In early December 2016, the British government published its new Annual Report on the UK National Security Strategy adopted in 2015. The document was, in many ways, a blueprint for a new form of empire. In the name of defending national security, it unveiled Britain’s plan to build a “permanent” military presence in the Gulf to defend its access to “the flows of energy and trade in the region”; deploy more troops into Eastern Europe, near Russia’s border; and promote the sale of “defence equipment and services from UK-based suppliers to overseas partners and allies”.
But perhaps the most Orwellian element of the document was its celebration of Britain’s role in delivering economic aid to developing countries, to lift them from poverty. It announced that the government had set up a new £1.3 billion Prosperity Fund to enable the UK “to deepen relationships with countries across the globe”. The fund uses Official Development Assistance resources to promote “reforms” in support of “economic growth in development countries”. This will reduce poverty by creating “opportunities for international business, including UK companies”.
Critics point out that this is really just a euphemism for making the world safe for British corporations. The reforms tied to British aid fit well with neoliberal capitalist orthodoxy: privatisation, deregulation, and liberalisation of the economy to open it up to foreign investment, while lowering taxes and decreasing state spending.
As British historian and development expert Mark Curtis has shown in an extensive report for the NGO War on Want, such British overseas aid policies have done little to resolve poverty, but instead have carefully cultivated corporate power. To date, 101 mostly-British companies — like Shell, Glencore and Tullow Oil — now control over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s oil, gold, diamond, coal, and platinum....Same primitive accumulation, expropriation and enclosure, and exploitation.
The emergence of capitalism in England, for instance, was an inherently violent and repressive process. Over 400 years ago the seeds of English capitalism were sown amidst mass evictions of peasants from public lands. Formerly landed peasants, who were compelled by threat of force to paytribute to local lords, now found themselves a landless proletariat, with no choice but to sell their labour power for wages to the same people who had robbed them. This process of enclosure gradually enforced a new social condition — the dispossession of people from access to the sources, means, and technologies of production. This was, and still is, the fundamental basis of modern capitalism.
The dispossession of land inside England accelerated in tandem with the expansion of the British Empire along similar lines. Britain’s seizure of India began with the conquest of Bengal in 1757 and continued under the East India Company for more than five decades. Once the company was displaced by the British state, expansion continued, especially into Northwest India — soon followed by the scramble for Africa, and penetration of the Middle East....
Corporate and government land grabbing from indigenous communities is now at an all time high. A study by the Washington DC-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that despite using and inhabiting up to 65% of the world’s land with a population of around 1.5 billion, indigenous peoples and local communities only have legal rights to 18% of it....Weapons of Reason
Age of Empire