Richard Clements

The Triumph of Imperialism


Source: The Call, 4 September 1919, p. 5 (1,220 words)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The thoughtful man, above all if he is imbued with Socialist ideas, cannot but observe the striking difference between the idealist and moral professions of the ruling classes in every country during the early stages of the war and the sordid policy of territorial annexation, militarist repression, and capitalist imperialism which is almost universally triumphant at its close. One wonders what Mr. H.G. Wells thinks of “the war to end war,” now that he and many others who shared his thoughts have “seen it through.”

The Peace Treaty, that closed five years of the most appalling war in history, bears the marks of its capitalist origin from beginning to end. This is no Charter of Humanity, ushering in a new epoch in world development; but the document that sets a legal seal upon the world-wide plans of industrial and commercial exploitation on the part of the capitalist classes of the Entente. All the ideas of a “Peoples’ Peace,” outside the Labour and Socialist movements, were forgotten. President Wilson’s “Fourteen Points,” after having served their purpose of sowing doubt amongst the German people, were at once cast aside. The fate of nations, provinces, and districts were decided by the “Big Four” irrespective of the wishes of the peoples concerned. The proceedings of the Paris “Peace Conference” are to-day a byword amongst the nations.

A lasting peace can only be made when it receives the whole-hearted consent of the peoples concerned. The Peace of Paris is seen to be but a momentary result of forces that are rapidly spreading themselves. It is only a lull in the storm. The last word in the struggle for peace will be spoken by the working classes of the world.

In the British Socialist movement we were never more conscious than we are to-day of our class duty, nationally and internationally. Upon us devolves the heavy task of preparing the masses by education, agitation, and organisation for a prolonged and bitter struggle against British Imperialism abroad and the prevailing system of economic exploitation at home.

Men make their own history, as Marx once wrote. But as he was always amongst the first to recognise, their work is necessarily conditioned by the economic, social, and political circumstances of their particular age. The social problems that now confront us were brought into existence by the economic and social evolution of modern society.

The development of the means of production and communication has been such that the capitalist classes can no longer confine their efforts to the merely national markets, but must seek outlets all over the world for their products. This power to produce a surplus mass of commodities and the absolute necessity of finding an outlet for surplus capital are not features of capitalist development in any one country, but are common to all highly developed industrial and commercial nations. Hence the diplomatic intrigues, struggles, and war amongst them; for foreign markets, colonies, and “spheres of interest” the capitalist classes are ever ready, as the present exhaustive war has shown, to hurl the masses of their respective countries at each other’s throats. It is this relentless search for new markets and outlets that explains capitalist penetration, domination, and control in India, Egypt, Africa, Mesopotamia, and Turkey.

THE CASE OF PERSIA

A glance at the text of the “agreement” between the British and Persian Governments, which was signed at Teheran on August 9th, will reveal the present-day methods of British Imperialism in its dealings with small nations.

The first clause of this precious document reads as follows:

“The British Government reiterates, in the most categorical manner, the undertaking which they have repeatedly given in the past, to respect absolutely the independence and integrity of Persia.”

And we are then told in the following clauses how it is proposed to carry out this “undertaking.” The Persian Government is forced to accept “whatever expert advisers may be considered necessary for the several departments of the Persian Administration. These advisers shall be engaged on contracts and endowed with adequate powers, the nature of which shall be the matter of agreement between the Persian Government and the advisers.”

The British Government is to supply, at “the cost of the Persian Government,” military officers, munitions, and equipment, for the “preservation of order in the country and on its frontiers.”

In order to carry out these reforms, we are told that the British Government offers to provide a loan of 2,000,000, at the rate of 7 per cent., redeemable in twenty years’ time, “for which adequate security shall be sought by the two Governments in consultation, in the revenues of the Customs or other sources of income at the disposal of the Persian Government.”

The construction of a modern railway system in Persia by British capitalists is also provided for in the following paragraph:—

The British Government, fully recognising the urgent need which exists for the improvement of communications in Persia, with a view both to the extension of trade and the prevention of famine, are prepared to co-operate with the Persian Government for the encouragement of Anglo-Persian enterprise in this direction, both by means of railway construction and other forms of transport, subject always to the examination of the problems by experts and to agreement between the two Governments as to the particular projects which may be most necessary, practicable, and profitable.”

The control of Customs is also to pass into the hands of our Government, as it is proposed to set up “a joint committee of experts for the examination and revision of the existing Customs tariff with a view to its reconstruction on a basis calculated to accord with the legitimate interests of the country and to promote its prosperity.”

IMPERIALISM AND WAR

In 1907 Great Britain guaranteed the independence and integrity of Persia, and afterwards acquiesced in Russia’s brutal policy of repression and terrorism in that unhappy country. When the power of Tsarist Imperialism was broken by the Russian workers, hopes were widely entertained of a free Persia. The rapacity of the British ruling class has again come between the Persian people and the realisation of their hopes.

Persia is a rich country—rich in raw materials, especially oil; but perhaps the factor that most influenced our ruling class in this case was that of the consolidation of our rule over the vast territories stretching across Southern Asia from Egypt and Palestine through Mesopotamia to India. In this part of the world, at any rate, the wildest dreams of our Imperialists have been realised.

Empire? It is beginning to dawn upon even the most politically backward of British workers that Imperialism is a burden and a curse for their class. It loads them with the chains of debt while inflaming the greed and enmity of other nations, and thus leads from the burden of armaments to the crowning folly of war.

Imperialism is a product or capitalism; we cannot destroy the one without overthrowing the other. The Socialist struggle against economic slavery at home cuts at the roots of Imperialism and war. These last two evils can only be overcome by the working-class conquest of economic and political power in their respective countries, which will bring to a close the capitalist regime, and call into existence a group of federated Socialist Republics.