The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers George Padmore 1931
Exclusive of the millions of Negroes who live under the direct yoke of imperialism in the United States, as well as the African and West Indian colonies, there are over 15 millions who inhabit territories that are considered independent states. For example, Haiti and San Domingo in the West Indies; Liberia and Abyssinia in Africa. However, when we examine the economical and political conditions of those countries we see that they either are, or are fast becoming, financial colonies of Yankee imperialism. For instance, Haiti, Liberia and San Domingo are already completely under the domination of American finance-capital, while Abyssinia is rapidly being drawn into the orbit of Wall Street dictatorship.
The conditions of the black toilers, workers and peasants in these countries are equally as intolerable as those we have already described in the colonies of imperialism. This is especially so in Liberia, where the toiling masses are exploited not only by foreign capitalist but the native bourgeoisie, known as Americo-Liberians, have reduced the indigenous population to the status of chattel slaves in their own interests as well as of American imperialists (Firestone Company).
For over 15 years Haiti has been under the political domination of the United States, which maintains a military dictatorship over the island. During these years several revolts against American imperialism have broken out among the Haitian workers and peasants, but these have all been ruthlessly suppressed. It has been estimated that over 3,000 Haitians have been murdered by the United States’ marines during their occupation of the country.
Because of the position of Haiti proper, which overlooks the Panama Canal and the proposed canal through Nicaragua, the island is considered the most valuable strategic base for the United States navy in the Caribbean, as well as a fertile field for the investment of finance-capital in the development of tropical products, such as coffee, cotton, tobacco, cocoa, sugar, etc., etc. These are the principal factors which dictated the military annexation of the island in 1915.
On the occasion when the first batch of American marines landed their leader, Admiral Caperton, was instructed by the United States State Department to impose a treaty with the following conditions upon the Haitians:
1. That the mining, commercial and agricultural resources of the country be developed exclusively by American financial interests.
2. That the United States was to provide a general receiver and financial adviser to the Government and thereby assume complete control over revenue.
3. That Haiti would not float any new loans or change her tariff unless first approved by the United States.
4. That Haiti would neither lease nor cede territory to any foreign power.
5. That the United States should supply officers for the Haitian gendarmerie (police force).
Since the American occupation the conditions of the 2,500,000 Haitians, especially the workers and peasants, have become terrible.
Nearly all the fertile lands held by the peasants since the establishment of the republic in 1804 have been appropriated by the imperialists and turned into large plantations controlled by foreign corporations. As a result of this policy most of the Haitians are now a landless proletariat and are compelled to become wage-earners on the plantations and in the factories of foreign corporations.
So intense has been the policy of exploitation and its effects upon the living standards of the toiling masses, that spontaneous revolts have broken out throughout the island from time to time. All these manifestations of the workers for liberation have been ruthlessly stamped out. The marines have spread a network of terrorism throughout the country. They have muzzled the press, abolished freedom of speech and assembly, and either exiled or thrown into prison all who dared to champion the cause of national independence.
In order effectively to carry out this programme of subjugation the United States State Department maintains naval rule under the direct supervision of a High Commissioner, General John H. Russell. This marine officer is the real dictator of Haiti. He operates through a puppet president, Louis Bruneo, and a Council of State. This council is a small committee or cabinet selected by the “president” from among his henchmen, who in turn select the “president.” Both the council and the “presidents” must be approved of by the High Commission, who in turn is responsible to the United States Government in Washington. Thus the Haitians have absolutely no voice in the Government.
All of the large plantations, railroads, street railways, electric and gas companies in Haiti are owned by American bankers. Thousands of natives are employed as unskilled labourers in these concerns. The average wage of a Haitian worker is between 20 and 30 cents a day. Wherever they are employed, whether on the plantations or in the factories, they are forced to work long hours, and are most brutally treated by the American superintendents and managers, who are some of the most cruel slave-drivers to be found in the colonies.
