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A conclusive universal modern meaning of the term imperialism has not been reached at with regard to references to concrete facts in the history of the past several decades. This is the period in which several European countries led by Britain managed to assert political sway over vast parts of Africa, Asia, and over a number of islands in the pacific. Many studies and analysis of this term has been primarily in economical terms even though later versions of the analysis of the theory has closely looked at the political, social, and ideological dimensions of its exploitation and even tried to incorporate all these dimensions into one coherent study (Hobson 112). These analyses try to expose the structure which promotes inequality in the world.
There have been a number of documented researches on the various cases of imperialism that has taken place all around the world in the past several years. The extent to which imperialism has been executed, expounded and particularly the enormous size and the peculiar character of the British acquisitions, is something that has not been realized even by those who are passionate about the study of this kind of politics. In this paper therefore we are going to look at the various definitions of the term imperialism together with the various cases that have taken place in many parts of the world.
According to Kautsky, “Imperialism is a product of highly developed industrial capitalism (88)”. Basically here he is saying that imperialism describes how industrial capitalist nations strive to assert their control on vast areas of agrarian territory, irrespective of what nations inhabit it. When we have a detailed study of this definition we realize that this definition has no place in the world we are living in simply because it is one sided. It only manages to single out the national question and inaccurately connects this question only with industrial capital in the nations which annex other countries in fact in an inaccurate way pushes into the forefront the annexation of agrarian areas (Lenin 93).
Imperialism is not only about striving for annexation but a general strive towards violence and reaction. It is important to understand that the characteristic feature of imperialism is not industrial but finance capital, for example when looking at the France case. It is not an accident that it was precisely the extraordinary rapid development of finance capital and the weakening of the industrial capital from the late 19th century that basically described that political scenario (Lenin 94).
An elaborate definition of imperialism is “the creation and maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship that is usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination.” The imperialism that has occurred in the past five centuries with regards to the above definition is one that has worked primarily as a “western undertaking that entails acts of expansionist, mercantilism and even most currently the communist systems”. Imperial politics has always been autocratic and many a times also taken a monolithic structure since it sometimes takes a static form that never permits individual variation (Hobson 16).
Many years back during the time when the cases of imperial expansions had taken a popular twist among the so-called powerful nations, Spain was one of these nations that participated in this diplomacy even though it did not acquire an extensive empire. They in fact lost extensive possessions in the Americas at the beginning of the 19th century and later on even to Antilles and the Philippines.
There are three major factors that helped separate the Americas from Spain during this period. First and foremost it is the isolation created by the Napoleonic wars and specifically the blockades and embargoes of Britain and the continental system. Secondly, the long-term frustration of the Creole elite over the continuing restrictions of Spanish mercantilism, combined with the poor market that Spain offered for the colonial exports and imports. Last but not least, the dispersal of Creole political allegiance among three possible claimants to their loyalty. The three claimants were; the Napoleonic regime that was controlling the metro-pole, the liberal junta that was fighting for Spanish independence, and the Spanish king held in captivity by the French (Doyle 332). This was the king they viewed as their legitimate sovereign who at the same time was also the least accessible. Loyalty to this king required temporary independence from the other two claimants.
The appetite for independence at this point therefore grew and the new Creole states, with the British aid opposed a restoration of the Spanish imperial rule. In Mexico the elites tried their best to preserve the old order. This was firstly by wartime independence from the reforming liberal junta in Spain and secondly by reunification with the restoration regime of King Ferdinand. The liberal coup in Spain of the early 19th century compromised stability, to be able to preserve social order, the Creoles therefore supported independence (Burman 89). Four decades later Cuba also tried to revolt so as to avoid the reformist policies of another liberal republican regime in Spain. Cuba’s successful rebellion therefore clearly illustrates the reasons why the Creole elite were unwilling to support a Spanish tariff and instead opted to export its sugar to the American market (Doyle 333).
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We can conclusively state that the revolts were successful in ending the empire due to the periphery of the revolts themselves as well as the support they got from Britain and the United States of America. Spain’s domestic environment was also a major player in their failure and fall of their empire. Their economy and political system were in way not appropriate for imperial maintenance and expansion. The economy was not in a position to integrate the empire transnationally by providing incentives for imperial collaboration and resources for imperial influence. Due to its domestic instability, Spain was not able to direct the empire or to even inspire a wide imperial loyalty.
Spain’s economy, far from being transnational and imperial was some how close to being a peripheral economy dependant on France and Britain. The extensive agricultural development began only in the mid 19th century.
The kind of political fluctuations that were witnessed in Spain brought about tidal waves in the colonies, and Spain’s politics of that century fluctuated dramatically. It had begun the century under the heel of Napoleon and in the grip of civil war. Just after independence, the country collapsed in repressive monarchical reaction. At the end of the century there was another political revolution that this time round brought about some constitutional monarchy with little change at the roots of the country’s political life.
During this time land owners were still above the law and even disposed of the use of land as they did the votes of the electorate. Throughout this century the country was divided into a bewildering variety of both vertical and horizontal layers. There were the royalists, the liberals (Moderados, Exaltados), and the democrats (republicans, anarchists, and socialists) who made up the vertical layer. The horizontal layer was made up of the Basque separatists, Catalan nationalists, and movements from the other provinces that reacted to the Basque separatists and the Catalan nationalists.
