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Sherman Stanley

British Representatives Hold Delhi Conference

(February 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 6, 10 February 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In October and November of last year a little announced, but highly important, conference of representative authorities of the British Empire was held in New Delhi, capital of British India.

At this imperialist gathering there sat representatives of India, Burma, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaya, Hong Kong, Palestine, Southern Rhodesia and the East African colonies. Although coming from countries of the brown, yellow and black races only whites – that is, English – were present. A lone Dutchman “representing” the Javanese and Sumatrians was present from the Dutch East Indies which is now, for all practical purposes, a part of the British Eastern Colonial Group.

What was the objective of the Conference? In the words of Mr. Amery, Secretary of State for India,

“It is to see how, in cooperation, they (the colonies represented) can contribute, for their own defense and for the common cause, the very maximum of those elements of supply and equipment upon which the expansion of the Empire’s armies must depend ... It may well be that Delhi is laying the foundations of that Army of Empire whose first contingents are defending the Middle East today, but which is destined in its ultimate plenitude of power to march in the van of a liberated Europe.”

Economic Objective

Herein is stated the economic objective of the Conference. To develop the war potential of the Empire forces by mobilizing colonial industry, raw material supplies (wool, lead, zinc, meat, jute, cotton, rubber, tin, manganese, grains, etc., etc.) That this will mean a heightened imperialist exploitation of the colonial slaves “represented” at New Delhi is candidly admitted by the cynical British. The London Economist writes that war economy for the Empire “will involve sacrifice, it will mean inroads into that high (?) standard of living which gives the British Dominions their special qualities.” Those acquainted with the “high” living standards in Britain’s Empire can only wonder at the colossal brass of these imperialist gentlemen. Lowering the standards of Indians paupered 400,000,000 people means, concretely a wave of pestilence and famine, while the country’s steel and munitions industries expand.

Out of the meagre reports on the Conference, other economic objectives emerge:

  1. India is to “equip and supply the forces of England in the Middle East and those east of Suez.” This includes every possible war material.
  2. Expansion of industry and factories in India and other backward colonies will be pushed forward. Attempts will be made to draw in more colonial native capital and thus bind the darker-hued capitalists closer to their white-skinned brothers of Mother England.
  3. Increased quantities of raw materials will be demanded for convoy shipment to England.
  4. In conjunction with growing dependence upon America, the utilization of American capital will be encouraged. More precisely, attempts will be made to draw in this capital. In India, the Indian Aircraft Co. (the nation’s first airplane plant) will be organized and run by American technicians, the General Motors and Ford assembly plants in Bombay are being greatly expanded. Recognizing the inevitable ascendency of Yankee capital – of which this is another small, but significant example – the London Economist of October 19 comments,

“The question of leadership (between England and America) need hardly arise. If any permanent closer association of the two nations is achieved, an island people of 50,000,000 cannot expect to be the senior partner ... The center of gravity and the ultimate decision must increasingly lie in America. We cannot resent this historical development.”

In addition to its economic motivation, the Conference had a twofold, serious political character. First, it was a mobilization, of all the important “White Dominions” with the, exception of Canada, Recognizing the disintegrating tendencies within the Empire, the dangers of colonial native revolt – particularly in India – the British believe in advance preparations. This means lining up the “White Dominions” of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa against the other colonies.

Secondly, the gathering was necessary from a political standpoint to bolster up the Empire morale and draw the ruling authorities closer together. If England should fall to Hitler, the British will continue their part in the inter-imperialist struggle from Canada and the Near and Middle East. In the last analysis, the Delhi Conference had the sinister purpose of forcing India to become a new center in a continued war.

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