Independent Labour Party 1921
I.L.P. Pamphlets. New Series. No. 44.
George Horwill, B.Sc. (Econ.)
THE INDEPENDENT LABOUR PARTY,
8/9, Johnson’s Court, Fleet St., London, E.C.4.
Source: George Horwill, “Oil and Finance – In Turkey, Persia and Mesopotamia,” I.L.P pamphlets, New Series no. 44, 1921, p. 16;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
International diplomacy is almost entirely a grim struggle between the vested interests of rival groups of international financiers. Not entirely, it is true; there is an imperialist element which wants to boss merely for the sake of bossing, but this by itself is comparatively weak, and the real driving force of international friction lies in the cold, calculated, sordid interests of the financier, who wants to sell his guns at a huge profit, or wring the concession of a railway track or a mineral right from a weak Sultan of Turkey, a commercial concession or a tobacco monopoly from a puppet Shah of Persia, an oilfield from an Arab State, or hold a weaker nation in eternal financial bondage.
The Imperialists in Great Britain would probably have preferred Persia, and Afghanistan for ever to have remained undeveloped because of strategic interests in India and the Arabian Sea, but Persia possesses stores of undeveloped wealth. The great free-flowing oil wells of Caucasia continue along the northern frontier of Azerbaijan, and valuable oilfields lie in the south of Persia; minerals exist in large quantities, and except for a little coal and copper, have scarcely been touched; the country is very fertile in places in spite of its bad climate, and much cotton might be grown; hence, the British and Russian capitalists have forced the pace and have bombarded their respective governments to enter the diplomatic lists. The German capitalist came in later and tried to play off the British against the Russian capitalists, and to snatch a few concessions in the process. The Persian people, supposed to be an independent nation in International law, have been crucified by the three of them.
The game started in 1872, when a financial group, headed by Baron Julius de Reuter, secured a concession which gave him complete control over all the industrial resources of Persia. It comprised a right to construct a railway from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, with all convenient branch lines, the laying down of tramways, the working of all Persian mines, the construction of irrigation works, the establishment of a National Bank, and many similar undertakings. The Persian people were, however, furious at the wholesale surrender of their economic resources to a foreign capitalist, and forced their Shah to annul the contract, into the concluding of which he had been cajoled or frightened. Baron Julius demanded his quid pro quo; consequently, to compensate him, the Shah had to grant him a charter for the creation of a Persian State Bank with the right of an exclusive note issue, together with the concession of the rights over many valuable mines. Later on, in 1890, another group of British interests were granted a monopoly in the tobacco industry, and the Imperial Tobacco Corporation was floated; but again the Persian people were enraged at the financial domination of the foreigner. Riots broke out and reached such a pitch that the Shah had to annul the concession, but he had to pay half a million pounds indemnity to the company, a sum which was borrowed from the Imperial Bank at 6 per cent. interest. Similarly another British syndicate secured a monopoly for the running of lotteries and then lost it. A good account of some of these financial deals is given in Mr. Angus Hamilton’s book, “Problems of the Middle East.”
The Russian interests were greatly perturbed by many of these concessions granted to Britishers, and her financiers demanded and secured valuable railway concessions as an offset. In 1895 she made a further move, the object of which was to secure the Persian market exclusively for Russian goods. From then she began to penetrate North Persia commercially and industrially, and to treat it as Russian territory. She soon came into conflict with Great Britain. Until now Great Britain had been the loan capitalist for Persia. In 1896 the Shah wanted another million pounds loan, and the British capitalists would only consent if their own agents were put in charge of the Customs in. Persia. The Shah didn’t want such a degree of interference, hence the Russian financiers, organised in the Banque d’Escompte et de Perse, came forward with a loan accompanied by slightly easier conditions. The Russian loan was accepted, further railway concessions were granted her, and an undertaking given to borrow in future from Russia. The poor British financiers got the worst of it!
