ThePoliticalCat

A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

World: Colonialism and Its Discontents



Even well-meaning friends of La Casa de Los Gatos have been known to say, "Why do you go on and on about colonialism? That stuff happened years ago." Which, when you think of it, is like saying, "Genocide happened years ago," or "The Holocaust happened years ago." On one level it's true. On another, it's an ever-present threat. Colonialism, or Neo-colonialism has yet to ease its death-grip on many small poor countries yet. Its legacy still carries over in Africa. Western nations, although the majority of the offenders, have shown other nations how to carry on. Indonesia still struggles with the issue.

Today, we have something for you in a "speak bitterness" mode which helps to set a sort of perspective on colonialism:
"Today in 1964 some historians aver that if China had had a native dynasty at the time, she might have taken her place in the modern world more rapidly; and the sense of injury that was to be carried forward into the twentieth century might have been dispelled, and there would have been a capitalistic China, not a Communist Revolution. [...] The last thing the West wanted was a strong China, capitalistic or not. If we are not capitalistic today, it is because the West broke our native capitalism very early on, or rather never allowed it to grow.

[...]

(Referring to the indemnities the various Western powers and Japan exacted from China for the privilege of having wars waged against her, in particular the Treaty of Shimonoseki) But China in 1895 could not pay. Two hundred million ounces of silver was too much, more than the revenue available to her after having paid all she owed the Western powers for the previous wars they had waged upon her.

{...]

A loan was contracted, the largest of a series of crushing loans, and it was England who arranged the loan. Within forty months, fifty-five million pounds in foreign loans were contracted for; the French, the Germans, and the Russians quarrelled over who would lend money to China. Britain won the largest portion of the loan.

[...]

In order to guarantee [these loans] the West asked for mortgages and concessions in land, in mines, in natural resources, in factories, in import goods, and in railways.

Then started the terrible years, the years of accelerated wholesale, headlong plunder. China's weakness exposed, the Powers rallied to dismember the foundering land. [...] America evolved the Open Door Policy, which meant that no country's goods were to be taxed more than any other country's goods, when imported into China [. ...] Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany suddenly proclaimed China the Yellow Peril; when she was at her weakest, with a fine flourish of drama he announced himself leader of Christendom and the White Race in a crusade against the coloured and the yellow, and seized the province of Shantung; all because he had not done well in the quartering of Africa, and wanted his share of the spoils in China. Who would have thought that the forgotten little man with a withered arm would yet have left his lunatic mark upon the world in this phrase? Perhaps because he was one of the first in giving voice to the myth of Aryan, white superiority, which still finds exponents today?

[...]

If you get to the point where you have nothing to lose, then you get up and make a revolution. But a revolution is not made only by the people who are exploited. It is also prepared by those who exploit them. That is the paradox of history. The Japanese, the West, all of them helped to bring about the Revolution of 1911, and who knows but that after this big War another revolution may come?

[...] the land tax was collected two or three times a year; and every year it increased, and now taxes were collected at every level, district, county, province, as well as state. [...] But none broke the back of our native industry and commerce more effectively than the likin or road-toll taxes.

[...] We paid fourteen to twenty taxes on a distance of seventy miles, so that a load of tobacco from Chengtu [... cost] four times its original price (by the time it reached Chungking). And now a flood of foreign goods came in, for there was one exception to the imposition of taxes: and these were foreign goods. They came in under a 'transit pass,' totally exempt by treaties imposed upon us through wars, and thus paid one tax only, varying from five to seven-and-a-half per cent ad valorem, and no more. And so all our native industries were ruined. [...] Finally, by treaty, our own native produce, such as raw cotton, could be brought out from the interior on a 'transit pass' by foreign company and travelled exempt from the likin tax, while our Chinese merchants had to pay the likin tax to take the same material out! [...] To survive, a Chinese merchant must become a middleman to a foreign company, reducing himself to the role of employee, of servant, to the Western merchant.

Our tobacco trade was strangled and later tobacco became a monopoly in the hands of the British-American Tobacco Company [...]; it was exported on an outward transit pass, not taxable, taken to the foreign cigarette factories erected in Shanghai, Hankow and Tientsin, in the foreign concession territories, enclaves of Western territory on our soil, and then re-sold to us in the form of cigarettes.

Handloom textiles were exterminated by the import of cotton goods, first from Lancashire, later made in India where British companies benefited from cheaper native labour. Later still the Japanese built factories in China's treaty ports (Note: The treaty ports were ceded to the Western nations and despite being part of Chinese territory, were not under the jurisdiction, fiscal or legal, of China.), flooded the market with textiles, and annihilated the British textile market.

Taxes were levied on Chinese junks and boats plying the rivers, but never on the foreign steamer companies [...]."
From The Crippled Tree, Han Suyin

After this litany, is it any wonder that China is exporting cheap goods to the West, flooding the market? They're only doing what was done to them. They learned their lesson well. And, they hold trillions of dollars in foreign reserve. In other words, they've been bankrolling our rapid slide into the pits of our own making. Just as Britain "loaned" money to China to be repaid with interest that strained the economy, so the Chinese have now loaned us money so we can buy their goods without restraint. And observe who encourages us to continue spending in this manner: our own "leaders."

Observe also that Britain destroyed China's native textile industry by flooding it with inferior goods from the Lancashire cotton mills, just as they did with India. And when the mill workers of Lancashire struck for better wages and working conditions, British mill and factory owners moved their factories to India, throwing British workers out of jobs while exploiting Indian workers in the effort to destroy the Chinese textile industry.

Capitalism has never had any loyalty to people or nation. Capitalists &mdash and especially now, international corporations &mdash see all the peoples of the world as a resource to be exploited for their own accumulation of wealth. They don't care that you cannot feed your children or care for your sick relatives. If you cost them two pennies more than a worker in some other nation, then go you must, to the midden or the funeral home, if necessary, so that they can kill and cripple workers in that other nation to make goods which they will sell to your children.

We don't espouse any ism over any other. We only want to note that any ism that does not first consider the benefit of the people whom that ism purports to represent, is not an ism worth the peoples' allegiance. Out with all these miserable philosophies that seek the good of the very few from the blood, sweat, and tears of the very many.

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