December 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Stalinists are having a difficult time trying to explain away the invasion of Tibet by China. One might have expected such an invasion in the days of the old, avowedly imperialist China; but surely, one would have thought, the new China, which claims to be “Communist,” would have no reason to invade her neighbours. The Stalinists are so short of good arguments that the best two excuses for the invasion they can think of are firstly that the Chinese Emperors of the thirteenth century conquered Tibet, and secondly that the British Government recognises Tibet to be “part of China". For example, the Daily Worker (27/10/50) says, “Just as Wales is part of Britain, so Tibet is part of China, and has been so since the thirteenth century. This fact was recognised by the British Government in a note to the Chinese Government as recently as 1945.” The second reason is feeble in the extreme: if the British Government recognises that, say, lndo-China is part of the French Empire, do the Stalinists agree without further discussion that the French have a title to lndo-China? The first reason is even more revealing: apparently the Communists believe that Mao Tse-tung and his friends are the successors of the Emperors, and that if the Mongol rulers of China seven hundred years ago conquered Tibet, then Mao has the right to rule over Tibet to-day. Tibet is as much a part of China as Ireland is of England. Ireland and Tibet are both relatively weak-countries which have at some time in their history been conquered by their bigger and more powerful neighbours. Just as one of the English imperialists of the last century might have referred to “the historic English territory of Ireland,” so now the daily paper of our new twentieth-century imperialists refers to “the historic Chinese territory of Tibet.” The Stalinists, it seems, now think that small countries once conquered lose all right to an independent existence. All of which goes to show that “the rights of small nations” is as empty a phrase in the mouths of the Stalinists as it is in the mouths of the Anglo-American leaders.
But how does all this square with the desire for “peace” so tirelessly reiterated by the Communist parties of the world?
So agile are the Stalinists in juggling with words that they can even reconcile the waging of an aggressive war with the defence of peace. A Daily Worker article of November 8th begins with the words, “ Twice in the past fortnight the Chinese people have acted for peace. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has marched into Tibet to protect China’s frontiers, and Chinese volunteers have gone to the help of the Koreans.” This action, it goes on, “ has made more secure not only China but the peace of all Asia and the world.” Propaganda about going to war in order to preserve the peace is not, of course, confined to the Russian bloc: “Illustrated" (11/11/50) has an article about one of the British soldiers who have gone to fight in Korea, and headlines it “Soldiers for Peace.”
The Daily Worker (27/10/50) says of what it calls the “standard Constitutional History Book for all pupils in the seventh class” in Soviet schools that it emphasises the “peaceful nature of the Soviet State.” “Nowhere in its pages can one find any other justification for the armed forces of the State than the needs of defence.” In the Western World there is the same insistence on the need for defence as the justification for having an army. The cost of preparing for the next war, including the building of bombing planes and bombs of all kinds, comes under the heading of “Defence Expenditure.” The invasion of Tibet shows that the Stalinists, like their opponents, have a somewhat elastic idea of the meaning of the word “ defence.”
Mr. Nehru disapproves strongly of the Chinese aggression on Tibet; indeed, he appears to dislike the use of force in any circumstances if it can possibly be avoided, according to the Manchester Guardian. An article in that paper on October 26th said of him that “his whole foreign policy is governed by his views on the use of force. He is enough of a Ghandian to believe that force solves nothing; he is also enough of a practical patriot to realise that countries must defend themselves against attack. . . . He satisfies the Ghandian in himself by insisting that force must not be used to drive the other side into a corner. Solutions to the last must be, he thinks, freely accepted. Mr. Nehru fulfils his duty as Prime Minister by insisting that aggression must be resisted.”
And it must be admitted that when Mr. Nehru talks about aggression and the use of force he is speaking of a subject of which he knows a great deal. Mr. Nehru has had experience of aggression from the profitable end.