The German capitalist had been shut out, and all the bones were being picked by Great Britain and Russia, so after 1900 the German financial interests courted Russian favour so as to get concessions, particularly in middle Persia, where neither Great Britain nor Russia had penetrated to any extent. German merchants were encouraged to settle in the Shah’s dominions, and a trade began in the wool, carpets, skins, cottons, etc., of Persia; also German firms were asked to establish permanent depots at the ports where samples of German goods could be stocked. Then in early 1910 (Dr. Dillon asserts) an agent of the Deutsche Bank went prowling round Teheran, finding out the points of disagreement between Russia and Great Britain, what prospect there was of the German financiers being able to lend the Shah money, and attempting to get a concession to open a branch of the Deutsche Bank in Teheran. He also tried to get industrial concessions for his bank in the region of Lake Urmiah. This caused great alarm among British financiers. The arrogance of the Germans attempting to make as many dollars in Persia as the British!
The war has swamped the capitalist striving of Germany in Persia, and the interests of private Russian capitalists are now crippled; consequently British interests are hopeful of capturing all Persia as a sphere of financial exploitation. The policy of the British interests was candidly put by Col. A.C. Yate in the “Nineteenth Century,” March, 1919, where he discussed the independence of Persia. He wrote:
Persia is only fit, to be put into leading strings, and, if it is to have any associations with the League of Nations, it should be as the ward of Great Britain. The oilfields of Khuzistan, held and worked by Britain, may serve as a tolerably sound guarantee of the decorous behaviour of the ward.
Yet Persia is technically an independent nation, and we fought the war for freedom of small nations!
The Soviet Government of Russia has upset many of the plans for financial penetration by spreading Communism in the East.. It called a Conference at Baku in September, 1920, at which 235 Turkish, 192 Persian, 157 Armenian, and 100 Georgian representatives were present, and Zinoviev exhorted them to throw off the yoke of the foreign capitalist. The words fell on receptive minds. Communism, and the fear of it, stands between the capitalist and the exploitation of tremendous wealth. Azerbaijan is not only red, but is using its control of oil to help communists in neighbouring States. It is a terrible blow to the international capitalist. He wants war to the knife against Soviet Russia, and is still plotting it. No wonder that one of our Government’s most anxious points in the draft trading agreement with Russia is that Russia shall cease its propaganda in Persia.
The main British industrial interests iii Persia are centred in this octopus company. It was registered in 1909 to acquire from the Concessions Syndicate, Ltd., the Burmah Oil go., Ltd., and the late Lord Strathcona, for a period of 60 years, a concession granted by the Persian Karun River; but oil is also worked at innumerable places.
The Anglo Persian Oil Co., Ltd., owns the whole capital of the following companies: British. Petroleum Co. Ltd., D’Arcy Exploration Co. Ltd., British Tanker Co., Ltd., Homelight Oil Co. Ltd., Petroleum Steamship Co.; Ltd., National Oil Refineries, Ltd. It possesses a controlling interest in the Scottish Oils, Ltd., and many similar concerns. The Northern Persian Oils, Ltd., formed in 1920, is also connected with it. These companies comprise every department of the oil trade as well as mining, steamship lines, etc.
This company has been having an excellent time of late, since British influence has been established in the Middle East. A meeting of the preference shareholders was held February 22, 1921, to authorise further capital. The directors’ circular to the shareholders said that additional capital was required for further pipe lines, tank vessels, refineries, etc., to enable the company to deal with its increasing output and for additional facilities after the end of 1922 (when existing contracts with the Asiatic Petroleum Co., Ltd., expire) to enable the company to dispose of its refined products independently and to best advantage.
I will deal with the directors of this company in the chapter on “Government by Financiers.” Here it is sufficient to say that its capital £20,000,000, of which £5,000,000 is held by the British Government, and that its directors are connected with the chief industries and banks in and out of the United’ Kingdom. Let any unbiassed mind consider the history of financial deals and squabbles in Persia, and analyse those at work there now, and the inevitable conclusion is reached that our professions concerning the welfare of small nations is hypocrisy, and that our foreign policy is dominated by financiers organised in such combines as the Anglo Persian Oil Co., Ltd.
