K. Malik

Grabbing Persia
The Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919


Source: The Call, 12 May 1919, p. 7 (748 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.


An analysis of this document must necessarily be preceded by some history in order to be understood.

During Tsarist times, Russia intended to make of Persia a buffer State, so as to use her as a means of reaching the Indian frontiers; and since Germany had not yet been beaten, Britain agreed with Russia, to divide Persia in zones of influence (1907). Persia protested and refused to recognise the treaty—with no avail. In 1911, “the friendly Powers”—Russia and Britain—agreed that Persia had no right to appoint able Americans as financial advisers, and her Parliament had no right to exist, so Shuster—who was on the brink of resurrecting Persia—was dismissed, after the Persian Parliament had been dissolved by a coup!

During the war, there ensued a scramble to invade neutral Persia. First by Russia, then by Turkey, then by Britain. Soviet Russia renounced her right in Persia. Turkey was beaten. So the field was clear for the British capitalists. They kept their army there, and the present treaty is the fruit of the “friendly” policy pursued.

After the armistice of 1918, Persia sent a delegation to Paris. That delegation demanded, among other things, “Compensation for ravages committed in Persian territory which were marching through the country at great inconvenience and sacrifice to inhabitants.” Persia, as a neutral country, which was invaded, is fully entitled to that compensation by all codes of justice. But Britain not only ignored the delegation, but also compelled the Shah to appoint his young cousin Firouz, as Foreign Minister, without the former Minister having resigned or being dismissed!

Not long after that event, the present treaty was concluded.

The reader will have known by now the nature of the “agreement.” It can briefly be called the Annexation of Persia. It is true, it begins by a hypocritical recognition of Persia’s independence. But that sort of thing means nothing. It meant nothing to Egypt. It will mean nothing to us.

Then the “agreement” goes on to stipulate that “the several departments of the Persian Administration” will be supplied with British “advisers,” nominated by the British Government, and “these advisers shall be . endowed with adequate powers.” Is not an adviser of a “Minister” who has power to carry out his advice, the Minister. Then comes the crux of the matter. The British workers are becoming too Bolshevistic, so let us create the necessary military power in Persia, officer it ourselves, and use it to put down Russians and Persians; and when necessary other people. That is the essence of Article 3, which requires that the Persian army shall be officered, equipped, and ammunitioned by the British Government—at the cost of the Persian people!

Then financial control is also taken away from Persia and some insinuations about railways and other concessions are hinted at. In return for these trifles, the British (capitalist) Government has the goodness to offer to lend two million pounds at 7 per cent. interest, payable monthly!

In the covering letter, Sir Percy Cox (for the British Government) says, “It is understood . the Persian Government will not claim from the British Government an indemnity, for any damage which may have been caused by the said (British) troops, during their presence in Persian territory.”

That the whole of the Persian people are bitterly opposed to this “agreement” is shown by the manifesto issued by the National Democratic Party of Persia—the only body in Persia that can claim to represent the wishes of the inhabitants. “Is it credible,” says the manifesto, “that, when self-determination is the word of the time, Persia should, of her own free will, hand over her army, her police, her finance, and her economic resources to a foreign Power?” A few economic facts will help the Socialist thinker in connection with this Imperialistic policy of Britain. Wages in Persia in 1914, averaged about 3s. 6d. a week. Persia is very rich in minerals, in as much as it contains coal, oil, iron, sulphur, lime, etc. Persian workers have no industrial organisations, Labour is “sure and reliable”.

The master class are out first to make the Eastern worker undercut his fellow worker here, through “foreign competition.” Secondly, they are out to organise the Eastern workers in order to defend themselves in case of Western revolution; and thirdly, to defeat the English working-class revolution by a policy of blockade.