The Purpose and Method of Colonisation [3]

(Continued from last issue.)

“The great beauty of capitalist production,” said Marx, “consists in this—that it not only constantly reproduces the wage-worker, but produces always in proportion to the accumu­lation of capital, a relative surplus population of wage workers. Thus the law of supply and demand is kept in the right rut, the oscillation of wages is penned within limits satisfactory to capitalist exploitation, and lastly, the social dependence of the labourer on the capitalist, that indispensable requisite, is secured.” (“Capi­tal,” p. 794)

In such “highly civilised” countries as England, France, or Germany, the organisation of wealth-production for profit, e.g., to the glory of capital and consequently in the sole interest of the possessors thereof, the capitalists, is to all intents and purposes complete. How “the poor,” that is, the members of the working class, have been made, and are being made, to view as part and parcel of their “inevitable fate” the awful consequences, and notably the constantly harassing insecurity, resulting for them from such production ; the apathy with which the male workers can see their manhood destroyed by suffering their wives and children to endure the most cruel privations and humiliations, especially in times of unemployment; the dull resignation with which they look forward to their “evening of life” and “honorable ease”—in the workhouse, if unable to depend on friendly or children’s aid; in short, the readiness with which they accept their degradation and misery in the face of the most ostentatious display and squandering of the wealth they have produced ; the success, on the other hand, with which the chloroforming fetishes and superstitions of patriotism, religion, hero-wor­ship, etc., are inoculated ; also the respect shown to the “strong arm of the law” and the rest of the foul institutions of oppression: all these things, which clearly demonstrate the “superi­ority of ‘our’ working class,” must constitute a source of great gratification and felicity to our masters.

It would almost seem that, unlike all preceding stages and forms of human co-existence, the capitalist system is to last for ever and ever, were it not for the discontented and strife-stirring Socialist. Only the latter, indeed, will not see that property and profit are far more sacred than human life, and will not recognise that without capitalist “enterprise” the working class would be in a worse way.

No wonder that, with such queer notions as these, we are also credited with being unqualified to duly appreciate the great Christian work of systematic up-“lifting” organised by our pious masters, under great difficulties, in the colonies. Nevertheless, we realise at least the difficulties of their task, knowing, as we do, that man has a rooted objection to being robbed. It is notorious, and has already been referred to here, that the arrival abroad of the enterpris­ing pioneer of civilisation has been marked everywhere by obstinate resistance on the part of the “uncivilised” natives, and that, more than at home (where the conditions satisfactory to capitalist exploitation are already at hand), the “necessity” for wage-labour has to be constantly demonstrated by the display and frequent application of the full strength of the arm of the law. Brute force, in fact, plays the chief part in the process of “converting” the natives to serve God Capital, in other words, into wage-slaves. The missionary, as already said, forms only the cloak, the avant-garde of the bourgeoisie, behind which lurks, an agent a thousand times more powerful and convincing than the silly “Word of God,” to wit—the gun. By blood and infamies, deceit and vile trickery, in which the agents of the bourgeois parasites are well versed, the separation of the natives from their own conditions of labour and means of subsistence is effected, and thus is secured the exchange of their liberty for that ominous capitalist “freedom,” which is so well and so “profit”-ably (to the capitalists and their hacks) established at home, and which only the wicked Socialist does not enjoy.

It will not be necessary for our purpose to refer here to more than the previously mentioned bloody expeditions to one of the continents oversea, namely Africa, and it will also be suffi­cient to quote from only a few of the colonial capitalist mouthpieces to prove our contention that the object of colonisation is, besides confiscation of the natural resources, the forcible subjection and exploitation of the natives. More­over, the history of one colony only reflects what, in the main, has been and is going on in the rest of the capitalistically backward countries, so soon as they have been discovered to possess things convertible into exchange-values, and men ignorant of, and uninfected with, the blessings of civilisation and Christianity. And since enough is known in these islands about the dirty work that its greedy millionaire Empire-builders have accomplished abroad, the experience in colonies of their rivals, the Germans, may serve as evidence in support of our foregoing statements.

Although with Bismarck’s “blood and iron policy” before them, and in spite of the sacrifice of at least 150,000 innocent human beings (as stated in the German Reichstag on 4th March, 1913) on the altar of “Kultur” and civilisation since the arrival of the German “Kulturtrager” in Africa a generation ago, the organisation of capitalist production there is as yet very incomplete. In the vast tropical territories of Africa, which the German has set himself to open up and colonise, the control over, or—in bourgeois terms—the “freedom” of, the native workers is still far from being in the right groove ; these men are scattered about and can still escape from dependency on the capitalist for their, means of subsistence—to mention only one diffi­culty. It is doubtful whether even the genius of Lloyd George could devise a scheme deliver­ing those men more speedily and inexorably into a better grip of the Christian employers.

Unlike the modern proletarian, many of those natives can still manage to return to their wonted mode of living, and so disappear from the labour market, to the great chagrin of the colonist. Hence, the great controversies raging in the colonial Press, in the Reichstag, and elsewhere, around the “labour-problem”—the problem being, of course, to secure a greater and more regular supply of those wonderful men, who,—as the learned Dr. P. Rohrbach has discovered (Luderitzbuchter Zeitung 27.3.1914) “possess a large amount of labour-power—in fact, FAR MORE THAN IS USED UP, ON AN AVERAGE, FOR PROVIDING THEIR ORDINARY AND VERY PRIMITIVE RE­QUIREMENTS OF SUBSISTENCE.” (From the connection in which the above words appear, it is evident that their author is entirely uncon­scious of the fact that he is referring here to the greatest of all human discoveries, seeing that the bourgeiosie owes its existence, and capitalist enterprise its stimulus, to this same surplus labour. This is certainly fortunate for him, bearing in mind the fate of one economist for putting in almost the same formula his dis­covery of the sole source of—PROFIT.)

