Colonialism

Haiti - repression and resistance

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The staggering poverty in which the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's population live is a shock to anyone. Yet it is not because of some peculiar Haitian backwardness but the result of centuries of exploitation.

At the end of the 18th century Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean, and its then capital, Cap-Français, was one of the world's richest cities.

When the French Revolution began in 1789 the island had nearly 800 sugar plantations and 3,000 coffee, cotton and indigo plantations, all destined for France under a colonial trade monopoly. Its population of 35,000 whites and 27,000 mulattoes (people of mixed race) controlled the island economy, while 1 million slaves were brought from Africa to work the land.

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Gilded African

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Locked in an Alpine castle, Toussaint L'Ouverture died in April 1803 having led the slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue and challenged French domination of the Caribbean.

It was a cruel irony to take this great leader from his Caribbean island and incarcerate him through a freezing winter.

Born a slave around 1743, Toussaint enjoyed a degree of privilege as a house slave and coachman and was taught to read and write. At 33 he was given his freedom and adopted the name L'Ouverture ("opening"). Like others he must have anticipated that the French Revolution of 1789 would liberate the slaves. Instead wealthy planters remained in control of an island vital to the French economy.

Interview: Mahmood Mamdani on Darfur

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In his new book Mahmood Mamdani puts the war in Darfur in historical context and challenges the Save Darfur Coalition's characterisation of the conflict and its call for international intervention. He talks to Charlie Kimber


You reject the label genocide and question overblown estimates of how many have died in Darfur. This can seem to trivialise the suffering. Why is this an important question?

One does not have to inflate actual suffering to take it seriously. In 2006 the US government's audit agency, the Government Accountability Office, got together with the Academy of Sciences and appointed a panel of 12 experts to evaluate the reliability of six different estimates on excess deaths in Darfur at the peak of the violence in 2003-4.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

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At a time when Gordon Brown is cynically taking up the cause of Darfur in a vain attempt to find some moral high ground for New Labour to occupy, it is worth remembering the British Empire's record in the same region.

According to Piers Brendon in his new history of the empire, "British punitive expeditions in the Sudan were even more brutal than those in Kenya, at times amounting almost to genocide. Certainly, as one district officer acknowledged, they produced a crop of 'regular Congo atrocities'."

Afghanistan: the other lost war

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Against the backdrop of failure in Iraq, Afghanistan is often promoted as the enduringly justifiable, and winnable, war. Jonathan Neale explains why this is not the case, while former US infantryman Johnny Rico speaks out about his experiences on the Afghan frontline

This is the fifth Afghan War. The first Afghan War was in 1838, when the British invaded to make Afghanistan part of the Indian empire. The Afghan barons and warlords did not resist. It was the ordinary people who rose up under the leadership of the village mullahs and slaughtered a whole British army. The British left.

A great British tradition

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Government spin on the role of British forces around the world portrays them as gallant beret-wearing chaps just trying to help. Writer and anti-war activist John Newsinger recalls the events of the Great Indian Rebellion 150 years ago this month, which show how far this is from the truth

The British Empire has always responded to any resistance to its rule with ferocious repression. In 1857 the Great Indian Rebellion posed a massive challenge to the British Empire. It was suppressed with unprecedented brutality. The British adopted a policy of "no prisoners", a policy which was enforced by means of massacre and mass executions. One officer, Thomas Lowe, later remembered how on one occasion his unit had taken 76 prisoners (they were just too tired to carry on killing and needed a rest, he recalled).

An Enemy of Empire

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Chris Harman is impressed by a new collection of Marx's journalistic writings on India which helps demolish the myths that Marx was a supporter of 'progressive' imperialism.

"The Roman divide et impera (divide and rule) was the great rule by which Great Britain contrived to retain possession of her Indian Empire. The antagonism of various races, tribes, castes, creeds and sovereignties continued to be the vital principle of British supremacy... 200,000,000 natives being curbed by a native army of 200,000 men officered by Englishmen, and that native army in turn being kept in check by an English army numbering 40,000 only... How far that native army can be relied upon is clearly shown by its recent mutinies...

By Jingo

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Britain's empire is nothing to be proud of.

If the strains of 'God Save The Queen' send a shiver of delight around your body; if you thought it was a good idea when Blair and Mandelson 'reclaimed' the British bulldog in an election ad; if the occupants of Henman Hill shouting 'C'mon Tim!' do not make you think, 'What a sad bunch of middle class losers'... then you might want to look away now.

End of Empire: Spectre of Defeat

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Will the Iraqis humble the mighty US empire? Alex Callinicos investigates.

Something extraordinary has happened in the past three years. On 11 September 2001, we are endlessly reminded, the greatest military power in history was fiercely attacked before the eyes of the world. Its rulers reacted to this grievous humiliation by declaring a global 'war on terrorism' and conquering two 'rogue states' - Iraq and Afghanistan.

Capital and Conquest

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Chris Bambery recalls the brutal history of the British empire.

On 2 September 1898 at a place called Omdurman, outside the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, 20,000 British and Egyptian troops under the command of Lord Kitchener faced 52,000 lightly armed cavalry and infantry. The latter proceeded to charge Kitchener's lines. The new machine-gun created by the American Hiram Maxim opened fire and some 10,000 Sudanese were left dead on the battlefield. There were fewer than 400 casualties on the imperial side, with just 48 British soldiers being killed.

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