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Shirley Lawrence

San Francisco and Freedom of Colonies

(June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 24, 11 June 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE entire dispute over trusteeships at the San Francisco Conference is definitely only another part of the game of power politics. The recent maneuverings among the Big Five, about whether to use “independence” or “self-determination” as an objective for the dependent colonial peoples, to be stated in the preamble to the trusteeship section of the global charter, is only so much surface covering to deflect attention from the intense rivalries for markets, territories, bases, and profits among the Five.

What is the controversy concerning whether or not “independence” for colonial peoples shall be written into the new trusteeship chapter of the UNCIO’s (United Nations Conference on International Organization) charter? The matter of eventual independence for now-dependent peoples has been characterized by the failure of the United States and English delegations to back it up thus far at sessions of the United Nations Conference Committee on Trusteeships.

“Self-Government” Myth

The independence issue has been sidetracked by substituting the idea of “self-government in forms appropriate to the varying circumstances of each territory.” What was originally merely a draft of a “working paper,” drawn up by Commander Stassen and others of the American delegation, and accepted by the Committee only as a basis for discussion, has now been high-handedly adopted as the future policy, through American pressure.

It becomes brutally clear that this poorly camouflaged scheme is an outright bid for control of colonies, on the part of the Allies. Dr. Wellington Koo of China protested feebly at this action and originally urged at one of the meetings, that, in line with the progressive ideas on political advancement set forth in China’s own proposals as to trusteeships, the word “independence” be added” to, or substituted for, “self-government.” A.A. Rostchen, representing Russia, defended Koo’s position. Lord Cranborne, British Dominions Secretary, argued against use of the word “independence,” saying that a lot of dependent peoples didn’t aspire to independence, even if they could achieve it. Stassen gave this display of concern for the colonies the crowning, final touch when lie cynically explained that his view is not independence, but inter-dependence among nations, and that “all nations must learn to live together” – a very pretty sentiment indeed, and meaning absolutely nothing, except that, what the U.S. says, goes.

As if it mattered which word to use, when the motives of all are alike. Now it appears that the Chinese delegation has been forced to agree, for they have withdrawn their proposal to insert the word “independence” for “self-determination.” And the Russians who originally sided with them now too accept the Anglo-American plan on instructions from Moscow.

We most emphatically do not think the trusteeship system will offer “real opportunity for progress to dependent peoples.” The professed peace and post-war sentiments of the San Francisco Delegations cannot be realized in the arena of imperialist power politics.

Nobody seems to think that the colonial peoples themselves have anything to say about the achievement of their national independence. Instead, the Security Council is going to see that these objectives are to be carried out so they should not interfere with the retention and development, on the part of the great powers, of strategic areas and bases.

Imperialist Record

Let us examine the fine records of these “friends” of the colonials and their inter-imperialist rivalries. The British, for example, have promised the Indian people independence many times, have made speeches about it in Parliament, have sent special committees to India, and busied themselves with other ineffectual measures, but at the same time, have continued to imprison the leaders of the colonial peoples of India and elsewhere fighting for independence.

Britain, and to a still greater degree France, have been weakened by the war. Keeping and exploiting the colonies is a life and death concern to them. They oppose anyone else moving in on their territory, and are frightened, for there are others who eye their rich colonies in Africa, the Near East, and Asia enviously, especially the U.S.

The U.S. has been using the trusteeship formula from the beginning as a means of broadening the degree of its economic penetration of the world. That means penetrating the colonial empires of Great Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Belgium.

Russia, too, is added to the many friends of the colonials. Why should Russia be so concerned about colonial self-determination and national independence? It has not even offered the people of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic countries the right to determine their own forms of government and to free them from the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy, but instead continues to repress ruthlessly all socialist or radical expression.

The problem of the colonies is a crucial one for the Allies, for the war has developed strong movements for national independence and freedom.

After all, why should the Allies emancipate these colonies that have been deprived freedom for so long by their masters? None of the powers can really be interested in the freedom of the colonies, for the colonies are an intrinsic part of the capitalist structure of exploitation and imperialism. From the colonies are derived cheap labor and cheap raw materials.

The struggle of the exploited peoples in the colonies is only part of the greater struggle of all humanity to achieve freedom and equality. The peoples in the colonies will develop the powerful forces existing in their own countries and realize that their interests are identical With the workers of all countries. But, in turn, the workers of other countries must recognize this affinity of need and interest. No alliances among any of the powers can serve as a substitute.

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