The New Colonialism

Colonialism has been recognized historically as a tool of domination, typically following the military subjugation of one people by another. It is a process whereby the colonizer (metropole or mother country) invades and then exercises sovereignty over the colony and its indigenous population primarily for economic exploitation. It creates a master-slave relationship between the metropole and the new colony, whereby the vast resources and indigenous population of the colony exist to serve the mother country and the needs of its elites.

We have become increasingly familiar with the dramatic and explosive upheavals rocking Greece during the last year and, more recently, over the past several months.  It should now be obvious to even the most casual observer that something of global significance is happening there.  And while it may not be quite clear just what that is, perhaps we can parse the headlines, and glean its fundamental meaning, not just for Greeks, but for the rest of us as well. What is the endgame in this economic assault, this deconstruction of the Greek people and their nation? Why is Athens burning? As I suggested at the close of last week’s post: it is the crowning development of an imperial design, taking the planet by storm as civilization unleashes its final maddening sprint to the summit before the great unraveling begins.

I want to begin this exploration by focusing on a tangential set of circumstances.  We are probably aware that China, the most recent member of modern capital’s global ascent, holds over $3 trillion in US currency reserves (treasury bonds, etc.) while also continuing to enhance its already bulging position in prime pieces of land/real estate at a feverish clip, both in the USA and around the world. In fact, Chinese investors were poised to become the biggest buyers of US commercial properties in 2011.

But, it is not just buildings they are scooping up, and it is not only China doing the scooping.  Land-grabs by diverse entities are playing out across Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere around the globe, as different national and corporate interests spread their nets internationally to capture as much of the available resources (human or natural) as they possibly can.  International hedge fund managers as well are grabbing land in Ethiopia and attracting some big American university players into the fray. 1

Such land-grabs are more and more predominant across the globe today as various hegemonic forces rush to secure access to fossil fuels, rare earth, agricultural lands, and labor pools, corporations look to reduce their cost bases, enhance global influence and market positioning, and investors seek to line their purses on the backs of indigenous populations.

We need not militarily invade countries anymore, but simply buy up their properties, their resources, their arable lands, their ports, and enslave the populations to our imperial designs or the desires of our corporate paymasters.  That is the new face of colonialism.  The lands, along with the people occupying the target locales, simply become a colony of the new hegemonic metropole, whether it is a hierarchy of national or corporate stature.

We see the indigenous reaction here in a recently proposed deal between Bahrain and the government of the Philippines.

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today called on the House of Representatives’ committees on agrarian reform and agriculture to conduct a probe and shoot down a $300-million land lease deal the government entered into with Bahrain… [a] project “to ensure Bahrain’s food security and promote the agribusiness sector.”

“It is totally revolting that our lands are being devoted for the food security needs of other nations while the Filipino farmers suffer increasing landlessness, hunger, and poverty,” says Ramos, KMPs secretary general. 2

A similar scenario is being played out with respect to a number of large dairy farms in New Zealand in a deal with China that was recently overturned by the local courts in NZ.  And dairy farming is the lifeblood of New Zealand.  Again, this is the new face of colonialism driven by capital rich countries and huge multinational corporations impoverishing and enslaving foreign populations.

In yet another instance, even the myopic US Secretary of State selectively noted the issue in a recent trip to Africa.

Clinton…urged scrutiny of China’s large investments and business interests in Africa so that the African people are not taken advantage of… “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” Clinton said Saturday in the Zambian capital of Lusaka before flying to Tanzania. “And when you leave, you don’t leave much behind for the people who are there. We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.”