The reader has probably heard much of the unspeakable Turk and his atrocities in various places, and has often wondered, perhaps, why, if Turkey were so bad, she were not forced to be good long ago by her powerful Christian neighbours. The answer is that European Governments lave quarrelled over their respective interests in. Turkey; they have not troubled themselves about justice at all, but have only been concerned about wringing concessions for their financial groups or securing their commerce against that of another nation. Let me quote a few incidents respecting the manoeuvres of vested interests in Turkish history, and incidentally show how great nations have been et loggerheads with each other simply because their financiers have quarrelled.
During the Balkan War of 1913, Turkey was hard pressed for finance. Groups of French, British, and Russian financiers (note the combination) met in Paris, and on the suggestion of M. Revoil proposed that their respective Governments should grant the “pension alimentaire,” promised to the Ministry of Kiamil Pasha, to the revolutionary Government. But this was such a flagrant breach a neutrality that the Governments were unable to do it. But the financiers had an interest in seeing that Turkey did not bankrupt, so they calmly suggested that their end could be achieved by the Turkish Government’s obtaining an advance from the Tobacco Régie for the prolongation of their contract, a sum of money from the Lighthouse Company for the renewal of their privileges, a large sum of money from the Anglo Egyptian Syndicate for the purchase of land and concessions in Syria! And in addition, the Balkan conquerors of Turkey were given to understand that an indemnity would prejudice the financial interests which the Great Powers had in Turkey, and therefore could not be allowed.
The European bondholders have played a great part in our diplomacy in Turkey. In 1881, France held the lion’s share of the Turkish national debt, Great Britain and Russia both having large interests. To make quite sure that dividends would be paid, the Turkish debt was placed under international administration. Germany, at that time, only held 4.7 per cent. of the debt, and there were five countries which held more than she. A long struggle of interests ensued, in which Germany made much progress. About 1910 Turkey wanted a loan. Usually her loans were negotiated by the Imperial Ottoman Bank, in which important French interests were concerned. But Sir E. Cassel had founded the National Bank in the sole interests of a British group, and Djavid Bey. who went to Paris to negotiate the loan for Turkey, was a director of this National Bank; hence the French interests behind the Imperial Ottoman Bank were offended. The National Bank had promised to lend if the Ottoman refused, but the French and British financiers did not want to quarrel, because of the intertwining of their interests even in the Ottoman Bank, so they composed their differences and the National Bank decided to forego its advantage, and declined to lend, presumably on the assumption that the Turkish Government would be brought to its knees and would accept any conditions. This was Germany’s opportunity. The Deutsche Bank came forward and offered Turkey a loan, which was accepted. The result of this and after-events was that by 1914 Germany’s share in the Turkish debt had jumped to 20 per cent., only France having a greater share (60 per cent.), and British apologists fumed about the aggression of Germany in Turkey.
The same rivalry is seen in the struggle for the Baghdad Railway concessions. In 1888 a few German financiers within the Deutsche Bank gained a 99 years’ concession from Turkey for the construction of the Haider Pasha to Ismidt and the Ismidt to Angora railways, and the Anatolia Railway Company was founded to cut them. The idea of extending this railway through to Baghdad was mooted, but Great Britain and France were all powerful, and Germany had no chance of carrying the project through if they opposed. The German financiers therefore played off the British financiers against the French. In 1899, representatives of the Deutsche Bank and Anatolian Railway Co. came to an understanding with the leaders of the three French groups, viz., Banque Impériale Ottomane, the Compagnie de Chemin de fer Smyrne-Cassaba, and the Régie Générale des Travaux Publics, whereby these French firms were guaranteed 40 per cent. of the enterprise. The French groups accepted such a tempting proposition, first because it was good business, secondly because the Chemin de Fer Smyrne-Cassaba dreaded an alliance between the English Smyrna-Dineir line and the Anatolian Railway Co.! In consequence of this Franco German financial alliance the new Baghdad Railway Company possessed eleven German and eight French directors, but not a single Britisher. Awful! British newspapers complained that the honour of the country was at stake, and as a result negotiations between the Deutsche Bank and the British groups, headed by Sir Ernest Cassel and Sir Clinton Dawkins, took place, but the negotiations broke down because the British groups wanted more control in the enterprise than the German bank would allow.
