Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
yeah, "trade, wonderful trade..."

thing is, trade grinds to a halt in the absence of a surplus -- or becomes naked expropriation.  what I mean is, sure you can offer money to the S Hemi in exchange for their biotic wealth;  but when that biotic wealth is their food supply, their topsoil, their water, their tree cover -- and they cannot purchase for those dollars any food supply of equivalent nutrition and quality (or a new homeland to replace the disaster area left behind by the extractive industries), it becomes expropriation.  which is what "global trade" has always been, underneath the pretty rhetoric -- from the Conquistadores and John Company to the Boxer Rebellion, Admiral Perry, etc.

in theory, each region would trade its surplus produce, leaning on its comparative advantages to supply exotic/high-value goods to those who cannot grow   (or mine or fabricate) such things themselves.  but in practise, it is gunboat trade with resources being looted from those with smaller guns by those with bigger guns:  instead of the surplus, the dominant trade partner wants the whole enchilada:  to control and manipulate the weaker "trading partner" so as to assure a steady haemorrhage of wealth into the dominant trader's pocket;  to remove high-value resources and goods to their own trading milieu so as to capture all margins on these items, and at the same time to create a market (aka 'dumping ground') for their own lower-quality goods, to supplant the base/subsistence production that once was domestic/local and render the locals utterly dependent on the dominant trader for subsistence.  (cf John Company, India, textiles and opium...)

Cornwallis had certainly earned this prize from Britain's merchant class. He had defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore, extracting an eight-figure indemnity [that's a polite word for "ransom", btw --DeA], and had just pushed through the 'permanent settlement' in Bengal, securing healthy tax revenues for the Company's shareholders. Seeking to increase the efficiency [my emphasis --DeA] of tax collection in the Company's lands  [i.e. Bengal, taken by conquest], Cornwallis cut through the complex patterns of mutual obligation that existed in the countryside and introduced an essentially English system of land tenure. At the stroke of a pen, the zamindars, a class of tax-farmers under the Mughals, were transformed into landlords. Bengal's 20 million smallholders were deprived of all hereditary rights. Two hundred years on, and after decades of land reform, the effects still live on in Bengal.  [this was basically the English imposing the Enclosures on Bengal, very like the neolibs imposing Chicago-school "reform" on Argentina and the FSU, or Bremer's imperial edict imposing US patent law on Iraq:  vae victis --DeA]

This 'permanent settlement' was simply a more systematic form of what had gone before. Just five years after the Company secured control over Bengal in 1765, revenues from the land tax had already tripled, beggaring the people. These conditions helped to turn one of Bengal's periodic droughts in 1769 into a full-blown famine. Today, the scale of the disaster inflicted on the people of Bengal is difficult to comprehend. An estimated 10 million people - or one-third of the population - died, transforming India's granary into a 'jungle inhabited only by wild beasts'. But rather than organise relief efforts to meet the needs of the starving, the Company actually increased tax collection during the famine [similar policies were applied again more than a hundred years later by the government of British India - see Present Hunger, Past Ghosts] . Many of its officials and traders privately exploited the situation; grain was seized by force from peasants and sold at inflated prices in the cities.

Even in good times the Company's exactions proved ruinous. The Company became feared for its brutal enforcement of its monopoly interests, particularly in the textile trade. Savage reprisals would be exacted against any weavers found selling cloth to other traders, and the Company was infamous for cutting off their thumbs to prevent them ever working again. In rural areas, almost two-thirds of a peasant's income would be devoured by land tax under the Company - compared with some 40% under the Mughals. In addition, punitive rates of tax were levied on essentials such as salt, cutting consumption in Bengal by half. The health impacts were cruel, increasing vulnerability to heat exhaustion and lowered resistance to cholera and other diseases, particularly amongst the poorest sections.  [the Company essentially "patented" salt, though there was no hifalutin excuse about intelprop and a patenting process to paper over the banditry;  today its ideological inheritors copyright the genomes of traditional cultivars in the hope that they can once again Enclose the basic materials of subsistence and extort tribute from the peasantry and proletariat --DeA].