Although she didn’t mention China by name, officials traveling with Clinton said she wanted to stress that African countries should hold Chinese investors to the same standards that they apply to Americans and Europeans. 3

Perhaps Secretary Clinton is conveniently overlooking our own, as well as Europe’s, exploitive imperialist practices. Look, for example, at Apple Computer and its wholesale extraction of rare earth minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo under conditions that rival any earlier forms of colonial exploitation. Alternatively, consider the company’s colonization of Chinese labor forces in producing electronic toys for our spoiled metropole consumer marketplace. As Robert Scheer points out in TruthDig this week:

[Just look at] the massive Foxconn and other plants in China where robotic work is performed by humans under conditions that even Apple has conceded in an internal audit are unacceptable under modern industrial standards. 4

Besides, such abusive colonizing practices have been standard operating procedure for the Euro-American International Monetary Fund and its Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) for years, impoverishing and enslaving populations across sub-Saharan Africa. The IMF typically requires that the “underdeveloped” or borrower country lay down, open its kimono, and allow foreign corporations or multinationals to enter and do what they will; that is, of course, if the government of the target country wants to get its hands on IMF cash. It is a nice quid pro quo, if you will – all part of the package for economic globalization and the new colonialism. Here the IMF acts as controlling metropole of the economic policies of those countries that partake of its debt facilities.

More often then not, where SAP is implemented, agribusiness or other multinationals move in and, without any real oversight or regulation, eviscerate local economies, close down smaller indigenous operations, set up sweat-shops, and displace villagers, confiscating natural wealth, planting miles of exportable crops, or building “cities of pigs that stretch around the world.”  This is colonialism plain and simple folks; all achieved with the stroke of a pen, and not a single shot fired.

Why is the Greek government pushing so hard, and why are the IMF bankers so interested in forcing an already desperate situation?  At least one analyst has a reasonable answer.  Privatization of national assets, and their sale to the highest bidder. 5

This viewpoint suggests that if the bankers can force so much chaos on the Greek government as well as increase its dependency upon the Europeans, Greece will have little option but to sell off everything in the country to pay down its debt: airports, seaports, water and sewer systems, the islands, you name it.  In fact, since mid 2011 that is precisely what has been stewing there.

The Greek government announced a wide ranging privatization program, spanning rail and road transport, airports and ports, utilities, gaming and public real estate holdings.

The whole country essentially becomes a grab bag, with other nations and international corporations poised to move in and take possession.  Effectively Greece could be broken up into its component parts, owned by different countries or corporate oligarchs. In effect, parts of Greece would become economic colonies of foreign nations or international corporate interests. This is a dimension of the new colonialism. As Michael Hudson summarizes in The Real News, “Finance today achieves what military invasions did in times past” – annexing the resources of foreign lands.

And in Greece’s case, there is little left to do but start selling off assets in order to meet the conditions of a new IMF loan program.  So basically we have a financial invasion and takeover of a sovereign nation, rather than a military invasion.  The net result is the same.  The native population becomes subject to and subjects of the imperial designs of the purchaser, whether that is another country or one of the international conglomerates, or perhaps a series of financial overseers.

Even Robert Scheer’s very perceptive criticism of Apple’s China operation misses the central point. It is not that Apple cares less about human rights and is adopting a faulty business model.  Apple is doing exactly what the new colonialism demands – the non-military take-over of an otherwise peasant population.  It is, as Scheer points out so clearly, a takeover where the “fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites.”

As he rightly concludes:

If the habits required of Apple’s workforce in China are to be emulated, the U.S. military, or perhaps our outsized prison system, should become the essential schooling system for American workers to better compete with the properly disciplined assemblers of iPhones in China.

What better summary could we provide of this new colonialism spreading across the globe like wildfire?  But, more to the point my fellow voyagers, upon a little reflection  we might recognize that we are already colonized – voyeuristic prisoners in a network of interlocking hierarchical systems of economic and existential slavery, serving our paymasters for a brief tour in their house of prostitution.  Perhaps to put a finer point on it, we could even understand the processes of domestication (plant, animal and human) at the beginnings of civilization as the initial volley in a game of global colonization that is only now reaching its full and final conclusion.

58 Responses to The New Colonialism

  1. xraymike79 says:

    Nice work Sandy. It’s 10:25pm here in the belly of the Beast and you’ve just given me plenty to ponder. I’ll take some sleeping pills and nod off to Never Never Land, the only place where I’m truly free, before awakening in the morning to this nightmare we call the Global Capitalist Industrial Civilization.

