Colonial plunder and the rise of capitalism

Thu Jul 3 13:42:41 MDT 2003

In a message dated 7/3/03 6:03:35 AM Pacific Daylight Time, lnp3 at

>Three major components of colonial exploitation from the sixteenth to the
eighteenth century must be distinguished: the Spanish mining of silver with
forced labour in the Americas; the forcible transfer of  millions of Africans as
slaves across the Atlantic; and the levying of  tribute on Asian shipping and
land. England came in time to be the major beneficiary from all these three
practically simultaneous processes of  forcible subjugation and destruction of
non-European economies.<

Excerpt form an article written for Russian and former Soviet readers.

The African American people - National-Colonial Question from the standpoint
of the development of World History.

Melvin P.

Imperial rule and authority is of course not new in human history. Rather
imperialism is history as the process of transition and leaps to a different
stage of development of the productive forces.  For at least the past five
thousand years imperialism has meant the export of a superior mode of production to a
less developed area and peoples. To state that imperialism is the specific
form of development of the productive forces or the progressive accumulation of
productive forces, is not to deny that human history is written on a parchment
of genocide inked in blood. This is most certain true of capitalist

One could rightly call the entire Western hemisphere a "Settlers Regime"
because the industrial revolution was the material response to the European
conquest and exploitation of the Americas. The again all of human history - since
the emergence of the great division of labor in society, can be viewed as one
form of settlers regime or another, with men constituting the first great
settler formation. If our purpose is to fight along a trajectory conforming to
changes in the material power of production we have to be more precise in our
description of all social formations.

Imperialism played a big role in revolutionary history. The destruction of
the stultifying feudal and pre-feudal societies and their ideologies was the
bloody but necessary prelude to modern revolutions. This is not a statement of
judgment of the moral character and fabric of men but a simple statement of the
historical facts.

Without question the industrial Revolution began as the result of European
landing in the Americas and entailed the destruction of civilizations. By the
end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century the natural course
of development of the peoples of America was forcefully interrupted by European
conquerors, in particular the Spanish conquistadors.

Marx sums up this history logic.

"The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement
and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the
conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for
the commercial hunting of black-skins, signal the rosy dawn of the era of
capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive
accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European
nations, with the globe for a theater. It begins with the revolt of the Netherlands
from Spain, assumes giant dimensions in England's Anti-Jacobin War, and is
still going on in the opium wars against China, &c.

The different momenta of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now,
more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain, Portugal, Holland,
France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century, they arrive
at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, the national debt, the
modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system. These methods depend in
part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system. But, they all employ the power
of the State, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten,
hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production
into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife
of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.
et al."

The story of civilization in the Americas is rich and in areas like the Andes
cloaked in mystery, intensified as so-called "myth" due to the absence of
written records as written records is currently understood. Myth and legend
combine to present a story of ancient Gods and giants and the Kings - rulers, who
descended from them and magnificent cities of gold. Without question these
various peoples were civilized and cultured and what remains of their artifacts
prove their use of sciences that evolved in more than less harmony with Europe
and rest of the world.

What lay beneath the surface of the specific historically evolved culture and
tradition of various peoples of America is the imperial curve of development,
wherein a more powerful people impose their hegemony over a less powerful
people as a form of the spread and development of the productive forces.  Capital
development became an irresistible force. Capital development cannot be
understood simply as capitalism or the bourgeois property relations. Capital as a
social power has to emerge in front of the bourgeois property relations,
because the economic dimensions of the social power is crystallized as exchange of

Exchange becomes a world historical force when something comes into existence
that allows for the universal exchange of qualitative different products,
through the medium of a universal standard or symbol or item that becomes money
and the social power called money/capital. The transformation in the form of
wealth from land to gold occurred as a wave of change in Europe into front of
the change wave of the Americas and this process is what brought to an end the
independent development of the peoples of the Americas. The ancient cities of
gold fell under assault by European civilization because of gold and this quest
for gold would give rise to all kinds of ideological justification for
imperial conquest.

Capitalist commodity production - a distinct property relations called
bourgeois property by Marx, as distinct from the social power of capital, actually
evolved as the material result of the conquest of the Americas, the quest for
gold and not merely as abstract logic of "bad people" or "bad people that think

Several historical currents in human history converged. Can you imagine the
world altering significance of transforming the form of wealth from ownership
of land to ownership of gold? Those civilizations in the Americas that had
developed gold mining, accumulation, smelting and metal work into an art
one-thousand years ago, but had not evolved the social power of capital, were destined
to fall under the empire of capital that arose in Europe. Gold and the chance
for men and countries to raise themselves, drove the irresistible power that
ran into the immovable object of ancient property relations and ancient forms
of social intercourse.  When an irresistible force meets an immovable object,
something has got to give.

Here is what really broke up feudalism as a system where the primary form of
wealth is land and led to the development of heavy industry. Shipbuilding,
iron and steel industries and the enormously profitable slave trade all developed
as institutions to exploit the riches of the Americas. The people who were
going to be enriched the most by the conquest of America were the people who
were the closest to it.

England, France and the Netherlands led the breakup of feudalism and the
development of capitalist economy. From there, the industrial revolution and the
breakup of feudalism proceeded slowly eastward. Feudalism is a political term
and we must not confuse it with a certain level in the development of the means
of production and the impact of gold. The destruction of feudalism in Europe
proceeded in phases and leaps all the way up through The Second Imperialist
War. As a result of the first imperialist war, the Hapsburgs, the Czar and the
Kaiser - pillars of feudalism were destroyed. World War II completed the
process by destroying monarchies of Eastern Europe and the Far East.

Even today Empire American authority declares that its war against the people
of Iraq and its efforts at reconstruction is to wipe out the vestiges of
feudal tradition and social customs that inhibit the continuous flow of capital.
The American empire has open eyes on Iran, military containment of Peoples
China and a perpetual ideological campaign against the Sovietized proletariat and
isolation of Russia.  The historic curve of imperial development as genocide
and plunder has entered the beginning of the beginning of its final stage in
human evolution.

The past century has been an era of social and political revolutions as the
transformation from agriculture to industry reached the backward areas of the
world. More, exactly the 20th century has been an era of working class
revolutions or attempted revolutions during that transformation. The Soviet revolution
was the first wave. The second wave of revolutions occurred in Eastern Europe
during, or right after the war. The third wave occurred as national
liberation revolutions beginning with the Indonesian and Vietnamese resistance to

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