[Comparison] Colonialism is a system

Below are extracts from from two free-market/propertarian economists, another from a famous sociologist, one from a 19th century Irish Bishop, and an essay by Jean Paul Sartre. All concern colonialism as a system (the title of Sartre’s work) and an institutional legacy. It’s interesting both how these ideals parallel each other, and also how these parallels are ignored by both the left and right (for reasons of prejudice?);

Government sale of “its” unused land to speculators, therefore, restricts the use of new land, distorts the allocation of resources, and keeps land out of use that would be employed were it not for the “tax” penalty of paying a purchase price or rent to the speculator. Keeping land out of use raises the marginal value product and the rents of remaining land and lowers the marginal value product of labor, thereby lowering wage rates.
The affinity of rent and taxation is even closer in the case of “feudal” land grants. Let us postulate a typical case of feudal beginnings: a conquering tribe invades a territory of peasants and sets up a State to rule them. It could levy taxes and support its retinue out of the proceeds. But it could also do something else, and it is important to see that there is no essential difference between the two. It could parcel out all of the land as individual grants of “ownership” to each member of the conquering band. Then, instead of or in addition to one central taxing agency, there would be a series of regional rent collecting agencies. But the consequences would be exactly the same. This is clearly seen in Middle Eastern countries, where rulers have been considered to own their territories personally and have therefore collected taxes in the form of “rent” charged for that ownership.

… the feudal lord passes the land on to his heirs. The true owners now have to pay rent where they did not have to pay before. This rent-tax continues indefinitely. Because of the generally vast extent of the grant, as well as various prohibitory laws, it is most unusual for the feudal lord to be bought out by his tenant-subjects.

Murray Rothbard, “Man, Economy and State, with Power & Market”
Chapter 4—Binary Intervention: Taxation (continued)
6. The Incidence and Effects of Taxation
Part IV: The “Single Tax” on Ground Rent;

Nowhere and at no time has the large-scale ownership of land come into being through the working of economic forces in the market. It is the result of military and political effort. Founded by violence, it has been upheld by violence and by that alone. As soon as the latifundia are drawn into the sphere of market transactions they begin to crumble, until at last they disappear completely. Neither at their formation nor in their maintenance have economic causes operated. The great landed fortunes did not arise through the economic superiority of large-scale ownership, but through violent annexation outside the area of trade. . . . The non-economic origin of landed fortunes is clearly revealed by the fact that, as a rule, the expropriation by which they have been created in no way alters the manner of production. The old owner remains on the soil under a different legal title and continues to carry on production.

Ludwig von Mises, Socialism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951), p. 375.

The peasant surrenders a portion of the product of his labor, without any equivalent service in return. “In the beginning was the ground rent.”
The forms under which the ground rent is collected or consumed vary. In some cases, the lords, as a closed union or community, are settled in some fortified camp and consume as communists the tribute of their peasantry. . . . In some cases, each individual warrior-noble has a definite strip of land assigned to him: but generally the produce of this is still, as in Sparta, consumed in the “syssitia,” by class associates and companions in arms. In some cases, the landed nobility scatters over the entire territory, each man housed with his following in his fortified castle, and consuming, each for himself, the produce of his dominion or lands. As yet, these nobles have not become landlords, in the sense that they administer their property. Each of them receives tribute from the labor of his dependents, whom he neither guides nor supervises. This is the type of medieval dominion in the lands of the Germanic nobility. Finally, the knight becomes the owner and administrator of the knight’s fee.

Franz Oppenheimer, The State, pp. 83–84.

Every man (and woman, too) has a natural right to the free exercise of his mental and corporal faculties; and whatever useful thing anyone has produced by his toil and his labour, of that he is the rightful owner—in that he has in strict justice a right of property. Any useful thing that satisfies any of our necessities, relieves any of our wants, ministers to our comforts or enjoyments, or increases our material happiness or contentment, may be an object of property, and the person whose toil and labour has produced that thing possesses in it a strict right of property…

Now, the land of every country is to the people of that country or nation what the earth is to the whole human race—that is to say, the land of every country is the gift of its Creator to the people of that country; it is the patrimony and inheritance bequeathed to them by their Common Father, out of which they can by continuous labour and toil provide themselves with everything they require for their maintenance and support, and for their material comfort and enjoyment…

The arguments, therefore, which prove that, in strict justice, as well as in the interests of the nation at large, a landholder who is constantly improving and increasing the productiveness of his farm has a right to the continued occupation of it, prove, too, that a non-improving landholder has no right to be left in the possession of it at all…

When, therefore, a privileged class arrogantly claims a right of private property in the land of a country, that claim is simply unintelligible, except in the broad principle that the land of a country is not a free gift at all, but solely a family inheritance; that it is not a free gift which God has bestowed on His creatures, but an inheritance which he has left to His children; that they, therefore, being God’s eldest sons, inherit this property by right of succession; that the rest of the world have no share or claim to it, on the ground that origin is tainted with the stain of illegitimacy. The world, however, will hardly submit to this shameful imputation of its own degradation, especially when it is not sustained by even a shadow of reason.

Letter To the Clergy and Laity of Diocese of Meath: Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Nulty (Bishop of Meath).

First of all overcome resistance, smash the framework, subdue, terrorize.
Only then will the economic system be put in place.

