of capital. Marx himself had laid great emphasis on sources of overseas capital accumulation. But Marxists (as prominent as Maurice Dobb and E. J. Hobsbawm) for many years concentrated on examining the evolution of capitalism out of feudalism inside Europe, with only marginal reference to the massive exploitation of Africans, Asians and American Indians.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Since capitalism, like any other mode of production, is a total system which involves an ideological aspect, it is also necessary to focus on the effects of the ties with Africa on the development of ideas within the superstructure of European capitalist society. In that sphere, the most striking feature is undoubtedly the rise of racism as a widespread and deeply rooted element in European thought. The role of slavery in promoting racist prejudice and ideology has been carefully studied in certain situations, especially in the U.S.A. The simple fact is that no people can enslave another for centuries without coming out with a notion of superiority, and when the colour and other physical traits of those peoples were quite different it was inevitable that the prejudice should take a racist form. Within Africa itself, the same can be said for the situation in the Cape Province of South Africa where white men were establishing military and social superiority over non-whites ever since 1650.It would be much too sweeping a statement to say that all racial and colour prejudice in Europe derived from the enslavement of Africans and the exploitation of non-white peoples in the early centuries of international trade. There was also anti-Semitism at an even earlier date inside Europe and there is always an element of suspicion and incomprehension when peoples of different cultures come together. However, it can be affirmed without reservations that the white racism which came to pervade the world was an integral part of the capitalist mode of production. Nor was it merely a question of how the individual white person treated a black person. The racism of Europe was a set of generalisations and assumptions, which had no scientific basis, but were rationalised in every sphere from theology to biology.

Occasionally, it is mistakenly held that Europeans enslaved Africans for racist reasons. European planters and miners enslaved Africans for economic reasons, so that their labour power could be exploited. Indeed, it would have been impossible to open up the New World and to use it as a constant generator of wealth, had it not been for African labour. There were no other alternatives: the American (Indian) population was virtually wiped out and Europe’s population was too small for settlement overseas at that time. Then, having become utterly dependent on African labour, Europeans at home and abroad found it necessary to rationalise that exploitation in racist terms as well. Oppression follows logically from exploitation, so as to guarantee the latter. Oppression of African people on purely racial grounds accompanied, strengthened and became indistinguishable from oppression for economic reasons.

C. L. R. James, noted Pan-Africanist and Marxist, once remarked that

The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But lo neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than lo make it fundamental.

It can further be argued that by the 19th century white racism had become so institutionalised in the capitalist world (and notably in the U.S.A.) that it sometimes ranked above the maximisation of profit as a motive for oppressing black people.

In the short run, European racism seemed to have done Europeans no harm, and they used those erroneous ideas to justify their further domination of non-European peoples in the colonial epoch. But the international proliferation of bigoted and unscientific racist ideas was bound to have its negative consequences in the long run. When Europeans put millions of their brothers (Jews) into ovens under the Nazis, the chickens were coming home to roost. Such behaviour inside of ‘democratic’ Europe was not as strange as it is sometimes made out to be. There was always a contradiction between the elaboration of democratic ideas inside Europe and the elaboration of authoritarian and thuggish practices by Europeans with respect to Africans. When the French Revolution was made in the name of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, it did not extend to black Africans who were enslaved by France in the West Indies and the Indian Ocean. Indeed, France fought against the efforts of those people to emancipate themselves, and the leaders of their bourgeois revolution said plainly that they did not make it on behalf of black humanity.

It is not even true to say that capitalism developed democracy at home in Europe and not abroad. At home, it was responsible for a talk or certain rhetoric of freedom but it was never extended from the bourgeoisie to the oppressed workers; and the treatment of Africans must surely have made such hypocrisy a habit of European life, especially within the ruling class. How else can one explain the fact that the Christian church participated fully in the maintenance of slavery and still talked about saving souls! The hypocrisy reached its highest levels inside the U.S.A. The first martyr in the American national war of liberation against the British colonialists in the 18th century was an African descendant, Crispus Attucks; and both slave and free Africans played a key role in Washington’s armies. And yet, the American Constitution with its famous preamble that ‘all men are created equal’ sanctioned the continued enslavement of Africans. In recent times, it has become an object of concern to some liberals that the U.S.A. is capable of war crimes of the order of My Lai in Vietnam. But the fact of the matter is that the My Lais began with the enslavement of Africans and American Indians. Racism, violence and brutality were the concomitants of the capitalist system when it extended itself abroad in the early centuries of international trade.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Europeans were also racially motivated to seek political domination over Africa. Thee 19th century was one in which white racism was most violently and openly expressed in capitalist societies, with the U.S.A. as a focal point, and with Britain taking the lead among the Western European capitalist nations. Britain accepted granting dominion status to its old colonies of white settlers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand; but it withdrew self-government from the West Indies when the white planters were ousted from the legislative  assemblies by black (or brown) people. As far as Africa is concerned, Englishmen violently opposed black self-government such as the Fante Confederation on the Gold Coast in the 1860s. They also tried to erode the authority of black Creoles in Sierra Leone. In 1874, when Fourah Bay College sought and obtained affiliation with Durham University, the Times newspaper declared that Durham should next affiliate with the London Zoo! Pervasive and vicious racism was present in imperialism as a variant independent of the economic rationality that initially gave birth to racism. It was economics that determined that Europe should invest in Africa and control the continent’s raw materials and labour. It was racism which confirmed the decision that the form of control should be direct colonial rule.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Building on the work of the Black radical sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox, Robinson directly challenges the Marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary negation of feudalism. Instead, Robinson explains, capitalism emerged within the feudal order and grew in fits and starts, flowering in the cultural soil of the West-most notably in the racialism that has come to characterize European society. Capitalism and racism, in other words, did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of “racial capitalism” dependent on slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide…

…Driven, however, by the need to achieve the scientific elegance and interpretive economy demanded by theory, Marx consigned race, gender, culture, and history to the dustbin. Fully aware of the constant place women and children held in the workforce, Marx still deemed them so unimportant as a proportion of wage labor that he tossed them, with slave labor and peasants, into the imagined abyss signified by precapitalist, noncapitalist, and primitive accumulation. And how, can we suppose, was Marx’s conception of the mode-specific, internal development of European productive forces to accommodate the technological borrowings from China, India, Africa, and the Americas which propelled the West into industrialism and imperialism?’ As Andre Gunder Frank declares:

the original sin of Marx, Weber, and their followers was to look for the “origin”, “cause,” “nature,” “mechanism,” indeed the “essence” of it (capitalism, development, modernization) all essentially in European exceptionalism instead of in the real world economy/system.Cedric J. Robinson: Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

Guardian: The West was Built on Racism

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Major waves of Western colonialism

“Colonialism the control by one power over a dependent area or people. In practice, colonialism is when one country violently invades and takes control of another country, claims the land as its own, and sends people “settlers” to live on that land.” Jamila Osman – Teen Vogue

  • Doctrine of Discovery (1450s – 1800s)
    • Began 15th century when European countries colonized lands in North/South America
      • 1493 Catholic Doctrine of Discovery allowed any land inhabited by non-Christians could be “discovered”, legally conquered, and exploited by Christian rulers became the basis of all
      • Millions of Native Americans, over 90% population, died from European diseases and brutality
  • Scramble for Africa (1881 – 1914)
    • Occupation, division, colonization of African territory by European powers during New Imperialism period
      • Artificial borders split cultural groups, resulting in fierce ethnic tensions and conflicts
      • Among the most brutal of colonial regimes was Belgium King Leopold II “the Butcher of Congo”
        • Well-documented acts of violence against the Congolese people resulted in an estimated 10 million deaths
  • American Imperialism (1890s to present)
    • 19-20th century US policy extending political, economic, military control over areas beyond its boundaries
      • Manifest Destiny, Monroe Doctrine, Westward Expansion, Hawaii, Spanish American War, Mexican–American War
        • Past US colonies: Philippines (1898-1946), Cuba (1899–1902), 1903–79  Panama Canal Zone (1903–79), Río Rico, Tamaulipas (1906–72), Corn Islands (1914–7), Dominican Republic (1916–24,1965–66), Haiti (1915–34)
        • Current US colonies: Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, 9 uninhabited places

Teen Vogue: Colonialism, Explained

“Colonialism is defined as “control by one power over a dependent area or people.” In practice, colonialism is when one country violently invades and takes control of another country, claims the land as its own, and sends people — “settlers” — to live on that land.

There were two great waves of colonialism in recorded history. The first wave began in the 15th century, during Europe’s Age of Discovery. During this time, European countries such as Britain, Spain, France, and Portugal colonized lands across North and South America. The motivations for the first wave of colonial expansion can be summed up as God, Gold, and Glory: God, because missionaries felt it was their moral duty to spread Christianity, and they believed a higher power would reward them for saving the souls of colonial subjects; gold, because colonizers would exploit resources of other countries in order to bolster their own economies; and glory, since European nations would often compete with one another over the glory of attaining the greatest number of colonies.

Colonial logic asserted that a place did not exist unless white people had seen it and testified to its existence, but European colonists did not actually discover any land. The “New World,” as it was first called by Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian navigator and cartographer, was not new at all: People had been living and thriving in the Americas for centuries.

Yet, in many history books, Europe’s expansion is remembered as exploration, and the men who helmed ships that landed in foreign countries — and proceeded to commit violence and genocide against native peoples — are remembered as heroes. One of these men, an Italian explorer named Christopher Columbus, even has a federally recognized holiday to honor him. Columbus thought he was on his way to Asia, but found himself in the Caribbean instead. The first indigenous people he came across were the Taíno, who accounted for the majority of people living on the island of Hispaniola (which is now divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic). They had a highly evolved and complex culture. But this did not stop Columbus from claiming the island and its inhabitants for Spain. By 1550, a mere 58 years after he first landed on the island, what was once a thriving culture and community was severely decimated by European diseases and the brutality of a newly instated slave economy.

The second wave of colonial expansion began during the 19th century, centering around the African continent. In what is called the Scramble for Africa, European nations such as Britain, France, Portugal, and Spain sliced up the continent like a pie, creating arbitrary borders and boundaries, and claiming large swaths of land for themselves. These artificial borders split cultural groups, resulting in fierce ethnic tensions that have had devastating ramifications throughout the continent. Indigenous political, economic, and social institutions were decimated, as were traditional ways of life, which were deemed inferior.

Among the most brutal of colonial regimes was that of Belgium under King Leopold II, known as “the Butcher of Congo.” His well-documented acts of violence against the Congolese people resulted in an estimated 10 million deaths. Belgium, like a lot of the white Western world, can directly attribute much of its wealth and prosperity to the exploitation and deaths of indigenous people of color.

The treatment of the indigenous people on the land now known as the United States is just as horrifying. The primarily British Europeans who settled here — just like the Europeans who settled in Africa and the rest of the Americas — overall did not care that there were people already living on the land. The majority did not want peace and harmony between cultures; they wanted the land for themselves. They did not want to share the abundant resources; they wanted to generate wealth to fill their own pockets. Most had no respect for indigenous cultures or histories; they wanted to enforce their own instead. These colonizers did not care that land was considered sacred and communal. Most believed that everything, including the earth, was meant to be bought and sold.

The Europeans who first settled along the East Coast of the United States believed it was their Manifest Destiny, or God-granted right, to claim territory for themselves and their posterity. As they spread across the entirety of the continental U.S., they pushed the indigenous populations — who had lived on and tended to the land for millennia — farther and farther west. Native Americans were moved to reservations — parcels of land that were barren and far from economic opportunities. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson, hailed by President Donald Trump and commemorated on the U.S. $20 bill, signed the Indian Removal Act, which led to the forced removal, relocation, and mass death of thousands of indigenous people. In 1838, the Cherokee were forced west by the U.S. government, which seized control of their land. Forced to walk thousands of miles, an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died on what would later come to be called the “Trail of Tears.” This historic loss of lives, land, and culture has led to what Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, social worker and professor, describes as historical trauma — intergenerational emotional and psychological damage.

The legacy of colonialism continues to manifest in obvious ways: Many of the world’s poorest countries are former European colonies. Walter Rodney’s groundbreaking book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa makes the claim that poverty on the continent can be traced back to European exploitation of African resources. In the United States, those living on reservations experience extraordinarily high poverty, alcoholism, unemployment, and suicide rates.

In less obvious ways, the violence of colonial thinking continues to shape the trajectories of countries that were once colonizers too. Colonizers believed the world was theirs for the taking, saw the masses of people as disposable, and believed that nothing mattered more than the currency in a white man’s pocket. As the world’s top 1% continue to hoard the majority of the earth’s resources, and the unending quest for profit trumps the needs of the majority of people, it becomes clear that colonialism is not just a relic of the past.”

Transatlantic Slave Trade

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“It is thought that the word “slave” derives from “Slav”: prisoners from Slavonic tribes of Europe captured by Germans and sold to Arabs during the Middle Ages. Throughout much of human history, societies enslave others due to conquest, war or debt, but not because of physical characteristics or natural inferiority. In America, a unique set of historical circumstances leads to the enslavement of peoples who share similar physical traits and common African ancestry. Justification in terms of “race” comes later.” PBS Race Timeline

The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you – Anthony Hazard

  • European colonialism started as corporations using plantation economies to export cash crops (tobacco, indigo, rice, cotton) to accumulate massive wealth
    • Plantations required lots of labor under harsh conditions
      • Native American slaves were first used
      • Replaced with Indentured servants
      • Eventually replaced with African slaves
  • Transatlantic Slave Trade (16th to 19th Century)
    • Started by Portugal – 1453
      • Looking for another source of enslaved people
        • Before the 1400s the slave trade was mainly focused on East European Slavs (this is the origin of the word slaves).
        • By the 1400s the Slavs had built better fortifications and Africa became the main area of operation for slave traders.
        • In the early 1440s, Portugal began the first African only slave trade that would later become the transatlantic slave trade.
        • In 1526, Portugal completed the first transatlantic slave voyage to Brazil
    • Western European slave trade corps bought majority of slaves from Central/Western African slaves to Americas

Screen Shot 2020-07-01 at 3.35.02 PMSource: Wikipedia: Atlantic Slave Trade

    • 12 million African slaves shipped
      • Around 2 million died during transport
      • Half a million were shipped to North America
    • The number of lives lost in the procurement of slaves remains a mystery
      • May equal or exceed the number who survived to be enslaved
  • Slave trade was emposed on many African countries
    • European countries often traded advance guns for enslaved people
      • Causing an arms race
        • Many countries resisted at first but reluctantly particpated as neighboring countries became more armed.
        • Some countries that opposed trading slavery were attacked by European countries until they participated
        • European countries were forced African feudal countries against each other (divide and conquer)
      • “Once trade in slaves had been started in any given part of Africa, it soon became clear that it was beyond the capacity of any single African state to change the situation.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa 

“Although class divisions were not pronounced in African society, they too contributed to the case with which Europe imposed itself commercially on large parts of the African continent. The rulers had a certain status and authority, and when bamboozled by European goods they began to use that position to raid outside their societies as well as to exploit internally by victimizing some of their own subjects. In the simplest of societies where there were no kings, it proved impossible for Europeans to strike up the alliance, which was necessary to carry on a trade in captives on the coast. In those societies with ruling groups, the association with Europeans was easily established; and afterwards Europe hardened the existing internal class divisions and created new ones.

In effect, particular aspects of African society became weaknesses when Europeans arrived as representatives of a different phase of development. And yet the subjugation of the African economy through slave trade was a slow process at the outset, and in some instances African opposition or disinterest had to be overcome. In the Congo, the slave trade did not get under way without grave doubts and opposition from the king of the state of Kongo at the beginning of the 16th century. He asked for masons, priests, clerks, physicians, etc.; but instead he was overwhelmed by slave ships sent from Portugal, and a vicious trade was up by playing off one part of the Kongo Kingdom against another. The king of the Kongo had conceived of possibilities of mutually beneficial interchange between his people and the European state, but the latter forced him to specialise in the export of human cargo. It is also interesting to note that while the Oba (king) of Benin was willing to sell a few female captives, it took a great deal of persuasion and pressure from Europeans to get him to sell male African prisoners of war, who would otherwise have been brought into the ranks of Benin society.

Once trade in slaves had been started in any given part of Africa, it soon became clear that it was beyond the capacity of any single African state to change the situation. In Angola, the Portuguese employed an unusual number of their own troops and tried to seize political power from Africans. The Angolan state of Matamba on the river Kwango was founded around 1630 as a direct reaction against the Portuguese. With Queen Nzinga at its head, Matamba tried to co-ordinate resistance against the Portuguese in Angola. However, Portugal gained the upper hand in 1648, and this left Matamba isolated. Matamba could not forever stand aside. So long as it opposed trade with the Portuguese, it was an object of hostility from neighbouring African states which had compromised with Europeans and slave trading. So in 1656 queen Nzinga resumed business with the Portuguese — a major concession to the decision-making role of Europeans within the Angolan economy

Another example of African resistance during the course of the slave trade comes from the Baga people in what is now the Republic of Guinea. The Baga lived in small states, and about 1720 one of their leaders (Tomba by name) aimed at securing an alliance to stop the slave traffic. He was defeated by local European resident-traders, mulattoes and other slave-trading Africans. It is not difficult to understand why Europeans should have taken immediate steps to see that Tomba and his Baga followers did not opt out of the role allocated to them by Europe. A parallel which presents itself is the manner in which Europeans got together to wage the ‘Opium War’ against China in the 19th century to ensure that Western capitalists would make profit while the Chinese were turned into dope addicts.Of course, it is only as a last resort that the capitalist metropoles need to use armed force to ensure the pursuit of favourable policies in the dependent areas. Normally, economic weapons are sufficient.

In the 1720s, Dahomey opposed European slave traders, and was deprived of European imports — some of which had become necessary by that time. Agaja Trudo, Dahomey’s greatest king, appreciated that European demand for slaves and the pursuit of slaving in and around Dahomey was in conflict with Dahomey’s development. Between 1724 and 1726, he looted and burnt European forts and slave camps; and he reduced the trade from the ‘Slave Coast’ to a mere trickle, by blocking the paths leading to sources of supply in the interior. European salve dealers were very bitter, and they tried to sponsor some African collaborators against Agaja Trudo. They failed to unseat him or to crush the Dahomian state, but in turn Agaja failed to persuade them to develop new lines of economic activity, such as local plantation agriculture; and, being anxious to acquire firearms and cowries through the Europeans, he had to agree to the resumption of slave trading in 1730.After 1730, Dahomian slaving was placed under royal control and was much more restricted than previously. Yet, the failure of this determined effort demonstrated that a single African state at that time could not emancipate itself from European control. The small size of African states and the numerous political divisions made it so much easier for Europe to make the decisions as to Africa’s role in world production and trade.”  Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa 

“Many guilty consciences have been created by the slave trade. Europeans know that they carried on the slave trade, and Africans are aware that the trade would have been impossible if certain Africans did not co-operate with the slave ships. To case their guilty conscience, Europeans try to throw the major responsibility for the slave trade on to the Africans. One European author of a book on the slave trade (appropriately entitled Sins of Our Fathers) explained how many other white people urged him to state that the trade was the responsibility of African chiefs, and that Europeans merely turned up to buy the captives — as though without European demand there would have been captives sitting on the beach by the millions! Issues such as those are not the principal concern of this study, but they can be correctly approached only after understanding that Europe became the centre of a world-wide system and that it was European capitalism which set slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in motion.

The trade in human beings from Africa was a response to external factors. At first, the labour was needed in Portugal, Spain and in islands such as Sâo Tome, Cape Verde and the Canaries; then came the period when the Greater Antilles and the Spanish American mainland needed replacements for the Indians who were victims of genocide ; and then the demands of Caribbean and mainland plantation societies had to be met. The records show direct connections between levels of exports from Africa and European demand for slave labour in some part of the American plantation economy. When the Dutch took Pernambuco in Brazil in 1634, the Director of the Dutch West Indian Company immediately informed their agents on the ‘Gold Coast’ that they were to take the necessary steps to pursue the trade in slaves on the adjacent coast east of the Volta — thus creating for that area the infamous name of the ‘Slave Coast.’ When the British West Indian islands took to growing sugar cane, the Gambia was one of the first places to respond. Examples of this kind of external control can be instanced right up to the end of the trade, and this embraces Eastern Africa also, since European markets in the Indian Ocean islands became important in the 18th and 19th centuries, and since demand in places like Brazil caused Mozambicans to be shipped round the Cape of Good Hope.”
Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa 

Economic Results of Transatlantic Slave Trade

  • Enormous wealth was accumulated in the Western World from slavery
    • Slave trade financed the industrial revolution
      • Built Modern Europe and US
    • Many people profited from governments, slave ship owners, slave traders, plantation owners, factory owners who processed the raw materials, factory workers, port towns, bankers, insurance companies, auctions, etc
  • African countries were decimiated
    • Stole millions of people from Afrcian countries
      • Slowed down development and growth
        • Removed essential workers in African economies
          • Such as farm workers
            • Causing food shortages, faminies, etc.
        • “slaving prevented the remaining population from effectively engaging in agriculture and industry, and it employed professional slave hunters and warriors to destroy rather than build.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
    • Made African countries more susceptible to 19th and 20th Century European colonial imperialism
      • Invasion, occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by European powers
  • No reparations were ever paid to enslaved people or African countries

“The massive loss to the African labour force was made more critical because it was composed of able-bodied young men and young women. Slave buyers preferred their victims between the ages of 15 and 35, and preferably in the early twenties; the sex ratio being about two men to one woman. Europeans often accepted younger African children, but rarely any older person. They shipped the most healthy wherever possible, taking the trouble to get those who had already survived an attack of smallpox, and who were therefore immune from further attacks of that disease, which was then one of the world’s great killer diseases…

…Population growth played a major role in European development in providing labour, markets, and the pressures which led to further advance. Japanese population growth had similar positive effects; and in other parts of Asia which remained pre-capitalist, the size of the population led to a much more intensive exploitation of the land than has ever been the case in what is still a sparsely-peopled African continent…

…African economic activity was affected both directly and indirectly by population loss. For instance, when the inhabitants of a given area were reduced below a certain number in an environment where tsetse fly was present, the remaining few had to abandon the area. In effect, enslavement was causing these people to lose their battle to tame and harness nature — a battle which is at the basis of development. Violence also meant insecurity. The opportunity presented by European slave dealers became the major (though not the only) stimulus for a great deal of social violence between different African communities and within any given community. It took the form more of raiding and kidnapping than of regular warfare, and that fact increased the element of fear and uncertainty…

…The changeover to warlike activities and kidnapping must have affected all branches of economic activity, and agriculture in particular. Occasionally, in certain localities food production was increased to supplies for slave ships, but the overall consequence of slaving on agricultural activities in Western, Eastern and Central Africa were negative. Labour was drawn off from agriculture and conditions became unsettled. Dahomey, which in the 16th century was known for exporting food to parts of what is now Togo, was suffering from famines in the 19th century. The present generation of Africans will readily recall that in the colonial period when able-bodied men left their homes as migrant labourers that upset the farming routine in the home districts and often caused famines. Slave trading after all, meant migration of labour in a manner one hundred times more brutal and disruptive…

…To achieve economic development, one essential condition is to make the maximum use of the country’s labour and natural resources. Usually, that demands peaceful conditions, but there have been times in history when social groups have grown stronger by raiding their neighbours for women, cattle and goods, because they then used the ‘booty’ from the raids for the benefit of their own community. Slaving in Africa did not even have that redeeming value. Captives were shipped outside instead of being utilised within any given African community for creating wealth from nature. It was only as an accidental by-product that in some areas Africans who recruited captives for Europeans realised that they were better off keeping some captives for themselves. In any case, slaving prevented the remaining population from effectively engaging in agriculture and industry, and it employed professional slave hunters and warriors to destroy rather than build.  Apart from the moral aspect and the immense suffering that it caused, the European slave trade was economically totally irrational from the viewpoint of African development.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

African Colonialization

“Colonial Africa fell within that part of the international capitalist economy from which surplus was drawn to feed the metropolitan sector. As seen earlier, exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place. Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation, but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called ‘mother country’. From an African view-point, that amounted to consistent expatriation of surplus produced by African labour out of African resources. It meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  • Begin as unequal exchange 1450s – 1800s)
    • Arms race
    • Slavery and resource extraction to fund industrial revolution
  • Scramble for Africa (1881 – 1914)
    • Happened right after slavery was being abolished in countries supporting European industrialization
      • Britian abolished slavery throught colonies in 1833
        • India, and other territories administered by the East India Company, didn’t abolish until 1843
      • French colonies abolished it in 1848
      • U.S. abolished slavery in 1865
    • Still a need for to extract cheap resources through exploited labor for European industries
      • Europe traded enslaved laborers for colonized laborers

“Curiously, Europeans often derived the moral justification for imperialism and colonialism from features of the international trade as conducted up to the eve of colonial rule in Africa. The British were the chief spokesmen for the view that the desire to colonise was largely based on their good intentions in wanting to put a stop to the slave trade. True enough, the British in the 19th century were as opposed to slave trading as they were once in favour of it. Many changes inside Britain had transformed the 17th century necessity for slaves into the 19th century necessity to clear the remnants of slaving from Africa so as to organise the local exploitation of land and labour. Therefore, slaving was rejected in so far as it had become a fetter on further capitalist development; and it was particularly true of East Africa, where Arab slaving persisted until late in the 19th century. The British took special self-righteous delight in putting an end to Arab slave trading, and in deposing rulers on the grounds that they were slave traders. However, in those very years, the British were crushing political leaders in Nigeria, like Jaja and Nana who had by then ceased the export of slaves, and were concentrating instead on products like palm oil and rubber. Similarly, the Germans in East Africa made a pretence of being most opposed to rulers like Bushiri who were engaged in slave trading, but the Germans were equally hostile to African rulers with little interest in slaving. The common factor underlying the overthrow of African rulers in West, Central, North and South Africa was that they stood in the way of Europe’s imperial needs. It was the only factor that mattered, with anti-slaving sentiments being at best superfluous and at worst calculated hypocrisy.  King Leopold of Belgium also used the anti-slavery excuse to introduce into Congo forced labour and modern slavery. Besides, all Europeans had derived ideas of racial and cultural superiority between the 15th and 19th centuries, while engaged in genocide and the enslavement of non-white peoples. Even Portugal, an impoverished and backward European nation in the imperialist era, could still presume that it had a destiny to civilise the natives in Africa!…

…For most European capitalist states, the enslavement of Africans had served its purpose by the middle of the 19th century; but for those Africans who dealt in captives the abrupt termination of the trade at any given point was a crisis of the greatest magnitude. In many areas, major social changes had taken place to bring the particular regions effectively into the service of the European slave trade — one of the most significant being the rise of ‘domestic slavery’ and various forms of class and caste subjugation. African rulers and traders who found their social existence threatened by the earliest legal edicts such as the 1807 British Act against the trade in slaves found ways of making contact with Europeans who still wanted slaves.

In sub-Saharan Africa and especially in West Africa, the export of slaves declined most rapidly where Europeans were prepared to buy other commodities. As soon as inhabitants of any region found that they had a product which Europeans were accepting in place of the former slave trade, those inhabitants put tremendous effort into organising the alternatives: namely, ivory, rubber, palm products, groundnuts, etc. Once more, those efforts demonstrated the determination of a small but decisive proportion of Africans. It was a determination based on the desire to obtain European trade goods, many of which had ceased to be mere curiosities or luxuries, and were regarded instead as necessities.

The first four centuries of Afro/European trade in a very real sense represent the roots of African underdevelopment. Colonialism flourished rapidly from a European viewpoint, because several of its features were already rooted in Africa in the preceding period.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  • Berlin Conference of 1884
    • European countries met to divide up Africa into European colonies
  • The Scramble for Africa
    • The invasion, occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by European powers
      • In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under formal European control
      • By 1914 this had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent
        • With only Ethiopia, the Dervish state (a portion of present-day Somalia) and Liberia remaining independent.
      • Transition from Colonialism through military influence and economic dominance
          • Colonialism through direct rule (colonial imperialism)
      • Brought Occupation, division, colonization of African territory
        • Caused the underdevelopment of African countries

“Imperialism is essentially an economic phenomena, and it does not necessarily lead to direct political control or colonisation. However, Africa was the victim of colonisation. In the period of the notorious Scramble for Africa’, Europeans made a grab for whatever they thought spelt profits in Africa, and they even consciously acquired many areas not for immediate exploitation but with an eye to the future. Each European nation that had these short-term and long-term economic interests ran up its own flag in different parts of Africa and established colonial rule. The gap that had arisen during the period of pre-colonial trade gave Europe the power to impose political domination on Africa.

