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Michael Barratt Brown


makes arrangements for the

granting of independence to each of Britains
African colonies, socialists and radicals are bound
to try once more to take their bearings. In the
past 15 years almost all of the 1,300 million
people who lived in 1945 under colonial rule
have won the right to govern themselves. What,
then, is left of imperialism?
In this article, it is proposed to review some
of the connections between the history of
capitalism and empire; then to examine the special
connections between imperialism and the monopoly stage of capitalism; and finally to see how
far something that may be called imperialism
still exists today. This subject has recently received
close examination by John Strachey in his new
book, The End of Empire, the second of his
projected studies in the Principles of Democratic
Socialism (Gollancz, 1959). Points where his
analysis differs from that presented here will be
referred to in footnotes throughout.1
What started Britain on the road to Empire?
Innate superiority, absent-mindedness, a semimystical will to rule, our island geography?2 None
of these stock answers can be satisfactory for
a Marxist. We shall look for a technological basis
for understanding the social relations of any
human culture, but we shall not forget that social
relations gain a life of their own. Nonetheless,
over broad sweeps of history, one may follow
Marxs divisions of human history into Slave.
Feudal and Capitalist Societies, and Marxs subdivisions of Capitalist society into the periods
when merchant capital, industrial capital and
finance capital were uppermost.
Each of these societies has been a class society,
in the sense that a dominant group or class has
been able to get others to work for them in
various forms of servile labour. Empires historically have been an extension of the area of
domination of the ruling group or class from its


own people to other peoples. The fact that this

group may have shared with its own people some
part of the advantages accruing to themthe
free bread and circuses of Imperial Rome, for
exampleshould not blind us to the central
class, rather than national, character of the
exercise.3 Some distinctions must be drawn
between the drives to empire of merchant capital,
industrial capital and finance capital. In the first
stage, merchant capital looked mainly to buy
cheap and to sell dear, if possible to plunder
silks, spices, sugar, precious metals and other
rare luxuries from overseas lands for sale at
home and in Europe. Trading posts and plantations were established to this end. However,
different developments followed in North America,
where the empty land was settled by European
immigrants and a new capitalist society established, and in Africa, India and South America,
where no such settlement was possible.
There can be no doubt that this first stage of
conquest and plunder, though small, did much
not only to set back economic development in the
plundered lands, but to nourish the early years
of Britains industrial revolution.
But the first stage of plunder had to be ended.
If markets were to be opened up for British goods
all over the world, the competition of Indian and
Chinese textiles and handicrafts had to be
destroyed. It is from this period that the division
of the world into rich advanced industrial lands
and poor under-developed lands may be dated.
Stracheys important book is discussed in footnotes because
the stimulus of his work demands a self-consistent statement of
ones own views, without too many side glances. This article is a
tribute to his thought-provoking contribution to the discussion.
Strachey rather surprisingly advances the theory of a
daemonic will to empire, which is now leaving us, in his
discussion of the East India Company. Yet elsewhere he appears
to accept an extreme economic Marxist explanation for the later
stages of Empire.
3 Although Strachey gives many examples of this class character
of empirepp. 90, 156, 180, 188, 216, 292, 3189, 321, 327, 329,
334, 3401he nevertheless makes his definition of empire the
conquest and domination (de jure or de facto) of one people by
another people.

But even then, only in India was direct colonial

rule extended. In this second stage, so supreme
was Britains naval and military strength after
the Napoleonic wars, and so superior was British
industry, that the whole world was Britains
In the first years of British industrial development, the object of foreign trade was to widen
the markets for consumer goods. But industrialisation led to a large capital goods industry. When
the railway boom at home ended, overseas markets
for rails, locomotives and wagons became as
important as for textiles. But capital equipment
cannot be sold, like textiles, through native
merchants to individual buyers. Capital goods
required overseas loans and investment. Britains
regular and large annual export surplus in the
15 years or so after 1855 provided just such
investment-fundsin Europe, the United States,
South America, Australia and India. Increasingly,
the British state became involved in defending
the interest of the British oversea bondholder.
The major extension of direct rule after 1880
took place because Britain was committed to
defend bondholders interests, and the bases of
her world power, against the claims of new
industrial competitors. By 1880, both the United
States and Germany had overtaken British basic
steel production, and had begun to look for
overseas colonies. Support therefore grew for
Britain to secure herself against competitors in
those parts of the world, outside North America,
not yet nominally under British rule. This
expansion of Empire was pushed by Empire
builders on the spot, like Rhodes, and industrialists at home like Joseph Chamberlain.
This period of rivalry and partition, from the
scramble for Africa to the First World War
and after, was the period of high imperialism,
and an important debate raged in the early
years of this century on the drives to Empire,
and the relation of imperialism to capitalism, in
this period. (Hobson, Lenin, Kautsky and
Hilfreding, among others, were involved.) It is to
this discussion that we turn next.

