October 23, 2017

The new imperialism

The era of colonialism may be over, but it has been replaced by a new era of economic and intellectual imperialism, enforced by the Bretton Woods and allied institutions, for the benefit of trans-national corporations.

Preface to the book by Shri Faizi Shahul.

Date unknown.

Faizi Shahul is a forceful and highly effective champion of the developing world’s cause – would that there were more like him, as today the Developing World is under siege. Formal Western imperialism, which lasted until the Second World War, is no more, but the economic imperialism that has replaced it is more insidious, in many ways more ruthless, and very much more effective. Like the more visible form of imperialism its goal is the same. It is to transform developing countries into insatiable markets for Western products and limitless sources of cheap labour and cheap raw materials.

It was at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 that ‘free trade’ at a global level became the order of the day. ‘Free trade’ sounds very fair. Everyone will be able to compete on a level playing field. But in reality a level playing field is fine only for the rich and the powerful, and the rich and the powerful corporations are concentrated in the US, Europe, and Japan, countries that control the World Bank, the IMF and the GATT – the instruments set up for the specific purpose of assuring that the Bretton Woods project be properly implemented.

Over the last 50 years the World Bank has funded large infrastructural and agricultural schemes, most of which have not only been social, ecological, and human disasters, but also economic disasters. The World Bank is above all a machine for creating debt and on an unprecedented scale.

To pay their debts, Developing countries have had to borrow money from the IMF and accept its ever more stringent conditionalities. They were thereby forced to open their markets to Western products, cut down on non-productive expenditures such as education and welfare (at least to begin with), and gear their economies to exports. In this way their domestic economies were destroyed, just as they were under the old imperialism, and they were forced to become nations of importers and exporters with the most terrible social, ecological, and human consequences.

But the new imperialism is becoming ever more intolerable under the aegis of the World Trade Organization, which has in effect become a world government – totally controlled by Western and Japanese multinational corporations – a world government that has its own legislature, in that it can pass regulations, its own executive in that it can implement them, and its own judiciary in that it can penalize those countries that violate them. Nor is its jurisdiction limited to issues of trade. Its sovereignty extends over investment policies, intellectual property, and even education, and environmental services, and hence over almost every aspect of our lives.

The imperialism of old was as nothing when compared to that which Western multinationals are imposing on us via the Bretton Woods Institutions and one can only hope that developing countries will react quickly and effectively, as they did against the imperialism of the past. May Shri Faizi Shahul’s brave voice be heard far and wide.


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