The Tipinor and the Reginier-Pinerd Companies, which own some of the largest coffee plantations in the island, have the reputation of being the most brutal exploiters. They employ over 10,000 Negroes, who are supposed to get one dollar a day; but out of this a tax of 75 cents is collected and turned over to the Government, in order to meet its interest on foreign loans. The balance goes to the workers, who are expected to provide themselves with food, clothing and shelter during the period of their contract.
Exclusive of the agricultural and transport workers, there are about 5,000 stevedores employed by European and American steamship companies at Port-au-Prince, the national capital. The rate of wage is between 40 and 50 cents for loading and unloading ships. These workers are unorganised, and as a result their labour-power is being exploited to the maximum. The stevedores, together with the railroad and factory workers in the sugar refineries, form the bulk of the industrial proletariat of Haiti.
Thousands of women and children are also employed as agricultural labourers on the coffee and tobacco plantations. These workers are even more viciously exploited than the men. The average wage for women is 15 cents per day and children 10 cents. Like the men, women and children work from 10 to 1 hours under the most awful conditions, especially during the rainy season of the year, when malaria is very prevalent. The low standard of living among the Haitian toilers due to small wages and the rationalisation of the American capitalists contribute to the high mortality. The majority of Haitian agricultural workers suffer from hookworm and other tropical diseases.
Faced with starvation at home, tens of thousands of Haitian peasants emigrate to the various neighbouring colonies. Most of these labourers, induced by promises of high wages, go to Cuba under agreement with American sugar companies for the purpose of cutting sugar canes. In the past these annual migrations have had the effect of relieving unemployment in Haiti, but during the last year or two emigration has dropped off considerably as a result of the sugar crisis in Cuba. This country can no longer absorb the surplus labour of Haiti. During the years of migration the Haitian Government, by imposing a head tax on those leaving the country, was able to raise thousands of dollars annually.
The migration of blacks to the Spanish speaking islands has created a new problem for the Caribbean labour movement. Formerly there was no coloured problem in the West Indies such as exists in the United States and South Africa. The black Haitians for the most part were confined to their country, while the Spanish speaking whites and mulattoes lived in Cuba and Puerto Rico. But during the years of the development of the sugar industry in Cuba the American imperialists have been able to use the Haitians against the Spanish speaking workers in order to worsen the economic conditions of the Cubans. This has created much racial feeling between the two groups.
This “Black Ivory” trade flourished under the special decree promulgated during the presidency of General Jose Miguel Gomez. In order to stimulate the trade the General Sugar Company, the largest American concern in Cuba, used to pay 25 dollars for every Haitian delivered on its reservations. During the boom years of the sugar industry trading in Negroes became so profitable that steamship companies operating between Haiti and Cuba made fortunes in the transportation of these black slaves.
Once in Cuba the Haitians are left surrounded by armed guards to the sugar plantations and housed there in large wooden barracks, in which many couples live and sleep without any partitions between them, and without any sanitary provisions except a hole In the ground at the end of the structure they occupy as living quarters.
As they cannot get out of the enclosure during the entire time of the “contract,” they must buy all provisions in the company store and usually, at the end of the crop, are indebted to the contractors. Some remain on the plantations over the “dead” season and shift for themselves as best they can. The plantation Owners, however, are often “kind” enough to allow them to remain in the barracks without exacting rent from them during the off season, thus saving the expense of paying to transport new slaves during the succeeding crop season. In the enclosure, the Negroes are “protected” by armed company guards, equipped with rifle and machine guns as well as rubber whips. These guards are never reluctant to shoot at anyone attempting to escape.
The Haitians are paid less than 25 cents per day during the five months of crop gathering. Whenever they protest or revolt against bad treatment the unrest is always settled by the guns of the guards.
It has been estimated that over 40,000 Haitians were imported into Cuba in 1920. This number, however, dropped to 5,000 in 1922, due to the sugar crisis in that year. The number again rose to 14,312 in 1927, but since then the number has been on a steady decline. This slave trade is now being directed from Cuba to the Latin American mainland. For example, during the banana strike in Colombia in 1928 the United Fruit Company, an American corporation, imported thousands of Haitians and Jamaicans in order to break the strike of the Colombian workers. Since then the company has applied to the Colombian Government for permission to import 10,000 Negroes from the islands. This request will certainly be granted, as Columbia is one of the vassal states of Yankee imperialism.