Hobson and Lenin

How much, and in what ways, was imperialism
part of the structure of British capitalism after
the turn of the century? Hobson argued that the
drive behind the new imperialism at the end of
the nineteenth century was the pressure of capital
frustrated of profitable investment opportunities
at home and looking for employment overseas.
The cause of the frustration of capital at home
Hobson saw in the lack of consumption power
among the masses of Britains workers. This was
the economic taproot of imperialism. (Strachey

accepts this analysis and builds upon it the whole

thesis of his book.)
There are two weaknesses in the Hobson
position, however. The first is the under-consumptionist argument, which does not explain
why the workers consuming power was low in
the first place. This part of Hobson was largely
rejected by Lenin, who emphasised the increasing
pressure of monopolies to maximise profit. In the
second place, there is no simple correlation
between the outward pressure of capital and
goods for overseas markets, and the expansion
of empire. There was little or no increase, in
fact, in the Empire share either of British overseas
investment or of British overseas trade after 1880,
in the very period when the main expansion of
direct rule took place. The huge flow of British
investment overseas in the years up to 1913 went
largely to North America and Australia with
some to Europe and South America.
Over-emphasis on the outward pressure of
capital, however, may lead to two wrong impressions: first, that a great deal of capital flowed
into the colonies, It didnt, and they would be
much better off today if it had. (Hobson himself
was the first to point out that the new lands were
quite unsuitable for emigration and too poor for
markets.) Secondly, imperialism, at least in
Britain, has never been a purely economic affair.
Posts as colonial governors, especially in India,
had become, in the nineteenth century, like
Army commandsthe preserve of the great
aristocratic families. Though no longer providing
the same wealth that Clive enjoyed in India,
these positions nevertheless carried immense
power and prestige. In many ways, the Empire
was the way to the top for the adventurer and
self-made man. In the case of Africa, the pressure
to extend direct rule came either from the man on
the spotan individual speculator playing for the
lucky strike, like Cecil Rhodesor as a direct
reflection of the European power game. In fact,
by the 1890s (the years of Kipling and jingo)
British imperialism was already established as
part of the social system, though the outward
pressure of capitalism had only just begun.
Lenin, following 16 years after Hobson, seized
primarily on what had happened in the development of German capitalism. In his view, imperialism began with the period in capitalism when
the enormous growth of industry and the
remarkably rapid process of concentration of
production in ever larger enterprises had led to
the growth of monopoly. He then drew a distinction between the earlier phase of old capitalism,
under which free competition prevailed, the
export of goods was typical (roughly, our
second stage of imperialism), and the newest


capitalism, when monopolies prevail, the export

of capital has become typical. Thus, he wrote,
Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of
development in which the dominance of monopolies
and finance capital has established itself; in which
the export of capital has acquired pronounced
importance; in which the division of the world
among the international trusts has begun; in which
the division of all the territories of the globe among
the great capitalist powers has been completed.
(Imperialism, Little Lenin Library, p. 77).

Lenins vision certainly seemed true enough of

the First World War.
His vision of the future of capitalism after 1918
was that of a moribund system, parasitic on
imperial tribute, stagnating at home while investment flowed overseas. Lenin believed that the
workersthe grave-diggers of capitalism
were held back only by the bribery of their
leaders, and that this bribery was derived from
the tribute exacted from exploited colonial
workers. Was this really how it worked?

Was Capitalism Moribund?

