E. Belfort Bax

The Right of Asylum

(17 September 1910)

The Right of Asylum, Justice, 17th September 1910, p.8. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


I do not propose to enter into the general controversy as to the “German Question.” There may be different opinions as to the general result of a successful German invasion of Britain. Some, like comrade Hyndman, regard it as the greatest disaster that could befall humanity others may question, whether, on the whole, and all things considered, it might not in the end redound to the advantage of international Socialist Democracy in hastening its development.

However this may be, there is one right, dear to all Socialists, which I think a successful German invasion would tend to render more secure than it is now. I refer to the right of asylum. Let us make no mistake. With a Liberal-Imperialist, at the head of affairs even more than a Tory, with disaffected Hindoos knocking about, the right of asylum is by no means safe. Should Sir Edward Grey, on any pretext, yield to the demand of the Russian or any other Government to surrender a political prisoner, and thereby create a precedent for practically abrogating the right of asylum in this country, what chance is there of serious and effective protest? Indignation meetings would be held, doubtless, by the Socialist organisations and the Labour Party, backed by the advanced wing of the Radicals, et voila tout. Does anyone seriously think that in the present backbone-less state of British public opinion, on international affairs, there is any chance of the matter going further?

Let us suppose, however, that German having invaded Britain with success, acquired a hegemony of Western Europe which placed her in the position of being able to exert pressure on this country. Let us further suppose, as might probably be the case, that she used her power, directly or indirectly, to urge on the British Government an act which meant the abrogation of the right of asylum. Then “the fat would be in the fire.” The interest in the question would ally itself with the whole patriotic and anti-German sentiment of national public opinion, and raise an agitation which no British Government would dare to withstand. Germany would be faced with the alternative of having to undertake another war, which would, in all probability, be scarcely worth her while, even to destroy a possible asylum for political refugees, or yielding the point. From that time forward the right of. asylum would become the ensign of British patriotism and safe against all encroachment. There may be other grounds for holding German supremacy a danger, but simply from the point of view of the right of asylum in Britain it might well prove an unmixed blessing. – Yours,


E. Belfort Bax


Pollokshaws Branch (S.D.F.) has passed the following resolution: “That this Branch recognises the International solidarity of the working class, and therefore deprecates comrade Hyndman’s agitation for a big Navy as tending rather to break down than up this essential unity of the workers of the world.” Jas.D.MacDougall, Sec.


Last updated on 9.10.2005