Pre-colonial trade in slaves, ivory, gold, etc., was conducted from the coasts of Africa. On the coasts, European ships could dominate the scene, and if necessary forts could be built. Before the 19th century, Europe was incapable of penetrating the African continent, because the balance of force of their disposal was inadequate. But the same technological changes which created the need to penetrate Africa also created the power to conquer Africa. The firearms of the imperialist epoch marked a qualitative leap forward. Breech-loading rifles and machine guns were a far cry from the smooth-bored muzzle loaders and flintlocks of the previous era. European imperialists in Africa boasted that what counted was the fact that they had the Maxim machine gun and Africans did not.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  • African Colonization
    • Slavery by another name
      • Forced labor
        • Among the most brutal of colonial regimes was Belgium King Leopold II “the Butcher of Congo”
          • Well-documented acts of violence against the Congolese people resulted in an estimated 10 million deaths

“Finally, when all else failed, colonial powers resorted widely to the physical coercion of labour – backed up of course by legal sanctions, since anything which the colonial government chose to do was ‘legal’. The laws and by-laws which peasants in British East Africa were required to maintain minimum acreages of cash-crops like cotton and groundnuts were in effect forms of coercion by the colonial state, although they are not normally considered under the heading of ‘forced labour’.The simplest form of forced labour was that which colonial governments exacted to carry out ‘public works’. Labour for a given number of days per year had to be given free for these ‘public works’ – building castles for governors, prisons for Africans, barracks for troops, and bungalows for colonial officials. A great deal of this forced labour went into the construction of roads, railways and ports to provide the infrastructure for private capitalist investment and to facilitate the export of cash-crops. Taking only one example from the British colony of Sierra Leone, one finds that the railway which started at the end of the 19th century required forced labour from thousands of peasants driven from the villages. The hard work and appalling conditions led to the death of a large number of those engaged in work on the railway. In the British territories, this kind of forced labour (including juvenile labour) was wide-spread enough to call forth in 1923 a ‘Native Authority Ordinance’ restricting the use of compulsory labour for porterage, railway and road building. More often than not, means were found of circumventing this legislation. An international Forced Labour Convention was signed by all colonial powers in 1930, but again it was flouted in practice.

The French government had a cunning way of getting free labour by first demanding that African males should enlist as French soldiers and then using them as unpaid labourers. This and other forced labour legislation known as ‘prestation’ was extensively applied in vast areas of French Sudan and French Equatorial Africa. Because cash-crops are not well established in those areas, the main method of extracting surplus was by taking the population and making it work in plantation or cash-crop regions nearer the coast. Present day Upper Volta, Chad and Congo Brazzaville were huge suppliers of forced labour under colonialism. The French got Africans to start building the Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire railway in 1921, and it was not completed until 1933. Every year of its construction, some 10,000 people were driven to the site – sometimes from more than 1,000 kilometres away. At least 25% of the labour force died annually from starvation and disease, the worst period being from 1922 to 1929.Quite apart from the fact that the ‘public works’ were of direct value to the capitalists, the colonial government also aided private capitalists by providing them with labour recruited by force. This was particularly true in the early years of colonialism, but continued in varying degrees up to the second World War, and even to the end of colonialism in some places. In British territories, the practice was revived during the economic depression 1929-33 and during the subsequent war. In Kenya and Tanganyika, forced labour was re-introduced to keep settler plantations functioning during the war. In Nigeria, it was the tin companies which benefited from the forced-labour legislation, allowing them to get away with paying workers 5d per day plus rations. For most of the colonial period, the French government performed the same kind of service for the big timber companies who had great concessions of territory in Gabon and Ivory Coast.

The Portuguese and Belgian colonial regimes were the most brazen in directly rounding up Africans to go and work for private capitalists under conditions equivalent to slavery. In Congo, brutal and extensive forced labour started under King Leopold in the last century. So many Congolese were killed and maimed by Leopold’s officials and police that this earned European disapproval even in the midst of the general pattern of colonial outrages. When Leopold handed over to the Belgian government in 1908, he had already made a huge fortune; and the Belgian government hardly relaxed the intensity of exploitation in Congo.

The Portuguese have the worst record of engaging in slavery-like practices, and they too have been repeatedly condemned by international public opinion. One peculiar characteristic of Portuguese colonialism was the provision of forced labour not only for its own citizens but also for capitalists outside the boundaries of the colonies. Angolans and Mozambicans were exported to the South African mines to work for subsistence, while the capitalists in South Africa paid the Portuguese government a certain sum for each labourer supplied. [The export of Africans to South Africa is still continuing.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

      • Forced military service

“The French government dressed Africans in French army uniforms and used them to fight other Africans, to fight other colonised peoples like the Vietnamese, and to fight in European wars. The colonial budgets had to bear the cost of sending these African ‘French’ soldiers to die, but if they returned alive they had to be paid pensions out of African funds…

…Sustenance given by colonies to the colonisers was most obvious and very decisive in the case of contributions by soldiers from among the colonised. Without colonial troops, there would have been no ‘British forces’ fighting on the Asian front in the 1939-45 war, because the

ranks of the ‘British forces’ were filled with Indians and other colonials, including Africans and West Indians. It is a general characteristic of colonialism that the metropole utilised the manpower of the colonies. The Romans had used soldiers of one conquered nationality to conquer other nationalities, as well as to defend Rome against enemies. Britain applied this to Africa ever since the early 19th century, when the West Indian Regiment was sent across the Atlantic to protect British interests on the West African coast. The West Indian Regiment had black men in the ranks, Irish (colonials) as NCOs, and Englishmen as officers. By the end of the 19th century, the West Indian Regiment also included lots of Sierra Leoneans.

The most important force in the conquest of West African colonies by the British was the West African Frontier Force – the soldiers being Africans and the officers English. In 1894, it was joined by the West African Regiment, formed to help suppress the so-called ‘Hut tax war’ in Sierra Leone, which was the expression of widespread resistance against the imposition of colonial rule. In East and Central Africa, the King’s African Rifles was the unit which tapped African fighting power on behalf of Britain. The African regiments supplemented the metropolitan military apparatus in several ways. Firstly, they were used as emergency forces to put down nationalist uprisings in the various colonies. Secondly, they were used to fight other Europeans inside Africa, notably during the first and second world wars. And thirdly, they were carried to European battlefields or to theatres of war outside Africa. African roles in European military operations were vividly displayed by the East African campaign during the first World War, when Britain and Germany fought for possession of East Africa. At the beginning of the war, the Germans had in Tanganyika a regular force of 216 Europeans and 2,540 African askari. During the war, 3,000 Europeans and 11,000 askari were enrolled. On the British side, the main force was the K.A.R., comprising mainly East Africans and soldiers from Nyasaland. The battalions of the K.A.R. had by November 1918 over 35,000 men, of whom nine out of ten were Africans.

Quite early in the East African campaign, the British brought in an expeditionary force of Punjabis and Sikhs, as well as regiments of West Africans. Some Sudanese and West Indians were also there. At first, a few white settlers joined the war, because they thought it was a picnic; but within a year the white residents of British East Africa were showing extreme reluctance to join local fighting forces. In effect, therefore, Africans were fighting Africans to see which European power should rule over them. The German and the British had only to provide the officers. According to the history books, the ‘British’ won the campaign in East Africa.

France was the colonial power that secured the greatest number of soldiers from Africa. In 1912, conscription of African soldiers into the French army was pursued on a large scale. During the 1914-18 war, 200,000 soldiers were recruited in French West Africa, through the use of methods reminiscent of slave hunting. These ‘French’ soldiers served against the Germans in Togo and Cameroon, as well as in Europe itself. On the European battlefields, an estimated 25,000 ‘French’ Africans lost their lives, and many more returned mutilated, for they were used as cannon fodder in the European capitalist war.

France was so impressed by the military advantages to be gained from colonial rule that when a part of Cameroon was mandated to France by the League of Nations, France insisted on the privilege of using Cameroon African troops for purposes unconnected with the defence of Cameroon. Naturally, France also made the maximum use of African troops in the last World War. Indeed, Africans saved France after the initial losses when France and most of French Africa fell under the Germans and the fascist (Vichy) French. In French Equatorial Africa, it was a black man. Felix Eboué, who proved loyal to the forces led by General de Gaulle, and who mobilised manpower against the French and German fascists. Africa provided the base and much of the manpower for launching the counterattack which helped General de Gaulle and the ‘Free French’ to return to power in France.

French use of African troops did not end with the last war. West Africans were sent to Madagascar in 1948, and put down nationalist forces in a most bloody manner. African troops were also employed to fight the people of Indochina up to 1954; and, later still, black African troops and Senegalese in particular were used against the Algerian liberation movement.

No comprehensive studies have as yet been devoted to the role of Africans in the armies of the colonial powers in a variety of contexts. However, the indications are that such studies would reveal a pattern

very similar to that discovered by historians who have looked at the role of black soldiers in the white-controlled armies of the U.S.A.: namely, that there was tremendous discrimination against black fighting men, even though black soldiers made great and unacknowledged contributions to important victories won by the white officered armies of the U.S.A. and the colonial powers. Hints regarding the discrimination are to be seen from regulations such as that barring African soldiers in the West African Regiment from wearing shoes and from the fact that there were actually race riots in the European campaigns, just as black troops fighting for the U.S.A. continued to riot right up to the Vietnam campaign.

A number of Africans served as colonial soldiers because they mistakenly hoped that the army would be an avenue for displaying the courage and dignity of Africa, and, perhaps, in the process, even earning the freedom of the continent, by making Europeans pleased and grateful. That hope was without foundation from the outset, because the colonialists were viciously using African soldiers as pawns to preserve colonialism and capitalism in general. A very striking instance of the above fact was provided when John Chilembwe led an African nationalist uprising in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1915. Nyasaland was then a British colony, and although the British were fighting the Germans in East Africa at that time, they immediately dispatched a column of the K.A.R. to contend against Chilembwe. Furthermore, before the K.A.R. arrived, it was a German lieutenant who organised the resistance of Nyasaland white settlers against Chilembwe’s bid for freedom. In the light of that evidence, one writer commented:

 While their countrymen in Europe fought the bloodiest war known, in Africa Europeans were instinctively white men first – and German and British second, (for) John Chilembwe was part of something that in the end would swamp all their colonial dreams.

The African continent and the African people were used by the colonialists in some curious ways to advance their military strengths and techniques. By chance, North Africa and the Sahara became available as a laboratory for the evolution of techniques of armoured warfare, in the period when Rommel and Montgomery battled for superiority. And, by design, Ethiopians were used as guinea-pigs, upon whom the Italian fascists experimented with poison gas. This followed their brazen invasion in 1935 of that small portion of Africa which still clung to some form of political independence. At that time, the Italians argued that it was absolutely essential that the fruits of colonialism be opened to Italy if it were to take ‘its place in the sun’. Significantly enough, both Britain and France had already seen so much of the sun and products of Africa that they found it difficult to refute Italy’s claims.

Britain and France ruled over the greater part of colonial Africa and they also had the largest empires in other parts of the world. The whole existence and development of capitalism in Britain and France between 1885 and 1960 was bound up with colonisation, and Africa played a major role. African colonies meant surplus appropriated on a grand scale; they led to innovations and forward leaps in technology and the organisation of capitalist enterprise; and they buttressed the capitalist system at home and abroad with fighting men. Sometimes, it appeared that these two principal colonial powers reaped so many colonial benefits that they suffered from ‘too much of a good thing’.

Certainly, in Britain’s case, it can be argued that colonialism allowed British industry to lead a soft life, and that, in some decisive spheres of production and marketing, Britain grew lazy. Industrial plant installed in the 19th century was not renovated or replaced, and little dynamism was put into selling new lines of goods. In contrast, when deprived of colonies after 1918, Germany was forced to live off its own resources and ingenuity. Nevertheless, while that is an interesting detail of the whole colonial picture, it must be borne in mind that colonialism was one aspect of imperialism. Colonialism was based on alien political rule and was restricted to some parts of the world. Imperialism, however, underlay all colonies, extended all over the world (except where replaced by Socialist revolutions), and it allowed the participation of all capitalist nations. Therefore, lack of colonies on the part of any capitalist nation was not a barrier to enjoying the fruits of exploiting the colonial and semi-colonial world, which was the backyard of metropolitan capitalism.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

      • Exploited paid labor
        • The African labor that was paid was paid a small fraction of what European labor made
        • “After feudalism in Europe had ended, the worker had absolutely no means of sustenance other than through the sale of his labour to capitalists. Therefore, to some extent the employer was responsible for ensuring the physical survival of the worker by giving him a ‘living wage’. In Africa, this was not the case. Europeans offered the lowest possible wage and relied on legislation backed by force to do the rest.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Colonial Africa fell within that part of the international capitalist economy from which surplus was drawn to feed the metropolitan sector. As seen earlier, exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place. Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation, but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called ‘mother country’. From an African view-point, that amounted to consistent expatriation of surplus produced by African labour out of African resources. It meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped.

By any standards, labour was cheap in Africa, and the amount of surplus extracted from the African labourer was great. The employer under colonialism paid an extremely small wage – a wage usually insufficient to keep the worker physically alive – and, therefore, he had to grow food to survive. This applied in particular to farm labour of the plantation type, to work in mines, and to certain forms of urban employment. At the time of the imposition of European colonial rule, Africans were able to gain a livelihood from the land. Many retained some contact with the land in the years ahead, and they worked away from their shambas in order to pay taxes or because they were forced to do so. After feudalism in Europe had ended, the worker had absolutely no means of sustenance other than through the sale of his labour to capitalists. Therefore, to some extent the employer was responsible for ensuring the physical survival of the worker by giving him a ‘living wage’. In Africa, this was not the case. Europeans offered the lowest possible wage and relied on legislation backed by force to do the rest.

There were several reasons why the African worker was more crudely exploited than his European counterpart in the present century. Firstly, the alien colonial state had a monopoly of political power, after crushing all opposition by armed force. Secondly, the African working class was small, very dispersed, and very unstable owing to migratory practices. Thirdly, while capitalism was willing to exploit all workers everywhere, European capitalists in Africa had additional racial justifications for dealing unjustly with the African worker. The racist theory that the black man was inferior led to the conclusion that he deserved lower wages; and, interestingly enough, the light-skinned Arab and Berber populations of North Africa were treated as ‘blacks’ by the white racist French. The combination of the above factors in turn made it extremely difficult for African workers to organise themselves. It is only the organisation and resoluteness of the working class which protects it from the natural tendency of the capitalist to exploit to the utmost. That is why in all colonial territories, when African workers realised the necessity for trade union solidarity, numerous obstacles were laid in their paths by the colonial regimes.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

    • Underdevelopment in the following areas
        • Colonial Administration

“In addition to private companies, the colonial state also engaged directly in the economic exploitation and impoverishment of Africa. The equivalent of the colonial office in each colonising country worked hand in hand with their governors in Africa to carry out a number of functions; the principal ones being as follows:

(a) To protect national interests against competition from other capitalists.

(b) To arbitrate the conflicts between their own capitalists.

(c) To guarantee optimum conditions under which private companies could exploit Africans.

The last mentioned objective was the most crucial. That is why colonial governments were repeatedly speaking about ‘the maintenance of law and order’, by which they meant the maintenance of conditions most favourable to the expansion of capitalism and the plunder of Africa. This led the colonial governments to impose taxes.

One of the main purposes of the colonial taxation system was to provide requisite funds for administering the colony as a field of exploitation. European colonisers ensured that Africans paid for the upkeep of the governors and police who oppressed them and served as watchdogs for private capitalists. Indeed, taxes and customs duties were levied in the 19th century with the aim of allowing the colonial powers to recover the costs of the armed forces which they despatched to conquer Africa. In effect, therefore, the colonial governments never put a penny into the colonies. All expenses were met by exploiting the labour and natural resources of the continent; and for all practical purposes the expense of maintaining the colonial government machinery was a form of alienation of the products of African labour. The French colonies were especially victimised in this respect. Particularly since 1921, the local revenue raised from taxation had to meet all expenses as well as to build up a reserve.

Having set up the police, army, civil service and judiciary on African soil, the colonising powers were then in a position to intervene much more directly in the economic life of the people than had been the case previously. One major problem in Africa from a capitalist viewpoint

was how to induce Africans to become labourers or cash-crop farmers. In some areas, such as West Africa, Africans had become so attached to European manufactures during the early period of trade that, on their own initiative, they were prepared to go to great lengths to participate in the colonial money economy. But that was not the universal response. In many instances, Africans did not consider the monetary incentives great enough to justify changing their way of life so as to become labourers or cash-crop farmers. In such cases, the colonial state intervened to use law, taxation and outright force to make Africans pursue a line favourable to capitalist profits.

When colonial governments seized African lands, they achieved two things simultaneously. They satisfied their own citizens (who wanted mining concessions or farming land) and they created the conditions whereby landless Africans had to work not just to pay taxes but also to survive. In settler areas such as Kenya and Rhodesia the colonial government also prevented Africans from growing cash-crops so that their labour would be available directly for the whites. One of the Kenya white settlers, Colonel Grogan, put it bluntly when he said of the Kikuyu: ‘We have stolen his land. Now we must steal his limbs. Compulsory labour is the corollary of our occupation of the country.

’In those parts of the continent where land was still in African hands, colonial governments forced Africans to produce cash-crops no matter how low the prices were. The favourite technique was taxation. Money taxes were introduced on numerous items – cattle, land, houses and the people themselves. Money to pay taxes was got by growing cash-crops or working on European farms or in their mines. An interesting example of what colonialism was all about was provided in French Equatorial Africa, where French officials banned the Mandja people (now in Congo Brazzaville) from hunting, so that they would engage solely in cotton cultivation. The French enforced the ban although there was little livestock in the area and hunting was the main source of meat in the people’s diet.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Infrastructure

“Within individual countries, considerable regional variations existed, depending on the degree to which different parts of a country were integrated into the capitalist money economy. Thus, the northern part of Kenya or the South of Sudan had little to offer the colonialists, and such a zone was simply ignored by the colonising power with regard to roads, schools, hospitals and so on. Often, at the level of the district of a given colony, there would be discrimination in providing social amenities, on the basis of contribution to exportable surplus. For instance, plantations and companies might build hospitals for their workers, because some minimum maintenance of the workers’ health was an economic investment. Usually, such a hospital was exclusively for workers of that particular capitalist concern, and those Africans living in the vicinity under ‘subsistence’ conditions outside the money economy were ignored altogether.

The Arusha Declaration powerfully and simply expressed, one of the deepest truths of the colonial experience in Africa, when it stated that:

We have been oppressed a great deal, we have been exploited a great deal, and we have been disregarded a great deal.

The combination of being oppressed, being exploited, and being disregarded is best illustrated by the pattern of the economic infrastructure of African colonies: notably, their roads and railways. These had a clear geographical distribution according to the extent to which particular regions needed to be opened up to import/export activities. Where exports were not available, roads and railways had no place. The only slight exception is that certain roads and railways were built to move troops and make conquest and oppression easier.

Means of communication were not constructed in the colonial period so that Africans could visit their friends. More important still, there were not laid down to facilitate internal trade in African commodities. There were no roads connecting different colonies and different parts of the same colony in a manner that made sense with regard to Africa’s needs and development. All roads and railways led down to the sea. They were built to extract gold or manganese or coffee or cotton. They were built to make business possible for the timber companies, trading companies and agricultural concession firms, and for white settlers. Any catering to African interests was purely coincidental. Yet in Africa, labour rather than capital, took the lion’s share in getting things done. With the minimum investment of capital, the colonial powers could mobilise thousands upon thousands of workers. Salaries were paid to the police officers and officials, and labour came into existence because of the colonial laws, the threat of force and the use of force. Take, for instance, the building of railways. In Europe and America, railway building required huge inputs of capital. Great wage bills were incurred during construction, and added bonus payments were made to workers to get the job done as quickly as possible. In most parts of Africa, the Europeans who wanted to see a railroad built offered lashes as the ordinary wage and more lashes for extra effort” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Schools

“Apologists for colonialism are quick to say that the money for schools, hospitals, etc., in Africa was provided by the British, the French or Belgian taxpayer, as the case may have been. It defies logic to admit that profits from a given colony in a given year totalled several million dollars and to affirm nevertheless that the few thousand dollars allocated to social services in that colony  was the money of European taxpayers! The true situation can accurately be presented in the following terms: African workers and peasants produced for European capitalism goods and services of a certain value. A small proportion of the fruits of their efforts were retained by them in the form of wages, cash payments and extremely limited social services, such as were essential to the maintenance of colonialism. The rest went to the various beneficiaries of the colonial system.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“Education is crucial in any type of society for the preservation of the lives of its members and the maintenance of the social structure. Under certain circumstances, education also promotes social change. The greater portion of that education is informal, being acquired by the young from the example and behaviour of elders in the society. Under normal circumstances, education grows out of the environment; the learning process being directly related to the pattern of work in the society. Among the Bemba of what was then Northern Rhodesia, children by the age of six could name fifty to sixty species of tree plants without hesitation, but they knew very little about ornamental flowers. The explanation is simply that knowledge of the trees was a necessity in an environment of ‘cut and burn’ agriculture and in a situation where numerous household needs were met by tree products. Flowers, however, were irrelevant to survival.

Indeed, the most crucial aspect of pre-colonial African education was its relevance to Africans, in sharp contrast with what was later introduced. The following features of indigenous African education can be considered outstanding: its close links with social life, both in a material and spiritual sense; its collective nature; its many-sidedness; and its progressive development in conformity with the successive stages of physical, emotional and mental development of the child. There was no separation of education and productive activity or any division between manual and intellectual education. Altogether, through mainly informal means, pre-colonial African education matched the realities of pre-colonial African society and produced well-rounded personalities to fit into that society.

Some aspects of African education were formal: that is to say, there was a specific programme and a conscious division between teachers and pupils. Formal education in pre-colonial Africa was also directly connected with the purposes of the society, just like informal education. The programmes of teaching were restricted to certain periods in the

life of every individual, notably the period of initiation or ‘coming of age’. Many African societies had circumcision ceremonies for males or for both sexes, and for some time before the ceremonies a teaching programme was arranged. The length of time involved could vary from a few weeks to several years. A famous example of the latter was the initiation school held by the Poro brotherhood in Sierra Leone. Formal education was also available at later stages in life, such as on the occasion of passing from one age-grade to another or of joining a new brotherhood. Specialised functions such as hunting, organising religious ritual, and the practice of medicine definitely involved formal education within the family or clan. Such educational practices all dated back to communal times in Africa, but they persisted in the more developed African feudal and pre-feudal societies, and they were to be found on the eve of colonialism.

As the mode of production moved towards feudalism in Africa, new features also emerged within the educational pattern. There was, for instance, more formal specialisation, because the proportion of formal to informal education increases with technological advance. Apart from hunting and religion, the division of labour made it necessary to create guilds for passing down the techniques of iron working, leather making, cloth manufacture, pottery moulding, professional trading, and so on. The emphasis on military force also led to formal education in that sphere, as in the case of Dahomey, Rwanda and Zulu cited earlier. A state structure with a well defined ruling class always encouraged the use of history as a means of glorifying the class in power. So, in the Yoruba state of Keta in the 19th century, there existed a school of

history, where a master drilled into the memories of his pupils a long list of the kings of Keta and their achievements. Of course, reliance on memory alone placed severe limits on education of that type, and that is why education was much more advanced in those African countries where the use of writing had come into being.

Along the Nile, in North Africa, in Ethiopia, in the Western Sudan, and along the East African coast, a minority of Africans became literate, producing a situation comparable to Asia and Europe before the latter part of the 19th century. As in other parts of the world, literacy in Africa was connected with religion, so that in Islamic countries it was a Koranic education and in Christian Ethiopia the education was designed to train priests and monks. Muslim education was particularly extensive at the primary level, and it was also available at the secondary and university levels. In Egypt there was the Al-Azhar University, in Morocco the University of Fez, and in Mali the University of Timbuctu — all testimony to the standard of education achieved in Africa before the colonial intrusion.

The colonizers did not introduce education into Africa: they introduced a new set of formal educational institutions which partly supplemented and partly replaced those which were there before. The colonial system also stimulated values and practices which amounted to new informal education. The main purpose of the colonial school system was to train Africans to help man the local administration at the lowest ranks and to staff the private capitalist firms owned by Europeans. In effect, that meant selecting a few Africans to participate in the domination and exploitation of the continent as a whole. It was not an educational system that grew out of the African environment or one that was designed to promote the most rational use of material and social resources. It was not an educational system designed to give young people confidence and pride as members of African societies, but one which sought to instil a sense of deference towards all that was European and capitalist. Education in Europe was dominated by the capitalist class. The same class bias was automatically transferred to Africa; and to make matters worse the racism and cultural boastfulness harboured by capitalism were also included in the package of colonial education. Colonial schooling was education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion and the development of underdevelopment.

A European-type school system hardly operated during the first forty years or so of colonialism. In that period, missionaries gave schooling for their own Christianizing purposes, and it was in the 1920s that the colonizing powers carried out a series of investigations into educational possibilities in Africa. Thereafter, colonial education became systematic and measurable, though it approached its maximum dimensions only in the post second World War era.

Colonial education was a series of limitations inside other limitations. The first practical limitation was politico-financial, which means the political policy guiding financial expenditure rather than the actual availability of money. The metropolitan governments and their African administrations claimed that there was not enough money for education.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Technology
          • Colonialism brought the wealth needed to significantly increase technology in Europe
            • while removing the funds needed to meet those technologies in Africa.
            • Particularly true with agriculture
              • Instead of helping Africans increase food production
              • Europeans forced Africans to grow mainly monoculture cash crops
                • Stagmating their agriculture advancment

“To a certain extent, it would have been in the interests of the colonial powers to have had better agricultural techniques in Africa, leading to increased volume and quality oí production. All colonial regimes sponsored some scientific research into tropical agriculture. However, the research was almost entirely devoted to cash-crops, it was limited in scope, and it was more easily adaptable by plantations rather than African peasants who had no capital. The pitiable amount devoted to agricultural improvement in Africa during the colonial period contrasts sharply with the increasingly huge sums that were devoted to research in Europe over the same period — with enormous benefits to both industry and agriculture in the metropoles.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“There was nothing ‘natural’ about monoculture. It was a consequence of imperialist requirements and machinations, extending into areas that were politically independent in name. Monoculture was a characteristic of regions falling under imperialist domination. Certain countries in

America such as Costa Rica and Guatemala were forced by United States capitalist firms to concentrate so heavily on growing bananas that they were contemptuously known as ‘banana republics’. In Africa, this concentration on one or two cash-crops for sale abroad had many harmful effects. Sometimes, cash-crops were grown to the exclusion of staple foods — thus causing famines. For instance, in Gambia rice farming was popular before the colonial era, but so much of the best land was transferred to groundnuts that rice had to be imported on a large scale to try and counter the fact that famine was becoming endemic. In Asante, concentration on cocoa raised fears of famine in a region previously famous for yams and other foodstuff.

Yet the threat of famine was a small disadvantage compared to the extreme vulnerability and insecurity of monoculture. When the crop was affected by internal factors such as disease, that amounted to an overwhelming disaster, as in the case of Gold Coast cocoa when it was hit by swollen-shoot disease in the 1940s. Besides, at all times, the price fluctuations (which were externally controlled) left the African producer helpless in the face of capitalist manoeuvres.

From a capitalist viewpoint, monocultures commended themselves most because they made colonial economies entirely dependent on the metropolitan buyers of their produce. At the end of the European slave trade, only a minority of Africans were sufficiently committed to capitalist exchange and sufficiently dependent upon European imports to wish to continue the relationship with Europe at all costs. Colonialism increased the dependence of Africa on Europe in terms of the numbers of persons brought into the money economy and in terms of the number of aspects of socio-economic life in Africa which derived their existence from the connection with the metropole. The ridiculous situation arose by, which European trading firms, mining companies, shipping lines, banks, insurance houses and plantations all exploited Africa and at the same time caused Africans to feel that without those capitalist services no money or European goods would be forthcoming, and therefore Africa was in debt to its exploiters!”Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“The colonial system permitted the rapid development of technology and skills within the metropolitan sectors of imperialism. It also allowed for the elaboration of the modern organisational techniques of the capitalist firm and of imperialism as a whole. Indeed, colonialism gave capitalism an added lease of life and prolonged its existence in Western Europe, which had been the cradle of capitalism.

At the beginning of the colonial period, science and technology as applied to production already had a firm base inside Europe – a situation which was itself connected to overseas trade, as previously explained. Europe then was entering the age of electricity, of advanced ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, and of the proliferation of manufactured chemicals. All of these were carried to great heights

during the colonial period. Electrical devices were raised to the qualitatively new level of electronics, incorporating miniaturisation of equipment, fantastic progress in telecommunications, and the creation of computers. Chemical industries were producing a wide range of synthetic substitutes for raw materials, and a whole new branch of petro-chemicals had come into existence. The combination of metals by metallurgical innovations meant that products could be offered to meet far-reaching demands of heat resistance, lightness, tensile strength, etc. .At the end of colonialism (say 1960), Europe was on the verge of another epoch – that of nuclear power.

It is common knowledge that the gap between the output of the metropoles and that of the colonies increased by at least fifteen to twenty times during the epoch of colonialism. More than anything else, it was the advance of scientific technique in the metropoles which was the cause of the great gulf between African and Western European levels of productivity by the end of the colonial period. Therefore, it is essential to understand the role of colonialism itself in bringing about that scientific progress in the metropoles, and its application to industry.

