John Horner

Colonial Liberation

Source: Communist Policy to Meet the Crisis, Report of the 21st National Congress of the Communist Party, November 1949.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

WHILE WE DISCUSS at this Congress how to defend our own living standards, our independence and peace against the attacks of the imperialists, the colonial and dependent peoples in many parts of the world are proving also that they are our willing and powerful allies in their fight against the imperialists and imperialist agents.

Britain, almost the oldest imperialist power, is deeply affected by the fact that the colonial liberation movement is now in the forefront of the world-wide struggle for peace and Socialism. With her economy distorted and her basic industries rendered obsolete by years of parasitism at the expense of the colonial peoples, she faces a double problem. U.S. imperialism, the most rapacious in the world, directly threatens her colonial domination in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa and in the West Indies. At the same time the colonial peoples are battering at the very heart of the British imperialist system, the power of the monopolies.

In Malaya a great concentration of British ground and air forces, using every weapon of terror, has been unable to break the resistance of the people’s armies led by the Malayan Communist Party. The Indian and Pakistan Governments are unable to solve the problem of increasing the exploitation of the people for the benefit of foreign imperialists and their own capitalists; and the victory of the Chinese people is pointing the way also for the peoples of India and Pakistan. In Burma, the British imperialist attempt to maintain its economic and political control is being defeated by the mass movement of the people, who are fighting for real independence and the economic development of the country for the benefit of its people.

When the Labour Government turns to Africa to redress the balance for its imperialist masters, it finds from East to West and from North to South great popular movements with a working class growing in strength and political maturity, fighting valiantly against these new attempts to intensify their exploitation.

Labour Government Supports Imperialism

The Labour Government, forced to attempt to find new ways of maintaining British imperialism’s hold over colonial territory, resorts to every possible variation of the old imperialist tricks.

It allies itself with the compromising section of the national bourgeoisie, granting nominal concessions in order to maintain its hold, as in India. The façade is different, but imperialist exploitation—the domination by finance capital, wealth drained out of the country, guaranteed dividends for foreign investors, the forcing down of living standards for the Indian people—all this remains.

While the Nehru Government issues slogans about an “independent republic” recognising the King as its head, it invites further foreign investment from Britain and America, promising “favourable terms”, and places India and all the machinery of police terror and oppression at the service of the Anglo-American war bloc.

The attacks and repressive measures taken by the Nehru Government against the Communist Party of India are the measure of the growing support the Party is receiving from the workers and peasants of India.

In Transjordan and the Arab countries of the Middle East, the Labour Government seeks to find puppets—such as the tyrant Abdullah—among the most reactionary feudal elements in order to maintain the hold of the monopolies over the oil supplies against the growing threat from the U.S.A. and to build new war bases. It continues and tries to extend the iniquitous system of unequal treaties. The answer of the Arab peoples is the most significant development of their workers’ and peasants’ organisations in conditions of unparalleled terror, and the growth of the illegal Communist Parties.

The Labour imperialists seek to find spokesmen in the national movements, such as Grantley Adams, now repudiated by his own people. They bring trade union leaders here for training in the methods of Social Democracy—so as to confuse and disorganise the growing militant trade unions in those countries. The Labour Government tries to fob off the demand for real self-government with phoney constitutions which give no real power to the people. Trade union organisations are subject to every kind of interference, like the banning of all Federations of Trade Unions, as in Malaya; the attempt to force the development of company unionism, as in Malaya and Kenya.

Shootings, prison sentences, whippings, sedition trials are every-day occurrences; slavery and forced labour are maintained. Progressive literature is banned—as the Labour Monthly in Kenya and other territories.

The Aims of U.S. Imperialism

Accompanying these measures to maintain its hold on the colonies, the Labour Government announces grandiose measures of so-called colonial development, which are to solve Britain’s economic problems.

In fact, every one of these measures serves neither to help Britain nor the colonial peoples, but to increase their financial difficulties and to speed-up the process of tying their economies firmly to that of the U.S.