The present policy of the American capitalists in the Caribbean and Latin America is to create and foster artificial racial differences among the toiling masses, and by so doing divide the workers and thereby exploit all of them more effectively.
These high-handed methods of imperialist exploitation, perpetrated against the Haitians, especially the peasantry, were the underlying factors which led to the revolt in November, 1928, which was drowned in blood by the machine guns of the United States marines.
This republic, like Haiti, is a typical colonial country. It is situated on the west coast of Africa between the British colony of Sierra Leone and the French colony of Ivory Coast. The country covers an area of 43,000 square miles, with a coast line of 350 miles. The population is about 2,500,000. Of this number 20,000 are “Americo-Liberians,” Negroes whose ancestors were once slaves in America, but returned and settled in the country during tile early days of its colonisation. There are also 500 Negro British subjects, and 400 Europeans and white Americans. The great bulk of the population consists of various indigenous peoples.
After the great war America found herself confronted with the necessity of competing against the British rubber monopoly. As rubber is an indispensable product in the automobile industry of the United States, a conference was called by the rubber manufacturers in which the United States Government participated. At this conference it was agreed that the United States Government would actively co-operate with the industrialists in producing a tropical sphere of interest in order that they might produce their own rubber. This plan created an outlet for the capitalists to invest more finance-capital in Africa. President Hoover, the then Secretary of Commerce, was the official spokesman of the Government in this imperialistic project.
In July, 1925, the Firestone Rubber Corporation, one of the biggest rubber trusts in the world, entered into negotiations with the Liberian Government for a lease on rubber producing lands. The company secured the concession of a million acres of land at the cost of six cents per acre. After the negotiations were completed the Firestone Company demanded that the Liberian Government accept a loan of $5,000,000 at the rate of 7 per cent. interest, failing which they (Firestone) would not carry through the proposed development scheme. The Liberian people were reluctant to accept this heavy financial obligation, but finally succumbed to the coercion of the great colossus of the North.
One of the greatest obstacles which have stood in the way of the economic development of the republic has been the lack of transportation. In this respect Liberia is mediaeval when compared with the British and French colonies on the west coast of Africa. There are no railroads in the country, while roads suitable for vehicular traffic only exist in the principal towns. The only means of communication between the hinterland and the seaports is on animal back over mud-covered forest tracks and bridgeless rivers. This is the reason why the Firestone Company was so insistent upon the Government accepting the loan in order that funds might be provided for the construction of railways and motor roads, as well as the improvement of the harbour of Monrovia. The terms of the loan therefore especially stipulate that half of the money has to be expended on public works, while the other half is to be used in payment of certain outstanding public debts. The proposed road-building scheme will greatly facilitate the company’s transport of its raw produce from the plantation.
In order to carry through the imperialist project of large-scale plantations the Firestone Corporation has been confronted with two major problems: (1) CONFISCATION OF NATIVE LANDS, and (2) AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF CHEAP LABOUR. The Liberian Government, headed by President King, has actively co-operated in both respects.
The majority of indigenous population still inhabit the interior of the republic. Although they nominally acknowledge the authority of the Central Government in Monrovia, they nevertheless retain their own forms of tribal, social and political institutions. Now that the Liberian legislature has expropriated their lands and given them away to the Firestone Company, the natives are resisting the attempts of the rubber interests to turn them into wage slaves. This has already led to several uprisings, which have been put down by the Liberian military force.
