Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A French Exposure of British Slavery. (1912)

From the December 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have previously referred to the slavery in the New Hebrides, that was engineered by the Liberal Party in 1906, while these hypocrites and their Labour hirelings were denouncing the horrors of Chinese slavery in South Africa.

The following brief outline of the facts will refresh the reader's memory.

Just off the coast of Queensland, in a group of islands known as the New Hebrides, men, women, and children were to be recruited under this Ordinance to work fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, for ten shillings a month. (Cd 3288, 1907.) The three years term of service could be lengthened at the sweet will of the employer on the ground of misbehaviour and malingering. Those who have read the horrors of the sandal wood oil trade in these islands, with the cruel treatment of the toilers, whose work only finished when the sandal-wood was exhausted, can imagine the conditions under the 1906 indentures. Working, as they were, under a tropical sun, in strange islands to which they had been taken with no prospect of escape except the hospitality of the surrounding ocean, they were^an easy prey to the concessionaires.

Our statements at the time, vigorously denied but not refuted, are now supported by first-hand evidence of the conditions there. The Aborigines Protection Society have republished the investigations of M. Pierre Bernus, which originally appeared in the French Press. He says : 
    “The great anxiety of the settlers is to recruit native labour. This becomes every day more difficult, for, from a variety of causes, the population is going down.  . . . It is very probable that if they offered the natives fair wages and assured them of humane treatment, the settlers would get the labour which they need, but the natives are treated like beasts of burden, and even this is an euphemism, for beasts of burden are taken care of. Their work is overwhelming and their wages ridiculously small, often paid in kind, contrary to the terms of the regulations. Alas! it has become nearly impossible to obtain voluntary labour, and so one of the most disgusting forms of slavery has been established in order to procure labourers. The settlers equip a boat and go from island to island; sometimes by craft and sometimes by violence they seize the native men and women whom they want. This is what the English call kidnapping, or as we call it in good French, ‘la traite.’ Women and young girls are forcibly taken away from their husbands or relatives, and often find themselves at the mercy of the savage crews of the ships before they are sent to the plantations. Cases of sheer violence are numerous and are established by irrefutable documents. . . .  In truth the slave trade is re-established under most abominable conditions, and it is tolerated by the authorities, who look upon kidnapping as an offence of no importance. . . . When taken to the plantations the natives are there treated like slaves during the years of their pretended contract of engagement. They are detained by force and are cruelly flogged if they try to escape. If a labourer succeeds in running away, his comrades are subjected to a long term of servitude. What difference is there between this and the slavery of old times? ”
When we recall the outcry of the Liberals when in 1888 the Tories granted a like concession in the Fiji Islands, and more recently the “Chinese Slavery” campaign, it establishes for ever the cruel, callous, and contemptible hypocrisy of the Liberal Party.

It is worthy of note that the party who perpetrated this horror is supported with might and main by the Labour Party, who were busy at the time of the ordinance, booming Liberal swindles on Liberal platforms. No wonder they bang together they have a joint responsibility in numerous scandals and a joint interest in hiding from the workers their many crimes 

The class ownership of the world’s resources produce like effects in the New Hebrides and elsewhere, and these can only be removed by ending the profit-hunting system that is capitalism.
Adolph Kohn

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

Article originally signed as 'K'.