Boer War: For Whom Are We Fighting?
In 1900 John Atkinson Hobson (1858 – 1940), a British economist. published The War In South Africa. The following is the chapter entitled For Whom Are We Fighting?, in which he makes it 100% clear, the British were fighting for the interests of Jews only:
FOR WHOM ARE WE FIGHTING?
It is difficult to state the truth about our doings in South Africa without seeming to appeal to the ignominious passion of Judenhetze (Jew-baiting). Nevertheless a plain account of the personal and economic forces operative in the Transvaal is essential to an understanding of the issue, and must not be shirked. A few of the financial pioneers in South Africa have been Englishmen, like Messrs. Rhodes and Rudd; but recent developments of Transvaal gold-mining have thrown the economic resources of the country more and more into the hands of a small group of international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race. By superior ability, enterprise, and organisation these men, out-competing the slower-witted Briton, have attained a practical supremacy which no one who has visited Johannesburg is likely to question.
It should be distinctly understood that the stress which my analysis lays upon the Jew has reference to the class of financial capitalists of which the foreign Jew must be taken as the leading type. Before I went there, the names of Beit, Eckstein, Bamato, &c., were of course not unknown to me; the very ship in which I crossed bore many scores of Jewish women and children. But until I came to examine closely the structure of industry and society upon the Rand I had no conception of their number or their power. I thus discovered that not Hamburg, not Vienna, not Frankfort, but Johannesburg is the New Jerusalem.
Although their strength does not really consist in numbers, the size of the Hebrew population is very considerable. Public statistics are most deceptive in this matter ; many of these persons rank as British subjects by virtue of a brief temporary sojourn in some English-speaking land, and as for names. Smith, Newman, Phillips, Gordon, Bruce are just as good as Marks or Cohen, and are often preferred. So the census of Johannesburg, taken in July 1896, only recognises 6253 Jews. But while the total population of Johannesburg has probably not increased since that date, it is generally agreed that the Jewish population is very much larger. A well-informed Jew, drawing his conclusion from synagogic and other private sources, told me there must be at least 15,000 Jews in Johannesburg and the district. The evidence of the directory, borne out by the casual testimony of the streets, would lead me to believe this an under, rather than an over, estimate. The great majority are undoubtedly Russian, Polish, and German Jews (commonly classed under the generic title of “Peruvian “), who ply the business of small shopkeepers, market salesmen, pedlars, liquor dealers, and a few rude handicrafts. These are everywhere to be seen, actively occupied in small dealings, a rude and ignorant people, mostly fled from despotic European rule, and contrasting sharply with their highly intelligent, showy, prosperous brethren, who form the upper crust of Johannesburg society. It is with the latter we are directly concerned if we would understand the economic and political import of the present movements.
It is not too much to say that this little ring of international financiers already controls the most valuable economic resources of the Transvaal.
The first and incomparably the most important industry, the gold-mines of the Rand, are almost entirely in their hands. The following brief enumeration of the leading companies, which represent the recent consolidation of many mining interests, will serve to show the extent of their power. First comes Wemher, Beit & Co., more commonly known by the name of the managing director as the “Eckstein Group.” This comprises twenty-nine mines and three other financial businesses. The nominal capital is £18,384,567, but the market value at the beginning of August 1899 was over £76,000,000. This Eckstein Group is the leading member of a larger, effective combination, which includes, for most practical purposes, the Consolidated Goldfields, S. Neumann & Co., G. Farrar and A. Bailey. Of these, the largest is the Goldfields (virtually Beit, Rudd, and Rhodes), with nineteen mines, and a nominal capital of £18,120,000. Next in size comes Neumann, with a capital of £8,806,500. In more separate working, but virtually under the same ulti- mate control, are two other important groups of mines, largely repositories of German capital, Goetz & Co. and Albu & Co. The financial connection, according to my information, consists in the fact that Brassey, representing Rothschild, has a controlling interest in Goetz & Co., while Albu & Co. have behind them the Dresdener Bank. Now Rothschild stands for the Exploration Company, which is in effect Wemher, Beit, and Rothschild, while Wemher and Beit are believed to be large owner of the Dresdener Bank. These statements are made to me on evidence which I am naturally unable to check, but I believe them to be correct, and even if only approximately true, they indicate a close consolidation of the greater part of the Rand mining industry. Outside of them, the chief businesses are J. B. Robinson, with nineteen mines, and other estates at a nominal capital of £14,317,500 and the less important Bamato firm. It is also well to bear in mind that Wemher, Beit, Rudd, and Rhodes, Bamato, and Rothschild are associated as chief owners and life governors of De Beers.