By enlisting the services of various Americo-Liberian officials, such as administrators of provinces and districts, as well as native chiefs, the American imperialists are gradually succeeding in getting the peasants to leave their villages and work on the rubber plantations. Over 40,000 men have already been recruited and turned over to the Firestone Concession. This recruiting is carried out largely under the orders of the chiefs, who are paid one cent for every worker supplied. The Government has also established a central Labour Bureau with branches in various parts of the country, through which able-bodied Negroes are conscripted into labour battalions and shipped off to the plantations. The Government also receives a commission for each man supplied. The workers get about three cents a day, and are compelled to labour 14 and 15 hours under the most brutal and demoralising conditions.
In some parts of the Republic actual slavery exists. Kathleen Simon, the wife of the British Liberal, Sir John Simon, in her book entitled “Slavery,” states: “Whether the number of slaves in Liberia is 100,000 or 500,000 no one can say. Equally it is difficult for anyone to deny that slave-owning and slave-trading prevail over wide areas of the country.” Open charges against the Liberian Government for promoting the slave-trade have been made by Dr. Buell in America, and Mr. John H. Harris of England, before the League of Nations, and more recently by Mr. Roland Faulkner, a Liberian Senator.
Mr. W. G. Gibson, the Liberian Secretary of State, in a letter in reply to the allegation of Faulkner, published in the “Liberian Times,” admitted that thousands of natives are recruited in the interior and brought to the ports of the country and shipped to the Spanish Islands of Fernando Po and other African colonies. Mr. Gibson said: “All of us (Liberian officials) know that it is a transaction authorised by law and sealed by contract and agreement. Whether we agree with the law or not is another question.”
This statement shows that the Government not only knows of the existence of slavery, but actually legalised the system in order to enable a few degenerate black politicians to enjoy a parasitic existence by turning over thousands of native toilers to the Portuguese slave dealers.
The slave trade of Liberia has become such an international scandal that even the League of Nations has been forced to make a gesture.
An international commission composed of the following representatives was appointed last April to investigate the charges Dr. Cuthbrust Christ, on behalf of the League of Nations Secretariat, Dr. Charles S. Johnstone, a well-known Negro Sociologist and Professor of Fisk University, on behalf of the United States, and the Hon. Arthur Barclay, a former Liberian.
The Commission, despite its attempts to whitewash the Government, was compelled to admit that inter and intra-tribe domestic slavery existed. The Commission also stated that the pawning of human beings was widespread throughout the country. Forced labour has also been widely used, both by the Government and by private persons, chiefly for road-making, erecting public buildings and porterage. This system has also been largely abused by many officials of the Government, as well as soldiers, who use these slaves to cultivate their own farms. With respect to the exportation of labour the Commission discovered that large contingents of labourers were recruited from the indigenous populations and shipped to Fernando Po and French Gaboon on conditions scarcely distinguishable from the old methods of slave trading and slave raiding.
As was to be expected, the commissioners entirely exonerated the American imperialists for the part they played in recruiting forced labour, by stating in their report that they “discovered no evidence that Firestone Co. ‘consciously’ employed forced labour.” This is nonsense! The commissioners know better. They found no evidence against Firestone because they knew that if they did it would be more embarrassing for the United States Government to take official action.
Such a statement that the Company did not “consciously” employ forced labour is merely a shrewd way of whitewashing Firestone and its agents, and at the same time providing the United States Government with the pretext for assuming still greater political control over the republic in the form of a protectorate.
This will no doubt justify the fears expressed by the British imperialists in their organ, “The African World,” of October 5th, 1929, which, commenting editorially on the Liberian situation, stated:
“No one who follows the question would be surprised if, as the outcome of the Commission, the United States were invited to take the more definite administrative interests in Liberia. It is thought that America may be prepared to enter upon an extension of a colonial policy in West Africa.”
It has been announced that the Firestone Company has established a bank in Monrovia as the official bank of the country.
We can, therefore, see definite indications of a movement in this direction.
Exclusive of the plantation labourers who represent the forced labour class in Liberia there are a few wage workers such as carpenters, masons, mechanics, shipwrights, etc., in Monrovia. At various ports along the coast hundreds of men and boys belonging to the Kroc tribe are employed as stevedores, boatmen and sailors by European and American steamship companies operating in West Africa. The average wage of these marine workers is 20 to 24 cents per day of 12 hours.
