I just lost a long post explaining why, suffice it say that two sources of modern liberalism, the creole revolutions in the US and Spanish colonies and JS Mill's philosophy, are central to imperialist ideology.
Liberalism appeared "progressive" among other reasons because it sought the transfer of power from European monarchs to colonists. Often, as in the US where the War of Independence was led by a land speculator who risked losing tens of thousands of acres of illegally "purchased" land, the basic issues had to do with the fate of aboriginals. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, banning the purchase of Indian land except by the Crown and preventing colonists from crossing the Alleghany mountains, was a major grievance. In Spanish colonies there were similar issues. Colonists wanted the liberty to plunder-and enslave- on their own account without restraint from Europe.
As to Mill, who was a key figure in the East Indian Company's rule of India, he was an ideologist of both imperialism and representative democracy. The Liberals shared a contempt for non-European cultures with a cynical and ruthless justification of the employment of military force in order to bring foreigners under imperial rule. Their attitude towards workers was equally contemptuous.
Then there was the great French liberal de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America and one of the leaders in colonising Algeria, a fervent defender of the theft of North African land and the enslavement of muslims.
Conservatives often opposed imperial adventures, Burke being a prime example, while liberals wrecked civilisations, and caused untold millions of deaths, by tearing down, for example, China's government in order to impose liberal trade policies. In China among the disasters was the imposition of opium on a government which rightly feared mass drug addiction. This was a policy carried out under the direction of one of Bentham's executors and disciples. In India the demolition of controls over grain storage and distribution, and a refusal to allow famine relief, born of market monomania, were policies imposed by liberals, often liberals of the highest distinction. Macaulay, for example, who held the view that a shelf of English literature was worth all the books ever written in Asia- a judgement of astonishing ignorance but the founding principle of an educational system which still exists.
All those American college professors who joined the CIA in the late forties were real inheritors of the liberal tradition. Their ideology lives on in Samantha Power, Obama and those vast swathes of the Democratic party's leading cadres who cannot get their heads around the notion that imperial wars are never justifiable and that imperialism is, and always has been, a force for evil, dyed with the blood of those it has wiped out in serial genocides.
Of course there is much more to it, as their always is, but my assertion, far from being bullshit is hard to deny: Liberalism is the wellspring of western imperialist ideology.
Posted by: bevin | Jul 3, 2014 9:32:10 PM | 71
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