The last few years have seen large steps towards a consolidation of the entire industry under the supremacy of Eckstein, the chief instrument of which is the Chamber of Mines. The primary object of the Chamber, started by Eckstein in 1889, was to secure returns of output, wages, &c., from the various companies, and soon most of the leading companies, with the exception of Robinson, joined it. Robinson, followed by the now rising French and German companies, formed in 1895 the Association of Mines, which was in effect a rival combination. Hostilities were maintained until 1898, when Goetz and Albu were forced back into the Chamber, which has since attained a paramountcy that extends not only to the mining industry, but widely controls the industrial and indirectly the political life of Johannesburg, forming the nucleus of a monopoly which may become to the Rand what De Beers has been for some years to Eimberley. This, however, is not the place to discuss the present and probable future of the power possessed by the Chamber, and Messrs. Eckstein, who actually wield it. This brief sketch is only designed to indicate the dominance of international finance over the vast industry whose capital had recently a normal value of some £150,000,000, and which is and will remain the great source of wealth in the Transvaal. It is, I think, correct to say that the destiny of almost all these leading companies is controlled by foreign financiers. There is, moreover, no reason to believe that the capital thus wielded is chiefly owned by English shareholders. Though no means of close calculation exists, there is good reason to suppose that the French and German holdings, taken together, largely outweigh the English interest in Rand mines.
But while the power of this capitalism is based on gold, it is by no means confined to it. Whatever large or profitable interest we approach, we find the same control. The interests are often entirely severed from, and even hostile to, the mining industry, but they are in the hands of the same class. This is the case with the dynamite monopoly. Every name connected with the present and past of this scandalous economic episode is significant: Lippert, Lewis and Marks, Vorstmann, Phillip, Nobel. The rich and powerful liquor trade, licit and illicit, is entirely in the hands of Jews, from the supreme control of the liquor kings, Messrs. Lewis and Marks, down to the nmning of the meanest Elaffir bar. That greatest of gambling instruments, the in Stock Exchange, is, needless to say, mostly Jewish. The large commercial businesses are in the same hands, in particular the important trade in horses, and other highly speculative businesses. The press of Johannesburg is chiefly their property: they control the organs of Outlander agitation on the one hand, the Star and the Leader, while the Government organ, the Standard and Diggers News, is under similar control. Nor has the Jew been backward in developing those forms of loan and mortgage business which have made his fame the world over. A rich and ably organised syndicate exists which operates through branches in all the little towns, lending sums of money or furnishing credit through retail shops, which they control, to the neigh- bouring Boers, and thus obtaining mortgages upon their farms. I am informed that a very large proportion of the Transvaal farmers are as entirely in the hands of Jewish money-lenders as is the Russian moujik or the Austrian peasant. No one who knows the fluctuating and precarious character of Transvaal agriculture will feel surprised that the Boer should succumb to thia common temptation set so carefully in his path.
It thus appears that the industrial and agricultural future of the Transvaal is already hypothecated to this small ring of financial foreigners, who not merely own or control the present values, but have, by buying up mining properties and claims of a contingent future value, secured an even more complete supremacy over the economic future.
