Racism in western societies is often spoken of as something involving simple discrimination or prejudice. Yet the most profound racism has always been generated and sustained by imperialism, including colonial rule and, in the post-colonial era, imperial intervention.
Denying the very existence and integrity of other peoples requires ideologies of systematic exclusion and dehumanisation. That denial is implicit in every coup, proxy war or invasion, under whatever pretext, carried out either for ‘regime change’ or to divide and weaken those peoples not well embedded in the imperial orbit.
The new pretexts often have to do with the ‘protector’ role of the empire, including protection against great crimes and genocide. Yet history tells us that it is almost always imperial interventions that generate those same great crimes. Rafael-Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who invented the term ‘genocide’ spoke of it as a ‘recurring pattern of history’ by which empires displaced and wiped out entire peoples.
The deep racism of imperial intervention and war renders as illegitimate, non-existent and worthless entire peoples and their cultures, values and social organisation, including nation-states and alliances. The aim is to create a cultural void into which the imperial powers can step as protectors and saviours, hiding their own strategic and material interests. At best the subordinated peoples are seen as victims, refugees or individuals to be assimilated, never as independent peoples with their own voice and their own forms of social organisation.
This is not simply a matter of capitalist logic. Marxists, following Lenin, placed too much emphasis on the financial determinants of contemporary imperialism, saying it was based on the need of financial monopolies to export capital. Yet the USA, leader of today’s imperial cabal, is a massive importer of capital. Contemporary imperialism maintains many features of the more ancient systems of domination, including the ‘civilising missions’ set up to subdue and divide the various ‘barbarian’ cultures.