The Purpose and Method of colonisation [5]

(Continued from last issue.)

Whether the “Study of British Methods,” in which certain European capitalist politicians seem to indulge, is also responsible for the incident which initiated the ghastly human slaughter now in progress, and which incident it greatly benefits the master class of this country to use for the purpose of hiding their own mercenary objects, it is not in our province to investigate. Anyhow, in reviewing the his­tory of the component parts of the British Em­pire, no one will be at a loss to find precedents enough and to spare for any violation or outrage, however infamous and however revolting, that may have been committed in Belgium. The “glory and greatness of the Empire” is in fact made up of a long series of piratical conquests in which the sole right of Might has been every­where proclaimed from the housetops, and in which the freedom and independence of mil­lions of people have often been respected less than “scraps of paper.”

How the “indisputable right” over some of the millions of square miles in Africa, for example, has been secured, is in living memory; although it must not be supposed that the sordid history which centres round the gold and dia­mond fields exhausts the resources in the art of brigandage and massacre that the British “haute finance” is capable of commanding. In such books as “With Kitchener to Khartoum,” “The Unveiling of Lhasa,” etc., etc., typical instances are abounding of how the British “protectors” impose themselves and their “culture” upon small and relatively weak nations. Says the author of the last mentioned account of a Tibetan expedition, speaking of the “strange people we fought and conquered” : “We killed several thousand of the simple, brave, and ill-armed men; I was sorry for these Tibetans. Their struggle was so hopeless; . . . Here was all the brutality of war, and none of the glory and incentive. These men were cheerful, jolly fellows—and I have seen their crops ruined, their homes burnt and shelled, the dead lying about the thresholds of what were their homes, and all for no fault of their own—only because their leaders were politically impossible.” Butt what matter the lives of these people, if the “freedom of trade,” or trade-routes, in short, the freedom of Capital, is at stake ? As the- writer adds with regard to these leaders: “For­tunately, however, this slaughter was beginning to put the fear of God into them.”

In the face of our present daily records of what “white against white,” Christians against Christians, can do, it will easily be granted that the deeds by which resistance to British expan­sion by the “so much inferior coloured heathen races,” has been crushed, not only equal any tale of brutality that is to-day laid to the charge of “the enemy” with regard to Belgium, but cer­tainly outdo the latter in cowardice when we bear in mind that the unfortunate registers of “the invincible forces of civilisation” and Chris­tianity did not dispose of anything like the modern efficient instruments of murder.

And if those who have laid thieves’ hands on so great a part of the world’s surface and have thereby flouted the independence of millions of people in the past; if these who are responsible for such barbarities as will ever be connected with the establishment of British dominance whether in Africa, Asia, Australia, or elsewhere if those who have never tolerated any interference with the “rights of free trade” (i.e.,, free robbery) and have carried out more “puni­tive expeditions” and burnt more villages of innocent peoples than the rest of the coloniz­ing nations put together ; if those who could stand by, incapable of shame, when recently hundreds of unarmed men and women were done to death or wounded in the blood-stained streets of Johannesburg ; if those who range themselves now on the side of these human fiends and very embodiment of oppression and tyranny, whose crimes vary between “Bloody Sunday” and exiling of innocent men and women to the icy dungeons of Siberia : if those now accuse their Continental rivals of savagery and violating the independence of small nations, while at the same time posing as the “trustees of freedom and good conduct,” even we—know­ing their achievements in hypocrisy—feel bound to admire their insolent audacity in treating the public to this masterpiece of nauseating cant.

Of course, just as the vandalism and beastly deeds, committed by order of the German mili­tary authorities, figure in the official chronicles and school-bcoks of the Teutons as heroic achievements, so the merciless usurpations, rapes and massacres which have marked the acquisition of “our” colonial dependencies are gloried in and impressed upon the children of the Empire as examples of British manhood, pluck, and enterprise.

Although to some extent outside the present subject, the foregoing will nevertheless serve to emphasise again the fact that the acquisition of the Colonial Empire is distinguished by the ap­plication of the most brutal, up-to-date methods that the machinery of militariem, and law and order is capable of bringing into play. But let us now revert to the subsequent economic policy of our colonial pioneers of “education and native advancement,” and see what the cultural trust imposed upon the “more advanced peoples” comes to.

Authority having once gained a footing, that is to say, the Rught of Might having been brought home to the “uncultured heathen,” every subsequent activity of the Colonists is subservient to the process of converting all things capable of satisfying human wants and desires into what Providence intended them to be, namely, Commodities, so that they might at last take their proper places, as holy values and sacred property, in the temple of Mammon. The extent of the success of this process is the measure of the “prosperity” and “loyalty” of the Dominions. It goes without saying, that since all things have to become marketable values, this process involves the expropriation of the natives from all nature’s gifts—which brings the first virtue : Abstinence. And it is equally plain that only when the native’s life ia hedged with notices such as:

“No admittance except on business”
“Trespassers will be prosecuted,”

will they lend themselves, or rather be forced, in order to live, to sell and apply their energies in the service of Capital— which brings a further virtue: Industry. This is so self evident tLat we could only describe as child-like naiveté or gross stupidity, Lord Curzon’s remark that “he greatly deplored, and had tried his utmost to discourage, the settling of Europeans in an in­digenous country with the object of extracting from it the essence which should serve to the natives as means of subsistence.” But where would abstinence come in ? And what, one may ask, are the Colonists to deal in and export if not the produce they have stolen from the natives ?

