British and Soviet Colonial Systems

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British and Soviet Colonial Systems

Table of contents :
The British System
The Commonwealth
The Colonial Dependencies
Colonial Office
Colonial Governments and their Electorates
Colonial Legal Systems
The Soviet System
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
The Central Asian Republics
Supreme Soviet and Presidium
Council of Ministers
Governments of Central Asia and their Electorates
Legal System in Central Asia
Map of the British Commonwealth and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

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FABER AND FABER LIM ITE D 24 Russell Square London

First published in mcmli by Faber and Faber Limited 24 Russell Square London W.C.i Second impression mcmli Printed in Great Britain by Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth All rights reserved

CONTENTS Preface Introduction

page ix 11 PART i

T H E B R IT IS H S Y S T E M Chapter i. The Commonwealth Chapter 2. The Colonial Dependencies

17 25

i. General ii. Parliament iii. Colonial Office iv. Colonial Governments and their Electorates v. Colonial Legal Systems vi. Conclusion Appendix

25 27 35 39

47 51 56

P A R T 11

T H E S O V IE T S Y S T E M Chapter 3. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 61 Chapter 4. The Central Asian Republics 72 i. General 72 ii. Supreme Soviet and Presidium 82 iii. Council of Ministers 87 iv. Governments of Central Asia and their Electorates 90 v. Legal System in Central Asia 99 vi. Conclusion 106 Map of the British Commonwealth and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no, h i Index 113 vii


are two entirely different political philosophies at work in regard to colonial problems to-day, deriving from either the com m unist or the western democratic creeds.



It is common knowledge that a new and increasing interest in communism is being taken in many colonial territories, although it is not always realized how vague and uninformed this interest may be. Those interested range from thorough-going com­ munist organizations and parties in south-east Asia to individual agitators in Africa, for whom a communist system signifies little more than a magical millennium, in whose preparation tactics o f disruption in politics or trade unions are justified; as ortho­ dox communist theory makes use of nationalism as an interim stage in the achievement o f ‘proletarian revolution1, so now there arc those who would make the perilous attempt to use the weapon of communist theory to gain their nationalist ends. Communism has a strong appeal for colonial peoples, not least because of its attitude to racial matters, however vague this appeal may be and however imperfectly the system of rule which it represents is understood. It therefore appears relevant to make a comparison between communist and western democratic colonial policies, as these are exemplified by the systems o f the Soviet Union and Britain respectively, particularly since it is not always realized that the Soviet Union has a colonial empire at all and, for better or worse, is saddled with the problems of imperialism like any other power. K . M. S. October ig$o ix



first sight nothing could be more different than the two Lsystems embodied in the British Commonwealth and the Union o f Soviet Socialist Republics. The difference in spirit is as great as that in geography. The British Commonwealth is widely scattered over the earth’s surface and there is not a continent which is unknown to it; it comprises a group of inde­ pendent nations, Great Britain and the Dominions, and a large number o f dependent or colonial territories in all stages of development toward self-government but still essentially sub­ ject, in varying degrees, to metropolitan direction. The U.S.S.R. is one immense, compact land unit, the largest of its kind in the world; it has a federal system and its whole area is divided into individual federated republics. The British Commonwealth is the prototype of a decentralized empire, and in this it resembles the Dutch empire; the U.S.S.R. is the prototype of a central­ ized empire, and in this it resembles the French empire. The British Empire is infused, in the classical humanist tradition, with the idea that the individual is all-important: its inter­ pretation of democracy is exemplified by liberty and the sanc­ tity of law. The U.S.S.R. is a communist system which seeks to apply and develop the doctrines of Karl Marx: its unit is the social group or class, its watchword material equality and its interpretation o f democracy the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yet there is a resemblance between the two systems. That variety o f development among all its territorial units, which is recorded by the constitutional diversities within the Common-





wealth, has its parallel, beneath a surface constitutional con­ formity, in the territories of the U.S.S.R. Within that Union, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic remains in­ evitably, like the Great Russia of the Tsars which it incorpor­ ated, the centre of power. Certain other republics by reason of their large settled white populations and economic strength carry authority and wield influence under the powers delegated to them under the federal constitution. But, just as certainly, other republics on the perimeter in Asia are, beneath their nominal equality with the rest, dependent or colonial areas as they were in the days of the Tsars. The five republics of Soviet Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tadzhikstan and Kirghizstan, represent areas of rule over indigenous peoples and compare, in fact, with the orthodox colonies of other Powers. They have the characteristics and present the problems of colonial areas the world over. What is Russia trying to do to solve these problems and how does her policy compare with that of other colonial Powers, in this instance, that of Britain? Some of the main features of British and Russian colonies may be briefly indicated here. The colonial territories of both have in general a difficult terrain, either mountain, swamp, forest or desert, and are subject to extremes of heat or cold; they have been removed, by their inaccessibility, from the main stream of world activities and until recent times, outside pene­ tration has been limited to isolated trading outposts as those round the oases on the old silk route through central Asia or on the sea coast in the case of British dependencies. In both cases the present boundaries of territories have often been arbitrarily carved out without historic or ethnic considerations; the de­ lineations of British East, West and Central Africa are fifty years old, those of Soviet Central Asia, twenty years; as the boundary line between British Nigeria and French West Africa divides the African tribes, so that between Russian Kazakhstan and Chinese Sin Kiang divides the Turkic Moslems. Within each colonial territory the people are not homogeneous but a mixture of 12


races. In the Russian colonial empire Asiatics predominate: in the British colonial empire, Africans. Each covers a widely assorted collection of peoples with differing manners, customs, religions, but common in their backwardness by European standards, and their dependence for their political and economic development on outside help. The aim of British policy has been stated as one which will give the dependent territories responsible self-government, under conditions which ensure fair standards o f living and freedom from oppression from any quarter. Russian policy has been stated as: c. .. the obligation to put an end to that backwardness (economic, political, and cultural) of the nationalities which we have inherited from the past and to afford the backward peoples the opportunity o f catching up with Central Russia politically, cul­ turally and economically.’ 1 These statements arise from common ground and common problems, however disparately they are interpreted, in theory and in actual practice, by each Power. The Russian statement also suggests another point which may be mentioned here, in passing. On Marxist theory, imperialism is the last stage of capitalism, and is condemned and has no place under com­ munist rule: but backwardness cannot be remedied overnight under communist or any other rule, and a framework of con­ stitutional independence, though it may be an emblem of hope, cannot ipsofacto reflect an existing state o f affairs. The comparison of British and Russian systems suggests many broad questions. For example, if an empire is envisaged by the metropolitan power as an embryonic system of world govern­ ment, what is the grand design and how is it to be achieved and how, meanwhile, are its guiding principles exported? How is an empire to be held together, if not by force? I f imperial policy is bent on ‘decolonizing’ territories, is dependency to be succeeded by a greater imperial integration or by local independence ‘ Joseph Stalin, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question (1921), p. 103.



which may be synonymous with helplessness? Is force or persua­ sion the imperial tool, or an admixture of the two? As far as the British Empire is concerned, how far do the communist theses apply: that, as a bourgeois, capitalist empire it is doomed and cannot reform itself; that, constitutionally, power is in the hands of the ruling British class in whose interests the state is organ­ ized; that, economically, its basis is exploitation of colonics by British interests; and that, socially, colonial peoples are de­ signedly kept backward? How far do these same categories levelled at bourgeois empires apply to the Russian colonial empire, and how far has Russia found new solutions to the old, intractable problems of empire? In the chapters which follow, the policies o f Britain and Russia in their colonial dependencies will be examined. In respect of each, the accounts will, as far as possible, follow a parallel course, for purposes of comparison. There are, however, certain features peculiar to the one or the other; there is, for example, no analogy in the British Commonwealth to the power and functions o f the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R. In the usage of terms referring to British territories, ‘ Commonwealth’ and ‘ Empire’ and ‘colony’ and ‘dependency’ will be used re­ spectively as interchangeable terms. Some attention will be paid to the framework of each empire as a whole and to the machinery and characteristics of the central imperial government. For colonial policies are made at home, in Moscow as in London, and in their inspiration and their fashioning are intimately con­ nected with the domestic policies and outlook of the mother country.







British Empire or Commonwealth comprises Great Britain, the mother country, seven Dominions which have developed into independent nations, and thirty-five colonial dependHiaes aTaTT stages of progress towards full responsible government.1 The Empire has no written constitution: it has evolved gradually and although a few main threads run almost continuously through its story, it has developed by hazard rather than design assuming, in the process, variable forms o f constitu­ tional relations. As a political institution the Empire does not fall neatly into any recognized category. When the statesmen o f Great Britain and the Dominions met together in 1926 to investigate and consider inter-imperial relations, they were of the opinion that:



. . nothing would be gained by attempting to lay down a Constitution for the British Empire. Its widely scattered parts have very different characteristics, and are at very different stages of evolution; while, considered as a whole, it defies classi­ fication and bears no real resemblance to any other political organization which now exists or has ever yet been tried.’2 In respect o f no other political institution is Marx’s precept o f critical analysis more applicable: to understand the British 1 In this section, the following have been drawn upon: A. Rerriedale K eith, The Governments o f the British Empire (1935); W. K . I lancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs, 2 vols. (1937, 1942); R. M. Dawson, The Develop­ ment of Dominion Status, 1goo-1936 (1937); Sir M aurice Amos, The English Constitution (1930); J . L. Brierly, English Law (1943). 2 Cmd. 2768 o f 1926, Report o f the Imperial Conference, 1926.




