While politicians and newspaper scribes are foaming at the mouth over the “rights of small nations” and “our national liabilities”—to say nothing of “our” army, “our” navy, “our” allies, etc., etc., ad absurdum—the present writer took it into his proletarian head to delve among his books and cuttings relating to past history in order to find out something about the above-mentioned mysterious things. Hereunder you will find set out “All the Harvest that I reaped.”

Let us take a mental tour of the world and witness some of the doings of the British Empire (the apostle of freedom) during the last fifty years or so, and examine some of the benefits that have accrued to those who have had the good fortune (!) to be born within its pale.

We will commence with Africa, the land opened up by the Holy Trinity : Bible, Whisky, and Gunpowder.

In 1852 the control of the British Government in South Africa was limited to Natal and Cape Colony, while the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic were in the hands of Dutch settlers. The most powerful native tribe in South Africa was the Zulu nation, under their chief Cetewayo, whose territories bordered Natal. Cetewayo and the Transvaal Republic quarrelled over a certain strip of land and the matter was referred to England (with whom Cetewayo was on the most friendly terms) for arbitration. Four English arbitrators decided that the disputed strip of territory properly belonged to the Zulu nation. Yet in spite of this the English Lord High Commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, kept back the award for several mouths. This aroused Cetewayo’s suspicions and convinced him that his territory was going to be annexed and he himself sent to prison, as had already happened in the case of Langalibalele in 1864. Eventually Bartle Frere announced the award to Cetewayo, accompanied with an ultimatum that the Zulu army must be disbanded. This was immediately followed by the invasion of Zululand, when the English troops were completely defeated ! (Jan. 22nd, 1879.) In the end, however, the Zulus were vanquished, Cetewayo transported, and the territory divided up. Thus were the “sacred rights” of a small and trusting nation safeguarded. The whole matter in detail will be found in Justin McCarthy’s “Short History of Our Own Times,’ p. 427.

The desire of English capitalists to obtain possession of the rich gold and diamond mines of the Transvaal and their attempted annexation of the Republic’s territory led to the war which culminated in the victorv of the Boers at Majuba Hill in 1883.

As the riches of the Transvaal in gold and diamonds became known to the world swarms of adventurers began to invade it and claim full citizenship of the Republic on entry—a claim which the Boers would not grant. The Chartered Company (founded in Cape Colony by Cecil Rhodes) wanted a finger in the pie, and one of their officials, Dr. Jameson (now Sir Starr Jameson, a man of great respectabilicy !) attempted a raid on the Transvaal which was a failure. No doubt a good many readers will recall the famous trail of a few years ago, when. Von Veltheim, adventurer and sometime member of the Cape Mounted Police, was convicted of the attempted blackmail of the Joels. In this case interesting sidelights were thrown on the attempt to provoke war between England and the Transvaal on behalf of the diamond and gold magnates of South Africa.

Perhaps a quotation from Justin McCarthy would be useful at this point :

“The discovery of the gold mines had brought into South Africa a rush of adventurous immigrants from various parts of the world, especially from England and from British territories, whose principal object was to make themselves the absolute rulers of all that vast tract of country which was teeming with limitless sources of wealth. The established republics were not strong enough to secure themselves against the internal disturbances to be expected from such an invasion. The invaders may not have had in the beginning any intention or desire to make themselves the rulers of the whole region, yet it soon became evident that they would endeavour to sweep away from their path any obstacles the existing systems might set up. The rulers and people of the Transvaal Republic were determined so far as they could to manage their State according to their own ideas. The newcomers were equally determined to secure a free-way for the promotion of the principal objects they had in view when they sought for settlement in South Africa.”— (P. 538.)

Such was the material out of which the Boer War arose, resulting in the defeat of the Boers and the triumph of the British capitalists, who immediately proceeded to exploit the rich regions gained with, as I will soon show, disastrous results to the workers. Thus were another small nation’s liberties—defended !

In July 1913 a strike broke out in the Rand Goldfields (part of the region Jameson was knighted for trying to pinch). For many years native labour had been recruited for the mines by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association and the British South African Native Labour Recruiting Corporatios at the rate of about 6,000 per month, and, being cheaper and more easily obtained than white men, the natives were gradually displacing the latter. The strike was chiefly for the eight hours day, better underground conditions, and the restriction of the introduction of native labour.

In the House of Assembly (South Africa), May 28, 1913, the Minister of Mines gave the following figures :

“During the ten years ended December 31, 1913, of those employed in Transvaal mines 52,205 native died and 16,556 were killed or injured in accidents. Between 1907 and 1912 32,103 natives were sent home unfit for work. In 1900 6,900 men died at mines of pulmonary disease alone. . . . No less than 10,000 people die in these mines every year—men in the prime of health.”

