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Anti-imperialism in political science and international relations is a term used in a variety of contexts, usually by nationalist movements who want to secede from a larger polity (usually in the form of an empire, but also in a multi-ethnic sovereign state) or as a specific theory opposed to capitalism in Marxist–Leninist discourse, derived from Vladimir Lenin's work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. A less common usage is by supporters of a non-interventionist foreign policy.

People who categorize themselves as anti-imperialists often state that they are opposed to colonialism, colonial empires, hegemony, imperialism and the territorial expansion of a country beyond its established borders.[1] The phrase gained a wide currency after the Second World War and at the onset of the Cold War as political movements in colonies of European powers promoted national sovereignty. Some anti-imperialist groups who opposed the United States supported the power of the Soviet Union, such as in Guevarism, while in Maoism this was criticized as social imperialism.

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  • ✪ Imperialism: Crash Course World History #35
  • ✪ Asian Responses to Imperialism: Crash Course World History #213
  • ✪ Metaethics: Crash Course Philosophy #32
  • ✪ Locke, Berkeley, & Empiricism: Crash Course Philosophy #6
  • ✪ POLITICAL THEORY - Niccolò Machiavelli


Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course World History and today we’re going to discuss 19th century Imperialism. So, the 19th century certainly didn’t invent the Empire, but it did take it to new heights. By which we means lows. Or possibly heights. I don’t know. I can’t decide. Roll the intro while I think about it... [Intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] Yeah, I don’t know. I’m still undecided. Let’s begin with China. When last we checked in, China was a thriving manufacturing power about to be overtaken by Europe but still heavily involved in world trade, especially as an importer of silver from the Spanish Empire. Europeans had to use silver because they didn’t really produce anything else the Chinese wanted. And that state of affairs continued through the 18th century. For example, in 1793, the McCartney mission tried to get better trade conditions with China and was a total failure. Here’s the Qianlong emperor’s well-known response to the British: Hitherto, all European nations, including your own country's barbarian merchants, [yowser] have carried on their trade with our Celestial Empire at Canton. Such has been the procedure for many years, although our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. But then Europeans, especially the British, found something that the Chinese would buy: opium. By the 1830s British free trade policy unleashed a flood of opium in China, which threatened China’s favorable balance of trade. It also created a lot of drug addicts. [you think?] And then, in 1839, the Chinese responded to what they saw as these unfair trade practices with a stern letter that they never actually sent. [opium: not a productivity aid] Commissioner Lin Zexu drafted a response that contained a memorable threat to cut off trade in “Rhubarb, tea and silk… all valuable products of ours, without which foreigners could not live.” But even if the British had received this terrifying threat to their precious rhubarb supply, they probably wouldn’t have responded, because selling drugs is super lucrative. [newsflash in any era] So the Chinese made like tea partiers, [tri-corn hats and all?] confiscating a bunch of British opium and chucking it into the sea. [This is sounding like a Hunter S. Thompson hallucination…] And then, the British responded to this by demanding compensation and access to Chinese territory where they could carry out their trade. And then, the Chinese were like, “Man, that seems a little bit harsh,” whereupon the British sent in gunships, opening trade with Canton by force. [response: "Yeuup."] Chinese General Yijing made a counterattack in 1842 that included a detailed plan to catapult flaming monkeys onto British ships— STAN, IS THAT TRUE? Alright apparently the plans involved strapping fireworks to monkeys’ backs and were never carried out. But, still... Slightly off-topic, obviously I don’t want anyone to light monkeys on fire. I’m just saying that flaming monkeys lend themselves to a lot of great band names, like the Sizzling Simians, Burning Bonobos, Immolated Marmoset. [Imolated Marmoset???] Stan, sometimes