It would be extremely simple-minded to say that colonialism in Africa or anywhere else caused Europe to develop its science and technology. The tendency towards technological innovation and renovation was inherent in capitalism itself, because of the drive for profits. However, it would be entirely accurate to say that the colonisation of Africa and other parts of the world formed an indispensable link in a chain of events which made possible the technological transformation of the

base of European capitalism. Without that link, European capitalism would not have been producing goods and services at the level attained in 1960. In other words, our very yardsticks for measuring developed and underdeveloped nations would have been different.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Banking
          • European banks set up African banks
            • Transfer reserves to European banks to be invested in Europe not Africa

“In the background of the colonial scene hovered the banks, insurance companies, maritime underwriters and other financial houses. One can say ‘in the background’ because the peasant never dealt directly with such institutions, and was generally ignorant of their exploiting

functions. The peasant or worker had no access to bank loans because he had no ‘securities’ or ‘collateral’. Banks and finance houses dealt only with other capitalists who could prove to the bankers that whatever happened the bank would recover its money and make a profit. In the epoch of imperialism, the bankers became the aristocrats of the capitalist world, so in another sense, they were very much in the foreground. The amount of surplus produced by African workers and peasants and passing into the hands of metropolitan bankers is quite phenomenal. They registered a return on capital higher even than the mining companies, and each new direct investment that they made spelt further alienation of the fruits of African labour. Furthermore, all investment in the colonies was in effect the involvement of the big finance monopolies, since the smallest trading company was ultimately linked a big banker. The returns on colonial investment were consistently higher than those on investments in the metropoles, so the financiers stood to benefit from sponsoring colonial enterprise.

In the earliest years of colonialism, the banks in Africa were small and relatively independent. This applied to the Banque de Senegal, started as early as 1853, and to the Bank of British West Africa which began as an offshoot of the shipping firm of Elder Dempster. However, the great banking houses of Europe, which carried on remote control of developments ever since the 1880s, soon moved in directly on the colonial banking scene when the volume of capitalist transactions made this worthwhile. The Banque de Senegal merged into the Banque de L’Afrique Occidentale (BAO) in 1901, acquiring links with the powerful Bank of Indo-China, which in turn was a special creation of

several powerful metropolitan French bankers. In 1924, the Banque Comerciale de 1’Afrique (BCA) emerged in the French territories, linked with the Credit Lyonais and the BNCI in France. By that time the Bank of British West Africa had its finance backed by Lloyds Bank, Westminster Bank, the Standard Bank and the National Provincial Bank – all in England. The other great English banking firm, Barclays, moved directly into Africa. It purchased the Colonial Bank and set it up as Barclays DCO (i.e., Dominion and Colonial).The Bank of British West Africa (which became the Bank of West Africa in 1957) and Barclays held between them the lion’s share of the banking business of British West Africa, just as French West and Equatorial Africa were shared out between the BAO and the BCA. There was also a union of French and British banking capital in West Africa in 1949 with the formation of the British and French West Africa Bank. French and Belgian exploitation also overlapped in the financial sphere, since the Societé Generale had both Belgian and French capital. It supported banks in French Africa and the Congo. Other weaker colonial powers were served by the international banks such as Barclays, as well as using their colonial territories as grazing ground for their own national banks. In Libya, the Banco di Roma and the Banco di Napoli operated; while in Portuguese territories the most familiar name was that of the Banco Ultramarino.In Southern Africa, the outstanding banking firm was the Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd., started in 1862 in the Cape Colony by the heads of business houses having close connections with London. Its headquarters were placed in London, and it made a fortune out of financing gold and diamond strikes, and through handling the loot of Cecil Rhodes and De Beers. By 1895, the Standard Bank spread into Bechuanaland, Rhodesia and Mozambique; and it was the second British bank to be established in British East Africa. The actual scale of profits was quite formidable. ln a book officially sponsored by the Standard Bank, the writer modestly concluded as follows:

Little attention has been paid in the text of this book to the financial outcome of the Standard Bank’s activities, yet their profitability was an inevitable outcome of survival and was therefore bound to be a primary objective from first to last.

In 1960, the Standard Bank produced a net profit of £1,1810000 and paid a 14% dividend to its shareholders. Most of the latter were in Europe or else were whites South Africa, while the profit was produced mainly by black people of South and East Africa. Furthermore, European banks transferred the reserves of their African branches to the London head office to be invested in London money market. This was the way in which most rapidly expatriated African surplus to the metropoles.The first bank to be set up in East Africa in the 1890’s was an offshoot of a British bank operating in India. It later came to be called the National & Grindlays. In neighbouring Tanganyika the Germans established the German East African Bank in 1905, but after the first world war the British had a near monopoly of East African banking. Altogether nine foreign banks were in existence in East Africa during  the colonial period, out of which the big three were National & Grindlays, the Standard Bank and Barclays.

East Africa provides an interesting example of how effectively foreign banks served to dispossess Africa of its wealth. Most of the banking and other financial services were rendered to white settlers whose conception of ‘home’ was Britain. Consequently when the white settlers felt threatened towards the end of the colonial period they rushed to send their money home to Britain, For example, when the decision to concede self-government to Kenya was taken by the British in 1960, a sum of Shs. 40 million was immediately transferred to ‘safety’ in London by whites in Tanganyika. That sum, like all other remittances by colonial banks represented the exploitation of African land resources labour.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Reverse lend lease
          • The process of paying off wartime  loans to Britain with raw materials shipped from colonies

“From 1943, Britain and the U.S.A. engaged in what was known as ‘reverse lend lease’. This meant that wartime United States loans to Britain were repaid partly by raw materials shipped from British

colonies to the U.S.A. Tin and rubber from Malaya were very important in that context, while Africa supplied a wide range of products, both mineral and agricultural. Cocoa was third as a dollar earner after tin and rubber. In 1947, West African cocoa brought over 100 million dollars (£38 million) to the British dollar balance. Besides, having a virtual monopoly of the production of diamonds, (South) Africa was also able to sell to the U.S.A. and earn dollars for Britain. In 1946, Harry F. Oppenheimer told his fellow directors of the De Beers Consolidated Mines that ‘sales of gem diamonds during the war secured about 300 million American dollars for Great Britain’.

It was on this very issue of currency that the colonial government did the most manipulations to ensure that Africa’s wealth was stashed away in the coffers of the metropolitan state. In the British colonial sphere, coins and notes were first issued through private banks. Then this function was taken over by the West African Currency Board and the East African Currency Board established in 1912 and 1919, respectively. The currency issued by those Boards in the colonies had to be backed by ‘sterling reserves’, which was money earned by Africa. The manner in which the system worked was as follows. When a colony earned foreign exchange (mainly) through exports, these earnings were held in Britain in Pounds Sterling. An equivalent amount of local East or West African currency was issued for circulation in the respective colonies, while the Sterling was invested in British Government Stock thereby earning even more profit for Britain. The commercial banks worked hand in hand with the metropolitan government and the Currency Boards to make the system work.  Together they established an intricate financial network which served the common end of enriching Europe at Africa’s expense.

The contribution to sterling reserves by any colony was a gift to the British treasury, for which the colony received little interest. By the end of the 1950s, the sterling reserves of a small colony like Sierra Leone had reached £60 million; while in 1955 the British government was holding £210 million derived from the sale of cocoa and minerals from Gold Coast. Egypt and the Sudan were also heavy contributors to Britain. Africa’s total contribution to Britain’s sterling balances in 1945 was £446 million, which went up to £1,446 million by 1955-more than half the total gold and dollar reserves of Britain and the Commonwealth, which then stood at £2,120 million. Men like Arthur Creech-Jones and Oliver Lyttleton, major figures in British colonial policy-making, admitted that in the early 1950s Britain was living on the dollar earnings of the colonies.

The British government was outdone by its Belgian counterpart in exacting tribute from its colonies, especially during and after the last War. After Belgium was overrun by the Germans, a government-in-exile was set up in London. The Colonial Secretary of that exiled regime, Mr. Godding, admitted that,

During the war, the Congo was able to finance all the expenditure of the Belgian government in London, including the diplomatic service as well as the cost of our armed forces in Europe and Africa, a total of some £40 million. In fact, thanks to the resources of the Congo, the Belgian government in London had not to borrow a shilling or a dollar, and the Belgian gold reserve could be left intact 

Since the War, surplus of earnings by the Congo in currencies other than the Belgian franc have all accrued to the National Bank of Belgium. Therefore, quite apart from all that the private capitalists looted from Congo, the Belgian government was also a direct beneficiary to the tune of millions of francs per annum.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

        • Unequal exchange
          • “The differences between the prices of African exports of raw materials and their importation of manufactured goods constituted a form of unequal exchange. Throughout the colonial period, this inequality in exchange got worse” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

“The differences between the prices of African exports of raw materials and their importation of manufactured goods constituted a form of unequal exchange. Throughout the colonial period, this inequality in exchange got worse. Economists refer to the process as one of deteriorating terms of trade. In 1939, with the same quantity of primary goods colonies could buy only 60% of manufactured goods which they bought in the decade 1870-80 before colonial rule. By 1960, the amount of European manufactured goods purchasable by the same quantity of African raw materials had fallen still further. There was no objective economic law which determined that primary produce should be worth so little. Indeed, the developed countries sold certain raw materials like timber and wheat at much higher prices than a colony could command. The explanation is that the unequal exchange was forced upon Africa by the political and military supremacy of the colonisers, just as in the sphere of international relations unequal treaties were forced upon small states in the dependencies, like those in Latin America.

The unequal nature of the trade between the metropole and the colonies was emphasised by the concept of the ‘protected market’, which meant even an inefficient metropolitan producer could find a guaranteed market in the colony where his class had political control. Furthermore, as in the preceding era of pre-colonial trade, European manufacturers built up useful sidelines of goods which would have been sub-standard in their own markets, especially in textiles. The European farmer also gained in the same way by selling cheap butter, while the Scandinavian  fisherman came into his own through the export of salted cod. Africa was not a large market for European products, compared to other continents, but both buying-prices and selling-prices were set by European capitalists. That certainly allowed their manufacturers and traders more easy access to the surplus of wealth produced in Africa than they would have had if Africans were in a position to raise the price of their own exports.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

      • Role of the Church

“Whatever the church taught in any capacity may be considered as a contribution to formal and informal education in colonial Africa, and its teachings must be placed within a social context. The church’s role was primarily to preserve the social relations of colonialism, as an extension of the role it played in preserving the social relations of capitalism in Europe. Therefore, the Christian church stressed humility, docility and acceptance. Ever since the days of slavery in the West Indies, the church had been brought in on condition that it should not excite the African slaves with doctrines of equality before God. In those days, they taught slaves to sing that all things were bright and beautiful, and that the slave master in his castle was to be accepted as God’s work just like the slave living in a miserable hovel and working 20 hours per day under the whip. Similarly, in colonial Africa churches could be relied upon to preach turning the other cheek in the face of exploitation, and they drove home the message that everything would be right in the next world. Only the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa was openly racist, but all others were racist in so far as their European personnel were no different from other whites who had imbibed racism and cultural imperialism as a consequence of the previous centuries of contact between Europeans and the rest of the world.

In serving colonialism, the church often took up the role of arbiter of what was culturally correct. African ancestral beliefs were equated with the devil (who was black anyway), and it took a very long time before some European churchmen accepted prevailing African beliefs as constituting religion rather than mere witchcraft and magic. However, in its hostility towards African cultural and religious manifestations, the Christian church did perform certain progressive tasks. Practices such as killing twins and trial by ordeal were frowned upon by the European missionaries, and those were reflections of superstitious ideas rooted in an early stage of African development, when something like the birth of twins could not be scientifically explained, and, therefore, gave rise to religious fear.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

      • Role of US

“U.S. capitalists did not confine themselves to mere trade with Africa, but they also acquired considerable assets within colonies. It is common knowledge that Liberia was an American colony in everything but name. The U.S.A. supposedly aided the Liberian government with loans, but used the opportunity to take over Liberian customs revenue, to plunder thousands of square miles of Liberian land, and generally to dictate to the weak government of Liberia. The main investment in Liberia was undertaken by Firestone Rubber Company. Firestone made such huge profits from Liberian rubber that it was the subject of a book sponsored by American capitalists to show how well American business flourished overseas. Between 1940 and 1965, Firestone took 160 million dollars worth of rubber out of Liberia; while in return the Liberian government received 8 million dollars. In earlier years, the percentage of the value that went to the Liberian government was much smaller, but, at the best of times, the average net profit made by Firestone was three times the Liberian revenue.

And yet the non-monetary benefits to the U.S. capitalist economy were worth far more than the money returns. Vice-Admiral Cochrane, in the quotation above, went to the heart of the matter when he mentioned strategic raw materials for the functioning of the industrial and military machine of the U.S. imperialists. Firestone acquired its Liberian plantations precisely because Britain and Holland had been raising the price of the rubber which came from their Asian colonies of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, respectively. In Liberia, the U.S. rubber industry obtained a source that was reliable in peace and in war – one that was cheap and entirely under American control. One of rubber’s most immediate connections was with the motor-car industry, and so it is not surprising that Henry Firestone was a great friend and business colleague of John Ford. Liberian rubber turned the town of Akron (Ohio) into a powerful rubber tyre manufacturing centre, and the tyres then went over to the even bigger motor-car works of Ford in Detroit. American investment in Africa during the last 15 years of colonialism was in some ways at the expense of the actual colonising powers and yet ultimately it was in the interests of Western European capitalism. This paradox is explained by noting that the U.S.A. had become the world’s leading capitalist/imperialist power by the outbreak of the second World War. It possessed the colonies of Puerto Rico and the Philippines, but much more important were its imperialistic investments throughout Latin America and to a lesser extent in Asia and Africa. America’s foreign investments in the 1930s drew slightly ahead of those of Britain, which were a long way ahead of the imperialist outlay of France, Germany and Japan. The 1939-45 war tremendously accelerated the changeover in America’s favour.

Europe suffered staggering losses, but no battles were fought on American soil, and so its productive capacity expanded. Therefore, after 1945, U.S. capital moved into Africa, Asia and Europe itself with new aggressiveness and confidence, due to the fact that other capitalist competitors were still lying on the ground. In 1949, both British and French bankers had no choice but to invite American financiers into the African continent, for the French and British had insufficient capital of their own. The U.S.-controlled International Bank for Reconstruction and Development became an important vehicle for American influence in Africa and one of the tools for the economic re-partition of the continent.” Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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Graphic by @theslowfactory

“Colonialism isn’t a thing of the past. It is still an economic and social reality. The same routes that were utilized during the Atlantic slave trades are still being used today but now they are used to move customer goods like clothing, electronics, machinery, weapons, and pharmaceuticals.

Across the globe thousands of human beings are still working in poor and unsafe labor conditions that have led to tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed at least 1,134 people and injured ~2,500. Today is the seven year anniversary of the collapse and these kinds of accidents and conditions continue to impact factory workers. This is especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now factory workers are being put at risk for contracting the virus while fashion brands are refusing to pay manufacturers forcing many to shut down and people to lose their jobs and livelihoods.” the.mirror

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Japantimes: How African countries left their colonizers

A wave of sub-Saharan African countries became independent in the 1960s, 17 achieving self-rule from colonial Belgium, Britain and France in 1960 alone.

Portugal’s colonies would only break free in the 1970s and it took other nations, such as Eritrea, even longer to re-establish their sovereignty.

Here is a breakdown of African decolonization:

British colonies

In 1957 Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence.

Britain tackled the independence of its other territories case by case. Nigeria and Somalia became independent in 1960, and in 1961 it was the turn of Sierra Leone and Tanganyika, which became Tanzania after merging with Zanzibar three years later.

Uganda followed in 1962; Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) and Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) in 1964; and The Gambia in 1965.

Kenya declared independence in 1963 after a brutal crackdown on Mau Mau fighters who battled colonial rule from 1952 to 1960.

Botswana and Lesotho were independent in 1966; Swaziland and Mauritius in 1968; and the Seychelles in 1976.

In 1965 Rhodesia’s white-minority government unilaterally proclaimed independence, which was not recognized by Britain or other countries. A guerrilla war achieved black-majority rule in 1980 and the country was renamed Zimbabwe.

French colonies

In 1958 Gen. Charles de Gaulle called on France’s colonies to choose between joining a Franco-African Community or winning immediate independence. Only Guinea opted for self-rule, declaring independence weeks later.

Fourteen French colonies broke away in 1960: Cameroon in January followed by Senegal, Togo, Madagascar, Dahomey (Benin), Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Mali and then Mauritania in November.

The process was often difficult, with independence movements facing a harsh riposte from French authorities, for example, in Madagascar where 10,000 to 100,000 were killed in a clampdown on a 1947 uprising.

The Comoros islands gained independence in 1975, except for Mayotte, which decided to remain part of France. Djibouti followed in 1977.

Belgian colonies

Congo was literally the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II for 23 years before becoming a Belgian colony.

It became independent in 1960, after riots in Leopoldville, today called Kinshasa. Two other Belgian colonies became independent in 1962 under the names of Rwanda and Burundi.

Spanish colonies

Five years after gaining autonomy, Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968.

In 1975 Spain ceded Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania, despite opposition from Polisario Front separatists who declared it as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976.

Three years later Mauritania gave up its portion of the disputed territory and it was annexed by Morocco. In 1991, after a 16-year war, Morocco and the Polisario concluded a U.N.-backed cease-fire.

Today the Western Sahara is the only territory on the African continent whose postcolonial status has not been settled.

Portuguese colonies

Portugal’s dictatorship resisted liberation wars in its colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde in the early 1960s. After it was overthrown in 1974, all four countries achieved independence, as did the other Portuguese colony of Sao Tome and Principe.

Other cases

South Africa — first a Dutch and then a British colony, and independent since 1910 — was from 1948 ruled by a white-minority apartheid regime that ended in 1994 with the election of its first black president, Nelson Mandela.

South Africa took over Namibia from Germany after World War I and continued to administer the territory even after a U.N. mandate was withdrawn in 1966. After a 23-year struggle, Namibia became independent in 1990.

The former Italian colony of Eritrea was in 1952 federated to Ethiopia, which annexed it in 1962. It proclaimed its independence in 1993 after a 30-year independence war.

IRCC: African nations struggle for independence

In just a few years on either side of 1960, a wave of struggles for independence was sweeping across Africa. Between March 1957, when Ghana declared independence from Great Britain, and July 1962, when Algeria wrested independence from France after a bloody war, 24 African nations freed themselves from their former colonial masters.

In most former English and French colonies, independence came relatively peacefully. But the transition from colonial governments did not always lead to peace. Internal conflicts within the newly independent countries and the continued resistance of the colonial powers in southern Africa often forced large numbers of innocent people to flee civil strife and repressive new regimes.

The IRC was among the first organizations to come to the aid of the more than 200,000 Angolan refugees who fled to Zaire in 1962. Photo: IRC

When more than 200,000 Angolans escaped their country’s Portuguese colonial government and fled to nearby Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1962, the IRC responded quickly. This was the IRC’s first initiative on the African continent and a demonstration of the organization’s expanded global mission and responsibility. We supplied medicine and enlisted refugee doctors for a medical assistance program. Dr. Marcus Wooley, a French-speaking surgeon who had himself once been a refugee from Haiti, was sent to Zaire. He administered the distribution of medical supplies, performed surgery at the Service d’Assistance aux Refugies Angolais clinic and at the many border camps he visited. He devoted much of his time to teaching first aid and preventive care to the refugees and to improving the skills of Angolan health care workers. Working with Catholic Relief Services and Church World Service, the IRC was able to send $179,000 worth of medicines, high-protein food and other aid to Angolan refugees. After 18 months, the IRC was forced to withdraw, along with United Nations troops, owing to renewed fighting between insurgents and government forces. Fortunately, local aid workers were able to take over the programs.

In 1967, the IRC became involved in a dramatic crisis in Nigeria. After winning independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria formed a coalition government that was soon roiled by a disputed election, massacres of Ibo people, and the eventual secession of the Ibos, who claimed the southeastern part of Nigeria as the independent nation of Biafra. Civil war and mass starvation followed. The IRC joined with other organizations in launching the Biafra Christmas Ship, which provided 3,000 tons of food, drugs, and other life-saving supplies to the Ibos. We also recruited Nigerian doctors in the U.S for volunteer missions to Biafra. At first it seemed that Biafra might survive. But famine and Nigeria’s superior army overcame the struggle for independence. The Ibos surrendered in 1970, but not before an estimated one million people had died.

Benjamin Talton: African The Challenge of Decolonization in Africa

Through the process of decolonization that began, in most African territories, at the close of World War II, African leaders gained greater political power under European rule. In the decades that followed independence, they worked to shape the cultural, political, and economic character of the postcolonial state. Some worked against the challenges of continued European cultural and political hegemony, while others worked with European powers in order to protect their interests and maintain control over economic and political resources. Decolonization, then, was a process as well as a historical period.

Yet the nations and regions of Africa experienced it with varying degrees of success. By 1990, formal European political control had given way to African self-rule—except in South Africa. Culturally and politically, however, the legacy of European dominance remained evident in the national borders, political infrastructures, education systems, national languages, economies, and trade networks of each nation. Ultimately, decolonization produced moments of inspiration and promise, yet failed to transform African economies and political structures to bring about true autonomy and development.

The Year of Africa

“Most of our weaknesses,” declared Kenneth Kaunda, first president of Zambia, in a March 1966 speech, “derive from lack of finance, trained personnel, etc., etc., etc. We are left with no choice but to fall on either the east or west, or indeed, on both of them.” What Kaunda does not state is that the weaknesses that he speaks of were, first and foremost, products of European colonial strategies and, second, the failure of all but a few of his colleagues in other independent African nations to fully serve the interests of their people through brave and innovative development programs.

When decolonization began, there were reasons for optimism. The year 1960 was heralded throughout Africa and the West as “the Year of Africa” for the inspiring change that swept the continent. During that year, the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa shook the world to awaken to the horrors of white minority rule as South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful black protesters, killing sixty-nine in full view of photographers and reporters. Also in 1960, seventeen African territories gained independence from the strong arm of European colonial rule. These seventeen nations joined the United Nation’s General Assembly and gave greater voice to the non-Western world.

Fully recognizing the potential for the remarkable change that African independence could bring to global politics, on February 3, 1960, Harold Macmillan, prime minister of Great Britain from 1957 to 1963, delivered his famous speech, “Wind of Change,” to the South African parliament. “The growth of national consciousness in Africa is a political fact,” Macmillan said, “and we must accept it as such. … I believe that if we cannot do so we may imperil the precarious balance between the East and West on which the peace of the world depends.” He cautioned Western nations to change their behavior toward Africa to prevent the continent from falling under the sway of the East.

The Cold War

It was this fear of Soviet influence in Africa, particularly on the part of the United States, that created such a major problem for African nations. Western powers viewed African independence through the lens of the Cold War, which rendered African leaders as either pro-West or pro-East; there was little acceptable middle ground. Naïvely, most African leaders believed that they could navigate the political land mines of the Cold War through political neutrality. Along these lines, in his speech on the occasion of Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963, Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta (in power from 1964 to 1978) declared:

The aim of my government which starts today is not to be pro-left or pro-right. We shall pursue the task of national building in friendship with the rest of the world. Nobody will ever be allowed to tell us, to tell me: you must be friendly to so-and-so. We shall remain free and whoever wants friendship with us must be a real friend.

Nonetheless, as Africans declared themselves nonaligned, pro-West, or Marxist sympathizers, Cold War politics deprived them of the freedom to truly shape their political paths. Combined with the strong residue of the colonial political structure, African leaders designed their internal and external politics mindful of the Western powers’ vigilance against socialist or communist influences.

Although Western European powers granted aid to African nations, they also coerced governments to support their agendas and instigated and aided coups against democratically elected governments. They also fomented civil unrest to ensure that governments friendly to their Cold War agenda remained in power and those that were not were removed by political machinations or assassination. In the Congo, for example, Joseph Mobutu took a strong anti-communist position and was subsequently rewarded by Western powers. It mattered little that in 1960 he helped orchestrate the coup that removed and ultimately brought about the murder of Patrice Lumumba, was among the most anti-democratic leaders on the continent, and siphoned Western aid and revenue from the nation’s natural resources into personal accounts. Mobutu’s rise to power and economic and political damage to Congo in the process—with the help of his Western allies—demonstrates that the politics of the Cold War, more than anything else, defined the successes and failures of African decolonization.

Neo Colonialism

In the 1960s, Frantz Fanon, the anti-colonial intellectual and psychoanalyst, among others, described neo-colonialism as the continued exploitation of the continent from outside and within, together with European political intervention during the post-independence years. One of the many questions that African leaders faced was whether continued economic and political interaction with former colonial powers threatened their autonomy and political viability. The ex- colonizers wanted to retain their former colonial territories within their sphere of influence. This continued relationship, Fanon argued, benefited African politicians and the small middle class but did not benefit the national majorities. The result was tension between the ruling classes and the majority population.

In 1964 he wrote in Toward the African Revolution: “Every former colony has a particular way of achieving independence. Every new sovereign state finds itself practically under the obligation of maintaining definite and deferential relations with the former oppressor.” With regard to the Cold War he continued:

This competitive strategy of Western nations, moreover, enters into the vaster framework of the policy of the two blocs, which for ten years has held a definite menace of atomic disintegration suspended over the world. And it is surely not purely by chance that the hand or the eye of Moscow is discovered, in an almost stereotypical way, behind each demand for national independence, put forth by a colonial people.

Early in the decolonization process, there were fleeting moments in which the emerging African and Asian nations did seek to shift the political paradigm away from the Cold War’s East-West dichotomy. Foremost among these initiatives was the 1955 Bandung Conference, held in Bandung, Indonesia, from April 18 to 24, 1955. Representatives from twenty-nine Asian and African countries gathered to chart a course for neutrality in the Cold War conflict. The attendees agreed that to avoid being trapped within a Western or Soviet political orbit, developing nations must not rely on the industrialized powers for economic and political aid. Therefore, they vowed to work together by pooling their developmental and technological resources to establish an economic and political sphere, a third way, to counterbalance the West and the Soviet Union.

However, it was a challenge for African nations to forge international links beyond words on paper: few national networks of administration, communication, or transportation within their borders operated consistently and effectively. In addition, the senior administrators who ran the colonies were removed with European rule, to be replaced by Africans with far less experience. Moreover, the political system that African leaders inherited was structured to benefit the evolving ruling classes with little regard for the needs of the people. There were few real efforts beyond the political speeches of Kwame Nkrumah—Ghana’s first president, in power from 1957 to 1966—and the words of the founding charter of the Organization of African Unity to look beyond these accepted borders toward pan-Africanist or even regional confederations.

Moreover, the failure to dismantle the internal political structures imposed by European colonial regimes allowed ethnic and regional-based political competition (which acted as such a strong obstacle to national unity and progressive rule) to remain at the core of local and national political structures. Generally, the absence of national identities and political movements facilitated the continued intervention of the former colonial powers in Africa’s internal affairs.

In addition, with few exceptions, European powers continued to dominate the economic affairs of the former colonies. Under European rule, people were forced to grow cash crops. This practice continued after independence, and the farmers remained vulnerable to the vagaries of the world market. A fall in world prices created political instability. This was the case in Ghana in the 1960s when the price of cocoa collapsed, and in Rwanda in the 1980s, when the price of coffee fell. The former contributed to Nkrumah’s fall from power in 1966, and the latter to civil war and ultimately genocide in the early 1990s.

Pan-Africanism and Socialism

The most outstanding post-independence leaders were cognizant of the challenges of the Cold War and ongoing European economic and political influence and sought remedies to ensure the autonomy and development of their nations. Few pursued initiatives that transformed their nations into bastions of economic and political stability. Nonetheless, they worked steadfastly to dismantle the colonial political structures and replaced them with systems that reflected the history, culture, and needs of the people.

In addition to launching a bold and expansive, if economically unviable, industrializing program, Kwame Nkrumah believed in the political and economic unification of the African continent. A federally unified state, he argued, would allow Africa to pool resources to rebuild the continent for the benefit of its people as opposed to multinational corporations. In I Speak of Freedom, Kwame Nkrumah wrote: “It is clear we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”

From a Western standpoint, Nkrumah forged alliances that increasingly placed him in the camp of the Eastern Bloc. Western governments understood Nkrumah’s agenda to be socialist and worried about his influence on other African leaders. There are debates about the forces behind the coup that overthrew him in February 1966, but there is strong evidence from the State Department Archives that the United States was interested in removing him from power and that they worked to manipulate the international cocoa price to fuel dissatisfaction with his regime.

Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania from 1964 to 1985, argued for shifting the political paradigm away from the European models inherited from the colonial era and toward indigenous Africans forms. In particular, he advocated for African socialism, which more closely aligned with the communal practices of “traditional” African societies. In his Arusha Declaration, published in February 1967, Nyerere declared African socialism as the model for African development. Contrary to the Western model of economic development, Ujamaa socialism, and African socialism generally, emphasized collective responsibility and advancement in place of the individual:

It is stupid to rely on money as the major instrument of development when we know only too well that our country is poor. It is equally stupid, indeed it is even more stupid, for us to imagine that we shall rid ourselves of our poverty through foreign financial assistance rather than our own financial resources…

From now on we shall stand upright and walk forward on our feet rather than look at this problem upside down. Industries will come and money will come, but their foundation is the people and their hard work, especially in agriculture. This is the meaning of self-reliance.

