II. The Making of Nations
Growing up at a time when national liberation movements dictated the firefights of world politics, we nevertheless haven't thought much about nations themselves. Now neo-colonialism has placed heavy stress along the national fault lines of the u.s.a., making its future shape as a nation uncertain. Some people go around opposing nationalism as inherently oppressive. They don't want any nations over them, and oppose the State as anti-freedom. They particularly don't want male nations hanging over them.
Other people go around wanting a nation, so they can get out from under their oppressors. The only way they see to govern themselves is to control a space, a territory, have their own nation. Both viewpoints are true.
Start with colonialism: in its most general sense, colonialism is defined as the conquest & ownership of one people or country by another. As such, it has obviously been around a long time. While colonialism in that broadest sense is not a class structure but a process, it has been the DNA out of which class structures have grown. In the modem age, people usually use the term to specifically refer to the system of Westem Capitalism & its colonial empires.
So we have to view the duality of colonialism, as both the Western capitalist system and all the earlier oppressions — such as those of women and other submerged peoples — that led up to it.
Colonialism, which in general obviously long predated capitalism, is the source of capitalist industrialization & thus of modern Western culture. From it alone came the capital investment & the kkkulture to build the industry, military, and technology that gave the West world supremacy. This is not a discussion of the past so much as it is the future. Stay tuned.
The intellectual representatives of capitalism duck & dodge on this. They want us to believe that the breakthrough to scientific civilization was generated within whitesville, by white entrepreneurial profits, by white technology. White "marxists" have said the same thing in different terms, saying that industrialization came from white people ruthlessly exploiting the white working class. Karl Marx himself, of course, wrote more than once that the world-shaking rise of industrial capitalism was completely based on Afrikan slavery. Without which, he said, capitalism would have suffered "the total decay of trade and of modern civilization."
It wasn't until modem anti-colonial movements began that the relationship between colonialism and capitalist development began to be investigated scientifically — by the oppressed. An example out of many: In 1943, the West Indian historian Eric Williams (later to be prime minister of de-colonized Trinidad) wrote Capitalism and Slavery, a landmark study which proved that British industrialization was created by the Afrikan slave trade. He told how James Watts' invention of the steam engine that was the breakthrough power source for the West's factories, railroads and ships, was financed by slave traders. In his brilliant study, Williams explained how the British automobile industry, their giant Lloyds and Barclays banks (still among the world's largest), and even the affluent & supposedly pacifist Quakers who began those banks were financed by the immense profits of the Afrikan slave trade.
Radical feminist theoreticians, in particular the circle around German sociologist Maria Mies, have reached back even further and excavated the colonial roots of Western capitalism in the conquest 8e ownership of women. What Maria Mies, in her ground-breaking book, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, calls the "inner colony," The significance of what they've done is that their insights are the "missing link", connecting up the inner life of patriarchal european culture to the outer life of capitalist world conquest, from feudalism to neo-colonialism. The difference in this angle of insight is an even more radical cut on how capitalism, beneath its veil of profits & wages, runs on genocide. As a structural necessity, as it's daily fare. To quote from the first chapter of Women & Children in the Armed Struggle, an Amazon Nation paper that embodies this new critique of Western capitalism:1
"Genocide is itself a basic economic activity, what lies behind commodity production under the capitalist system. Genocide, i say, begins with the global wiping out of women's society and women's economy, and the resulting slave labor of hundreds of millions of women and children.
"euro-capitalism first arose through the era of the Witchhunt — the institutionalized terror against women in Western Europe that lasted over 500 years, from the 12th through the 17th centuries. Women accused of being witches were arrested and tortured by the authorities until they confessed to being agents of satan.
"The total number of women imprisoned, tortured and/or killed by the Wtchhunt was in the millions. One German prosecutor alone, Benedict Carpzov of Saxony, signed 20,000 death sentences of accused women in his career. In the patriarchy's history books all this is trivialized as a bit of religious histeria or merely a colorful case of how ignorant people were back then.
"What is real is that the Witchhunt was a social institution, in which the killing of women was tied to the birth of euro-capitalism. This is where our amerikkka began, in the first 'Right to Life' movement.
