Engels said, “The nation cannot be free if it oppresses other nations. The force needed to oppress others in the end will turn against them.” All have a beginning, they flourish, and then they implode under their own weight.
Spain explored the world, discovered new land masses, and brought many territories under its control; then the Dutch took over; later Britain created an empire on which “the sun never sets”; and now US hegemony spreads its tentacles, suffocating many countries of the world.
Why have the Third World countries that are rich in resources got people who are poor? It’s a fact that during the colonial period there was blatant extortion from nations by imperialism. But what difference did independence for these countries bring to its people?
We understand that imperialism is not just colonialism or military aggression—which is only a form: extracting surplus value is the essence of imperialism.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, says the United States extracts $2 billion every day from developing countries in the form of debt repayment, with poor countries buying US government bonds (at interest rates as low as 1 per cent) to build their dollar reserves.
During colonialism, the colonies were deindustrialised and converted into mere suppliers of raw materials and used as markets for selling products made in the imperial countries. After colonies obtained independence they had to be industrialised, and had to depend on imperial countries, which had the capital and the technology needed for industrialisation. It was provided by neo-colonialism, with conditions that included privatisation, the extraction of resources from countries of the south, and unequal terms of trade.
The surplus obtained from the new industrialisation was not available to Third World countries to uplift the poor from misery; instead much of it was diverted to pay the interest on the credit provided by the imperial countries. Thus the condition of the poor remained the same, in spite of their “independence.”
Fed up with this system, many countries are thinking about freeing themselves from the imperial yoke. BRICS was formed to provide an alternative to the IMF and World Bank. At the Johannesburg summit in August 2023 six new countries (Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) joined BRICS, and it would not be a surprise if many more countries joined the group. Developing countries are contemplating moving away from the compulsion of having dollar reserves for the exchange of goods and services.
In the Sahel region many governments were toppled by coups recently, to drive away regimes that are subservient to the imperial powers. The new government of Niger has shown French forces the exit, and declared that it will stop the export of uranium to France.
The G20 summit that took place in New Delhi was all over the news, while the G77 summit was held in Havana without any media attention. The G77 was undermined after the fall of the Soviet Union. António Guterres called G77 the voice of the global south. The discussions were based on the new international economic order, reform of the global financial architecture, and a rejection of unilateral coercive measures, the concentration of wealth, and the weight of the external debt.
China, the victim of the “century of humiliation” from the imperial powers, was the main participant. The economic war of sanctions, the technology war to prevent China from getting an upper hand and geo-political manoeuvres are attempts to maintain US hegemony.
Thucydides was a historian of ancient Athens who said that war between Athens and Sparta was inevitable, because Spartans feared the growth of Athens. The “Thucydides trap” is a term popularised by Graham Allison to describe a situation in which an emerging power threatens to displace the existing power. The war in Ukraine and the US military exercises encircling China are indicating America’s desperation to maintain its hegemony. The global south wants to shrug off the burden of imperialism by new economic formations that are multilateral, are more democratic, and involve fairness of trade.
Empires do crumble under their own weight, however mighty they might seem.