Empire we must look to the concrete facts rather than to arbi­ trary classification. The Empire is neither a federal nor a unitary system: its uniqueness as a political organization lies in its successful assault on accepted and logical notions o f sove­ reignty. Its flexibility allows for the supersession o f metropolitan authority by a voluntary association between nations who are, in all respects, equal in status. It offers a way out of the old imperial dilemma so that, whereas previous empires have all completed their cycle of birth, growth and decay, the British Empire need not decay but can merge into the wider pattern of world governments. The Part Played by the English Constitution The English constitution lies at theJoundaLion-of all the con­ stitutionalism of the Empire. One of its leading characteristics is its flexibility. The constitution developed gradually, free from undue legalism and, though Cromwell would have had it other­ wise, it has never been formally defined in any kind of funda­ mental legislation which cannot easily be changed. In so far as the constitution consists of rules o f law, Jt is liable to modificajhf> p by a simple. arT-xiE-BajIiairient; in SO far as it consists of conventions, it can be changed by the adoption of new usages. In its flexibility the constitution differs from written or so-called rigid constitutions like those o f the Soviet Union or the United States which can only be altered by some special process of legislation laid down in the constitution and which, since they constitute fundamental law, require the courts to give legal interpretations of the political growth of the state. Some of the most important and established features of the English constitu­ tion have developed quite informally: for example, during the last two hundred years the Cabinet has grown to be the most powerful instrument oC government in the state wielding, in effect, all legislative and executive power, subject to the one condition that it commands a majority in the House o f Com­ mons: yet until 1937 the Cabinet, throughout its long history from the time when it consisted of counsellors chosen by the 18


King to tender him advice, was a body entirely unrecognized by law .1 Although English political institutions owe much of their suc­ cessive development to the avoidance of undue legalism, no nation has shown a more profound respect for the supremacy of the law, and indeed the rule of law is the most fundamental characteristic of the English constitution. This means that the ordinary law of the land, administered by independent judges in a regular course of procedure, is supreme over all other powers in the state, and that all government officials as well as private citizens are subject to the same law.2 English law does not con­ cede any special privileges in judicial matters to the executive government. It differs from the legal systems o f most other European countries, in that it does not provide for a separate system of administrative law under which cases involving government officials are dealt with in special administrative courts. The principle of the rule of law is really the security for what are known as the liberties of the subject, for example, the right to personal liberty which is secured by the writ of habeas corpus. It is characteristic o f the English constitution that it does not make declarations o f the rights of the individual, but rather provides legal safeguards against infringements of those rights, on the supposition that rights can be left to take care of them­ selves so long as the means o f enforcing them are effective: hence the old Whig doctrine that the most important things lie, not in but behind the constitution. It is general practice out­ side the British Empire, for the rights of the subject to be written into the constitution, although this does not automatically imply that there are provisions for their enforcement. The informing spirit behind the English constitution— readi­ ness to compromise, and unwillingness to insist on strictly logical results— has been carried over into the Empire, together with 1 In 1937 the Cabinet was reeogniz.ed by a Statute providing for salaries for its members. 2 See A . V . D icey’s Ijlw o f the Constitution (revised 8th edition, 1914), pp. xxxvii ff. and pp. 182 ff., and Lord H ewart’s introduction to Amos, op. cit., p. vi.



the forms of democratic government and law as they matured through the centuries in the mother country. A few instances of the manifestations of this spirit may be cited. The Empire as a whole is a remarkably lawless body: it has been built on conven­ tion rather than imperial legislation; the Colonial Laws Validity Act being the one large measure of the nineteenth century as the Statute ofWestminster has been o f the twentieth century. There was an instinctive antipathy against limiting by definition the powers accorded by Britain to the growing democratic govern­ ments of the young Dominions, and against setting a time limit for the admitted goal oftheir eventual self-government: Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all developed to nationhood within the old colonial machinery. In 1931 the Statute o f Westminster recognized what was already accom­ plished fact. The Statute also marked the first formal division between Dominion and colonial dependency. It is noteworthy, however, that the goal for both is the same and that the colonies are treading the same road, with the same apparatus of govern­ ment, that the Dominions trod before 1931. The Dominions*l A t the Imperial Conference of 1926 which preceded the Statute o f Westminster, the mutual relations of Great Britain and the Dominions were defined as follows:


‘They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any S respect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as meml bers of the British Commonwealth of Nations.’ The Dominions then consisted o f Canada, Australia, New Zea­ land, South Africa, Eire and Newfoundland, of which some are federal and some unitary states, and which all have large settled white communities o f British stock. Since 1931 the face of the Commonwealth has changed. India and Pakistan, on achieving full self-government in 1947, elected 20


to remain within the Commonwealth, thereby extending the con ­ tent of Dominion to coloured races. The following year Ceylon attained the same status, thereby demonstrating in fact the theory o f progress from crown colony to full self-government. Burma attained self-government and, together with Eire, elected to leave the Commonwealth. Newfoundland, by public referen­ dum,decided in favour o f incorporation as a province o f Canada. In theory as well as in fact, Dominion claims of national sov­ ereignty have been fully satisfied. The last vestiges of formal unity have been whittled away by those Dominions who feel them to be a slur upon their inde­ pendence. South Africa has recently abolished the right of appeal to the judicial committee o f the Privy Council. India has become a republic and thereby destroyed the common denominator o f all Dominions of allegiance to the Crown. The King is still recognized by all as Head of the Commonwealth, but it is a matter o f choice whether or not he is recognized as the head of each individual state: some new formula is there­ fore required for the Royal Style and Titles. Eire demonstrated, by her example in the late war, that a Dominion can remain neutral and subsequently, that a Dominion can leave the Commonwealth if it so wishes. The right o f secession has never been laid down and it would have been a complete departure from customary British constitutional practice had it been so. But the voluntary nature o f association between Britain and the Dominions has been stressed and embodied in statute, and if a Dominion so chooses, there is nothing to prevent it or impede it from seceding. Force has given way to persuasion. What is then left o f positive content in the imperial relation­ ship when it is thus developed to its conclusion? It is doubtful whether one can go further than to say that Britain and the Dominions are a collection of independent nations, of whom it is probable that they will act together in certain circumstances: the probability of such common action being enhanced by the existence of mutual interests and by the fact that they share the 21


same political heritage, grounded on principles of liberty and the rule o f law and reinforced by the conviction that reforms should be effected by legal means. The rest consists of imponderable factors. For example, it is unlikely, although the possibility can­ not be ruled out, that the nations of the Commonwealth would go to war against each other. Again, there is the imponderable factor of loyalty and affection of the Dominions towards Britain, which twice this century has passed the supreme test in two world wars. The point may be worth reflection that while Britain has never, like some other imperial powers, for example France, looked upon the empire as a source of military manpower to buttress her own strength, she has thus twice in emergency re­ ceived such a vast voluntary response in men and materials. The great problem for imperial policy in the British Empire is no longer what will allow for the development of its free and equal members, but what will hold it together. When all grounds for local grievance have been removed and it no longer remains an empire in the sense o f one part being subordinate to another, how can co-operation for peaceful ends be achieved? There have been statesmen and leading thinkers of empire who have deplored the ultimate looseness and fragility of the im­ perial connection, and who have advocated an Empire Federa­ tion or, in lesser scope, the working out o f common policies. The latter, except in the economic field, have notyetbeen achieved. They have been firmly resisted by the Dominions for a variety of reasons, often arising out of their geographical position which may render local connections more important than imperial; for example, Canada’s propinquity to the United States and her inclusion in the Monroe Doctrine militated against her supporting a common defence policy. Sometimes, notably in the case of South Africa, local nationality problems, in the issues they pose and the policies which arc pursued, cut sharply across common co-operation and even lie uneasily behind any façade of common outlook. British policy itself, with its theme of decentralization and conscious transference of authority from the centre to the periphery, has assisted in the pride in indi-


vidual autonomy. British imperial policy, as thoroughly worked out to its terminal point, has succeeded in emptying all deroga­ tory content from the concept o f empire. Britain can survey the independent nations who have grown up under her dominion and say that in respect of these, her job is done; the further task of voluntary co-operation between equals remains, but its ac­ complishment is a joint responsibility. That this should be the position is itself indicative of remarkable political achievement. Indeed, the negative side of commonwealth relations may be viewed as a triumph and a logical consequence of British policy; it is an extraordinary fact that, given all the internal strains and the absence of any compulsion, such a comprehensive Common­ wealth holds together at all as an entity. O f all the Dominions, India offers the supreme test of British policy and its supreme vindication. After long years of tutelage, will the withdrawal of Britain from India result in a return to the old chaos, or will a great Asiastic nation of 400 million souls maintain internal order and govern justly under democratic principles? Did British rule find its responses among the people, so that when they gained independence they chose to preserve and develop it? I f so, then democracy, previously limited to the West, has been brought by British agency to Asia. It is early yet to give an answer. India became independent, but not without dividing into two states to satisfy her moslem minority and not without the occurrence of intcrcommunal strife which broke out, as it did under British rule. The most hopeful portent for the future is the new Constitution, drawn up by the Govern­ ment of India in 1948, which is permeated by the spirit and practice of English constitutionalism and, by its precepts, opens the avenue to liberty and ordered democratic government. A Possible System of World Government Docs the British Empire offer a possible system of world government? Many of its leading protagonists in Britain and the Dominions have thought so, especially in the more buoyant days o f the development of Dominion status before 1931. It cer-



tainly offers no militant, positive creed; it offers examples which may be followed, but its weapon is persuasion. The idea of the commonwealth of nations found many echoes in the structure and functions o f the League of Nations: while the second essay at international government after the second world war, with the Security Council as its hub, is more in line with the old, orthodox conceptions of empire. I f the grand design has failed to be achieved, the British Empire has, in a smaller scope, been able to make many tangible contributions to the world order. It has consistently worked to raise international standards in the treatment and care of the people, by sponsoring and adopting international conventions covering a wide range of subjects. Although the subsequent extension of such common minimum standards to colonial peoples has often involved British interests most nearly, Britain has been in the van of all colonial powers in seeking to extend and apply them. It may fairly be said of the British Empire that its existence is the greatest o f its attributes. This not only serves as a pointer to the domestic evolution and structure of the Empire, but also as a pointer to its place in the wider sphere o f world affairs where, at its lowest denominator, its mere presence has made for stability.