"Women were attacked in so violent a way not because of feudal backwardness, but because of the needs of the new capitalism gradually being born within the old European society. The patriarchy's Witchhunt was in the first place directly economic, a means of unwaged capital accumulation. Special bodies of armed men seized women's property to help finance the growth of nation-states.
"There were many independent women in feudal society. Craftswomen weaving silk and other fine textiles, small street merchants selling produce and handicrafts, women farmers. In some cities women had their own guilds (early form of unions) of artisans. Endless royal wars over land and trade routes had left numerous widows with small houses, perhaps a shop or other property. And peasant families, unable to feed all their children, sent their girl-children away to the cities to find their own livelihoods as artisans, prostitutes or peddlers.
"It was independent women who were the main targets of the Witchhunt. When Catherine Hernot, postmistress of the German city of Cologne, was burned at the stake as a witch, it was because a powerful family wanted a monopoly on the lucrative postal business. Unmarried women, who were not owned by a man, were a majority of those burned as witches, with widows being 40-50% of the victims.
"In the Witchunt all the property of arrested women belonged to the State, with the court system taking part of the loot as fees to the male lawyers, bailiffs and soldiers. But the lion's share of this wealth minted from slaughtering women went to the State treasuries. It paid for the armies of men who produced nothing useful, for highways to carry trade, for expeditions to 'discover' the Third World — in short, the pre-conditions for capitalism to grow.
"In unwaged capital accumulation from the looting of outlawed and marginalized people, Europe was learning the methods that it would use in colonialism. Women were euro-capitalism's first colony, the 'inner colony' as European radical feminists have termed it.
"It wasn't superstition, then, but cold, cold business that led one German official, bailiff Geiss of Lindheim, to write his lord for permission to kill a new batch of women (just think of him as ollie north or ed koch and you'll know him):
"'If only your lordship would be willing to start the burning, we would gladly provide the firewood and bear all other costs, and your Lordship would earn so much that the bridge and also the Church could be well repaired.'
"'Moreover, you would get so much that you could pay your servants a better salary in the future, because one could confiscate whole houses and particularly the more well-to-do ones.'
"It wasn't just that cash, however. No, they had to do it. The Wthchhunt was real to them because there really were witches they had to hunt down — radical women and women seeking knowledge forbidden to us.
"Rebellion against the corruption took many forms. One that involved many thousands of women was the movement of voluntary poverty. That was a social and political struggle in religious form.
"Beginning in the 13th century women called Beguines appeared, living communally in groups of women's houses and wearing hooded robes of grey or black. They supported themselves by handicrafts or begging (from the Beguines and their male counterparts, the Beghards, come our present words, 'beggar' and 'begging'). Some wandered from town to town as vagabonds, preaching a kind of liberation theology to other women.
"Voluntary poverty was not a renunciation of the world to Beguines as it was to many medieval nuns, but a means to revolutionize the world for women escaping the patriarchal family. Beguines said that the acquiring of material wealth was an absolute evil. Owning any individual property, even jewelry or numerous changes of clothing, was considered wrong.
"Beguines didn't marry. In fact, many of them upheld the right of people to freely have sexual relations without sin. That was a radical idea for women in that age. As was their insistence on women educating themselves and writing their own religious doctrines.
"Those women were not just critics of the feudal order, but were trying to organize women and men into an alternate culture against the encroaching capitalism. As part of the heretical socio-religious movement of 'the Free Spirit', they said that no one who was in the upper classes was without sin, while the oppressed classes were the sole bearers of righteousness.
"Beguines numbered the hundreds of thousands, primarily in France, Belgium and Germany. In the German city of Cologne alone there were 2,000 Beguines by the 13th century. They came to this culture of voluntary communalism and poverty from every class: craftswomen and widows of merchants, urban workers and former peasants.
"In some medieval cities a certain neighborhood would become the women's quarter, with most houses occupied by Beguines and other independent women. One historian estimated that the Beguine community in the city of Strasbourg, France, was at least 10% of the total population.