I feel like I should give up teaching World History and just become a band name generator. That’s my real gift. [Seriously, don't quit your day job.] Anyway, due to lack of monkey fireworks, the Chinese counterattacks were unsuccessful. And they eventually signed the Treaty of Nanjing, which stated that Britain got Hong Kong and five other treaty ports, as well as the equivalent of $2 billion in cash. Also, the Chinese basically gave up all sovereignty to European “spheres of influence,” wherein Europeans were subject to their laws, not Chinese laws. In exchange for all of this, China got a hot slice of nothing. You might think the result of this war would be a shift in the balance of trade in Britain’s favor, but that wasn’t immediately the case. In fact, the British were importing so much tea from China that the trade deficit actually rose more than $30 billion. But eventually, after another war (and one of the most destructive civil rebellions in Chinese and possibly world history, the Taiping Rebellion) the situation was reversed and Europeans, especially the British became the dominant economic power in China. Okay, so, but when we think about 19th century imperialism, we usually think about the way that Europe turned Africa from this into this, the so-called Scramble for Africa. Speaking of scrambles and the European colonization of Africa, you know what they say, sometimes to make an omelet, you’ve gotta break a few eggs. And then sometimes, you break a lot of eggs and you don’t get an omelet. [that's a downer of a saying] Europeans had been involved in Africa since the 16th century when the Portuguese used their cannons to take control of cities on coasts to set up their trading post empire. But in the second half of the 19th century, Europe suddenly and spectacularly succeeded at colonizing basically all of Africa. Why? Well, the biggest reason that Europeans were able to extend their grasp over so much of the world was the same reason they wanted to do so in the first place: industrialization. Nationalism played its part, of course: European states saw it as a real bonus to be able to say that they had colonies, so much so that a children’s rhyme in An ABC for Baby Patriots went: “C is for Colonies, Rightly we boast that of all the great countries, Great Britain has the most.” But it was mostly— not to get all Marxist on you or anything— about controlling the means of production. Europeans wanted colonies to secure sources of raw materials, especially cotton, copper, iron, and rubber, that were used to fuel their growing industrial economies. And in addition to providing the motive for imperialism, European industrialization also provided the means. Europeans didn’t fail to take over territory in Africa until the late 19th century because they didn’t want to; they failed because they couldn’t. This was mostly due to disease. [Disease: History's Frenemy] Unlike in the Americas, Africans weren’t devastated by diseases like smallpox, because they’d had smallpox for centuries and were just as immune to it as Europeans were. Not only that, but Africa had diseases of its own, including yellow fever, malaria, and sleeping sickness, all of which killed Europeans in staggering numbers. Also, nagana was a disease endemic to Africa that killed horses, which made it difficult for Europeans to take advantage of African grasslands, and also difficult for them to get inland because their horses would die as they tried to carry stuff. Also, while in the 16th century, Europeans did have guns, they were pretty useless, especially without horses, so most fighting was done the old fashioned way, with swords. That worked pretty well in the Americas, unless you were the Incas or the Aztecs, but it didn’t work in Africa because the Africans also had swords and spears and axes. So, as much as they might have wanted to colonize Africa in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Africa’s mosquitoes, microbes, and people were too much for them. So what made the difference? Technology. First, steam ships made it possible for Europeans to travel inland bringing supplies and personnel via Africa’s navigable rivers. No horses? No problem. Even more important was quinine medicine, sometimes in the form of tonic water mixed into refreshing, quintessentially British gin and tonics. Quinine isn’t as effective as modern anti-malarial medication, and it doesn’t cure the disease, but it does help moderate its effects. But, of course, the most important technology that enabled Europeans to dominate Africa was guns. By the 19th century, European gun technology had improved dramatically, especially with the introduction of the Maxim machine gun, which allowed Europeans to wipe out Africans in battle after battle. Of course, machine guns were effective when wielded by Africans, too— but Africans had fewer of them. Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? [king triumphantly re-throned] And my chair is back! [must've been in shock last week, eh?] An Open Letter to Hiram Maxim. But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, it’s Darth Vader. What a great reminder of imperialism. Dear Hiram Maxim, I hate you. [Best Wishes, John Green?] It’s not so much that you invented the Maxim Machine Gun although obviously that’s a little bit problematic, or even that you look like the poor man’s Colonel Sanders. [sick burn] First off, you’re a possible bigamist. I have a longstanding opposition to bigamy. [quite a bold proclamation there, pal] Secondly, you were born an American but then became a Brit thereby metaphorically machine gunning our founding fathers. But most importantly, among your many inventions was the successful amusement park ride, the Captive Flying Machine. Mr. Maxim, I hate the Captive Flying Machine. The Captive Flying Machine has resulted in many a girlfriend telling me that I’m a coward. I’m not a coward! I just don’t want to die up there. It’s all your fault, Hiram Maxim. And nobody believes your story about the light bulb. Best Wishes, John Green Alright so, here is something that often gets overlooked: European imperialism involved a lot of fighting and a lot of dying. And when we say that Europe came to dominate Africa, for the most part that domination came through wars, which killed lots of Africans (and also lots of Europeans, although most of them died from disease). It’s very, very important to remember that Africans did not meekly acquiesce to European hegemony: they resisted, often violently, but ultimately they were defeated by a technologically superior enemy. In this respect, they were a lot like the Chinese, and also the Indians, and the Vietnamese and, you get the picture. So, by the end of the 19th century, most of Africa, and much of Asia, had been colonized by European powers. I mean, even Belgium got in on it and they weren’t even a country at the beginning of the 19th century. I mean, Belgium has enjoyed, like, 12 years of sovereignty in the last three millenia. Notable exceptions include Japan -- which was happily pursuing its own imperialism— Thailand, Iran, and of course Afghanistan. Because no one can conquer Afghanistan. Unless you are— wait for it— the Mongols. [we missed you, Mongoltage] [Triumphant return #2: best week ever!] Mongoltage It is tempting to imagine Europe ruling their colonies with the proverbial topaz fist, [ouch?] and while there was always the threat of violence, the truth is a lot more complicated. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. In most cases Europeans ruled their colonies with the help of, and sometimes completely through, intermediaries and collaborators. For example, in the 1890s in India, there were fewer than 1000 British administrators supposedly “ruling” over 300 million Indians. The vast majority of British troops at any given time in India— more than two thirds— were in fact Indians under the command of British officers. Because of their small numbers relative to local populations, most European colonizers resorted to indirect rule, relying on the governments that were already there but exerting control over their leaders. Frederick Lugard, who was Britain’s head honcho in Nigeria for a time, called this “rule through and by the natives.” This worked particularly well with British administrators, who were primarily middle class men but had aristocratic pretensions and were often pleased to associate with the highest echelons of Indian or African society. Now, this isn’t to say that indigenous rulers were simply puppets; often they retained real power. This was certainly true in India, where more than a third of the territory was ruled by Indian princes. The French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia were ruled by Arab monarchs, and the French also ruled through native kings in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. For the most part Europeans could almost always rely on their superior military technology to coerce local rulers into doing what the Europeans wanted and they could replace native officials with Europeans if they had to, but in general they preferred to rule indirectly. It was easier and cheaper. Also, less malaria. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, while we can’t know why all native princes who ruled in the context of European imperialism put up with it, we can make some pretty good guesses. First of all, they were still rulers: They got to keep their prestige and their fancy hats and to some extent their power. Many were also able to gain advantages through their service, like access to European education for themselves and for their children. Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, was the son of an Indian high official, which made it possible for him to study law in England. And we can’t overlook the sheer practicality of it – the alternative was to resist and that usually didn’t work out well. I’m reminded of the famous couplet: “Whatever happens, we have got / the Maxim gun and they have not.” But even with this enormous technological advantage, it wasn’t always easy. For example, it took 25 years, from 1845 to 1870, for the British to fully defeat the Maori on New Zealand, [No John! Think Sister, Sister twins!] because the Maori were kick-ass fighters [and tattooists] who had mastered musketry and defensive warfare. And I will remind you, it is not cursing if you’re talking about donkeys. In fact, it took them being outnumbered three to one with the arrival of 750,000 settlers for the Maori to finally capitulate. And I will remind you that the rule against splitting infinitives is not an actual rule. Those of you more familiar with U.S. history might notice a parallel between the Maori and some of the Native American tribes like the Apaches and the Lakota, a good reminder that the United States did some imperial expansion of its own as part of its nationalizing project in the 19th century. But, back to Africa. Sometimes African rulers were so good at adapting European technology that they were able to successfully resist imperialism. Ethiopia’s Menelik II defeated the Italians in battle, securing not just independence, but an empire of his own. But embracing European style modernization could also be problematic, as Khedive Ismail of Egypt found out during his rule in the late 19th century. The European-style ruler celebrated his imperial success by commissioning an opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, for the opening of the Cairo opera house in 1871. Giuseppe Verdi, by the way, no relation to John Green. [get it? huh, do you?] And Ismail had ambitions of extending Egypt’s control up the Nile west toward Lake Chad, but to do that, he needed money, and that’s where he got into trouble. His borrowing bankrupted Egypt and led to Britain’s taking control over the country’s finances and its shares in the Suez Canal that Ismail had built (with French engineers and French capital) in 1869. The British sent in 1,300 bureaucrats to fix Egypt’s finances, an invasion of red tape that led to a nationalist uprising. Which brought on full scale British intervention after 1881, in order to protect British interests. This “business imperialism,” as it is sometimes known, is really at the heart of the imperialistic impulse: Industrialized nations push economic integration upon developing nations, and then extract value from those developing nations, just as you would from a mine or a field you owned. And here we see political history and economic history coming together again. As western corporations grew in the latter part of the 19th century, their influence grew as well, both in their home countries and in the lands where they were investing. But ultimately, whether the colonizer is a business enterprise or a political one, the complicated legacy of Imperialism survives. It’s why your bananas are cheap, why your call centers are Indian, why your chocolate comes from Africa, and why everything else comes from China. These imperialistic adventures may have only lasted a century, but it was the century in which the world, as we know it today, began to take shape. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Oh, our intern! I’m sorry, Meredith the Intern. [vengeance is imminent] Our intern is Meredith Danko. Last week’s phrase of the week was “homogeneous mythologized unitary polity.” Thank you for that suggestion. If you want to guess this week’s phrase of the week or suggest future ones, you can do so in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course. Remember, you can get this shirt, the Mongols shirt, or our poster at [back to the capitalism episode, eh?] Speaking of which, as we say in my hometown, don’t forget All Persons, Living and Dead, are Purely Coincidental.