  2. Pingback: No “Social Democracy”, only Enslavement « Investment Watch Blog – 2012

  3. John Bollig says:


    One thing about the equation that the multinnationals are not considering is the fact that the energy time bomb will very soon put an end to the colonialism. As so basically told by the post carbon institute, we can’t keep going any further. Contraction is the end result of the colonial game. But, colonialism is not limited to the overseas populations of the third world. Up to 300,000 developmentally disabled americans work in sheltered workshops and supported employment industries. These companies get no bid contracts and are protected from fair labor and wage laws. I visited one place when I was in arizona and it was truly third world. It was right out of the sweatshop era of the early 1900’s. The real sad part of it was the fact that parents and guardians felt they had no choice but to place their kids there. It was the only way that the develpmentally disabled could support their upkeep. The sad part of it was the exploitative nature of the staff and management. All they saw was profit centers and how much they could extract out of each person verses the subsidy they got for employing the person. While I did not see overt slavery practiced, I did see behavior modification practiced to bend the individual over to perform the assigned task to near exhaustion of the worker/client/profit center. Colonialism is practiced inside the nations of the world against its own citizens, to their own detriment. We just don’t see it as openly as I did when I was in Arizona.

  4. Cliff says:

    Speaking of Greece. It will not go like lambs to the slaughter. I’m certain that there will be a high price to pay in bloodshed. Much much more to come on that front. There is and will not be the automatic machinary, with the same preditable outcome. Each case will be different. The less you consume of commercialism the less you’re enslaved. We still have many choices that can be altered or made.

  5. This nightmare you describe, Sandy, is sustained by every thought, word and action of each individual person who buys into the “life is a competition” illusion. Is this buying a choice? Only if you embrace the choice, the freedom, and begin the process of purging one’s own consciousness and heart of the struggle for selfish worldly gains.
    If not, one simply marches to the tune of slavery to one’s cravings to get into the “winners” circle or at least avoid suffering as a “loser”. In this there is no lasting self-fulfillment or happiness. If one is fortunate, he changes from being a slave of his illusory desires to a slave of his highest principles, conscience, ethics, or other expansive perspective.
    As much as the Illusion depicts us as separate entities required to struggle against each other, our reality is that we are a single collective consciousness influencing and being influenced by each other constantly in every little way. When one serves the Illusion, it has a supporting (the illusion) influence on all with whom one is connected. The greater one frees himself from the constant struggling of serving one’s self-interest, the influence is there also.
    The insanity is like a communicable disease, and love is the remedy. It is all quite catching. If one recognizes the Problem and feels deeply that a Solution must exist, must it not all begin and be firmly rooted in changing one’s self? As more and more become free spirits, the creativity and energy reach into every channel of human endeavor.

  6. Pete Hines says:


    Much of what you have written here was told in the wonderful book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, albeit with some (not all) different players. But what really astounds me is the notion that we are now living in a more civilized world. Of course this is all Madison Avenue PR bullshit; Americans buy it, but try selling it to the people in sub-saharan Africa, Latin America or vast swaths of southeast Asia. What is the difference between 15th and 16th century Spaniards raping and plundering the new world for its gold and Apple doing the same in the DRC for its rare earth metals? To those third-worlders enslaved by this system there is not a bit of difference. It seems something will have to give or this will go on until we are all either master or slave.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Pete – I never read the Confessions of an Economic Hitman… so I can’t comment. But you are correct, there is not difference between the 15th C and now, except that we in the West know where this is leading now. Yes, either master or slave, until the breakdown of civil order. And the guys most infected with the disease of civilization are already unloading their entire cache of weapons upon the unknowing slaves (including those among us). sandy

  7. bmiller says:

    I’m glad you brought up this aspect of peak resources. The land grab for agricultural use is a harbinger of the decline that is coming at us. And, Africa in particular is perfectly positioned to be fully exploited. One can be sure that when the “colonial” powers leave they will leave a resource fully extracted.
    In addition to land we might also mention the race for water sources to extract. Nestle is taking advantage of loose water rights in New England to extract massive amounts of water from aquifers, potentially leaving a region bereft of potable water.
    Thanks for the continuing efforts to draw attention to these essential issues.
    My best,

  8. BretSimpson says:

    Pulled up 40 acres of electric fence today….got 200 steers meat….any takers?