Self-reliance and the freedom to aggressively pursue an autonomous global political position proved elusive in an era in which the West defined its friends by their perceived position within the Cold War divide. Unique among the overtly socialist leaders in Africa, Nyerere enjoyed political longevity and friendly relations with Western and Eastern Bloc nations. Yet throughout the 1970s the Tanzanian economy, and Nyerere’s Ujamaa socialism for that matter, failed to produce the economic and political benefits that it espoused.

Tragedy in Congo

In Congo, Patrice Lumumba, its first prime minister, also battled the forces of the Cold War but with more tragic consequences. On Independence Day, June 30, 1960, Lumumba delivered a speech in the presence of the king of Belgium, denouncing the atrocities of colonial rule and declaring that Congo would establish an autonomous government and an economy for the people:

We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make of the Congo the center of the sun’s radiance for all of Africa.

We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children. We are going to restore ancient laws and make new ones which will be just and noble…

And for all that, dear fellow countrymen, be sure that we will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches but on the assistance of numerous foreign countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture of no matter what nature…

The Congo’s independence marks a decisive step towards the liberation of the entire African continent.

Western powers viewed Lumumba as dangerous and vulnerable to falling under Soviet sway, and they quickly collaborated on a plan with the United Nations’ assistance to undermine him. He served as prime minister for fewer than seven months before he was deposed and assassinated as part of a plot drawn up by the United States, Belgium, and their allies within the Congo. Because Western powers feared that the country’s resources would be nationalized or, even worse, be made available to the Soviet Union, they thought it necessary to have a pro-Western government installed, regardless of its legitimacy within the Congo or its commitment to democracy and development

Proxy War in Angola

The United States’ deep investment in destabilizing the democratically elected, post-independence government of Angola is arguably the most profound example of Western influence and its destructive consequences for Africa. In 1975 Angola gained its independence from Portugal, and three nationalist groups subsequently fought for control of the government: the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), led by President José Eduardo dos Santos and backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union; UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), led by Jonas Savimbi and backed by South Africa and the United States; and the FNLA (National Liberation Front of Angola), backed by Zaire’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko (he had changed the name Congo to Zaire in 1971.)

Cuban and Soviet support for MPLA, including Cuban troops led by Che Guevara, forced Zaire and South Africa to withdraw their forces, which allowed the democratically elected MPLA to organize a government. Savimbi and UNITA became the rebel opposition but enjoyed little support beyond Savimbi’s Ovimbundu ethnic group and financing from the United States. The basis for American support for UNITA was that Savimbi declared himself an avowed anti-Marxist, in contrast to the nominally Marxist MPLA. Between 1986 and 1991 the United States spent $250 million on a covert operation in Angola and aid to Savimbi. In a 1986 meeting at the White House, U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared Savimbi a “freedom fighter” for his struggle against dos Santos and the MPLA. Yet in 2002, when news of Savimbi’s death reached Luanda, the Angolan capital, people poured into the streets shouting, “The terrorist is gone!”

It was only with Savimbi’s death that fighting ended between the MPLA government and UNITA. The twenty-seven-year civil war caused so much destruction to the nation that UNICEF declared Angola the worst place in the world to be a child. Angola stands as a harsh illustration of the direct consequence of civil war, Cold War politics, and failures in African leadership.

Between the early 1950s and the mid-1970s, as African leaders south of the Sahara took direct control of their economies, political institutions, and resources, they entered the brutal trap of Cold War–era global politics. European economic and political influence remained deeply entrenched in Africa throughout the period because of their strategic interests in maintaining unobstructed access to Africa’s natural resources and in supporting governments friendly to Western political interests. More important, there was an acute failure of African leadership in many of the newly independent African nations as Western aid and a focus on anti-communism paved the way for political corruption and self-interest among African leaders. Decolonization, therefore, released Africans from their status as colonial subjects but failed to rid African nations of the sway of their former colonial rulers, other Western powers, and a culture of political and economic exploitation and corruption.

Further Readings

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Modern Impacts of Colonialism

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“To understand the root causes of the pathologies we see today which impact all of us but affect Brown, Black and Poor people more intensely, we have to examine the foundations of this society which began with COLONIZATION.

To me, to be colonized means to be disconnected and disintegrated—from our ancestry, from the earth, from our indigeneity, our earth-connected selves. We all come from earthconnected people, people who once lived in deep connection to the rhythms of nature. I believe it is not a coincidence that the colonization of this land happened at the same time that Europeans were burning hundreds of thousands of witches, those women who carried the traditional indigenous knowledge of the tribes of Europe.

Colonization was the way the extractive economic system of Capitalism came to this land, supported by systems of supremacy and domination which are a necessary part to keep wealth and power accumulated in the hands of the colonizers and ultimately their financiers.

In what is now known at the US, this system of supremacy is expressed in many ways with many outcomes but we will focus on specific ones for the sake of time.

First white supremacy, which created a framework that legitimized slavery and genocide. Slavery created cheap labor which is necessary for a functioning capitalist system. And genocide created unlimited access to resources, in the form of land, animal parts, minerals and raw materials which are also necessary for a functioning capitalist economy. And as capitalism functions, it further entrenches systems of supremacy.

We all know that white supremacy looks like scary people with swastikas in hoods. But it can also look like any place where there’s an abundance of white people in exclusive contexts, where power and access is not readily ceded to others. There’s white supremacy and then there’s male supremacy, AKA patriarchy, which leads to the invisibilizing of women’s labor (you know, like creating the entire human race out of our bodies) or in this context, reproducing the work force and suppressing our wages, which further supports capitalism. Patriarchy 3 also leads to femicide, domestic violence and child abuse, which we see across all groups here.

We also see human supremacy, where people feel superior to the rest of living entities, thereby subjecting living soils, seeds, animals, plants and water to horrific treatment in the name of exploiting resources, which in turn feeds the capitalist need for ever increasing profits.

While this wheel of domination, exploitation, generation and sequestration of wealth continues, we experience as a byproduct and common pathway TRAUMA and many studies have shown us that chronic stress and trauma create chronic inflammation.” the.mirror

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Anti-Blackness and Anti-Indigneous Culture

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John a. Powell on Anti-Black State Violence

(Start at 17:30)

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Inequalities Today

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PEW: Seven-in-ten people globally live on $10 or less per day

Following his election in March 2013, Pope Francis wasted little time in conveying his great unease with the state of global poverty and inequality. He wrote:

“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. … Inequality is the root of social ills.”

The urgency expressed by Pope Francis is grounded in harsh reality.

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The vast majority of the world’s population lives on a budget that falls well short of the poverty line in advanced economies. Specifically, 4.4 billion people – 71% of the global population of 6.2 billion – lived on $10 or less per day in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data.

In stark contrast, the poverty line in the U.S. was $15.77 per day per capita for a four-person household in 2011. Moreover, the median daily income of poor Americans was $11.45 per capita, greater than the income of more than seven-in-ten people globally. (All dollar figures are expressed in 2011 prices and purchasing power parities.)

In our report, we divided people who live on $10 or less daily into two groups: the global poor, who live on $2 or less per day, and the global low-income population that lives on $2 to $10 per day. By this standard, the majority of the global population (3.4 billion, or 56%) is low income. A billion more people, 15% of the global population, are poor.

In a historic achievement, economic growth pulled 669 million people out of poverty from 2001 to 2011. As a result, the share of the world’s population that lived on $2 or less per day was cut in half, from 29% to 15%.

To a large extent, however, this merely served to boost the size of the next tier up – the low-income population – which increased by 694 million from 2001 to 2011. And many of the newly minted members of the low-income population are at the edge of the global poverty line, living on about $3 daily, perhaps only an economic shock from slipping back into poverty.

A closer look at where in the world poor and low-income people live, and where high-income people live, reveals a wide gulf across regions.

In 2011, 90% of poor and low-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific (South Pacific includes Australia and Fiji). On the other hand, only 4% of those managing on $10 or less daily lived in North America and Europe. By comparison, about three-quarters (74%) of the global population lives in Africa and Asia-South Pacific and 19% lives in North America and Europe. (See our report for a list of countries included in each region.)

Our report categorized people as high-income if their daily budget exceeded $50. This is not a big leap for advanced economies – the median income in many such countries is greater. However, only 9% of the global high-income population lives in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 87% in North America and Europe.

The divide between the global “haves” and “have-nots” also has not closed in the 21st century. In 2001, 86% of the world’s poor and low-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 7% in North America and Europe. At the same time, only 6% of high-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 91% in North America and Europe.

The living standards within most African and Asian nations point to deep levels of impoverishment. In 18 of the 28 countries in Asia-South Pacific covered in the Pew Research study, nearly eight-in-ten people or more were either poor or low income in 2011. This group includes India, where 97% of the population is poor or low income, and China, where the share is 78%.

Conditions within Africa point to even more deprivation. In 24 of 30 African countries included in the study, at least nine-in-ten people were poor or low income in 2011. That was the case in, for example, Nigeria, where 98% of the population was poor or low income in 2011, and Kenya, where it was true for 93% of the population.

It is impossible to know if and when Pope Francis’ wish for an end to global poverty and inequality will be fulfilled. Other recent Pew Research surveys find optimism among people in Africa, India and China about their economic futures. But it is not unbridled enthusiasm. Most Africans recognize the challenges ahead, including the need for improvement in health care and education. In India, there’s concern about lack of employment opportunities and rising prices. And in China, inflation, corruption and inequality top the list of public concerns.

“When you only consider what the world looked during our life time it is easy to think of the world as static – the rich, healthy and educated parts of the world here and the poor, uneducated, sick regions there – and to falsely conclude that it always was like that and that it always will be like that….

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… That it is possible to make progress against poverty is important to know because even after two centuries of progress poverty remains one of the very largest problems in the world. The the majority of the world population still lives in poverty: Every tenth person lives on less than $1.90 per day and two-thirds live on less than $10 per day. Much more progress is needed.” Our World in Data

“Each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Some 854 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and high food prices may drive another 100 million into poverty and hunger.” UN Chronicle: Losing 25,000 to Hunger Every Day

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The total wealth of the Forbes 400 reached $2.4 trillion in 2016. It was $1 trillion in 1998. The graph plots the net worth of the Forbes 400 in real 2016 dollars. In 2016, a net worth of $1.7 billion was required to join the Forbes 400. Not making the list were 153 billionaires.
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Source: Forbes Magazine, October, Forbes 400 issues published annually in October since 1982.

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Environmental Crisis

World Crunch: Colonialism, The Hidden Cause Of Our Environmental Crisis

They may only be a few short sentences, but they have sparked strong reactions among critics of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who became a figurehead for the climate movement.

On Nov. 9, 2019, an article entitled “Why we strike again,” written by Thunberg and two others, claimed, “The climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.”

The article takes up one of the arguments of de-colonial environmentalism: that the climate crisis is linked to the history of slavery and colonialism by the Western powers.

Since the 1970s, African-American researchers have made the link between the environment and colonialism. “The real solution to the environmental crisis is the decolonization of the black race,” Nathan Hare wrote in 1970. Five years later, sociologist Terry Jones spoke of “apartheid ecology,” a concept that would be further developed in the 1990s by Latin American decolonial thinkers at American universities, such as Walter Mignolo at Duke (North Carolina), Ramón Grosfoguel at Berkeley (California) or Arturo Escobar at the University of North Carolina.

“The true beginning of the Anthropocene is the European colonization of America. This major historical event, which had dramatic consequences for the Native American people and founded a capitalist world economy, has also left its mark on our planet’s geology,” write researchers Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz in The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us, alluding to the work of British geographers Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin.”

“Bringing together flora and fauna from the Old and New Worlds completely transformed agriculture, botany and zoology across the globe, with life forms that had been separated by the break-up of Pangaea and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean 200 million years before suddenly mixing once again,” they add.

In France, researchers are seeking to show how the slave trade, slavery and the conquest and exploitation of colonies allowed capitalism to become structured around an economy of extraction. This destructive way of inhabiting our planet is responsible for ushering in a new geological epoch characterized by human industrial activity: the Anthropocene.

For decolonial thinkers, it isn’t humans (anthropos) as such who are responsible for climate change, but a certain kind of human activity linked to Western capitalism. They claim that the current environmental crisis is therefore a direct consequence of colonial history.

The populations of less economically developed countries are not responsible, but they are the ones who suffer. In a study published by the American journal PNAS in May 2019, climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh claimed that “most of the poor countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming. At the same time, most of the rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

To highlight how the roots of the climate crisis lie in slavery and colonialism, researchers Donna Haraway, Nils Bubandt and Anna Tsing coined the term “plantationocene.”

“It describes the devastating transformation of different types of pasturage, cultures and forests into closed, extractive plantations, which are founded on the work of slaves and other forms of work that involve exploitation, alienation and generally spatial displacement,” Donna Haraway explained in a 2019 interview with Le Monde. “[It reminds us that] this model of establishing plantations on a large scale preceded industrial capitalism and allowed it to develop, accumulating wealth on the back of human beings reduced to slavery. From the 15th to 19th century, sugar cane plantations in Brazil, then in the Caribbean, were closely linked to the development of mercantilism and colonialism.”

We exploit both the land and the people for the sake of consumerism and pleasure somewhere far away. Establishing monocultures that destroyed biodiversity and were responsible for soil impoverishment was achieved through massive deforestation. In the Caribbean, the effects are still being felt to this day. In his essay Decolonial ecology, Malcom Ferdinand, a researcher at the French national research center CNRS, explains that the plantationocene allows us to contextualize and historicize the Anthropocene and the capitalocene so that “the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans and their resistance are included in the geological history of the Earth.”

Marked by a “double fracture, colonial and environmental,” the modern era created a “colonial way of living” and an “Earth without people,” says Malcom Ferdinand. On one side, there is a dominant population, that of the West. On the other, there are dominated populations, considered to be too numerous and exploitable. This separation between the “zone of being” and the “zone of nonbeing” remains in place today through the global economy of extraction, of intensive monocultures and ecocides, leading to spatial injustices: We exploit both the land and the people for the sake of consumerism and pleasure somewhere far away.

For Ferdinand, the other face of the plantation is “the politics of the hold” — a reference to the slave ships — where a minority saps the vital energy from a majority and profits materially, socially and politically from the “Negro,” a human reduced to a tool for working the soil.

“Since the 1970s,” Ferdinand told Le Monde, “African-American researchers have noted that toxic waste has been disposed of near areas inhabited by black communities. They have named this practice of exposing racial minorities to environmental dangers ‘environmental racism.'” An example is the string of industrial plants between Baton Rouge and New Orleans (Louisiana), nicknamed Cancer Alley, which is home to a mainly black population that settled there after slavery and segregation and has a cancer rate that is sometimes 60 times greater than the national average.

Cancer Alley in 1972 — Source: National Archives at College Park

Ferdinand also points out that in France, nuclear tests were not carried out on French soil but in Algeria and Polynesia. The researcher also highlights how Martinique and Guadeloupe have been contaminated by the use of the toxic pesticide Chlordecone in banana production, saying that it is another chapter in the history of an “agricultural process led by a small number of individuals belonging to the Creole communities descended from the first slave-owning colonists in the French Antilles,”

“The decolonial approach allows us to move beyond the double fracture, colonial and environmental. It seeks to create a more egalitarian, more just world, and to do that we must reconsider things that have been silenced,” Ferdinand explains.

That is one of the basic principles of decolonial ecology: placing value on different, often ancestral, ways of inhabiting the world, which have been damaged by colonization, idealized or turned into folklore.

In Latin America, where the current decolonial theory was born, thinkers such as Ecuadorian economist Alberto Acosta Espinosa are calling for a new relationship with the Earth and with others. They call it “buen vivir” (living well), and it’s inspired by a Quechua concept of “feeling-thinking with the Earth” that was also developed by American-Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar. It calls into question the Western worldview — which separates nature and culture, body and spirit, emotion and reason — and transforms the universal into the “pluriversal,” a version of universality that accommodates differences.

These new ways of inhabiting the world also model themselves on “diplomatic cosmology,” says Bolivian researcher Diego Landivar, referring to the Bolivian constitution put forward by former president Evo Morales, who recognized the Pachamama (Mother Earth) as a legal subject. Ecuador also made nature a legal subject, and the Vilcabamba River won a case against the Loja municipality, which was accused of depositing large quantities of rock and excavation material in the river.

Decolonial ecology establishes new, non-extractive horizons: It’s an ecology of renouncement.  Decolonial thinking invites us to bring together local knowledge with scientific and technological research. This was also the recommendation of a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for the promotion of agroecology. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization agrees. Considering native beliefs and practices sometimes means not exploiting certain natural resources. In Australia, for example, Aboriginal communities brought an end to tourism on Uluru (Ayers Rock), a sacred site that attracted 300,000 visitors per year.

“Decolonial ecology establishes new, non-extractive horizons: It’s an ecology of renouncement,” says Diego Landivar. “In the Western worldview, if we can think of something, we can do it. Today, we are even thinking about colonizing Mars. But I don’t believe we can colonize the moon, the sky, Mars, simply because they are empty.”

Coumba Sow, agro-economist at the FAO, says that local traditional knowledge often allows us to better understand natural phenomena and find effective solutions. In a 2019 interview with Le Monde Africa, she recalled the experience of Yacouba Sawadogo, who “since 1980 has been using an ancestral farming technique, zaï, which involves creating stone barriers to stop water from flowing, and also uses the channels dug by termites to collect water. In this way, he reclaimed tens of thousands of hectares from the Sahara desert.”

According to Coumba Sow, “many studies show that the local farmers who use agro-ecological practices are not only better able to resist but also to prepare for climate change, as they don’t lose as much of their harvest to drought… Traditionally, humans cultivate the land according to the same ecological principles that agro-ecology promotes, principles that are anchored in indigenous farming practices.”

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Also

Creation of Black and White People

White Supremacy

Results Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

Underdevelopment

Neo-colonialism

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Post Colonialism

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Post Colonialism and Modern Impacts of Colonialism

Post Colonial Theory

  • Study of the cultural legacy of colonialism
    • And the human consequences of the control and exploitation of colonized people and their lands
  • Emerged in second half of 20th century
    • As colonies struggled for and gained their political independence
  • Seeks to understand effects centuries of colonial rule and exploitation have had on colonial subjects and their cultures
    • To combat harmful consequences and legacy of colonial oppression
    • Personal internalizations, inequalities, and systems of racism
    • Shows that race and racism are intricate parts of social history and the larger social order
      • Even when individual prejudices wane
        • racial inequality can perpetuate itself through larger social systems like education, housing, healthcare, and wealth/income

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Social Theory Rewired: Critical Race and Postcolonial Theory

“Neither critical race nor postcolonial theory can be understood apart from histories of anti-racist and anti-colonial political struggles. But while their specific histories may differ, what critical race and postcolonial theories share in common is the fact that they emerged out of—and represent intellectual challenges to—contexts of racial oppression. They also borrow heavily from one another, and share a commitment to developing theory based not solely on the thoughts of academics, but also from the voices and experiences of people of color and the former subjects of colonialism.

Critical race theory, by and large, evolved in response to racism and racial conditions in the United States. While the exact term “critical race theory” was coined by critical legal scholars in the 1970s and 1980s, critical theories of race in the U.S. go back as far as the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with roots in the writings of prominent intellectual–activists such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

What makes critical race theory “critical” is that its major aim is to uncover and critique racially oppressive social structures, meanings, and ideas for the purposes of combating racism. As such, the two major objects of study and thought for critical theorists of race are, unsurprisingly, race and racism. With regard to race, critical race theorists have presented a major challenge to theories that understand race as something “essential” or biologically ingrained in humans. For critical race scholars, racial categories like Black, White, Latino, Asian, Mulatto, Quadroon, etc., are social constructions, produced not by biology but by social relationships, cultural meanings, and institutions like law, politics, religion, and the state. Moreover, critical race theorists also argue that the construct of “race” has been a central aspect of modern social organization and modern forms of knowledge like human biology, medicine, and law.

Critical race theorists have criticized understandings of racism that simply see it as a result of individual prejudices and hateful acts. They have developed a much more structural and systemic understanding of racism—often termed “institutional racism”—that theorizes racism as embedded not only in individual minds but also in social relationships, practices, and institutions. These social structures and relationships shape individual minds and identities, and allocate economic, political, and social resources (like decent housing, voting rights, and dignity) in racially unequal ways.

Postcolonial theory largely emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, as countries and peoples once ruled as colonies (such as India, then a British colony, and Algeria, then a French colony) struggled for and gained their political independence. Postcolonial scholars have sought to understand the effects centuries of colonial rule and exploitation have had on colonial subjects and their cultures, ultimately for the purpose of combating the harmful consequences of colonial oppression that have been carried over into the new, postcolonial environment.

Like critical race scholars, postcolonial theorists contend that oppression and racism are reproduced by social structures and cultural meanings that are bigger than any one individual and outlast any one historical period. Postcolonial theorists study institutions and archives, as well as literary texts and films, to understand how these structures and meanings are produced in everyday life, and how they often shape powerful countries’ views not only of their former colonial subjects, but also of themselves. In his groundbreaking book Orientalism, for example, Edward Said showed that “the West” (or “Occident”) had for centuries defined itself through portraying the Eastern “Orient” as its polar opposite. In scores of Western academic texts, literary novels, and artworks during the colonial period, Said found a disturbing and fantastical geography of West vs. East, one in which the West’s depiction of itself as “civilized” and “advanced” depended on the degradation of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures as “barbaric” and “backwards.”

Like Said, contemporary postcolonial theorists work to critique and subvert dominant Western styles of thought, imagination, and theorizing for the purposes of allowing the voices of former colonial subjects to be heard. They also aim to expand social theory by taking seriously cultural knowledges that have been historically excluded. In doing so, postcolonial theorists critique the idea that the terms “modern” and “Western” are synonymous with one another, challenging social theories that understand modernity and modernization as internal to and exclusively of the West.

How Critical Race and Postcolonial Theory Matter Today

While we might often think of race in terms of individual bodies and racism as purely about individual prejudices, critical race and postcolonial scholars help show that race and racism are intricate parts of social history and the larger social order. Even when individual prejudices wane, racial inequality can perpetuate itself through larger social systems like education, housing, healthcare, and wealth/income. Moreover, these theorists help demonstrate how racial prejudice operates in often taken-for-granted ways. Both critical race theory and postcolonial thought help us see that race and racism have social sources and consequences, and they critique systems of racial dominance with the hope of helping us create more racially just societies.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBnnR9EhKULxcSSl9AKRlnW55QFfsNne-FwhU00/

ace2Face Africa: Effects of Slavery, Colonialism, & Racism Persist

“please allow me to illustrate, even though the residual effects of slavery, colonialism, and racism are too numerous, varied, and context-specific to compress into a given amount of words. Obviously, the effects will be different for an adult living in sub-Saharan Africa, a Black teenager living in the USA, and an Asian child living in the U.K. As such, they need to be dealt with very tenuously, but for the purpose of this article, please read on for a more general exploration.

Economic Structures

“Great” Britain and the United States today became the economic giants that they are through the theft of African resources and the forced labour of African people.

Consequently, many parts of Africa suffered and continue to suffer great economic injury through the depletion of our rich resources and the abuse of our lands. Nearly 70 percent of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa, 64 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa do not have adequate sanitation, 57 percent of African children are enrolled in primary education, and one in three of those do not complete school. The facts go on.

People often depict African leadership as naturally predisposed to corruption and as always incapable of managing themselves. Yet pre-colonial history shows that the empires of Africa, though not always without conflict, were highly efficient and had great riches. It was through the divide-and-rule strategy of the colonialists — magnifying “differences” between tribes and pitting them against each other — that many of our great kingdoms were broken down. When the colonialists retreated from our lands, we were left in disarray, often with no stable leadership in place, and this has had disastrous and long-lasting repercussions and led to all sorts of conflicts.

In contemporary society, the exploitative regimes that existed in colonialism persist. As recently as 2006, Dutch-based oil company Trafigura Beheer BV deposited more than 500 tonnes of toxic waste in the poor suburbs of the Ivory Coast in order to evade the large costs associated with legitimate and safer disposal in the Netherlands. More than 30,000 Ivorians were injured. Black/African lives are still perceived as dispensable within this capitalist system and as secondary to monetary gain.

Francophone countries, such as Senegal, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon are still mandated to pay “colonial debts” to France even today. This so-called “debt” is based on the claim that these Francophone countries should pay for the infrastructures built by France that they now benefit from – like they were ever invited to “build” in the first place. France automatically confiscates national reserves of many of its ex-colonies. Jacques Chirac, former French president, said, “Without Africa, France will slide down in to the rank of a third [world] power” (March 2008).

Domestically, the case is similar. Unemployment is rife among Black men, and they are the most-underemployed group in the United States and the U.K. Too often cultural factors are cited to explain this discrepancy in employment opportunity, however, rarely are the structural factors inhibiting Black men from securing stable and meaningful employment acknowledged and explored. The racist colonialist discourses that caricature Black and ethnic minority men as lazy and unintelligent enough to work still hold sway over the public imagination.

Ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poor areas, be poor, be unemployed, suffer ill health, and live in overcrowded or unpopular housing than the White indigenous population (Social Exclusion Unit, 2000).

Legal System

Black and ethnic minority men are disproportionately imprisoned and otherwise represented in the criminal justice system. And the figures are bleak. Statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission show that Black prisoners make up 15 percent of the U.K.-prisoner population, compared with just 2.2 percent of U.K. residents (EHRC, 2011). This pattern is also observable in America, where Black and Hispanic prisoners accounted for a startling 58 percent of the prisoner population in 2008 compared with about 25 percent of the general population (NAACP, 2010).

In the U.K., Section 60 stop-and-search procedures are more common in working-class areas with greater ethnic diversity. While most people simplistically respond, “These men should stop committing crime then,” they ignore the fact that the definitions of “crime” and “criminal” are not stable and self-evident, but instead, are continually evolving over space and time.

People point toward the “broken Black family” as an explanation of why young Black men are more inclined to “crime,” forgetting that the Black family was systematically disassembled by the sexual exploitation of Black women, the infantilisation of Black men, and the deliberate separation of Black family units.

Furthermore, places, such as Britain and the United States — who are both historically and presently guilty of heinous crimes and human rights violations — developed laws and created “crimes” that privileged Whites and condemned ethnic minorities. W.E.B. Du Bois’ assertion that it was “… color that settled a man’s conviction on almost any charge” highlights the fact that perceptions of suspicion are informed by racist discourses.

Slavery was once institutionalised, as was segregation. By institutionalised, I mean it was central to how society operated; it was written in to law; it informed social organisation in arenas from education to enterprise. The abolition of slavery was not unanimously agreed upon; there were people who wanted to keep White supremacy in place. When slavery was abolished, southern states used the criminal justice system to legally restrict the possibility of freedom for newly released slaves. Unemployed Black people (who were many, considering the circumstances) were called “vagrants” and were incarcerated, having to undertake forced labour. This was instituted in order to regulate the behaviour of free Blacks. For example, trivial offences of Blacks, resulted in harsh sentences and fines.

Today, Black communities remain “under-protected and over-policed,” with Black victimhood being largely overlooked and the definition of “crime” and “criminal” being conflated with Blackness: Black offenses are disproportionately focused on above all other demographics.

Identity

A wide array of identity crises have arisen from a long history of slavery, colonialism, and racism. For example, there are Africans I’ve met who welcome the return of colonial presences in Africa, as they believe we are incapable of governing ourselves. They proclaim to love the West and hate Africa, because “nothing good can come of Africa.” This is tragic to observe.

There are also Black people who deliberately disassociate themselves from other Blacks in attempts to increase their symbolic proximity to Whiteness as much as possible, because Whiteness is still often seen as superior. This can be observed when Blacks and ethnic minorities bleach their skin in order to get closer to the European ideal of beauty.

The problematic perception and treatment of racialised ethnic minority demographics at both an institutional and individual level has long-lasting detrimental effects on the development of the “self” and on “race” and class-consciousness. Colonialism and its residual impacts does damage to both the identities of groups and individual subjectivities (Fanon, 1967).

Conclusion

This is but a brief introduction to the many residual effects of slavery, colonialism, and racism and doesn’t even scratch the surface of these deep-rooted problems.

“They don’t talk about why things are the way they are. They hide the bloody past of the British Empire as much as they can. It’s ‘Great Britain,’ but they take out the ‘empire’ bit, so we don’t know how Britain became so great.

“We learn about the Victorians and we learn about the industrial revolution, but we don’t learn what was funding the revolution in the first place.

“We didn’t learn that while there was this booming revolution in England, there are people from Britain in India in Nigeria murdering and colonising the people.” – Abraham Popoola

I am not advocating here a fixation on the past while neglecting the present and the future. Rather, I am asserting that acknowledging the way slavery, colonialism, and racism remain injurious today is a prerequisite to mapping out routes to progression. The key to properly solving a problem is identifying its root. This is the starting point of any fruitful dialogue.

Finally, when referring to colonialism and racism, I do not speak of things of the past. Colonialism and racism have been succeeded by neo-colonialism and new forms of racism. We must subsequently use this knowledge that we have been and continue to be systematically disadvantaged to effectively put our own strategies in place for our own progression.”

Modern Impacts of Colonialism

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“To understand the root causes of the pathologies we see today which impact all of us but affect Brown, Black and Poor people more intensely, we have to examine the foundations of this society which began with COLONIZATION.