"Beguines were a non-hierarchical people, with each house making its own rules, electing its own leaders, and deciding its own finances. Many Beguine houses were led by peasant or working class women, in contrast to Europe's growing class barriers. The Beguine women's communities were really the only democracy anywhere in Europe.
"While early feudal society, like Rome and Greece before it, saw women as lesser beings and the rightful property of one man or another, the emerging euro-capitalist order categorized women first as a natural resource of the nation-state. Biological factories like forests of timber and herds of meat. And this was as capitalist development itself was causing chaos, forcing migration and abandonment of the old ways, and as more women were rebelling. The Witchhunt was meant to destroy women as a people, so that the capitalist nation-state could rise up.
"White women still take all this with a grain of salt, as the saying goes. These are merely tales of the bad old past, which can be safely appreciated as comforting proof that 'you've come along way, baby!' 'Cause it's so different for us now. In one generation we got women astronauts and women execs, women paratroopers and women mayors. Not only sex discrimination lawsuits, but Gerry and Martina, too.
"What's it mean, then, to talk about the Witchhunt and genocide against women? White feminists today like to identify with the 'witches.' That's what i mean, we don't know who we are. We aren't the 'witches.' We are the ones on the other side: the loyal sisters and wives of the euro-men doing the policing and burning The sisters of patriarchy trying to protect themselves from the terrorism by submitting, trying to be the unthreatening helpers.
"We were taught to join Dick in doing genocide, lest we, too, be his victims. After generations of conditioning and bribing, we follow Dick's rules as a reflex, without even noticing.
"One big rule is cover up genocide: never see it, never admit it.
"The impact of expanding Europe on what is now called the Third World was supposedly a collision of advanced whites and undeveloped colored people, of euro-capitalism's superior science and economic power overwhelming primitive tribes. But in 1492, when Christopher Columbus' expedition ran into the Caribbean islands, Europe was not advanced over the nations of Asia, Afrika, the Middle East and the Western Hemisphere. It's technology and economy were different, but not advanced or superior. It's that difference that we gotta focus on.
"In many respects, euro-civilization was both technologically and economically backward. Europe was known as a poor barbarian region isolated on the periphery of the trade routes between the world's main civilizations.
"I know this is hard to believe, because everyone just 'knows' that for whatever reasons, modern science and industry first came into being in Europe and settler amerikkka of the mid-1660s.
"There are British-trained physicians, men representing the most advanced medical science that euro-capitalism had. But they didn't seem to be able to do anything about smallpox, the most feared contagious disease of the times. Not only did smallpox, a viral infection, exterminate whole Indian communities, but it continued to kill and disfigure thousands of white settlers.
"White people did notice, though, that many of their Afrikan slaves didn't get smallpox even in the midst of epidemics. This was puzzling to the white doctors.
"Of course, the reason that some Afrikan slaves didn't catch smallpox was that they had been immunized as children in Afrika, or had been secretly immunized in the slave quarters. For in the region of West Afrika that most slaves came from, smallpox was known and a crude inoculation against it was already known (using pinpricks to transfer some clear serum from a smallpox sore to the body of an uninfected person; what resulted was milder infection producing the antibodies that gave lifelong immunity to smallpox, although some still died from the crude inoculation). All slaves who knew were sworn not to tell Europeans.
"So who was backward and who had the advanced medical technology? Just because they were captives, laborers kept in rags, didn't mean that Afiikans had no science. Even though their science had to be practiced as a conspiracy.
"Afrikan slaves here were party to scientific knowledge that was shared by most of the world: with the Han empire in China, with Arab civilization, with Greece and Turkey, with the physicians of the Moghul empire in India (who are thought to have used smallpox inoculation since 1000 A.D.). Except in areas where the disease was rate, such as in the Western Hemisphere, the major civilizations of the world knew — but not backward Europe.
"Afiikan slaves had been secretly using smallpox inoculation for almost a century, before amerikkkans found out how to do it. And again, it wasn't any white male physician with his degrees and bank accounts who learned. It was a woman to woman transfer of science. British feminist Mary Wortley Montagu learned about inoculation from Turkish women (she was married to the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, though for her it was only an escape from an arranged marriage). In 1717 she wrote her friend, 'Mrs' S.C.':
'I am going to tell you a thing that will make you wish yourself here. The small-pox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated...'