By 1870, the flow of investment overseas had
resulted in a great reduction in the cost of imported
food and this, together with increased productivity
at home, made for a considerable improvement in
the standard of living of the British working class.
Defeated in their claim to share fully in the
political life of the nation, they began to enjoy
at least some of the benefits of industrialisation.
But this was not due to tribute or colonial
exploitation. Before 1900, the tribute (that is,
the income from overseas investment) was quite
a small proportion of the national incomea
little more than 4 per cent. And when it was
more than twice as large as thatin the years
before 1913it did not obviously hold back
the militancy of the working class. The clear
correlation between the willingness of the workers
to dig capitalisms grave and the size of imperial
tribute, is not in fact borne out, as Lenin
apparently thought.
What was true, was thatgiven the latent
jingoism and arrogance of the British people
before 1914it hardly seemed necessary to offer
bribes. When the war threatened in 1914,
chauvinism easily asserted itself over international
working class solidarity. Moreover, the years
after 1917 were revolutionary years in Britain,
ending only in the debacle of 1926: and although
the corruption of empire and bribery too played
their part, they were not the whole story.
To what extent was capitalism, in this period,
(as Lenin argued) moribund? The advance of
British industry had certainly been halted after
1870, and this was directly related to the orienta-


tion of capital towards overseas enterprise.

Industrial enterprise at home remained inflexible,
manufacturing units small, and technical education almost non-existent. Throughout this period,
great industrial opportunities in electricity,
chemicals and the application of the internal
combustion engine, were neglected. Savings from
rentier incomes were increasingly attracted into
further overseas investment. Some part of this
neglect and decay in British industry may be
associated with the interest in empire.
That British industry remained stagnant for so
long between the wars certainly can be attributed
in good part to the preoccupation of the City with
empire and overseas finance. The policies which
led up to the re-establishment of the Gold
Standard in 1925 were closely related to this
emphasisto give the strength to face the $.
The resulting high prices had a deflationary effect
at home and nearly ruined British exports abroad.
Nevertheless, real incomes of the employed did
grow all through the slump years thanks to cheap
imports, and this did finally enable British industry
to develop the new techniques that science had
been offering so long. But the basis for this was
that very concentration of production units, by
means of the mergers of the 1920s and the takeover of bankrupt firms in the early 1930s, which
Lenin characterised as monopoly capitalism.
This process of concentration into giant semimonopolies took place at home and among the
overseas concerns as well. It was the period of the
rise of Unilevers, Tate and Lyle, Consolidated
Zinc, United Molasses, Brooke Bond Tea,
London Tin Corporation, Cadbury, Distillers, and
the tobacco, rubber and oil companies.
The City of London retained its power throughout in its role as bankers, helping to effect the
mergers of the giant companies. British capitalism
thus came to resemble more the German model
which Lenin examined. In that way, despite the
inefficiencies and wastages and the desolation of
whole regions, British capitalism made the adjustment to the modern world.

The Changing Situation

What had saved the system was not direct
colonial exploitation or tribute, but the exploitation of the terms of trade the world over between
manufactures and primary products. This itself
followed from the earlier division which capitalism
established between industrial and agricultural
countries. The colonial economies showedand,
as we shall see, continue to showthe extreme
form of this relationship because they were least
able to climb out of it.
In summary, then, we can see that Hobson
and the extension of Empire pressures did

