Neocolonialism is a term used by Marxist as well as non-Marxist groups and individuals to describe operations at the international level during the era when colonial empires, created by the European powers in the 18th and 19th centuries, are no longer in existence. These critics allege that both nations and corporations have aimed to control other nations through indirect means; that in lieu of direct military-political control, neocolonialist powers employ economic, financial and trade policies to dominate less powerful countries. Those who subscribe to the concept maintain this amounts to a de facto control over targeted nations.
They portray the choice to grant or to refuse granting loans, especially by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as a decisive form of control. They argue that in order to qualify for these loans (as well as other forms of economic aid), weaker nations are forced to take steps favourable to the financial interests of the IMF/WB, but detrimental to their own economies, increasing rather than alleviating their poverty.
Critics of neocolonialism also attempt to demonstrate that investment by multinational corporations enriches few in underdeveloped countries, and causes humanitarian (as well as environmental and ecological) devastation to the populations which inhabit 'neocolonies.' This, it is argued, results in unsustainable development and perpetual underdevelopment; a dependency which cultivates those countries as reservoirs of cheap labor and raw materials, while restricting their access to advanced production techniques to develop their own economies.
By contrast, critics of the concept of neocolonialism argue that, while the First World does profit from cheap labour and raw materials in underdeveloped nations, ultimately, it does serve as a positive modernizing force for development in the Third World.
Neocolonialism: origins in decolonization
The term neocolonialism first saw widespread use, particularly in reference to Africa, soon after the post-WWII process of decolonization which followed a struggle by many national independence movements in the colonies. Upon gaining independence, some national leaders and opposition groups argued that their countries were being subjected to a new form of colonialism, waged by the former colonial powers and other developed nations. In Africa, the French played a prominent role in charges of conducting a neocolonialist policy, and that French troops in Africa were (and it is argued, still are) often involved in coups resulting in a regime acting in the interests of France but against its country's own interests.
FRELIMO and the MPLA opposed neocolonialism while still fighting an anti-colonial war.
Denunciations of necolonialism also became popular with some national independence movements while they were still waging anti-colonial armed struggle. During the 1970s, in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, for example, the rhetoric espoused by the Marxist movements FRELIMO and MPLA (respectively), which were to eventually assume power upon those nations' independence, rejected both old colonialism and neocolonialism.
Africa: Neocolonialist allegations against the IMF
Those who argue that neocolonialism historically supplanted or supplemented colonialism, point to the fact that Africa today pays more money every year (in loan interest payments) to the IMF/WB than it receives in loans from them, thereby often depriving the inhabitants of those countries from actual necessities. This dependency, they maintain, allows the IMF/WB to impose Structural Adjustment Plans upon these nations. Adjustments largely consisting of privatization programmes which they say result in deteriorating health, education, an inability to develop infrastructure, and in general, lower living standards.
They also point to recent statements made by United Nations Secretary-General's Special Economic Adviser, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, who heatedly demanded that the entire African debt (~$200 billion) be forgiven outright and recommended that African nations simply stop paying if the WB/IMF do not reciprocate:
Forgiveness of African debt: Jeffrey Sachs
The time has come to end this charade. The debts are unaffordable. If they won't cancel the debts I would suggest obstruction; you do it yourselves. Africa should say: 'thank you very much but we need this money to meet the needs of children who are dying right now so we will put the debt servicing payments into urgent social investment in health, education, drinking water, control of AIDS and other needs.' (Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia and Special Economic Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan).
Critics of the IMF have conducted studies as to the effects of its policy which demands currency devaluations. They pose the argument that the IMF requires these devaluations as a condition for refinancing loans, while simultaneously insisting that the loan be repaid in dollars or other First World currencies against which the underdeveloped country's currency had been devalued — this, they say, increases the respective debt by the same percentage of the currency being devalued, therefore amounting to a scheme for keeping Third World nations in perpetual indebtedness, impoverishment and neocolonial dependence.
Other approaches to concept of neocolonialism
Although the neocolonialist approach was developed by Marxists, the rhetoric of neocolonialism is now also employed by promoters of conspiracy theories on the extreme right. One variant of the neocolonialist view suggests the existence of "cultural colonialism," the alleged desire of wealthy nations to control other nations' values and perceptions through cultural means, such as media, language, education and religion, purportedly ultimately for economic reasons.
- Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, by Kwame Nkrumah (former Prime Minister and President of Ghana), originally published 1965 http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/nkrumah/neo-colonialism/
- Comments by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs - BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3869081.stm
- Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs video (ram) - hosted by Columbia Univ. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/vforum/03/globalization_inequality/jeffreySachs.
- The myth of Neo-colonialism by Tunde Obadina, director of Africa Business Information Services (AfBIS) http://www.afbis.com/analysis/neo-colonialism.html
- http://www.francewatcher.org — The website states: It is just a matter of time before France commits another genocide or regime change in Africa. French neocolonialism is ongoing and continues to have serious consequences, including genocide and civil wars, naked exploitation and environmental devastation.
- http://www.africahistory.net/imf.htm — IMF: Market Reform and Corporate Globalization, by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali, Prof. of History and African Studies, Conne. State Univ. Opening passage reads: The bosses of Africa are the WB and the IMF. Their programme is to integrate Africa into a system of economic neo-colonialism...
- Mongo Beti , Main basse sur le Cameroun. Autopsie d'une décolonisation (1972), new edition La Découverte, Paris 2003
A classical critique of neocolonialism. Raymond Marcellin, the french minister of the interior at the time, tried to prohibit the book. It could only be published after fierce legal battles.
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