Tag Archives: slavery

Featured Book: The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism

The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

By Gerald Horne, Monthly Review

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.” The seventeenth century was, according to Horne, an era when the roots of slavery, white supremacy, and capitalism became inextricably tangled into a complex history involving war and revolts in Europe, England’s conquest of the Scots and Irish, the development of formidable new weaponry able to ensure Europe’s colonial dominance, the rebel merchants of North America who created “these United States,” and the hordes of Europeans whose newfound opportunities in this “free” land amounted to “combat pay” for their efforts as “white” settlers.

Centering his book on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and what is now Great Britain, Horne provides a deeply researched, harrowing account of the apocalyptic loss and misery that likely has no parallel in human history. This is an essential book that will not allow history to be told by the victors. It is especially needed now, in the age of Trump. For it has never been more vital, Horne writes, “to shed light on the contemporary moment wherein it appears that these malevolent forces have received a new lease on life.”

Gerald Horne returns to the scene of the crimes that birthed the modern world. With cinematic flair, he takes us through what at first may appear to be familiar terrain—slavery, dispossession, settler colonialism, the origins of capitalism—but by extending his analytical lens to the entire globe, he delivers a fresh interpretation of the 17th century. His careful attention to European militarism, technology, national and imperial political dynamics disrupt the now common Anglo North American story of the emergence of whiteness, racial slavery, and class consolidation. Thanks to Horne, what Marx once called the ‘secret of primitive accumulation’ is no longer such a secret.

—Robin D. G. Kelley, author, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

This is history as it should be done. Acutely perceptive and solidly documented, lucidly presented and uncompromising in its conclusions, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism reveals the roots of our present socioeconomic nightmare with a force and clarity unrivaled by anything previously available. Gerald Horne, already a leading voice in forging a counterhegemonic understanding of the ‘empire of liberty’ we now inhabit, has truly surpassed himself. This book simply must be read.

—Ward Churchill, author, A Little Matter of Genocide

Gerald Horne strengthens his stature as one of our leading global historians with this ambitious and engaging book. Taking settler colonialism seriously as central to the development of whiteness, he brilliantly situates changes in that tiny part of the 17th century world in what would become the U.S. within far wider worlds of increasingly racialized commodities and cruelties. Among much else Horne demonstrates that colonies were not marginal to capitalism nor to the politics of the colonial powers.

—David Roedgier, University of Kansas; author, Class, Race, And Marxism

Drilling down in the 17th Century Atlantic world made by European colonialism through invasions, occupations, ethnic cleansing, and enslavement of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and Africa, historian Gerald Horne reveals the roots of white nationalism and capitalism, the pillars of the United States political-economy today. This brilliant, concise monograph is a must-read for all who propose to change the social order.

—Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

One of the preeminent global historians of repression and resistance, Gerald Horne has done it again. The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism follows the “three horsemen” that gave rise to the West: slavery, white supremacy, and capitalism. Horne’s erudite look at this seventeenth-century apocalypse brings together the hemispheric struggles of Black and Indigenous peoples for reparations. He shows that transnational solidarity is the greatest foe of settler colonial domination.

—Dan Berger, University of Washington; author, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism interrogates the roots of white supremacy, enslavement, and racism in the United States. Horne focuses on reconstructing England’s emergence as an empire and the impact of Cromwell’s ‘Glorious Revolution’ on its colonies in the Western Hemisphere in the 17th and early 18th centuries. He notes the ascendancy of the class interests of the ‘surging merchants’ or bourgeoisie in England and their white settler counterparts in the colonies, particularly in North America. The relationship between England’s Caribbean sugar colonies, particularly Jamaica and Barbados, with its settler colonies, is also explored. Horne’s text has relevance for our contemporary political reality and the persistence of settler colonialism ideology, structural racism, and racial capitalism today. His assessment that calls for a ‘massive program of reparations’ from African and Indigenous people to ‘repair immense damage inflicted over centuries’ is provocative and intriguing. The Apocalypse of Setter Colonialism is a must-read for all wishing to understand the historical roots of race oppression in the U.S. today.