Character and Long- Term Aims development of the Dominions demonstrates the full cycle o f growth for those other territories in the Common­ wealth which are still dependent on Britain. There are thirtyfive o f these, individual dependencies; they consist of colonies, protectorates, protected states and trust territories (administered by Britain under the trusteeship system of the United Nations) widely scattered in, mainly, tropical latitudes, and inhabited b y some 69,000,000 people.who, except.Xoj-a fraction, are nonEuropcans. It has been Britain’s policy to endeavour to translate, with locaEadaptations, her political institutions to these diverse and disparate regions.. The framework of their government is the same, save for reservations of authority and representation, as that which contained the white Dominions and, as has been seen, until the Statute of Westminster was passed in 1931 there was no formal division between the two groups. The Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865, the cornerstone of imperial authority, was passed to regulate the relationship between Britain and those territories which became Dominions no less than those of the tropical coloured dependencies. The goal of self-government for tropical coloured dependency and white Dominion alike was probably implicit in the British





action of applying to both the same constitutional forms.1 It has since been stated explicitly and exemplified, as the progress of Ceylon shows, in practice. But there has grown up, especially of recent years, an increasing realization that political indepen­ dence in a territory whose peoples lack the requisite social and economic equipment to avail themselves of it may signify little more than helplessness. This realization serves to accentuate the difference between the white Dominions where a sense of com­ mon citizenship, from the start, made democratic rule possible and the colonial dependencies, where such a sense has yet to be achieved in the face of backwardness and racial disunity. Self-government remains the aim, and the pace of political advance has even been hastened, notably by the spiritual awakening of the recent war years: there is public pressure to sustain this advance both in Britain and in the colonies. But at the same time new efforts arc being made to nurture citizen­ ship among the colonial peoples by educational, social and local government measures. There is, too, a new realization of the fact that colonies, when they attain responsible government, may be too weak as individual units to protect themselves, and there is a groping towards some new formula which will reconcile metropolitan guidance with colonial freedom. Imperial Strategy Such guidance is intended in the colonies’ own interests. It is different from, although it cannot be entirely unrelated to, that other guidance which is determined by imperial strategic interests. O f all those facets in the colonial relationship which may be illuminated by some analysis of self-interest or disinter­ estedness as the motivating springs of metropolitan action, that of imperial strategy is the most fundamental. Whenever the mother country considers that her vital interests arc at stake, imperial considerations will, if necessary, override purely local interests, and the political, economic and social development of 1 See M. Perham’s introduction in M . W ight, The Development o f the Legislative Council, 1606-1945, Faber and Faber (1946), p. 10,



the colony concerned will be affected accordingly. This applies not only to such colonies as Gibraltar and Malta which are, first and foremost, key strategic strongholds but, potentially, to any colony. Considerations o f imperial strategy determined that Kenya should succeed Egypt as the main base for British forces in the Middle East: similar considerations lend special gravity to the disturbances since 1947 in Malaya. Britain has employed her powers under this head but she has, in general, sought to limit them as far as possible. For example, during the second world war it became necessary to conscript labour in East and West Africa in order to ensure essential supplies o f raw materials and metals; this step was taken as a temporary measure for strictly defined purposes, under ordinances enacted by the legis­ lative councils o f the colonies concerned; it was repealed after the termination o f hostilities, but during its enforcement there was a sustained outcry' against it in the British parliament and press, from the British people who were themselves submitting to a far wider system o f compulsion for essential war purposes.I.


The British Parliament is the supreme legislative and executive authority for the dependencies. Colonial affairs are handled "byJa""department of state, the Colonial Office, headed by a minis!eFwli6 is a.member-of the-Cabinet. The edicts of Parliament must be enforced in every court of law throughout the dependencies, in so far as they are expressly applicable to the territories, and they can only be altered by Parliament itself or by the local legislatures under express powers given by Parliament. On the other hand, colonial laws passed by local legislatures cannot be declared invalid on the supposed ground that they do not conform to the rules o f Eng­ lish law generally: as laid down by the imperial Parliament, any colonial law which is in any respect repugnant to the pro­ visions of any act of Parliament extending to the colony or to any order or regulation made under authority of such an act,



is void and inoperative only to the extent of this repugnancy (Clause 2 of the Colonial Laws Validity Act, 1865). Acts of Parliament relating to the colonial empire as_a.whole. deaF with subjects which may be grouped as follows: 1. Con­ stitutional organization. 2. Legal organization. 3. International relations and the implementing of international conventions. 4. War and defence. 5, Finance. 6. Social.development..^ Acts of Parliament relating to a particular territory are rare, but they may be required on occasion to federate, unite or separate certain colonies, or to empower the Crown to establish^ colonial constitutions, or to deal with financial matters, e.g. to authorize the Treasury to guarantee specific colonial govern­ ment loans.1 The more common source ofimperial legislation is, however, not Parliament but the Crown, in. Council,jwhich has both statutory and prerogative powers for this purpose. Legislation by order in council is enacted on the advice of ministers re­ sponsible to Parliament: it must not be repugnant to statute, and it must be laid before Parliament. Legislation of this kind usually refers to the following purposes: 1. Establishment and amendment of colonial constitutions. 2. Large issues o f policy which, though arising from a particular instance, are of general imperial importance, such as the lands question in East Africa. 3. The enforcement of imperial policy on a recalcitrant colony, such as the Ceylon Importation of Textiles (Quotas) Order in Council of 1934. 4. Currency regu­ lations. 5. Reciprocal legal and financial arrangements between Britain and the colonies.12 Imperial Legislative Powers in Practice Though .Parliame_nt_ is the final arbiter of colonial affairs, imperial legislation either by act ofTParfiament or by order in council is limitedlis"far"as possible, since it is the long-estab1 Wight, op. cit., pp. 138-9. 2 ibid., p. 140. 28


lished practice of British policy to interpret imperial powers in -JkmurJjTfiie'growth ol local authority and to leave the cnactlegislation to the local colonial legislatures. At the same time it should be pointed out that metropolitan responsibilities have, of recent years, been extended to raising the social and economic standards of the colonial peoples, and direct financial help has been given to this end under the Colonial Develop­ ment and Welfare Acts—T he practice has increased of giving central guidance to the colonies by circulating to them model ordinances of social legislation, which may assist them in draft­ ing their own local measures. These are moves which imply greater integration and conformity, but it is characteristic that these new imperial responsibilities are interpreted not, as they well might be, by a spirit of dictatorship from the centre, but rather by stressing the interdependence between the colonies who have need of this metropolitan help and guidance and Britain who has the responsibility and the ability to give them. For example, the total sum allotted to each colony, according to its needs, from the British Exchequer under the Development and Welfare Acts, is decided in Britain, but plans as to how the money is to be spent are drawn up in the colonies themselves and submitted, for his approval, to the Secretary of State, who is unlikely to make any major alterations. 'S ince Parliament, and through it the British people, exercises the final responsibility for colonial affairs, the questions arise as to how far it provides adequate time for the discussion of colonial problems and the ventilation of colonial grievances, how far colonial affairs are affected by two-party government, and even whether in such circumstances a long-term colonial policy is possible. Tn addition to supply days when the estimates are taken, colonial matters can be raised on the adjournment of the House, on the adjournment at the end o f a session, on the j JonsohdaTed Fund Bill and on th^Appropjlatiqn'BilirColonial questions,can be asked at question time every Wednesday. In the event of issues of vital, immediate importance arising, private notice -



questions may be raised on any day, subject to the approval of the Speaker. It has been widely agreed for some time that these opportunities have become insufficient for the adequate discus­ sion of colonial affairs as public interest in the colonies has in­ creased, but any solution of this problem is difficult in view of the generally crowded state of parliamentary business. The increased interest shown to-day in colonial matters can be dated back to 1940, to the passing of the Development and Welfare Act, which more than any other single event marks the great divide in modern British policy between the old laisser-faire attitude and the new conceptions of positive guidance and finan­ cial assistance. Evidence o f it may be seen in several directions. Many more parliamentary questions are asked and, a more sig­ nificant test of interest and knowledge, a higher proportion of these are followed up by supplementary questions. One member calculated that against 265 colonial questions raised during the year ended February 1933, 527 colonial questions were raised ten years later during the year ended February 1943.1 In the 1947-8 session there were no less than twenty-seven debates on colonial affairs, and nearly 800 colonial questions. In the same period there were also thirteen debates on colonial subjects in the House of Lords. The number of members of parliament of all parties who make a special study of the colonies, is distinguished by quality rather than by quantity. There are still relatively few, but those few are nearly all enthusiastic and serious about their subject. The existence of this small active nucleus helps towards ensur­ ing that parliamentary attention to any colonial issue is timely, and does not wait upon some violent misfortune in the shape of strikes or riots before it can be aroused. There_are two parliamentary organizations o f the Labour Party w hichdeaLwith colonial affairs, namely the Imperial Affairs Committee and the Colonial Sub-Committee o f the Commonwealth and Empire Group. The Imperial Affairs Com1 House o f Commons Debates, 5th scries, vol. 391, cols. 139 fi. (Mr. John Dugdalc in the Annual Debate on Supply, 13th Ju ly 1943). 30


