Imperialism and Capitalism
Imperialism which is often considered to be a final stage of capitalism was a logical continuation of industrialization, development of trade and colonization. Global trade and goods exchange have united Europe, Africa, America and Asia into an integral organism. Imperial system as well as interaction between the major colonial super-powers guaranteed economical stability and peace. Colonies were perfect markets for the goods produced in metropolises and were used as emergency zones in cases of overproduction in order to prevent global or local economical crisis.
Colonies were used as raw material donors of metropolitan industry. In order to prevent movement for political and economical independence, colonies were not allowed to have industrial objects as their economical activity was limited to farming and mining. On the hand with traditional colonial system which took place in France, Great Britain, Belgium which had huge possessions worldwide, American imperialism had introduced a new one without any formal colonial possessions.
American imperialism was different from British and French as it penetrated into independent countries, making their single-sector economies be dependent upon the price policies set by American corporations. American imperialists used different methods in order to widen their spheres of influence in western hemisphere: bribery of corrupted officials, aiding political opposition of unwanted regimes and even open intervention by American troops which always ended with establishing of puppet governments. These methods were used on Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto-Rico.
The effects of imperialism are quite different both for colonies and imperial metropolises: from one side goods exchange ensured economical stability, from the other side imperial ambitions of superpowers resulted WW1. Colonies experienced mostly negative impacts: industrial backwardness, dependence upon metropolises, poverty, social injustice and discrimination. Of course the appearance of imperialism as a new world order at the beginning of the twentieth century had provoked continuing discussions about its real impacts on civilization.
Contemporaries either supported imperialism or sharply criticized it. Kipling, for example, insisted that imperialism was a logical continuation of civilization progress and it was vital in order western civilization to survive, as it prevented it from economical and social crisis, guaranteed goods exchange, development of trade and stability in western world. This concept is rather conservative as Kipling also supports the idea of racial and cultural superiority of western civilization and this factor is considered to be justification of colonial expansion in his theory.
On the other hand such authors as Hobson consider imperialism to be one of the alternatives to economical development which has a global character and is resulted by concentration of wealth within one country. Hobson argues that in order world economy to develop, this wealth has to be distributed overseas as it will promote development of both economies: metropolitan and colonial. The growth of anti-imperialist movement was resulted by its destructive influence on colonial countries which appeared to be in total dependence from imperialist states.
Anti-imperialist movement took place in India, China, and Latin America. In fact the accident which led to WW1 had also anti-imperialist background, as Serbian revolutionaries were afraid that Serbia will become a dependent territory of Austria-Hungary. The results of WW1 were contradictory for different countries. Four European empires: Germany, Austria Hungary, Russian and Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918 when the war was over.
Moreover, prolonged economical and social crisis caused by the 4 years of bloody war had resulted a series of revolutions and public unrest world wide, changing political orientation of many countries. Bolshevik revolution in Russia brought to power a small group of political radicals led by Vladimir Lenin, who started to build a new order in semi-feudal country according to Marxist ideas of equality, abolition of private property and establishment of proletariat dictatorship. Tsarist regime was substituted by a new radical ideology of communism which was alien to Russian peasants and middle class.
The years of prolonged terror, artificial hunger, repressions had changed the country and had changed people”s mentality to the mentality of oppressed people who was living under dictator”s rule. A new Soviet nation was raised in the fear of capitalist world, in the fear of the possible threat from the side of international capitalism and in constant preparation for war. Actually the premises for future cold war originated in interwar period and foreign intervention against Soviet Russia in 1919-1921 had only deepened fear of Soviet people.
Stalin, a new leader of Communist party had created his own doctrine of socialist state. Rapid industrialization and collectivization in agricultural sector had changed country”s economy, making it stable and more advanced. In fact, Communist Russia was the only country which experienced economical growth starting from middle 1920″s and going all the way to 1941, whiles the world of capitalism was suffering from global economical crisis. Communism became a potential threat for capitalist world and the USSR had become an ideological enemy of the West.
Stalin understood it quite well and was getting ready for a possible war. Industrialization and militarization of economy were essential in order to survive and provide security to the country. As the power of the Soviet Union grew, it became obvious that it would have territorial ambitions for the spread of communist ideology worldwide. Prosperity in major European countries and in the USA in early 1920″s was contrasted by deep economical and social crisis in Germany and Italy.
The conditions of Versailles treaty had imposed unbearable obligations on Germany as the government of Weimar republic had to pay huge reparations to victors of WW1. Besides, ruined infrastructure of Germany lacked mineral resources and industry as Germany lost the region of Saar, Alsace-Lorraine and several major seaports on the coast of the Baltic Sea together with several colonies in Africa and Asia. The country had no opportunity for development; new democratic government failed to rebuild country”s infrastructure, only irritating people and provoking social unrest.
Humiliated nation wanted revenge and retreat. Liberties and democratic freedoms of Weimar constitution were not popular as the nation felt nostalgia about the time of iron order and international respect. Crisis of Weimar republic turned into growth of nationalism and chauvinistic ideas, supported by common people and former WW1 soldiers and officers who were left forgotten by government. This is the main explanation of fascism success in Germany. Crisis in Italy had many similar features to German one.
Unemployment, poverty and social unrest in early 1920″s had created a favorable climate for the rise of Benito Mussolini, the leader of a new party formed by WW1 soldiers and officers who were irritated by economical crisis. Mussolini”s populist ideas were close both to common people ans to upper classes as he promised social stability and order. Mussolini”s political program was successful in 1920″s and in early 1930″s as he stabilized economy, solved major social problems of poverty, unemployment and other social vices and returned self respect and pride to Italian nation.
