E. Belfort Bax

Swell “Cracksmen”

(December 1885)

Swell “Cracksmen”, Commonweal, Dec. 1885, p.103.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It is difficult to draw distinctions in infamy; but for bare faced unblushing brigandage, probably the present Burmese war exceeds the previous exploits and excesses of that accomplished gang of ruffians the British Amalgamated Company of Office-and-Market-Hunters. The present little plot was ingeniously arranged. For some two or three years past the press has been persistently serving up accounts of alleged atrocities committed by King Theebaw on his cousins, or his uncles, or his aunts. An ingenuous outsider might have wondered why such a fuss was made about King Theebaw, knowing that few barbaric and semi-barbaric potentates treat their relations as kindly as they should. The said outsider might also have remarked on the comparative silence of the same press on the hideous barbarities, affecting not a petty kingdom, but a considerable portion of two continents, of which the Russian Czar is the responsible author. But to the observer practised in the ways of latter day nineteenth century civilisation, the meaning was plain. Burmah was the next morsel which the “amalgamated company” had marked for their own. If we may believe a statement of Lord Dunraven’s, the Anglo-Indian authorities were in such a hurry to “leave their damnable faces and begin”, that they actually egged on the unfortunate king to insult the British on the pretext that such insults would be favourably received. At all events, the band of thieves calling themselves the British Burmah Trading Company at the same time took to violating the contract for timber cutting they had entered into with the king, and on being remonstrated with, raised the cry of “trade in danger.” The response, of course, was prompt. An insolent ultimatum was despatched (just in order that forms might be complied with as far as possible) practically demanding the surrender of the country. Meanwhile troops were hurried up and the reply to this document was pronounced unsatisfactory even on the admission of the Indian authorities themselves, before it had been translated. The Burmese reply, as it has since transpired, was as “dignified” and “conciliatory” a production as any European diplomatist could have concocted. But what did that matter? War, ruthless commercial war for annexation, had already been decided upon.

And what will the Burmese do now? Defend their territory doubtless. If they string up every representative of the Burmah Trading Company at Mandalay, it will be no more than justice: indeed that they have not done this already, shows a magnanimity worthy of more deserving objects. But after all, what does it all come to? Be it Zululand, be it Afghanistan, be it the Soudan, be it Burmah, it all points one way, that these crimes will and must continue as we have always said; until that huge structure of villainy and rottenness called the British Empire, is shivered to atoms.



Last updated on 12.3.2004