The expansion of the world-economy after 1750 led to prosperity for the Latin American agricultural and cattle sectors that were tied to the mining industry, giving the Spanish colonies the capacity to export other raw materials in addition to minerals. Conceding to demands from these sectors, the Spanish government announced reforms in 1778 and 1782 that legalized exports to Spanish markets of sugar, tobacco, cocoa, and leather. But Spain was lagging behind Northwestern Europe in manufacturing capacity, levels of capital, and standard of living, and it therefore was increasingly unable to adequately supply manufactured goods and investment capital to Latin America and to provide sufficient markets for Latin American raw materials exports. So the Latin American agricultural and cattle sectors had interest in direct commercial relations with other core nations. Spain was obstructing the development of such commerce, and it was imposing burdensome taxes in order to sustain the colonial empire (Regalado 2007:104-6; Weaver 1994; Frank 1979:164-71).
So there emerged conflicts of interest at the end of the eighteenth century, as has been explained by the Cuban scholar Roberto Regalado. On the one hand, there was an emerging conflict between the Latin American elite and Spain. The Latin American elite had an interest in free trade with European and American markets, whereas Spain (and Spaniards in America) had an interest in maintaining the monopoly of the Spanish crown over trade with the Spanish colonies. At the same time, there was emerging another conflict of interest between the Latin American elite and the popular sectors. The former had an interest in maintaining its economic and social control of the colony, whereas the latter had an interest in fundamental changes in the colonial system of class and ethnic stratification (Regalado 2007:106-7)
By the early nineteenth century, these conflicts of interest gave rise to independence movements in Latin America. The movements were formed by planters, farmers, small and medium-sized producers, merchants, intellectuals, and artisans; and they were influenced by the Enlightenment, American (U.S.) Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Haitian Revolution. As a result of the two simultaneous conflicts of interest, there were in the Latin American independence movement two ideological tendencies that Regalado has called oligarchic and progressive. The oligarchic orientation sought to attain independence while maintaining the socioeconomic status quo, and this approach was favored by the elite participants in the independence movement. On the other hand, the popular sectors had a progressive orientation, envisioning independence from Spain as establishing the possibility for fundamental socioeconomic change, including the abolition of slavery as well as other measures in defense of the poor (2007:107-8).
The independence movements resulted in the establishment of independent Latin American republics, but the new republics were not truly independent, as we will discuss in the next post.
Frank, Andre Gunder. 1979. Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Regalado, Roberto. 2007. Latin America at the Crossroads: Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements, and Political Alternatives. New York: Ocean Press.
Weaver, Frederick Stirton. 1994. Inside the Volcano: The History and Political Economy of Central America. Boulder: Westview Press.
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, capitalism, peripheralization