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Sherman Stanley

British Imperialism Prepares for War
to Save Its Spoils of Piracy

The Sun Is Finally Beginning to Set on the Empire
Which Is Girding All Its Strength to Hold Its Possessions
Spread by Ruthlessness, Terror and Fraud Over the Entire Globe

(April 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 25, 18 April 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

So may we describe the imperial might and majesty of the British Empire today – that Empire which has reached the height of its historic course and upon which the sun is finally beginning to set.

British imperialism is preparing to go to war. The entire population of Great Britain is kept continuously on needle-edge by military notices, air-raid drills, conscription drives and feverish preparations for conscription of the laboring masses. The munition plants work around the clock, day in and day out. England’s huge textile plants are being converted into war production units. Each ship of the British navy has steam up and is prepared to sail at a moment’s notice to the military posts assigned by the Admirals. The Empire was built by violence, conquest and pillage, terror and destruction. The same weapons keep it together over the opposition of the masses of people who compose it. But when it comes to preparing for war, then the world is told of British “democracy,” British civilizing powers, British love of peace.

Scope of the British Empire

There is British territory in every portion of the globe. The Empire occupies a total land area of 12 million square miles.

In 1935, its population totaled 475,004,458 people. But this figure did not include the 76,000,000 people of the Indian Native States which are, in reality, under British control.

Under the Union Jack live the most diverse groups and races of people – ranging from the blacks of Africa to the pale whites of the London slums. They may be roughly divided into the Malay, Indo-Chinese, Indo-European, Semitic and Hamitic (African) groups.

The “Democracy” of the Empire

What portion of these half a billion people are white? It is estimated that only 68 million or about 12% belong to this dominant ruling race. And only about 40 million inhabit “mother” England, the imperialist nerve-center of this world Empire. It is this minority – about 1 to 13 – that domineers over the lives and destinies of hundreds of millions of subject people.

British propagandists are accustomed to dividing the Empire and its tributaries under various headings: Mother England, the Dominions, the Crown Colonies, Protectorates and India, which they classify separately. But this is a superficial and false division. The British Empire consists of England – the industrial and financial ruling heart of the Empire, with London, the “City” as it is called in imperialist circles – at the center. Then there are the “dominions” of Canada and Australia which in reality have the status of independent, capitalist nations in their own right. These countries have developed an independent capitalist class and are not directly under the thumb of the British imperialists.

Huge Extent of Subject Countries

Of overwhelming importance in the British Empire are the numerous colonies where British might and force reign supreme.

In addition, there are 81 other cities, island groups and small territories too numerous to list. The world is dotted with military bases, strategic centers and coaling stations that are a part of the gigantic “defense” apparatus these master imperialists have created. The Bermudas, Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Corfu, Ceylon are but a few.

Thus lies the huge skeleton of the Empire. Within its reaches toil the Bantus of South Africa extracting coal and gold from the mines of Transvaal, Indian laborers weaving jute products in the mills that line the shores of the Ganges, Scottish shipbuilders working on British Men-of-War in Glasgow harbor, Indian fur-trappers in Canada’s Hudson Bay areas.

How the Empire Was Built

By conniving where possible, by fraud where conceivable, by conquest where unavoidable, this Empire was built.

Since losing the 13 colonies that later evolved into capitalist America, the British imperialists have not given away or freed a single inch of land that came under their rule.

On the contrary, for a 200 year period they have kept up a speedy rate of expansion and extension.

The provinces of India were subjugated by a conquest that extended over a period of 150 years. Millions of natives were either killed by the “civilizing” bullets of His Majesty’s Colonial troops or died from famines artificially induced by the conquerors.

Ceylon, Hongkong, Egypt, South Africa – all were conquered by force of arms.

Germany’s African colonies were part of Britain’s prizes from the World War.

Privileged rights and “spheres of influence” were wrested from the helpless Chinese in a series of bloody wars.

Hitler and Franco Learned from Britain

Hitler learned from the practices of the British how to suppress local opposition movements and then move on to new grabs. The art of enlisting mercenary, colonial troops with the aim of suppressing civil uprisings was taught to Franco by his British brothers.

The British Empire rose to its present position on a tidal wave of blood and violence never equalled. Before it gives a single one of its prizes to an imperialist rival, before it sets free a single one of its colonies it will fight with the ferocity born of desperation. That is the meaning of British foreign policy today: the determination to hold on to its world possessions.

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Last updated: 16 January 2016