  9. BretSimpson says:

    “Powershift”…”Toelfler”..?”Third Wave”, and “Future Shock”….I’m ramblin’ agin…fOh, “War and Anti-War”…..

  10. javacat says:

    ‘Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. This change overwhelms people, he believed, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock he popularized the term “information overload.” ‘ (Wiki).

    “Future Shock” was published in 1970. I recognize the cover even now, but was too young to read the book at the time. Still, his perceptions seem apt.

  11. Murph says:


    Are you familiar with the writings of Peter Kropotkin? I find him a very interesting dude.

    Some discussion on water. Where I am now living we have one of the last uncontaminated large aquifers left is the U.S. Having some bitter fights over it too. The fight started over 5 years ago and was immediately identified as powerful people wanting the water rights and the land over it (land use issues).

    • kulturcritic says:

      Murph – very familiar with Kropotkin, anarcho-communism. One very bright man. Have read a little of his work; but certainly no expert. Where is this aquifer you speak of? Do you know who is behind the grab? best, sandy

  12. xraymike79 says:

    I wasn’t aware that the bankers/weapons manufacturers unloaded their wares on Greece, contributing significantly to it’s debt problems. It seems the war profiteers are always on the prowl, using Greece as just another sinkhole for unneeded industrial killing machines:

  13. steve croc says:

    Sandy, enjoyed the read of Veronika.
    Murph and my family live in quiet backwaters of S.Oregon / N.California. and are doing our part to inculcate the qualities of self sufficiency and back to the land principles within a younger generation.
    Slowing or stopping the resource grab by both corporate and govt groups is a tuff battle, yet one we must continue to work towards.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Steve – glad you enjoyed the novel. I am currently trying to write a sequel… Amerika: Lukas’ Story. LOL Yeah, it is tough fight against the land grabbers. But we will keep at it. best, sandy

  14. troutsky says:

    Think you touched on an important aspect when you mentioned Discipline. Greece still has a Left , one of the last bastions, and so is being made an example of. It is their answer to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, basically taunting: so what are you going to do about it?

    Zizek even offers this provocative thought: “It is as if recent events were staged with a calculated risk in order to demonstrate that, even at a time of shattering crisis, there is no viable alternative to capitalism. Thus the real victim will be the left.”
    And we can’t garden our way out of this one. Capitalist realism must be challenged in every conversation.

  15. pixelwhiplash says:

    When does it become “new colonialism” ; when the old colonialism has never gone away? Colonialism is one of the original shape shifters. What we’re witnessing now is just a different pane in the kaleidoscope.

  16. pixelwhiplash says:

    Subjugation and domination have been practiced in a variety of forms and as such can be accomplished by many methods. It is about control and the ends always justify the means.

  17. Although I’ve heard about China and India’s buying out of Africa, watching that Guardian video about Ethiopia really brought it to life for me. The way the government treats its own people is not unlike how the American Indians were treated by the encroaching US gov’t during the manifest destiny phase. Its amazing how those bureaucrats swallow their own Kool-Aid and actually believe an ultimatum to relocate or become serfs is a ‘voluntary’ choice, and how that suit monkey in his nice air conditioned building is just aping the corporate lies. You really have to wonder about the skull collection at the feet of the top heads of state over there…

    The project of civilization has been a failure. Aren’t the civilized supposed to set a moral example to those who would aspire? And instead you have Ethiopia aspiring to enslave and rape is own people and land. As humanity just waltzes around its darkened cave, will we wake up in time to evacuate before the rising tide?

