With a few examples I hope to begin to convince you that European based empires and Capitalism went hand in hand. Columbus began Spanish based colonisation in 1492 by making landfall in the Bahamas. The area was named the West Indies and inhabited by “Indians” as the Europeans believed they had landed on the coast of India. Da Gama began Portuguese based colonisation in 1498 after rounding Africa and landing in Calicut, India. Both had been given instructions to find the origin of the lucrative spice trade, take it over and to also find sources of gold and silver. The British feudalist based hierarchy having begun empire building by invading Ireland in the 1500s craved its expansion. They arrived relatively late to global empire but they were the instigators of the first joint-stock companies to exploit foreign lands, the foundation of Capitalism. The private powers with in France and the Netherlands also used companies within their empires but I shall concentrate on Britain as it became the largest empire.
One of the earliest examples “The East India Company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600. In the late 18th century, the EIC, contravening Chinese laws, began smuggling Indian opium to China through various means, and became the leading suppliers by 1773”. This heinous crime was to compensate for the outflow of silver from Europe due to the high demand for Chinese goods. When Chinese authorities attempted to stop this the British government went on the attack with “gunboat diplomacy”, resulting in the Opium wars of the 1800’s which China lost. China was forced to pay 21 million silver taels as an indemnity, which was used to pay compensation for the European and US traders’ opium destroyed and ever since has been in debt to Western based financiers. Not to mention the fact, that it was through this company which was allowed to have its own private army and to tax, Britain went on to rule India and cause its partition.
Another example was the Royal African Company set up in 1660 by the royal Stuart family and City of London merchants. It was granted a monopoly over English trade along the West coast of Africa, with the principal objective being the search for gold. Millions of native Americans had died, in what some say is the biggest genocide in known human history. As a result there was a shortage of labour required for the European based coffee, sugar, cotton plantations, gold and silver mines etc. The Portuguese had already begun the Atlantic slave trade but the British could see the profit that could be made and so In 1663 a new charter was obtained which permitted the trade in slaves. With the help of the army and navy, it established forts on the West African coast that served as staging and trading stations, and was responsible for seizing any English ships that attempted to operate in violation of the company’s monopoly. In the 1680s the Company was transporting about 5,000 slaves a year to markets primarily in the Caribbean across the Atlantic. Many were branded with the letters “DY”, for its Governor, the Duke of York, who succeeded his brother on the throne in 1685, becoming King James II. Other slaves were branded with the company’s initials, RAC, on their chests. Current estimates are that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years, although the number purchased by the traders was considerably higher, as the passage had a high death rate.
The bank is not seen by the public as a company but some special entity that appears life cannot function without. However The Bank of England “was privately owned by stockholders from its foundation in 1694… to act as the English Governments’s banker”. Upon incorporation the largest stockholder was the then King, William III and along with the other stockholders its aim was to profit from English ambitions of empire by rebuilding the navy to fight other European based empires and establish its own colonies. It initially loaned the government £1.2 million at 8% but its charter was renewed, the profiteering continued and to this day is still an institution through which our financial based lives are governed.
A couple of more recent examples that you most likely have never heard about. In 1953 after democratically-elected Mossadegh had attempted to nationalise Iranian oil infrastructure a coup “was orchestrated by CIA under the code-name ‘Operation Ajax’, and by SIS (MI6) as ‘Operation Boot’… On 21 December 1953, Mosaddegh was sentenced three years’ solitary confinement in a military prison… He was then kept under house arrest at his Ahmadabad residence, until his death on 5 March 1967”. In 1954 with a pro-Western Shah and the new pro-Western Prime Minister installed the private Anglo-Persian Oil Company was renamed to the British Petroleum Company (BP) and resumed its profiting of Iranian oil.
Kenya is another example which is where my dad was born. British colonisation began upon the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. They had the “right to raise taxes, impose custom duties, administer justice, make treaties and otherwise act as the government of the area”. You see when they impose a tax upon people, the only way you can pay it is if you work for the invaders who have that particular coin. By enforcing it through violence and “law” eventually it is accepted and they have the labour they require, us, this has always been the real reason for taxation, not redistribution of “wealth”. Indians were brought in from British India to provide skilled labour to build a railway. This was resisted by some native tribes who after putting up resistance for some years were finally subdued and forced into a “native reserve”. During the 1950’s the Mau Mau Uprisings began during which the British army tortured and killed thousands of people and relocated many more into concentration camps. We are led to believe they gained “independence” from the British Empire in 1963, but in fact a puppet president, Kenyatta was “elected”. His economic policy was capitalist which allowed Unilver (A huge British-Dutch Company) to maintain its claim on Kenya’s most fertile lands to profit from cheap labour grown tea. This is where huge amounts of our tea is grown. The workers (who work longer hours and harder than us) get paid in a local currency (shilling) that has minimal purchasing power but as their lives are monetised and lands privatised this is all they have. So much for Capitalism’s “if you work hard enough you get what you want”.
In Victorian times the “argument used by the wealthier sections of society went like this – why should we help people who are too lazy to help themselves”. This applied to the poor masses in England aswell as its colonies. This translated to if you are not willing to exploit your fellow man and accept Capitalism then you will remain poor.
Fast forward to today and all that has happened is western workers have become assimilated into the private land, production and money lending system. With a combination of an “education” and media that whitewashes the Empire (the term colonisation substituted by exploration), being isolated from destructive production methods and having forgotten their past now see nothing wrong with Capitalism. In fact it is the poor masses of the world that you will find work the hardest and longest hours and are still subject to its horrors. Each debt based consumer just acts as a proxy for wealth transfer to the few that own global production, in 2019 according to Forbes there being just 2153 billionaires globally within a population of 7bn and 3bn living on just $2.5 a day.
So in summary the Feudalists or landed gentry set up a system, Capitalism, where they could sit back and impose a claim on global resource (“wealth”) by being share/stockholders. The merchants who run the companies need labour and over the centuries this has been met through a combination of slavery, indentured and now willing labour. By privatising lands in Europe and then globally this prevented access to basic human needs (food, water, materials for shelter), creating mass poverty. By forcing the masses to exchange their labour for money and therefore now gain some access to the produce of that land, it appears Capitalism is solving the very poverty it created! In the west violence has been replaced by propaganda and we are now manipulated without knowing it to love our masters.
All I ask people is to question their society, why is it the pound, dollar and euro have huge amounts of purchasing power and other currencies don’t? The fact that we still live in a globally privatised world which was the primary way empire forced its will on the masses shows that “independence” never happened and the empires are still with us. The private powers primarily use the US state with its secret services and armed forces, closely followed by UK, Europe and other puppet states. In no way am I saying the likes of the Russian and Chinese states are the “good guys”, the heart of their societies being exactly the same exploitative systems. They exist in an entangled web of deceit and death together.
We need demonetisation and deprivatisation to occur. We need members of our society to work for each other, so everyone contributes as a sense of duty with no external material based reward required. Equality is not some alien ideal, read some history, look at your own past. Its not about giving people a free ride, its about realising that everyone’s time and energy should be valued equally in a just society. Peace.