The following incident gives us an idea of the condition under which these black seamen are forced to work. “In 1924 fourteen Kroc boys complained that they had been unjustly imprisoned in Warn, a port in Nigeria, as a result of the complaint of a British captain, their employer, who charged that they had refused to obey his orders. The boys stated that they had been frequently compelled to work overtime from three o’clock in the morning to midnight – twenty-one of twenty-four hours; and that at Warri they had worked storing palm-oil from three o’clock one morning to one o’clock the following morning, when they were given permission to rest. At 2.45 a.m. they were ordered to scrub down the deck. At the same time the captain upbraided them for having left three casks of oil on deck. The boys by this time ‘began to jeer and to behave insolently,’ whereupon the captain had them arrested and they were placed in a British prison while the steamer sailed away.” (Buell: “Native Problem in Africa” Vol. II, Page 775). From time to time spontaneous strikes break out on board ships, but these are invariably nipped in the bud largely because of the lack of organisation and leadership.
During the year 1930 the already low standard of living of these workers has fallen even lower, due to the acute economic and financial crisis in the republic, for Liberia, like all colonial countries, is in the grip of the agrarian crisis.
San Domingo is one of the two Negro republics in the West Indies. Geographically it forms part of the island of Haiti, to which it was politically subordinated until 1844. The republic occupies the eastern portion of the island, and is estimated to be over 19,000 square miles with a population of 8o0,000. San Domingo has a rather cosmopolitan population. But the vast majority of the people are Negroid. Unlike Haiti, which largely reflects French civilisation, the people of San Domingo are Spanish in language and culture. San Domingo was the first country in the Caribbean to be brought under the domination of American imperialism, which established a military dictatorship over the republic. Since 1914 the finances of the country have been under the control of American bankers. The first foreign loan made to San Domingo by the National City Bank was to the extent of $1,400,000. This was followed by another loan of $20,000 by the banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., in return for which the Customs administration of the country was placed in the hands of American officials. The financial obligations soon involved San Domingo in political difficulties with the United States. Taking advantage of the situation, the Yankee imperialists landed more soldiers in the country to strengthen their stranglehold over the republic. The policy which followed in the wake of this intervention was one of bloodshed and terror. According to evidence given at the hearings before a United States Commission, “The Government treasury was seized; the national congress was dismissed; elections were prohibited; thousands of marines were spread over the country and with unlimited authority over the natives; public meetings were not permitted;...destructive bombs were dropped from airplanes upon towns and hamlets; every home was searched for arms, weapons, and implements; homes were burned; natives were killed; tortures and cruelties committed; and ‘Butcher’ Weyler’s horrible concentration camps were established. Repressions and oppressions followed in succession. When protests were made the protestants were fined heavily and also imprisoned, and when resistance or defence was attempted, bullets and bayonets were used. Criticism of the acts of the military government were not permitted...and those who violated the order were severely punished by fines and imprisonment...The Dominican people have been ‘taxed without representation’ and the money so raised expended recklessly and without in any way consulting them...For five years this policy of suppression, repression, oppression and maladministration has continued.”
As was to be expected, the toiling population of San Domingo were the greatest sufferers. Before the intervention San Domingo was a country of peasant proprietors. But after the American bankers abrogated the constitution which safeguarded the peasants’ economic rights and confiscated the land, which was turned into large plantations for the cultivation of sugar, coffee, cotton and other tropical products. The peasants, having been driven off the land, are forced to pay exorbitant taxes and to become the wage slaves of the Yankee landlords. With small wages, long hours, filthy and insanitary living conditions in the plantation barracks, the death rate among the San Dominican population has increased to astonishing proportions within recent years.