—Akinyele Umoja, Professor and Department Chair, Department of African-American Studies, Georgia State University; author, We Will Shoot Back

Gerald Horne’s The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism is a meticulous history of the colonial era, one that opens portals into understanding the power of white nationalism to determine contemporary elections. Horne’s well-researched text maps the evolution of historical cross-class alliances among Europeans and settlers that enabled white voters to consistently choose racial animus over decency. Imperial capitalism, rapacious colonialism, human trade, genocidal wars—all were incubated by the white racism that stabilizes the present order. Apocalypse details how centuries of warfare, greed or need in both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds were resolved by slavery and the spilling of African and Indigenous blood. Despite the efforts of maroonage to stem its rise, a ‘master race’ addicted to a b`ete noire-as-cash crop thrived. Essential reading for those who wish to comprehend how the past led to the violence of the present order, and how best to plot an alternate trajectory.

—Joy James, Williams College; author, Seeking the Beloved Community: A Feminist Race Reader

Lexicon: Colonialism

By Maia Ramnath, from the IAS Lexicon pamphlet series, February 2012

(Download it in PDF format for pamphlet printing)

The Lexicon pamphlet series, a new project of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), aims to convert words into politically useful tools—for those already engaged in a politics from below as well as the newly approaching—by offering definitional understandings of commonly used keywords. Each Lexicon is a two-color pamphlet featuring one keyword or phrase, defined in about 2,000 words of text, and all pamphlets are available for free from the IAS, or can be downloaded here for printing and sharing. The first five pamphlets, designed by Josh MacPhee of Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and printed by P&L Printing in Denver, are: “Power” by Todd May, “Colonialism” by Maia Ramnath, “Gender” by Jamie Heckert. “Anarchism” by Cindy Milstein, and “White Supremacy” by Joel Olson. Stay tuned for more titles in this growing series.

Colonialism can refer to a transnational process of domination, the policies by which it is carried out, and the ideologies that underwrite it. Modern colonialism has taken various forms since the Iberian, British, and French (and later German, Belgian, and Italian) incursions into Asia, Africa, and the Americas—whether for armed trade, armed missionizing, or armed settlement—began to escalate from the late fifteenth century onward.

In its “classical” historical form (roughly the late eighteenth to mid-twentieth century), the colonial relationship consisted of a metropolitan center ruling its conquered satellites from afar, through a combination of proxy rulers and local colonial administration answerable to the “home” power. For the metropole, holding colonies maximized its advantage relative to other so-called Great Powers by securing access to resources and strategic points. Meanwhile, a colony would be cemented into a position of economic dependency by which the metropole sucked surplus value from its claimed possessions in the form of plundered raw materials (mineral wealth, flora and fauna, and plantation cash crops), while selling manufactured goods back to them. The residents of a conquered region thus played the roles of superexploited cheap or coerced labor and captive consumer markets, while their own prior modes of subsistence and production were decimated. This economic pattern required colonial rulers to maintain a strong military presence as well as a trained class of native collaborators to make its local administration and policing feasible.

The act of initial takeover, from the perspective of surplus wealth extraction (aka developmental aid), is sometimes called the moment of primitive accumulation, or accumulation by dispossession. The latter term makes it clear that this wasn’t just a singular, originary event long in the past but rather a process that constantly continues to expand, regularized through a symbiotic combination of direct governmentality and subsidized corporate activity.

This kind of formalized system collapsed when the two world wars broke up the European imperial powers. New superpowers, however, were already emerging to take their place as global imperial rivals. As international politics froze into their cold war polarization while the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa attempted to maintain their hard-won independence outside either bloc, Kwame Nkrumah popularized the phrase neocolonialism to describe the situation they now risked. What he meant by calling neocolonialism “the highest stage of imperialism” (in reference to Vladimir Lenin’s famous formulation of imperialism as “the highest form of capitalism”) was that even if formal political independence was recognized, “freedom” was in substance meaningless if global economic power imbalances still replicated or even exceeded those of the classical colonial period.

Nkrumah was Ghana’s first democratically elected leader, and one of the key figures in both the Pan-Africanist movement and Non-Aligned Movement of decolonizing countries in Africa and Asia as well as in India, Egypt, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia. Joined by Latin America— which by then had already been struggling for almost 150 years against exactly that kind of relationship to the United States—the countries of what we now call the Global South formed the “Tricontinental” alliance against recolonization in all but name: by proxy in local conflicts, covert ops to install dictators subservient to the desired interests, or economic domination.