German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck repeatedly let it be known that he disliked imperialism, but German public opinion forced him to build an empire in Africa and the Pacific in the 1880s[2]
German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck repeatedly let it be known that he disliked imperialism, but German public opinion forced him to build an empire in Africa and the Pacific in the 1880s[2]

In the late 1870s, the term "imperialism" was introduced to the English language by opponents of the aggressively imperial policies of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1874–1880).[3] It was shortly appropriated by supporters of "imperialism" such as Joseph Chamberlain. For some, imperialism designated a policy of idealism and philanthropy; others alleged that it was characterized by political self-interest; and a growing number associated it with capitalist greed. John A. Hobson and Vladimir Lenin added a more theoretical macroeconomic connotation to the term. Many theoreticians on the left have followed either or both in emphasizing the structural or systemic character of "imperialism". Such writers have expanded the time period associated with the term so that it now designates neither a policy, nor a short space of decades in the late 19th century, but a global system extending over a period of centuries, often going back to Christopher Columbus and in some facts to the Crusades. As the application of the term has expanded, its meaning has shifted along five distinct but often parallel axes: the moral, the economic, the systemic, the cultural and the temporal. Those changes reflect—among other shifts in sensibility—a growing unease with the fact of power, specifically Western power.[4][5]

The relationships among capitalism, aristocracy and imperialism have been discussed and analysed by theoreticians, historians, political scientists such as John A. Hobson and Thorstein Veblen, Joseph Schumpeter and Norman Angell.[6] Those intellectuals produced much of their works about imperialism before the World War I (1914–1918), yet their combined work informed the study of the impact of imperialism upon Europe and contributed to the political and ideologic reflections on the rise of the military–industrial complex in the United States from the 1950s onwards.


John A. Hobson strongly influenced the anti-imperialism of both Marxists and liberals, worldwide through his 1902 book on Imperialism. He argued that the "taproot of imperialism" is not in nationalist pride, but in Capitalism. As a form of economic organization, imperialism is unnecessary and immoral, the result of the mis-distribution of wealth in a capitalist society. That created an irresistible desire to extend the national markets into foreign lands, in search of profits greater than those available in the Mother Country. In the capitalist economy, rich capitalists received a disproportionately higher income than did the working class. If the owners invested their incomes to their factories, the greatly increased productive capacity would exceed the growth in demand for the products and services of said factories. Lenin adopted Hobson's ideas to argue that capitalism was doomed and would eventually be replaced by socialism, the sooner the better.

Hobson was also influential in liberal circles, especially the British Liberal Party.[7] Historians Peter Duignan and Lewis H. Gann argue that Hobson had an enormous influence in the early 20th century that caused widespread distrust of imperialism:

Hobson's ideas were not entirely original; however his hatred of moneyed men and monopolies, his loathing of secret compacts and public bluster, fused all existing indictments of imperialism into one coherent system....His ideas influenced German nationalist opponents of the British Empire as well as French Anglophobes and Marxists; they colored the thoughts of American liberals and isolationist critics of colonialism. In days to come they were to contribute to American distrust of Western Europe and of the British Empire. Hobson helped make the British averse to the exercise of colonial rule; he provided indigenous nationalists in Asia and Africa with the ammunition to resist rule from Europe.[8]

On the positive side, Hobson argued that domestic social reforms could cure the international disease of imperialism by removing its economic foundation. Hobson theorized that state intervention through taxation could boost broader consumption, create wealth and encourage a peaceful multilateral world order. Conversely, should the state not intervene, rentiers (people who earn income from property or securities) would generate socially negative wealth that fostered imperialism and protectionism.[9][10]

Political movement

As a self-conscious political movement, anti-imperialism originated in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in opposition to the growing European colonial empires and the United States control of the Philippines after 1898.[11] However, it reached its highest level of popular support in the colonies themselves, where it formed the basis for a wide variety of national liberation movements during the mid-20th century and later. These movements, and their anti-imperialist ideas, were instrumental in the decolonization process of the 1950s and 1960s, which saw most European colonies in Asia and Africa achieving their independence.[12]

Anti-imperialism in the United States

An early use of the term "anti-imperialist" occurred after the United States entered the Spanish–American War in 1898.[13] Most activists supported the war itself, but opposed the annexation of new territory, especially the Philippines.[14] The Anti-Imperialist League was founded on June 15, 1898, in Boston in opposition of the acquisition of the Philippines, which happened anyway. The anti-imperialists opposed the expansion because they believed imperialism violated the credo of republicanism, especially the need for "consent of the governed". Appalled by American imperialism, the Anti-Imperialist League, which included famous citizens such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry James, William James and Mark Twain, formed a platform which stated:

We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free. We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We insist that the subjugation of any people is "criminal aggression" and open disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our Government...

