From, Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Introduction to Caribbean Politics, Ian Randle Publishers, 2002, pp.4-5





In the post-independence period, colonialism gave way to neo-colonialism. Neo-colonial theory refers to that body of thought which views the political indepen­dence of former colonies as a facade, behind which lurks the former mother countries, other imperialist nations and powerful Western financial and economic interests. To many third-world scholars the achieve­ment of constitutional independence and sovereignty did not result in the freedom of the newly indepen­dent state, as the termination of colonial status did not end economic colonialism.

At the core of neo-colonial writings is the asser­tion that traditional discourse on developing countries made little distinction between political and economic sovereignty and as such, the failure to achieve eco­nomic independence impacts negatively on political freedom. Berman argues that:

... Independence for these former colonies has meant trading the direct political control of colonialism for the indirect economic, political and cultural controls of neo-colonialism.12




Attesting to the largely symbolic nature of independence for  postcolonial states, Nkrumah argues that

The essence of neo-colonialism is that the state which is subject to it is, in ... theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside."

He states further that, '... for those who practice it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without re dress'.14

Nkrumah suggests that neo-colonialism manifest itself in five main areas, namely the political, economic, ideological, military and cultural sectors. While the method, form and processes may vary, neo-colnialism is normally associated with the following: invasion of territory; economic or monetary control; high rates of interest; control of the world market by international capital; control of the prices of commodities; multilateral aid; trade union activity; control of shipping; military occupation; control of news and print media; religious and cultural penetration and control of terms of trade.

Largely influenced by modernisation theory, many third-world leaders sought to transform their largely backward agricultural economies to industrialised ones. For these development purposes the state had two options; it could either source foreign investments to help in the development of the economies, or undertake such developmental work itself, despite the reluctance of domestic merchant capital to undertake such activity.

Where the state opted to seek foreign investment for developmental purposes, capital continued to seep from the economy in the form of repatriated profit; wages, royalties, services interest on loans and debt repayment, which often outweighed investments in the economy. Moreover developmental aid has given foreign investors a lever to intervene in the policy making decision of postcolonial societies, which has both domestic and international implications. Gordon Lewis contends that:

Theoretically, independence confers sovereignty upon the new nation. But economic development of the Puerto Rican type precludes the use of sovereign police power in implementing any serious programme of social radical change, since nothing must be done,. As the local planners see it, to disturb the 'confidence' of the foreign investor in the local financial 'climate'.

Imperialism: Colonialism, Nee-colonialism and Reconciliation

Concretee illustrations of such strategic and diplomatic advantages in the Caribbean can be seen in support for Japan at the Whaling Commission in return for investment in the fisheries industry in some Eastern Caribbean countries and the exclusion of Grenada and Cuba from benefiting in the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) of 1981. Nkrumah describes the situation as one in which those who provide aid insist on:

The inclusion of commerce and navigation treaties;

'agreements for economic co-operation; the right to meddle in internal finances, including currency and foreign exchange, to lower trade barriers in favour of the donor country's goods and capital; to protect the Interests of private investments; determination of how funds are to be used; forcing the recipient to set up counterpart funds; to supply raw materials to the do­nor; and use of such funds - a majority of it in fact - to buy goods from the donor nation. The conditions ap­ply to industry, commerce, agriculture, shipping and insurance, apart from others which are political and military.16

Recently, Commonwealth Caribbean countries signed Ship-Rider Agreements with the United States, seen by some as an infringement on their sovereignty.17 In pursuit of its unilateral and joint countermeasures to drug trafficking, the United States government often pursues suspects into the territorial waters of Caribbean countries, arresting suspects sometimes without the formal notification of 'sovereign' Caribbean governments. Attempts to formalise these operations of the United States government in the region in the late 1990s was a source of much controversy. Barbados and Jamaica felt that in pursuit of suspected vessels, the United States should not violate the territorial air and sea space of Caribbean countries.

Countries defined as neo-colonial states, therefore, possess economies in which the global terms of trade are to their disadvantage and to the advantage of industrial nations. The asymmetrical global economic relations result in the favouring of the export products of advanced industrialised countries at the expense of primary exports of developing countries. Nkrumah ies that:

... On the economic front, a strong factor favouring Western monopolies and acting against the developing world is international capital's control of the world - market, as well as of the prices of commodities bought and sold there.'8

Such structural imbalance of the world market leads to foreign exchange crises. Billions of dollars con­tinue to be extracted from poor countries for the benefit of rich countries. This leads to a reinforcement of the dependency of the neo-colonial state on loans and investment funds from developed countries and foreign firms. Aid donors can withdraw or withhold aid from the borrowing nation if these governments are reluctant, or fail to adopt the policies demanded by the donor. Often, foreign exchange crises are re­solved by resorting to the loans from multilateral agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank (WB). Unfortunately, negotiated loan packages usually carry with them conditionalities which have severe eco­nomic, political and social consequences.

Other forms of neo-colonial penetration occur by way of military bases, foreign advisors, media propa­ganda, evangelism and CIA subversion. Very often, postcolonial states depend on former colonial and other imperialist nations for arms, training and mili­tary advisors. In the Commonwealth Caribbean there is a strong reliance on the United States for training of the special service units within the police force and for funds and other forms of assistance to the regional security system.

It is this extensive and persistent control which led Franz Fanon to view colonialism as insidious, ex­tending beyond the independence period. According to Fanon:

Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organised and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without that struggle, with­out that knowledge of the practice of action, there's nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of trum­pets. There's nothing save a minimum of re-adaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag waving: and down there at the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the middle ages, endlessly marking time.19