  18. Frank Kling says:

    Let’s not forget South Korea’s recent deal with Madagascar in which Korea’s Daewoo Logistics company has been awarded a 99 year lease to develop fully 50% of all Madagascar’s arable land. The consequences for Madagascar’s unique indigenous wildlife are tragic beyond comprehension. The existing situation is already dire in that Madagascar has one of the world’s highest population growth rates. Now that the Koreans are supplying the capital and technology to raze the country’s remaining forest cover, which is limited to a narrow spine of land running north to south, with no environmental mitigation plan, soon numerous native flora and fauna will join the ever-accelerating parade of worldwide extinctions.
    How can mankind assess no value to preservation of the planet’s ecological life-support system? It’s just a mad rush to make as much money as possible and as soon as possible before it’s all gone. Is it any surprise that scientists from NASA issued a paper theorizing that it is well within the realm of probability that an extra-terrestrial life form may deem it necessary to eradicate the human race before we human’s completely destroy the planet’s biodiversity.

  19. Frank Kling says:


    August 19, 2011 9:37 AM GMT

    NASA scientists are warning we should curb our greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent aliens from attacking us, according to a new paper reported by The Guardian.

    The reports suggest that if extraterrestrials learn we are sending out large amounts of greenhouse gases and altering the climate, they may decide to eliminate us to prevent us from damaging our planet further.

    In “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis” (pdf), scientists from NASA’s Planetary Science Division and Pennsylvania State University focus on three potential types of contact we could have with aliens: beneficial, neutral and harmful.

    The 33-page paper depicts some scenarios in which contact would be beneficial, including cases where aliens would help us acquire better knowledge and help us solve problems such as hunger, poverty and enable us to eliminate diseases. Another scenario exposed is also an alliance between humans and Aliens to help us protect ourselves from an attack by other extra-territorial beings.

    The neutral scenarios, on the other hand, involve situations in which aliens do not try to communicate with us and prefer to observe us without making any contact.

    The harmful scenario, on the other hand, are a bit more dramatic as NASA scientists warn aliens could attack us, enslave us, eat us or spread alien diseases among us or among crucial food species, to destroy us.

    The reports also note that they might also decide to conduct some kind of apocalyptic physics experiment that makes part of the galaxy uninhabitable.

    To prevent these disasters from happening and risk destroying humanity and its future, the document suggest we refrain from sending signals into space, and insist we should especially diminish broadcasts that would provide the potential extraterritorial visitors with information about our biological makeup.

    Such information, scientists warn, could enabler the attackers to create weapons of mass destruction.

    Moreover, not respecting our environment could anger aliens, the report warns, and they could as a result become suspicious of humanity because our rapid expansion could prove a threat to other species that live on Earth.

    In case of an attack, the document points out that a pre-emptive strike is the most likely to take place in the early phases of our expansion as destroying a civilization in its later stage of development might be too difficult.

    Finally, the NASA researchers conclude their paper saying that even if contact between human beings and aliens is never made, analysing these scenarios is still useful as it pushes us to conceptualise and imagine the future of humanity.

    Read more:

    • kulturcritic says:

      I think the aliens have already landed… they are called CIVILIZED HUMANS!! LOL And they are colonizing the rest of the planet… a big experiment. LOL Thanks, Frank

    • kulturcritic says:

      And, they are making the planet uninhabitable, as well; so, I think NASA was correct.

    • Brutus says:

      This report is a scream! I suppose I can’t blame the International Business Times for treating the report with credibility and respect, seeing how it originates from NASA, but I can certainly snort in derision that someone at NASA (several of them, actually) thought it worthwhile to expend effort on this. I downloaded the PDF and quote this from the conclusion:

      The outcome of contact between humanity and ETI depends on many factors that cannot be fully known at this time. The scenario analysis presented in this paper therefore serves as a means of training our minds to recognize patterns and analyze outcomes before contact with ETI ever occurs. Actual contact may not precisely follow the scenarios considered here, but any amount of analysis to prepare ourselves for contact will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Therefore, the analysis presented here serves as a step toward developing a comprehensive strategy ….