When in 1947 the British set up the two new dominions of India and Pakistan on the Indian subcontinent they did not at first cover all the territory which had accepted the supremacy of Britain. There were a number of Princes’ States like Kashmir and Hyderabad which were left to decide their future for themselves. Most of these States joined one of the Dominions, but the Nizam of Hyderabad did not wish to join either. By August, 1948, Hyderabad was the only state on the sub-continent which was still independent of both Dominions. In that month India protested at the activities of a Moslem organisation in Hyderabad whose members were called Razakars: India alleged that the Moslems were terrorising the Hindus of Hyderabad, who formed 86 per cent, of the population. The government of Hyderabad insisted that there was no internal disorder, and made the counter-charge that India was violating the frontier by sending raiding-parties across it, and was carrying out an economic blockade. (Hyderabad was entirely surrounded by Indian territory, having no outlet to the sea except through India.) After much further accusation and counter-accusation, India, without declaring war, invaded Hyderabad. On September 13th four Indian armoured columns thrust their way across the border. Three days later the Security Council met to hear the complaint of the representative of Hyderabad, who protested against the Indian aggression and demanded "immediate action” by the Security Council. Instead of sending MacArthur to help Hyderabad defend herself against this open act of aggression, the Security Council adjourned. On September 17th the Nizam gave up the unequal struggle against India: an estimated 2,000 of the defending forces had been killed, and the invading columns had almost reached the capital. Mr. Nehru added insult to injury by remarking "we are men of peace, hating war, and the last thing we desire is to come into armed conflict with anyone." After the surrender, the Nizam telegraphed to Lake Success withdrawing Hyderabad’s complaint against India. The Security Council breathed a sigh of relief and adjourned the matter sine die: which is a polite way of saying that they dropped it for good. No doubt Hyderabad was a backward, undemocratic country, ruled dictatorial by the Nizam; but South Korea (the invasion of which so outraged the Security Council) was also an undemocratic country, ruled dictatorially by the Syngman Rhee clique. If the Anglo-American bloc was really interested in defeating aggression, as opposed to making war on Stalinist countries, they could hardly have had a clearer case to deal with than the Indian attack on Hyderabad; but they refused to take any action, and thus showed themselves to be interested, not in defeating aggression, but merely in using aggression as a pretext for war in the countries belonging to the rival bloc.
When the Labour Government took office in 1945 it appealed to the workers to increase production in order to assist in the "national recovery” after the war. To recover means, of course, to regain a position one has previously had, but has temporarily lost. When a nation recovers, it returns to some previous condition: but the Labour Party has never satisfactorily explained just why it wants us to regain our pre-war condition, to return to the days of 1918-39; especially since it has never ceased to criticise the Tory rule of those years. One suspects that phrase "national recovery” has only been used so often because it has a fine sound about it, but at the same time means little.
The workers responded to the Government’s call. Production is now over a quarter more than it was in 1946. The Government, however, has been making it painfully clear that the workers need expect no reward in the shape of a reduction in the cost of living. Mr. Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, said on October 30th: "It would be dishonest to hold out hopes or promises of reductions in the cost of living at a time when world prices, as a result of rearmament, are rising.” And Mr. Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary, told the House of Commons a week later that "it is impossible to anticipate that there will be any reduction in the cost of living.” Not only will there be no reduction : there are more increases on the way. On November 10th the Board of Trade announced that wholesale prices have gone up by another sixpence in the pound. The prices of raw materials have also increased—cotton, rubber, wool and metals are among those which have gone up most.
For the workers this makes dismal reading. But there are others who are less worried about it. The News Chronicle (31/10/50) had some interesting information about Mr. Ebenezer Sykes, one of the men who buy wool from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and sell it on Bradford Exchange to the spinners. Mr. Sykes takes up his stand on the floor of the Exchange every Monday and Thursday morning, and the buyers come and see him there. "Mostly when they meet they seem to tell funny stories. You must be very sharp to overhear the deals they make in between the yarns. But quietly, almost casually, one of them will say that he has 50,000 lb. weight of super 60’s to sell at 199 pence a lb. Another will say 'I’ll buy,' and the contract is as good as sealed.” The duties of Mr. Sykes’ job do not seem to be very arduous; but the money is good. "The last time Ben Sykes went on 'Change he sold 60,000 lb. of wool. He had bought it last December for 57 pence a lb. The price he received for that wool from the spinner who bought it from him was 150 pence a lb.” So the gross profit on that one transaction came to £23,250.
Mr. Dugdale, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, made a speech at Staines in which he gave his own explanation of the rise in prices. "One of the main causes of higher prices was that people in India and Africa and other tropical countries were at last beginning to improve their standard of living ” (Times, 4/11 /50). Mr. Dugdale said that the wages of the Gold Coast agricultural labourers had now risen to 2s. 6d. a day, of tin-workers to 5s. 3d. a day, and of the Malayan rubber-workers to 3s. 4d. a day. "We had the satisfaction of knowing that such people were better fed and clothed now than when the Conservatives were running the Empire ‘and goods were produced at sweated rates.’ ”
It seems, then, that now the Labour Party is running the Empire, goods are not being produced at sweated rates: the line between sweated and non-sweated rates must run somewhere below fifteen shillings a week, at least in the British colonies. Mr. Dugdale’s conclusions on the wages question should earn the Labour Party a lot of support among the tin and rubber shareholders.