To me, to be colonized means to be disconnected and disintegrated—from our ancestry, from the earth, from our indigeneity, our earth-connected selves. We all come from earthconnected people, people who once lived in deep connection to the rhythms of nature. I believe it is not a coincidence that the colonization of this land happened at the same time that Europeans were burning hundreds of thousands of witches, those women who carried the traditional indigenous knowledge of the tribes of Europe.

Colonization was the way the extractive economic system of Capitalism came to this land, supported by systems of supremacy and domination which are a necessary part to keep wealth and power accumulated in the hands of the colonizers and ultimately their financiers.

In what is now known at the US, this system of supremacy is expressed in many ways with many outcomes but we will focus on specific ones for the sake of time.

First white supremacy, which created a framework that legitimized slavery and genocide. Slavery created cheap labor which is necessary for a functioning capitalist system. And genocide created unlimited access to resources, in the form of land, animal parts, minerals and raw materials which are also necessary for a functioning capitalist economy. And as capitalism functions, it further entrenches systems of supremacy.

We all know that white supremacy looks like scary people with swastikas in hoods. But it can also look like any place where there’s an abundance of white people in exclusive contexts, where power and access is not readily ceded to others. There’s white supremacy and then there’s male supremacy, AKA patriarchy, which leads to the invisibilizing of women’s labor (you know, like creating the entire human race out of our bodies) or in this context, reproducing the work force and suppressing our wages, which further supports capitalism. Patriarchy 3 also leads to femicide, domestic violence and child abuse, which we see across all groups here.

We also see human supremacy, where people feel superior to the rest of living entities, thereby subjecting living soils, seeds, animals, plants and water to horrific treatment in the name of exploiting resources, which in turn feeds the capitalist need for ever increasing profits.

While this wheel of domination, exploitation, generation and sequestration of wealth continues, we experience as a byproduct and common pathway TRAUMA and many studies have shown us that chronic stress and trauma create chronic inflammation.” the.mirror

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Anti-Blackness and Anti-Indigneous Culture

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John a. Powell on Anti-Black State Violence

(Start at 17:30)

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Inequalities Today

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PEW: Seven-in-ten people globally live on $10 or less per day

Following his election in March 2013, Pope Francis wasted little time in conveying his great unease with the state of global poverty and inequality. He wrote:

“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. … Inequality is the root of social ills.”

The urgency expressed by Pope Francis is grounded in harsh reality.

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The vast majority of the world’s population lives on a budget that falls well short of the poverty line in advanced economies. Specifically, 4.4 billion people – 71% of the global population of 6.2 billion – lived on $10 or less per day in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data.

In stark contrast, the poverty line in the U.S. was $15.77 per day per capita for a four-person household in 2011. Moreover, the median daily income of poor Americans was $11.45 per capita, greater than the income of more than seven-in-ten people globally. (All dollar figures are expressed in 2011 prices and purchasing power parities.)

In our report, we divided people who live on $10 or less daily into two groups: the global poor, who live on $2 or less per day, and the global low-income population that lives on $2 to $10 per day. By this standard, the majority of the global population (3.4 billion, or 56%) is low income. A billion more people, 15% of the global population, are poor.

In a historic achievement, economic growth pulled 669 million people out of poverty from 2001 to 2011. As a result, the share of the world’s population that lived on $2 or less per day was cut in half, from 29% to 15%.

To a large extent, however, this merely served to boost the size of the next tier up – the low-income population – which increased by 694 million from 2001 to 2011. And many of the newly minted members of the low-income population are at the edge of the global poverty line, living on about $3 daily, perhaps only an economic shock from slipping back into poverty.

A closer look at where in the world poor and low-income people live, and where high-income people live, reveals a wide gulf across regions.

In 2011, 90% of poor and low-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific (South Pacific includes Australia and Fiji). On the other hand, only 4% of those managing on $10 or less daily lived in North America and Europe. By comparison, about three-quarters (74%) of the global population lives in Africa and Asia-South Pacific and 19% lives in North America and Europe. (See our report for a list of countries included in each region.)

Our report categorized people as high-income if their daily budget exceeded $50. This is not a big leap for advanced economies – the median income in many such countries is greater. However, only 9% of the global high-income population lives in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 87% in North America and Europe.

The divide between the global “haves” and “have-nots” also has not closed in the 21st century. In 2001, 86% of the world’s poor and low-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 7% in North America and Europe. At the same time, only 6% of high-income people lived in Africa and Asia-South Pacific, compared with 91% in North America and Europe.

The living standards within most African and Asian nations point to deep levels of impoverishment. In 18 of the 28 countries in Asia-South Pacific covered in the Pew Research study, nearly eight-in-ten people or more were either poor or low income in 2011. This group includes India, where 97% of the population is poor or low income, and China, where the share is 78%.

Conditions within Africa point to even more deprivation. In 24 of 30 African countries included in the study, at least nine-in-ten people were poor or low income in 2011. That was the case in, for example, Nigeria, where 98% of the population was poor or low income in 2011, and Kenya, where it was true for 93% of the population.

It is impossible to know if and when Pope Francis’ wish for an end to global poverty and inequality will be fulfilled. Other recent Pew Research surveys find optimism among people in Africa, India and China about their economic futures. But it is not unbridled enthusiasm. Most Africans recognize the challenges ahead, including the need for improvement in health care and education. In India, there’s concern about lack of employment opportunities and rising prices. And in China, inflation, corruption and inequality top the list of public concerns.

“When you only consider what the world looked during our life time it is easy to think of the world as static – the rich, healthy and educated parts of the world here and the poor, uneducated, sick regions there – and to falsely conclude that it always was like that and that it always will be like that….

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… That it is possible to make progress against poverty is important to know because even after two centuries of progress poverty remains one of the very largest problems in the world. The the majority of the world population still lives in poverty: Every tenth person lives on less than $1.90 per day and two-thirds live on less than $10 per day. Much more progress is needed.” Our World in Data

“Each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Some 854 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and high food prices may drive another 100 million into poverty and hunger.” UN Chronicle: Losing 25,000 to Hunger Every Day

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The total wealth of the Forbes 400 reached $2.4 trillion in 2016. It was $1 trillion in 1998. The graph plots the net worth of the Forbes 400 in real 2016 dollars. In 2016, a net worth of $1.7 billion was required to join the Forbes 400. Not making the list were 153 billionaires.
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Source: Forbes Magazine, October, Forbes 400 issues published annually in October since 1982.

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“Africa produces at least 75% of the worlds cocoa, but receives only 2% of the $100 billion chocolate market. We celebrate Belgium chocolate, but rarely the country where cocoa is grown.

The problems don’t end there: the chocolate industry is plagued with child labor, corruption and cartels.

Let’s spell it out:

The farmer cultivates, harvests and ferments the cocoa beans all at a fixed rate set by international cocoa corporations that bribe politicians.

Corporations purchase the cocoa from traders and turn it into cocoa butter, cocoa mass and cocoa powder. Over 70% is processed by Cargill and Barry Callebaut.

That product is sold to companies across the world, including most “small batch” brands, which sell it at a massive mark up.

For that 5 dollar chocolate bar, the farmers receive less than 10 cents.

This colonial model exploits farmers and children.

Over 2 million children are involved in dangerous labor in cocoa markets in West Africa and brands like Hershey, Nestle, and Mars won’t guarantee their chocolate is produced without child labor. In fact all three companies can only trace between 25-50% of their chocolate origins.

For the last 20 years, the industry has spent on average a mere $10 million a year to address child labor.

The lack of effort has not gone unnoticed. In February of this year, Human Rights advocates petitioned the US Customs and Border Protection to stop the import of chocolate to the major corporations. The petition included audio and video files proving that there is child labor in their supply chains. The petition challenged Nestle, Mars, Hershey and Mondelez to provide evidence that their chocolate is free of forced child labor by August. Since then the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, the same agency locking up child migrants, has opened up an investigation. So when you see these companies touting their anti-child labor programs, know this issue is far from resolved.” agrowingculture

Environmental Crisis

World Crunch: Colonialism, The Hidden Cause Of Our Environmental Crisis

They may only be a few short sentences, but they have sparked strong reactions among critics of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who became a figurehead for the climate movement.

On Nov. 9, 2019, an article entitled “Why we strike again,” written by Thunberg and two others, claimed, “The climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.”

The article takes up one of the arguments of de-colonial environmentalism: that the climate crisis is linked to the history of slavery and colonialism by the Western powers.

Since the 1970s, African-American researchers have made the link between the environment and colonialism. “The real solution to the environmental crisis is the decolonization of the black race,” Nathan Hare wrote in 1970. Five years later, sociologist Terry Jones spoke of “apartheid ecology,” a concept that would be further developed in the 1990s by Latin American decolonial thinkers at American universities, such as Walter Mignolo at Duke (North Carolina), Ramón Grosfoguel at Berkeley (California) or Arturo Escobar at the University of North Carolina.

“The true beginning of the Anthropocene is the European colonization of America. This major historical event, which had dramatic consequences for the Native American people and founded a capitalist world economy, has also left its mark on our planet’s geology,” write researchers Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz in The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us, alluding to the work of British geographers Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin.”

“Bringing together flora and fauna from the Old and New Worlds completely transformed agriculture, botany and zoology across the globe, with life forms that had been separated by the break-up of Pangaea and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean 200 million years before suddenly mixing once again,” they add.

In France, researchers are seeking to show how the slave trade, slavery and the conquest and exploitation of colonies allowed capitalism to become structured around an economy of extraction. This destructive way of inhabiting our planet is responsible for ushering in a new geological epoch characterized by human industrial activity: the Anthropocene.

For decolonial thinkers, it isn’t humans (anthropos) as such who are responsible for climate change, but a certain kind of human activity linked to Western capitalism. They claim that the current environmental crisis is therefore a direct consequence of colonial history.

The populations of less economically developed countries are not responsible, but they are the ones who suffer. In a study published by the American journal PNAS in May 2019, climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh claimed that “most of the poor countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming. At the same time, most of the rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

To highlight how the roots of the climate crisis lie in slavery and colonialism, researchers Donna Haraway, Nils Bubandt and Anna Tsing coined the term “plantationocene.”

“It describes the devastating transformation of different types of pasturage, cultures and forests into closed, extractive plantations, which are founded on the work of slaves and other forms of work that involve exploitation, alienation and generally spatial displacement,” Donna Haraway explained in a 2019 interview with Le Monde. “[It reminds us that] this model of establishing plantations on a large scale preceded industrial capitalism and allowed it to develop, accumulating wealth on the back of human beings reduced to slavery. From the 15th to 19th century, sugar cane plantations in Brazil, then in the Caribbean, were closely linked to the development of mercantilism and colonialism.”

We exploit both the land and the people for the sake of consumerism and pleasure somewhere far away. Establishing monocultures that destroyed biodiversity and were responsible for soil impoverishment was achieved through massive deforestation. In the Caribbean, the effects are still being felt to this day. In his essay Decolonial ecology, Malcom Ferdinand, a researcher at the French national research center CNRS, explains that the plantationocene allows us to contextualize and historicize the Anthropocene and the capitalocene so that “the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans and their resistance are included in the geological history of the Earth.”

Marked by a “double fracture, colonial and environmental,” the modern era created a “colonial way of living” and an “Earth without people,” says Malcom Ferdinand. On one side, there is a dominant population, that of the West. On the other, there are dominated populations, considered to be too numerous and exploitable. This separation between the “zone of being” and the “zone of nonbeing” remains in place today through the global economy of extraction, of intensive monocultures and ecocides, leading to spatial injustices: We exploit both the land and the people for the sake of consumerism and pleasure somewhere far away.

For Ferdinand, the other face of the plantation is “the politics of the hold” — a reference to the slave ships — where a minority saps the vital energy from a majority and profits materially, socially and politically from the “Negro,” a human reduced to a tool for working the soil.

“Since the 1970s,” Ferdinand told Le Monde, “African-American researchers have noted that toxic waste has been disposed of near areas inhabited by black communities. They have named this practice of exposing racial minorities to environmental dangers ‘environmental racism.'” An example is the string of industrial plants between Baton Rouge and New Orleans (Louisiana), nicknamed Cancer Alley, which is home to a mainly black population that settled there after slavery and segregation and has a cancer rate that is sometimes 60 times greater than the national average.

Cancer Alley in 1972 — Source: National Archives at College Park

Ferdinand also points out that in France, nuclear tests were not carried out on French soil but in Algeria and Polynesia. The researcher also highlights how Martinique and Guadeloupe have been contaminated by the use of the toxic pesticide Chlordecone in banana production, saying that it is another chapter in the history of an “agricultural process led by a small number of individuals belonging to the Creole communities descended from the first slave-owning colonists in the French Antilles,”

“The decolonial approach allows us to move beyond the double fracture, colonial and environmental. It seeks to create a more egalitarian, more just world, and to do that we must reconsider things that have been silenced,” Ferdinand explains.

That is one of the basic principles of decolonial ecology: placing value on different, often ancestral, ways of inhabiting the world, which have been damaged by colonization, idealized or turned into folklore.

In Latin America, where the current decolonial theory was born, thinkers such as Ecuadorian economist Alberto Acosta Espinosa are calling for a new relationship with the Earth and with others. They call it “buen vivir” (living well), and it’s inspired by a Quechua concept of “feeling-thinking with the Earth” that was also developed by American-Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar. It calls into question the Western worldview — which separates nature and culture, body and spirit, emotion and reason — and transforms the universal into the “pluriversal,” a version of universality that accommodates differences.

These new ways of inhabiting the world also model themselves on “diplomatic cosmology,” says Bolivian researcher Diego Landivar, referring to the Bolivian constitution put forward by former president Evo Morales, who recognized the Pachamama (Mother Earth) as a legal subject. Ecuador also made nature a legal subject, and the Vilcabamba River won a case against the Loja municipality, which was accused of depositing large quantities of rock and excavation material in the river.

Decolonial ecology establishes new, non-extractive horizons: It’s an ecology of renouncement.  Decolonial thinking invites us to bring together local knowledge with scientific and technological research. This was also the recommendation of a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for the promotion of agroecology. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization agrees. Considering native beliefs and practices sometimes means not exploiting certain natural resources. In Australia, for example, Aboriginal communities brought an end to tourism on Uluru (Ayers Rock), a sacred site that attracted 300,000 visitors per year.

“Decolonial ecology establishes new, non-extractive horizons: It’s an ecology of renouncement,” says Diego Landivar. “In the Western worldview, if we can think of something, we can do it. Today, we are even thinking about colonizing Mars. But I don’t believe we can colonize the moon, the sky, Mars, simply because they are empty.”

Coumba Sow, agro-economist at the FAO, says that local traditional knowledge often allows us to better understand natural phenomena and find effective solutions. In a 2019 interview with Le Monde Africa, she recalled the experience of Yacouba Sawadogo, who “since 1980 has been using an ancestral farming technique, zaï, which involves creating stone barriers to stop water from flowing, and also uses the channels dug by termites to collect water. In this way, he reclaimed tens of thousands of hectares from the Sahara desert.”

According to Coumba Sow, “many studies show that the local farmers who use agro-ecological practices are not only better able to resist but also to prepare for climate change, as they don’t lose as much of their harvest to drought… Traditionally, humans cultivate the land according to the same ecological principles that agro-ecology promotes, principles that are anchored in indigenous farming practices.”

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Also

Creation of Black and White People

White Supremacy

Results Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

Underdevelopment

Neo-colonialism

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Post Colonialism

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Decolonizing

image17.pngDrawing by Luna Enriquez

HONOR NATIVE LAND: A GUIDE AND CALL TO ACKNOWLEDGMENT

IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA, CANADA, AND AMONG TRIBAL NATIONS IN THE U.S., it is commonplace, even policy, to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of that land. While some individuals and cultural and educational institutions in the United States have adopted this custom, the vast majority have not. Together, we can spark a movement to change that.

We call on all individuals and organizations to open public events and gatherings with acknowledgment of the traditional Native inhabitants of the land.

Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth. Imagine this practice widely adopted: imagine cultural venues, classrooms, conference settings, places of worship, sports stadiums, and town halls, acknowledging traditional lands. Millions would be exposed—many for the first time—to the names of the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of the lands they are on, inspiring them to ongoing awareness and action.

For more than five hundred years, Native communities across the Americas have demonstrated resilience and resistance in the face of violent efforts to separate them from their land, culture, and each other. They remain at the forefront of movements to protect Mother Earth and the life it sustains. Today, corporate greed and federal policy push agendas to extract wealth from the earth, degrading sacred land in blatant disregard of treaty rights. Acknowledgment is a critical public intervention, a necessary step toward honoring Native communities and enacting the much larger project of decolonization and reconciliation. Join us in adopting, calling for, and spreading this practice. 

What if we broke the chains of neocolonialism? | Brittany Malcolm

Decolonization

  • Decolonization
    • Process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. Involves:
      • Dismantling structures that perpetuate status quo/unbalanced power dynamics
      • Valuing and revitalizing Indigenous/African knowledge, culture and approaches
        • Weeding out settler biases or assumptions that impacted Indigenous ways of being
      • Creating spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and honor Indigenous Peoples and African Americans.
  • Indigenization
    • The act of making something more native; transformation of some service, idea, etc. to suit a local culture, especially through the use of more indigenous people in administration, employment, education, etc.
  • For non-Indigenous people and allies
    • Decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous/African people and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact
      • Learn about colonialism, settler colonialism, white Supremacy, systemic racism, racial bias, truth behind white washed histories, bad allyship

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Decolonization Is for Everyone | Nikki Sanchez | TEDxSFU

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“There’s a reason so many companies hire Diversity and Inclusion consultants, and hire white folks to do it 🙄, but never go deeper than that- because going deeper would mean completely changing up the way they structure their businesses, give up their white power, and choose people over profit. So it’s up to us as individuals to hold ourselves, and them, accountable to transforming.” eliana.chinea

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Why We Need To Decolonize The Brooklyn Museum | NowThis

Settler Privilege

“Whether one participates in settler colonialism is not entirely a matter of when or how one’s ancestors came to the U.S. Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible, without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.” Kyle Powys Whyte – Yes! Mag

Bad Indigenous Allyship Approaches

  • Romantic approach
    • Assumes that lifting up Indigenous wisdom and spirituality constitutes action
      • Does not confront ongoing territorial dispossession and risks to health, cultural integrity, etc
    • Difficulties with Indigenous hypocrisies, like tribally sanctioned coal industries
      • Responding to these critiques requires an understanding of colonialism and Indigenous self-determination
  • Same-boat approach
    • Solidarity by claiming Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmentalists are same
      • More focused on environmental issues that threaten us all than environmental racism
    • Many environmental achievements either hurt Natives or required efforts to reform for fair access
      • “the Yosemite model” – national conservation practice of displacing Natives to create nature parks
        • Refugees from conservation areas have never recognized as refugees
      • 1970s Clean Water Act and Safe Water Drinking Act, made made no mention of American Indian tribal lands
        • Laws only extended to tribal lands after 1980-90s reform efforts and to this day enforced unequally

“National parks, ecological restoration projects, conservation zones, and even the uses of certain terms—especially “wilderness”—are associated with forced displacement of entire communities, erasure of Indigenous histories in education and public memory, economic marginalization, and violations of cultural and political rights.” Kyle Powys Whyte – Yes!

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De-colonizing Approach to Allyship

“ecological footprint of colonialism as seismic. The ongoing U.S. colonial legacy includes forcing Indigenous peoples into grid-like reservations that empower corporations and private individuals to degrade our territories; fostering patriarchy and conditions for sexual violence in Indigenous communities; brainwashing Indigenous children through boarding schools; and brainwashing everyone else through erasing Indigenous histories and experiences across U.S. culture, education, and memory. ” Zoe Todd and Heather Davis, authors of “On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene

  • Allyship Strategies
    • Must challenge settler privilege and the different ecological realities we all live in
    • Stop trying to avoid future eco disasters and realize Natives are already living it
    • Environmental protection must resist capitalism/colonialism oppression

“One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias…This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.” Kyle Powys Whyte – Yes! Mag

 

Indigenous Australians have never ceded sovereignty, Shareena Clanton tells Q&A

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Q&A: Shareena Clanton says Indigenous people want to be “the author of our own destinies”

“To be an ally is to learn to stand beside me, not in front of me…

…Aboriginal people are not here to be your token Indigenous friend or colleague. We are human beings and should not have to justify or plead for our own humanity. We are not here to do the emotional labour for you. We are not here to challenge and deconstruct your ignorance only to have you revert to your privilege and rage with your old fears and prejudices. We do not exist to cater towards your own fragility or the micro aggressions you uphold to exclude and separate Indigenous people, or people of colour, from the mainstream narrative and conversation…

…To be an ally you must be willing to listen, truly listen. As an ally I will challenge everything you think you know about Indigenous people. Whether consciously aware of a bias or not, you must be willing to be brutally honest about your individual perception and relationship towards Indigenous people…

…Your awareness to our truth will help shift the perspective lens and change the landscape. Only through education and awareness will you be able to deconstruct this elitism and power for yourself and within the wider community.” Shareena Clanton, Indigenous Goddess Gang

 

Yes: White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization

” …Whether one participates in settler colonialism is not entirely a matter of when or how one’s ancestors came to the U.S. Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible—literally!—without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.

How then can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing? The resilience of settler privilege is a barrier. Gestures toward allyship can quickly recolonize Indigenous peoples. Some people have tried to create bonds of allyship by believing that Indigenous wisdom and spirituality are so profound that Indigenous people have always lived in ecological harmony. This is the romantic approach. Other allies have tried to create solidarity through claiming that Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmentalists should not distinguish their efforts. In this view, environmental issues threaten us all, and we should converge around common problems that affect all humanity, instead of wasting dwindling time on environmental racism. This is the same-boat approach.

The romantic approach assumes that lifting up Indigenous wisdom and spirituality constitutes action. But this approach does not necessarily confront ongoing territorial dispossession and risks to health, economic vitality, lives, psychological well-being, and cultural integrity that Indigenous people experience. This is why scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang say decolonization is not a metaphor. Yet, the empathetic responsibility to support others’ self-determination and well-being is a major lesson in many Indigenous environmental traditions. Subscribers to the romantic view are unprepared to respond to criticisms of supposed Indigenous hypocrisies, like the alleged contradiction of tribally sanctioned coal industries. Responding to these critiques requires an understanding of colonialism, yet some romantics are unwilling to take the time to learn how the U.S. forcefully re-engineered tribal governments to facilitate extractive industries. This understanding is key if one’s goal is to undermine the levers of power that undermine Indigenous self-determination and well-being today.

Nobody can claim to be an ally if their agenda is to prevent their own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias.

The same-boat approach also misses the colonial context. The conservation movement has been as damaging to Indigenous peoples as extractive industries. National parks, ecological restoration projects, conservation zones, and even the uses of certain terms—especially “wilderness”—are associated with forced displacement of entire communities, erasure of Indigenous histories in education and public memory, economic marginalization, and violations of cultural and political rights. Though certain sectors of conservation have improved greatly, newer movements, such as the international UN-REDD+ Programme, still repeat harms of the past. Almost every environmental achievement in the U.S.—such as the Clean Air or Clean Water acts—has required Indigenous peoples to work hard to reform these laws to gain fair access to the protections.

A decolonizing approach to allyship must challenge the resilience of settler privilege, which involves directly facing the very different ecological realities we all dwell in. Sometimes I see settler environmental movements as seeking to avoid some dystopian environmental future or planetary apocalypse. These visions are replete with species extinctions, irreversible loss of ecosystems, and severe rationing. They can include abusive corporations and governments that engage in violent brainwashing, quarantining, and territorial dispossession of people who stand in their way.

Yet for many Indigenous peoples in North America, we are already living in what our ancestors would have understood as dystopian or post-apocalyptic times. In a cataclysmically short period, the capitalist–colonialist partnership has destroyed our relationships with thousands of species and ecosystems.

Zoe Todd and Heather Davis, authors of “On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene,” characterize the ecological footprint of colonialism as seismic. The ongoing U.S. colonial legacy includes forcing Indigenous peoples into grid-like reservations that empower corporations and private individuals to degrade our territories; fostering patriarchy and conditions for sexual violence in Indigenous communities; brainwashing Indigenous children through boarding schools; and brainwashing everyone else through erasing Indigenous histories and experiences across U.S. culture, education, and memory.

So Indigenous people awaken each day to science fiction scenarios not unlike the setup in films such as The Matrix. Yet in Indigenous science fiction films, such as Wakening and The 6th World, the protagonists are diverse humans and nonhumans who present unique solutions to daunting environmental problems. They are not portrayed as romantic stereotypes or symbols of a common humanity. They do not presuppose naive notions of Indigenous spirituality. They see environmental protection as possible only if we resist the capitalist–colonialist “matrix” of oppression and build allyship across different human and nonhuman groups. These films differ greatly from, say, Avatar, where the protagonist is a white male who passes as Indigenous and uses romantic Indigenous wisdom to save everyone. Indigenous people learn to ignore this difference, embracing a common foe together.

Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present.

Decolonizing allyship requires allies to be critical about their environmental realities—and about the purpose of their environmentalism. To do this, allies must realize they are living in the environmental fantasies of their settler ancestors. Settler ancestors wanted today’s world. They would have relished the possibility that some of their descendants could freely commit extractive violence on Indigenous lands and then feel, with no doubts, that they are ethical people. Remember how proponents of the Dakota Access pipeline sanctimoniously touted the project’s safety and that it never crossed tribal lands? On the flip side, when more sympathetic (environmentalist) settler descendants lament the loss of Indigenous wisdom without acting for Indigenous territorial empowerment; buy into the dreams and hopes of settler heroism and redemption in movies like Avatar; or overburden Indigenous people with requests for knowledge and emotional labor yet offer no reciprocal empowerment or healing—then they are fulfilling the fantasies of their settler ancestors.

One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias. Yet how many environmentalists do just this? I do not see much differentiating those who fight to protect the colonial fantasy of wilderness from those who claim the Dakota Access pipeline does not cross Indigenous lands. Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.

Perhaps these goals and values are among the greatest gifts of Indigenous spirituality and wisdom. I want to experience the solidarity of allied actions that refuse fantastical narratives of commonality and hope. Determining what exactly needs to be done will involve the kind of creativity that Indigenous peoples have used to survive some of the most oppressive forms of capitalist, industrial, and colonial domination. But above all, it will require that allies take responsibility and confront the assumptions behind their actions and aspirations.”

Decolonizing the Environmental Movement

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“Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of young people are striking in the streets today to protest the lack of action and accountability of world leaders and corporations. Seeing photos of my former students marching in the streets of Downtown LA made me tear up and my heart swell.

As adults, it’s crucial that we empower our students and children to speak up about climate change and this global crisis. However, it’s just as important for us to help our children understand that climate change and racism go hand in hand. To create EQUITABLE change for everyone, we need to see the entire picture. So when you teach or talk to folx about climate change and environmental advocacy, consider the following:

Did you know that BIPOC are disproportionately affected by climate change? Displacement, health issues, unemployment, housing, food distribution, among other issues.

Did you know that modern day environmentalism has a colonialist legacy of exclusion, gate keeping, racism?

Did you know that the “heroes” of the environmental movement such as Muir, Roosevelt, and Thoreau spoke openly about their disdain for Black and Indigenous people, and that environmental protection was never meant for BIPOC?

Did you know how Black communities are targeted for garbage and toxic dumping, which impacts the health of Black folx for generations?

Did you know that BIPOC make up less than 12% of staff at environmental organizations? (2014 Green Report, but recent update showed this number has dropped)

Did you know that Indigenous people have engaged in this work for centuries, but are repeatedly marginalized by white environmentalists who live on the very land their ancestors colonized?

Suggested reading: A People’s Curriculum for the Earth, Environmental Justice in Postwar America”  Liz Kleinrock, Teach and Transform

Principles of Environmental Justice: Environmental Justice Principles

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Vice: The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon with Its Racist History

Because racism in environmentalism hasn’t gone away, and it’s holding the movement back.

Indigenous peoples and people of color are disproportionately affected by our global climate crisis. But in the mainstream green movement and in the media, they are often forgotten or excluded. This is Tipping Point, a new VICE series that covers environmental justice stories about and, where possible, written by people in the communities experiencing the stark reality of our changing planet.


When I was a student at Columbia in New York City there were two major divestment campaigns on campus: one for private prisons and another for fossil fuel corporations. Though they shared similar tactics and aims, their constituents looked very different from each other. The former was led by Black students. The latter was predominantly white.

One of the organizers of Columbia’s prison divestment campaign is now a leader in Black Youth Project 100, an organization at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the leaders of fossil fuel divestment was an early supporter of the Sunrise Movement, an organization leading the charge for a Green New Deal. Racial divisions on campus, even among activists, mirror divisions in society.

These divisions are especially apparent among environmentalists, who inherit a troubling history of colonialism, racism, and exclusion. The institutions of environmental power—elected officials, government bureaucracies, nonprofits, laws, and the like—were, almost as a rule, created by white men and often remain dominated by white people. Since the Civil Rights era, activists of color have secured hard-fought victories for racial and environmental justice. But the legacy of racism continues to haunt the movement and undermine progress.

The founding fathers of environmentalism ranged from garden variety racists to eugenicists. Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist and abolitionist whose writings inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, held troubling but typical views about the inevitable demise of Native Americans. In his influential 1862 Atlantic essay “Walking,” he wrote: “I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects more natural.”

