Shapurji Saklatvala

British Capital and Indian Revolt

Date: November 23, 1922
Source: The Communist, December 2, 1922 ed., page 2
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Mike B.
Proofreader: David Tate
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.

One of our speakers said that the continent of Europe had been impoverished because capital had gone abroad. Who took it abroad?

Is it a sign of disservice to the country for enterprising men to take their capital abroad? If that IS so, what can be said of private enterprise in Britain itself, and those British citizens who are taking abroad British capital produced by British working men, day after day and year after year?

Over 74 jute mills have been erected in Bengal by British millers and capitalists, with the result that to-day we have shut up shop in Dundee and our workers in Bengal are working at from 14s. to 38s. a month — producing for the owners dividends of from 150 per cent to 400 per cent.

Out of the 121 coal companies in my country, India, 102 have been opened out by British capitalists.

If these are the results of private enterprise, may we ask our friends not to sit down and wait until the great calamity overtakes this country altogether, but to learn lessons from what has happened on the continent, and remove the causes which brought about the conditions which all of us agree are not worthy of an intelligent, and civilised race?

One of my colleagues referred to the position of trade with India, especially the textile trade, and I understand the Seconder of the Motion to refer to how it had become impracticable for the Austrians to buy Indian hides and the Germans to buy Indian cotton, and so forth.

I want the House to note carefully that the loss of trade with India is due to two separate reasons.

One has been the desire of the Government of this country (who have always prided themselves as a constitutional nation and government) to try in the outside world most unconstitutional methods of dictating Government from outside.

No Britisher would for a moment tolerate a constitution for Great Britain if it were written outside of Great Britain by people who are not British.

In a similar way the constitutions for Ireland and India and Egypt and Mesopotamia should be constitutions written by the men of those countries, without interference from outside.

But there is another great cause, and I wish the House to understand it clearly. It is the rivalry due to the spirit of private enterprise which is as responsible now, and will be responsible in the future, for one country depriving the workers of another country of their legitimate livelihood.

It is the growth of this private enterprise, of these large corporations and trusts, those huge industrial concerns in India, which is beginning to tell its tale upon the worker; of this country.

I wish to make no secret of it. The cotton industry of this country is bound to suffer from this two-fold evil, namely, the political sulking of the people of India and the spread of private enterprise and of the privileges of the private enterprisers.

The Indian private enterprisers have learned to ask for protective duties, for high dividends, for low wages, long hours, and all kinds of privileges which private enterprise in this country has claimed for 150 years.

It is this combination which is working the ruin of the workers of this land.

In reference to Ireland, I am well disciplined and trained in the general principle of the Labour movement, namely, that the happiness of the world depends on international peace, and that international peace is only possible when the self-determined will of the people prevails in each country.

I deplore greatly, therefore, those elements in the Irish Treaty that are not compatible with that great and wholesome principle.

Everyone knows that the Treaty has, unfortunately, gone forth as the only alternative to a new invasion of Ireland by British troops. As long as that element exists the people of Ireland have a right to say that the very narrow majority which in Ireland accepted the Treaty at the time, accepted it also on this understanding — that if they did not accept it the alternative was an invasion by Black-and-Tans of this country.

If it were possible in some way to allow the people of Ireland to understand that their country's constitution is to be framed by them as a majority may decide, and that the alternative would be an invasion from this country, but that this country would shake hands with Ireland as a neighbour whatever shape or form that Government took, it would be quite a different story.

Otherwise, whatever we may do, however many treaties we may pass, however unanimous the British may be in their behaviour towards Ireland, Ireland will not be made a peaceful country.

As in 1801 England gave them a forced union so in 1922 England is giving them a forced freedom.

When I say so, I put forward not my personal views, but the views of 90 per cent of those Irishmen who are my electors. They have pointed to me that, whereas under the threat of renewed invasion the Dail only passed the Treaty by a majority of barely half a dozen votes, Irishmen who are not under that threat — Irishmen who are now living in Great Britain — have, by a tremendous majority — voted against it. As long as those factors continue to exist, the Irish Treaty is not going to be what we — in a sort of silent conspiracy — have decided to name it. The reality will not be there. The reality is not there.

Before I conclude I wish to refer to one point which is conspicuous by its absence from the King's Speech.

If in the Empire, this House and this government is going to take the glory of the good, they will also have to take the ignominy of anything disgraceful which happens outside this country. This government and this House will have to satisfy this country as well as outside countries, why the policy of the South African Government in hanging and shooting workers, was permitted and was kept quiet.

We are still calling Ireland a part of this Empire and it is only last that week that four young working class lads, without an open trial and without even fair notice to their families, were shot. These acts might be described as the acts of independent governments. Either these governments are independent or they are part of this Empire. If they are part of this Empire, then the Government must see to it that a policy of this kind does not go without challenge and protest from this House.

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