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New Left Review I/23, January-February 1964

Janet Jagan

Imperialist ‘Anti-Imperialism’

Paul Johnson’s article in The New Statesman of December 13th threatens to destroy, with a torrent of unemotional logic, the illusions that we cherish: illusions about ‘peace’, about ‘socialism’ and about ‘imperialism’. Let us look at the ‘realities’ of ‘imperialism’ with Johnson. He illuminates us twice. First, about Egypt: ‘Nasserite external policy has been exposed as an inefficient—indeed unworkable—brand of Egyptian imperialism.’ Second, about China and Indonesia: ‘A British military presence . . . is the Malaysian Federation’s only protection against the totalitarian, imperialist powers of China and Indonesia.’ If Egypt and Indonesia are imperialist, what is Britain? Johnson sounds like an imperialist: ‘our foundering colonial empire . . .’ ‘the sterling oil system cannot be preserved without a British military presence . . .’ ‘British military protection offers the best chance for the gradual development of the rule of law . . .’ But he claims to be a ‘socialist’; he wants to preserve sterling oil and sterling tin in the name of ‘socialism’. ‘Our own enlightened self-interest is, in fact, the precondition of any contribution British socialism can make to world peace and prosperity.’ How much richer a contribution ‘British socialism’ could make if our ‘military presence’ was re-installed in Cairo! How much better a chance the people of China and Indonesia would have if only, like their brothers in Abu Dhabi and Brunei, they were freed from imperialism and shielded instead by Britain’s ‘protective power’! Johnson’s ‘British socialism’ would then be shown, as he might put it, ‘in its most naked form’. But this is not all. There are further ‘unpalatable facts’ that we must be ‘willing to look in the face’. For if we pursue Johnson’s unemotional logic we can identify not only the ‘imperialists’ but the ‘anti-imperialists’ as well. We can at last understand—our cherished illusions shattered—why we must rally to the banner of Lord Beaverbrook, our champion in the fight against ‘empire’.

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New Left Review, ‘Imperialist 'Anti-Imperialism'’, NLR I/23: £3

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