The natives have revolted from time to time. These uprisings have greatly affected the stability of the country, resulting in financial losses to the foreign capitalists. As a result of this the United States Government has been forced to withdraw its marines. But the mailed fist of Wall Street still continues to dominate the economic and political life of the country. In order to maintain its policy of subjecting and enslaving the toiling masses the American bankers have from time to time supported various native puppet residents through whom they carried out their imperialist design. these colonial lackeys have been just as ruthless as their imperialist masters. The last administration, headed by President Velasquez, was of such a notorious fascist character that even the petty-bourgeoisie, whose economic interests have been rigidly subordinated to the interest of foreign finance-capital, revolted, and, with the aid of the agrarian masses, overthrew the Velasquez regime in 1930.
This petty-bourgeois coup d’état has not relieved the misery of the workers of San Domingo. On account of the agrarian Crisis, which has greatly affected the economic life of the country, absolutely dependent upon agriculture, widespread misery has seized the country. This has given rise to a tremendous wave of Strikes among the agricultural workers and general unrest throughout the entire country. The imperialists who control the sugar industry are trying to find a solution for the crisis by launching a most violent offensive against the workers. The vast sugar plantations are cutting expenses to the bone. Even weeding, the cheapest class of labour, is not being undertaken. And, where this work is absolutely necessary, it is being done by contract, so that the fastest workers can hardly earn 20 cents per day. Although native food is plentiful and cheap, due to the falling off in export trade (for example, fish could be purchased as low as 3 cents a pound, and 5 cents worth of sweet potatoes would feed an average family for several days), very few workers can earn as much as 8 cents a week in San Domingo Today, as a result of which thousands of natives are gradually dying from starvation.
Added to this economic depression greater misery has been caused by the devastating hurricanes which swept over San Domingo during September, 1930. The entire rural districts of San Domingo were laid waste. Hundreds of men, women and children who were without food and clothing invaded the capital and broke into the shops and warehouses. Only the intervention of the Dominican army and United States marines prevented another revolution. In order to appease the starving population the Government has been forced to grant relief to the starving masses. The inadequacy of this, however, led to several clashes between the civilian population and the military. One of the biggest strikes occurred in central La Rumana, in the southern portion of the country, where hundreds of West Indian Negroes have been evicted from the barracks which they occupied on sugar cane plantations. The La Rumana plantations are owned by the American controlled South Porto Rican Company and cover an area of 40 square miles, and like all foreign agricultural interests in San Domingo are administered as a sort of independent principality. For instance, the La Rumana Company controls its own railroad, police and other administrative machinery, under the supervision of American officials. One of the difficulties which the sugar companies have always experienced is in obtaining an adequate supply of labour. Native Dominicans will not work in the fields for less than $1.25 per day; Negroes are brought from neighbouring West Indian islands, especially Jamaica, to do the work and thereby reduce the standard of living of the black San Dominicans. Each imported labourer is put on a bond of $40 as a security for leaving the country at the end of the harvest season. The American companies pay the Dominican Government $3 per head for each indentured labourer. This conspiracy between the foreign capitalists and the native politicians has largely created the low standard of living forced upon the native and foreign workers. Theirs is a conscious policy of “divide and rule.”
When the harvest season is over the imported natives arc rounded up by the police, chained together, and marched to the shipping depots, where they are embarked like cattle on ships and sent back to their respective countries. Those who are fortunate enough to have a few dollars manage to make their escape by bribing the guards. They wander about the country seeking odd jobs until they are arrested by the police.
The misery of the toiling population of San Domingo has been described by observers as the worst that has ever been experienced in the history of the country. Over 80 per cent. of available labour is unemployed. It is not unlikely that another revolution, headed this time by the workers, will again break out in San Domingo as a result of the present intolerable conditions.
Unlike Haiti and Liberia, Abyssinia is a feudal monarchy. Historically, it is one of the oldest kingdoms in the world, its rulers tracing their ancestors to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, from whose descendant, Menelik, one of the greatest rulers of the country, the present monarch, Ras Tafari, claims descent.
