Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Racist !

Those old British Imperialists sure went in for gross racial stereotyping - here's a gung-ho militarist describing the Siege of Lucknow, 1857 :

The natural strength of the Residency at once explains how it was possible for the English to hold out in it against far superior numbers; but this very fact at once shows also what class of fighters the Oudians are. In fact, men who, partly drilled under European officers and provided plentifully with artillery, have never yet been able to overcome a single miserable inclosure defended by Europeans – such men are, militarily speaking, no better than savages, and a victory over them cannot add much to the glory of any army, however great the odds may be in favor of the natives.

Another fact which classes the Oudians with the most contemptible opponents to be met with, is the manner in which Havelock forced his way through the very thickest portion of the town, in spite of barricades, loopholed houses, and the like. His loss, indeed, was great; but compare such an engagement with even the worst-fought street-battle of 1848! Not one man of his weak column could have made good his way had there been any real fighting ...

When Sir Colin Campbell arrived he had about 2,000 European and 1,000 Sikh infantry; 350 European and 600 Sikh cavalry; 18 horse-artillery guns, 4 siege guns, and 300 sailors with their heavy shipguns; in all, 5,000 men, among which were 3,000 Europeans. This force was about as strong in numbers as a very fair average of most Anglo-Indian armies that have accomplished great exploits; indeed, the field-force with which Sir C. Napier conquered Sinde was scarcely half as large, and often less.

On the other hand, its large admixture of the European element and the circumstance that all its native portion consisted of the best fighting nation of India, the Sikhs, give it a character of intrinsic strength and cohesion far superior to the generality of Anglo-Indian armies. Its opponents, as we have seen, were contemptible, for the most part rough militia instead of trained soldiers. True, the Oudians pass for the most warlike race of Lower Hindostan, but this is the case merely in comparison with the cowardly Bengalees, whose morale is utterly broken down by the most relaxing climate of the world and by centuries of oppression. The way in which they submitted to the “filibustering” annexation of their country to the Company’s dominions, and the whole of their behavior during the insurrection, certainly places them below the level of the Sepoys, as far as courage and intelligence are concerned.

We are, indeed, informed that quantity made up for quality. Some letter-writers say there were as many as 100,000 in the town. They were, no doubt, superior to the British in the proportion of four or six to one, perhaps more; but with such enemies that makes little difference. A position can only be defended by a certain number, and if these are determined to run away it matters little whether four or five times that number of similar heroes are within half a mile. There is no doubt that many instances of individual bravery have been seen, even among these Oudians. Some among them may have fought like lions; but of what avail were these in a place which they were too weak to defend after the mere rabble among the garrison had run away? There appears to have never been among them any attempt at bringing the whole under a single command; their local chiefs had no authority except over their own men, and would not submit to anybody else ...

Campbell should be praised for the judgment with which he took the easier route and with which he used his heavy artillery to reduce the intrenched positions before he launched his columns. But the British fought with all the advantages of skilled soldiers obeying one chief over half savages commanded by nobody; and, as we see, they fully availed themselves of these advantages ... when in three days’ consecutive fighting, under circumstances and in positions which are known to cost more lives than any other to conquer, the loss is only one in eight or nine, it is out of the question to call it hard fighting. To take an example from British history alone, what is all this Indian fighting put together against the single defense of Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte at Waterloo?

Who's this blood-soaked warrior, with his talk of warlike races, the cowardly Bengalis, the half-savages of Oudh, and his general air of "call that a battle ?"

Friedrich Engels, that's who. And he was writing from London ! Armchair warrior or what ?


TDK said...

One of the great achievements of the left is how they successfully rewrite their own history so that their gurus to appear progressive to modern eyes.

There's no shortage of racist comments in Marx or Engels

Sergeant Troy: Dragoon Guards said...

By God that cheered me up!

Geronimo McTavish said...

It works both ways. The writings of earlier progressives can be sanitized. Or when certain programs fail to deliver eg the Great Society of the 1960s the words of the liberal/left of the time can be used to destroy them.

So when an earnest liberal in 1965 talked about uplifting the Negro, well obviously he was a racist, I mean just look at the language! Ergo the social program was in fact racist and designed to fail, so the theory is left intact and the liberals/leftists of that era symbolically sacrificed to explain the failure.

Forty years from now the failure of the current social engineering can be blamed on those who used racist language like 'African-American' or 'people of colour' etc etc.