Great Britain : dissolution of an empire
Between 1765 and 1938, Britain stole $ 45 trillion from India, according to calculations by historian Utsa Patnaik. The colonizing power was able to impose an absolute monopoly on the trade of the subcontinent through the intermediary of the East India Company whose attributions consisted in buying their goods from the Indians with their own money thanks to an ingenious subterfuge. Indeed, while – prior to the establishment of this obligation in 1765 – Great Britain discharged Indian property by settling it in the traditional way for the time, that is to say mainly against silver. East India undertook to devote a third of the revenue resulting from its taxes imposed on the Indian people to the purchase of all of their rich production, which ranged from textiles to rice to wood. In other words, the colonizer recycled part of these taxes by paying his purchases to Indian peasants and workers with their money, while the colonized saw nothing as the organization who was taxing them was obviously not the one who was buying their goods.
Great Britain even benefited twice from this system because its surpluses, like iron, were re-exported by it to the rest of Europe at a high price, thus allowing it to finance its own growth and industrialization. The end of the East India Co.’s monopoly around 1847 was not even to lead to the enrichment of India, because the exporters of this country were only authorized to be paid through bills (Council Bills) which could only be issued by the Crown Treasury. Indian producers certainly had from this period the right to sell their goods to other countries, but these could only pay with a currency which they were forced to obtain in London in exchange for gold and silver. In addition, Indian traders were paid – not in Council Bills – but in Rupees…the very ones that had been deducted from them as taxes because it was obviously London that kept the precious metals. As Indian wealth was diverted by Great Britain, India was largely indebted to the colonizing power when – in reality – it was largely in trade surplus due to the massive flows of products it exported. Not content with despoiling the Indian population, Great Britain also enslaved it through debt.
Centuries of poverty and misery could have been spared the Indians if their country had been able to reinvest the product of its wealth on its own development, rather than financing the Industrial Revolution and incidentally the British wars which could both only prosper by the grace of this systematic looting of an entire sub-continent exploited without any scruple. Utsa Patnaik’s study shows unequivocally that these 45 trillion – which is almost 20 times the annual GDP of Great Britain today! – allowed the prosperity of the occupying power. Generally speaking, it was the 14 Commonwealth countries, those that left it and those that never joined after the colonizer left that developed Britain – not the other way around. In this regard, the death of Elizabeth II will have profound repercussions on a system which is already imploding with Barbados that has had its own Head of State since last year, Jamaica who wishes to become a republic, the Bahamas who are thinking of a formula of this type. And others will follow who are also on the verge of demanding substantial reparations from a nation where feudalism still reigns and where the current Prime Minister is only so by the legitimacy of 80,000 voters.