When, for example, the Chartered Company, who hold immense concessions in Africa, lease (as they have done last year) 1,000,000 acres of land (selected areas to be chosen throughout Rhodesia) at the rental of 1s. an acre, to an enterprising international firm, it is obvious that the latter mean to extract and export the resources of the territory ; in other words, these resources no longer belong to their former owners, the aborigines of Rhodesia, who will shave to look to the new proprietors (their expropriators) for their means of subsistence, unless they are prepared to quit. Such transactions necessitate, consequently, the absolute disregard of the natives’ interests and customs, seeing that if their most vital custom of all were to be observed, namely, the communal ownership (as •distinct from private ownership, as in Europe) of all the land, the very object of any capitalist enterprise and colonisation would naturally become illusory. Which is surely more than a Colonial enthusiast, like Lord Curzon, could wish for. Indeed, this deprived of the native of his primitive means of living and own conditions of labour, is the very basis of all colonization; it is oilly hypocrits of the type of Curzon or His Excellency Darnburg, who pretend to be ignorant of the fact that in first completely dis­inheriting the mass of the natives, or, in Dernburg’s own terminology, in first “fulfilling the cultural trust” is the key to the “great question of how the white man is to retain his hold and domination over mankind of darker colour.”

Unfortunately, the proclamation of “Protectorates” here, and the annexation of large territories there, in short, the theoretic monopoly of the land and the granting of concessions to trading firms, on the one side, does not always automatically transform the native popu­lation into full-blown, wage-workers on the other. However desirable it may be to extract the maximum of surplus-value from this “economi­cally most valuable motive-power,” the vastness of the territories and relatively thin population (the Colonies comprising, as a rule, dispropor­tionately larger areas than the respective mother countries), also the widely different climatic conditions—these two main factors render difficult and protract the establishment of an effective, all-embracing control over, and exploitation of, the natives. Hence, the necessity for the professional labour-recruiting agencies ; the application of direct force (slavery); the importa­tion of foreign labour: all of which methods have been shown to be practised on a large scale at the present time, as a temporary, if un­satisfactory, solution for the annoying “labour problem.”

In the meantime, the mills of economic development are grinding ; no sections of natives, hitherto secluded, are to be deprived of the blessings of civilisation and the comforting security it affords. Railways and extensions of railways are constantly opening up new dis­tricts and announce to previously obscure tribes the arrival of—the tax-collector; an indispen­sable means of bringing the native idlers to their senses and to their toil. “If one considers,” says deploringly a correspondent in an East African organ, “that there are about 3½ million of people living in the district of Ruanda and Urundi, who, in consequence of the seclusion of their exceedingly rich homelands, still enjoy, at this time of day, complete freedom from tax-paying, the necessity for opening up, through a railway, will at once become obvious.” And the “Usambara Post” (27.9.13) stated in sup­port of a railway from Tabora to the Kagaraknie, that “such a railway would open up extraordin­arily valuable districts, and that the introduction of the poll-tax there would alone make the rail­way pay its way.”

“No doubt it will cost thousands, but it will bring in millions”—such is their assurance.
Railways in particular are powerful levers of “native advancement”—hence the great activity in this direction. They not only open up, and enable the easy transport of the produce, but of the “human material” as well. The Ovambo and Amboland railways in South-West Africa, for example, were built for the specific purpose of “serving ihe regular and increased supply of workers for the diamond mines.” And dur­ing a discussion (4.6.13) of the Government Council in East Africa the following was pointed out: “The idea of a continuation of the North railway up to the Lake Victoria did not originate so much from the endeavour to open up the mystic country of the Squatters and to enter into competition with the Unganda railway, but rather was the plan involved by the desire to confiscate the masses of workers living in the districts of the Lake Victoria.” This does not, of course, prevent our colonisers from pretending at the same time that the railways are built in the sole interest of the travelling workers. In­deed, what would a Christian employer not do for the welfare and amenity of the native ? ” Every friend of theirs,” he says, “must advo­cate the building of railways, seeing that the worker is exposed to many dangers and risks while en route for weeks and months” to the elevating occupation in the death pits of the diamond mines ! In the face of the comparative scarcity of workers it would, of course, be deplorable that these arms and “hands” should meet with accidents before having been drained of the “milliard values slumbering in them.”

And so, in accordance with the law of development of capitalist production, every acti­vity that the enterprising European traders command in the Colonies, tends to separate the means of production more and more from the native and to concentrate the scattered means more and more under a few controlling con­cerns, thereby gradually closing to the natives all avenues outside of, and disciplining them for,—the wage-labour market. The exacting of hut-taxes, poll taxes, grazing-dues, etc.; permits for hunting and fishing ; the enclosure of large tracks of land either for cultivation or cattle-breeding ; the construction of railways and other means of transport and communication, water and irrigation works—these are only a few of the things which supply the precious “indirect pressure” and restrict more and more the liberties of the natives, until eventually they will find no other way to live than by selling their labour-power to their foreign masters. The “labour problem” will then be solved.

Naturally enough, this transition, far from being regarded by the natives as a normal economic development, or from benefiting him, is mostly looked upon as an act of aggression, of conquest—an arbitrary charge wrung from him in bitterness, and leaves behind a deep sense of injury. This resentment lias undoubtedly been the cause of most colonial wars and rebellions since the first presence of the white man there, but the fact that the “superior” whites (superior, undoubtedly, in weapons) ever emerge victorious from the fray, again proves that Might is Right.


(To be Continued.)

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