underpin the whole structure and psychology of

Empire. Lenin, too, was right in his analysis of the
relationship of imperialism to the moribund
capitalism. Where he was wrong was in his
estimate that capitalism would continue to depend
upon imperial tribute until it was destroyed.
How much, then, has imperialism mattered
since the period of rationalisation? The search
for capital outlets has gone on, but foreign
investment has none the less played a subordinate
role in post-war capitalism. To commentators,
like Mr. Shonfield, annual overseas investment
has seemed too high: but it is now barely 2 per
cent of the national income. (This figure must be
compared with the nearly 10 per cent of the
national income being invested overseas in 1913.)
Income from overseas adds a bare 4 per cent to
Britains national income annually. Secondly,
modern industry is much less concerned with the
price of raw materials. With the one exception of
oil, imported raw materials are being gradually
replaced by synthetics. Thirdly, technological
changes involved in automation and the scale of
state expenditures on transport, power and
welfare, but chiefly on armaments, have made the
home market a much more important one for
capital equipment than it was. In addition, there
is the question of the search for overseas markets.
This is an important factor, and more than once
in the post-war period a falling away of overseas
demand has triggered off or aggravated a recession at home. However, with the remarkable
growth in trade between developed industrial
countries, Britain has come to rely rather less
than previously upon securing markets in developing countries.
These are general trends, of course. The
imperial connection remains, and it is still very
much worthwhile to the City and the overseas
corporations. Today, the earnings of the companies operating overseas amount to one-fifth
of those of all companies quoted on the Stock
Exchange (more than half of that being accounted
for by the two main oil companies alone). This
is a tidy sum, bringing a good reward to those
directly involved; but it is no longer the crucial
factor which Lenin believed. It would be a
mistake to believe that capitalism could not
survive even the total loss of the present control
that it exercises over ex-colonial and less-developed lands.4
Nevertheless, the long historical connection
between imperialism and British capitalism had
4 This is still, of course, the official Communist view. R. P.
Dutt, in his review of Stracheys book for the Daily Worker,
gives us the most recent example of this view; The blood of the
imperialist tribute (in a hundred more forms than simply the
overseas investment income) courses through all the veins of the
British economy and gives it the feverish glow of a spurious and
transpient prosperity.

a direct bearing upon its behaviour after the end

of the Second World War.
In a world dominated by the dollar, the Citys
first concern after 1945 was to re-establish the
strength of the . With a large American loan
to fend off immediate creditors, the major step
in the operation was the creation of a tighter
Sterling Area out of the old Sterling Bloc. This
was achieved by continuing the war-time system
of banking foreign exchange earningsdollars
in particularin London. At the same time,
currency boards insisted on retaining these
balances as for backing for local currency
issues. Big dollar earners (e.g. Malaya and
Ghana) thus contributed far more dollars than
they spent. As Professor Arthur Lewis and
Professor Paish emphasised, the colonies were
in fact financing Britain. As Mr. Robarts of
Flemings Merchant Bank, Chairman of National
Provincial, put it, on such small financial
foundations . . . the enormous achievements of
the post-war years were built.
But today, independence carries the right to
spend their own foreign exchange, to make
fiduciary issues to expand the economy, and to
invest their savings where they choose. The
freedom may, for a time, be limited by the
continuing influence of central bankers trained by
the Bank of England, and by the operation of
local banks which are in fact branches of London
banks. But in principle, the ex-colonial peoples
are out in the open, with the right and duty of
standing up to the imperial banks and the imperial
companies as best they may. While it lasted, the
success of the Sterling Area operation can scarcely
be underestimated. It established the dominant
role of the City over British industry and Conservative Governments since 1951. It induced
both Labour and Conservative Governments to
hold back imports and encourage exports. Indeed,
to achieve the annual surplus for overseas investment, each wave of home investment has been
cut back by deflationary policies, Once again.
overseas investment has been at the expense of
development at home.

What Of Imperialism Remains?

But the attempt to build imperialism back into
British capitalism after the war by means of the
Sterling Area was frustrated by the irreversible
post-war tide of colonial liberation and independence movements. This process has transformed
the picture. The question then is, what now
remains of imperialism?
This question can only be answered by looking
at the relationship which now exists between
developed and less-developed countries.


The first aspect of this relationship is the effect

of the terms of trade between them. Though the
release of balances will help to finance colonial
development plans, the effects of deflation in
Britain, and the reduction of the capacity of
these territories to purchase British or other
exports, are part of a vicious spiral which still
remains. An economic dependence between rich
and poor countries, maintained at an earlier
stage by direct rule, continues today as part of
the pattern of trade. The result of the favourable movement since 1951 in the terms of trade
for Britains manufactured exports (compared
with the prices Britain has been paying for
imports of food and raw materials) has, undoubtedly, been to raise the national income of
the British people at the expense of primary
producers. And this time, farmers at home have
not suffered along with those overseas, because
of subsidies which many of them have been
enjoying. This movement has certainly worked
almost wholly to the detriment of less-well
organised primary producers overseas. Of course,
the impoverishment of primary producers begins
to work back into the more industrialised
economies, for poor producers, like poor
colonies, make poor markets. For a country
that lives as we do by processing raw materials
and exporting manufactured goods, this is a
dangerous procedure. Nevertheless, so far, British
capitalism has solved its problems at the expense
of the less-favourably placed peoples.

