Friday, October 26, 2018

British Red and Prussian Blue (1917)

From the November 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the finest of modern novelists and writers on Art —Mr. George Moore—speaks in one of his books of the "colour" of the mind of a certain celebrated artist. He means that which tinges his mental vision and steeps his habitual outlook in a certain definite and personal hue: liras producing characteristic “colour schemes.’’ This peculiarity of mental colouration is not limited to artists, however, nor to colour schemes done. Everyone’s outlook on Life is personal and self-coloured, and that of the capitalist class is entirely different from that of the workers: in fact, in complete opposition in interest and purpose. Further, the British capitalists, when they are Imperialistically minded, think in terms of Empire—the one and only British Empire!— "on which the sun never sets."

Hence has arisen that phrase expressive of bombastic Imperialism: “The All-Red Route." This was, as some may know, coined to denote the trail of British capitalist enterprise: “Our Possessions” as the school-books have it.

It is a long, long trail, too, and engirdles the Earth! It is invariably coloured “Red" on the map, and this colouration is grimly and ironically appropriate. For the capitalist class of Britain in their insatiable greed for wealth and dominance in the world-markets have steeped these territories and lands in many cases in the red blood of British soldiers and workers of this and the captured lands. Listen to this!—
  If there be a God then what he would like me to do is to paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible; and to do that I am elsewhere to promote the unit? and extend the influence of the British Race.—Cecil Rhodes. (See “Review of Reviews," April, 1902.)
Look into the average school geography book and see there what is owned and controlled by the British capitalist class, and what they have coloured “British Red" on the map. The robbery with violence of the rights of the people of other nations, the crushing of “small nationalities” under their ruthless heel, has culminated in a long chain of “possessions" and “dependencies." According to the facts, served up in the schools to engender a pride in “ Our" Empire, some of these portions of the globe have been “occupied" by us, others “annexed" or “acquired." Some have “capitulated," been “taken possession of” or “settled." What a lot do words sometimes signify! “Annexed”! “Settled”! Sometimes the heights of perfect candour are reached, and then we read that a certain place or colony was “captured” or “conquered.” We are told in McDougall’s “The Colonies and India," that these territories have been won by the sword, by settlement, by treaty,. and by purchase. In the introduction we read: 
  But after the battle of Plassy in 1757 the power of the French was destroyed in Bengal, and from that time the British power advanced rapidly! "Leagues of native princes against the British m the south only led to a further extension of British dominion."
Later, re South Africa, we read : “After wars with native Kaffirs, Zulus and Raautos, British territory was greatly enlarged! And so on, ad nauseam.

Our capitalists have, for many years, been “thinking Imperially.” They have been planning and scheming to colour the map with as much “British Red” as possible. The pride of Empire sheds its glow over many of their own wage slaves. These latter, lacking class-consciousness and political knowledge, think that they also should be proud of these “achievements" of the “Empire-builders." Ye gods! Is there anything to be proud of that men of their own nationality should have “subjugated" the men of another—and by means of brute force, cunning, diplomatic twisting and intrigue ?

What profits it the worker, who is a wage-slave in his “own" country, that the wage-slavery of which he is the victim at the hands of the British ruling class should be extended to workers of other lands ? If it were not so tragically ironic it would be a matter for Homeric laughter!

So matters have continued. The British Empire, like an octopus, has spread its tentacles to greedily clutch whatever it can, and enlarge its domain for capitalist exploitation. Other nations look enviously on and wish to emulate their rivals’ achievements. “We also must colonise, must expand somehow—no matter what the cost," they think. Germany desires “World-conquest," and to colour the map Prussian Blue. It would delight the Teutonic capitalists. The sight of great colonies coloured “British Red" is like a red rag to a bull: an incitement and an offence. The greed of gain dominates their thoughts to the exclusion of all other interests. Flaunting Imperialism induces similar desires; desires lead to action, and they in turn lead to “colonisation. ’

Now we were told earlier in the “Great War,” by that notorious political twister, Lloyd George, of the dire results to the British worker if our present capitalist made enemies won the war. “God help Labour if Germany wins!” so said the wily Welshman. We who are Socialists, know the frothy folly of such a remark. What is more, Lloyd George himself must know that the workers will not and cannot be worse off economically and otherwise under capitalists of the Hun kind than of the Brit-Hun type. They will still he wage-slaves, selling their labour-power of hand and brain for their daily bread. The same precariousness of livelihood, menace of unemployment and want, would threaten them. Their wages would continue, on the average, to only just suffice to keep them efficient. What matters, then, the nationality of their exploiters? Brazen lies of politicians flow as frenzy from their lips as do their innumerable pledges. Listen to Lloyd George:
   There is no section of the community that has such an interest in the victory of the Allies as the workers of the world  . . .  It is this federation of free nations (the British Empire) that has presented such a formidable obstacle to the collective aims of German Militarism.—“Daily Chronicle,” 16.8.17.
And now finally:
  He [Lloyd George] had always believed in telling the truth, the whole truth, to his fellow countrymen, because he knew that was the way to get the best out of them.—The “Star,” 7.9.17.
There is nothing like truth: it is so refreshing! Had the politicians, diplomats and capitalists of Europe on the eve of war declared the truth, and told why they contemplated letting hell loose by declaring war, then in verity there would have been no war. The whole cunning, despicable and sordid business is clothed in lies: lies of foreign offices and shameless falsehoods of parliaments, pulpits, and the prostitute Press of capitalism! Ana the workers, who in the past have largely ignored Socialism and lapped up the lies their masters feed them with, thought it was their war! What interest have they in capitalist wars? Their portion is to be riddled by the machine gun as they go “over the top " to bayonet their capitalist-made foes, or blown to pieces in a “big push.” You pick up the paper and read that yesterday over 1,000 men were killed amongst the English alone, and in the same edition we read in reference to that day’s warfare, “ Haig states there is nothing to report"! Capitalism in warfare or in days of much-vaunted “Peace" is the same, and the same barbaric ruthlessness is displayed by the master class the world over.