The Baghdad Railway was, however, too important for British finance to leave alone (apart from strategic interests), for the charter of the company gave it the right not only to cut a railroad, but to make harbours at various places, establish steamship services on the Tigris and the Euphrates, exploit all minerals within a radius of 20 miles from the track, cut all the timber it required from the forests, build electric power houses, obtain a monopoly of brick works, aqueducts, and many other things. Hence they finally hit upon the plan of dividing up the line in sections, so that each country should have the sole right of constructing a section. Great Britain got the Baghdad to Bassorah section, and Germany, the Konia-Baghdad section. On the whole, Germany won, and was winning in 1914. Then her influence extended over 36.8 per cent. of the actual railways of Turkey, while British influence only extended over 10.8 per cent. It is quite obvious from these data that it was not Belgian questions, but the struggle of the financiers, that caused the terrible war.
The recent settlement by the Allied Powers in the Treaty of Sevres shows that the knocking out of the Germans from control in Turkey involves not the slightest change in the sordid financial jobbery which the Allied financiers are now carrying on with a free hand. A financial Commission is to be set up by the Allies, and the Commission is destined to rule Turkey. The Turkish Government may not establish or contract internal or external loans or grant any new concessions without the consent of the Commission. The Allied financiers, therefore can practically regulate concessions for themselves, and we may trust the National Bank of Turkey (owned by the British Trade Corporation), connected, as it is, indirectly, with the industries and armaments of Great Britain, to look after the interests of the British group. Turkey is, in fact, now economically a Province of high finance. Finance caused the war, and finance is now reaping the benefit.
Mesopotamia is important to the financier because of its great potential wealth. In the north, where, the rainfall is sufficient, the soil is very fertile and capable of producing wheat and cotton in great abundance; so much so that at one time in history the cottons of Mosul commanded the markets of the world. In the south is a great dry plain. Sir W. Willcocks investigated this region, and his report in 1911 said that given a system of irrigation, a huge area of from 5,000 to 6,000 square miles could be profitably cultivated. His estimated cost of irrigation: was 30,000,000 pounds Turkish or about £27,000,000 sterling, and it is thought that about 400,000 tons of cereals and one and a half, million hundredweights of cotton could be produced every year. Hence the financial groups have given this area their attention. Note their operations.
When our armies were successful in entering Mesopotamia, they were followed by the establishment of the Eastern Bank, Ltd., with its branches at Amara, Baghdad, Bahrein, Basra, Hellah and Mosul. Its chairman is Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Now this lord happened to be the chairman of the “Committee on Commercial and Industrial Policy After the War,” which sat in 1916, so that, in this capacity he would assist in shaping the Government’s policy towards finance and commerce in general, and. in his later capacity he and his company would derive any benefit which might accrue from that policy.
What the financiers most desire in Mesopotamia is a big population and a strong government. The Arabs like to roam and are not amenable to discipline; they do not form a cheap supply of labour for the financial magnates. The latter, therefore, advocate not only a Prussian military government, but the importation of cheap labour from India and Egypt! The Arabs object, hence the present trouble and the denial of the freedom which the Allies solemnly promised to the Arabs.