The Vicious Circle

This polarisation of wealth and poverty between
advanced and under-developed lands through the
working of the terms of trade, is but one aspect of
the general process which Dr. Gunnar Myrdal has
seized upon in his recent books. The other aspect
of it is the vicious circle of rich lands attracting
capital and poor lands repelling it. Dr. Myrdal
sums this up in the Biblical words: Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have
abundance: but from him that hath not shall be
taken away even that which he hath. In the
period before 1913, it was precisely in colonies
and under-developed lands that investment did
not take place (except, as Nurkse points out, in
enclaves of plantation and mineral exploitation).5 Similarly, since the war, capital has not
gone, as the textbooks would have it, where it
was scarcest, but largely to places where development was taking or had already taken place
principally Canada, Australia and South Africa.
There has, of course, been some investment to
provide the infra-structure for industrial development in the colonies (ports, railways, transport,


etc.): but the scale has been small, and directed

almost entirely to the export of raw materials.
Secondary and refining industries have continued
to be situated mainly in the metropolitan
countries. There is very little spread from the
investment to the rest of the colonial economy,
and what there has been has not gone further than
encouraging small-shopkeeping, trading and those
comprador6 activities, associated with the raw
material export business. This has had a crucial
effect on the development of a native middle
Successors to Imperialism
The favouring of comprador development
has a critical importance for under-developed
countries. Imperial rule has everywhere been
associated with the preservation of rule by local
princes, landlords, chiefs and sheiks. This is the
key to the distinction between the development of
empty lands settled by Europeans and the stagnation of older inhabited lands colonised by
European influence or rule. For merchants and
compradors do not develop industry. In this
sense, as well as others, the relationship of
a colony to the imperial power has been one of
absolute distortion, so that the colonies do not
start off on their economic advance now at the
point reached by, say, Britain 150 years ago. They
still have to break the grip of feudal lords and
town merchants which have maintained their
power because of the very nature of imperial rule.
The second effect follows on closely from the
first. Independence has taken place, since the
War, in very special circumstances, against the
background of comprador native classes already
in existence, and with great care taken by
imperialist powers to ensure sympathetic and
appropriate successors to their rule in countries
which were liberating themselves. What has
happened since 1945 is that independence has
been granted to just such feudal and comprador
groups as we have been discussing, in most of the
British colonies. Where rival claimants to the
succession (from trade union movements, or
communist or socialist intellectuals) have been
too strong to allow this, colonial wars have been
fought to guarantee protection of imperial
5 Strachey says that Myrdals thesis is the theoretical crux of
the whole argument of his book. He does not make it clear that
Myrdal is contradictory to that part of the Hobson-Lenin view
which relied upon the outward pressure of capital, and which
Strachey seemed, earlier, to accept.
6 Comprador was the name given to the Chinese merchants who
operated European factories in the Chinese treaty ports.
This is the essential truth in the argument of Paul Barans
book, Political Economy Of Growth, which a reader of Dr.
Myrdals book alone might miss. Strachey grossly underestimates its importance in his discussion of Baran, pp. 1979.

interests (in Malaya and Indo-China, for example).

Furthermore, everything has been done
constitution-mongering, knighthoods, scholarships for the colonial elite, the paraphernalia of
Judges wigs, gowns and Parliamentary ceremonial,
and the services of British advisers and civil
servantsto ensure continuity from colonial to
post-colonial rule. Much has also been made of
religious or national divisions to weaken successor
governments (India, Palestine, Malaya). The fact
is that the granting of independence has rarely
been an act of grace, and where communist-led
parties appeared as successors, as in British
Guiana, the act has not taken place.
Has this careful selection of successor governments by imperial powers been, as the Communists assert, to obtain reliable custodians of
their investments? The answer to this question
must lie in the Cold War context in which colonial
liberation has taken place.

