British Labour Party’s Colonial Policy Analysed

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

An Epoch-Making Declaration

Mr Gaitskell’s Party means business. The new mentor of the colonial policy is the dynamic Aneurin Bevan (aka Nye Bevan). In the declaration just issued about the colonial policy of the British Labour Party we see the stamp of Bevan. I have no doubt that it is a very clear, concise and comprehensive expose of the Socialist point of view.

The declaration lays stress on certain fundamental principles. The first is the recognition of adult suffrage as being an essential element of democracy. The statement adds: “The principles of democracy are no less valid in the plural societies than in any other type of society. The principles arise from the fundamental belief that all human beings have equal personal rights.”

The second principle enunciated is that the rights of man do not change by virtue of their creed, wealth, influence or colour. All persons have the same rights. They are the birthright of every human being. It is through the maximum development of these rights that real democracy can be established. It is therefore the primary duty of the Party “to lay the foundations of full democracy.”

The third principle follows closely upon the second. Democracy does not lose its edges in a plural society. There cannot be weightage and balances to safeguard rights and privileges. Whatever be the form of the society, democracy must have its full sway and this is the only known solution of colonial development.

The fourth principle is the promotion of the idea of national consciousness. People in Mauritius for example should forget that they are White, Chinese, Hindu, Coloured or Mahomedan. They should only remember that they are Mauritians and that their rights are uniform and alike. “Political control and organization will increasingly be based on the expression of the will of a nation” so that “the idea of superiority or inferiority must be utterly destroyed.”

Colour bar in any shape or form will be banished. Not only will statutory provisions of such discrimination be repudiated but any practice thereof expressed in salaries or privileges will be abolished. As the statement says: “The colour bar remains a grave infringement of a fundamental belief held in common by all democrats and socialists.” The Party is particularly indignant against this measure which is applied, to quote the statement, even “to those Negroes and Asians who are as well-educated as many Europeans, and better than some.”

In order to pave the way for the national consciousness, the Labour Party does not wish to leave the colonials in racial isolation. It wants to encourage closer social contact as living in the same area, the common roll, schooling of all children together, common hospital wards and clinics, etc. Government should abolish all practices tending to counteract the smooth growth of this idea.

A natural corollary to this equality is the Fair Wages clause making it incumbent to have equal pay for equal work.

Perhaps the most important clause in the declaration of the Labour Party is the one that relates to industrial development. Here a number of principles have been enunciated. Only such industries should be encouraged as suit the needs of the people. It naturally entails planned economy to enable “transition from tribal to urban life.” Secondly, all industrial developments must be accompanied by the immediate provision of housing, educational, medical and cultural facilities. The statement even visualises the possibility of slow-pedalling industrial progress to provide these as a priory measure.

Another principle is that in the industrial advance the people must be consulted so as to make them associate consciously. It even foresees industrial charters to give statutory recognition to these principles as also to abolish any form of colour discrimination in the administration or functioning of the industries. All promotion must solely be based on merit and all people regardless of their race, creed or colour should be given equal opportunities to climb to the top. “Neither managements nor trade unions should have power to exclude workers from any form of work on racial grounds.”

This will naturally put an end to the rule of in-laws, and the darkest person by dint of merit should be able to aspire to be the General Manager of one or more sugar estates. It would mean that the gradation of salaries on racial considerations will have to stop. Work and responsibilities will be graded and salaries and wages will also be graduated on the basis of merit and responsibilities.

The basis of society will be full racial equality and a nation will be built in which there will be no privileged classes and no group separatism.

The statement concludes by emphasising the responsibilities of the Commonwealth in the development of the colonial society. It is incumbent on the mother country to materially assist in the development of a fuller colonial life. If the pace of democracy in the colonies is halted, other influences may begin to play and the even march of democratic institutions will be thrown in jeopardy.

In fact it is not only a colonial policy but a clear statement on how British socialism can help arrest the inroads of communism which feeds on starvation and squalor. It is a very statesmanlike policy that will raise the prestige of the British Labour Party in the eyes of the millions and millions of colonials in all parts of the world.

The immediate effect of this masterly Bevanism will be to root out the lurking Anglophobia in the hearts of colonial people and strengthen the age-long ties of loyalty and devotion to the Crown. It is a historic document that will go down as a charter of the liberty of the colonial peoples.

It tends to give a concrete shape to the dreams of Wilberforce and Bright. Although slavery was abolished by law in 1834, the vestiges had persisted in all their horrors as it was not in the interest of the Tories to knock them out of shape. It was left to Nye Bevan and his friends to complete the great revolution in the fundamental rights of man. Naturally therefore the effect of this declaration will loom large as the years roll by bringing in its wake a closer association in the Commonwealth.

 


* Published in print edition on 17 August 2018

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