"In that same year Mary Montagu demonstrated smallpox inoculation on her son, and by 1721 it was being tried, with great controversy, by the medical patriarchs of England. There was much fear and superstition about this Vaccine among white society, ordinary as it was to the rest of the world.
"Public fears about smallpox inoculation reached the point of hysteria in the amerikkkan colonies.
"Even though the campaign for smallpox inoculation was led by Cotton Mather, the greatest of the New England Puritan ministers and the man who had earlier led the campaign to root out the hidden nests of 'witches' among white women.
"Mather himself was attacked, and his home firebombed, during the inoculation controversy of 1721. Mather stuck to his guns because his Afrikan slave, 'Onesimus,' had advised him that all the slaves knew that inoculation did work, and that he, 'Onesimus,' had been inoculated himself as a child in West Afrika.
"The science of what is now called the Third World was still leading and teaching the backward European civilization.
"There's barbed point inside all this.
"When we strip away the mystique of euro-capitalist technology, we find that it runs on genocide. And it had its origins in conquest, not in the thrown-out musing of Greek philosophers. euro-capitalism didn't colonialize the world because of its superior sciences and industry. That proposition has things upside down. Only from its ever expanding conquests and genocide of other peoples and nations, did euro-capitalist civilization slowly gain the scientific and economic superiority that we now assume is only right and natural.
"Genocide is itself a material economic force; not mere racism, but the productive center, the heart of the new euro-capitalist world order. It took all the wealth Violently squeezed out of the European laboring classes for centuries just to keep the ruling aristocracy, the Church, and the rising merchant-capitalists going; to pay for their luxurious lifestyle, their waste and speculation, and the always high cost of their wars and their parasitic State apparatus. On top of that, to build factories and finance new industries was only possible by additional super-profits from genocide.
"Ernest Mandel shows how without such super-profits, Europe would have not had the capital to industrialize:
"'a) E.J. Hamilton estimates in 500 million gold pesos the value of the gold and silver that the Spanish took to Europe between 1503 and 1660.
"'b) Colenbrander calculates 600 million gold florins for the treasure that the Dutch East India Company took out of Indonesia between 1650 and 1780.
"'c) Father Rinchon estimates as almost 500 million gold florins the profit on only the slave trade of French capital during the 18th century, without counting the profits obtained from the work of the slaves in the plantations of the West Indies, which was several times this amount
"'d) According to H. Wiseman and the Cambridge History of the British Empire, it is considered that the earnings obtained with the work of the slaves in the British West Indies were at least some 200 to 300 million gold pounds.
"'e) Finally, in the pillage of India in the period of 1750 to 1800 only, the ruling class in Great Britain obtained between 100 and 150 million gold pounds. If these sums are added up, we get more than 1,000 million gold pounds, that is, more than the value of all the capital invested in all of the steam-operated industry of Europe around the year 1800.'
"And Mandel does not even include the great profits from the Afrikan slave trade by the British, the u.s. settlers, the Dutch and the Portuguese.
"The cost in human lives is beyond comprehension, particularly when we want to pretend that it isn't happening (I never knew anything about the gas chambers. How could we know what was happening to the Jews?). Christopher Columbus led the first European invasion that occupied Hispaniola, the island containing both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. By his fourth trans-Atlantic voyage in 1502, he discovered that the once-large indigenous 'Indian' population was being exterminated:
"'Columbus was shocked by the change since his last sight of the island, and he was right in saying that the fortunes of Espanola [Hispaniola] depended on the natives. Las Casas was of the opinion that between 1494 and 1508 more than three million souls had perished on the island — slain in war, sent to Castile as slaves, or had been consumed in the mines and other labors. 'Who of those born in future centuries will believe this? I myself who am writing this and saw it and know most about it can hardly believe such as possible...'
"Columbus was stunned at the magnitude of the genocide he had witnessed, which he thought almost beyond belief. Yet, what he saw was only a warm-up. In Mexico within one century the Spanish occupation had depopulated the land, reduced the indigenous population from 25 million to one and a half million. And had burned the great library, killed the priest-scientists, and deprived the de-urbanized slave survivors of most of their culture."