Germany in her dream of world-conquest wants to colonise, but she is face to face with the fact that her rivals have “got there first," and established “ the Empire." Hear what Sir A. Stanley, speaking recently, said :
  Had the system of peaceful penetration carried on by the Germans before the War continued for a few years more it would have meant the industrial destruction of this country. Neither this nor any other Government would ever tolerate a continuation of that policy. —“Daily Telegraph,” 21.7.17.
So it appears they thought the time was ripe, and their rivals also. Shortly after—thanks to capitalism—the curtain was raised and revealed the beginning of the most tragic drama and orgy of militarism the world has seen! Of course it is all put down to the Kaiser in this country! In Berlin they say: “England is alone the enemy.” So we see the real cause is purposely obscured, but not to the Socialists!

Perhaps the quotation herewith will prove illuminating and show how frank are some who aid and abet. Mr. Harold Fraser Wyatt, of the Imperial Maritime League, writing in the “Nineteenth Century and After," (Sept., 1914), says:
  Efficiency for war is God’s test of the nation's soul. Victory it the result of efficiency, and that efficiency is the result of a spiritual quality . . . And the efficiency or inefficiency of its armaments is the determining factor in a nation's success, or of a nation’s failure at that culminating moment of long processes of commercial and diplomatic rivalry —the moment of War.
Comment is needless. Again :
  The problem of the British Empire is—How is the British Empire to triumph over the world.— Colonel Charles Ross, D.S.O. (“ Representative Government and War," p. 361.)
Finally:
  The British Empire stands face to face with the world; and if she is to exist her armaments must be increased to such an extent as will enable her to contend if necessary with the whole world.—Ibid, P- 375.
The present war is obviously a thieves quarrel of the most sordid, mercenary, and disastrous kind that has ever afflicted the long-suffering and exploited workers. It is the outcome of our masters in this and other lands "thinking Imperially," the fruit of their efforts in Empire-building, struggling for world markets, and of their vaunted “diplomacy" and “commercial integrity.”

But Lloyd-George is optimistic as ever. Recently he spake thus:
  Our footprints may be stained with blood, but we will reach the height, and in front of us see the rich fields and plaint of the new world we have sacrificed so much to reach."—The “Star," 7.9.17.
One thinks, as one reads the last portion of the above, of two names and all they connote— names written large in “British Red”—“Gallipoli" and “Mesopotamia"; and again one thinks!

German Lloyd Georges make similar speeches, throw out the same sops to aid the prosecution of the war to a “victorious conclusion." But the time is coming, aye, and soon! when no rhetoric will stay the disillusionment of the masses, when the Socialist Party will be completely vindicated. Not once have this party confused the issue. All along they have pointed out the capitalist nature of the present European struggle, maintaining that abundant proofs are to land of the real object for which it is being waged.

Workers, it matters not to you under whose rule you are, nor whether Empires rise or fall. Dynasties may topple and “Democracies” arise, yet if wage-slavery continues, these changes leave your position absolutely unaltered as a class!

To abolish poverty and unemployment, wage-slavery and war, and the thousand evils of the capitalist system, is within your power. It is you alone who can effect your emancipation. Organise to capture the powers of government and completely control the destiny of your class - the wealth-producers of the world. Your only enemy is the international capitalist class. You alone can achieve the greatest purpose the mind of man has evolved—International Socialism!

Under that system alone can come about the brotherhood of man, liberty, comfort, and peace for all. Hail the “Socialist Commonwealth of the World."
G.

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

I am 90% certain that the author of this article, 'G', is Gilbert McClatchie. At this point in the war, McClatchie had returned to Ireland, 'going on the run', to avoid conscription that had been introduced the previous year. In such circumstances, many SPGB members had either gone underground or abroad because of their class conscious opposition to the war.

Also, the mention of the Irish author, George Moore, is a bit of a giveaway.

There are a few details of McClatchie's (Gilmac) war time experiences from the following article from 1964:

https://socialiststandardmyspace.blogspot.com/2014/04/members-in-great-war.html