Friday, 19 February 2010

THE BRITISH IMPERIAL STATE, A BENEFACTOR??



      It is always good to know your history, it smashes so many myths.
      Britain’s Imperial history is always portrayed as a force for good, a paternal approach. Taking care of the colonies for their own good, a civilising process until they were able to look after themselves. Of course those who know their history are fully aware that the reality is a far different scenario.
     Mike Davis’s book, Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, details famines that killed between 12 million and 29 million inhabitants of the Indian continent. He clearly shows that these people were murdered by the British state. When the drought of 1876 impoverished the farmers of the Deccan plateau India had a net surplus of rice and wheat. The then viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should stand in its way as it was exported to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of the Nazi concentration camps. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
     As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought". This collected tax, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government's export policies manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, in spite of the fact that they had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m people died.
      The same type of imperialist policies are still employed today by the western corporate world. The continents of Africa and South America can bear witness to the poverty inflicted on millions of people to feed the corporate greed machine. Only when we as ordinary people come together and organise at community level and co-operate with each other on a global scale creating societies based on mutual aid and sustainability, undermining the festering marriage of state and corporate greed and so consigning it and its wars, exploitation and greed, that is part and parcel of that system, to the dust bin of history and perhaps remembering it as man’s darkest hour will we see a world fit for all our children and grandchildren.
 

3 comments:

  1. I suppose you are aware that the The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 never actually existed. That it was a late Victorian satire?

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  3. correction: Hi I stand corrected, though there are lots of references to it over the years, I therefore must admit to sloppy research like the others who refer to it. That doesn't take away from the gross brutality and racist policies of the British Empire in India which caused so much suffering misery and death. Our term in India is a catalogue of mass brutality and inhumanity. Thanks for the correction. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/how-britain-denies-its-holocausts/229675

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