"The true costs of industrializing Europe and the u.s.a., the cost of powering up Western consumer society, was genocide on a world scale. Hundreds of millions of persons were consumed, whole societies burned up in the process.
"The patriarchy has long conditioned us on pain of prison or death to look the other way unthinkingly, to never see the genocide. Without breaking this lock, without confronting genocide, we can never know who we are and what we must become...
"What produces a system that bases its daily life on doing genocide? The answer is, a commodity civilization that formed itself through centuries of repressing and terrorizing its own 'internal colony' of women, killing millions of us. How could sane Afrikans or Indians guess what this strange euro-capitalism would ultimately do? To white men, who were 'made' by a social process in which they shared in the torturing and killing of their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, doing genocide to other peoples was no big deal at all. Just another day at the office.
"Genocide against women cannot be separated from euro-capitalism, for it is both the father and the son of genocide against the colonized nations and peoples of the Third World. It is what led up to euro-colonialism, and what is the transformed and continuing wave of that genocide."
There is nothing natural about nations formed out of such a genocidal economic process. Not too much that's voluntary, either. We want to detour for a moment, to bring into definition the basic terms we all use. The human race developed & evolved through different types of political units, of which modem nations are but one. A tribe is a community of people with a common historical origin, usually blood-related, who recognize a single political leadership. Contrary to capitalist stereotypes, tribal government was often a highly-developed system aimed at concensus and dispersed political power. Both "democratic" capitalism and patriarchal socialism are much more authoritarian than most tribal societies were.
An empire is a State that encompasses a number of different peoples and territories under one sovereign authority. Empires first grew out of tribal expansionism, and most of those "great" civilizations in history were empires, for obvious reasons (their ability to concentrate slave labor, economic resources, and to support large armies), The Ethiopian empire (Ethiopia was an empire, not a nation), which fell only in our lifetimes, had an unbroken history of rule going back before biblical times. Empires existed long before modern nations did. This escaped many of us, since we assumed that anything large must be a nation. On the contrary, an empire like Rome's was almost on a world scale, but as a State Rome was just one city-state of citizens in the middle of Italy. 20th century industrial empires are mostly capitalist nations that acquired colonies.
There are many different types of nations out there in the world. Your prototypical capitalist nation in europe grew out of tribal conquest of other peoples into feudal kingdoms or empires. The size, shape and rules of these feudal realms changed drastically according to splits in the royal families, wars, marriages (i.e. mergers and alliances) to other ruling families, even changes of noble whim. A feudal domain was a personal or clan holding, not yet a nation.
Even the people changed. England in the days of the Plantagenet kings and their knights in armor included one-third of what is now France. Of course, the Anglo-Saxon English were themselves tribal invaders from Scandinavia & France. England's indigenous inhabitants had long before retreated to remote Wales and Scotland. France itself got its name from the conquering Franks, a Germanic tribe that had come originally in the 6th century b.c. from Central Asia, and that had unified France (and much of europe) in the 9th century. got that?
So the English are really the Welsh. Some stray Scandinavian and French became the English. While the French were made by and named after some tribe of Asians who now call themselves Germans. What's a poor peasant dyke to make of all that?
With the rise of mercantile or pre-industrial capitalism, embryonic capitalist classes needed a more developed political framework: A State that reflected the territorial size & population they needed as their natural resources; with a centralized bureaucracy to ensure uniformity of economic conditions, laws, taxes, and shipping tariffs throughout the land, as well as armies & navies for colonial conquests. The rise of the Nation-State out of the patchwork quilt of feudal domains and empires was the long, slow gestation period of euro-capitalism.
A nation has been defined as a stable, historically developed community of people living in a definite territory, who share a common language, culture, and self-sufficient economy. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Nation-building men, from Joe Stalin (who ordered that definition read around the world) on have pushed such idealized definitions because it makes their own nations (or empires) seem a natural community, just and inevitable.