These two divisions reinforced each other and the radical federal republic finally collapsed when part of the lower middle class it was supposed to represent broke away into the Catalan cantonalism. The country’s politics lost consensus on social ideology and on national identity that had primarily resulted from the very rapid mobilization of the early 19th century by all the people (the aristocracy, middle classes, and peasantry) against the Napoleonic invader and the corrupt cabinet member the Bourbon regime.
The major reasons that illustrate Spain’s imperial collapse are not in regards to the absence of economic motive but in the insufficiency of that interest to provide the links needed to smoothen the path of imperial rule. It is important to note that as the transnational economy deteriorated and the political machine back at home which actually directed and controlled the empire and inspired the loyalty of the colonial Spaniard also strained further. This did not favor Spain at all in their imperial quest.
Josip Tito was a widely known Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman who led the Yugoslav guerrilla movement of the Second World War. His relations with Italy were very explosive as his claims were majorly based on sound ethnological grounds. The Slavs for a long time had wanted to unite with the Slovenia which meant that they were to also unite with Yugoslavia. This kind of unification was justified especially when you looked at it in social, political and economical point of view. Tito went ahead to press his claims by demanding sovereignty over almost as many Italians as the number of Yugoslavs he was freeing where his liberation amounted to an act of enslavement (Markam 285).
Tito therefore went ahead to fight for a fourfold that consisted of a Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Slavdom and communism. He continued to fight against the Americans, British, Italians and even a formidable part of the United Nations. Towards America, this leader and regime was in fact even more hostile. This was possible because of the fact that America was in fact a world factor. He looked like he was trying to test how far he could go on to wear down America and even test how much America was willing to take. He even looked like he was leading the rebellion of the communism and Slavdom against the United States (Markam 285).
All this was very evident in the fact that he kept a number of Americans as slave laborers and long declined to give even civil attention to the United States concern regarding them. he treated the US government when protecting its citizens like he was dealing with an enemy and not a friend who was daily giving massive aid to Yugoslav (Markam 286).
At some point he even commissioned the trial and condemnation of eight Yugoslav citizens whom he believed were working as American spies where three were even executed. The principle purpose of this action was to create fear among the Yugoslav people making them afraid to associate with the American people in order to show the world of the American impotence. He took pleasure in killing American friends in front of their eyes to mock their weakness. Fear therefore reigned among the Yugoslavs and suicides become a very common thing. It was a government policy that communism and atheism be taught in schools and communist youth organizations even started disseminating hatred of parents. This was the life in Yugoslav until the death of Tito (Markam 287).
Imperialism in Nigeria
The Second World War and the loss of India really increased the value of Africa for the Great Britain. This therefore led the British into Africa as Nigeria was one of these African countries that they encroached. Nigeria then was known to be a country that boasted of abundant resources with the potential of becoming a powerful country. Nigeria was not able to achieve this because of a number of problems that they encountered that were majorly caused by its colonization by England. As a result of the intrusion by England, the country’s future was dramatically altered (Coleman 81).
The British arrived in Nigeria in 1539 immediately having an influence on the various ethnic communities that made up the country. By the start of the 19th century, they had taken complete control of a vast area of the country assisted by their superior military skills and manpower. They brought Christianity, their system of education and language to the citizens of Nigeria (Mohan 67).
British imperialism in India
The British imperialism on India can be said to have brought about both negative and positive effects on the colony the Britain itself. It is quite likely that someone would try to argue out which effects had the most influence on the country. A critical study of the events would lead one to agree that they were both equal (Schweinitz 123).
One of the positive effect that is quite notable is the development of infrastructure, both railway and roadway that covered thousands of miles in India making it much easier to travel in the country. The British also brought about advanced industrialization and agricultural practices that increased their food production capacity (Schweinitz 123). They also constructed many institutions in India as well as setting up a productive government structure that was able to work even more effectively. With this in mind courts of justice were established with wise laws that governed the country. On top of all these, India was also able to acquire appropriate links to the modern world through modern science and thoughts through the assistance of Britain (Schweinitz 124).
It must be noted that in the midst of all these benefits, India was greatly affected by the annex of British Empire. Britain acquired a lot of raw material from India for their industries back at home at the expense of India and was made a naval colony on the battlefront with the hired Indians being referred to as the sepoys. Indians also came to hate the fact that all the higher offices of all important departments were held by the English officials. Mutiny was also one of the things that India suffered as it created a lot of stress due to the fact that the ruling country always acts in way that suggests a lot caution since they do not usually want to loose to the colony (Louis 56).
During the colonial times, imperialism enabled the colonial powers gain land and resources, show power and superiority over their colonies, and grow their economy at the expense of the colonies. It also forced many nations to adapt western cultural standards and thereby destroying their own. It also led to a situation whereby Africans became enslaved minorities over the whites and worse was the fact that it brought about tensions between the European countries. These tensions were exactly some of the major factors that led the world to war and cold war between the powers that were not all European. It is therefore quite evident that imperial leadership is one of systems of governance that promotes injustice and abuse of human right and therefore should not be embraced by any nation.