[OPE-L:4674] Re: Imperialism

From: Paul Cockshott (paul@cockshott.com)
Date: Mon Dec 11 2000 - 09:02:55 EST

On Mon, 11 Dec 2000, you wrote:
> >Could you really see India or China becoming once more targets
>> for land grabs by any of the OECD countries?
> Absolutely not (and what a great advance for humanity that this is so). But
> just as I would see a conception of imperialism as being only about the
> domination of pre-capitalist formations by capitalist ones as being a rather
> old-fashioned one, so also would I regard a conception of imperialism that
> was restricted to annexation and the like.
> In fact, I would say that such an outlook was not simply old-fashioned, but
> in fact wrong even in the epoch in which it had some apparent force: to take
> a case from one of Paul's first posts on this, the late-19th century
> imperialists never attempted to annex China: rather, they attempted to carve
> out spheres of interest with special privileges.

I think that in considering imperialism, the difference in degree of  social
development between the imperial and dominatedcountries is crucial.

For imperialism or colonialiam to succeed there must be a big difference
in level. The pre-capitalist countries that avoided imperialist takeover
in the 19th century were ones that had well established feudal
monarchies or empires: Abyssina, Japan, China, Persia, Siam. Such
relatively well developed state structures were able to resist incorporation
by 19th century capitalist imperialism.  Even in the 19th century,
China was regarded as too strong for Britain, France or Russia to 
take over.

The point about imperialism being a source of war was that the
second wave of capitalist powers - Germany, Japan and Italy
had a restricted set of territories open to colonisation, these being
the hardest nuts to crack. Germany got some parts of Africa in
the  congress of Berlin but Italy and Japan were left to try and
take on the Feudal empires of Ethiopia and China. The first Italian
attempt to invade Ethiopia was humiliatingly defeated, and they
only succeeded once they had the benefit of air power in the
30s. Japan's attempt to take over China took huge military efforts
and eventually failed.

The two world wars were not about spheres of influence but about
actually taking over territory. This is not an old fashioned view, it
is simply a realistic view of an 'old fashioned' world which does not
presently exist. It was the invasions of Ethiopia and China that started
off the second world war. 

It is possible that the EU and NAFTA might develop into autarchic
bodies, which might some time in the future start grabbing land
again. I do not rule this out.  But that is not yet happening. They
are not autarchic blocks.

Also one has to be concrete in these things. Which areas of the
world are potentially targets for imperialist takeover?

I would say that the necessary gradient in millitary strength exists
between the capitalist powers and most sub-saharan African states,
with the clear exceptions of Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa.
So these could potentially be re-incorporated as protectorates if
not colonies.

Another target might be central Asia, the former Soviet republics there
might become bones of contention between Russia, China, and NATO.

Paul Cockshott, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
0141 330 3125  mobile:07946 476966

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