      Among the harmful scenarios comes one straight out of the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still (pick your version — either the 1951 original or the 2008 remake), namely, that an all-powerful ETI would exterminate humanity to save the rest of the biosphere. As Sandy intimates, it doesn’t take either a Hollywood movie or a NASA report to reach this conclusion, and we needn’t “train our minds” to imagine the threat coming from the sky. We’re already the biggest threat to ourselves.

      I’m going to laugh about this all week.

    • xraymike79 says:

      Ok I’ll humor this “study” for a moment.
      It’s quite possible that Aliens operate under a much different time scale than us pesky Humans, a century for us equating to a mere month for them. With that sort of lopsided time scale ratio, the observation by Aliens of the rise and fall of mankind’s modern industrial civilization on our small and fragile orb would be like Humans watching the rapid growth and die-off of bacteria in a Petri dish. There would really be no time to intervene, even if they felt we were worth saving.
      Humans cannot tell the truth or face the reality about much of anything in their society. Why would we think a more advanced alien life form would be interested in our survival. Perhaps such a belief is the ultimate hubris

      • xraymike79 says:

        Someone agrees that it is the ultimate hubris:

        “…nearly 7-billion humans are still mostly blind to the reality of ecological limits and harsh retribution of overshoot and collapse. This is the ultimate hubris—the hubris of human exceptionalism.

        “The whole human enterprise is a machine without brakes, for there are no indications that the world’s political leaders will deal with the realities until catastrophes occur. The rich countries are using resources with extravagant disregard for the next generation; and poor countries appear to incapable of acting to curb the population increases that are erasing their hope for a better future. In such a world, declarations and manifestos which ignore the imperatives of the limits of growth are empty exercises. All the available evidence says we have already passed a point of no return, and tragic human convulsions are at hand.” – Stewart Udall, Charles Conconi, and David Osterhout, The Energy Balloon

      • kulturcritic says:

        That is the message, Xray… incredible hubris!

  20. Frank Kling says:

    Sandy, I might also add that renown Harvard professor, Dr. John Mack, analyzed worldwide human encounters with ETs and concluded this common theme: Contractees are warned that humanity risks destroying the planet’s life support system unless drastic action is immediately taken to mitigate our environmental destruction.

    The NASA report confirms this analysis by Dr. Mack.

  21. patrizia says:

    Confessions of an economic hitman one of the most clarifying book on this subject.
    They talk about conspiracy or New World Order, but it is much simpler.
    A bunch (not many really) of people who have a special tactic to colonize.
    First corruption of the local government.
    IMF comes in the scene with huge loans they won’t be able to repay.
    Part of the loans finish in the politicians´ pockets, part to build infrastructures useful to the colonizing companies.
    It is a combined operation of finance and big corporations.
    Then they impoverish the population to the point they have to accept minimal wages and poor life conditions to survive.
    Then, when it is clear that no austerity measures or taxes will ever be able to repay the debts, there is the exploitation of the raw materials or agricultural resources of the country.
    This worked wonderfully for the third world.
    Now they are using the same tactics with the civilized world.
    First Greece.
    And in Italy they say:” Italy is NOT Greece, won’t have the same future!”
    Then they will say “France is not Italy!”
    Then “Germany is not like the rest of Europe”.
    Then one day:” We are all fucked.”
    And it will be too late.
    We will have a globalized world, with one currency and one government and the SAME RULES

  22. javacat says:

    Even in a doomsday scenarios, we still make ourselves the center of the friggin’ universe. Go figure.

  23. BretSimpson says:

    Passive-arregisive alcoholic avoidant with skisofrenic tendicies of average intelligence..who can’t spell….need a freind.

  24. Hi there! This post could not be written much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I am going to forward this information to him.
    Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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