The Cold War Context

In one aspect, the cold war is precisely concerned with the defence of capitalist positions
against communist encroachments. Colonel
Nasser, with his jails full of communists, should
be enough to prove that colonial liberation and
communist encroachment are not the same thing,
but the imperial powers have often based their
policies on this misapprehension. Moreover, the
cold war is concerned with the overall position of
capitalismthe way of life of the so-called
free worldand as such falls very much under
the leadership of the United States. Thus
individual imperialist positions may be abandoned (e.g. in Indonesia or Suez), but the overall
strategy of the West must be maintained (e.g. in
South Korea, or Southern Viet Nam).
Furthermore, the military moves of the cold
war have developed a logic and momentum of
their own, only distantly related to the economic
considerations from which they may derive. Thus,
the United States continues to defend the Chiang
Kai Shek regime in Formosa long after its
possible effect upon the economic development of
mainland China has ended.
It is only in the cold war context that we can
understand the aid granted, mainly by the US, to
under-developed lands. As much as a quarter of
the total British Government loans and grants
to the Commonwealth between 1954 and 1959 was
for the colonial armed and police force. Over half
the total US aid between 1945 and 1960 has been
military; and it has gone mainly to South Korea,
Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, Turkey, Pakistan,
Formosa, Thailand, Spain and West Berlinin
that order.

The major part of United States aid has helped

to maintain in power just those governments
(grouped in the anti-communist alliances NATO,
CENTO and SEATO) of a feudal or comprador
type which, we saw earlier, had a hampering effect
upon economic development. It is not so much,
as Baran argues, that the capitalist powers want to
check development in order to keep down wages
in the mines and plantations. But the general
defence of capitalism has kept alive Synghman
Rhee, Nuri es-Said, Firoz Khan Noon and Adnan
Menderes, and other governments of that kind.
This special cold war form of imperialism is
another crucial aspect of the relationship between
advanced and under-developed lands.
The cold war attempt to defend capitalist
positions in an overall East-West strategy has,
in addition, a hard core of economic interest.
This is to be seen in the economic role of the
great imperial corporations, functioning within
the general cold war context. In many cases, the
influence of the overseas corporations has
extended beyond independence. Many emergent
economies, after all, are still dependent upon the
operation of these companies, particularly during
the transition period. For example, the net profits
of Unilevers in 1959 was 113 million on a turnover of 1,800 million: the national income of
Ghana and Nigeria together are not much more
than 1,000 million. Its influence in West Africa
is still, clearly, enormous.

Off-Shore Imperialism
The case of oil is an instructive example of
off-shore imperialism. The Middle Eastern
countries are nominally independent. But any
threat to the oil companies has provoked the
sharpest reaction in the area. Dr. Moussadeks
nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian was frustrated
by boycott and then by military coup from
outside. Colonel Nasser only succeeded in taking
over the Suez Canal because Anglo-French and
American policies were divided. General Kassems
revolt in Iraq provoked the American and British
landings in Lebanon and Jordan: and he has not
nationalised Iraq oil.
Of course, Kassem has used his share of the
profits to develop the Iraqui economy. But the
effects of foreign exploitation cannot be overcome
wholly in this way. Because of the cartelised oil
monopolies and their price-fixing power, oil
prices to consumers in Europe are bound to be
inflated, and huge profits made available for oil
companies and the ruling groups who share them
in oil-bearing countries. The air-conditioned
palaces of the Arab sheiks, banquets delivered
from New York by jet plane, and so on, are but a
few examples. The result of the continuing interests


of the overseas corporations is both to exploit

the producing country, to support in power
those feudal and comprador-based governments,
and to oppose any attempts to replace them.
Even where overseas corporations have taken a
more enlightened attitude towards independence,
or been forced to come to terms with it, their
priorities still remain opposed to the priorities of
the countries where they operate. Where they
own mineral resources or large plantations, they
will tend to favour single-crop or single-mineral
economies, with high profits from migrant labour,
whereas the countries will want to oppose both
the extraction of profits, and the exploitation of
cheap labour, and favour balanced economic
development. This they must do to strengthen
their terms of trade position. Apart from the new
oil empires, there is one other new development in
imperialism: that is the considerable increase in
the investment overseas by manufacturing companies. The motor firms, cement companies,
electronics manufacturers like AEI and EMI,
drug companies like Beecham and Glaxo,
artificial textile makers like Courtaulds and
Turner & Newall, have all been developing
overseas subsidiaries, mainly in the old dominions,
but also in the new. Metropolitan capitalism is
not now so much extending throughout the world
its marketing and raw-material sources, as
spreading its industrial undertakings, even into
under-developed lands.

