Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

Origin of the industrial capitalist [2/5]

PRIMARY ACCUMULATION: Origin of the industrial capitalist

Writing of the Christian colonial system, W. Howitt, who makes a speciality of Christianity, says:
"The barbarities and desperate outrages of the so-called Christian race, throughout every region of the world, and upon every people they have been able to subdue, are not to be paralleled by those of any other race, however fierce, however untaught, and however reckless of mercy and of shame, in any age of the earth."

The history of the colonial administration of Holland, the model capitalist nation during the seventeenth century, "is one of the most extraordinary relations of treachery, bribery, massacre, and meanness." Especially characteristic was the system of kidnapping practiced at Celebes in order to secure slaves for use in Java. The kidnappers were carefully trained for the purpose. The chief agents in this nefarious trade were the actual thief, the interpreter, and the seller; the main purchasers were the native princes. The young people who were kidnapped were kept in the dungeons of Celebes until they were ready to be sent to the slave ships. According to an official report: "This one town of Macassar, e.g., is full of secret prisons, one more horrible than the other, crammed with unfortunates, victims of greed and tyranny, fettered in chains, forcibly torn from their families." Wishing to get possession of Malacca, the Dutch bribed the Portuguese governor of the town, promising to pay him the sum of £21,875 as the price of his treason. When he admitted them within the walls, in the year 1641, as per bargain, they hastened to his house and assassinated him, wishing to "abstain" from payment. Wherever they set foot, devastation and depopulation followed. In 1750, the population of Banjuwangi, a province in Java, was 80,000; by 1811, it had been reduced to 8000. Such are the sweets of commerce!

The English East India Company, as is well known, was not only politically supreme in India, but had an exclusive monopoly of the tea trade, as of the China trade generally, and of the transport of goods to and from Europe. But the coasting trade of India and among the islands, and also the internal trade of India, were a monopoly of the higher officials of the company. The monopolies of salt, opium, betel, and other wares, were inexhaustible mines of wealth. The officials fixed the prices at their own sweet will, and fleeced the unhappy Hindus unmercifully. The governor-general took part in this private traffic. His favorites received contracts under conditions which enabled them, since they were cleverer than the alchemists, to make gold out of nothing. Great fortunes sprang up like mushrooms, primary accumulation going ahead without the original output of so much as a shilling. The report of the impeachment of Warren Hastings is peppered with instances. Here is one.

A contract for opium was given to a certain Sullivan when he was just setting out on an official mission to a part of India remote from the districts where opium was grown. He therefore sold his contract to a man named Binn for £40,000. The same day, Binn resold the contract for £60,000. The second buyer, who actually carried out the contract, deposed that he made vast profits. According to a list laid before parliament, the company and its employees received £6,000,000 from the natives of India as gifts between 1757 and 1766. In the years 1769 and 1770, the English brought about a famine by buying up all the rice and by refusing to sell it again except at fabulous prices.

The treatment of the aborigines was, naturally, worst in the plantations which were intended to serve only for export trade, such as the West Indies; and in rich and well populated countries, such as Mexico and India, which were delivered over to plunder. But even in the colonies properly so-called, primary accumulation was true to its Christian character. In 1703, the Puritans of New England, sober virtuosi of Protestantism, by a decree of their assembly, set a premium of £40 upon every Indian scalp and every captured redskin. In 1720, £100 was offered for every scalp. In 1744, when Massachusetts Bay denounced a particular tribe as rebels, the following prices were offered:
"For a scalp taken from a male of twelve years and upwards, £100 new currency; for a male prisoner, £106; for females and children taken prisoner, £50; for the scalps of squaws and children, £50."

A few decades later, the colonial system took vengeance on the offspring of the pious Pilgrim Fathers, who had now revolted against the land of their origin. At English instigation, they were tomahawked by mercenaries in English pay. The British parliament declared bloodhounds and scalping to be "means that God and nature has given into our hand."