The Company's monopoly control over the production of opium had equally devastating consequences. Grown under Company eyes in Bengal, the opium was auctioned and then privately smuggled into China in increasing volumes. By 1828, opium sales in China were enough to pay for the entire purchase of tea, but at the cost of mass addiction, ruining millions of lives. When the Chinese tried to enforce its import ban, the British sent in the gunboats.

Nick  Robins

As more than one reader has noted, this article estimates that about 10-11 trillion pounds were transferred to England by the loot of East India company -- about $10K per Indian by some reckonings.  Thus was the industrial revolution kickstarted.  This is where the "capital" in "capitalism" came from.  It did not just spontaneously generate -- like maggots in cheese according to fantastical early theories -- from a wholesome Puritan stockpile of ingenuity and hard work... or rather, it did originate in ingenuity and hard work in India, whose proceeds were ripped off at gunpoint and shipped abroad.

The East India Company's first factory, in Bengal, was established on 14th May 1653 at Hariharpur. On 2nd February 1634 the English obtained from Shah Jahan an order to bring their ships to Bengal. In 1651 the English East India Company was permitted to trade freely in Bengal in return for a fixed annual tax of Rs.30.000, on the basis of a sealed permit, granted by the Governor of Bengal. However, the English were not satisfied with freedom to trade in Bengal only They wanted free movement of trade over the entire country. For this, they asked the Mogul emperors for a single document which would remove the impediments in the way of trade of the Company, and give them legal and moral justification to assert their rights, whenever they came into conflict with local and provincial authorities. [extraterritoriality, such as Blackwater and other contractors today enjoy in Iraq thanks to Bremer -- the Clive of his day --DeA]  The 1717 order was their route to extra-territorial power for free trade.

However, freedom for the East India Company implied the end of freedom for local producers and traders.

As Radhakamal Mukherjee writes in his Economic History of India the Indian merchants were placed under a serious handicap as they not only had to pay both customs as well as transit duties and other charges (from which the Europeans obtained exemptions), but also lacked the protection of the Mogul fleet against attacks by European frigates. The free-trade order of 1717 led to the rise in the monopoly of the East India Company in trade in manufactured goods as well as in agricultural commodities.

Textiles were the most important export item from India. In the times of the Mogul government, the weavers manufactured their goods freely. Master weavers often employed their own capital to manufacture and sell freely. With the introduction of monopoly, the entire weaving population as well as the merchants and intermediaries connected with the cloth trade were subjected to oppression. The coercion of the weaving community was intrinsic to the creation of freedom for the East India Company.

The Company appointed a large number of agents who advanced money to the weavers, obtaining from them signed contracts and exercising a monopolistic control over them, so that the 'weavers were not permitted to work for others. The weavers could not obtain a just price for their clothes. The English East India Company fixed prices in all places at least 15%, and in some even 40%, less than the clothes would sell in the public bazaar or market on a free sale.  ["free trade" means the freedom of capitalists to run a command economy for the benefit of themselves and their friends... sound familiar?]

"Free trade" was at the root of the loss of freedom for India and her people, because free trade is essentially freedom for foreign trading interests. "Free trade" is supposed to create a level playing-field. However, free trade does not create a level playing-field for all economic actors because it puts small local producers and traders at a disadvantage. As freedoms grow for corporations, small producers lose their freedom to engage in economic activity on their own terms and can either become bonded, contract labour to the corporations, or become economically dispensable.

How Free is Free India? by V Shiva

The Company undermined the revenue base and the local economy of the rulers of Bengal, India's richest province in the 1750s, by depriving vast numbers of natives of their livelihood. Regulatory pressures and competition from other European trading houses threatened the commercial position of the Company.

In retaliation for being expelled from Bengal, the Company's warrior baron, Robert Clive, mounted an amphibious offensive sprinkled with intrigue and conspiracy that won the day at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Victory gave the Company command of public revenues and the internal market of Bengal.

After another triumph at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, Bihar and Orissa were at the mercy of "John Company" and progressively pauperized by unrequited trade. From economic independence, Indian weavers were forced into slavery, unable to sell to others and obliged to accept whatever the Company paid. Military force expanded to squeeze raw materials from producers. Methods of Company repression included fines, imprisonments, floggings and forced bonds.

