The Age of Imperialism is truly dead. Empires no longer send out their fleets, armies, blessed companies, and colonizers to far flung colonies throughout the world, and all continents — save Europe and North America — are no longer portioned up, yielding the colorful maps that Marlowe noted in Heart of Darkness. Yes, the world is a much different place. Yet even in spite of this, we still feel the effects of imperialism and colonialism. Much has been written in regards to this, and I shall not attempt to summarize the effects of these forces. Rather, what shall be examined is the effects that isolationism has had upon our world, and its possible future influencing power.
I am by no means a lover of imperialism. It is, in my view, against the whole-hearted backing of the free market, natural rights, and property to which I subscribe. It is also a gross overreach of government’s authority and purpose. That being said, this criticism of imperialism appears to be an exclusively American brand of anti-imperialism, as many of the original American anti-imperialists would today compose conservatives and Libertarians.
In foreign countries, this appears to have been much different. In Africa, the prominent anti-imperialist movements were never of a classical liberal perspective, but generally of authoritarian, Marxist, or some form of collectivism in nature, such as the African National Congress, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria.
In Northern Ireland, a situation perceived by opponents of Britain to be an anti-imperialist struggle, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split due to political disagreements — in which many in the IRA wished to go further left into Marxism. A venerated figure in nonviolence, Ghandi, was not a hardened free market supporter either. Ghandian Economics proclaim the evils of industrialization and the pursuit of wealth, the importance of social justice, and the need for egalitarianism.
The wealth of information available on this topic is so widespread that one cannot sumarize it entirely. But, with what has been said, it will be understood that the anti-imperialist movements in these colonized countries have been of the far left. Why does this matter? Take a look at what is happening in the world, in regards to unrest and upheaval.
History generally has happened in colonies. Imperialism cannot be sustained and the empires had to fall. Colonies received independence, troops left, some colonizers stayed and some went to the “mother country.” Some times, nations received their independence out of necessity or deemed “readiness,” others through bloody insurgencies. Regardless, they were soon “on their own,” in some senses. When the “natives” gained power, the general thinking amongst those in power became: “Our thinking is good, because it is not what they thought.” Many confused the free market with the half-breed capitalism of the colonizers, and thus rejected the free market.
Ironically, there was very little change from what these anti-imperialists despised, after they gained power. Many of them ran to their new friends in the Soviet Union, who appeared generous and sympathetic. Others later found friends in the First World— whose similar generosity was intended to ensure good democracies and opponents to Communism. Some former colonies merely came under the control of authoritarians. Almost universally, though, there was an absence of liberty, prohibition of the free market, and stifling of the individual. Thinking from the perspective of the anti-imperialists in these nations: did anything change? No. Let us now look at how this relates to the current world.
In the Middle East, this upheaval has been the Arab Spring. This event has not brought true freedom, but paved the way for just another tyranny. The Arab Spring bears all of the marks of anti-imperialist thinking. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s role was prominent. In the mid-Twenties, the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood was in response to Great Britain’s role in Egypt. Though technically not a colony, but a protectorate, Britain’s involvement was still immense, and lasted until 1954. In Libya, the anti-Gaddafi forces hardly held back on preaching any of the ideas known to every liberal feeler of fuzzy feelings. They fit well into the anti-imperialist mold, bringing about another continuation in the cycle of tyranny, dissatisfaction, upheaval, slight relief, and tyranny. Through the upheaval in the Arab Spring, anti-imperialist thought has been at the forefront, as it is thought to be “good”— apart from providing a framework for these people for overthrowing the “oppressor.”
I was recently sent this link to a picture on Facebook. The picture is of the Indian writer Arundhati Roy, and contains a long quote that discusses how “we” must resist “empire.” Nearly at the end, we realize that a segment of “empire” is the evil corporations. As Roy says:
“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling—their ideas, their version of history, their version of wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.”
Then she ends her speech with the using of the tired idea that can be found from any stoned or stupid (often they possess both qualities) Occupier—there are more of “us” than them (i.e. the ninety-nine percent) and the system doesn’t run without “us.”
This is why we must understand anti-imperialism. The new “empire” the left is attacking is no longer the British, French, German, Portugese, or Belgian people, but the free market. The framework has already been laid, but the fronts being fought on have expanded and changed. No longer are the anti-imperialists fighting for “democracy” in their own nation, but they are fighting for collectivism on a global scale, in all nations. It is the duty then, of any who claim natural rights the free market as their guiding principles to oppose these collectivists and fight them on all intellectual fronts.
The internet has opened up communication and connection as never before possible in history. Those of us on the intellectual front must also connect with like-minded people across the globe, so that we may aid each other in resisting collectivism and despotism.