“The origins of environmentalism are closer in spirit to the safari or trophy hunt than the march or sit-in”

John Muir, a co-founder of the Sierra Club and disciple of Thoreau, wrote about the indolence of Black “Sambos.” He described the Miwok, the Indigenous people of Yosemite, as “dirty” and “altogether hideous.” “They seem to have no right place in the landscape,” he wrote.

Madison Grant, a prominent conservationist and Muir’s contemporary, wrote the 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race. The text influenced the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited emigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and Africa, and banned migrants from Asia. Adolf Hitler called the book his “bible” in an admiring letter to the author. Today, echoes of Grant can be heard in the hate speech of white nationalists like Richard Spencer.

In light of this history, it is perhaps unsurprising that when Muir and Theodore Roosevelt went on perhaps the most consequential camping trip in American history in 1903, the president conserved 230 million acres of public land—an area larger than Texas—through the expulsion of Indigenous peoples and the rural poor. Dubbed “America’s best idea” by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, these parklands were first and foremost a sanctuary for Anglo-Saxon gentlemen. In truth, then, the origins of environmentalism are closer in spirit to the safari or trophy hunt than the march or sit-in.

The Civil Rights movement—and trash—had a big hand in making environmentalism more diverse. In 1978, Linda McKeeven Bullard recruited her husband, Dr. Robert Bullard, then a junior sociologist at Texas Southern University, to serve as expert witness in the first case to claim environmental discrimination under civil rights law. The lawsuit, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, sought an injunction against the siting of a garbage dump in Northwood Manor, a middle-class Black suburb of Houston.

Robert Bullard, the

Dr. Robert Bullard is regarded as the father of environmental justice, but he still describes himself as “accidentally environmentalist.” Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

 

Bullard was tasked with producing maps and statistics to prove that race was the decisive factor driving placement. “I grew up in the South, I knew the segregation and the power of racism to deprive neighborhoods.” said Bullard. “The maps we generated showed, without a doubt, that race was a major player in where the city sited environmental hazards.”

In 1983, following the Bean case, the Congressional Black Caucus conducted a study of waste facilities in the South and found that 75 percent were in Black neighborhoods even though Black people made up less than a quarter of the population.

Bullard went on to study environmental injustice in the Alabama Black Belt, in predominantly Black “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana and in West Virginia, compiling research for his first book, Dumping in Dixie. In 1987, the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ took his thesis nationwide in its pathbreaking report on “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.” Though many regard Bullard as the father of environmental justice, he still describes himself as “accidentally environmentalist.”

Where data, maps, and litigation blazed a trail, a movement followed. In 1982, the predominantly Black, poor, and rural residents of Warren County, North Carolina took a stand against a PCB oil dump in their community. Schoolchildren were arrested for laying their bodies in front of trucks carrying oil. National organizations such as the NAACP, United Church, and Congressional Black Caucus stepped up. “If you look at some of those photographs and some of that footage, and if you look at what was happening in Standing Rock—that was a microcosm or smaller or earlier version of people saying no,” said Bullard. Similar protests challenging instances of environmental racism began coalescing across the country.

In 1991, Bullard helped convene the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. In Minnesota, Winona LaDuke, the Ojibwe environmentalist and one-time Green Party vice presidential candidate, encouraged Tom Goldtooth, a Dakota and Diné organizer and director of the Red Lake Nation’s environmental protection program, to attend. (Women recruiting men to the cause appears to be a common thread in the history of environmental justice.)

At the conference, Goldtooth and other Indigenous attendees formed a caucus to help draft the 17 principles of environmental justice alongside more than 1,000 diverse grassroots leaders. In the preamble, the principles emphasized the need “to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities.” Some of these organizers went on to found the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum and Climate Justice Alliance to actualize this vision.

Five years later, many of the same leaders, including Goldtooth and his new outfit the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), convened a meeting in Jemez, New Mexico to create another set of principles outlining how grassroots organizations and better-funded historically white NGOs should work together.

Today, most “Big Greens” including the Sierra Club have at least nominally endorsed the Principles of Environmental Justice and Jemez Principles. “We’ve always been about building solidarity with white NGOs but also lifting ourselves up and being assertive,” said Goldtooth. “There has to be some solidarity and equality in how they lift us up.”

In 1994, this burgeoning movement won a landmark victory when then President Bill Clinton issued an executive order mandating every federal agency “make achieving environmental justice part of its mission” by addressing disproportionate health and environmental impacts in low-income communities and communities of color.

While pipelines, mines, and dumps remain disproportionately located in these communities, white lawyers, lobbyists, and lawmakers disproportionately represent the environmental movement on Capitol Hill. According to the 2014 Green 2.0 report, people of color comprise 36 percent of the U.S. population, but account for only 12 percent of the staff of environmental organizations. A 2019 update shows that diversity has actually declined in recent years.

Access, meanwhile, has done little to advance environmental good. Even though green groups have a collective annual budget of over $500 million—significantly more than the Koch network’s $400 million—they have been largely outflanked by polluting industries and the right-wing.

As climate change has emerged as the flagship environmental issue in the 21st century, environmental justice leaders—predominantly people of color—have too often been relegated to the sidelines in the big federal fights. Ten years ago, environmental justice communities were largely excluded from the drafting of Waxman-Markey, the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House of Representatives but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

With less access to Capitol Hill, these communities have tended towards community organizing and direct action tactics as they did in Warren County in 1982. Sometimes these campaigns, like the movements against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, made national headlines.

Today, though they are excited about the inclusion of racial, economic, and environmental justice language in the Green New Deal resolution, environmental justice leaders I have spoken to fear the same exclusion or tokenization will happen again—or worse, that climate legislation will do real harm by intensifying pollution and costs in their communities.

At a March convening to begin drafting a Green New Deal, leaders of the Climate Justice Alliance voiced concerns that the progressive climate platform was not being developed according to the Jemez Principles and the Principles of Environmental Justice. “I’m not saying there hasn’t been some positive movement and some incorporation of environmental justice with white organizations,” said Goldtooth, whose organization, IEN, is part of the Climate Justice Alliance. “But the challenges are still there with the Green New Deal.”

These concerns are not unfounded. In June, New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a state-level model for a Green New Deal, and one of the most comprehensive climate bills ever written. Environmental justice organizations were part of the coalition that led the charge for the legislation.

But by the time the policy was signed into law, Governor Andrew Cuomo had written out requirements prioritizing investments in communities of color and protections for union workers, among other key environmental justice provisions.

“Among my generation it is becoming more common to see Black, brown, and Indigenous people—and particularly women—leading the way”

Our generation must do better. “Now we have young people that are moving into spaces and are linking the various movements,” Dr. Bullard told me. “The intersectionality arguments many young people in their organizations and movements are linking together, whether it’s folks who are working on climate, energy, Black Lives Matter, criminal justice, food security… You start to bring those pieces of the puzzle together—that’s very refreshing and it will pay off in the long-run.”

The environment is no longer a white sanctuary. The messy business of society, power, and race is everywhere and intertwined. People of color have made the question of who—who leads, who is represented, and who deserves justice—unavoidable. Among my generation it is becoming more common to see Black, brown, and Indigenous people—and particularly women—leading the way.

“We see the legacy of a climate movement that has deeply failed people of color on many, many counts,” said Aru Shiney-Ajay, a 21-year-old child of Indian immigrants who has taken the year off from Swarthmore College to help train young people for Sunrise. “I think about why I want to really invest in leaders of color, and I’ve seen how much people have invested in me and how much Sunrise has been this life-changing process of growth. I want to give that to other people.”

But an inconvenient truth remains: climate change does not answer to racism, politics, or even justice—at least not directly. Its only principles are chemistry and physics. And this might be its greatest cruelty. Power is grazing the fingertips of people of color for the first time. But as we finally start to grasp it and change an environmental movement rooted in a racist past, science may have other designs.

New Yorker: Environmentalism’s Racist History

Madison Grant (Yale College 1887, Columbia Law School) liked to be photographed with a fedora, or just his dauntingly long head, tilted about thirty degrees to the right. He belonged, like his political ally Teddy Roosevelt, to a Manhattan aristocracy defined by bloodline and money. But Grant, like many young men of his vintage, felt duty-bound to do more than enjoy his privilege. He made himself a credible wildlife zoologist, was instrumental in creating the Bronx Zoo, and founded the first organizations dedicated to preserving American bison and the California redwoods.

Grant spent his career at the center of the same energetic conservationist circle as Roosevelt. This band of reformers did much to create the country’s national parks, forests, game refuges, and other public lands—the system of environmental stewardship and public access that has been called “America’s best idea.” They developed the conviction that a country’s treatment of its land and wildlife is a measure of its character. Now that natural selection had given way to humanity’s “complete mastery of the globe,” as Grant wrote in 1909, his generation had “the responsibility of saying what forms of life shall be preserved.”

Grant has been pushed to the margins of environmentalism’s history, however. He is often remembered for another reason: his 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History,” a pseudo-scientific work of white supremacism that warns of the decline of the “Nordic” peoples. In Grant’s racial theory, Nordics were a natural aristocracy, marked by noble, generous instincts and a gift for political self-governance, who were being overtaken by the “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” populations. His work influenced the Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and Africa and banned migrants from the Middle East and Asia. Adolf Hitler wrote Grant an admiring letter, calling the book “my Bible,” which has given it permanent status on the ultra-right. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who killed sixty-nine young Labour Party members, in 2011, drew on Grant’s racial theory in his own manifesto.

Grant’s fellow conservationists supported his racist activism. Roosevelt wrote Grant a letter praising “The Passing of the Great Race,” which appeared as a blurb on later editions, calling it “a capital book; in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts our people most need to realize.” Henry Fairfield Osborn, who headed the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History (and, as a member of the U.S. Geological Survey, named the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Velociraptor), wrote a foreword to the book. Osborn argued that “conservation of that race which has given us the true spirit of Americanism is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country.”

For Grant, Roosevelt, and other architects of the country’s parks and game refuges, wild nature was worth saving for its aristocratic qualities; where these were lacking, they were indifferent. Grant, as his Times obituary noted, “was uninterested in the smaller forms of animal or bird life.” He wrote about the moose, the mountain goat, and the redwood tree, whose nobility and need for protection in a venal world so resembled the plight of Grant’s “Nordics” that his biographer, Jonathan Spiro, concludes that he saw them as two faces of a single threatened, declining aristocracy. Similarly, Roosevelt, in his accounts of hunting, could not say enough about the “lordly” and “noble” elk and buffalo that he and Grant helped to preserve, and loved to kill. Their preservation work aimed to keep alive this kind of encounter between would-be aristocratic men and halfway wild nature.

For these conservationists, who prized the expert governance of resources, it was an unsettlingly short step from managing forests to managing the human gene pool. In a 1909 report to Roosevelt’s National Conservation Commission, Yale professor Irving Fisher broke off from a discussion of public health to recommend preventing “paupers” and physically unhealthy people from reproducing, and warned against the “race suicide” that would follow if the country did not replenish itself with Northern European stock. Fisher took the term “race suicide” from Roosevelt, who, in a 1905 speech, had pinned it on women who dodged childbearing. Gifford Pinchot, the country’s foremost theorizer and popularizer of conservation, was a delegate to the first and second International Eugenics Congress, in 1912 and 1921, and a member of the advisory council of the American Eugenics Society, from 1925 to 1935.

Roosevelt put Pinchot in charge of the National Conservation Commission, and made him head of the new Forest Service, but he also cultivated the Romantic naturalist John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club in 1892. In the Sierra Club’s early leaders, the environmental movement has some less troubling ancestors. Following Muir, whose bearded face and St. Francis-like persona were as much its icons as Yosemite Valley, the club adopted the gentle literary romanticism of Thoreau, Emerson, and Wordsworth. The point of preserving wild places, for these men—and, unlike in Roosevelt’s circles, some women—was to escape the utilitarian grind of lowland life and, as Muir wrote, to see the face of God in the high country.

But Muir, who felt fraternity with four-legged “animal people” and even plants, was at best ambivalent about human brotherhood. Describing a thousand-mile walk from the Upper Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, he reported the laziness of “Sambos.” Later he lamented the “dirty and irregular life” of Indians in the Merced River valley, near Yosemite. In “Our National Parks,” a 1901 essay collection written to promote parks tourism, he assured readers that, “As to Indians, most of them are dead or civilized into useless innocence.” This might have been incisive irony, but in the same paragraph Muir was more concerned with human perfidy toward bears (“Poor fellows, they have been poisoned, trapped, and shot at until they have lost confidence in brother man”) than with how Native Americans had been killed and driven from their homes

It is tempting to excuse such views as the “ordinary” or “casual” racism of the time, and it does feel more like a symptom of the dominant culture than Grant’s racism and Pinchot’s eugenics, which touched the nerves of their organizing commitments. But Muir and his followers are remembered because their respect for non-human life and wild places expanded the boundaries of moral concern. What does it mean that they cared more about “animal people” than about some human beings? The time they lived in is part of an explanation, but not an excuse. For each of these environmentalist icons, the meaning of nature and wilderness was constrained, even produced, by an idea of civilization. Muir’s nature was a pristine refuge from the city. Madison Grant’s nature was the last redoubt of nobility in a levelling and hybridizing democracy. They went to the woods to escape aspects of humanity. They created and preserved versions of the wild that promised to exclude the human qualities they despised.

Their literary icon, Thoreau, had said in his 1854 speech “Slavery in Massachusetts” that even his beloved ponds did not give him pleasure when he thought of human injustice: “What signifies the beauty of nature when men are base? . . . The remembrance of my country spoils my walk.” But Thoreau also shared Muir’s problem; in some ways, he created it. When he wrote about American nature, Thoreau was arguing about American culture, which, even for most abolitionists, meant the culture of a white nation. In his essay “Walking,” which gave environmentalists the slogan “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” Thoreau proposed that American greatness arose as “the farmer displaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects more natural.” For both Muir and Thoreau, working, consuming, occupying, and admiring American nature was a way for a certain kind of white person to become symbolically native to the continent.

The nineteen-seventies saw a raft of new environmental laws and the growth of the Sierra Club’s membership from tens to hundreds of thousands. But the decades of advocacy behind this wave of environmental concern shared much with the older, exclusionary politics of nature. In 1948, more than a decade before Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (most of which was first published in this magazine), a pair of best-selling works of popular ecology sounded many of Carson’s themes, from the dangers of pesticides to the need to respect nature’s harmonies. William Vogt’s “Road to Survival” embraced eugenics as a response to overpopulation, urging governments to offer cash to the poor for sterilization, which would have “a favorable selective influence” on the species. In “Our Plundered Planet,” Fairfield Osborn, the son of Madison Grant’s friend and ally Henry Fairfield Osborn, forecast that postwar humanitarianism, which allowed more people to survive into adulthood, would prove incompatible with natural limits. While neither man evinced Madison Grant’s racial obsessions, they shared his eagerness to champion an admirable “nature” against a debased humanity that had flourished beyond its proper limits.

This strain of misanthropy seemed to appear again in biologist Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 runaway best-seller “The Population Bomb.” Ehrlich illustrated overpopulation with a scene of a Delhi slum seen through a taxi window: a “mob” with a “hellish aspect,” full of “people eating, people washing, people sleeping. . . . People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating . . . People, people, people, people.” He confessed to being afraid that he and his wife would never reach their hotel, and reported that on that night he came to understand overpopulation “emotionally.” By the evidence, what he had encountered was poverty. Ehrlich was announcing that his environmentalist imperatives were powered by fear and repugnance at slum dwellers leading their lives in public view. At the very least, he assumed that his readers would find those feelings resonant.

Even as environmentalism took on big new problems in the seventies, it also seemed to promise an escape hatch from continuing crises of inequality, social conflict, and, sometimes, certain kinds of people. Time described the environmental crisis as a problem that Americans “might actually solve, unlike the immensely more elusive problems of race prejudice or the war in Vietnam.” In his 1970 State of the Union address, in which he expended less than a hundred words on Vietnam, made no explicit reference to race, and yet launched a new racialized politics with calls for a “war” on crime and attacks on the welfare system, Richard Nixon spent almost a thousand words on the environment, which he called “a cause beyond party and beyond factions.” That meant, of course, that he thought it could be a cause for the white majority.

Environmentalism largely was that. When the Sierra Club polled its members, in 1972, on whether the club should “concern itself with the conservation problems of such special groups as the urban poor and ethnic minorities,” forty per cent of respondents were strongly opposed, and only fifteen per cent were supportive. (The phrasing of the question made the club’s bias clear enough.) Admitting to its race problem took the movement nearly two decades. In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice published an influential report that found that hazardous waste facilities were disproportionately located in minority communities, and called this unequal vulnerability “a form of racism.” The environmental movement, the report observed, “has historically been white middle and upper-class.” Three years later, activists sent a letter to the heads of major environmental organizations, claiming that non-whites were less than two per cent of the combined seven hundred and forty-five employees of the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (N.R.D.C.), and Friends of the Earth. Fred Krupp, then executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund, replied with a mea culpa: “Environmental groups have done a miserable job of reaching out to minorities.”

Since then, “environmental racism” and “environmental justice” have entered the vocabulary of the movement. There are many environmentalisms now, with their own constituencies and commitments. In the Appalachian coalfields, locals fight the mountaintop-removal strip mining that has shattered peaks and buried more than a thousand miles of headwater streams. Activists from working-class Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles have opposed parts of California’s landmark climate-change legislation, which the large environmental groups support, arguing that it gives poor communities too little protection from concentrated pollution. Despite some such conflicts, large, well-resourced national groups such the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council seek out these groups as partners in everything from environmental monitoring to lawsuits. Mitch Bernard, director of litigation at N.R.D.C., says, “It’s no longer a national group swooping down on a locale and saying this is what we think you should do. Much more of the impetus for action, and the strategies for action, come from the affected community.” (I worked under Bernard at the N.R.D.C., in the summer of 2000.)

Still, the major environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, were written with no attention to the unequal vulnerability of poor and minority groups. The priorities of the old environmental movement limit the effective legal strategies for activists today. And activists acknowledge that persistent mistrust goes beyond immediate conflicts, such as the split over California’s climate-change law, but can make them more difficult to resolve. Bernard attributes some of the misgivings to environmentalism’s history as an élite, white movement. A 2014 study found that whites occupied eighty-nine per cent of leadership positions in environmental organizations.

Some of the awkwardness of environmental politics since the seventies, now even more acute in the age of climate change, is that it lays claim to worldwide problems, but brings to them some of the cultural habits of a much more parochial, and sometimes nastier, movement. Ironically enough, Madison Grant, writing about extinction, was right: the natural world that future generations live in will be the one we create for them. It can only help to acknowledge just how many environmentalist priorities and patterns of thought came from an argument among white people, some of them bigots and racial engineers, about the character and future of a country that they were sure was theirs and expected to keep.

Truth Out: The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parks

Iconoclasm – questioning heroes and ideals, and even tearing them down – can be the most difficult thing. Many people root their attitudes and lives in narratives that they hold to be self-evidently true. So it’s obvious that changing conservation isn’t going to be an easy furrow to plow.

However, change it must. Conservation’s achievements don’t alter the fact that it’s rooted in two serious and related mistakes. The first is that it conserves “wildernesses,” which are imagined to be shaped only by nature. The second is that it believes in a hierarchy, with superior, intelligent human beings at the top. Many conservationists still believe that they are uniquely endowed with the foresight and expertise to control and manage so-called wildernesses and that everyone else must leave, including those who actually own them and have lived there for generations.

These notions are archaic; they damage people and the environment. The second also flouts the law, with its perpetual land grabs. For nature’s sake as well as our own, it’s crucial to expose how these ideas grew and flourished, to understand just how mistaken they are. There’s an ongoing attempt to wipe from the map the quagmire around conservation’s wellspring, to pretend it’s all now transparent and sunlit. It isn’t.

Some conservationists, usually those lower in the pecking order, have the morality to face reality. They must prevail. With enough support, they will propel the industry from below toward a radically different approach, one that stands a far better chance of saving the environment and one using far smaller sums of money to do so.

This iconoclastic revolution is urgently needed, and there’s no better time: 2015 is the 125th anniversary of Yosemite National Park, and 2016 completes a century for the United States National Park Service. These are highly symbolic anniversaries: Conservation dogmas were rooted in colonial conquest and were inextricably bound up in the genocide committed against Native Americans. Both lies – that of the wilderness and that of the inferiority of some human beings – were in full flower by 1916, though they were seeded earlier when the US began to invent the parks model that is still, all too harmfully, exported around the world.

The Eviction of the Ahwahneechee People From Yosemite

The conservation movement (and its problems) really began with the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act. Conservation leaders like John Muir believed that the indigenous people who had inhabited Yosemite for at least 6,000 years were a desecration and had to go. Muir deemed them “lazy” because their hunting techniques yielded a good living without wasted effort. Such prejudice is alive and well today: An official in India said that tribal people don’t want to leave their forest because they get “fodder and income … for free” and are too lazy to work, so must be evicted.

White invaders saw the land as pristine wilderness because it didn’t conform to their European industrial image of productivity. In reality, Yosemite had long been an environment shaped by its inhabitants through controlled undergrowth burning (which created its healthy forests with big trees and a rich biodiversity), tree planting for acorns as a food staple, and sustainable predation on its game, which ensured species balance.

In the 19th century, the newcomers didn’t hesitate to send in the army to police this wilderness and get rid of everyone else. One historian, Jeffrey Lee Rodger, is sympathetic to the cavalrymen, but admits their “improvised punishments … were clearly extralegal and may have veered into arbitrary … force.” He might have compared such “punishments” with those still supported by conservation today, particularly in Africa and Asia, where tribal people are routinely kicked out of parks and beaten, even tortured, when they resist.

Native Americans were evicted from almost all the American parks, but a few Ahwahneechee people were tolerated inside Yosemite for a few more decades. They were forced to serve tourists and act out humiliating “Indian days” for the visitors. The latter wanted the Indians they saw in the movies, so the Ahwahneechee had to dress and dance as if they were from the Great Plains. If they didn’t serve the park, they were out – and they all did finally die or leave, with their last dwellings deliberately and ignominiously burned down in a fire drill in 1969.

As Luther Standing Bear declaimed, “Only to the white man was nature a wilderness … to us it was tame. Earth was bountiful.” The parks were and are supposed to preserve their “wilderness,” but they’ve never been very successful. In the case of Yosemite: over a thousand miles of often-crowded roads and hiking trails were constructed; trees were felled to make viewpoints; the balance of species was altered as animal and human predators were eliminated; trout were introduced to delight anglers; a luxury hotel was built; bear feeding areas were established to thrill visitors, so conditioning the animals to scavenge for human food; and hoteliers carried out a “firefall” for a century, in which burning wood was pushed over Glacier Point to cascade thousands of feet into the valley (the scars remain visible nearly 50 years after it was halted).

The Native Americans’ own fires, their ancient practice of seasonal and controlled undergrowth burning, was stopped. One result is the devastating conflagrations that now plague California; those simply wouldn’t have happened on the Natives’ watch.

This wasn’t preservation, it was reshaping the environment to extract tourist dollars. In spite of this, and the fact that the National Park Service has presided over a loss of biodiversity and dozens of species extinctions, many conservationists have continued to believe they’re better at protecting environments than the tribal peoples who live in them.

Scientific Racism in the Conservation Movement

The conservation movement’s historically dismissive attitudes toward indigenous people were intertwined with the ideas of scientific racism and eugenics that were just beginning to emerge when the Yosemite Grant Act was passed. Charles Darwin had published The Origin of Species five years before the passage of the act, and Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was beginning to develop his racist ideas of eugenics, declaring, “The feeble nations of the world are necessarily giving way before the nobler varieties of mankind.” Eugenics enthusiasts in Britain included writer H.G. Wells and playwright George Bernard Shaw, who thought those he saw as genetically inferior, who couldn’t “justify their existence,” should be humanely gassed. John Maynard Keynes, William Beveridge and Marie Stopes joined up, together with most of the liberal intelligentsia.

In the US, eugenics and conservation were born twins. Wealthy big-game hunters, including Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Madison Grant, both major conservationists, were among the most enthusiastic to embrace the racist creed. Their initial priority was to conserve the herds that provided their sport, and the easiest way to do that – so they thought – was to remove the “predators” who were killing the game to eat (and for its leather) rather than to hang horns on the wall. But these predators were principally human hunters – both Native Americans and poor colonists trying to eke a living from an unfamiliar world.

Ousting these subsistence hunters had the opposite of the desired effect. Elk herds in Yellowstone, for example, grew beyond the carrying capacity of the land. (The same is happening now, with elephants in Botswana.) Weak animals, once the first to fall from hunter’s arrow or wolf’s fang, started reaching reproductive age. The herd grew, but the animals sickened as hunger took its toll. Seeing their precious trophies fading through their bungling, the elite came up with ideas of “game management,” still applied today. The key is to cull, keeping the herd smaller but stronger.

They then turned their attention to the human “herd,” which was expanding rapidly from European immigration. Following Galton, they categorized humankind into hierarchical “races” and feared the country being swamped by what they considered to be lower races, including “Mediterraneans,” “Alpines,” and Jews.

The big-game hunting boys saw themselves as a different ilk. As the “Aryans” from northern Europe, they saw themselves as the creators of “true” civilization, science, culture, religion and wealth. They believed that racial mixing would threaten their “race” and what they saw as its irreplaceable talents. They passed laws to reduce immigration to the United States from “non-Aryan” countries, they outlawed interracial marriage and imposed segregation wherever possible, and they coercively sterilized anyone they could get their hands on who didn’t fit their bill; no one with a mental, physical, or even social, problem was safe, particularly the poor.

The most important hunter-turned-conservationist, Madison Grant, was also their principal writer. He was a key supporter, often founder or leader, of a dozen or so conservation groups that still exist, though he barely appears in their official histories. Among the most prominent were the Save the Redwoods League; the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS); and the National Parks Association (now the National Parks Conservation Association).

His book, The Passing of the Great Race, was published in the year the National Park Service was founded. Science Magazine’s glowing review enthused over its “solid merit.” Thirty years later, it would be cited by German Nazis who couldn’t understand why they were on trial: They were, they pleaded, simply emulating the United States, where scientific eugenics had long been used to shape society. Grant had sent a translation of his book to Hitler, who called it his Bible.

Widespread Support for Eugenics

Scratch the record anywhere in the early conservation movement, and eugenics sounds loud and clear: Alexander Graham Bell, who falsely claimed to have invented the telephone and who was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society; two charter members of the Sierra Club, David Starr Jordan (founding president of Stanford University) and Luther Burbank were all prominent members of the movement. George Grinnell, founder of the Audubon Society (and Edward Curtis’ mentor) was Madison Grant’s close friend for nearly 50 years. The National Park Service’s first director, mining magnate Stephen Mather, was backed by Charles Goethe, of the Audubon and Kenya Wildlife Societies, regional head of the Sierra Club and outspoken advocate of Nazi eugenic laws.

In 1937, Goethe wrote to Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, director of “racial hygiene” in Frankfurt, saying, “I feel passionately that you are leading all mankind herein,” according to Garland E. Allen’s 2012 essay, “Culling the Herd,” in the Journal of the History of Biology. Verschuer was doctoral supervisor and collaborator of Josef Mengele, infamous for his barbaric experiments on children in Auschwitz. He continued to excel after the war, as professor of genetics at Münster.

In one article, “Patriotism and Racial Standards” published in a 1936 issue of Eugenical News, Goethe enthused, “We are moving toward the elimination of humanity’s undesirables like Sambo, the husband to Mandy the ‘washerlady.’ ” In 1965, on his 90th birthday, Goethe was dubbed the state’s “number one citizen” by California’s governor. He fought immigration from Mexico, making the racist argument that Mexicans have low IQs.

Eugenics grew into the establishment belief of the first half of the 20th century and didn’t falter seriously until 1945, when an American battalion stumbled into Buchenwald, just after its prisoners had seized it from fleeing camp guards.

When the Nazis had built it, their second concentration camp, an oak tree growing inside its fences had consciously been conserved. It was symbolic, though not about nature: Goethe (no relation to the conservationist) had written poetry, including some of Faust, under its branches.

The military defeat of Nazism was to unveil scientific eugenics as a true Faustian pact, absurdly false and grotesquely violent. That should have been its end. But as with much in this history, the fog of obfuscation hangs over the landscape: Eugenic affiliations are continually denied or censored.

Acclaimed figures in post-war European conservation included former Nazis like Prince Bernhard, a founder of WWF (who joined the allies before the war), and Bernhard Grzimek, the self-proclaimed “savior of the Serengeti,” cofounder of Friends of the Earth Germany, and former director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society – one of Europe’s biggest conservation funders. He made sure the Maasai and other tribes were expelled.

So did Mike Fay of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the creator of the Nouabalé-Ndoki Park in the Congo, which kicked out the Mbendjele people, using US taxpayers’ money. The Wildlife Conservation Society trained the guards who now beat Mbendjele people for suspected poaching. Given the way they’re treated, it’s frankly not surprising that those who once lived on and from the land “poach” if the opportunity arises: Conservation breeds poachers.