We cordially invite the cooperation of all men and women who remain loyal to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.[15]

Fred Harrington states that "the anti-imperialist's did not oppose expansion because of commercial, religious, constitutional, or humanitarian reasons but instead because they thought that an imperialist policy ran counter to the political doctrines of the Declaration of Independence, Washington's Farewell Address, and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address".[16][17][18]

An important influence on American intellectuals was the work of British writer John A. Hobson. especially Imperialism: A Study (1902). Historians Peter Duignan and Lewis H. Gann argue that Hobson had an enormous influence in the early 20th century that caused widespread distrust of imperialism:

Hobson's ...hatred of moneyed men and monopolies, his loathing of secret compacts and public bluster, fused all existing indictments of imperialism into one coherent system....His ideas influenced German nationalist opponents of the British Empire as well as French Anglophobes and Marxists; they colored the thoughts of American liberals and isolationist critics of colonialism. In days to come they were to contribute to American distrust of Western Europe and of the British Empire. Hobson helped make the British averse to the exercise of colonial rule; he provided indigenous nationalists in Asia and Africa with the ammunition to resist rule from Europe.[19]

The American rejection of the League of Nations in 1919 was accompanied with a sharp American reaction against European imperialism. American textbooks denounced imperialism as a major cause of the World War. The uglier aspects of British colonial rule were emphasized, recalling the long-standing anti-British sentiments in the United States.[20]

Anti-imperialism in Britain and Canada

British anti-imperialism emerged in the 1890s, especially in the Liberal Party. For over a century, back to the days of Adam Smith in 1776, economists had been hostile to imperialism on the grounds that it is a violation of the principles of free trade; they never formed a popular movement. Indeed imperialism seems to have been generally popular before the 1890s.[21] The key impetus around 1900 came from public disgust with the British failures and atrocities connected with the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The war was fought against the Afrikaners, who were Dutch immigrants who had built new nations in South Africa. Opposition to the Second Boer War was modest when the war began and was always less widespread than support for it, let alone the prevailing indifference. However, influential groups formed immediately and ineffectually against the war, including the South African Conciliation Committee and W. T. Stead's Stop the War Committee. Much of the opposition in Britain came from the Liberal Party. Intellectuals and activists Britain based in the socialist, labour and Fabian movements generally oppose imperialism and John A. Hobson, a Liberal, took many of his ideas from their writings.[22] After the Boer war, opponents of imperialism turn their attention to the British colonies in Africa and Asia.[23] By the 1920s, the government was sponsoring large-scale exhibits promoting imperialism, notably the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London and the 1938 Glasgow Empire Exhibition. Some intellectuals use the opportunity to criticize imperialism as a policy.[24]

Moderately active anti-imperial movements emerged in Canada and Australia. The French Canadians were hostile to the British expansion while in Australia it was the Irish Catholics who were opposed.[25] French Canadians argue that Canadian nationalism was the proper and true goal and it sometimes conflicted with loyalty to the British Empire. The French Canadians would fight for Canada but would not fight for the Empire.[26] From the 1890s to 1915, in province after province there were attacks by Anglophones to restrict or shut down French language public schools and French Canadians were bitterly alienated.[27]

Protestant Canadians, typically of British descent, generally supported British imperialism enthusiastically. They sent thousands of volunteers to fight alongside the British army against the Boers and in the process identified themselves even more strongly with the British Empire.[28] A little opposition also came from some English immigrants such as the intellectual leader Goldwin Smith.[29] In Canada, the Irish Catholics were fighting the French Canadians for control of the Catholic Church, so the Irish generally supported the pro-British position.[30] Anti-imperialism also grew rapidly in India and formed a core element of the demand by Congress for independence. Much of the impetus came from colonial students studying at Oxford and Cambridge, such as Mahatma Gandhi.

