Instructions

Now let us turn back to inquire whether sending our capital abroad, and consenting to be taxed to pay emigration fares to get rid of the women and men who are left without employment in consequence, is all that capitalism can do when our employers, who act for our capitalists in industrial affairs, and are more or less capitalists themselves in the earlier stages of capitalistic development, find that they can sell no more of their goods at a profit, or indeed at all, in their own country.

Clearly they cannot send abroad the capital they have already invested, because it has all been eaten up by the workers, leaving in its place factories and railways and mines and the like; and these cannot be packed into a ship's hold and sent to Africa It is only the freshly saved capital that can be sent out of the country. This, as we have seen, does go abroad in heaps of finished products. But the British land held by him on long lease, must, when once he has sold all the goods at home that his British customers can afford to buy, either shut up his works until the customers have worn out their stock of what they have bought, which would bankrupt him (for the landlord will not wait), or else sell his superfluous goods somewhere else; that is, he must send them abroad Now it is not easy to send them to civilized countries, because they practise Protection, which means that they impose heavy taxes (customs duties) on foreign goods. Uncivilized countries, without Protection, and inhabited by natives to whom gaudy calicoes and cheap showy brassware are dazzling and delightful novelties, are the best places to make for at first.

But trade requires a settled government to put down the habit of plundering strangers. This is not a habit of simple tribes, who are often friendly and honest. It is what civilized men do where there is no law to restrain them. Until quite recent times it was extremely dangerous to be wrecked on our own coasts, as wrecking, which meant plundering wrecked ships and refraining from any officious efforts to save the lives of their crews, was a well-established business in many places on our shores. The Chinese still remember some astonishing outbursts of looting perpetrated by English ladies of high position, at moments when law was suspended and priceless works of art were to be had for the grabbing. When trading with aborigines begins with the visit of a single ship, the cannons and cutlasses carried may be quite sufficient to overawe the natives if they are troublesome. The real difficulty begins when so many ships come that a little trading station of white men grows up and attracts the white ne'er-do-wells and violent roughs who are always being squeezed out of civilization by the pressure of law and order. It is these riff-raff who turn the place into a sort of hell in which sooner or later missionaries are murdered and traders plundered Their home governments are appealed to put a stop to this. A gunboat is sent out and inquiry made. The report after the inquiry is that there is nothing to be done but set up a civilized government, with a post office, police, troops and the navy in the offing. In short, the place is added to some civilized Empire. And the civilized taxpayer pays the bill without getting a farthing of the profits.

Of course the business does not stop there. The riff-raff who have created the emergency move out just beyond the boundary of the annexed territory, and are as great a nuisance as ever to the traders when they have exhausted the purchasing power of the included natives and push on after fresh customers. Again they call on their home government to civilize a further area; and so bit by bit the civilized Empire grows at the expense of the home taxpayers, without any intention or approval on their part, until at last although all their real patriotism is centred on their own people and confined to their own country, their own rulers, and their own religious faith; they find that the centre of their beloved realm has shifted to the other hemisphere. That is how we in the British Islands have found our centre moved from London to the Suez Canal, and are now in the position that out of every hundred of our fellow-subjects, in whose defence we are expected to shed the last drop of our blood, only 11 are whites or even Christians. In our bewilderment some of us declare that the Empire is a burden and a blunder, whilst others glory in it as a triumph. You and I need not argue with them just now, our point for the moment being that, whether blunder or glory, the British Empire was quite unintentional. What should have been undertaken only as a most carefully considered political development has been a series of commercial adventures thrust on us by capitalists forced by their own system to cater to foreign customers before their own country's needs were one-tenth satisfied.

Question 145

It may be inferred that the passage was written

Solution

From the passage, we cannot infer that author was in a bad mood or that he was working in the British foreign service. Also, there is nothing to suggest that the author's country was overrun by the British. However, we can infer that the passage belongs to a period when the British was still a colonial power. Refer to the following sentence: "This, as we have seen, does go abroad in heaps of finished products". The tense of this sentence gives us a hint that the passage was written when the British was still a colonial power.


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