Few nations in the world even resemble that rosy description, with the possible exception of some of the original native nations of the Western Hemisphere. But we haven't thought about it, because we've been indoctrinated since childhood into thinking of nations as natural communities. Since modern nations are supposedly sovereign political units governing definite territories, most of which were formed by euro-capitalism, how could they be anything but artificial, imposed, rearrangeable like the furniture? And isn't that what's exploding in world politics right this instant?
The general rule of nations is that they're created to meet the needs of one capitalist class or another. This certainly applies to most Third World nations, which were given shape as colonies or neo-colonies. Iraq & Kuwait gravitated into war because they were formed by the British colonial office as incomplete polar opposites. No Arabs had any say in the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi borders, which history says were set one night in November, 1922 by British envoy Sir Percy Cox.
The plan was simple: Iraq would be made as a nation out of three ethnic-religious differing Turkish provinces, with much population but no natural seaport and only some oil. Most of the oil reserves and seacoast would go to Kuwait, a tribal nation (only members of the servant tribe which worked for the British are actual citizens. All other Arab clans from Kuwait are stateless subjects) with no real population. "An oil field with a flag." These incomplete, artificial nations could be easily manipulated, the West saw. Former British u.n. ambassador Sir Anthony Parsons admitted: "We, the British, cobbled Iraq together. It was always an artificial state. It had nothing to do with the people who lived there."
euro-capitalism has always encouraged Arab or islamic fundamentalism in a covert way, even when it has an anti-u.s. edge to it, because the fight by elites to make their artificial nations rise has led to men's self-destruction. Like Iran and Iraq, two supposedly anti-imperialist and anti-u.s. islamic nations, spending eight years at war, killing a million of their own people. How holy.
There's every kind of strange male nation you can think of out there. Not only tribal nations, but "racial" nations like Germany and Japan (where citizenship is genetic), and religious nations like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Poland (where the nation is said to be a religious community) Fuhrer Leech Walensa, the u.s.-sponsored david duke of Poland, says in speeches that even Jews whose families have lived in Poland a thousand years cannot be true members of his "Polish nation," but are in a separate "Jewish nation" (his phrases) And more still.
Capitalism even has one-use, disposable nations like Panama. Which has so little reality that it's official currency is the u.s. dollar and its former chief is held as a felon by the u.s. Again, this is a nation fully accepted as legitimate by both left and right, in the u.n. and all. Panama never existed as a nation before Wall St. needed a small dummy nation to put its Panama Canal (and ccompanying u.s. army base) into. That area was part of Columbia, but Colombia's local elite was being stubborn, wanting to get cut in on the profits of the Canal. So in 1903 u.s. president Theodore Roosevelt's administration sent in the marines, hired a few local bigshots to be a "Panamanian" government, and "recognized" their dummy nation of Panama.
Panama has no purpose, economy or culture — as a nation — other than serving u.s. interests. It was born with a neo-colonial addiction. The Panamanian upper class (including its u.s.-installed president) are known to the people as "rabi blancos" (white tails) because they remain purely & proudly european. Most of the people, like those poor slum-dwellers killed by that u.s. midnight surprise bombing during the 1989 invasion, are, however, distinctly Afiikan. Now that it's less useful, with the Latin regional banking center moved from Panama City to Miami & the Canal less strategic, the u.s. is just letting Panama collapse as a disposable nation, intervening only enough to make sure nothing too democratic is happening.
No, there's nothing natural or sacred or necessarily fixed about nations. We don't have to approach the subject with any awe. And we sure don't have to accept as binding the nation we are forced into. The reverse side of that is somebody is going to consciously make new nations and disconnect old ones. If we don't take that shot men it just means somebody else will, someone's still going to pull the trigger of history. If the capitalist class can create nations of the most widely varying types, sizes & shapes, including new types never seen before, to carry out its mission, then so can the oppressed in the course of the struggle.
1Readers who have seen the original chapter will realize that this quoted passage, lengthy as it is, is an abridgment that barely dots justice to the thesis. Further, that although the authors of this informally distributed non-academic paper do not cite sources, it is obvious that their analysis of europcan history is based on the ideas of Maria Mics' Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale. Even many historical examples, such as the medieval case of Bailiff Geiss of Gummy, are actually quoted from Maria Meis' work.