The Labour Research Department (162, Buckingham Palace Road, S.W.1.) has recently published a sixty-four page pamphlet entitled, “British Imperialism in East Africa,” price 1s. Much of the information contained therein has appeared from time to time in these columns, the principal exception being a variety of statistics concerning capital investments, etc.
The pamphlet deals, necessarily briefly, with the expropriation of the native tribes of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, and Nyassaland; and their progressive conversion into wage-slaves, producing foodstuffs and raw materials for the European markets such as coffee, sisal, cotton, maize, hides, soda, etc. The authors also show how the developments in these countries open up markets for the products of European industry, particularly of the “heavy” variety.
The countries mentioned comprise (with Northern Rhodesia) an area of over a million square miles, the total population being roughly only twelve millions, over 99 per cent. of whom are natives. They have come under Imperial control in a somewhat similar manner to that by which India became “the brightest jewel in the British Crown.” Invaded in the first place by mercantile companies who maintained their own armed forces, they soon presented problems with which these companies were incompetent to deal. Africa produced in miniature the same revolts of the populace and mutinies among the native soldiery which led, in India, to the replacing of “John Company" by Victoria, Regina et Imperator. In other words, the forces of the State were sent to the rescue of private enterprise.
In the case of Africa, “philanthropy" and missionary effort formed a very convenient cloak for the hungry figure of capital seeking its constant quarry, profit. It had been, to some slight extent, forestalled by the Arab colonies which had existed for centuries on the East Coast, in perpetual conflict with the Portuguese adventurers. The Arab power was founded upon chattel-slavery, and its periodical incursions among the natives of the interior had for their prime object the recruiting of the slave-markets. To supplant the Arabs and establish the European method of exploitation, it was necessary to stamp out the slave trade.
The hypocrisy of the capitalist found full vent. Gunboats and railways drove the dhows and caravans of the votaries of Allah from the field of commerce, and the blessings of Jehovah were invoked upon the process. The conflict of material interests was disguised by the contest between Jesus and Mahomet.