mittee does not limit its membership to members of Parliament, but includes a number of outside members, chosen for their expert knowledge o f imperial affairs, as an essential part of its composition. The Committee is designed to serve as a meetingplace, where members o f parliament interested in the subject can discuss imperial matters with outside experts. It meets fort­ nightly while Parliament is sitting. The Colonial Sub-Com­ mittee of the Commonwealth and Empire Group is entirely composed o f Labour M.P.s, and is on the same footing as the sub-committees of other groups which cover all the different branches o f government administration. These committees have no power to formulate policy, but they can hold a watching brief and tender advice. The Colonial Sub-Committee usually meets weekly w'hile Parliament is sitting, in order to study dayto-day colonial problems. Sometimes the Secretary of State or colonial governors, home on leave, or leading colonial visitors, appear before it, to make statements and answer questions. Members o f the Committee do a considerable amount o f work themselves in obtaining material and keeping in touch with colonial affairs. On the Opposition side, there is the Imperial Affairs Com­ mittee o f the Conservative Party, which takes a lively interest in colonial affairs, through its colonial sub-committees covering different regions. Membership is limited to members o f parlia­ ment. Meetings are not at any fixed interval, but as issues arise and as the state of parliamentary business allows. The Imperial Affairs Committee has a full-time secretary who is the co-ordin­ ating force behind all the sub-committees and who briefs them with memoranda. He depends for the most part on his personal contacts with members of parliament to maintain their interest in colonial affairs. There is one all-party organization, the Empire Parliamen­ tary Association, which interests itself in the empire as a whole and surveys Dominion as well as colonial affairs. The function i o f the Association is to arrange visits of parliamentary delega­ tions from time to time to different parts of the empire. When a



delegation has been arranged, each member o f the association is invited to submit his name: from the list thus provided, an all­ party committee under the chairmanship of the Speaker nominates the delegates. Efforts are made to send small delega­ tions to the colonies as frequently as possible so that first-hand information may be available to members of parliament o f all parties. The setting up of another all-party organization, a joint standing committee o f both Houses to deal specifically with colonial affairs, has frequently been advocated from many quar­ ters during the last twenty years. So far the proposal has been rejected by successive Secretaries ofState, mainly on the grounds that such a committee would detract unduly from the parlia­ mentary authority which properly belongs to their ministerial office. It is relevant to note the part played in Parliament by British commercial concerns interested in the colonies. A great part of colonial commerce, including agricultural, industrial and min­ ing enterprises in the colonies, is owned and directed by British firms, with their headquarters in London. It is sometimes asserted that these firms wield great influence with the British Government and can powerfully affect the course of colonial affairs in their own interests. In actual fact, their influence is grossly overrated, and such as it is, is generally exerted outside Parliament. In respect of nearly all the territories there are in each case one, or perhaps two, members of parliament who are either themselves directors of colonial concerns or are the recognized channel through which colonial concerns outside the House can get parliamentary questions raised when occasion arises. They are usually Conservatives and usually, from their special know­ ledge, can make useful contributions. Similarly, Labour mem­ bers are regularly briefed by their own contacts in the colonics, trades unions and the like. But there is no parliamentary caucus of business interests. The West Indian parliamentary faction of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries belongs to a by32


gone day. To-day the Caribbean trading interests are hardly represented at Westminster. There are one or two spokesmen for the sugar industry, e.g. Lord Lyle, the president of Tate & Lyle Ltd., in the Upper House, and, until he lost his seat in 1945, Colonel Sir Arthur Evans, a director of Tate & Lyle’s two West Indian subsidiaries, in the House of Commons. At the same time, new elements of West Indian life, notably the young colonial labour and trade union movements, have come to be represented at Westminster through the activities of Labour members. The very limited power wielded in or through Parliament by British firms who arc interested in the colonies is a remarkable fact. It may be illustrated by other territorial interests as forcibly as by those of the West Indies. Perhaps the most striking example of all is offered by Malaya. The Malayan rubber indus­ try is dominated by sterling interests: this industry not only has the greatest value of any export from the entire colonial empire, but it is also the greatest dollar-earning asset in the empire. In spite of this pre-eminence there have been few leading spokes­ men in Parliament to uphold the interests of the industry or to put forward its higher politics in so far as they affect AngloAmerican trade relations. How does the system of two-party government in Parliament affect the continuity o f colonial policy? Colonial affairs have rarely been subject to violent party differences, and a broad measure of agreement about the main lines to be pursued has been a common feature. For example, a good deal of colonial policy after the General Election of 1945 was a continuation of projects carried over from the previous Government. Real dif­ ferences do exist, and they run far deeper than the frequently asserted difference of tempo, so that clashes between Conserva­ tive and Labour opinion are inevitable. But colonial projects over a wide area arc supported alike by both parties. The fundamentals o f colonial policy are thus assured, e.g. the advance by progressive stages to self-government, or the metro­ politan financial responsibility to assist in raising the living c 33


standards of colonial peoples. As regards disagreement between the parties or even within one party, between the back-bencher and his Government or Opposition spokesman, such disagree­ ment tends to arise over particular issues or on specific points; it benefits the colonies since it permits the free expression of differ­ ent points or view and ensures that the action finally taken is decided after the cut-and-thrust of debate and must command a majority of members in its support. Relationship Between Political Parties in Britain and those in the Colonies Political parties in Britain have no direct relationship or affiliation with those in the colonics. They neither direct nor control any colonial parties, nor would they consider it proper to attempt to do so. There may, however, be informal contacts between them. The conspicuous example is the Fabian Colonial Bureau, affiliated to the Labour Party, which has consciously built up a wide field of contacts with growing labour move­ ments in the colonics, with whom it exchanges information and views; the Bureau has also aimed to some extent at propagating its views on colonial problems in the colonies. The Bureau does not, however, either represent the official view of the Labour Party or receive financial help from it. When a Labour Govern­ ment was returned in 1945 the Bureau reserved its right to criticize the Government and was subsequently one of its most active critics; at the same time, the Bureau has often found itself seriously at variance with Labour groups in the colonies. The one exception to general practice is the British Communist Party. This party can hardly be termed a party of the state since it was represented for many years by only one member in the House of Commons, then from 1945-50 by two members, after which it failed in the General Election of 1950 to secure the re­ turn of any member to Parliament. It has, however, a member­ ship in the country of perhaps 40,000, and in its organization for dealing with colonial affairs represents, in embryonic form, a new departure. There are few organized communist parties in the col­ onies but, in its dealings with individual colonials sympathetic



to communism, the British Communist Party lays down central directives and advocates conformity to its own policies. It should be noted that direct colonial representation in the British Parliament has never been a part of British policy. Other empires have adopted this policy. Colonials from their old colonies have long been represented in the central legislative assembly of the French. More recently the Dutch, under the new constitutional scheme of the Netherlands Indonesian Union, have made provision for it. It will be seen that the U .S.S.R. makes similar provision for her Central Asian repub­ lics. Such direct association of colonials with the central organs of imperial government has obvious tangible and psychological advantages: it offers a partial answer towards solving the prob­ lem of remote control, always a key problem o f empire; gener­ ally, it makes for imperial integration— in the case of the French, for example, metropolitan France and her overseas territories have always been envisaged as forming one integral whole, and the stress has been placed on unity. Britain has approached her empire in a different way: the stress has been on diversity and decentralization; colonial statesmen can have important issues ventilated in Parliament through the agency of individual M.P.s, usually as a last resort when the local organs of repre­ sentation have failed, but their main energies are absorbed by their representative governments at home, whose machinery is devised on the British model, and through which they can, de­ signedly, achieve responsibility and power to govern themselves. III. COLONIAL OFFICE

The British governmenLdepartment responsible for colonial affairs is the Colonial Office. Like other executive departments of state, it is headed by political chiefs; these consist o f the Secretary of State assisted by a Parliamentary Under-Secretary and a Minister of State, who are all appointed by the Prime Minister and who must answer for the affairs of their depart­ ment in Parliament. The Secretary of State is always a member o f the Cabinet and usually a member of the House o f Commons



rather than the House of Lords. The highest civil servant in the Colonial Office is the Permanent Under-Secretary, who is, in the Department, second only to the Secretary of State. The Colonial Office is unlike other Home departments in that it does not confine itself to one particular function of govern­ ment, but embraces every aspect of the administration of the colonial empire. The Office is divided into departments on a geographical and functional basis. The geographical depart­ ments are the senior departments of the Office and it is they who correlate and unify all the diverse problems of a particular colony. Over the last twenty years there has grown up beside them a large number of functional departments which are specialists in dealing with the common aspects of colonial affairs. Economics, development planning, research, social ser­ vices, welfare, communications, international relations and public relations all now form the subjects of separate depart­ ments in the Office. During the same period the Secretary of State has increasingly equipped himself with a number of specialist advisers and advisory committees. This grouping makes for integration in colonial thought, since it is not bound by the distance or territorial boundaries between different parts of the empire, but emphasizes their com­ mon needs and mutual problems. It also makes for continuity and the pooling of experience in the Colonial Office, by build­ ing up a fund of knowledge which can be made available to any part of the colonial empire. It is in line with the new regional policies radiating from Whitehall to embrace groups of indi­ vidual colonies and knit them more closely together. In the West Indies there is the overall advisory machinery of the Comptroller for Development and Welfare; in East Africa there is the inter-territorial organization of the East Africa High Com­ mission, which administers the unified public services and other non-political matters of common concern. It would be an over­ statement to say that in the Colonial Office, the old fragmentary treatment of political, social, economic, educational, health and other problems, as and when they arose in any particular terri-


