Wednesday, February 20, 2019


It's that man again!

It's That Man Again - for a classic post imperial establishment defence of imperial atrocity look no further than that man - Jacob Rees-Mogg - who justified the Brit State's use of concentration camps to detain the civil population (White and Black) - 'for their own protection' on BBC Question Time last week. The selective interpretation of history did not surprise me - that his statement actually produced some applause from the audience did. 

The war for control of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal (Dutch Republics) was more than anything about extending commercial and City interests and political control of the Rand. In many ways it was the first modern war - with the media playing a key role whipping up public hysteria and enthusiasm for the war. Lloyd George nearly got lynched at a public meeting that was stormed by a mob of jingo's ( think perhaps alt right / ubber Brexiters) in Birmingham.

At the time the principled justification for the war was that the vote was being denied to foreign nationals (including Brits) in the Transvaal. Ironically the franchise in the Boer republic's was probably larger and more inclusive than it was in the UK at the time (at least in terms of male suffrage. Lloyd George  thought the war as about ’45% dividends rather than the franchise.' The war followed the failed Jameson raid - a private commercially sponsored attempt at a coup - the Brits promised to punish the unsuccessful invaders for their illegal activities but subsequently did nothing. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg's suggestion the the use of concentration camps wax to protect the civil population turns reality on its head - they were actually used to remove the civic support from the guerrilla fighters in rural areas - collective punishment (something that was also used in Iraq, Afghanistan, North West frontier and Palestine in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's)  was also used with 'scorched earth tactics' - the destruction of farms and the means of sustenance as 19th century war literally and figuratively changed  into 20th century war. 

The Brits may not be able to claim the credit for inventing concentration camps - the Dutch in Indonesia, the Spanish / Americans in the Philippines, and the Imperial Germans in South West Africa (Namibia) probably did that first to grim effect. What the Brits added was incompetence, inefficiency and poor organisation. Thousands and White and Black inhabits of the Boer republics died in the camps.

Emily Hobhouse
Perhaps Jacob Rees-Mogg would do well to find out about  Emily Hobhouse and also find a copy of the Fawcett Commission report confirmed almost everything that Emily had courageously reported. After the war the report concluded that 27,927 Boers had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the concentration camps. In all, about one in four of the Boer inmates, mostly children, died. No complete figure was ever recorded for the Black south Africans who died in their camps.

The post BREXIT fantasy is that some form of Brit Empire 2.0 will come to the rescue - economically at least. As a South African friend of mine said ‘Perhaps it would have been nice if they had been asked?. Perhaps what we have seen is part of the on-going campaign (by Jacob Rees-Mogg amongst others) to rehabilitate the Brit Empire and to lay the ground for Brit Empire 2.0 - the problem is that this is part of the politics of fantasy island aside from a display of a poor and questionably selective understanding of history - something that may go some way to explaining the Tory elites failure to understand Ireland (and her relationship with Europe and the Brits).

The option to develop lasting and meaningful trade links with the Commonwealth was  in the late 1960's and early 1970's before entering the then EEC. In 1973 the Brits however rapidly and effectively abandoned any economic links with the Commonwealth - dropping Australia and New Zealand to name but two right in it. They have not forgotten this having to painfully restructure their economies and trading links by dire necessity. Quite simply Brit Empire 2.0 riding to the rescue post Brexit is a pure fantasy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment