Some of our opponents delight in telling us that "You can’t do without capital! ” To them, the relationship between capitalist and wage-earner is an "eternal verity”—part of an imaginary, fixed order of things! Others, while admitting that the relationship has a historical origin, claim that it is the inevitable result of intelligence, thrift, and law-abiding 'virtue on the part of the capitalist class, and corresponding stupidity, extravagance, and vice on the part of their slaves. Perhaps they may both be interested in the state of affairs here in East Africa, a region the population of which has only recently been brought within the sphere of capitalist influences.
The writer seeks to show that here, at any rate, the employing class are by no means regarded by the workers as indispensable to their happiness; nor are the means by which the would-be ruling class endeavours to establish and extend its dominion so idyllic as they are imagined to have been in the past.
Previous to the invasion of their territory by a handful, relatively, of Asiatics and Europeans, the millions of dusky natives appear to have reached a stage of development similar to that of the Britons of Caesar’s day. They still support themselves as separate tribes by independent pastoral and agricultural pursuits, and this fact is as gall to the ambitious settlers. The suppression of inter-tribal warfare by the Imperial Government has robbed the male native of one of his chief occupations, with the result that he lives in comparative luxury and ease, while his wives follow their former calling as tillers of the soil. What? Well! yes, to be sure he does have to look after flocks and herds but then that-or-that is—the Christian heart of the settler revolts at the monstrous injustice! Here is he badly in need of labour for his plantation and yonder are—"communities of useless parasites," as a prominent pioneer of Empire in the country calls them.
These chivalrous planters of cotton, sisal, and coffee know full well that if female labour were employed in the spinning, rope-making and other factories in the home-country—well, there would be an awful row! So they puzzle their heads to find some way of compelling the male native to work! And here they fall foul of the Missions and the Government; there are other people interested in these new colonies besides the settlers on the spot, and the interests of these others do not necessarily coincide with theirs.
For the present, it suits the manufacturers of "exports” in England to be the "friends” of the natives. The raw savage who sports a greased skin and knobkerries his fellow is of no interest to the Lancashire cotton magnate. Let a missionary come along and teach him the advantages of a nightgown over the aforesaid skin and let him impress upon him the strong objections of God and the Government to such artificial restrictions on population as I have just mentioned; let him further teach him how to grow cotton on his plantation as well as mealies and hey presto! the cotton magnate has, simultaneously, a new market and a source of cheap raw material!
It is hardly a coincidence that Uganda with its vast number of Christianised, white-clad natives, should be one of Lancashire's most hopeful customers; and East Africa is the highway to Uganda! These protectorates have recently been voted three million pounds by the Imperial Government, and a cartoonist in a local rag wittily hit off the situation by depicting the Government of East Africa as a Highland piper with instructions (from Lancashire via the Premier) to play the Uganda cotton reel!
But this raising of the standard of living of the native and his development into a producer for export by no means suits the settler. Hence the missions stink in his nostrils, and he is "against the Government" which supports them. As often as not he comes from "South" where the blacks are already "down and under,” and he chafes at the independence of the native up here. Secure in possession of their cattle, goats, and plantations, these impudent sons of Ham do not appreciate the blessings of employment under the white men’s auspices. If they do leave with the chief's instructions to earn some money they command a wage which in a short time enables them to buy wives and retire, much to the chagrin of the settler, who wants a "regular" labour supply. These natives seem to do very easily "without capital." The odour of a Kikuyu village is not exactly savoury, but its inhabitants are the possessors of a shameless plumpness of face and body which contrasts strongly with the characteristic features of civilised workers. Mr. F. G. Aflalo, who recently travelled through the country, sums up the matter in an article in the "Morning Post" as follows: ‘"The Labour Question, acute just now all the world over, is nowhere perhaps more seriously felt than in British East Africa and Uganda. . . . It is not, as with us in Europe, any question of Jack thinking himself better than his master, or of strikes for better wages or shorter hours. It is the far more baffling problem of Jack not wanting wages or work at all!"
"The Secretary of State deems it of the utmost importance that the Government Officers should take no action which may suggest to the native that it is desired to effect recruitment by compulsory measures, but definite instructions have already been issued by Hie Excellency to Provincial and District Officers to the effect that they are to lose no opportunity of explaining to the natives the advantages of going out to work, and are to refrain from making any observations which may lead the people under the impression that the Government is not desirous that they should do so. The Governor has himself taken every opportunity of expressing to the Chiefs of the various tribes . . . his desire that they should give their personal support to labour emigration . . .!"