Profiteering and insider trading by company executives reached their acme as bans on corruption were ostentatiously ignored. Illegal syndicates to monopolize the betel-nut, salt and tobacco trade and persistent overestimation of the financial value of acquisitions were routine shenanigans in the Company. Clive led a remorseless grab campaign on the riches of an entire people and rerouted the flow of wealth to the West.

The Company increased eastern India's vulnerability to natural disaster and triggered a famine in 1770 that cost more than 1.2 million lives. Instead of introducing time-tested revenue relief during distress, it raised taxes and purchased grain by force for hoarding. The sheer barbarity and violence of the Company's conduct during the famine were "one of the worst examples of corporate mismanagement in history" (p 94). Callousness toward Indian lives was a natural result of its political tyranny.

Millions more Indians lost their lives when the Company's stock crashed in London in the mid-1770s. After the bubble burst, the English government introduced a new post of governor-general of India to curtail the Company's freedom. The principle of extraterritorial liability for corporate malpractice was founded when Clive's successor in Bengal, Harry Verelst, was found guilty of human-rights abuses in 1777 [...]

Review of Nick Robins' recent book, The Corporation That Changed the World

The dirty history of John Company should be more studied by people in our own century.  'Nothing new under the sun' indeed.  Though there is a smiley face seal on the envelope, the natural gas contract between Canada and the US is in the same tradition iirc:  if there is a shortfall of nat gas to meet Canada's heating requirements, there is no provision for prioritising domestic needs.  "Free Trade" trumps the wellbeing of the resource-holding country's own citizens.

One of the things that distinguishes NAFTA from the World Trade Organization agreements is that it includes a chapter that deals explicitly with energy. And the basic rules of trade as they apply to energy in the NAFTA context is that the US is entitled to unlimited access to Canadian natural gas and oil resources at the same price that those resources are made available in Canada and the form in which that's given expression by NAFTA is to impose a ban on government measures. Measures under trade agreements include policy, laws, programs, regulations, any government measure that imposes to restrain export growth to the Unites States, or that seeks to impose an export tax on oil and gas resources that head to the United States. It's also significant to appreciate that under WTO rules the tool of using tariffs to control the flow of resources or goods across boarders is permitted. Under NAFTA it isn't and that's the distinction between the two regimes. So under NAFTA we're obliged to give the US virtually unfettered access to Canadian natural resources, oil and gas resources included and we can't charge them more than we do Canadians. So a two price energy policy such as the one that's in place in Quebec is clearly non-compliant under NAFTA, the two price policy in Quebec of course having to do with electricity. And there are reasons why the NAFTA rules haven't been visited yet on Quebec, but the measure would be non-compliant and I don't think there would be an awful lot of debate or dispute on that. The qualification on this right of unlimited access is this, that, if at some point it becomes apparent in Canada that we simply don't have enough oil and gas to meet Canadian needs and we have to ration domestically, we're entitled to cut back export flows as well but only in proportion to the relative volume of resources being exported to the overall production in Canadian markets, in other words, right now for example in maritime Canada which is a factual situation that I'm familiar with at the moment. Seventy-five percent of all natural gas that's being extracted from the Nova Scotian offshore reserves flows to the United States. If it turns out that there simply isn't as much out there as we thought and if in fact that's not enough to meet both domestic and export needs, we can cut back on production, but the United States will be entitled to 75% of those diminished supplies in perpetuity until they're finally exhausted. So no matter how severe the supply constraints may be in Canada, no matter how dire the economic impacts associated with supply reduction in Canada the United States will still be entitled in that case to three-quarters of everything that's produced in Canada in perpetuity.
Transcript of Interview with Shrybman

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 08:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Company essentially "patented" salt, though there was no hifalutin excuse about intelprop and a patenting process to paper over the banditry;  today its ideological inheritors copyright the genomes of traditional cultivars in the hope that they can once again Enclose the basic materials of subsistence and extort tribute from the peasantry and proletariat --DeA

A poster from the Swedish Pirate Party:

Translation (not that you can not all figure it out anyway): Gandhi copied salt. What do you copy?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:08:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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