The vested interests are still winning. No sooner was the war carried into Mesopotamia than a new irrigation canal (a continuation of the Willcocks’ scheme), capable of irrigating 300,000 acres of land, was cut; being finished by the end of 1918. There was not sufficient Arab labour locally willing to be coerced, so Indian labour corps were imported and set to work. Since the armistice; further strides have been made. The British Cotton Growers’ Association have been brought on the scene and are cultivating large areas with seed, which they hope will produce a long staple cotton equal to the best American or Egyptian cotton. This time they have introduced the Fellahin from Egypt to do the necessary labour. The generalisation that our army is being kept in Mesopotamia at the present time to enable the capitalist to employ cheap imported Egyptian and Indian labour is (apart from the oil question) much nearer the truth than any other.
There are two oil bearing districts in Mesopotamia: one lies to the north east of Basra and extends to the Persian frontier, being a continuation of the South Persian oilfield; the other stretches over a considerable country and skirts the east of Mosul. Under the secret agreements of 1918 Great Britain, France and Tsarist Russia made one of the objects of the war the parcelling out of Turkish territory among themselves: Great Britain was to have the south, while the north, with the Mosul oilfields, were to fall within the French sphere of influence. There was then no talk of mandates; it was brutal, open robbery.
The oilfields of the Basra region are worked by the Anglo Persian Oil Company, to which reference has already been made.
The oilfields of Mosul are worked by the Turkish Petroleum Company, Ltd. This company was originally called the African and Eastern Concessions, Ltd. Its name was changed in 1912, when it acquired from the Deutsche Bank certain rights of prospecting for oil in the Ottoman Empire. Its capital was £160,000, and was subscribed as follows: (1) Anglo-Persian Oil Co., 50 per cent.; (2) Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co., Ltd. 25 per cent.; (3) Deutsche Bank, 25 per cent. The Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co. has the greater part of its shares held by the Royal Dutch Shell Co., which, as readers probably know, is one of the centres of the famous Shell Combine. Also part of the shares of the Turkish Petroleum Co. are now held by the British Trade Corporation, an extensive banking company operating in the East and owning the National Bank of Turkey. Thus the great interests behind the Turkish Petroleum Co. are mainly those British interests predominant in Persia and. Turkey generally and the Shell Combine, whose champion, Mr. Deterling, sits on its directorate.
The main feature to notice about the Turkish Petroleum Co. is that its concessions at Mosul have been granted since the beginning of the war, and that its directors and interests are connected with many important railway, armament, mining and banking companies in Great Britain. The connection between the two is obvious.
What is a mandate? It is a trust held under the League of Nations whereby the mandatory Power takes charge of a backward country, not for its own aggrandisement, but as a sacred trust to be used to help the inhabitants of that country – in the interests of civilisation. Hear what the very candid Saturday Review has to say on the subject of mandates in its issue February 8, 1919:
In the old wicked days of “spoils to the victors” there would have been in language, which nowadays shocks your League of Nations professor, a division of the spoils. That, however, in the ears of democracy is flat blasphemy. Something, therefore, must be invented, which shall be annexation, but shall not be called so .... annexation must be camouflaged under the pretence of a mandate of trusteeship. Was there ever a more arrogant piece of democratic humbug than the mandate?
The remarks of the Saturday Review have been proved correct. Great Britain is the mandatory power in Mesopotamia. In a high moral tone she has informed the United States that she does not seek to exploit the petroleum resources of the country for herself, that no private interests are involved, that the resources of Mesopotamia will be secured for the Arab State. The mandate also states that there shall be no advantage given to her own nationals in matters of “taxation, commerce, navigation, the exercise of industries or professions, etc.” This is nonsense. Mandate is indeed merely a respectable name for annexation. As the United States has already pointed out to Great Britain, discrimination in favour of her own nationals has already taken place. The San Remo petroleum agreement provides that any private petroleum company operating in Mesopotamia shall be under permanent British control. The British and French have an agreement whereby Great Britain shall, have 75 per cent. and France 25 per cent. of the oil of Mosul: the 1916 secret agreements are only altered, not lapsed.