His government controlled media, regulated economy and social life of the country. But at the same time Mussolini revealed militaristic ambitions of fascist Italia- intervention and capture of Abyssinia is the best proof of it. War in Abyssinia was not the only conflict fought after the WW1. On the Far East, Militarist Japan started intervention against Manchuria in 1938. These conflicts have shown the weakness of League of Nation, organization which was created in order to preserve peace and prevent wars and local conflicts.
Economical crisis on the hand with disintegration of the capitalist world and growing threat from ideological enemy of capitalism-the USSR demonstrate the complicated system international relations in inter-war period. The results of WW1 became obvious after the 20 year period: 2 totalitarian states (the USSR and Nazi Germany) which had colonial ambitions stood against disintegrated democratic world, which was to weak to resist aggression of these two superpowers. The inter war period in the world history is characterized by three different concepts of state development: communist, fascist and traditional democratic.
Even though they are hostile, each was successful on a certain stage of development as it had taken ruined Russian empire, Germany and the USA out of economical crisis and had returned confidence and stability to their peoples. After Bolsheviks revolution in Russia, former empire was turned into a new state ruled by the Communist Party. Communist party of the USSR had made radical changes realizing Marxist ideas about revolution and dictatorship of proletariat: abolition of private property, nationalization and equality of all citizens.
Understandably in a patriarchal agricultural country with underdeveloped industry and ruined economy any idea about a strong state of proletariat (working class) would fail, but not in Russia. Stalin, who became the head of the communist party in 1928, had his own plan how to reform economy: he proclaimed a course on rapid industrialization and collectivization of farming enterprises. In order to achieve development of industry he performed redistribution of property, expropriating agricultural products from peasants and making them work in kolkhozes (collective state owned farms).
In fact he turned free farmers into state slaves who had no property and had to work on state farms in order to survive. This cruel and inhuman practice gave the opportunity to develop heavy industry; mining and it gave the opportunity to start militarization. These results were achieved by numerous victims of innocent people who suffered from repressions and great purges as Stalin”s regime eliminated anyone who had another opinion on the destiny of the country. The total number of Stalin”s victims exceeds 20 million people. So what were his achievements?
In quite a short period (20 years) Russia was turned into an industrial state with developing industry and one of the strongest armies in Europe. Society had changed as it was developing according to a socialist model. State was the only power in the country, state was the only property owner. Citizens in majority were nearly equal; the difference between those who had the highest and the lowest income was not really distinct as in capitalist world. In fact, state provided a working citizen with essential facilities for living and guaranteed basic social and medial care.
People got the facilities in order to work good enough but nothing else. The order in the country was realized by a total control of media, press and oppression of any potential opposition. Communism substituted religion as the official religion of communist state was atheism, communist party controlled all spheres of life, which led to the isolation of the country. Free market was substituted by barter within the country and market relations were substituted by planned economy..
From historical point of view, the politics of Stalin, even being brutal and inhuman, was justified by historical need, as in order to survive and not collapse, Soviet Russia had to become a super power with a strong army and developed industry from an out-dated, semi-feudal empire with ineffective state management and corrupted aristocratic government. The main weakness of Stalin”s Russia was that the only condition under which the country could stand and continue its development was the policy of terror and oppression of any potential threat in the face of political opposition.
Such kind of regime, based only on suppression of human individualism, collectivism and isolation from the rest of the world would definitely fail if some liberties were allowed. So if to look on the history of the Soviet Union starting from Nikita Khrushchev we will see the gradual decline of totalitarian empire, which collapsed in 1991. Another example of totalitarian state of inter-war period is Nazi Germany. Nazi Germany led by Adolph Hitler embodied fascist ideas about a strong state with iron order. Hitler”s phenomenon was a direct result of Versailles Treaty consequences for after war Germany.
Humiliated nation, which suffered the burden of huge reparations, deep economical; depression and social crisis caused by ineffective politics of democratic government of Weimar republic wanted the only thing retreat and revenge. So chauvinist and radical ideas of Nazis have succeeded. Germans saw a leader in Hitler, who promised return international respect and prosperity to the nation. Hitler”s political program was very simple and it satisfied Germans fully. Hitler promised descent work to workers and guaranteed protection of private property to businessmen.
But his political program was also based on racial hatred, anti-Semitism, blind chauvinism and aggression. Nazis used nearly the same methods of oppression Stalin practiced during “great purges”, but they focused on ethnic non-German minorities, Communists and political opposition to Hitler”s national-Socialist Party. German economy during Hitler”s regime was also state regulated, as the owners of industrial objects had certain obligations: they had to provide decent wages to workers and had to fulfill industrial state orders.
Hitler had changed economy, he made it military oriented preparing the nation for a war. Social life during Nazi regime was also subjected to total control, fascist government controlled media, eliminated political opposition, persecuted ethnic minorities, which turned into Holocaust and genocide during WW2. Hitler”s regime which had to solve racial and territorial question was inhuman and contradicted modern human consciousness. It had to be stop anyway by international coalition, otherwise the absurd and paranoia of one man would cause a world human tragedy.
The methods of state regulation were also present during Roosevelt”s office even though he represented a free democratic country living under the laws of capitalism. Roosevelt”s New deal was a set of reforms and a set of measures taken in order to relief the affects of the Great depression. State regulation over prices, control over banks activity and other measures had strengthened economy, getting the country of crisis. Nevertheless, despite the terrible affects of economical crisis and Great depression the USA stood and recovered.
Comparing social and economical situation in the USSR, the USA and Germany in inter-war period we may find several similar features in activities of their governments. All of them provided social programs for citizens in order to guarantee realization of basic human living needs: health care, education, social protection and basic welfare programs. All three political regimes used state control over economy, which never used before. But in comparison to the USA where it had a temporary character, Germany and the USSR used it as an integral method of state administration which guaranteed stability and security.