When today’s environmental leaders press for curbs on immigration and population, it can only call to mind this violent past. Did David Brower, for example, founder of both Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute, have to assert that having children without a license should be a crime – given that he had four of his own?

Few environmentalists protest at the theft of tribal lands or stand for indigenous rights. For example, John Burton, of the World Land Trust, formerly of Friends of the Earth, and Fauna and Flora International, openly opposes the very idea, though other key players, some in Greenpeace for example, have signaled support for tribes.

The unexpurgated history of conservation matters because it still shapes attitudes toward tribal peoples. Conservationists no longer pretend to be saving their “race,” but they certainly claim to be saving the world’s heritage, and they mostly retain a supercilious attitude toward those they are destroying.

Such attitudes must change. Conservation nowadays, particularly in Africa and Asia, seems to be as much about land grabbing and profit as anything else. Its quiet partnerships with the logging and mining industries damage the environment. Tribal people are still abused, even shot, for poaching, when they’re just trying to feed their families, while “conservation” still encourages trophy hunting. The rich can hunt, the poor can’t.

In spite of the growing evidence to the contrary, many senior conservationists can’t accept that tribal peoples really are able to manage their lands. They’re wrong. It’s a great con trick and it’s time it was stopped.

Other conservationists are keen to do better. They deserve to know there’s a groundswell of public support behind them, pushing for a major change in conservation to benefit, finally, tribal peoples, nature, and us all.

Sierra Club: Pulling Down Our Monuments

The Sierra Club is a 128-year-old organization with a complex history, some of which has caused significant and immeasurable harm. As defenders of Black life pull down Confederate monuments across the country, we must also take this moment to reexamine our past and our substantial role in perpetuating white supremacy.

It’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history. That will be followed by posts on how we’ve had to evolve on issues of immigration and population control, environmental justice, and Indigenous sovereignty. We will also devote a post to a discussion of how the Sierra Club is working to center the voices of people we have historically ignored, so we can begin repairing some of the harms done.

The most monumental figure in the Sierra Club’s past is John Muir. Beloved by many of our members, his writings taught generations of people to see the sacredness of nature. But Muir maintained friendships with people like Henry Fairfield Osborn, who worked for both the conservation of nature and the conservation of the white race. Head of the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, Osborn also helped found the American Eugenics Society in the years after Muir’s death.

And Muir was not immune to the racism peddled by many in the early conservation movement. He made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life. As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.

Other early Sierra Club members and leaders — like Joseph LeConte and David Starr Jordan — were vocal advocates for white supremacy and its pseudo-scientific arm, eugenics. Jordan, for example, served on the board of directors during Muir’s presidency. A “kingpin” of the eugenics movement, he pushed for forced-sterilization laws and programs that deprived tens of thousands of women of their right to bear children — mostly Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and poor women, and those living with disabilities and mental illness. He cofounded the Human Betterment Foundation, whose research and model laws were used to create Nazi Germany’s eugenics legislation.

In these early years, the Sierra Club was basically a mountaineering club for middle- and upper-class white people who worked to preserve the wilderness they hiked through — wilderness that had begun to need protection only a few decades earlier, when white settlers violently displaced the Indigenous peoples who had lived on and taken care of the land for thousands of years. The Sierra Club maintained that basic orientation until at least the 1960s because membership remained exclusive. Membership could only be granted through sponsorship from existing members, some of whom screened out any applicants of color.

The whiteness and privilege of our early membership fed into a very dangerous idea — one that’s still circulating today. It’s the idea that exploring, enjoying, and protecting the outdoors can be separated from human affairs. Such willful ignorance is what allows some people to shut their eyes to the reality that the wild places we love are also the ancestral homelands of Native peoples, forced off their lands in the decades or centuries before they became national parks. It allows them to overlook, too, the fact that only people insulated from systemic racism and brutality can afford to focus solely on preserving wilderness. Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color continue to endure the traumatic burden of fighting for their right to a healthy environment while simultaneously fighting for freedom from discrimination and police violence.

The persistence of this misguided idea is part of the reason why we still get comments from our own members telling us to “stay in our lane,” and stop talking about issues of race, equity, and privilege. But as writer Julian Brave NoiseCat says, “The environment is no longer a white sanctuary. The messy business of society, power, and race is everywhere and intertwined.”

The Sierra Club that I want to belong to not only acknowledges that reality, it also works to counter racism and exclusion wherever it occurs — in our parks and wilderness areas, in our communities, in the halls of power, and especially among our own staff, volunteers, and 3.8 million members and supporters.

I know that isn’t the Sierra Club that has historically existed. People within the organization have had to push the Sierra Club to evolve for the better and to affirmatively place itself on the side of justice, often at great personal cost. In future posts in this series, we’ll talk more about the struggles Indigenous people, people of color, and their white allies went through to get this organization to evolve on issues like immigration and environmental justice.

For all the harms the Sierra Club has caused, and continues to cause, to Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color, I am deeply sorry. I know that apologies are empty unless accompanied by a commitment to change. I am making that commitment, publicly, right now. And I invite you to hold me and other Sierra Club leaders, staff, and volunteers accountable whenever we don’t live up to our commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist organization.

To begin with, we are redesigning our leadership structure so that Black, Indigenous, and other leaders of color at the Sierra Club make up the majority of the team making top-level organizational decisions. We will initiate similar changes to elevate the voices and experiences of staff of color across the organization. We know that the systems of power that got us here will not enable the transformational change we need.

Pending approval from our board, we will shift $5 million from our budget over the next year — and more in the years to come — to make long-overdue investments in our staff of color and our environmental and racial justice work. We will create a dialogue with, and resources for, our members about the intersection between racism and environmental justice issues, and invest in our HR and training capacities to ensure that staff, volunteers, and members are held accountable for any harm they inflict upon members of our Sierra Club community who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. We will also spend the next year studying our history and determining which of our monuments need to be renamed or pulled down entirely.

In subsequent posts in this series, we’ll talk in much more depth about the steps we’re taking to rebuild the Sierra Club on a basis of racial and social justice and to try to repair the harm we’ve caused. I know that the steps I’ve outlined above are only the beginnings of what will be a years-long process to reckon with our history, regain trust from the communities we have harmed, and create a diverse and equitable Sierra Club for the 21st century.

The Guardian: ‘Bees, not refugees’: the environmentalist roots of anti-immigrant bigotry

Recent mass shootings have been linked to ‘eco-xenophobia’ – part of a tradition that dates to America’s first conservationists

The environmentalist, white nationalist, and influential anti-immigration activist John Tanton died less than three weeks before the El Paso shooting. Tanton lived to see his movement shape much of modern US immigration policy, but not this latest violent turn.

A hate-filled document allegedly linked to the man suspected of killing 22 people in El Paso on 3 August echoed the kind of rhetoric generally favored by the far right—and also had a decidedly environmentalist, Tanton-like bent. The document praised the Dr Seuss character the Lorax, who says he speaks for the trees, and complained about the unsustainable overuse of paper towels. It concluded that the best course of environmental action would be mass murder.

A week prior, on an Instagram account reportedly linked to the alleged Gilroy, California, garlic festival shooter, he complained about migrant-driven sprawl. Months before, the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter called himself an “eco-fascist.”

Long before this violence, researchers warned of “the greening of hate.” From Tanton’s anti-immigration nonprofit network to some of today’s avowed environmentalists, across the political spectrum, overpopulation and immigration in particular has been blamed for environmental collapse for over 50 years.

Anti-immigrant ideology has been part and parcel of the whole of American conservationism since the first national park was founded, in part to protect wild yet white-owned nature from Mexicans and Native Americans. National purity and natural purity were inextricably linked.

The current rise of eco-minded white supremacy follows a direct line from the powerful attorney, conservationistand eugenicist Madison Grant—a friend of trees, Teddy Roosevelt, and the colonial superiority of white land stewardship. Grant, along with the influential naturalist John Muir and other early Anglo-Saxon conservationists, was critical in preserving the country’s wildlands for white enjoyment. Muir, who founded the Sierra Club environmental group in 1892, was disturbed by the “uncleanliness” of the Native Americans, whom he wanted removed from Yosemite. Grant successfully lobbied, in equal measure, for the creation of protected national parks and the restriction of immigration by non-whites.

“Environmentalists were hardcore eugenicists. They were as committed to racial thinking as they were to protecting the great redwoods in California,” said Heidi Beirich, intelligence project director at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

That eco-xenophobia resurfaced in the 1970s as overpopulation and resource depletion was deemed the pre-eminent challenge facing the planet at the dawn of the anthropocene.

Published in 1968, The Population Bomb, by the Stanford University biology professor Paul Ehrlich, predicted that overpopulation would fuel worldwide famine and global upheaval.

Much of what Ehrlich predicted did not come to pass, but the book proved hugely influential in the nascent environmental movement.Global population growth was soon conflated with US immigration growth, and both were blamed for the coming collapse of Spaceship Earth. This argument inspired generations of eco-nativists, and the most influential anti-immigration advocacy network currently operating in the US.

In 1979, Tanton, a local Sierra Club official, founded the “centrist/liberal” Federation for American Immigration Reform (Fair) to further advance the overpopulation-as-environmental-degradationcause. He went on to co-found the Center for Immigration Studies. Tanton, who warned of a “Latin onslaught” that would degrade America’s culture and lands, is widely regarded as the founder of the modern immigration reform movement.

While Tanton was establishing his right-leaning network of anti-immigration organizations, new ecologists on the left were coming to the same conclusions he did about the answer to growing environmental crisis.“Deep ecologists” in the 1980s and 1990s argued that humans were just one of many species, and often an invasive and destructive one. Activist David Orton argued that limiting immigration “from a maintenance of biodiversity perspective…has nothing to do with fascists.” The deep ecologist Dave Foreman was a co-founder of the radical wilderness collective Earth First! before the group forced him and his increasingly anti-immigration ideologyout.

By the late 90s, the anti-immigration issue reached a fever pitch within the US environmental movement. The Sierra Club had grown exponentially in the preceding decades, and “population control” had been part of its core platform. A nearly decade-long power struggle ensued for control over America’s pre-eminent conservation group, as new members attempted to move away from the overpopulation argument, while longtime Sierrans and those in Tanton’s circle pushed the group to maintain immigration control as a core tenet.

They ultimately lost the Sierra Club in the mid-2000s, but anti-immigration groups associated with Tanton didn’t give up on attempting to influence eco-minded progressives. They ran ads linking overpopulation and climate crisis in mainstream newspapers and progressive magazines, from the New York Times to the Nation.

“The takeover attempts of the Sierra Club really woke people up to what was going on, but it still continues,” saidBetsy Hartmann, Hampshire College professor emerita of development studies and author of “The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness.” “The fact that it’s picked up—that’s the new twist.”

“We’re seeing the far right really take up ecological arguments again,” said John Hultgren, a Bennington College environmental politics professor and author of Border Walls Gone Green: Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America. “The rise of eco-fascism, I think, is very real.”

The right’s perspective on the climate crisis has generally been one of denial, and reliance on a fringe in the scientific community that maintains climate change is a natural process. According to available research, immigration control as climate control is a similar pseudoscience. By stopping immigration from countries with low per capita emissions to wealthier nations with high per capita emissions, this thinking goes, total environmental impact will be limited, as will further damage to US wildlands and biodiversity: fewer people means less sprawl and less resource use.

There is little actual science to bolster immigration control for ecological purposes. While there is evidence that population and economic growth in total increases global emissions, recent studies show no correlation between US immigrant communities and pollution.

Whether eco-nativists are using these arguments to greenwash racism, or they truly believe limiting immigration is the best way to pull the planet back from the brink, the results are the same. “You can be a genuine environmentalist and a genuine xenophobe—the two often do converge,” said Hultgren.

The El Paso manifesto echoed this logic, lamenting that it’s proven too difficult to change American consumers’ habits. “So population reduction is almost the low-hanging fruit, the simple solution to the crisis of climate change. That’s the argument that a lot of anti-immigrant environmentalists have made,” said Hultgren—but taken to a violent end.

Limiting immigration has certainly proven more politically palatable than regulating fossil fuel companies and corporate polluters under the current administration.

Tanton network groups have reportedly enjoyed a close relationship with the Trump administration and a great deal of influence over immigration policy. Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller and former attorney general Jeff Sessions have both been linked to Tanton groups. Former Fair officials and lobbyists have found a new home in the Trump administration. They include the former executive director of Fair, who is now the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship andimmigration services ombudsman

The eco-xenophobic rhetoric that Tanton and his supporters have traded in has proliferated across the right, straddling both arguments about population growth and outright racist beliefs that Latino immigrants, in particular, destroy nature. Long before he became the father of the Proud Boys, the Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes espoused the ecological virtues of population and immigration control. In a 2003 Vice Guide to Happiness, McInnes offered some cause for optimism under President George W Bush: “Immigration is getting handled, which is helping the environmental problems overpopulation has caused.” In 2010, he grumbled about how the Sierra Club had turned away from the anti-immigration cause.

Richard Spencer’s “meta-political manifesto for the Alt-Right” advocated for a kind of conservationism in the white nationalist tradition. Right wing pundit Ann Coulter claimed Americans will have to choose between a “greening or browning” of America. Fox News host Tucker Carlson opined on air about the ecological impact of immigrants: “I actually hate litter, which is one of the reasons I’m so against illegal immigration.”

Online, an eco-fascist rhetorical revival has been wrapped in traditional white nationalist imagery and language, along with love for large guns. Using the hashtag #pinetreegang, supporters espouse the benefits of immigration control and share Lorax memes: just like Madison Grant and John Tanton before them, they purport to speak for the trees.

“What’s on the rise is white supremacy in general, but this is a pretty staple part of that ideology,” said Beirich. “When people hear [the Nazi nationalist slogan] ‘blood and soil’, they think of the blood, but the soil part mattered.”

One of the favored Pine Tree Gang phrases: “Bees, not refugees.”

The Sierra Club has backed far away from its xenophobic history, as have other environmental groups, which have since taken a more global perspective on climate crisis and environmental justice.

“It’s only now that the environmental movement is less racist than it’s ever been,” said Beirich.

“Environmental justice activists forced American environmentalists, most of whom were white and middle and upper class, to really confront this logic,” said Hultgren. “There’s been an ideological shift among mainstream and progressive environmental organizations to really reflect on the relationship between social inequality and environmental degradation.”

In 2013, the Sierra Club and the environmental activist group 350.orgthrew their support behind immigration.Earth First! has gone a step further, calling national borders “scar[s] on the earth.”

“The entire earth is a closed system, and the idea that people crossing borders is going to have a major impact on any individual environment is absurd,” said Veery Marten, an Earth First! Journal collective member. “The culprits of this white supremacist violence citing alleged environmental interests are almost always middle class white men who are not lowering their own carbon footprint. It’s not really about consumption, it’s about who’s allowed to consume and gate-keeping these resources.”

Environmental activism is still far from fully making amends for its history, though, and indigenous groups and people of color still feel sidelined in the movement.

“The environmental movement is increasingly reconciling with what it means to try to protect land on this continent when this land is stolen,” said Marten.

Mainstream environmentalists and the broader left may no longer espouse the benefits of limiting immigration, but many do warn of an impending global refugee crisis worsened by climate change that will in turn pressure societies unable or unwilling to grapple with an influx of new residents. In 2018, a World Bank report predicted more than 140 million climate migrants from Latin America, sub-saharan Africa and south-east Asia could be displaced by 2050. Concern for these migrants is often couched in calls for more open borders.

But Hartmann warns that proclamations of looming dystopia in the form of a mass climate-caused global refugee crisis put well-intentioned environmentalists on some shared ground with fear-mongering nativists, even as they’re attempting to convey a useful urgency about the future of the planet and the disproportionate impacts of climate crisis on the developing world.

“Not to say there won’t be climate-related migration, but I think that portrayal of migrants as climate change refugees, especially these mass movements of people, feeds into the anti-immigrant environmental worldview,” said Hartmann. “Alarmist hyperbole and stereotypes around climate conflict and even climate mass refugee dislocation is based on kind of old, racially and colonially charged stereotypes of poor people of color being more prone to violence in times of scarcity.”

A worsening climate crisis could easily become a cudgel for anti-immigration activists looking to use ecological preservation as an excuse to close borders, ameans of gesturing toward doing something about climate crisis that aligns with the right’s other political goals.

“As it becomes more difficult for Republicans to deny that climate change is a thing, this is a really likely next move for the right in climate politics,” said Hultgren.

Central Park Conservancy: The Story of Seneca Village

Before Central Park was created, the landscape along what is now the Park’s perimeter from West 82nd to West 89th Street was the site of Seneca Village, a community of predominantly African-Americans, many of whom owned property. By 1855, the village consisted of approximately 225 residents, made up of roughly two-thirds African-Americans, one-third Irish immigrants, and a small number of individuals of German descent. One of few African-American enclaves at the time, Seneca Village allowed residents to live away from the more built-up sections of downtown Manhattan and escape the unhealthy conditions and racism they faced there.

Seneca Village Site
Nearly 200 years ago, Central Park’s landscape near the West 85th Street entrance was home to Seneca Village, a community of predominately free African-American property owners.

The formation of Seneca Village

Seneca Village began in 1825, when landowners in the area, John and Elizabeth Whitehead, subdivided their land and sold it as 200 lots. Andrew Williams, a 25-year-old African-American shoeshiner, bought the first three lots for $125. Epiphany Davis, a store clerk, bought 12 lots for $578, and the AME Zion Church purchased another six lots. From there a community was born. From 1825 to 1832, the Whiteheads sold about half of their land parcels to other African-Americans. By the early 1830s, there were approximately 10 homes in the Village.

Map of Seneca Village
Detail of map of the pre-Central Park landscape showing the area of Seneca Village. Courtesy of New York City Municipal Archives.

There is some evidence that residents had gardens and raised livestock in Seneca Village, and the nearby Hudson River was a likely source of fishing for the community. A nearby spring, known as Tanner’s Spring, provided a water source. By the mid-1850s, Seneca Village comprised 50 homes and three churches, as well as burial grounds, and a school for African-American students.

A thriving African-American community

For African-Americans, Seneca Village offered the opportunity to live in an autonomous community far from the densely populated downtown. Despite New York State’s abolition of slavery in 1827, discrimination was still prevalent throughout New York City, and severely limited the lives of African-Americans. Seneca Village’s remote location likely provided a refuge from this climate. It also would have provided an escape from the unhealthy and crowded conditions of the City, and access to more space both inside and outside the home.

Compared to other African-Americans living in New York, residents of Seneca Village seem to have been more stable and prosperous — by 1855, approximately half of them owned their own homes. With property ownership came other rights not commonly held by African-Americans in the City — namely, the right to vote. In 1821, New York State required African-American men to own at least $250 in property and hold residency for at least three years to be able to vote. Of the 100 black New Yorkers eligible to vote in 1845, 10 lived in Seneca Village.

The fact that many residents were property owners contradicts some common misperceptions during the mid-19th century that the people living on the land slated for the Park were poor squatters living in shanties. While some residents lived in shanties and in crowded conditions, most lived in two-story homes. Census records show that residents were employed, with African-Americans typically employed as laborers and in service jobs, the main options for them at the time. Records also show that most children who lived in Seneca Village attended school.

The creation of Central Park

During the early 1850s, the City began planning for a large municipal park to counter unhealthful urban conditions and provide space for recreation. In 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted a law that set aside 775 acres of land in Manhattan — from 59th to 106th Streets, between Fifth and Eighth Avenues — to create the country’s first major landscaped public park.

The City acquired the land through eminent domain, the law that allows the government to take private land for public use with compensation paid to the landowner. This was a common practice in the 19th century, and had been used to build Manhattan’s grid of streets decades earlier. There were roughly 1,600 inhabitants displaced throughout the area. Although landowners were compensated, many argued that their land was undervalued. Ultimately, all residents had to leave by the end of 1857. Research is underway to determine where Seneca Village residents relocated — some may have gone to other African-American communities in the region, such as Sandy Ground in Staten Island and Skunk Hollow in New Jersey.

Seneca Village Site
Seneca Village extended as far east as Seventh Avenue, and would have bordered the present-day Arthur Ross Pinetum (mid-Park between 84th and 86th Streets).

Discovering more about Seneca Village

Although we have limited knowledge of what life was like in Seneca Village, there has been ongoing work to learn more about its residents and their lives. In 2011, archaeologists from Columbia University and The City University of New York conducted a dig of the site. They uncovered artifacts such as an iron tea kettle, a roasting pan, a stoneware beer bottle, fragments of Chinese export porcelain, and a small shoe with a leather sole and fabric upper. These items have helped us piece together what life was like for the village’s residents.

Despite its short history of only 32 years, Seneca Village is understood as a tight-knit community that served as a stabilizing and empowering force in uncertain times. Learn more about the history of Seneca Village, its property owners, and what New York City was like at this time on our latest Seneca Village blog post.

Bethy Squires: Mount Rushmore’s Extremely Racist History

We cannot undo America’s sordid history, but we can at least take down the monuments glorifying it. In the wake of the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, confederate monuments are coming down all over the country. Protesters in Durham, North Carolina toppled a statue put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1924. The mayor of Baltimore had the city’s Confederate statues removed under the cloak of night. And yesterday, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the 90 foot bas relief sculpture of three Confederate generals to be blasted off the face of Stone Mountain.

“It is 2017, and now is the time for us to have a conversation about removing the last vestiges of that type of hatred and that type of vitriol toward minority communities in Georgia,” Abrams told local news.

In response to calls like Adams’, right-wing sites began rhetorically asking, What’s next, blowing up Mount Rushmore? But given the racist history that both Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore share, is there something more to that question than alarmism alone?

Read more: 60 Protesters Turn Themselves In for Toppling Confederate Monument

Let’s start on a minor note: Mount Rushmore isn’t even finished. The monument was originally intended to show four presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln—from the waist up, as well as a large representation of the Louisiana Purchase, giant facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and a secret room behind Lincoln’s head. But construction stopped in 1941, shortly after the original sculptor’s death, and as it stands today, Lincoln is still missing an ear. The rocks lying below the carving? Those aren’t naturally occurring; that’s the rubble from rock blown away with dynamite.

Much more importantly, Mount Rushmore is only monumental in its hubris and deeply rooted racism. Countless comics, films, and television shows have depicted megalomaniacs carving their own faces into Mount Rushmore, while letting the original megalomania and racism slide. There is something so American about looking at the enormity of nature—at millions-of-years-old rock—and thinking, “You know what this needs? White guys.”

Mount Rushmore and Georgia’s Stone Mountain—whose officials denied a request to Ku Klux Klan members to burn a cross there on Monday— share a common past: Both are built on land seized illegally from Indigenous peoples, and both were devised by the same racist artist: Gutzon Borglum. Borglum believed that a country as great as America required its own uniquely American art. “[A]rt in America should be American, drawn from American sources, memorializing American achievement,” he wrote in a 1908 article in The World’s Work.

Borglum was first contacted by United Daughters of the Confederacy member Helen Plane to carve a 70-foot Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain. Plane wanted Lee to be surrounded by KKK because she believed the KKK had “saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule,” as she wrote to Borglum in 1915. Borglum’s only objection to her plan was that 70 feet wasn’t nearly big enough to honor Lee properly. He told her it would look like “a postage stamp on the side of a barn.” The final design was 20 feet taller, and depicted Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson riding on horseback. Now it looks more like a piece of legal-size paper on the side of a barn. Or like a trio of racists on the side of a mountain.

As construction began, Borglum aligned himself with the Klan, particularly with Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson. The two exchanged letters about Nordic moral superiority. (Stephenson would later be convicted of the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer.) However, internal squabbling in the Klan led to Borglum being booted from the Stone Mountain project. Subsequently, he destroyed all his models of the monument. Borglum also wasn’t a fan of his replacement, Henry Augustus Lukeman. “Every able man in America refused it, and thank God, every Christian. They got a Jew,” he said.

It was after this that Borglum was contacted by Doane Robinson, the state historian of South Dakota. Robinson wanted to create a tourist attraction that would pull yokels off the highway. He wanted to carve full statues of icons of the American West out of the Needles, a geological wonder (and a site sacred to the Sioux Nation) in the Black Hills. But the granite of the Needles was poor, so the sculpture site was relocated to the mountain that had only been known as Mount Rushmore for 40 of its two billion years of existence.

The Black Hills region was designated “unfit for civilization,” and “Permanent Indian Country” in the 1850s. But when General Custer surveyed the area and reported that his men had discovered gold, white people came running. President Grant secretly ordered the army not to protect the native residents, and bounty hunters began collected up to $300 per Indian killed. The Sioux were forcibly evicted from their land, and the mountain formerly known as Six Grandfathers was named after the first white man to express interest in it. In 1884, New York City lawyer Charles E. Rushmore asked his guide what Six Grandfathers was called. His guide replied, “Never had a name, but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore.”

Six Grandfathers was sacred to the Lakota Sioux. The mountain was named after the ancestral spirits who came to Lakota medicine man Black Elk in a vision, and any construction on that land would have been an insult.

Borglum picked his four presidents based on their role in Manifest Destiny. Robinson had originally wanted giant statues of Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Custer. But Borglum felt that only American presidents were worthy of looming over the plains of South Dakota like four Galactuses. Specifically, he wanted four men who he felt were instrumental in expanding and preserving the boundaries of America: Washington for getting things started, Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase, Roosevelt for the Panama Canal, and Lincoln for preserving the Union.

Of course, the US government has a long history of violating treaties with Indigenous populations. But the Black HIlls are special insofar as the Supreme Court actually agreed that the land was taken illegally in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians. The Court ruled in 1980 that the US owed the Sioux Nation the 1877 price for the land, along with 100 years of interest. The Sioux rejected the cash settlement because they still want the land back.

In truth, it’s not my place as an American to say what should happen to Six Grandfathers. It’s not our sacred land to destroy because it was never ours to build upon.

But Stone Mountain has got to go.

Further Readings

: The Forgotten History Of ‘Violent Displacement’ That Helped Create The National Parks

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Yes! Mag: Climate Justice Is Racial Justice Is Gender Justice

There’s nothing like the giant oil companies to provide us all with lessons about power and prejudice.

The climate crisis offers a lens to understand many of the inherent injustices on this planet: There’s an almost perfect inverse relationship between how much of the problem you caused and how much of the pain you’re feeling. Furthermore, it offers the best chance to actually right some of these wrongs: The economic rearrangement that must accompany any successful effort to fix the planet’s climate system is an opportunity to make sure that the people who’ve always been left out won’t be put at the back of the all-electric bus…

Patterson (Jacqueline Patterson is the director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program): Well, there’s one story I tell to help people understand intersectionality: There’s a picture I show of this young boy named Antoine, who lives in Indiantown, Florida, 3 miles from a coal-fired power plant. He has severe asthma. There’s a picture of his bag of medicines that show what he depends on to get by from day to day. And there’s a picture of him as a young boy watching other kids play in a fountain. Another one shows him looking out the window and watching kids go to school. Not him—there’s so many poor air quality days that would put his life at risk if he went.

I talk about the connection between the very facility that is driving climate change and the increased concentration of pollutants that come from climate change. And the kids who can’t go to school. Or have a hard time paying attention because the other things that come out of smokestacks [are] lead. Or they might be drinking it from their water supply. I want people to see all those levels of risk kids have from these impacts.

And then I overlay it with the maps that show these same communities are food insecure—more likely to get Doritos and Cheetos than kale or quinoa. And I overlay that with the fact that when you have this many problems, including living next to a toxic facility, on average your property values are 15 percent lower. So that affects the quality of their schooling because they’re less resourced—fewer tax dollars. And then I show an image of a child standing on a milk crate being fingerprinted.

If you’re not on grade level by grade 3, you’re much more likely to enter into the school-to-prison pipeline. And then the same entities that fight against the regulations to help the air are the same entities pushing forward punitive criminal justice measures, and privatizing our prisons, and so on. People see that through the lens of an actual child, how all those systems come into play. How they come into play against his chance to be a thriving adult…

…climate change might be big enough to help us start reimagining things. Usually by the time I finish describing the problem side of my presentations, most people are properly depressed, but when I get on the transformation side, I start to talk about how these systems are predicated on exploitation of natural resources and of human resources. Or humans, period. How these systems are so deeply flawed—instead of commons, we have sacrifice zones. And how climate change is really a byproduct of this systematic world of winners and losers. And then we talk about the ways we really need to flip this on its head.

We talk about how when we have a system based on capitalism, by definition it means there are winners and losers. And communities of color, women, and so on are on the losing end. But it’s the 99 percent that are on the losing end in various degrees. And then we go through the various systems—how we deal with our waste, the way we are generating energy, how it’s possible for us to have 100 percent renewable energy. System by system, we talk about it. And then we talk about the whole economic and political system—the people who are using the profits from this old system to suppress democracy, to stay in control. That’s part of our narrative of transformation…

…As we are taking back our democracy by overturning Citizens United and getting money out of politics and so on, we also have to be the change we want to see in the world, even before our political system catches up. So, the things that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance does around helping us develop recycling systems, our own energy systems, our own food systems. How we shift power away from the Monsantos, the Exxons. How we shift away from these systems at the same time that we’re changing the rulemakers and the rules. We have to do it all at the same time.”