The fact is that the American and British financiers are quarrelling exactly as the British and Germans began to quarrel 15 years ago. The American oil interests are organised in the Standard Oil Co.; the British have allied themselves to the Shell Combine. The United States secured railway, concessions in Turkey, and the Standard Oil Co. wants to use them to have a finger in the Mosul oilfields, The British interests are determined to keep them out. At a dinner given in April, 1920, at which all the oil interests of Britain were represented, Sir C. Greenaway referred in particular to their friends in the Royal Dutch and Shell Co., Sir Marcus Samuel and Mr. Deterling. A study of the Shell Combine shows that British interests are now included, that it is supreme in the Middle East; and the concessions granted to the Turkish Petroleum Co., together with the complaints of the oil interests of our dependence on American controlled oil (70 per cent. of our total supplies in pre war days), indicate that the conflict is now in progress.
Moreover, the activities of the oil companies in Mesopotamia outlined above show clearly that the vested interests are operating as freely and as brazenly as if Mesopotamia were annexed, while the suppression of the Arabs could not be greater if they were legally British subjects.
Our Foreign Office is run by vested interests. An analysis of the vested interests in the Middle East shows that they are interconnected with almost all the powerful groups in this country. Hence, when necessary, the interests in the Middle East can obtain the support of a vast variety of financial interests in Great Britain. This alone explains our policy in Mesopotamia at the present time, for it is not only expensive at a time when we cannot afford it, but it is as idiotic and as contrary to public opinion as is possible. The explanation is that the vested interests have and are forcing it against the better judgment of the Government. Behold the relations between some of these interests.
The Anglo Persian Oil Co., Ltd., is owned, to the extent of one fourth its shares, by the British Government. Presumably that is to secure oil supplies, for it makes not the slightest difference to the operations of the financiers in that company. The British Government is represented on the board by Lord Inchcape and Sir E. H. Packe. (This and the following facts refer to the year 1920.) Now Lord Inchcape is connected with a large number of powerful companies, such as the P. and O. Corporation, the P. and O. Steam Navigation Co., Anderson, Green and Co., Doodputtle Tea Co., Great Western Railway Co., Eastern Telegraph Co., Marine Insurance Co., Royal Bank of Scotland, Suez Canal Co., Scottish Oils, Ltd., and over a dozen others. It is only natural that his colleagues on these companies will exert their influence in his favour in any Eastern policy which he supports. Similarly the trustees for the debenture holders are Lords Lamington and Southborough. Lord Lamington is connected with the Edinburgh Assurance Co., the London Guarantee and Accident Co., etc., while Lord Southborough is connected with Armstrong Whitworth and Co., Underground Electric Railway Co., Westinghouse Brake Co., and others. Of the directors proper, Admiral Sir E.J.W. Slade is connected with nearly a dozen oil companies, the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Co., etc. The other directors are connected with rubber, tin, mining, assurance, shipping, shipbuilding, railway, banking, etc., companies. In nearly all these cases they are directors, not merely shareholders.
The Turkish Petroleum Co., Ltd., operates in Mesopotamia. One of its directors is Mr. H.W.A. Deterling. This gentleman is a director of the Shell Transport and Trading Co., and about 18 other oil companies in various parts of the world (most of them being in the Shell combine). Sir C.E. Hambro, K.B.E., is another director: He is concerned in the Great Eastern Railway Co., the British Baltic Commercial Corporation, Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation, etc. Similarly, the British Trade Corporation’s interests in the Turkish Petroleum Company are championed by Mr. C.S. Gulbenkian, of Paris, a director of the Turkish National Bank, and concerned in the Ural Caspian Oil Corporation.
The banking interests in the Middle East are much the same. The Imperial Ottoman Bank of Turkey is practically owned by British and French shareholders. The British committee of the bank comprises the Earl of Bessboro, concerned in the Bank of Rumania, goldfields, hotel, railway, etc., companies; Viscount Goschen, concerned in the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders, banking, insurance, etc., companies; and others concerned in rubber, canal, coal, oil companies.
The National Bank of Turkey is owned by the British’ Trade Corporation, which through its directors is linked up with armament, insurance, wagon, railway, paper, and many other interests.