The Washington talks have only served to underline the fact that the United States intends herself to move in on the British Empire. U.S. imports to colonial countries already exceed those from Britain, and teams of U.S. experts, paid by Marshall dollars, are touring Africa to look for suitable fields of investment.

In the plans of the imperialists, Africa has a special part to play. The U.S. sees an enormous field of investment for her vast capital reserves; Britain and the other European imperialisms turn to Africa as the last great continent still completely under imperialist domination. New monopolies—like I.C.I. and Liebigs—are moving in; the old monopolies—like the United Africa Company, a Unilever subsidiary—are increasing their activities and their profits.

The British Government is devoting special attention to the task of keeping down the peoples of British African possessions. Such moves as setting up the East African High Commission and plans to integrate the administration in Central and West Africa are designed to strengthen the machinery of imperialist oppression.

Nigeria is in a constant ferment, with a militant trade union movement, constant strikes, and a new national unity. A great movement for national independence is developing in the Gold Coast under the slogan: “Self-Government Now.” In Uganda the people have demonstrated their opposition to their British—trained quisling King. Africa is on the march, and the forces of imperialism are bound to face increasing difficulties in their efforts to solve their crisis at the expense of the African peoples.

British Workers Pay the Price

While the great monopolies swell their profits, the British people pay for the attempt to suppress their colonial comrades. The lives of our young men are being thrown away, our standard of living forced down still further to maintain the stranglehold of the monopolies and give them further strength to attack the British working class.

The war plans of the Anglo-U.S. bloc depend on the development of great colonial war bases. In the war they envisage U.S. planes will carry their atom bombs from bases in North Africa; British boys will be flung into the holocaust from Singapore and bases in India. Our boys are dying in Malaya and the Indian workers are being shot down, not only as part of the drive to render these territories “politically safe” for the rubber and tin planters and the great American monopolies, but also as potential anti-Soviet bases.

The shameful provocation of sending troops and arms to Hong Kong and the savage suppression of the Chinese people in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories, are part of these same imperialist war preparations.

The peoples of the colonial and dependent countries are leaving no areas of the world which are “politically safe” for the imperialists. They are fighting the battle for peace and the advance to Socialism with their liberty and their lives.

We are confident that the Conference of Trade Unions of all the countries in South-East Asia, now being organised by the World Federation of Trade Unions, and the Conference of Women soon to be held in China, organised by the World Federation of Democratic Women, will give a great impetus to the solidarity of the workers of all lands in their common struggles for peace and Socialism.

Communist Policy

The British working class and the colonial peoples are allies in the same revolutionary struggle. We cannot successfully defend our own living standards and democratic rights and secure our advance towards a Socialist Britain without helping the colonial peoples oppressed by British imperialism to achieve all that we demand for ourselves in the way of living conditions, freedom of speech, organisation, meeting and press.

The Communist Party stands for the right of all colonial people to complete independence.

We demand:

(1) Responsible governments, elected by universal full powers over home and foreign policy.

(2) The immediate withdrawal of all British troops and police from colonial territories.

(3) The abolition of all discriminatory and anti-democratic legislation—pass laws, trade union ordinances, sedition laws and the like.

(4) In particular the ending of the war in Malaya, whose only purpose is to maintain the position of the tin and rubber companies and to build up a base for a possible future war against Socialism.

(5) The withdrawal of armed forces from Hong Kong and the recognition of the new Chinese Government as a preliminary to opening negotiations for the peaceful handing back of all Chinese territory.

(6) The ending of partition in Ireland in accordance with the wishes of the people as a whole for a united country; the repeal of the Ireland Act and the withdrawal of troops from the Six Counties.

The colonial peoples stand today in the front ranks of the struggle against Anglo-American imperialism. They have given to the revolutionary struggle some of its finest leaders. Their actions have materially assisted the weakening of the whole base of imperialism and they have played a major part in destroying the economic basis of British Social Democracy.

In our common struggle our Party pledges its fullest support to every genuine movement for colonial liberation. Our task is to see that throughout the ranks of our Party and of the Labour movement we see the colonial struggle in its right perspective—a struggle of allies against a common enemy and a struggle in which neither of us can succeed without the other.