1910s >> 2018 >> no-106-june-1913
Patriotism or Plunder?
The Significance of “Empire Day.”
At the time of writing these lines preparations are being made to observe in a fitting manner, what has now come to he regarded as a fixed institution, viz, Empire Day. Each successive year sees an endeavour made to stimulate and extend the sentiment of “patriotism.” School children are paraded round the village, waving flags and singing patriotic airs under the direction of an enthusiastic teacher. Afterwards they are marshalled in front of the school, where they are treated to a speech on their “Responsibility, Duty, and Self sacrifice.” After giving vent to their feelings in three cheers for “The Empire” and singing “God Save the King,” they are marched into the school to the strains of “Soldiers of the Queen,” and their receptive minds are stuffed with stories of the valour of Nelson, Drake, and other butchers.
The churches are also to the front on this occasion. On the Sunday following May 24th special sermons are preached emphasising the importance of allowing themselves to be chloroformed for the national good. Advantage is taken by scaremongers and jingo politicians to point out the necessity for compulsory military service, and the need for supporting rifle clubs, and such institutions as the Boy Scouts, the Territorials, the National Service League, etc. The “Big Navy” party take pains not to let the occasion pass without trotting out once more the old cry of “adequate defence” so clear to the heart of Hyndman & Co.
It is safe to say that not one person in a thousand of those who are compelled to participate in these displays realises the significance underlying this noisy “appeal to patriotism.” They are requested to believe that it is for the “honour and integrity of our glorious empire.” OUR Empire! Let us see how much of the Empire is ours.
In the first place every schoolboy knows that before one country can assume control over another it must have recourse to force or threats, the people of the country which is to be brought under control must be subjugated and a footing established.
Various reasons are put forward from time to time to show the necessity for such steps being taken, but the ultimate analysis shows that in every case the fundamental and determining factor is economic advantage, or, to put it another way, plunder.
As almost every nation is engaged in the race for economic advantages, it resolves itself into a sort of running fight, in which the weaker succumbs to the strongest. England herself has annexed nearly a third of the earth and is still unsatisfied. Her “greatness” lies, not in that she stands for “Justice, good government, and liberty,” as Lord Rosebery would say, but in the fact that, up to now, she has been the biggest plunderer.
Her “interests,” and the machinery necessary for maintaining the same, are not operated for the benefit of her people, as is claimed, but only for the benefit of a small section of her people —the capitalists. Hence the need for armies, navies, and other murderous institutions, to guarantee the security of that class, and incidentally to capture more plunder whenever the opportunity presents itself.
It cannot be said that we have done badly, for in whichever direction we turn we are sure to let on a piece of “our” Empire.
It is an old saying that trade follows the flag, but what follows trade? Ask the people of the different nations that comprise “our Empire.” You will find the same conditions obtaining there as here—that is, poverty, misery, degradation. and all the other evils which follow in the wake of capitalism. Who among us has not felt his blood surge when reading of “our” conquests in various parts of the world ? Take, for instance, the occupation of India—that vast land of untold wealth (and poverty) which the native is debarred from developing only in the interests of the “Great White Raj,” otherwise the capitalist class. Are we to suppose that India was acquired solely for the purpose of doing good to the “poor benighted heathen” ? At least this is the impression they gave us at school. Was it in their interests the Government paid four million pounds to the Khedive of Egypt for his shares in the Suez Canal in order to obtain complete control of the highway to India ? Not much !
Ever since the occupancy of India advantage has been taken of the diversity of the races to set race against race, creed against creed, caste against caste in order to preserve the security of the invaders. It was this circumstance which was in great part responsible for the historic Mutiny, the suppression of which involved such fiendishly horrible cruelty as to hardly bear relation.
What applies to India applies also to every other land where the British have asserted themselves.
Since New Zealand was “purchased” from the chiefs the Maoris have become practically extinct through the introduction of war, liquor, and other vices which follow close upon the heels of “civilisation.”
The same country is at the present time in a state of serbonian anxiety, the colonists being faced with the same problems of capitalism as confound the people here.
It is the same with Australia, where wild endeavour is being made to exclude the coloured races and to establish a “White Australia”— which policy has the support of the imperialistic “Labour” Party at present in power. This proposition stands some chance of success, since it has been discovered that white labour is more productive than coloured, hence the profits resulting from the exploitation of the former are greater.
The acquisition of Hong Kong was due to the resistance of the Chinese to the introduction of opium by the British, who forced them at the cannon’s mouth to accept it. Only recently a cargo worth some six millions was dumped at Shanghai. The Chinese refused it, so the British gunboat “Flora” was sent to overawe them into submission.
British interests in China, as elsewhere, are wholly commercial, though very often the Christianising of the natives is put forward as an excuse for meddling.
The conversion of China into a republic has somewhat upset Britain’s calculations, for now it may mean that the United States and Germany will stand a better chance of a look in—to English capitalists’ detriment. Their commercial interests are threatened, and the opening of the Panama Canal will not add to their peace of mind.
