The independence movements in Africa and Asia during the twentieth century, Arboleya notes, were led by the national bourgeoisies within the colonies. During the struggle for independence, the national bourgeoisie was converted into a representative of the interests of the colony and assumed a position of confrontation with the system of domination. The national bourgeoisie, however, consisted of two sectors. The progressive sector had an anti-imperialist orientation and embraced a form of nationalism that would involve autonomous development, once independence had been attained. The majority sector, however, sought a less fundamental change that would reform only those aspects of the colonial system that restricted the direct participation of the national bourgeoisie in the capitalist world market and limited the development of the national bourgeoisie as a class (2008:6-7).
When the independence of the colonies in Africa and Asia was attained, the majority sector of the national bourgeoisie in most cases controlled the newly independent nations, and it was able to resolve its differences with foreign capital in order to integrate itself into the system of domination and to share in the benefits resulting from the exploitation of the people. In this new system of neocolonial domination, the national bourgeoisie no longer represented the interests of the emerging nation before the colonial power; rather, it represented the interests of the former colonial power within the newly independent nation (Arboleya 2008:6-7, 11).
Thus, neocolonialism functions through a national bourgeoisie that is “organically subordinated” to the core power and that is capable of establishing necessary political control in the newly independent nation. Arboleya coins the term “figurehead bourgeoisie” to refer to a national bourgeoisie with these characteristics (2008:8).
The basic function of colonialism from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century had been to obtain raw materials and to provide a world market for the manufactured products of the core (Arboleya 2008:4). This basic economic function continues under the neocolonial system: “From an economic point of view, the neocolony is not very different from the colonial states. Its market, internal as well as external, satisfies the interests of the metropolis and is controlled by transnational corporations…. The neocolony reproduces the colonial condition of dependency with respect to metropolitan interests, and underdevelopment is maintained as a characteristic of the system” (Arboleya 2008:7).
However, there is an important difference between the colony and the neocolony. Whereas the colony depends principally on force to maintain social control, the neocolony depends to a considerable extent on ideological penetration. Arboleya notes that a penetrating ideology is able to “embrace the entire social fabric, soothing conflicts that result from the neocolonial situation and creating a culture of dependency that weakens the self-esteem of the people, giving rise to consumerist alienation, and that seeks to adulterate national interests” (2008:8).
But military power continues to play an important role in the neocolony. Military power is “the most evident sign of the superiority of the metropolis,” and it has a psychological impact on the people, especially when it has “the capacity to mobilize with maximum efficiency to those places where, generally, it is not permanently established.” And military power is “the dissuasive force par excellence in opposition to popular resistance when social control escapes temporarily from the hands of the national bourgeoisie” (Arboleya 2008:8).
We will continue to explore the characteristics of neocolonialism in subsequent posts.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, Africa, Asia