And what does this consist of? The creation of industries in the conquered country? Not at all; the capital with which France ‘is awash’ will not be invested in underdeveloped countries; the returns would be uncertain, the products would be too long in coming; everything would have to be built, equipped. And, even if that could be done, what would be the point in creating competition for production in France? Ferry is very clear: capital will not leave France, it will simply be invested in new industries which will sell their manufactured products to the colonized country. The immediate result was the establishment of the Customs Union (1884). This Union still exists: it ensures that France’s industry, handicapped in the international market by prices that are too high, has a monopoly over the Algerian market.

But to whom then did this new industry expect to sell its products? The Algerians? Impossible: where would they have got the money from to pay? The concomitant of this colonial imperialism is that spending power has to be created in the colonies. And, of course, it is the colonists who will benefit from all the advantages and who will be turned into potential buyers. The colonist is above all an artificial consumer, created overseas from nothing by a capitalism which is seeking new markets.

As early as 1900, Peyerimhoff stressed this new feature of ‘official’ colonization: ‘Directly or not, the property of the colonist has come to him gratis from the State or he has seen concessions granted around him on a daily basis. Before his eyes the government has made sacrifices for individual interests considerably greater than those it would consent to in older fully developed countries.’

Here the second side of the colonial diptych appears clearly: in order to be a buyer, the colonist must be a seller. To whom will he sell? To the people of mainland France. And what can he sell without an industry? Food products and raw materials. This time, under the aegis of Minister Ferry and the theoretician Leroy-Beaulieu, colonial status is established.

And what are the ‘sacrifices’ that the State makes to the colonist, to this man, the darling of gods and exporters? The answer is simple: it sacrifices the property of the Muslims to him.

Because it so happens that, in fact, the natural produce of the colonized country grows on the land and that this land belongs to the ‘indigenous’ population. In certain thinly populated regions, with large uncultivated areas, the theft of land is less apparent: what you see is military occupation, forced labour. But in Algeria, when the French troops arrived, all the good land was cultivated. The so-called development thus relied upon a plundering of the inhabitants that continued for a century. The story of Algeria is the progressive concentration of European land ownership at the expense of Algerian ownership.

And any method was acceptable…

The revolt of 1871 was very useful; hundreds of thousands of hectares were taken from the vanquished.

But there was a chance that would not be enough. So we decided to give a handsome present to the Muslims; we gave them our civil code.

And why all this generosity? Because tribal property was usually collective and we wanted to fragment it to allow land speculators to buy it back bit by bit.

In 1873, investigating commissioners were given the task of turning the large common estates into a jigsaw puzzle of individual properties. With each inheritance they made shareswhich were given to everyone concerned. Some of these shares were fictitious. In the douarof Harrar, the investigating commissioner found 55 beneficiaries for 8 hectares.

It sufficed to corrupt one of these beneficiaries and he would demand a share-out. The long and confusing French procedure ruined all the co-owners;

Here, with premedita-tion, with cynicism, they imposed a foreign code on the Muslims because they knew that this code could not apply to them and that it could have no other effect than to destroy the internal structures of Algerian society. If the operation has continued in the twentieth century with the blind necessity of a law of economics, it is because the French State had brutally and artificially created the conditions of capitalist liberalism in an agricultural and feudal country. That has not stopped speakers in the National Assembly, quite recently, from vaunting the forced adoption of our legal code by Algeria as ‘one of the benefits of French civilization’.

The colonial system is in place: the French State gives Arab land to the colonists in order to create for them a purchasing power which allows French industrialists to sell them their products; the colonists sell the fruits of this stolen land in the markets of France.

From that point on, the system feeds itself; it runs smoothly; we shall follow all its consequences and see it become more and more rigorous.

First, in Frenchifying and dividing up the property, the structure of the old tribal society was broken without putting anything in its place. This destruction of the framework was systematically encouraged: first because it suppressed the forces of resistance and replaced collective strength with a handful of individuals; next because it created labour (at least as long as farming was not mechanized). This labour force alone offsets the transport costs, it alone maintains the profit margins of the colonial companies in the face of economies in France where production costs keep going down. Thus colonization has turned the Algerian population into an immense agricultural proletariat. It has been said of the Algerians that they are the same men as in 1830 and work the same land; only instead of owning it, they are the slaves of those who own it.

…if, at least, the initial theft was not of the colonial type, it could perhaps be hoped that mechanized agricultural production would allow the Algerians themselves to buy the produce of their land more cheaply. But the Algerians are not, nor can they be, the colonists’ customers. The colonist must export to pay for his imports: he produces for the French market. The logic of the system makes him sacrifice the needs of the native population to those of the French in France.

… the only reason for this increasing pauperization is that the wonderful colonial agriculture has settled like a canker at the very heart of the country and eats away at everything.

… concentration of land ownership leads to the mechanization of agriculture. Mainland France is delighted to sell its tractors to the colonists. While the productivity of the Muslims, restricted to the poor land, has fallen by a fifth, that of the colonists increases day by day for their profit alone…

Sartre, Jean-Paul; Interventions: The International Journal of Postcolonial Studies;
Mar2001, Vol. 3 Issue 1, p127-140, 14p, ISS; Also –



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