The Imperial Companies

The influence of the imperialist companies is,
therefore, still very important. And even those
progressive firms which support the emergence
of local capitalists against the more backwardlooking feudal rulers, reach the frontier of their
tolerance as soon as there is any threat of the
territory being withdrawn from the sphere of
capitalism itself. Thus the cold war alliances, Suez,
the Lebanon and Jordan landings, gun boats in
the Persian Gulf and off Honduras and British
Guiana, economic sanctions against Cubathese
are only the most open demonstrations of a
steady pressure that goes on all the time to retain
governments throughout the world favourable
to capitalism. The effect of the cold war and the
economic interests of the imperial companies have
run very close indeed. Empire, as we discussed
earlier, is the extension of the power of a class,
of an economic and social system, from one
country to another: direct political rule is only
one way of achieving this.
What, then, is the balance of forces in the postwar period? The old factors are no longer so
important as they were: the outward pressure of


capital and goods, the reliance upon tribute, the

interest in direct colonial rule. But is a similar
imperialist effect achieved by the other factors
particularly the imperial companies and the Cold
War? Imperialism remains but we must not forget
that new factors have entered the sceneparticularly the growth of the Soviet bloc, and the rise
of the emergent territories to independence.

Pattern of External Power

In spite of this, imperialism still remains.
It is that vicious circle of poverty to which the
under-developed territories are bound. This pattern or relationship between the haves and
have-nots is held in place by certain historical
distortions which still obtain: the terms of trade,
the distorted single-crop or single-mineral dependence of their economies, the entrenched position
of feudal and comprador governments which hold
back development. This pattern is further aggravated by two powerful factors: the cold war,
which has drawn the less-developed territories
within the Western strategy of a general defence of
capitalist positions against communism; and the
deeply-embedded influence of the imperial companies, even in so-called independent countries.
This is a system of external power, no longer
restingexcept in the settler territorieson direct
rule, but an indirect system of power whose
influence lies directly athwart the path to development.
How can this structure of power and influence
be broken? We have to convince the British
people that they have every possible reason to
encourage the economic development of the poor
lands of the world, not only as a moral question
to make up for past neglect but from sheer selfinterest. We are above all a trading nation and the
greatest amount of trade is carried on between
economically developed nations. We have the
skills and engineering capacity which the whole
world needs to carry through its industrialisation.
But to do this the under-developed lands will
need not only economic aid and long-term agreements on trade exchange and price stabilisation;
they will need support of every kind for progressive governments, including those that are led
by communists, who are trying to modernise their
countries. We have to give the United Nations
funds to develop as well as power to police.
We have nothing to lose from the demise of
imperialism and everything to gain from ending
the cold war.
It is a smaller and smaller number of peopleit
was never largewho gain from the remaining
imperialist relationships of the great imperial
companies. For many years now infinitely greater

benefits have accrued to ordinary people from the

application of mans growing knowledge of how
his natural environment may be controlled than
ever came from plunder and exploitation. But this
control involves man in ever widening interdependence. The advance of one is conditional
upon the advance of all. What men can do by
co-operating exceeds by far anything that was won
in the past by conquest and war. The possibilities
of mans fullest personal development, free from
cold and hunger, ill health, insecurity and heavy
toil, unite us together as never before.
This is the alternative vision to capitalism that
we have to propagate. There is much, however, in
our imperialist past that prevents our doing this.
It will take a positive act of will, which we each

must make, for Europeans to bring themselves to

think of Africans, Asians, Arabs and American
Indians as not only deserving of our aid but as
comrades with whom to build a new co-operative
commonwealth out of the old corrupt and unjust
empire of capitalism and its feudal and comprador allies.8 It will also take a major shift of
economic and political power at home. It should
help that the same capitalist companies that
distort our lives for profit are frustrating theirs
8 Stracheys emphasis of the need to give aid, as a palliative to
an uneasy conscience, misses the point that Keynesian remedies
will not carry through the industrialisation of the world. Only
fundamental changes in class relations inside the under-developed
lands will make it possible to do the job.