Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, Vladimir Lenin said. With that he meant that capitalists will use the military of their nation, to conquer foreign lands for personal profits. Today they conquer with money and little with arms. Between 1870 and 1945, most nations of the world were controlled by the major colonialist powers. The United States of America played a major role in the imperialist age. American imperialist forces conquered all of middle America between 1788 and 1860, killing many native Americans!
The first imperialist power that collapsed was the Spanish Empire. In 1898 only Spain, South Morocco and the Philippines remained under Spanish imperialist control. Its colonies in Latin America all declared independence around 1833. After a bloody war between anti-colonial forces led by Simon Bolivar and the Spanish monarchy, the imperialists were kicked out of Latin America!
In 1898 the Philippines rebelled against the Spanish imperialists. The USA aided the republican Philippines, but never wanted a independent; Republic of the Philippines. Why? Because they bought the nation from Spain. Yes, the USA paid 20 million US dollars for the Philippines. This was the first time the US imperialists used money to buy a nation. The Philippine republicans opposed the idea that their nation would become US property. This led to a three year war between American imperialists and Philippine republicans. In the end, the USA conquered the Philippines. It would remain its ruler until 1946.
Two major imperialist powers after 1900 were Great Britain and France. British imperialism ruled over huge parts of the world. They controlled large era’s of Africa, Asia and northern America ( Canada ). A major player in British imperialism was queen Victoria. This queen led the British Empire from 1818 till 1901. She build an empire not seen since the day’s of the Roman Empire. The British ruling class loved her thirst for power and control, the wealth Britain obtained because of her was enormous.
While the British ruling class became rich, the native population of conquered nations were treated very brutally. Racism was a driving force, the white British imperialists saw themselves are superior to the black and yellow people of their empire. This led to the creation of apartheid in British African nations like, Rhodesia and South Africa. Opposition to imperialism was reason enough to be arrested and executed. The imperialist British army made sure that any rebellion against queen Victoria, was crushed with brutal force!
One European nation that was very brutal towards native people in their colony, was the small Kingdom of Belgium. This tiny Dutch/French speaking nation, became independent of The Netherlands in 1830. A round 1883, king Leopold 2 bought the African land of Congo. He had great plans of turning this nation into his private business empire. With the wealth of Congo he would make Belgium rich. With rich we mean, that he wanted to make himself and his capitalist rich. The Congo Free State was his private property from 1883 till 1908.
7 million Congolese people were murdered by the criminal Leopold 2. Arms and legs were removed if people could not work hard enough. Children were murdered in front of their parents. This mass murder of black slave workers was a holocaust, but unfortunate few western people know about it. In 1908 the Belgian state had enough of the killings. They nationalized the Congo Free State and renamed it; Belgian Congo. For 52 years the Belgians maintained their rule, but the mass killings under Leopold 2 will never be forgotten. A terrible crime of western imperialism against innocent black workers and their families!
Dutch imperialism ruled over the nations, Suriname, Indonesia and the Dutch Antilles. The Netherlands was not a huge imperialist nation like France and Great Britain, but their colonies produced rubber and that made them a important player in the world market. Indonesia was called Dutch East India. In 1800 this colony was founded, as the Dutch state nationalized the United East Indian Company. The VOC was a capitalist company, the first major business empire in the world. Until 1800 it had a monopoly on trade within the Dutch Empire. But the rise of competition from others, marked the end of the VOC. In 1800 the company went bankrupt and the Dutch state nationalized its property in Indonesia!
The Dutch were less brutal then the British, but that didn’t mean they were tolerant of anti-colonialists. A major war between Dutch imperialists and anti-colonial fighters in 1830, let to the death of 200.000 Indonesians. Racism was also a tool used by the ruling classes to ship slaves to Dutch colonies. Slavery was abolish in 1863 in The Netherlands. But before that time, many black slaves were shipped from Africa to Suriname to do slave work. The British ended slavery in 1830, it took 30 years before the Dutch followed them.
But the end of slavery was not the end of exploitation, capitalist exploration remained. The imperialists knew that slavery was bad propaganda, so they abolished it. But even the free slaves were not free from exploitation. Because capitalism remained and paid very low wages to black workers. So racism did not die with the end of slavery. Even in the 1950’s, there was an apartheid culture in the United States of America. Black people were separated from the whites and were paid lower wages. Racial apartheid in the USA ended after massive protests led by left-wing and human rights groups. But even today there are white supremacist groups active, who praise the white race and call black people inferior!
