TUMBY BAY - The United States of America was the largest and most successful economic nation in the world by the time World War II began.
There is compelling evidence to suggest that this success was built on the back of slavery.
During the middle of the 1800s, cotton became the world’s largest commodity. The cheapest and best cotton came from the southern United States.
More than half of the nation’s exports in the first six decades of the 19th century consisted of raw cotton, almost all of it grown by slaves in places like Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi.
The slave economy of the southern states had ripple effects throughout the entire US economy, with plenty of merchants in the north helping to organise the trade of slave-grown agricultural commodities.
Financing cotton growing, as well as marketing and transporting the crop, was a source of great wealth for the nation’s merchants and banks.
That wealth kicked off the industrialisation of America and the beginning of its rise to superpower status.
In other parts of the world similar moves were afoot to exploit black labour through colonialism. Those Western nations with colonies exploited the labour and the resources of their colonies.
In Papua New Guinea the planters exploited the land and the people they used as labour. The early indentured labour schemes were nothing more than benign forms of slavery.
In Australia a highly successful pastoral industry was built on the backs of poorly paid Aboriginal stockmen, who often just worked for rations.
In Queensland the sugar cane fields were worked by Pacific islanders who had often been captured by ‘blackbirders’ and brought to work the cane against their will and for little remuneration.
Slavery in the USA ended with the American Civil War of 1861-65. That war was fought for both humanitarian and economic reasons.
The master-slave relationship that was central in all these cases of exploitation didn’t end with the American civil war.
It didn’t finish with the abolition of slavery.
Nor did it disappear with the end of colonialism in places like Africa and the Pacific.
Instead it transformed itself into a new relationship characterised by wage labour.
Wealth was now built on the backs of poorly paid workers rather than slaves.
Unsurprisingly many of those workers, particularly in the USA, were poor black people, immigrants from Latin America and down at heel whites.
In a new form, the master-slave relationship was just as dominant as it was in the early nineteenth century, and it still persists today.
The particularly savage form of capitalism practised in the USA and other places today requires a compliant, cowed and, most of all, cheap source of labour that the descendants of slavery, colonialism and immigration largely represent.
The social dichotomy that this exploitative relationship maintains is now the driving force behind racism.
It is the driving force behind the rhetoric that creatures like Donald Trump preach and the policies they invoke.
It is the driving force that is now being resisted by movements like Black Lives Matter and the current unrest in the USA and elsewhere which is seeing tens of thousands of people - black and white - protesting around the world.
To people like Trump and his cronies, racism is an integral part of their economic and political model.
To that end they employ large and military-style police forces to maintain that schism and their control.
The job of the police is to keep the restless natives under control by any means possible so the wealthy can get on with exploiting them and making money.
It is a master-slave relationship writ large for the 21st century, just as it was in the 19th century.
Black Lives Matter is a direct threat to the wealth of people like Donald Trump and it is clear he will do everything in his power to keep it suppressed, including sending in troops and waving bibles in front of churches for a photo opportunity.
The current unrest in the United States is about much more than just police brutality, savage and inhumane though it is.
It is about wealth and keeping it in the hands of a small, wealthy and unscrupulous elite.
But now the slaves are taking on the masters in a fight for equity and equality. And they are being joined by all people for whom racism is anathema.
Who wins is anyone’s guess. But there is a moral imperative in the disruption we see today in the world’s strongest nation and in many other countries.