More direct compulsion and recruiting is, according to some colonial experts, necessary, while others clamour for more indirect pressure to make the natives yield their precious surplus labour-power. “There must be no fake weakness,” says Rohrbach, while numerous other learned toads are equally loud in their denunciations of “misplaced humanitarianism in con­nection with the labour question,” and the justification given for advocating such direct constraint is that: “In Europe and all other advanced countries everybody (meaning natu­rally the working class) is compelled to surrender their full energy to work and a great many must toil beyond their physical capability.” (Luderitzbuchter Zeitung 27.3.1914). This after centuries of civilisation and “progress” !

Professor Anton, in an article on the “Labour Question,” which appeared last April in the “Koloniale Rundschau”—the organ of the German Association for the protection (!) of the Natives—and was widely circulated in the Colonies, says that “Since the colonising people cannot wait until the higher requirements, or over-population and hunger, induce the natives to constant work in the service of others, there is no alternative but to substitute direct com­pulsion for the unwillingness of the natives to do work for their foreign masters.” As Anton admits, on the same occasion, “free labour” is “besides by no means an exclusive condition to­-day in the tropical colonies, … as all colonial authorities avail themselves of direct compulsion on an extensive scale.” In fact, where necessary, the Divisional Magistrates in certain districts of East Africa compulsorily procure workers for plantations, as can be proved from a confidential circular to planters’ associa­tions, which says in effect: “The Authority is prepared, as hitherto, to procure, through the medium of the native chiefs, to every European enterprise as many workers as possible from the neighbouring native communities.” (“Usambara Post,” 16.5.14.)

Besides the existence of direct compulsion, there is in most of the tropical countries the unscrupulous professional labour-recruiter, and it is obvious and has repeatedly been admitted, that the recruiting does not always take place of the natives’ own accord and free will, but that thousands of defenceless and ignorant blacks fall victims to the cunning, fraudulent, crafty, underhand expedients of those ignoble “procurers.” Small wonder, then, that when the so deceived natives discover what has happened, and become troublesome or run away, they fall from misfortune to misfortune, and thus provide the gutter-Press at home occasionally with the means to work up a circulation at the expense of their sufferings.

To meet half-way the above mentioned apostle of over-population and hunger, Herr Eduard Woermann, the wealthy Hamburg financier, who is “largely interested in the colonies,” has given a sum of 6,000 Marks as a prize to the Colonial Institute for the best treatise on the following question :

“Through which practical steps can the German Colonies obtain an increase in the birth rate and a decrease in the infantile mor­tality amongst the native population—THE ECONOMICALLY MOST VALUABLE MO­TIVE-POWER of our colonies? ”

The result of the competition, which is to be published next year, will no doubt provide us with more details of what is to constitute those people’s increased happiness. Meanwhile we can appreciate the modesty of this shining light of capitalism to have kept silent about the necessity of the capitalist in the process of wealth-production. Or could it be that Herr Woermann has nothing to learn from the modern “econo­mists” ? What about Directive Ability ?

The majority of our colonial enthusiasts, of course, would rather see more indirect methods, notably hunger, permanently established amongst the natives, and so get the (sufficient) supply of “motive-power” (at home known as “hands”) into that automatically working way which, as Marx says, is the great beauty of capitalist production. They know that direct and legal forms of compulsion are “attended with too much trouble, violence, noise” and, last but not least, expense; while hunger, for example, is a “peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure,” just as Woermann realises what a great blessing is the existence of a large indus­trial reserve army.

And lest there might be any doubt about the motive underlying all efforts and controversional proposals, whatever their nature or source, we give room to the declaration of the “Deutsch Ostafrikanische Zietung” which appeared prominently in their organ (4.6.1913) as a statement of their position and policy in the matter of the “labour problem.”

It says literally :

“It may be briefly recalled (but the policy of our friends in the North had caused a re­newed flaring up of the rising of 1905-1907, which has only just been suppressed with great sacrifices in blood and money. It must now be openly admitted that the insubordination of the Warnwera and Wandonde tribes, the general rising of the Wamakonde and Wamaraba, . . . had been caused through the preliminary steps taken by the Government in compulsorily recruiting natives as plantation workers. . . . We do not advocate general compulsory recruiting of workers through the Government, because it is impracticable, but demand instead the exercise of a persistent indirect pressure—differentiated according to the individuality of the particular communities— A PRESSURE WHICH WILL MAKE THE MILLIARD VALUES SLUMBERING IN THE INACTIVE ARMS OF THE NA­TIVES, ACCESSIBLE TO THE GERMAN NATIONAL WEALTH.”

For national wealth, read—capitalist class.

There is the truth about the hypocritical cry of “Kultur” in a nutshell—”Kultur,” indeed, if thereby they mean exploitation and robbery, naked and unashamed !

It is proposed to deal subsequently more in detail with some of the methods in operation and advocated, which supply, and are intended to supply, the pressure necessary for the “education” and accelerated “advancement” of the natives into the abyss of wage-slavery.

(To be Continued.)


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