Imperialist European nations came into conflict in 1914. The seeds for a world war were planted years ago when Germany was founded. Before 1871, there were many German states. All those kingdoms were united under the Prussian banner in 1871. The German Empire started to compete with Great Britain and France. Around 1914 they allied with the Astro-Hungarian Empire and formed the Central Powers!
Soon Germany attacked western Europe by invading Belgium, Luxembourg and France. World War 1 was a war of imperialism. But unlike the western version of history, the blame lies not only with Germany. The imperialistic competition between the European powers exploded in 1914 into full-scale war. But this time it was a new type of war. A war with air-planes and machine guns, bombs and gas!
There was little conquest of land. On the western front, Germany’s attack soon was halted only 30 kilometres from Paris. German forces had more luck on the eastern front against Imperial Russia. The Russian Imperial Army was outdated and lacked the German combat morality. Although Russia was able to invade eastern Prussia, they were soon forced to retreat back to Polish-Russia!
Germany also fought a naval battle against the mighty British Navy. Britain owned 160 naval ships, including 28 battleships and 9 battle cruisers. Germany’s navy was weaker and owned 99 ships, including 16 battleships and 5 battle cruisers. The battle of Jutland was a huge fight between the two navy. Britain lost 3 battle cruisers and 113.000 tons were sunk. Germany ended up with a lose of 62.300 tons sunk. Although Great Britain lost more tons, they were able to keep Germany from controlling the north sea. This allowed the western allies to start a naval blockade!
On land the trench war started. From 1915 till 1918 millions died for only a few kilometres of land, again and again. Germany started to use gas against allied soldiers. But the gas weapon proved to be unreliable, since the wind could flow the gas back to German lines. In the skies, the air planes of Germany and Great Britain fought harsh. The first fighter aces were born in the skies over France and Belgium. Like Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron. He shot down 80 enemy aircraft and was a hero in Imperial Germany. Von Richthofen was killed when his fighter was shot down in 1918!
The Russian Empire was losing the eastern front in 1916. Russian peasant soldiers were inferior to the stronger German storm troopers. In the winter of 1916, the Russian czar was losing support from his people. There was hunger in the major Russian cities and the weak bourgeoisie could no longer support the imperial family. In February 1917, czar Nicolas 3 was forced to abdicate. A provisional Russian government was formed under Alexander Kerensky. But at the same time, workers councils called soviets were formed around the nation. These workers councils were in direct competition with the provisional government!
British imperialism needed Russian support for the world war. So they talked with Alexander Kerensky and he told him that Russia must remain in the war. But outside the government, Russian workers had enough. In the soviets, a revolutionary party got the majority of support. The Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Lenin soon controlled the soviets and called for a workers revolution against the provisional government!
In November 1917, the soviets called for a workers revolution. Red soldiers arrested the ministers of the provisional government and ended Russia’s participation in the world war. The soviets elected Vladimir Lenin to be the head of the state, the new Russian government became a workers government. The Russian Republic was renamed into the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic!
Great Britain and France were hostile to the socialist government of Lenin. They ordered 200.000 troops to be send to Russia to aid the opponents of Bolshevism. Soviet leader; Leon Trotsky was asked to form a Workers and Peasants Red Army. This Red Army was founded in February 1918. Soon the anti-socialist; White Armies formed themselves also, they were supported by British and American forces!
The United States of America entered the war on in April 1917. America was neutral for three years, but after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania that killed many US citizens, the Americans choose to aid Britain against Germany and Astro-Hungary. 4.000.000 Americans fought in the first world war and 117.000 were killed!
Germany fought on till November 1918. At that moment the Social-democratic Party of Germany knew that Germany was losing the war. So with help from liberals, they told emperor; Wilhelm that his days were over. The emperor fled to The Netherlands and Germany signed an armistice. Like in Russia, the new republican government was in competition with workers councils. Radical socialists wanted a soviet style democracy but the social democrats and liberals wanted keep German capitalism alive. The right-wing Freikorps were used to crush revolutionary socialists and their workers councils. Between 1918 and 1921, more then 21.000 reds were killed by the white terror of the counter-revolution in Germany!
After world war 1, the biggest threat to world imperialism was communism. Soviet Russia had to be destroyed. So Britain, France, America and Japan send their troops to fight with the anticommunist Russians. Between 1917 and 1919 the Russian Civil War went good for the anticommunists. But the Red Army started to grow in strength and by mid 1920, they were able to turn the tide. Major fighting ended in 1922 as imperialist forces were defeated. The last Japanese troops left eastern Russia in October 1922!