The chairman of the Imperial Bank of Persia is Sir H.S. Barnes, who is also a director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., the British and Foreign General Securities and Investment Trust, the Burma Ruby Mines, etc., and so on.
The oil kings have undoubtedly switched to their support all these vested interests, with which they are more or less in easy communication, in order to press the Government to adopt a policy in the Middle East favourable to them. They have engineered the agitation and secured the ear of Ministers. They have cloaked their objects in diplomatic
language, and have done it gracefully. In the journal of the Institute of Petroleum Technologists for April, 1920, a report appears of a dinner given by the Institute, of whom the main guests of the evening were Sir Hamar Greenwood and Mr. W. Long. Sir Hamar was, at the time, Minister in charge of Petroleum Affairs; Mr. Long was the previous, Minister, and had formed the department. Practically all the members of the company were either directors or concerned in oil companies. Sir Charles Greenaway (director of the Anglo Persian Oil Co.), in proposing the toast, to H.M.’s Government, said:
Several of those present had for many years past urged upon the Government the enormous importance of oil to the future of the Empire, and, the vital necessity which existed for ensuring ample British supplies of that precious commodity.
Their agitation had evidently borne fruit, for Mr. W. Long, in reply, said:
Many of those present had forgotten more about oil than he (Mr. Long) had ever known. They knew the essential necessity of oil to this country .... It was only necessary to think of the supplies that had been recently opened out in Mesopotamia, in Persia, and the undeveloped oilfields of the world. He hoped they would make the country realise that one of the greatest needs of mankind was to secure in one form or another the command of those supplies which were willing to be taken.
See the game? First the oil lords capture the main power centre – the Ministry of Oil – then use that to persuade ether departments to support their policy while they bring up support from a variety of vested interests in the country. And it is, of course, all because the country needs oil: the immense oil profits – which were admitted at the meeting to have been made – have presumably no connection with the agitation!!! But in view of this statement of Mr. Long about the oil of Mesopotamia, what are we to think of the official Government statement made to the United States that Great Britain does not seek concessions for her own nationals in Mesopotamia, and that no private interests in oil are involved?
There is thus plenty of evidence to support the statement that our Foreign Office is run by vested interests. Oil kings and bankers are responsible mainly for the policy of suppression in Mesopotamia and the Middle East generally: I am not prepared to blame the financiers: they are simply acting as the, vast majority of human beings would act, in their place. When a group of persons have an opportunity of making large sums of money if the Government adopts a certain policy, it is inevitable that such a group should persuade themselves that that policy is the only true and right one. A person can hypnotise himself much easier than he can hypnotise other people.
It is not to the great and powerful, but to the workers of the world that appeal must be made to prevent vested interests causing wars, great or small. If the workers had been aware of the struggles among European financiers in the Middle and Far East, in Africa, in the Balkans, which preceded the Great War, they would have seen the hypocrisy of the statement that we went into the war for the freedom of small nations. The blunt fact remains that the fight between German and Allied financiers was in progress for ten years prior to 1914 and that, during that time, the vested interests of both sides were constantly seeking to embroil their nations into war.
It is true that diplomacy is complicated by many considerations, but it is equally true that, given the will to live peacefully with the world, undeveloped and backward lands could be developed in the interests of all, without friction. And the will for peace is prevented because each group of financiers is competing with another group for concessions or commerce, quarrelling with them, dragging in the consuls and ambassadors in their quarrels, intertwining their fortunes with strategical interests, and so on, until they have the Foreign Office on their side. This game is now being played with the United States. It started with commercial rivalry, it has extended to a struggle between the Standard Oil and Shell combines in the Middle East; the financiers of the two countries are struggling against each other in the Far East. Where will it end? Is it worth the blood of a single worker as to whether a million dollars are made by an American or an Englishman in some far off land? Yet that is the true driving force of the friction. Remove that, and the national and economic interests of the nation could easily be dealt with.