During the nineteenth century, the Latin American republics in some respects were neocolonies of Great Britain. However, Arboleya considers them to have been semi-colonies rather than neocolonies, because not all of the characteristics of neocolonial domination were present. Since capitalism had not yet arrived at the stage of finance capital, British penetration was commercial rather than financial, involving an exchange of manufactured goods for raw materials without control of banking and financial institutions. In addition, competition from the United States, also seeking economic penetration of Latin America, prevented Briain from consolidating economic control (Arboleya 2008:8-9, 42).
The first case of neocolonial domination, tied to the expansion of finance capital and involving ideological penetration, was U.S. domination of Cuba, established during the first decades of the twentieth century. U.S. commercial and financial penetration of Cuba had begun during the period from 1878 to 1895. Following the U.S. occupation of 1898 and the establishment of the Republic of Cuba in 1902, U.S. commercial, financial, and ideological penetration increased. U.S. corporations owned the principal enterprises in agriculture, mining, and industry, producing raw materials that were exported to the United States. The Cuban national bourgeoisie was weakened and became subordinate to and dependent on U.S. capital, in some cases reduced from ownership to management of U.S. owned companies. U.S. producers dominated the Cuban domestic market. Cuban teachers were educated in the United States, and U.S. textbooks were used in Cuban public schools (Arboleya 2008:64-66, 76, 80).
The stable functioning of a neocolonial system requires a consensus among principal actors, and this consensus was disrupted in Cuba during the 1920s. U.S. protectionist policy had undermined Cuban sugar producers and banks, facilitating an even further expansion of U.S. ownership of the sugar industry and banks. Protectionist policy also led to an increase in unemployment, giving rise to sustained popular protest, which the figurehead bourgeoisie was not able to control. The need for a readjustment of the Cuban neocolonial system became apparent.
Significant adjustments were made in the neocolonial system during the period of 1933 to 1959, which had two Batista dictatorships, a Batista presidency characterized by some concessions to popular demands, and two governments characterized by populist rhetoric and high levels of corruption. The adjustment had two basic components. First, there was recognition of the need to protect the interests of the figurehead bourgeoisie, in order to give this class a greater stake in the system and to increase its possibility for maintaining social control. Secondly, there was greater reliance on the Cuban military for purposes of social control, necessary in light of popular opposition to U.S. intervention (Arboleya 2008:100-12).
With the popular election of Batista as president in 1940, the system appeared to have become a perfect neocolonial system. However, the improved and more advanced neocolonial system was unable to respond to the needs of the people, based as it was on utilizing the resources of the nation in the service of the interests of international capital and the figurehead bourgeoisie. The anti-neocolonial popular movement continued, and it created a second major crisis of the system during the 1950s, culminating in the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which put to an end the neocolonial system in Cuba (Arboleya 2008:114-64).
First established in Cuba, neocolonial domination became the pattern that defined U.S. relations with Latin America during the twentieth century. Meanwhile, neocolonial domination by the United States and the European colonial powers became the norm in Africa and South and Southeast Asia following World War II (see “Neocolonialism in Africa and Asia” 9/11/2013). Thus, during the post-World War II era, a neocolonial world-system evolved, with the United States as the hegemonic core power. Some nations (such as Vietnam and Cuba) were exceptions to the neocolonial pattern, and both were to be severely punished for their recalcitrance.
We will discuss the dynamics of the neocolonial world-system in the next post.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo: Un análisis histórico de la Revolución Cubana. 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, colonial, neocolonial