The co lo n ial

d e p e n d e n c ie s

tory, has been completely superseded by an overall guiding policy, but the direction of colonial affairs is clearly tending towards the evolution of such a policy. This tendency reflects the new metropolitan outlook on colonial affairs: it explains the fact that, while the colonies are making rapid strides towards self-government and are taking more and more authority for their own affairs away from the Colonial Office and into their own hands, the work of the Colonial Office, instead of dwindling, has grown more con­ siderable than ever before. This new activity is not an isolated phenomenon. New colonial policies, with new ideas for their execution, derive from the same broad trends o f thought and action which influence domestic affairs. The whole new em­ phasis on economic and social development in the colonies, which is shared by Conservative and Labour opinion alike, is closely bound up with the preoccupation with social security measures, etc., at home. Planned development is becoming an increasing commonplace in all fields of national endeavour and positive action by government servants, replacing the old laisserfaire, is demanding a new kind of knowledge and outlook. How does this more comprehensive conception of the responsibilities of the State affect the relations between Britain and her colonies and alter the balance of authority as between the centre and the periphery? The colonies lack both the skill, technical and other­ wise, and the financial resources, to raise themselves to the stan­ dards accepted as requisite by the mother country: help must, perforce, come from the centre. This help is being given, not in a spirit of dictation from the centre, but by stressing the inter­ dependence and the need for co-operation between Britain and the colonies. Nevertheless it represents a departure and some place for it must be found within the classic definition of decen­ tralization as the root of British colonial policy. Commissions o f Inquiry The Colonial Office has regular first-hand contacts with the



br itish


colonial dependencies, through the frequent visits of its minis­ ters and officials and return visits from those in the colonies and through interchanges of personnel. When a particular issue of im­ portance arises in any colony, the Secretary of State appoints a commission of inquiry, which is composed o f highly qualified non­ official individuals, to go out and investigate conditions on the spot. These commissions are completely independent bodies and it is their function to conduct their investigations impartially and report thereon to the Secretary of State: these reports are subsequently published. The commission o f inquiry is a justly valued piece of machinery. The members o f such commissions habitually avail themselves o f their right to examine a given situation to the best o f their ability, however much this involves adverse criticism of either the home or colonial government; in those cases when members of a commission are unable to reach unanimous conclusions, they record their differences in majority and minority reports. Considerable attention is paid to their findings and, if the situation appears to require it, official policy is adapted accordingly. Commissions o f inquiry have long been a feature o f British domestic as well as colonial government. Their merits have been recorded by no less a critic than Karl Marx who, in contrast­ ing British and German conditions in the nineteenth century, stated: ‘We Germans would be terrified at the conditions that prevail in our own country if our governments and parliaments were (like England) periodically to appoint commissions of inquiry into economic conditions; if these commissions were endowed with the same ample powers as in England to enable them to search out the truth; if it were possible to find in Germany men as competent and as free from bias and from respect o f persons, as are the British factory inspectors, the British medical reporters on public health, the British commissioners o f inquiry into the exploitation of women and children, into housing conditions, food supply, etc. Perseus wore a magic cap that made him invisible when he was hunting down monsters. We draw a cap



tightly over our own eyes and ears, that we may have warrant for denying the existence of any monsters at all.*1


The colonial dependencies are governed under a variety of forms, shaped by their individual histories, and by local cir­ cumstances. There is, however, a fundamental similarity be­ tween them in that there exists ineach an executive government which is subordinate to the Crown and effectively under the control of the Secretary o f State for the Colonies. The common form is for government to be conducted by a governor, an executive council and a legislative council. The Governor The governor is the key figure in the system, and the authority of the Crown is exercised through him. In addition to being the King’s representative, he is the head of the executive govern­ ment and, often, the president of the legislature. The documents under which he receives his commission constitute a kind of basic or organic law for the colony. They are as follows: 1. The letters patent or order in council which provide the outline of the constitution. They constitute the office of gover­ nor, make provision for the government o f the colony and define its boundaries. ‘They create an executive and legislative council; authorize the legislative council to pass ordinances and to con­ stitute courts ofjustice for the peace, order and good government of the colony; reserve power to the Crown to disallow ordinances and to legislate by order in council, and give power to the governor to assent or to refuse assent to a bill, or to reserve it for the significance of His Majesty’s pleasure.’2 2. The royal instructions to the governor which fill in the details of the constitution. They lay down the composition of the executive and legislative councils and define their powers; they 1 K a rl M arx, Capital, vol. ii (Everyman, 1930), pp. 863-4.

8 Wight, op. cit., pp. 142-3.



enumerate those classes of bills which the governor is bound to reserve for His Majesty’s pleasure unless previous instructions have been received from the Secretary o f State.1 The Executive Council The governor is_assisteH.hy aix-exec.utivexouncil whom he is bound to consult in x arr-ving-QUt.his duties. JheLcouncil.C.OJQsjsts_ of ’an u m b er of ex-ojficio members who are the heads of the prin­ cipal departments of the administration (the chief secretary, financial secretary, attorney general, etc.), certain.other officers o f the public service in the,.territory (official members) who are nominated by the governor...ancLa,number of other persons not holding such office (unoificial members) who are usually, but not always, nominated by the governor.,. The council has only advisory powers and fhereds no collective responsibility. Although^the.governor._is required .to^consult it, he need not take. the. advice which the council.offers but may do what, in his own judgment, he things to be right. In such cases, however, when the governor overrides hkjmunciL lie is required to report.thc.issuc,.giving .the.grounds.for his action, to the Secretary.uLStatc. Executive councils are not in their nature representative bodies, but advisory councils to the governor, and their pro­ ceedings are confidential. Their purpose is to make available to the governor the experience o f his senior officials and other leading persons in the territory. In the council, ‘advice is frankly given, divergences can be reconciled or concealed, and the measures embodying government policy are hammered out be­ fore they are submitted to the legislative council in the form of a bill’ .2 While the legislative council is essentially an organ of change, the executive council, less perceptibly and dramatically, is also susceptible to changes concurrent with general constitutional ad­ vance. It is changing nowboth in its composition and its functions and, in some of the more advanced colonial territories at least, 1 ibid. 8 ibid., p. 149. —


— j — ,

m jU

..... i


n il*

-------------- ~

iiiT T f

m i


is gradually assuming some of the attributes of a cabinet in place of those o f a purely advisory panel to the governor. In composition, the proportion of unofficial members in relation to that of official members is increasing and unofficial members are increasingly appointed on their nomination or election by representative bodies. In Trinidad this has already come to mean the election o f five of the nine members o f the executive council by a legislative council which, in its turn, has been mainly elected by universal adult suffrage. Jamaica and British Guiana provide other slightly different advanced examples. At the same time, it is becoming common for unofficial members of the executive council to be actively associated in the work of their territory’s administration by undertaking responsibilities for groups of public departments. The Legislative Council The legislative body goes under different local titles and varies in composition from colony to colony. It consists of ex-officio members, who are normally the heads of the principal depart­ ments of the administration as in the executive council, nomin­ ated official members and a number of unofficial members who may be either nominated or elected. The powers bestowed on colonial legislatures are extremely wide and generous. A local legislature, in all that falls within its sphere, has full power and authority to decide how its powers shall be used.1 The control over local legislatures is exercised, not by restricting the sphere of their authority to legislate, but by ensuring that the powers they enjoy shall be exercised as desired by the executive in any vital matter. Colonial legislatures are subject to the following general limitations: the governor has reserve powers to veto any legislation or to withhold his assent pending submission to the Secretary of State; the Crown has power to disallow ordinances already passed; the imperial government has overriding power to legislate for the colony, through order in council or act of K eith, op. cit., pp. 37-8.



j Parliament. In addition there arc laid down in the governor’s I instructions the specific kinds o f bills which the governor must reserve for the signification o f the Crown’s pleasure. It is worth noting that in establishing colonial legislatures the imperial government has made no attempt to set up bodies with merely limited powers to deal with specific, topics delegated by Parliament. Colonial legislatures are not delegates who cannot pass on their power to others, and their legislation can­ not be declared invalid by the courts on the grounds that it is unreasonable. Within the limits of their power, they possess sovereign authority to legislate for the peace, order and good government of each colonial territory.1 Legislative councils are essentially representative bodies. Developing from the basic principle o f according due represen­ tation to the various colonial communities, they are in all stages of transformation into responsible legislatures. Their proceed­ ings are the focal point of colonial advance. It is in these councils that the metamorphosis from irresponsible to responsible selfgovernment must take place, through the emergence o f a majority body of democratically elected colonial statesmen able not only to criticize policy but also to assume the duty of carrying it out. Representation by official members gives way to representation by unofficials and the selection o f unofficials by nomination gives way to their election by representative bodies or by popular franchise. In the colonial empire as a whole, the legislative council with a majority or a parity of unofficial members has become a common form. It has also become usual for elected unofficial members to preponderate over nominated unofficial members both in numbers and im­ portance. As another indication of the same progressive trend, the governor in several instances no longer presides over the legislative council but appoints a speaker or president in his stead. 1 ibid.