Marxism-Leninism and anti-imperialism

To the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, imperialism was the highest, but degenerate, stage of capitalism
To the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, imperialism was the highest, but degenerate, stage of capitalism

In the mid-19th century, Karl Marx mentioned imperialism to be part of the prehistory of the capitalist mode of production in Das Kapital (1867–1894). Much more important was Vladimir Lenin, who defined imperialism as "the highest stage of capitalism", the economic stage in which monopoly finance capital becomes the dominant application of capital.[31] As such, said financial and economic circumstances impelled national governments and private business corporations to worldwide competition for control of natural resources and human labour by means of colonialism.[32]

The Leninist views of imperialism and related theories, such as dependency theory, address the economic dominance and exploitation of a country, rather than the military and the political dominance of a people, their country and its natural resources. Hence, the primary purpose of imperialism is economic exploitation, rather than mere control of either a country or of a region. The Marxist and the Leninist denotation thus differs from the usual political science denotation of imperialism as the direct control (intervention, occupation and rule) characteristic of colonial and neo-colonial empires as used in the realm of international relations.[33][34]

In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), Lenin outlined the five features of capitalist development that lead to imperialism:

  1. Concentration of production and capital leading to the dominance of national and multinational monopolies and cartels.
  2. Industrial capital as the dominant form of capital has been replaced by finance capital, with the industrial capitalists increasingly reliant on capital provided by monopolistic financial institutions. "Again and again, the final word in the development of banking is monopoly".
  3. The export of the aforementioned finance capital is emphasized over the export of goods.
  4. The economic division of the world by multinational cartels.
  5. The political division of the world into colonies by the great powers, in which the great powers monopolise investment.[35]

Generally, the relationship among Marxists and radical, left-wing organisations who are anti-war, often involves persuading such political activists to progress from pacifism to anti-imperialism—that is, to progress from the opposition of war, in general, to the condemnation of the capitalist economic system, in particular.[36]

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union represented themselves as the foremost enemy of imperialism and thus politically and materially supported Third World revolutionary organisations who fought for national independence. The Soviet Union sent military advisors to Ethiopia, Angola, Egypt and Afghanistan.

However, anarchists characterized Soviet foreign policy as imperialism and cited it as evidence that the philosophy of Marxism would not resolve and eliminate imperialism. Mao Zedong developed the theory that the Soviet Union was a social imperialist nation, a socialist people with tendencies to imperialism, an important aspect of Maoist analysis of the history of the Soviet Union.[37] Contemporarily, the term "anti-imperialism" is most commonly applied by Marxists and political organisations of like ideologic bent who propose anti-capitalism, present a class analysis of society and the like.[38]

To the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, imperialism was a capitalistic geopolitical system of control and repression which must be understood as such in order to be defeated
To the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, imperialism was a capitalistic geopolitical system of control and repression which must be understood as such in order to be defeated

About the nature of imperialism and how to oppose and defeat it, the revolutionary Che Guevara said:

imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism—and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world, is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians, and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals—instruments of domination—arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.

— Che Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, 1967[39]

Right-wing anti-imperialism

Right-wing nationalists and religious fundamentalist movements that have emerged in reaction to alleged imperialism might also fall within this category. For example, Khomeinism historically derived much of its popularity from its appeal to widespread anger at American intervention or influence in Iran and the Middle East.

In Africa, examples of right wing anti-imperialist groups are National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and National Liberation Front of Angola

The Indian Jamaat-e-Islami Hind launched a ten-day Nationwide campaign titled Anti-Imperialism Campaign in December 2009.[40]

In Europe, examples of right-wing anti-imperialism include the Republican Party of Armenia and the Serbian Radical Party.


Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt assert that traditional anti-imperialism is no longer relevant. In the book Empire,[41] Negri and Hardt argue that imperialism is no longer the practice or domain of any one nation or state. Rather, they claim, the "Empire" is a conglomeration of all states, nations, corporations, media, popular and intellectual culture and so forth; and thus, traditional anti-imperialist methods and strategies can no longer be applied against them.