The alacrity with which the Churches responded to the Chinese politicians’ appeal for prayers on behalf of the new republic only recently, gave the game away entirely. Their predatory instincts are once more aroused, and their strong point is to get a foothold in China ahead of the other European nations, especially as that country may yet become a formidable competitor in the Eastern markets.
I point out these things to show that it is solely the material interests of the ruling class that produce wars and other international troubles—that all the piffle about the “glory of our world Empire,” and our “mission of justice and mercy” is only so much bunkum, intended to deceive the mass of the people who comprise “our” Empire—that it is in reality only part of the unscrupulous tactics adopted by those thievish swindlers of every nationality who are running the “British” Empire.
Who does not remember the envious eyes cast upon the Transvaal when it was announced that gold had been discovered by the Dutch farmers ? Almost immediately the “British” gentlemen who run the Empire for “us” tried to persuade the Boers to part with their find. Failing in this they had recourse to other persuasive methods, which cost a little matter of 250 million pounds and the lives of many thousands of members of the working class. When, after having conquered (!) the republic it was declared that the country would be opened up to the British worker it was found to be a delusion, for, instead, the “whites” found themselves displaced by the Kaffir, the Chinese, and the Indian. And now we find the “British” patriots who own South Africa, and in whose interest war was made, going around with bulging waistcoats and equally bulging pocket-books, preaching loyalty to the Empire.
This, then, is the significance underlying the institution known as “Empire Day.” It can be summed up in one word — plunder.
Knowing that the workers are not yet wise enough to see through their game, the capitalists are prepared to go to any length to prevent their enlightenment.
Thus it is we have members of the master class financing such things as rifle corps, Boy Scouts, and other potential warriors. The Boy Scouts in particular demand special mention as being looked upon as a great national asset, whose “usefulness,” both at home and abroad, will some day be apparent.
King Edward VII shortly before his death sent a message to a big review of scouts in which be said : “Tell the boys that the King takes great interest in them; and tell them also that if he calls upon them later in life to take up the defence of their country, the patriotic responsibility and discipline they are now acquiring as boys, will enable them to do their duty as men, should any danger threaten the Empire.”
Plain, isn’t it ?
We find that by fostering a feeling of animosity against the people of other nations, our rulers succeed in keeping the workers divided, and increased security in their tenure of existence is secured. It is significant to note how in this they receive the blessing of the’Church. To the student of history this is not surprising, for the Church throughout history has stood for militarism and slavery.
Patriotism, then, means simply the acquisition of power for the maintenance and conquest of market a in the interests of the ruling class. Capital being international, and not troubled by any sort of sentiment, it follows that it will make its way wherever its operations are likely to be successful. Consequently its owners are patriotic or anti-patriotic according as their interests are affected.
Only a few weeks ago an order for the construction of four British steamers, amounting to half a million sterling was placed in France. The reason given for sending the order abroad was that the cost would be leas than if the vessels were built in this country. Material interests first—patriotism nowhere!
An examination of the economic status of that small portion of the British Empire known as the British Isles, reveals the dismal fact that thirteen millions of its population are on the very verge of destitution. It also reveals the fact that the thirty-eight millions who represent the people who are asked to display their patriotic feelings on the 24th of May, who build the palaces, the motor-cars, and the yachts their Empire-loving masters gad about in; who provide them with bread, clothes, and boots—who, in fact, produce everything— possess nothing!
Where does the patriotism come in ? What have they to be patriotic about?
We also find the income of the rich has increased by millions, whilst a million married women are compelled out of sheer necessity to work in the factories and shops.
No wonder that paupers have increased by 70,000 since 1900, and lunatics by 20,000, despite the “benefits” of the Old Age Pensions Act and the like!
Was it a feeling of patriotism that prompted 290,000 workers with their families to depart from these shores last year ? They tell us there is no room for them in this country, yet some millions of acres are set apart for deer shooting alone! Why is this ?
It is simply because a handful of privileged pirates are allowed to own all the wealth which we produce. This is the “Secret of England’s Greatness ”! It is for this we are asked to cultivate a feeling of “patriotic responsibility,” and later on to “ take up the defence of ’’!
What do you think about it ? Do you think it is for us this “great and glorious” Empire is being run ? Do you think it is on our account that the squabbles in Parliament take place? Do you honestly believe that any party represented in Parliament to-day can legislate in our favour whilst all the time they are sucking our very life’s blood and exploiting us for all they are worth? Do not be led astray.
If an end is to be put to this rotten system it must be by the efforts of the workers themselves. This effort can only be exerted by a revolutionary organisation, conscious of its class mission. This organisation is already in existence in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is the only Socialist party in this country, and only by enrolling yourselves in this party can the abolition of the present system of robbery and corruption be made certain.
It was the end of this that the terrified Lord Rosebery foresaw when he wailed: “Socialism means the end of Empire” a few years ago. And Lord Rosebery was right for once!