The Colonial Service Some 96 per cent of colonial civil service personnel arc re­ cruited in the territories, but the key senior posts are, almost without exception, still held by British personnel, recruited in England by examination and personal selection. The standard of such entrants is high and the colonies owe much to their able and devoted service. Many colonial achievements have been based on the solid groundwork of the district commissioner. It is part of British policy to encourage colonial candidates for these senior positions and financial assistance is given to train them. As more colonials of the requisite ability become available, they are elected to posts previously undertaken by British personnel. New schemes are afoot for equipping more colonials for senior appointments in many o f the African territories. In Malaya, which with the West Indies is most advanced in this respect, there are already more than 300 Asian officers in senior appoint­ ments. Imperial Control in Practice Imperial control over colonial government is primarily nega­ tive in character and operation. The device of reserved powers is interpreted as emergency rather than normal procedure. The governor’s veto, similarly, is rarely used. The Crown’s power to disallow colonial legislation already passed has not been used for many years. As, in an earlier day, the development of the white Dominions was marked by the gradual disuse of imperial con­ trol over their legislation, while the means of control remained unrepealed and potentially available, so colonial legislatures to­ day meet with a minimum of imperial obstruction. They do, however, meet with a good deal of antecedent guidance in the initiation and enactment of legislation which is assisted, and may also be enforced, by the official majority. Such guidance chiefly relates to economic and social development and takes the form of model ordinances, which are circulated by the Colonial Office. The colonial governments are, however,



responsible for the application of such legislation and it is by no means automatically adopted by them; for example, public opinion in several colonial territories held up the introduction o f income tax and trade union legislation for several years. The replacement of an official by an unofficial majority raises new problems and makes the exercise of imperial control a more delicate matter. So long as official members preponderate, the governor is firmly in the saddle and it is he who largely deter­ mines, in the event of disagreement, whether the views of his unofficial members or those o f the Secretary of State shall pre­ vail. With the advent of an unofficial majority, the position begins to get out of hand, and considerable constitutional inventiveness and forbearance on all sides are needed if the result is to be neither deadlock nor abuse of new-won power. The Donoughmore constitution introduced in 1931 in Ceylon and the constitution introduced in 1944 in Jamaica provided two different examples designed to meet this situation. The Colonial Electorate The emergence of responsible colonial statesmen presupposes an adult electorate capable o f choosing them by adult suffrage or some other widely representative means. It also envisages the growth of political parties, through which the appeal of a party programme shall supersede the appeal of a leading personality and national rather than communal considerations shall be the dividing lines o f opinion. Both are still far-off dreams for the colonial empire as a whole. But the way toward them is being encouraged by policies specifically designed to build indepen­ dent citizens out of scattered, disunited and primitive peoples. Great stress is laid on the importance of flourishing organs of local government as the sound foundation of constitutional advance at the centre. In the West Indies the old tribal struc­ ture o f society was destroyed by slavery and plantocracy, and now new organs of local government are being built up attuned to the requirements o f the westernized and relatively sophisti­ cated West Indian people, and designed to strengthen their



already advanced central governments. In the African terri­ tories, on the other hand, existing tribal authorities and their institutions were fostered and administration has been carried out through a network of Native Authorities, who are for the most part the chiefs and traditional leaders of the various native tribes. These authorities are now being broadened in composisition and entrusted with greater financial and administrative responsibilities. They are slowly being assimilated into more modern forms of local government institution of the council type. This will enable advances in local and central government to take place as parts o f one unified political scheme. The colonial peoples are not homogeneous but plural societies, that is, they consist of two or more elements living side by side, but without mingling, in one political unit. The population in any colony can rarely be simply divided between indigenous and non-indigenous people, for the latter are usually not only of one race but several; in addition to Europeans there are often other minority communities, like Chinese, Indians, or Arabs, who have either migrated of their own accord or been brought thither to supply labour needs under British aegis. For example, the population in all the East and Central African territories includes Africans and Europeans and in several cases Indians and Arabs as well; in the Federation o f Malaya, where the Chinese and Indians almost equal the Malays, the population comprises the Malay fishermen and peasant farmers who are Moslems, the Chinese mineworkers and traders who are Buddhists, and the Indian rubber plantation workers who are Hindus. It is the existence of these plural societies which presents colonial policy with its fundamental sociological problem. It is this which renders the fostering o f a common sense o f cidzenship a most difficult task and which retards constitutional advance. For plural societies are divided from each other by race, religion and culture and are usually at widely different stages of economic and social development so that they must be represented, at least in the early stages, communally and not



territorially. Communal representation is the result, not the cause, o f the deep social divisions, but there is a danger that it may serve to perpetuate these divisions: in 1931 the Donoughmore Commission condemned it as ‘the canker on the body politic’ in Ceylon, which was ‘effectively preventing the de­ velopment of a national or corporate spirit’. There is no easy answer to the problem of plural societies. Secession is ruled out since the different groups arc usually so interwoven, both economically and territorially, that such a step would mean social disruption or even greater chaos. British policy allows full religious and cultural freedom to the different groups. They are associated with the work o f government on a communal basis, which is commonly the only method of secur­ ing their representation currently possible; British policy seeks to combine the due representation of their interests with repre­ sentation by reason of experience and competence. It is one of the intended functions of the official majority that it should protect communities who are, by implication, too weak to fend for themselves. At the same time, communal representation is regarded as merely an intermediate stage. It is hoped that through educational and social measures and the co­ operation of the peoples, a common sense o f citizenship will emerge to override communal barriers and that divisions will be healed by a new social unity and a larger patriotism. There are ways of assisting the adequate representation of minority communities within a common scheme of territorial constituencies, by weighting the representation of areas where they predominate in their favour. This avoids the rigidity of a communal roll, but it presupposes a certain standard of ability in the minority and of tolerance in the majority. In 1931 this course was successfully adopted in Ceylon. A similar inten­ tion informs the South African constitution, whereby rural con­ stituencies are represented out of proportion to their population, in the interests of the Boers. The transition from communal to territorial representation in the colonies and all that this step implies, however, can 46


rarely be an easy, foreseen action. There can be no clear indica­ tion that the time has come when communalism has outlived its purpose. The transition must always represent a gamble, a step in the dark. Gradualism can go so far, but there are some gulfs it cannot bridge. This is one of them. Another is the always largely incalculable leap from representative to responsible government. V. COLONIAL LEGAL SYSTEMS

English Law the Basis One of the greatest and most lasting gifts which Britain has been able to bestow on the Commonwealth, on Dominion and colony alike, has been the system of common law evolved dur­ ing 800 years in England. The two distinguishing features of this system, which forms the basis of the legal system in the colonies, are the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law. The independence of the judiciary is upheld by the manner and terms bf appointment o f It? highest officers. In_a colony. these~~areTKe'ju 9 ge?o f the~$upreme or High CourfTand they iTre appointed by the Governor^jij:be insiniQtiQns_QLthe King^ conveyedTfirough the Secretary of State. They are protected fronTffie’ possibiliLy ofgi^ n rm en tal pressure by the principle that their tenure, usually during pleasure, shall only be ter­ minated, whatever the rights o f the Crown as to removal, on the most serious consideration and normally on reference to the Privy Council. The rule o f law ensures that no man can be made to suffer in person or property save through the action o f the ordinary courts after a public trial by established legal rules. It affords a definite body o f legal principles which exclude arbitrary execu­ tive action. It makes no distinction between private persons or officials and thus offers the latter no special protection. Other Systems of Law English law is the basic form of law, but in certain territories



in which other established systems of law already existed or were considered appropriate, these have been retained or intro­ duced, e.g. French law in Mauritius, St. Lucia and the Sey­ chelles, Hindu law in East Africa, Mohammedan law in parts of Nigeria, East Africa, Malaya, etc., Greek and Ottoman law in Cyprus, and certain vestiges o f Roman Dutch law in British Guiana. Native African customary law is also administered among such peoples as ai-e subject to it. Criminal and civil codes differ from colony to colony, and are adapted and amended from time to time locally. In the application of all law, it is a principle o f British policy that native law and custom shall be respected and retained whenever they are consistent with the administration of justice. The district commissioner dispenses justice with due heed to local custom but his decisions are as often as not reinforced by English common law. A case can be taken from the lowest court in the Common­ wealth to the highest; from the magistrate’s or the district com­ missioner’s court right up to the Appellate Court. Furthermore, with the one provision that an individual who is compelled for financial reasons to appeal informa pauperis must have adequate grounds on which to base his case, any person or concern may seek leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The Rights of the Subject The pervasive spirit of English law, with its traditional con­ cern for individual liberty and the protection it affords against enci'oachments on the individual by the state, is a fundamental characteristic of colonial rule. The rights o f the individual are embedded, by implication, in the law, since legal remedies exist against any encroachment upon them. Thus: i. The right to personal freedom is ensured by the fact that any person illegally deprived o f liberty can, if placed under re­ straint, assert his freedom and punish those who have illegally deprived him o f it: he can, under the writ of habeas corpus, 48


secure that whoever detains him shall be compelled to explain the grounds of his detention, so that if it be illegal he may be liberated by the court. 2. Freedom of speech is secured by the rule that a man may say or write anything he pleases, subject to liability to punish­ ment for sedition, blasphemy or indecency, or libel. 3. The right of public meeting rests on the fact that no breach of the law is incurred by such gatherings provided that they neither trespass on private ground, violate local municipal regulations nor obstruct the streets. 4. Freedom of conscience and worship exists generally as the result of the absence of any established church, or where such churches exist, as for example the Catholic Church in Malta, of restricting their authority to those who are voluntarily mem­ bers o f them.1 The right to equal treatment in all spheres, irrespective of race, has not yet been achieved by the colonial peoples. Dis­ criminatory legislation varies in kind and extent from colony to colony and in each instance such legislation is bound up with complex local situations, which makes any general assessment difficult and misleading. There are, however, certain principles which govern discriminatory legislation throughout the colonial empire. The first is laid down in the royal instructions to the governor o f each territory, that the governor may not enact, without having previously obtained the sanction of the Secre­ tary of State, any ordinance whereby persons not of European birth or descent may be subjected to, or made liable to, any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European birth or descent are not also subjected or made liable. All such mea­ sures are reserved for the signification o f His Majesty’s pleasure. Other principles relate to the freedoms and rights which are laid down in the United Nations declaration on Human Rights, some of which have been already mentioned above. They have been described, in respect ofTanganyika, in the following terms: ‘ . . . all elements of the population arc secure in the enjoyment 1 Sec K eith , op. cit., pp. 236-41, and D icey, op. cit., pp. 202 if. D



