The History of the Culture of War
15. Racism 5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve?

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-guns trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war


Hand in hand with the development of African slavery and colonialism came the development of racism, which was used to justify them. We have already seen this in the account quoted earlier from Franz Fanon. Another particularly vivid description is that of Malcolm X (1964) in his Autobiography:

"Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world's black, brown, red, and yellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation. I saw how since the sixteenth century, the so-called "Christian trader" white man began to ply the seas in his lust for Asian and African empires, and plunder, and power . . "

". . First, always "religiously," he branded "heathen" and "pagan" labels upon ancient non-white cultures and civilizations. The stage thus set, he then turned upon his non-white victims his weapons of war.

I read how, entering India - half a billion deeply religious brown people - the British white man, by 1759, through promises, trickery and manipulations, controlled much of India through Great Britain's East India Company . . In 1857, some of the desperate people of India finally mutinied - and, excepting the African slave trade, nowhere has history recorded any more unnecessary bestial and ruthless human carnage than the British suppression of the non-white Indian people.

Over 115 million African blacks - close to the 1930's population of the United States - were murdered or enslaved during the slave trade. And I read how when the slave market was glutted, the cannibalistic white powers of Europe then carved up, as their colonies, the richest areas of the black continent . . "

"I read . . how the white man raped China at a time when China was trusting and helpless. Those original white "Christian traders" sent into China millions of pounds of opium. By 1839, so many of the Chinese were addicts that China's desperate government destroyed twenty thousand chests of opium. The first Opium War was promptly declared by the white man. Imagine! Declaring war upon someone who objects to being narcotized. The Chinese were severely beaten, with Chinese-invented gunpowder.

The Treaty of Nanking made China pay the British white man for the destroyed opium; forced open China's major ports to British trade; forced China to abandon Hong Kong; fixed China's import tariffs so low that cheap British articles soon flooded in, maiming China's industrial development."

Racism did not disappear with the abolition of slavery and the liberation of European colonies. It has remained an important feature of capitalist exploitation, by which non-white workers are paid lower wages than white workers, splitting labor solidarity and providing higher profits from exploitation. The most extreme example was that of South African Apartheid, but less extreme racism characterizes capitalist countries around the world. According to economist Victor Perlo (1996), the profits gained directly in the United States from the wage differential between white workers and workers of color grew from $56 billion in 1947 to $197 billion in 1992 (figures corrected for inflation). Perlo estimates that the profits gained indirectly by keeping down the wages of white workers, were even greater.

Racism is used to justify internal interventions that would not otherwise be carried out against those belonging to the dominant racial groups of the state. Perhaps the most extreme example of this were the forced labor camps and extermination camps of the Nazis that were justified by the official racism of the regime. But similar racist justifications are used for internal interventions by most of the "civilized" countries. For example, racist assumptions were involved in the internal interventions in the United States against African-American slaves, the genocide of Native Americans, the confinement of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II, the suppression of urban revolts in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, and, most recently, the arrests and detentions of Hispanic immigrants. It is unlikely that any of these interventions would have been undertaken against white, Anglo-Saxon Americans.

Racism is used by the state and its media to justify its enemy images and its wars and preparations for war. During World War II, the enemy Japanese and Germans were called "gooks" and "krauts" and portrayed as sub-human. At the present time, Arabs and South Asians are the victims of racist portrayals in the Western media and educational systems.

Racism is similarly used by the state and its media and by political demagogues to portray immigrants from the South, whether Arab and African in Europe or Central and South Americans in the U.S., as inferior and potential enemies, blaming them for the unemployment and declining social services created by the policies of capitalist enterprises and the state.

The racism of internal interventions is supported by the teaching of racism by the mass media and educational systems, including the most elite educational systems, and by churches and other religious organizations. For example, growing up in the American South, I was taught by my Sunday School Superintendent at Church School that it was written in the Bible that the "niggers were born to be slaves." Later, teaching in an elite American university, I found that my colleague in the psychology department was teaching a course to claim that the intelligence of African-Americans is genetically lower than the intelligence of those descended from European immigrants. In fact, it was the psychology department at the most elite American University, Harvard, that was most renowned for its claims of genetic inferiority of African-Americans.

To take part in a discussion about this page, click below on the Culture of Peace Dialogues:

discussion board

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?