See also


  1. ^ Richard Koebner and Helmut Schmidt, Imperialism: The Story and Significance of a Political Word, 1840–1960 (2010).
  2. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler (1969). Bismarck und der Imperialismus / Bismarck and Imperialism. Review of Politics, CUP. Kiepensheuer & Witsch, Cologne. JSTOR 1406534.
  3. ^ Richard Koebner and Helmut Schmidt, Imperialism: The Story and Significance of a Political Word, 1840-1960 (2010)
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  • Griffiths, Martin, and Terry O'Callaghan, and Steven C. Roach 2008. International Relations: The Key Concepts. Second Edition. New York: Routledge.
  • Heywood, C. 2004. Political Theory: An Introduction New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Harrington, Fred H. "The Anti-Imperialist Movement in the United States, 1898-1900", Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Sep., 1935), pp. 211–230 in JSTOR.
  • Proudman, Mark F.. "Words for Scholars: The Semantics of 'Imperialism'". Journal of the Historical Society, September 2008, Vol. 8 Issue 3, p395-433.

Further reading

  • Ali, Tariq et al. Anti-Imperialism: A Guide for the Movement ISBN 1-898876-96-7.
  • Boittin, Jennifer Anne. Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris (2010).
  • Brendon, Piers. "A Moral Audit of the British Empire." History Today, (Oct 2007), Vol. 57 Issue 10, pp 44–47, online at EBSCO.
  • Brendon, Piers. The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 (2008) excerpt and text search.
  • Cain, P. J. and A.G. Hopkins. British Imperialism, 1688-2000 (2nd ed. 2001), 739pp, detailed economic history that presents the new "gentlemanly capitalists" thesis excerpt and text search.
  • Castro, Daniel, Walter D.Mignolo, and Irene Silverblatt. Another Face of Empire: Bartolomé de Las Casas, Indigenous Rights, and Ecclesiastical Imperialism (2007) excerpt and text search, Spanish colonies.
  • Cullinane, Michael Patrick. Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism, 1898-1909. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  • Ferguson, Niall. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (2002), excerpt and text search.
  • Friedman, Jeremy, and Peter Rutland. "Anti-imperialism: The Leninist Legacy and the Fate of World Revolution." Slavic Review 76.3 (2017): 591-599.
  • Hamilton, Richard. President McKinley, War, and Empire (2006).
  • Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire (2001), influential statement from the left.
  • Herman, Arthur. Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (2009) [excerpt and text search].
  • Hobson, J.A. Imperialism: A Study (1905) except and text search 2010 edition.
  • James, Lawrence. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1997).
  • Karsh, Efraim. Islamic Imperialism: A History (2007) excerpt and text search.
  • Ness, Immanuel, and Zak Cope, eds. The Palgrave encyclopedia of imperialism and anti-imperialism (2 vol. 2016). 1456pp
  • Olson, James S. et al., eds. Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism (1991) online edition.
  • Owen, Nicholas. The British Left and India: Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885-1947 (2008) excerpt and text search.
  • Polsgrove, Carol. Ending British Rule in Africa: Writers in a Common Cause (2009).
  • Porter, Bernard. The Lion's Share: A History of British Imperialism 1850-2011 (4th ed. 2012), Wide-ranging general history; strong on anti-imperialism.
  • Sagromoso, Domitilla, James Gow, and Rachel Kerr. Russian Imperialism Revisited: Neo-Empire, State Interests and Hegemonic Power (2010).
  • Thornton, A.P. The Imperial Idea and its Enemies (2nd ed. 1985)
  • Tompkins, E. Berkeley, ed. Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890—1920. (1970) excerpts from primary and secondary sources.
  • Tyrell, Ian and Jay Sexton, eds. Empire's Twin: U.S. anti-imperialism from the founding era to the age of terrorism (2015).
  • Wang, Jianwei. "The Chinese interpretation of the concept of imperialism in the anti-imperialist context of the 1920s.," Journal of Modern Chinese History (2012) 6#2 pp 164–181.

External links

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