More recently still, what’s been called globalization since the 1980s and 1990s manifests as more of the same, but in a drastically intensified form. With the Soviet Union out of the way, the Washington Consensus laid out the principles of neoliberalism to be exercised on the same regions, now primarily through mechanisms like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G20, and World Economic Forum. The conditions for International Monetary Fund loans required adherence to structural adjustment programs demanding that the entirety of a recipient country’s social programs be eliminated, privatized, and deregulated, and that all its financial resources previously geared toward public goods like health, education, housing, and transportation be moved toward servicing debt—that is to say, wealth redistribution toward a transnational capitalist elite, or a tiny point of a pyramid supported by a vast base of the dispossessed.

In this way, decolonizing or “developing” countries have been locked in perpetual debt, sacrificing collective welfare to the demands of corporations and their sponsors—by no coincidence, the same pool of corporations that have profited the most from the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq over the last ten years. What we’re now seeing in North America and Europe—the widespread loss of homes and livelihoods—are the effects of neoliberalism, or exactly what’s been going on for decades in the Global South. (Here’s a parallel: when fascism overtook Europe in the 1930s, many recognized that the same genocidal logics and draconian techniques had long been routine in the colonies. What was new was the application of these dehumanizing techniques and ideologies to the metropoles, to people previously classified—though in some cases precariously—on the near side of the racial and cultural divide instead of to those conveniently far away.)

Hence, what North Americans now experience resonates in form with the most recent manifestation of colonization. But there’s an important difference: history, along with our resulting locations, literally and figuratively.

The continued expansion of capitalism has always depended on colonialism—that is, on externalizing its costs and reaching ever farther afield for inputs. This means that a political entity with an interest in generating profit has to project its power outside its territorial jurisdiction in order to do so—and that’s imperialism. This may occur through economic or military means, hard power or soft, or some combination thereof.

Furthermore, colonial projects and imperial projections require some form of racism as a legitimizing base. The stability of all colonial systems has ultimately depended on maintaining, at great effort, a strict line, supposedly existential but in truth ideological, of which one side must be portrayed as irredeemably alien, primitive, inferior, evil, scary, and/or less human. That was the only way to create justification for enslavement or genocide, whether to a public whose participation was required or another power. Some forms of this have included Christian missionary efforts, Orientalism, racialist pseudoscience, and the liberal civilizing mission, aka the white man’s burden. This is why anticolonial resistance movements in the Global South have so often been interconnected with antiracist mobilizations in the Global North; they were both linked manifestations of the same phenomenon, same logic, and same historical processes.

Two of these processes—two related techniques of colonization—are of particular relevance to contemporary repertoires of civil disobedience and their relationship to space. The first is military occupation, in which an imperial power moves its army into a place to demand its submission by brute force. The second is a subset of the colonial enterprise known as settler colonialism—in which an imperial power engages in what amounts to ethnic cleansing or a massive population transfer, by moving its own people permanently into a region, rather than just defending bases or enclaves. Occupation in these contexts means the illegitimate claiming of space: invasion, conquest, sanctioned vigilantism against prior residents. That, of course, is the dirty open secret on which the United States was founded: there is no unoccupied land here.

This is why decolonization may actually be a more accurate term for what protest movements that utilize occupation as a tactic intend to do when they establish a sustained presence in a space claimed by government, military, or corporate entities, such as (to name just a few examples) the American Indian Movement did at Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and elsewhere since the 1970s; students did at universities throughout California and New York in 2008–9; and Argentinean workers did in their factories in 2001. The first example is certainly a more direct opposition to explicit colonization and conquest in the textbook sense. Nevertheless, all such actions are essentially moves toward reversing the process of dispossession; dismantling relationships of inequity and the legal/governmental structures that protect them; halting the suck of wealth extraction from the bottom to the top of the pyramid; restoration of the commons; and refusal to sacrifice the priorities of collective social well- being to the profits of an elite few. When externalized and mapped onto racialized divisions between an elite and a population to which it is seen as external, these grievances are all aspects of the colonization process.

To struggle against it, then, must also include historically contextualizing our own economic, political, and geographic locations. This enables us, among other things, to understand the connections between the rights of immigrants and indigenous peoples, both forcibly displaced by the demands of the global economy and militarization of borders, and recognize, unweave, and replace persistent racism, sexism, and all other related patterns of oppression by which colonial dominion has been justified.