of human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimina­ tion as to race, sex, language or religion. Freedom o f speech and of the press, of conscience and of religious worship, of movement and of the choice of lawful occupation, the right of personal liberty (habeas corpus) and of petition to the highest authorities and freedom of action in the pursuit of personal happiness are enjoyed to the utmost practicable extent by all alike.’ 1 In certain territories there are limitations on some of these rights, notably on freedom of movement and o f the choice of occupation. It has been stated that no doctrine o f race superiority has any place in British colonial policy.1 In support of this statement, it may be pointed out with some justice that, in the colonial terri­ tories as a whole, racial discrimination in law more accurately signifies a difference of treatment, where there arc members of different races which, as groups, vary widely in their levels of education and in their economic or social development, than it signifies the singling out o f one race for subjection to any par­ ticular disadvantage. The great bulk of discriminatory legisla­ tion and practice has as its object the protection of the less de­ veloped sections of the colonial populations: such legislation has been classified as restrictive (e.g. laws preventing the sale of spirits and firearms to Africans), protective (e.g. the Uganda Land Transfer Ordinance, which prohibits the transfer of land by natives to non-natives without the consent of the governor) and concessionary (e.g. in Sierra Leone, the Minerals Ordinance permits Africans with little or no capital to engage in smallscale mining for alluvial gold without the formalities required of non-natives). At the same time, there are instances of dis­ criminatory legislation in favour of the more developed sections of the population. Such discrimination is often a survival from 1 Colonial No. 261 o f 1950, Report o f His M ajesty’s Government to the General Assembly o f the United Nations on the Administration o f T angan­ yika for the year 1949, p. 1 1 1. 2 One example is the speech b y the Secretary o f Stale, M r. James Griffiths, at the Labour Party and Fabian Colonial Bureau Conference in •




earlier practices which are now disappearing. Where such legis­ lation is open to objection, it is the declared aim of the British Government to eradicate it as soon as possible. Each colonial government is continually reviewing its laws in order to remove, w’herever possible, those provisions which discriminate between races, for it is recognized that protective no less than restric­ tive provisions, however much they may be temporarily justified, carry the implication of immaturity. It was at the request of its African Representative Council that the government of Northern Rhodesia suspended the operation of a law protecting Africans from the normal legal consequences of imprudent buying on credit in 1949. Racial discrimination when practised by private organiza­ tions (e.g. a club, hotel, cinema or trade union) is not controlled by law and, as in the wider field of racial prejudice which such discrimination impinges upon, eradication is considered to depend upon the natural process of educational, social and economic development, supported by the moral weight of the British and colonial governments, rather than on direct legisla­ tive action. VI. CONCLUSION

The constitutional structure of the colonial dependencies is essentially organic. The individual colonial governments con­ tain lively political life and they arc constantly moving in a forward direction by adaptations and innovations in their con­ stitutions. Ten years is a long time in this constitutional process, when every year witnesses new changes, small or big, which equally require some readjustment of the general picture. In 1940 Ceylon appeared as a splendid, if rather isolated example of responsible colonial government. In 1950 there was a goodly company of territories which had either achieved or were well on the way to similar advance, with (heir colonial peoples exer­ cising responsibilities and learning the art of public administra­ tion through their unofficial majorities in legislative councils


and their membership of executive councils. Notable advances in the West Indies, led by Jamaica, had brought within the reach of practical politics the plan of a self-governing federation. In West Africa, there was an African majority on the legisla­ tive councils of all the territories except Sierra Leone, where a similar arrangement was under consideration; on the executive councils, in all cases, the majority of the unofficials were Africans and formed a substantial proportion of the executive council as a whole, c.g. three of the total of eleven members in the Gold Coast were Africans, four of the fourteen in Nigeria and three of the eight in Sierra Leone. 1'hc colonial peoples themselves have a large part in deter­ mining what form constitutional change shall take. For example the Cousscy Committee, which in 1949 was appointed to investi­ gate and recommend the form of a new constitution in the Gold Coast, consisted entirely of Africans and sat under the chair­ manship of an African judge. In Nigeria, all the local and re­ gional native organs of government were consulted in 1949 and asked to make their recommendations as to desirable changes in the central government. The constitutional development of Ceylon is the most complete illustration of the fact that the colonial peoples provide not only the impetus for change but also, in increasing measure, determine its direction; it also illus­ trates in particular a characteristic which is more widely applic­ able, namely that, in the transference of authority from Britain to one of her colonics, power may be not so much wrested as freely given (see appendix on Ceylon). Political progress is being increasingly linked with economic and social advance. It has been officially stated that progress towards responsible government is unrealistic unless it is accom­ panied by parallel economic advances and the latter, in their turn, are closely related to social development, ‘for only healthy and enlightened peoples can bring to their work a full measure of vigour, intelligence and initiative’. 1 In the economic field, efforts 1 Cm d. 7715 o f 1949. T h e Colonial Territories (1948-9), annual report o f the Secretary o f State to Parliament, pp. 1 and 3.



arc being made to improve colonial living standards by, for ex­ ample, the introduction of new methods and equipment to raise the low level of production and by marketing schemes through which the colonial producer is assured o f a market for his pro­ duce at a fair price. On the success o f economic development depends, in the long run, the ability of the colonies to maintain and expand all the social services now being created or ex­ tended, in the fields of education, public health, housing and the conditions of labour. Social advance hinges on the success with which these new measures will encourage the colonial peoples to live together as one community, and here there are already hope­ ful signs in many different fields o f colonial life in that compe­ tence, rather than the principle o f representation by racial groups, is gradually becoming the decisive factor. Great emphasis has come to be laid on education as one of the most vital factors in colonial development. This is reflected in the many schemes for extending and improving primary, secondary, technical and advanced education. Although the enrolment o f children in primary schools shows, in all colonies, impressive increases on pre-1939 figures, primary education still offers an enormous field for qualitative and quantitative im­ provement and progress is slow and difficult. Where such educa­ tion is given in different schools according to racial groups, progress in building up an organic community may go against the natural wishes of the various races to preserve their own cultures; it is thought that there is greater immediate scope for common education at the higher levels, when the cultural habits o f entrants are stabilized and they have had time to acquire a common language. It is in this latter field that the most re­ markable recent achievements have taken place, in the in­ auguration o f university foundations in Nigeria, the Gold Coast, the West Indies and Malaya. Colonial universities and colleges are bodies whose autonomy is secured by law; it is noteworthy that although these institutions receive grants under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, it has been laid down that, in the interests o f academic freedom, such grants are to be kept as



free from detailed conditions as possible and do not involve ex­ ternal approval of their annual estimates; furthermore, in their respective constitutions, all the new foundations provide for effective representation o f the academic staff on their governing bodies and control of academic policy is vested in their respec­ tive senates or academic boards. The general progress of the colonies should not obscure the fact that advance is nearly always a complicated process, coloured by local personalities and local circumstances, ap­ plauded by some and criticized by others. In the more advanced colonies particularly, colonial leaders adopt a querulous tone which requires a more difficult act of comprehension by Britain than the old, sufficing attitude o f maternal benevolence. New consciousness o f their powers to organize and direct public opinion may lead colonial newspapers to abuse their licence, and young trade unions and political groups to put a premium on the irresponsible demagogue. Local circumstances them­ selves seldom permit of simple straightforward action as, for example, the existence of a white settler community in Kenya which must be taken into account in any scheme for the African or Indian population of that territory. Moreover, colonies can move backward as well as forward. Despite her sound political instincts, Britain makes mistakes in her colonial policy. Sometimes principles are sacrificed in the interests of expediency. The manner o f introducing a new scheme of government in Malaya after the reoccupation of that territory in 1945 was an error of judgment, in that it failed to reckon with local feelings; the constitution subsequently adopted was agreed upon after the fullest consultation of all sections o f the Malayan population and, while it retained the two essential features of the Colonial Office scheme and pro­ vided for greater unity and common citizenship, it had been altered and amended in accordance with local wishes. In the complicated issues raised in 1950 by the marriage o f Seretse Khama, chief designate of the Bamangwato tribe in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, principles of order and good government



were advanced by the British Government (in this case the Office of Commonwealth Relations) in support of their policy of banishment, and it was denied that this policy was in any way related to racial policy or South African pressure; the more justifiable argument, that of expediency, to strengthen the Government’s hand in the event of discussions on the whole future of the three Union Protectorates with the South African Government, was not advanced and, perhaps, could not be. Colonial policy is contingent and empirical, and there is a constant discrepancy, as in all practical affairs, between the ideally and practically possible. It is within these preordained limitations that colonial progress must be viewed. Progress lias not been, and is not being made in a simple march forward but by a march which, on the whole, leads in a forward direction: it has not always been distinguished by far-sighted statesman­ ship and a liberal disinterested spirit on the part of Britain, although these have been leading characteristics of British policy.