The Transvaal is a country especially adapted to the money-lender and the stock-jobber, a land of hazards and surprises, booms and slumps, where the keen-sighted speculator and the planner of bold complex combinations has unrivalled opportunities.
Dull and depressed as was Johannesburg when I visited it, the savour of gambling was in the air. Though talk of stocks and shares was in abeyance, not so the gambling side of sport. One final testimony to the supreme genius of the European speculator stood plastered upon every wall. Sweepstakes upon races are in Johannesburg not a casual caprice of a sporting few, but an important, well-organised, and enduring trade, supported apparently by a very large proportion of the men, and even the women, of the place. A “sweep” upon a single race meeting often amounts to ;£120,000 or £150,000, a sufficient evidence of the popularity of the demand, which extends to every class of the community. This novel industry owes its local origin to a Jew known by the name of Phillips, who kept a bar in Johannesburg. Phillips runs four big “sweeps ” every year and a score of little “sweeps,” which are advertised on every wall and by copious handbills. The business basis of the “sweep” is that prizes shall cover 90 per cent, of the money subscribed, the other 10 per cent, going to cover expenses of management and profits. The “industry,” I am told, is a most remunerative one. Phillips has now a good handful of competitors: the names of Moss, Legate, Hess, and Herff stare upon you from the back of every newspaper. It is needless to dwell on the demoralising influence of this great and growing gambling trade. Its success is alike indicative of the place and of the people that control it.
The practical paramountcy exercised by financiers, the recognised leaders of whom are foreign Jews, over the economic interests of the Transvaal, extends also to the social and the recreative side of Johannesburg life. Many of the recognised leaders of society are Jewish. The newspapers of September 13th contained the announcement: “There will be no performance at the Empire (music-hall) to-day by reason of the Jewish Day of Atonement.” The Stock Exchange was also closed upon that day.
When the British arms have established firm order, this foreign host will return with enhanced nimibers and increased power. During the distress of last autumn they bought up, often for a song, most of the property and businesses that were worth buying, and as soon as & settlement takes place, they will start upon a greatly strengthened basis of possession.
It may be said, granting this story of a Jewish monopoly of the economic power is true, it does not justify the suggestion that the political power will pass into their hands, and that there will be established an oligarchy of German Jews at Pretoria.
But a little reflection shows that while this class of financiers has commonly abstained in other countries from active participation in politics, they will use politics in the Transvaal. They have found the need for controlling politics and legislation by bribery and other persuasive arts hitherto: the same need and use will exist in the future. Politics to them will not merely mean free trade and good administration of just laws. Transvaal industry, particularly the mining industry, requires the constant and important aid of the State. The control of a large, cheap, regular, submissive supply of labour, the chief comer-stone of profitable business, will be a constant incentive to acquire political control : railway rates, customs’ laws, and the all-important issues relating to mineral rights, will force them into politics, and they will apply to these the same qualities which have made them so successful in speculative industry. In a word, they will simply and inevitably add to their other businesses the business of politics. The particular form of government which may be adopted will not matter very much. Government from Downing Street may perhaps hamper them a little more than the forms of popular representative government; but the judicious control of the press and the assistance of financial friends in high places will enable them to establish and maintain a tolerably complete form of boss-rule in South Africa.
A consideration of these points throws a clear light upon the nature of the conflict in South Africa. We are fighting in order to place a small international oligarchy of mine-owners and speculators in power at Pretoria. Englishmen will surely do well to recognise that the economic and political destinies of South Africa are, and seem likely to remain, in the hands of men most of whom are foreigners by origin, whose trade is finance, and whose trade interests are not chiefly British. If all I say be true, it gives no ground for any final judgment on the merits of the war. This international oligarchy may be better for the country and for the world than the present or any other rule ; and England may be performing a meritorious world-service, in establishing it. But it is right for us to understand quite clearly what we are doing.
Hobson, John Atkinson. The War In South Africa: Its Causes And Effects. Macmillian, New York. 1900. pp.189-197.