Abyssinia covers an area of about 350,000 square miles and is situated in the north-eastern part of Africa. The population is estimated at about 10 millions, mostly blacks of Negro stock added with much Semitic blood. The economic character of the country is chiefly agricultural, based upon a feudal system. A religious hierarchy of the Coptic church plays a dominant role in the political life of the kingdom. The church owns about a third of all the land. The remainder is under the sovereignty of the emperor, at whose will powerful chieftains enjoy the right to cultivate the lands. Abyssinia, like Tibet, Mongolia, Afghanistan, etc., has been for centuries isolated from the western world, which accounts for its industrial and cultural backwardness. There are no industries in the country, which is entirely dependent upon pre-capitalist production. Outside the priesthood and the higher officials very few Abyssinians can read and write. Because of the dominant role which the church plays as the bulwark of feudalism, every attempt by the young generation of Abyssinians to break the stranglehold which the church wields, in modernising the country by means of industrialisation, meets with tremendous opposition However, within recent years, Abyssinia has begun to be drawn into the orbit of American imperialism. In 1930 an American engineering company, the J. G. White Engineering Corporation of New York City, completed negotiations and secured a contract for the building of a dam on the Blue Nile, which has its source in Abyssinia. The project will cost about 25 million dollars. For rears American capitalists met with much opposition from the British imperialists, who are afraid, that, if Americans are permitted to construct the dam, it will place them in a position to control the waters of the Nile upon which the British cotton growers in the Sudan depend. In this struggle between British and American imperialism for the subjugation of Abyssinia the United States, by securing this concession, will soon be in a position to more firmly entrench herself in control over the economical and political affairs of the kingdom. At present Abyssinia has a special mission in the United States soliciting the co-operation of the U.S. State Department in sending technical advisers to Africa. Medical, sanitary and financial advisers have already been despatched to Abyssinia.
Ras Tafari, the new emperor, is said to be more sympathetically inclined to American capitalists, who are in a better financial position than the British to undertake the industrialisation of the country. Furthermore, Great Britain, France and Italy are the three historic enemies of Abyssinia, having entered into secret treaties for the conquest and dividing up of the country. Thanks to the complete victory of the Abyssinian troops under Menelik over Italian imperialism in 1896, Abyssinia has been able to maintain her sovereignty. One of the greatest obstacles in the development of the country is the existence of domestic slavery, which is widespread.
As a result of this the toiling masses of the country are exploited in the worst way by a feudal oligarchy which holds sway of life and death over these chattel slaves.
The church is the greatest factor in the way of social emancipation. All ecclesiastical lands are cultivated by slaves in the most primitive manner. The clergy are therefore afraid that with the introduction of modern methods of agriculture, coupled with the industrialisation of the country, a free labour market will be created and the masses now held in bondage will break away from their hold.
Despite these obstacles the new regime in Abyssinia seems determined to carry through reforms. But the way in which this is being undertaken will undoubtedly play into the hands of the European and American imperialists, who are feverishly manoeuvring for an opportunity to annex this country in order to better exploit its rich natural resources. The American imperialist agent, James Braun, in his book, “Savage Abyssinia,” sounds the tocsin, when he says: “I had talked the subject over with several persons in Addis Ababa, who have the good of the country at heart, and was prepared to offer a suggestion: ‘Why don’t you invite foreign capital to come to your country, offering thirty to fifty year leases upon tracts of land for the growing of coffee, the raising of cattle, mules, horses, and for mining? You could guarantee foreign concessions, large amounts of slave labour and make an arrangement whereby the big slave-owners – some of the Rasses own as many as 15,000 slaves – could lease their slaves to work upon such concessions at a fair wage. One half could be given to the slave-owner and the other half retained in a Government fund to purchase the slaves’ freedom.’”
It is stated that the new Emperor is strongly in favour of Braun’s suggestion, which is just what Wall Street wants. Events will prove before long that the Abyssinian masses will change their present status of chattel slaves for that of wage slavery under the iron heels of foreign capitalists. The only way in which the slaves can hope to free themselves is by first striking a death-blow to the reactionary religious hierarchy and the feudal system.