Well, the miners struck and the following is a report culled from the columns of the “Morning News and Leader” (11.8.13) as to the result:

“A prominent business man of Johannesburg, writing to Mr. Joseph Pels, gives a graphic description, of the terrible happenings there during the recent conflict between the military and the civil population.
He tells how the police and soldiers rushed a peaceful meeting of strikers, bludgeoning and batoning all and sundry. . . .
Though there were miles of plate glass-fronted shops to loot, very little damage was done, although at this time the crowd had complete control !
On Saturday, in the Rand Club in the afternoon some members were jeering at the crowd, when about 25 of them “rushed” the building.
Fifteen to twenty soldiers formed at the junction of two streets, facing four ways, and fired for 4½ hours intermittently. Everyone who attempted to cross the road was shot. Men were shot down who were merely trying to get away. Two children (one of twelve and the other younger) were shot whilst standing on the side walk. One poor fellow, in a spirit of bravado, stepped into the road and dared them to shoot. He was dead before he had finished speaking. The correspondent adds that an advocate of the Supreme Court told him that he watched three men shot as they were running away. A young man who was sauntering along with his hands in his pockets towards the line of fire was shouted to by the police to go back again. When nearly out of danger he stopped and looked at the soldiers and was shot dead.
A portion of the crowd who were peering round the corner at the soldiers, bulged into the street, and the soldiers fired into the thick of them, killing one man and wounding two others.
It is insisted that there was no more danger in the watching crowd than in a “parcel of school children,” as the unruly element had gone. Sixteen were killed, 150 wounded were treated in the hospitals besides scores who were treated by their own doctors.”

Other figures give the killed as 20.

By 1914 the capitalists, who had originally the control of the diamond and gold mines only, had become the owners of nearly all the land in the Transvaal as well, so that the early fears of the Dutch farmers were justified by the passing years. A writer in the “News and Leader” of 31.3.14 made the following statements on the position in South Africa :

“There are five companies, euphoniously termed ‘Land and Exploration’ companies, which between them own over thirteen million acres, mostly in the Transvaal, The biggest has a four and a half million, the smallest a paltry million, acreage. There are fifteen other companies, each of which has an acreage running into six figures, and seven with areas of tens of thousands of acres. All told these twenty-seven companies own seventeen and a half million acres, or 23 per cent. of the Transvaal.”

The land these companies possess is the very best in the country.

“These ‘land and exploration’ companies were generally floated in the first instance to secure mining rights over very large areas. Thus one company has coal rights over 201 square miles, and possesses in addition a township site. . . .”

The writer concludes as follows :

“The fate of South Africa, then, lies still in the hands of a clever, far-sighted, not too scrupulous coterie of financiers, who have now drawn into their web the farming (and this in Africa means the landowning) community.”

Now in view of the above perhaps the working-class reader will commence to wonder what 20,000 of his class laid down their lives for on the yellow South African veldt— and perhaps he will carry parallel reasoning to the existing case, where his follows are pouring their blood out on the Continent.

Before leaving Africa to continue our personally-conducted tour we will just, notice a further article relating to South Africa which appeared in the “News and Leader” for 26.7.13.

It appears that the Chartered Company (founded by Cecil Rhodes) proposed leasing to an international company one million acres in Rhodesia (that’s a decent chunk of “our” Empire to give away !) and the writer waxes somewhat indignant on the matter. He says :

“These grants of land are far too common in the British Empire. They are made too readily, and with much too little regard for native interests.
The prevalent land-owning custom in Europe is private ownership. In Africa it is communal ownership. Therefore, if we hand over great tracts of this territory to private owners and those private owners proceed to exact rents or grazing dues, the African native does not regard that as a normal economic development. He regards it as an act of aggression, of conquest—an arbitrary charge wrung from him in bitterness, and leaving behind a deep sense of injury. That resentment has been the cause of most of the African wars and rebellions since the presence of the white man in Africa.
Take this great concession in the country of the Chartered Company. The company assert that the black population in that territory is thin. But there is a considerable population—perhaps some hundred thousand or so human beings—especially as the concession allows the new company to choose selected areas throughout Rhodesia. What would be the use of the concession to the new company—a company for extracting the essence of oxen and delivering it to the invalids of Europe—if they do not possess power both over the cattle and over the labour of the country which is handed over to them ? Plainly if they are going to pay one shilling an acre for this land they will expect to possess powers of this kind. In other words, the Chartered Company is not merely leasing the territory: it is selling the people.

Such has been the fate of small nations in South Africa under the British Empire.

(To be Continued.)


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