The Hardt-Negri of his day

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Jun 2 15:44:02 MDT 2001

There is a great deal of sound evidence to support the view that, in the
present state of public opinion in Europe, the subjection of natives to the
authority of European administration does not always entail a worsening of
their condition, but often means the opposite.

However much violence, fraud, and other unworthy actions accompanied the
spread of European rule in earlier centuries, as they often still do today,
the other side of the picture is that, under direct European rule, savages
are without exception better off than they were before. Even before the
arrival of Europeans in Africa, brutal wars, robbery, and slavery were not
unknown. Indeed, they were the regular order of the day. What was unknown
was the degree of peace and legal protection made possible by European
institutions and the consequent sharp rise in food resources. I have
previously, in this journal, quoted a bitterly anti-English article from
Grenzbote in which it was, half-reproachfully, established that, under the
protection of British rule, the Negro population of Shira province (between
Lake Nyasa and the Zambesi) increased tenfold in the space of a few years
(see Neue Zeit, xiv, 1, p. 485, and Grenzbote, 14 July 1895). Of course,
the Negroes have not yet read Bax’s work and, in their Philistinism, would
rather live under English protection than in that African paradise where
slave-raiding adds zest to life. The same is true elsewhere. In the United
States today, where previously a few hundred thousand Indians fought
endless internecine battles over hunting grounds, sixty million people
[sic], most of them perfectly respectable, live and export food for further
millions of people. Romantics may find this deplorable, but, despite the
dark side of contemporary American life, we find nothing in it that is
"intrinsically evil." Whatever wrongs were previously perpetrated on the
Indians, nowadays their rights are protected, and it is a known fact that
their numbers are no longer declining but are, once again, on the increase.

Am I, because I acknowledge all this, an "adulator" of the present? If so,
let me refer Bax to The Communist Manifesto, which opens with an
"adulation" of the bourgeoisie which no hired hack of the latter could have
written more impressively. However, in the fifty years since the Manifesto
was written the world has advanced rather than regressed; and the
revolutions which have been accomplished in public life since then,
especially the rise of modern democracy, have not been without influence on
the doctrine of social obligation.

"The Struggle of Social Democracy and the Social Revolution", Neue Zeit,
Jan. 5, 1898

Louis Proyect
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