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Survival International Colonialism vs Conservation

Guardian: The tribes paying the brutal price of conservation

Across the world, governments are protecting habitats. But indigenous peoples are being evicted

The Botswana police helicopter spotted Tshodanyestso Sesana and his friends in the afternoon. The nine young Bushmen, or San, had been hunting antelope to feed their families, when the chopper flew towards them.

There was a burst of gunfire from the air and the young men dropped their meat and skins and fled. Largely through luck, no one was hit, but within minutes armed troops arrived in a jeep and the nine were arrested, stripped naked, beaten and then detained for several days for poaching in a nature reserve.

Welcome to 21st-century life in the vast Central Kalahari game park, an ancient hunting ground for the San, but now off-limits to the people who forged their history there. The brutal incident took place last week, just days after Botswana’s wildlife minister Tshekedi Khama, the brother of President Ian Khama, announced a shoot-on-sight policy on poachers.

Khama claims the policy, which is supported by conservation groups, will deter poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, which is widely seen by Europe and the US as disastrous for biodiversity. But there are no rare or endangered species such as elephants or rhinos in the areas where the bushmen hunt. Sending a helicopter gunship and armed guards to arraign the hunters looks rather like an escalation of the low-grade war that Botswana has waged for years on one of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world.

For the past 20 years, the San have been systematically stripped of their homes, land and culture. In a series of heavy-handed evictions, houses have been burned, schools and health centres closed, and water supplies cut off. Now these people live, dispossessed, on the edge of the huge game park, forbidden to hunt in or enter the land they have lived on sustainably for centuries.

Meanwhile, one of the largest diamond mines in the world has been allowed to open in the park, and wealthy big game hunters from abroad are welcomed to newly constructed state-of-the-art game lodges. Is this conservation, or something more akin to bullying of the weak and exploitation of the land in the interests of the powerful?

What has happened in Botswana is happening all over the world, according to an increasingly vocal group of campaigners, academics and environmentalists. They claim that indigenous peoples are being appallingly treated and abused, all in the name of a conservation philosophy that carries a heavy human cost. In order to make room for wildlife, tourism and industry, governments are using conservation as a pretext to drive the world’s most endangered peoples away from the lands and animals they have lived with for generations.

This week, the issue will be raised in Hawaii at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s congress. “The world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price for today’s conservation,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. She has already sounded the alarm at the UN over the impact that conservation is having on tribal peoples in Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh, Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador.

Tauli-Corpuz will tell the congress that nature conservation is not working for people or for wildlife. “Houses are still being burned down, and people are being displaced violently. Protected areas continue to expand, yet threats against them are also increasing,” she will say. Vulnerable tribal peoples are being removed by force from India’s tiger reserves and forests; tribal groups such as the Ogiek and Sengwer, the San, Maasai and Baka are being forced out of forests and wildlife-rich plains in Africa; and from Thailand to Ecuador, Cameroon to Bangladesh, ethnic groups are being dispossessed in the name of protecting nature.

“It is happening all over Asia and Africa. We can agree with the goals of conservation, but if these protected areas are then being overrun by mining companies, what is the point of conservation?” Tauli-Corpuz said.

What’s more, human rights groups claim, governments are accessing wealthy conservation groups based in the US and Europe to take advantage of the billions of pounds of conservation money being offered by global banks, northern governments and foundations for climate change and biodiversity protection. The international money duly flows in, but recipient governments are not abiding by international laws to protect communities.

“Governments like conservation because there is a lot of money in it. It brings money from the Global Environment Facility and elsewhere. But when your economic priority is to generate money from conservation, you want to get rid of people from these protected areas. That is what is now happening,” Tauli-Corpuz told the Observer.

Most of the world’s 6,000 national parks and 100,000 protected places have been created by the removal of tribal peoples. Hundreds more parks are being created every year as countries commit to meeting the UN’s goal to protect 17% of land by 2020. And the human toll is rising accordingly. “Eviction numbers are declining,” says Rosaleen Duffy, a political ecologist at Sheffield University. “There are still large-scale, violent evictions, generally in national parks, but they are less common now. But much more common is the everyday form of exclusion [of tribal groups] which makes it impossible for anyone to live in protected areas.”

Gonzalo Oviedo is head of social policy at the IUCN. He told the Observer: “Conservation has changed a lot. Governments are more likely now to restrict the rights of people who live in protected areas. They may ban hunting, or farming, the cutting down of trees or fishing. The effect is to force people to move.

“They are more careful now about evictions. But in practice they are reducing access to resources and reducing people’s ability to live in protected areas. People in reserves may not be allowed to do anything. They are often poorer than they were before, and the impact can be bigger than if they are moved out,” said Oviedo.

Simon Counsell, director of the UK’s Rainforest Foundation, agrees: “Much conservation is still in the mindset of being in opposition to people. The ‘conservation v people’ approach to protecting wildlife has worsened the lives of thousands of native people.The foundation this year documented dozens of cases of human rights abuses in central Africa, where up to $500m has been spent in the last decade by the US, EU and other western donors to protect the world’s second largest swath of rainforest.

The irony is that “anti-people” conservation doesn’t appear to be having a beneficial effect on wildlife and may in fact be self-defeating. Analysis this year of 34 large protected areas in Congo DRC, Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo found that conservation had displaced villages and led to conflict and multiple human rights abuses – and that animals including elephants, gorillas and chimps were still declining at alarming rates anyway.

Conservation is clearly not working,” said Counsell. “Despite billions of dollars being poured into protected areas over this period and in spite of legally binding commitments to respect people’s rights, there was evidence that local indigenous and local communities across the world continue to pay a heavy price for protected areas,” he said.

“A new model of saving nature is urgently needed because the anti-people agenda now being practised by many countries is not working and undermines attempts to protect nature. Not only is the present anti-people model which is being practised unjust. It marginalises the very people who have protected forests for millennia and who represent one of our best hopes for doing so in the future.

Meanwhile, tension is mounting between human rights groups who seek to protect people and conservationists who are paid to effectively run protected areas for government. The ill-feeling came to a head this year when the WWF was accused by tribal defence group Survival International of funding and logistically aiding anti-poaching eco-guards in Equatorial Africa. The guards were allegedly victimising pygmy groups in the region.

According to a 228-page complaint made to the OECD, the Baka people in Cameroon had been forbidden to enter many of their traditional hunting areas, despite the fact that their hunting is reported to have minimal impact on the environment.

The WWF responded that it provides human rights training for the eco-guards, and that it was working in a complex area overrun with military groups. Adjudication by the OECD on that row is expected shortly.

According to Duffy: “Some groups are in danger of becoming complicit in government wrongdoing. They rely on national governments to allow access. Some have very significant links with corporates and corporate sponsorship, and tend not to be very critical of what is going on. It can be difficult for them to talk out of turn. Some facilitate the process.”

The IUCN’s Gonzalez believes conservation groups and western governments need to monitor what is happening on the ground far more closely. “A lot has changed in the big groups but there is still a lot to be done. Countries often impose no conditions on money for conservation. EU countries give money but do not have sufficient safeguards on how it is used. They don’t care what is going on. But multilateral groups like the World Bank have social safeguards and are more careful now. Why don’t governments have the same safeguards? Foundations and private money also do not care much about the impact of their spending,” he said.

According to Kristen Walker at Conservation international’s Policy Center for Environment and Peace, the big conservation groups are attempting to adapt to often difficult dilemmas and relationships. “We can find ourselves in tricky situations. We are invited guests in countries, but we also try to advocate and support communities, too. There are countries we have pulled out of because we felt we could not work there, and in some places people expect us to be more outspoken advocates.

“Governments sometimes look at the short term. We have adopted a rights-based approach and we are guided by an indigenous advice group. There has been a lot of change in conservation in 10 years. But how do you make sure governments are not shortsighted? How do you make sure communities are recognised? These are challenges,” she said.

The lobby in favour of returning more protected land to the original “owners” is growing. Studies by the Centre for International Forestry Research and the World Bank have found that when traditional communities are given full legal rights to their land, they protect the environment efficiently and cheaply.

“In India, tribal peoples face arrest and beatings, harassment, threats and trickery and feel forced to ‘agree’ to leave their forest homes. But the evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else”, says Sophie Grig of Survival.

“In the BRT tiger reserve in southern India where tribal people have been allowed to stay, tiger numbers have increased at above the national average. There is no reason to believe that evicting tribes helps tigers. In fact, it’s harming conservation.”

In Hawaii this week, Tauli-Corpuz will make the same argument. She will tell delegates that indigenous-owned lands are effective at resisting deforestation in Brazil; that in Namibia, community-based wildlife management has resulted in significant growth in wildlife populations; and in the US and Australia, indigenous peoples manage protected areas effectively. “Studies have demonstrated that the territories of indigenous peoples who have been given land rights have been significantly better conserved than the adjacent lands”.

Leading environmentalists and human rights advocates, including Noam Chomsky, Jonathon Porritt and Ghillean Prance, agree. Last year they appealed to conservationists to protect endangered tribes. In a letter to the Guardian, they stated: “Tribal peoples have managed their lands sustainably for generations. Forcibly removing them usually results in environmental damage. Such removals are a violation of human rights. The cheapest and quickest way to conserve areas of high biodiversity is to respect tribal peoples’ rights. The world can no longer afford a conservation model that destroys tribal peoples: it damages human diversity as well as the environment.”

The argument is still a long way from being won. But could 2016 be the year that some of the world’s most ancient tribes began to return to the land of their ancestors?

MAASAI

Thousands of pastoralist Maasai groups in Tanzania have been evicted from a 1,500 sq km area close to the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro national parks. The government has tried to remove them to establish exclusive game-hunting in the area. In 2009, a mass eviction left more than 200 homes burned and 3,000 people homeless.

BAIGA

Thousands of these tribespeople in India are being forcibly evicted from Kanha tiger reserve, though they do not hunt tigers and have lived in the forests with the animals for centuries. Many other adivasi, or tribal groups, are under notice to leave their forest homes to make way for tourism and tiger conservation. The Baiga have now set up a project to “save the forest from the forest department”.

BAKA

The indigenous forest pygmy tribe which lives near Nki national park in south-east Cameroon, and the Bagyeli ethnic group of South Kribi have been forced out of their forests or massively restricted in what they hunt and fish. The groups says that they have become squatters on their own land, with entry into the forest restricted.

HMONG

Thousands of ethnic Hmong and Karen hill tribes groups in northern Thailand have been displaced from their forests after they were designated national parks or protected areas. The groups have been classed as “illegal occupants” or “squatters” even though they have been living there for more than 100 years. The Hmong and Karen are routinely blamed for resource degradation but say their traditions protect nature.

BARMAN

These tribespeople, who have lived in the forests of central Bangladesh for centuries with other ethnic groups, have been evicted or prevented from living in traditional lands rezoned by the government as protected reserves in the 1980s. They are now restricted in where they live, move, and what they grow.

SENGWER

Kenya Forest Service guards have for years harassed and tried to evict Sengwer indigenous people from the western highlands. The 5,000 hunter gatherers were barred from their ancestral forests in 1964 but continue to return. Many now live in makeshift homes, camped out on roadsides.

SAN

The San, or Bushmen, peoples of the Kalahari desert in Botswana have been outlawed from their traditional lands to make way for tourism and mining. Even though they have lived in the desert for generations, they are considered a threat to wildlife. In a series of evictions, they have had their homes destroyed and water cut off and have been restricted from hunting. In 2006 the high court granted the Bushmen the right to return to their land, but the government has continued to enforce a permit system.

OGIEK

The Kenyan government has long been seeking to drive the Ogiek and others from the Mau forest to protect national water supplies and wildlife. The forest has been severely degraded after an influx of logging companies and illegal settlers, but the Ogiek, who have lived there for centuries, say they are not responsible and are resisting eviction. Many communities have had their homes burned but continue to fight to return.

DUKHA

The nomadic reindeer-herding Dukha tribe of northern Mongolia are struggling to survive after being banned from hunting in the name of conservation. Their traditional land was declared a protected area in 2013 and they face prison and restrictions on where they migrate to and hunt. The Dukha have hunted sustainably for generations, with their own strict rules governing the number of animals they can kill, and when and where they can hunt.

LICKAN ANTAY

The Lickan Antay indigenous people from the Atacama desert in northern Chile live in a state-protected reserve but have been overwhelmed by tourism and conservation which leaves them little water and restricts them from access to many places. “Before the creation of the reserve there wasn’t a single tourist, and suddenly they’re everywhere. Our existence is now a constant battle,” says one member of the community.

WANNIYALA-AETTO

The “forest people” of Sri Lanka were evicted from their homeland in what is now the Maduru Oya national park. Until recently, they hunted deer and wild boar, and collected honey, fruit and nuts. Today, they live outside their forest with small plots of land to grow rice and vegetables. They need a permit to enter the forest and those caught hunting risk arrest and violence.

OLIVIA BALCOS: DECOLONIZING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

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An extension of the zine. Click here for the zine.

Colonial Practices of Schools

Colonial Environmental History

Indigenous Land Defenders

Colonial Practices in Environmentalism

Disrupting Settler Colonialism

Resources for Education Reform

Examples of Decolonizing Environmental Education

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

DeColonizing the Diet

Food Empowerment Project: Colonization, Food, and the Practice of Eating

“The violence that accompanied the European colonization of the Indigenous people of Mesoamerica is a well-known fact. Historians have elaborated on the devastating effects such colonization had on Indigenous societies, cultures, and mortality. While the study of the conquest has generally focused on the social, political, and economic changes forced upon Indigenous populations, the matter of food—the very source of survival—is rarely considered. Yet, food was a principal tool of colonization. Arguably, one cannot properly understand colonization without taking into account the issue of food and eating.

Imagine that you are a Spaniard, newly arrived on the coasts of a foreign land. Your survival depends on two things: security (protecting yourself from danger) and nourishment (food and other substances that are necessary for survival). In terms of the former, Europeans arrived on the coast of what is now referred to as “the Americas” fully equipped with the means to protect themselves. Atop horses, armed with advanced weaponry and a slew of European diseases, Spaniards engaged Indigenous populations in the most violent of ways. Nourishment, however, was another matter.

When Spaniards arrived in Mesoamerica, they encountered the Maya, Aztecs and other prominent Indigenous groups. The land was rich, fertile, and filled with crops such as beans, pumpkins, chilies, avocados, elderberries, guavas, papayas, tomatoes, cocoa, cotton, tobacco, henequen, indigo, maguey, corn, and cassava.[1] Europeans encountered similar agricultural plantations throughout the region. However, to the colonists this food was substandard and unacceptable for the proper nourishment of European bodies. At the time of conquest, the European diet was principally composed of bread, olive oil, olives, “meat,” and wine. While this diet was somewhat sustained on the actual voyage from Europe to the Americas, upon arrival, Europeans found themselves devoid of the foods they considered necessary for survival. As Europeans began dying off in these “new” lands, the focus of concern shifted to food. In fact, Columbus himself was convinced that Spaniards were dying because they lacked “healthful European foods.”[2] Herein began the colonial discourse of “right foods” (superior European foods) vs. “wrong foods” (inferior Indigenous foods). The Spaniards considered that without the “right foods,” they would die or, even worse, in their minds, they would become like Indigenous people.

The “Right Foods” vs. the “Wrong Foods”

Cassava small for Colonial Eating smallerEuropeans believed that food shaped the colonial body. In other words, the European constitution differed from that of Indigenous people because the Spanish diet differed from the Indigenous diet. Further, bodies could be altered by diets—thus the fear that by consuming “inferior” Indigenous foods, Spaniards would eventually become “like them.” Only proper European foods would maintain the superior nature of European bodies, and only these “right foods” would be able to protect colonizers from the challenges posed by the “new world” and its unfamiliar environments.

In the minds of Europeans, food not only functioned to maintain the bodily superiority of Spaniards, it also played a role in the formation of social identity. For example, in Spain, elites generally consumed bread, “meat,” and wine. The poor in Spain, however, could not afford such luxuries and instead ate such things as barley, oats, rye, and vegetable stew. Even vegetables were classified based on social status; for example, in some cases rooted vegetables were not considered suitable for elite consumption because they grew underground. Elites preferred to consume food that came from trees, elevated from the filth of the common world. Thus, food served as an indicator of class.

In addition, at the time of conquest, Spain was facing internal divisions of its own. In an effort to expel Spanish Muslims, as well as Jewish people, from Spain, King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I relaunched what was known as the Reconquista, the re-conquest of Spain. As a strong Spanish identity formed around the idea of the Reconquista, food became a powerful symbol of Spanish culture. For instance, consider “pork”: Among Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic people, only Catholics could eat “pork,” since for Muslim and Jewish people, the consumption of “pork” was forbidden. During the re-conquest, as individuals were being forced to prove that they were pureblooded Spaniards, they would often be offered “pork” to eat. Any refusal to consume “pork” would be taken as a sign that such people were not true Catholic Spaniards and would subsequently be expelled from Spain, persecuted, or even killed.

As the Spanish arrived in the “new world” and initiated the European colonization of the Americas, they also brought with them the notion of cultural and class based distinctions that were founded on the types of food people ate. For example, upon their arrival, the Spaniards determined that guinea pig “meat” was a fundamentally “Indian” food, thus anyone who consumed guinea pig was considered “Indian.” The same was true for other staple Indigenous foods, such as maize and beans. The Spanish considered such Indigenous fare “famine foods,”[3] fit for consumption only if all other “right foods” had been thoroughly exhausted.

The symbolic nature of food was also seen in the imposition of religion, another destructive aspect of the conquest. The Eucharist, the holiest rite among Catholics, was composed of a wafer made of wheat, which signified the body of Christ, and wine, which signified the blood of Christ. Initially, before wheat was harvested in the Americas, it was difficult to obtain wheat from abroad, since much of it spoiled in transit. The wafers that were necessary for this rite could easily have been made from the native maize, but Spaniards believed that this inferior Indigenous plant could not be transformed into the literal body of Christ, as could European wheat. Similarly, only wine made from grapes was acceptable for the sacrament. Any potential substitute was considered blasphemy.

If Spaniards and their culture were to survive in these foreign lands, they would need to have readily available sources of the “right food.” Often, as Spanish officials reported back to the crown on the suitability of newly conquered lands, the “lack of Spanish food” was mentioned. Frustrated with what the “new world” had to offer, Tomas Lopez Medel, a Spanish official, reported that, “…there was neither wheat, nor grapevines, nor any proper animal…” present in the new colonies.[4] Hearing this, the Crown commissioned a number of reports that were to elaborate on which European plants grew well in the colonized lands, as well as details as to where they grew best. It was soon determined that the most suitable arrangement would be for colonists to grow their own foods, and it was not long before Spaniards began to rearrange agriculture to meet their own needs. Although wheat, wine, and olives only thrived in certain regions of Latin America, the Spaniards considered this a success. Colonists were elated that their own foods were successfully growing in foreign lands, and while crops were important, the Europeans’ most significant success was with farmed animals, which thrived in ways that were unparalleled.

The Arrival of Cows, Pigs, Goats, and Sheep

A number of domesticated animals were present when Europeans arrived in what is now known as Latin America. Among them were dogs, llamas and alpacas, guinea pigs, turkeys, Muscovy ducks, and a type of chicken. In Mesoamerica, any “meat” and leather that was consumed or utilized usually came from wild game, and generally, there were no animals exploited for labor, with the exception of dogs, who were at times used for hauling.. Europeans considered this lack of proper animals for work and consumption unacceptable. Thus, the first contingent of horses, dogs, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats arrived with Columbus’ second voyage in 1493.[5] The arrival of these hoofed immigrants would fundamentally alter Indigenous ways of life forever.

To begin, considering the domesticated animals who existed in Latin America prior to the conquest, these imported animals had little to no predators to deal with. These animals did not succumb to any new diseases, and food sources for these animals were vast. The Spanish literally left the animals to feed on any of the rich grasses, fruits, and other food they could find in these new lands. With a plethora of food and no real threats to their existence, these animals reproduced at astonishingly rapid rates. By the 17th century, herds of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats numbered in the hundreds of thousands and roamed throughout the entire continent. As a result, “meat” prices plummeted and the consumption of “meat” exponentially increased. In Spain, the consumption of “meat” was a luxury, but in the “new world,” the sheer availability of these animals made this luxury accessible to all. This point in time marked the commodification of these animals in the Americas, a natural consequence of which was an ever-expanding “meat” industry. In fact, at this time, “livestock” ranches were so well established and were producing such large quantities of domesticated-animal “meat” that almost everyone was consuming substantial amounts of animal protein. Eating “meat” was considered an economic benefit of keeping animals, but it wasn’t the only one. Records also show an increase in dairy consumption, as well as lard as a replacement for the traditional use of olive oil in colonial cooking. In addition, the demand for “hides” and “tallow” (often used for candles) was even greater than the demand for “meat.”

The most devastating consequence of this new “meat” industry was that its extraordinary proliferation was accompanied by an equally extraordinary decline in Indigenous populations. Spaniards anxious to establish the “right foods” to ensure their own survival delineated large sections of lands for grazing, with no regard for the way the land was being used prior to their arrival. These vast herds often wandered onto Indigenous croplands, destroying their primary means of subsistence. The situation became so severe that in a letter to the Crown, a Spanish official wrote, “May your lordship realize that if cattle are allowed, the Indians will be destroyed…”[6] Initially, many Indigenous people in this region became malnourished, which consequently weakened their resistance to European diseases. Others literally starved to death as their agricultural plots were trampled, consumed by animals or appropriated for Spanish crops. In time, many Indigenous people, left with limited options, began to consume European foods.

As devastating as this was, it is important to note that Indigenous populations in the “Americas” did not passively deal with this change. There are a number of clearly documented instances in which Indigenous people, during the process of colonization, specifically resisted European foods. For instance, in North America, the Pueblo people launched a revolt against the Spaniards in which Spanish food was a primary target. During this rebellion a Pueblo leader was said to have ordered the people to “…burn the seeds which the Spaniards sowed and to plant only maize and beans, which were the crops of their ancestors.”[7] Although resistance to European culture was not uncommon, in time, Indigenous people went on to adopt many European foods into their diet. Similarly, many colonists eventually went on to incorporate Indigenous foods into their daily eating.

Food Acculturation in the “New World”

Several factors contributed to the acculturation of food of both Indigenous people and Europeans in the “new world.”

First, in the process of colonization, Europeanization was rewarded. Initially, conversion to Catholicism and the adoption of Spanish culture, customs, and beliefs was a forced matter. In time, the Spanish attempted other methods for converting Indigenous people to their way of life. For example, priests attempting to convert young Indigenous men to Catholicism would offer them “livestock” in return for their conversion.[8] Owning “livestock” was attractive: animals were a source of income, and consuming such animals was a sign of elevated status, by Spanish standards. Since food was an indicator of status and Indigenous people could enhance their status with colonists by taking on Spanish culture, many Indigenous people adopted Spanish practices, cuisine included, as a way of securing a higher status in colonial society.[9]

Another important factor that shaped the adoption of European foods into Indigenous diets was related to the role of women in colonial society. An integral part of colonization was carried out through Iberian women who arrived shortly after their men settled in the “new world.” As Spanish settlers began the task of establishing structured colonies, the Crown was made aware of wanton behavior taking root in their new lands. Spanish men were said to be out at all hours of the night, frolicking with different women, displaying drunkenness and disorder in the streets of new Spain. The Crown determined that logically, this behavior was the consequence of men left to their own devices without their wives to maintain the structure of family and civility. Thus, the Crown demanded that Iberian women be sent to join their husbands in order to civilize society in the “new world.” As these women arrived, Spanish Colonial Eating comalhouseholds were reunified and Iberian women began to solidify the role of the Spanish family in the colonies. This reunification of Spanish families paralleled the destruction of the Indigenous household, as many Indigenous women were forced into working as domestic workers, cooks, nannies, and wet-nurses in Spanish homes. Part of the role of these Indigenous women was to learn to cook European foods and reproduce colonial practices in the home; Iberian women were present to make sure it was done properly. The presence of Spanish women was meant to provide an example of how a “civilized” woman looked and behaved, and much of this “civilization” took place in the kitchen. If Indigenous women were to reproduce Spanish cooking—the source of superior Spanish bodies—they would need to be instructed by a Spanish woman who could teach them how to make “civilized” food. Thus, many Indigenous women began reproducing Spanish cuisine as a result of their new role in the European household. However, there is also documentation of the introduction of Indigenous foods and cooking practices into European diets. This was a consequence not only of Indigenous women working in Spanish households, but also a result of mestizas who married Spanish men and began integrating aspects of their mixed heritage into these mixed households. For example, the use of the comal is markedly Indigenous, yet archeological records indicate that it was used in most Spanish households. Also, we see Indigenous variations in cooking with, for instance, the use of chili. Europeans accepted the use of chili in their food since it was similar to pepper. This similarity allowed for its widespread acceptance among Europeans. Alterations to Spanish diets were most common during times of famine, where famine meant a lack of Spanish foods. During these times, Indigenous cooks would prepare indigenous foods, which Spaniards would be forced to consume. For Indigenous people, Spanish cuisine was a principal reason that colonists were intent on acquiring the lands on which they produced their own food. Thus, for Indigenous people, the struggle was in maintaining their own cuisine while understanding that, for pragmatic reasons, they had to adopt new foods.

Lastly, as noted above, the mere availability of food for consumption began to alter eating practices. The land that previously served to nourish indigenous communities was now organized to meet the need for raw materials necessary for export.  Yet the Spanish crown was careful to control local Spanish authority so as to not allow any conquistador to acquire a disproportionate amount of power. In order to control this, the crown allowed some land to be preserved for subsistence cultivation of indigenous communities. On this land communities were allowed to collectively grow what they needed for their daily subsistence. However, this was not an altruistic move on behalf of the crown; it was a calculated attempt to maintain their grasp on local power. As time went on, the crown suffered a series of economic shortages, and when such shortages economically affected the crown, they set their eyes on communal lands, which they then deemed should be used to meet the needs of international trade rather than those of the indigenous community.  As European needs expanded, indigenous communal lands turned into large plantations, or haciendas, and their production was now directly tied to the demands of European markets. Slowly but surely these haciendas came under the private control of those profiting off international trade.

Food, the Legacy of Colonization, and Resistance

Although currently we can recognize many Indigenous foods that are staples of Latin American diets, we must also acknowledge the legacy of colonization in this diet. The large-scale consumption of “meat,” which makes up such a significant part of modern Latin American diets, is entirely traceable to the conquest and the process of colonization, as is the cultural, social, and even gendered significance attached to such consumption. The expansion of the commodification of animals as an industry in Latin America is also rooted in the legacy of colonization. Through this commodification, dairy also became a huge industry in colonial Spain. Interestingly, the consumption of milk and other dairy products serve as a unique lens through which to consider the links between food and colonization.

The practice of dairying was a product of the domestication of sheep, goats, cows, and pigs somewhere between 11,000-8,000 BCE. [10] People whose society was structured by a pastoral tradition were the first to practice dairying. These people were primarily Indo-European and are said to have pushed out to Northern Europe and as well as Pakistan, Scandinavia, and Spain. The practice of the consumption of milk—and to a large extent cheese, yogurt, and butter—has long been the tradition among these European people. In groups that were traditionally hunters and gatherers, however, there is little evidence for any type of dairying, given that they had no animals suitable for dairying, and that this practice required a more sedentary lifestyle. As Europeans colonized “the Americas,” they also brought with them the practice of dairying, a huge industry to this day. Yet Indigenous societies were based on the hunter-gatherer model. It is here that we see the most interesting piece of biological resistance to the process of food colonization: the bodily rejection of lactose among Indigenous populations. All data indicate high levels of lactose malabsorption[11] (LM) among groups that were traditionally hunter-gatherers. Populations from traditional zones of non-milking—namely, the Americas, Africa, Southeast and East Asia, and the Pacific—have a very high prevalence of LM. Among these groups, approximately 63-98% of all adults are not able to consume milk or lactose-rich dairy products without experiencing at least some level of physical discomfort. [12] Individuals of European decent, however, have a very low prevalence of lactose malabsorption. [13] Thus, there is a clear and well-established link between geography and the prevalence of LM. Descendants of zones of non-milking continue to have high prevalence of LM, especially among those who remain relatively unmixed or who have only interbred with other LM populations. Low prevalence of LM remains constant among those of northern European descent. Among individuals who are mixed between these populations, the level of mixture determines the prevalence of either low or high LM; that is, the more European a person is, the lower the prevalence of LM. Although colonial diets and eating practices were integrated into traditional Indigenous consumption practices, dairy is a product that to this day remains physically intolerable for many.

Food Is Power

Colonization is a violent process that fundamentally alters the ways of life of the colonized. Food has always been a fundamental tool in the process of colonization. Through food, social and cultural norms are conveyed, and also violated. The Indigenous people of the Americas encountered a radically different food system with the arrival of the Spanish. The legacy of this system is very present in the food practices of modern Latin American people. Yet, we must never forget that the practice of colonization has always been a contested matter as groups have negotiated spaces within this process. Indigenous foods remain as present in contemporary Latin American diets as do European foods. Understanding the history of food and eating practices in different contexts can help us understand that the practice of eating is inherently complex. Food choices are influenced and constrained by cultural values and are an important part of the construction and maintenance of social identity. In that sense, food has never merely been about the simple act of pleasurable consumption—food is history, it is culturally transmitted, it is identity. Food is power.”

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