E. Belfort Bax

The International Octopus;
More Suckers Thrown Out

(22 May 1886)

International Octopus, Commonweal, 22 May 1886, p.63.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Probably few of our readers will know where Harrar is. We did not ourselves until we had consulted the atlas. For the benefit of those who are in a similar position, we may mention that Harrar is a district of Africa, lying a little to the south east of Abyssinia. This place after being evacuated by the Egyptian garrison last July, was left under the control of a native prince. The Italian capitalists and their government, on the look-out for markets in this region, some months back fixed their eyes on Harrar as an eligible morsel. An expedition was accordingly sent by the Italian consul at Aden to reconnoitre. The sequel is obvious. The Emir and the Harrarenes alike prefer their independence to having their country made the dustbin of Italian shoddy, so the “expedition” meets with a “warm reception.” Someone is found to tell a horrible story of the “massacre” of said expedition. A leading Italian capitalist print, the Rassegna, shrieks for vengeance, while the brother organ of German capitalism, the Cologne Gazette, publishes a lengthy communication from its correspondent at Aden, evidently “inspired” by the Italian consulate, which depicts in glowing colours the horrible state of affairs in Harrar, and includes all the stock phrases, such as, “The present condition of Harrar is a scandal to England and a disgrace to all civilisation,” etc., etc. “England” ought, in the writer’s opinion, instead of ordering the evacuation of the territory to have occupied it, and so kept it warm for Italian, German, or any other traders that might want it. The rédaction of the Cologne Gazette appends a note to this precious document (which, it appears; was written before the reported massacre of the “expedition”), couched in indignant phraseology, and urging upon Drepretis, the Italian minister, to take advantage of the present position of affairs to raise the Jingo wind, and float his ministry on a wave of patriotism and pillage. The “expedition” of Count Porro, which avowedly had for its object to survey the ground for the erection of factories and trading stations, has met the fate which all such “expeditions” – be they English, French, German, Italian, or Russian – only too richly deserve but seldom meet. Did all barbaric powers treat traders and traders’ agents in the summary manner of the Emir of Harrar, though it could not save them in the long run, it might at least give them a respite by warding off the inrush of vultures for the time being.


Thibet is to all appearance doomed. An expedition “for commercial purposes” is being fitted out at Darjeeling, which is to proceed with all pomp and circumstance to Lhassa, there to overawe the native authorities into accepting British cheap goods, and possibly negociating for the surrender of any lands that may be worth having. It remains to be seen whether the Thibetans will permit Mr. Maucaulay and his band to reach Lhassa, or compel them to divert their attentions from the undiscovered kingdom of the Lhamas to another undiscovered kingdom, which is not of this world, there in conjunction with the late Count Porro and his associates of Harrar fame, to endeavour to persuade the “great majority” to conclude a commercial treaty, with Mr. Sinnett as chief agent. The idea is worth thinking of, when the world market is getting so rapidly worked out. We fear that the belief of the Bourgeois in the existence of another and a better world must have worn very thin, or he would certainly have taken some serious steps ere this to ascertain whether this other world could not be turned to account as a market. In fact, to speak truth, this is conclusive evidence to us that he has no belief in it at all, in any other sense than as an occasional field for State aided emigration for the relief of surplus population, when, as in the case of the Paris Commune, the surplus population grows troublesome.


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