The imperialist forces tried to destroy Bolshevism but they failed. Already in 1920 did the western nations feel that the reds were growing. Fearful of a socialist revolution in Britain and France, the imperialist armies went home to crush any leftist uprising. The White Armies fought on till 1922, but not before killing a lot of Jews and communists. More then 200.000 have been killed by the White Terror. The Bolsheviks also killed a great number of innocent people. Some say that they too killed 200.000 people, what is called the Red Terror!
Soviet Russia formed the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics in 1922. Unfortunate because of the civil war and massive destruction, the Russian Communist Party replaced the soviets as ruler of the new USSR. Party bureaucrats led by Joseph Stalin took power after Lenin got sick. With his death in January 1924, the Soviet-Union became a degenerated workers state. Stalin would use the degeneration of the revolution to kill anyone who opposed him!
World imperialism was happy with the degeneration of the soviet revolution. But they remained fearful of the communists who were anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist. The stock market crash of 1929 turned imperialism upside down. For the first time, the rich themselves were face with poverty and lose of money and luxury. The capitalist governments decides to blame the workers and steal money from them. They lowered salaries and started massive cuts. This led to poverty and mass unemployment.
In Germany this unemployment gave rise to the National Socialist German Workers Party. The NSDAP was no left-wing party, but a racist nationalist one. Led by Adolf Hitler, the nazi’s wanted to rebuild the German Empire and eliminate all Jews and communists. Hitler was elected leader of Germany in 1933. Soon he banned all opposition parties. Socialists and communists were jailed first. Later liberals and conservatives joined them!
The Nazi’s started the second world war in September 1939 by invading Poland. Nazi Germany wanted to expand its borders again. Imperialist Britain and France saw a danger in Germany and declared again war. The second world war was another imperialist war, but this time it was also a war of annihilation. Nazi Germany started to arrest Jews much like the anticommunist Russians did in 1917. The SS of Hilter build special camps of destruction. They wanted to kill all European Jews!
Hitler’s invasion of Poland was a joint venture with Stalinist Russia. Hitler and Stalin divided Poland between them. East Poland became part of the USSR. More then 20.000 Polish soldiers were killed by the cruel NKVD under Beria. Stalin trusted Hitler and was not prepared for the 1941 invasion. When Hitler came, he conquered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some Baltic people were happy with the Nazi occupation because they had lived for three years under Stalinist totalitarianism!
Anticommunism was very high because of Stalin’s killings. Many people in Ukraine remembered the famine of 1932 and the harsh punishments. They hated all what was related to communism, so it is naturally that some joined the Waffen SS to fight Stalin. The Ukrainians also hated the Jewish people. They believed that the Stalinists were Jews because Karl Marx was Jewish. Already in 1917 did anti-Semitic Ukrainian nationalists, murdered thousands of Jewish workers and peasants. Now in 1941, Ukrainian Jews were again targeted by anti-Semitic Ukrainians!
In the east, Imperial Japan joined the Axis, an alliance made up of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Imperial Japan was already fighting in China since 1937. Japanese imperialism was underestimated by western imperialism and so they conquered Dutch Indonesia and British Singapore in 1942. The Europeans in their colonies were rounded up and jailed in special camps. Japanese guards behaved very cruel to them and many died because of forced labour and sickness.
The USA entered the war in December 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbour, the US imperialist machine was again building up for war. Americans forces came into action in the Desert War and destroyed the German Africa Corps with British support. By 1943 they invaded Italy and destroyed the fascist empire of Mussolini. The US Air Force bombed German cities into rubble. With their B-17 bombers the Americans spread fear and panicked, each day!
The Russians were able to defeat the 6th German Army at Stalingrad. 91.000 German soldiers surrendered to the Russians. Now the Red Army was able to stand against Hitler. By 1943, they had complete material superiority over the Germans. Belarus and Ukraine were liberated in 1944, collaborators were executed and Stalinist rule was re-established. In the Baltic nations, some anticommunist partisan continued to fight untill 1956. Stalin’s revenge was great, he deported many families and their children to Siberian camps. Ethic Russians were called in to live and work in the Baltic nations. Even today 1/3 of the Baltic republics is ethnic Russian.
D-Day on the western front was in June 1944. British, Canadian and American forces attacked German occupied France. By December 1944 they were in Belgium and close to the German border. From January till May 1945 they marched into Germany, ending the 12 year regime of Adolf Hitler. The Russians assault on Berlin was the final great battle in world war 2. Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30 1945, his generals surrendered to the Russians on May 8.
The end of the second world war, was also the end of classic imperialism. Many western nations did not realised it, but the Soviet-Union would be a beacon for many revolutionaries, who wanted to fight imperialism and colonialism. The great European powers were no longer supreme in the eyes of the oppressed people. They had realised that British, French and Dutch imperialism was no longer almighty!