course of constitutional development in Ceylon from crown colony to Dominion is interesting since it demon­ strates the whole process of British colonial rule and shows exactly how the Home government yields up power and how the local government, in the more advanced stages, sets the pace. It shows a metropolitan government not unwilling but seeking to co-operate in the advancement o f colonial ambitions. The constitutional story of Ceylon repays detailed analysis for those who look for the mainsprings of colonial policy and also for the actual ways in which professed theoretical aims are translated into practical affairs. A few comments must suffice here. The framework o f final advance in Ceylon stretches from the granting of an unofficial majority in the legislative council in 1923 to the introduction of a unicameral semi-responsible sys­ tem under the Donoughmore Constitution in 1931 and thence to the attainment of fully responsible government, the last stages of which were the subject o f freely negotiated treaties with Britain, in 1948. The year 1923 may be said to mark the begin­ ning o f Ceylon’s agitation against orthodox crown colony rela­ tions; the inauguration of the Donoughmore Constitution, the dividing-line between crown colony rule and the constitutional system, somewhere intermediate between a colonial and dom­ inion form of government which characterized it until 1948. Under the Donoughmore Constitution, communal representa-


h e



tion was replaced by a democratic electorate with adult fran­ chise for both sexes. Legislative and executive authority were vested in a State Council o f fifty-eight members, fifty o f these being elected Ceylonese; on election, these members divided into executive committees, which dealt with the various admin­ istrative departments of the government; the committees, in their turn, elected chairmen who constituted the Board of Ministers. Through this committee system, based on the model of the London County Council, the Constitution aimed at giv­ ing the Ceylonese practical training and responsibility in the work o f government. Under his new instructions, the Governor retained his reserve powers but he was ‘no longer responsible for the administration of the island: his duty will be, first and foremost, to see that those on whom responsibility will now fall do not infringe the principles enumerated in the constitution for their guidance.’ In the years which followed, the Ceylonese steadily increased their participation in political authority, within this framework, and, in fact, though not yet in theory, Ceylon came nearer to a dominion form of government than it was to that of a colony. There were several interesting features about this transition. After 1931 the Colonial Office handed over a wide range of matters to local authority, and those who approached Whitehall or raised Ceylonese matters in Parliament were frequently told that such questions were no longer a matter for the imperial government but should be taken up in Ceylon with the govern­ ment there. The Colonial Office can instruct a colonial governor to use his official majority to put such and such a measure through his legislative council, but the Governor of Ceylon could not be so instructed. At the same time a new relationship, which was not centralization but a new kind o f joint responsibility, developed at the highest levels, between the Governor and the Secretary o f State. There was a large measure of common consent between the main parties involved in drawing up the new constitution which was to seal Ceylon’s full advent to self-government and those



who would consequently be responsible for carrying it out. Divergencies of view arose from time to time during these years, between the Colonial Oflicc and the Board of Ministers, and between the Sinhalese and the minority communities. More­ over, the attitude of the Colonial Office was sometimes com­ plicated by misunderstanding and uncertain handling of Ceylonese affairs, c.g. the misunderstanding with the Board of Ministers which arose over the interpretation of His Majesty’s Government’s Declaration of 1943. But the overriding impres­ sion is one of a large measure of common agreement and, from the Colonial Office, a desire to co-operate. As evidence of this, the parentage of the new constitution which Ceylon adopted in 1948 may be mentioned: the constitution arose out of successive schemes for reform put forward from different quarters, but all bearing a remarkable similarity, from the scheme put forward by the Governor in 1938, followed by that of the Board of Minis­ ters in 1944 and, finally, by that of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Soulbury in 1945. The attainment of full self government in 1948 was marked by good feeling. It did not end the British connection which, for a variety of reasons, continued to be valued.







Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) com­ prises sixteen individual republics united..under a central federal government, as laid down in a written_çj)nsti.tution. The iorm of government is quite new in structure and design. The republican, communist, federal system of to-day goes back only to 1917, when it succeeded the monarchical, auto­ cratic, unitary system whereby the old Russian Empire was governed by the Tsars. Two revolutions separate the old Russia from the new: the first in March 1917 when Tsarist rule collapsed and republican liberal democrats gained power, and the second eight months later when the latter were super­ seded by the communists under the leadership o f Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. The introduction of a communist system requires, by implication, a break with the past. This break, in the case of Russia, was doubly complete since the whole ram­ shackle apparatus of imperial government stood condemned: its inefficiency, corruptness and lack of contact with the people contributed to the collapse of the Tsarist régime and then ren­ dered ineffectual the attempts of the liberals. Any government of any complexion would have had to scrap it, if it wished to retain power. The new communist leaders brought to their task a wealth of Marxist revolutionary theory but little idea of how the work of reconstruction should begin once they had suc­ cessfully achieved power. The constitutionalism of the new


h e



Russia has, therefore, been an ad hoc affair, its principal archi­ tects being, successively, Lenin and Stalin. In an important respect, its development has been organic: the soviet or meeting of groups of industrial and other workers was an organ which grew up naturally and spontaneously for the discussion and pro­ motion of political reforms; it was already flourishing in the early years of the century, it played a lively part in 1905 and then later in 1917; with good sense and political acumen, the communists took the soviet, of village and town, of parish pump and workshop, as their basic unit of government and, on this foundation, devised and built their superstructure. Their fundamental problem in devising a constitutional scheme w'as to find ways which would allow scope to the clearly defined political entities which later became republics, to the two classes o f proletarian workers and peasants to which the class structure of society was, on communist principles, reduced, and finally to the individual subjects of nearly two hundred nationalities of which the population was compounded, without impairing the essential unity of a communist state. This unity was conceived, not as a short-term necessity, a prelude to the gradual dispersal of sovereignty, but as an end in itself. It has two essentials, one economic and the other political. Following Marx’s teaching, the Russian communists have always stressed the primacy of economics and from end to end o f the U.S.S.R. they have carried out an economic revolution, imposing a uniform pattern of public ownership by which the land and all the instruments and means of production are vested in the state, on behalf of the people. The second and equally omni­ present essential is the Communist Party, the one political party throughout the U.S.S.R., which is endowed with especial func­ tions and powers. Although the party is only mentioned once in the constitution (article 126), it is in theory, in the charter under which it was constituted, and in practice, the spearhead of executive and administrative authority: it is the driving power, which makes the machinery of government work; its policies_arg decided by its central committee in Moscow and from there 62


radiate to the farthermost parts of the Union. These two essen­ tials are axiomatic :TKey prescribe the limits of innovation, they are the presuppositions in any constitutional scheme which pro­ vides for territorial or individual independence. It is within their context that the constitution framed by the new rulers of Russia must be examined. The Part Played by the R.S.F.S.R. In the constitution-making of the U.S.S.R., Russia proper, which after 1917 became known as the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.) played a predominant part. It was the coreofthe new ofRussiaas, 400years earlier, Muscovy had been the core o f the old. The R.S.F.S.R. accounts for no less than 90 per cent of the total territory and more than 50 per cent of the total population of the U.S.S.R.; although the majority of its people are European, it includes, either scattered or concentrated in enclaves, large numbers of peoples of dif­ ferent races and nationalities. The federation of this huge repub­ lic after 1917 and the treatment of its nationality problems provided a model for the new Union o f Soviet Socialist Re­ publics. The 1936 Constitution The present constitution of the U.S.S.R. came into operation in 1936. It replaced the earlier federal constitution o f 1923. The two new main features of the 1936 constitution were firstly, the universal institution of direct elections by adult suffrage in local, state and federal government and secondly, the equaliza­ tion of rural and urban representation in order to remove the grievances o f the peasants against the hitherto more highly favoured proletariat. At the same time, Communist Party control over the conduct o f all elections was ensured by means of the institution o f a unified list o i candidates and by the provision o f only"onê candidâteUn each electoral ward. The constitution consists of 146 articles, which may be broadly grouped as follows. Articles 1 to 12 define the U.S.S.R. as a



socialist state of workers and peasants and outline its social and economic structure. Articles 13 to 29 define the political struc­ ture of the U.S.S.R. as a federal state, formed on the basis of a voluntary union o f equal Soviet Socialist Republics, and enum­ erate the extent and limits of powers as between the central federal government and the governments o f the Republics. Articles 30 to 56 define the legislative and executive organs of the federal government. The former is the Supreme Soviet and consists of two chambers with equal powers, namely the Soviet o f the Union, whose members are elected by all citizens, voting by election districts on the basis of one deputy for every 300,000 of the population, and the Soviet o f Nationalities, whose mem­ bers arc elected by all citizens voting by Union Republics or their constituent national areas, Autonomous Republics, Autonomous Regions and National Areas, on the basis o f an equal number of representatives for each of these categories, namely, in a descend­ ing scale, twenty-five, eleven, five, and one. In its turn, the Supreme Soviet elects the Presidium, the Head of the state. Articles 57 to 63 list the legislative and executive organs of the Union Republics. Adi have a unicameral legislature called the supreme soviet, elected by all citizens on a basis established by their separate constitutions, and a presidium. Articles 64 to 88 define the highest executive and administrative organs of federal and of state government. These are, in each case, a council o f ministers, elected by the respective supreme soviet and responsible to that body, except between sessions when the council is responsible to the respective presidium. Those minis­ tries of state which are organized on an all-Union basis and those which are organized on a Union-Republican basis, are listed, and the relations between all-Union and Union-Republi­ can ministries are defined. Articles 89 to 101 deal with the organs of local government. Articles 102 to 117 deal with the legal system. Justice is administered by federal and state Supreme Courts, by Special Courts established by decision of the federal Supreme Soviet, and by local People’s Courts. Supreme supervisory power to ensure the strict observance of the 64


law is vested in the Procurator-General of the U.S.S.R., ap­ pointed by the federal Supreme Soviet, and in his subordinate procurators at all lower levels of government throughout the Union, who are accountable only to the Procurator-Generah Articles 118 to 133 enumerate the rights and duties of citizens and, in some instances, the means of enforcing them. Articles 134 to 142 deal with the electoral system. Articles 143 to 145 describe the coat of arms, the flag, and the capital of thé U.S.S.R. Article 146 lays down the procedure for amending the constitution; such amendments require a two-thirds ma­ jority of both chambers in the federal Supreme Soviet. This is the constitutional framework. The amount of authority exercised within it, in theory and in practice, by an individual Union Republic will be examined in the following section with reference to the Central Asian Republics. A few general features o f the Union as a whole may be mentioned here. The Russian constitution has many similarities with federal constitutions in other parts of the world, both in its form and in its distribution o f powers as between federal and state organs of government. In addition it has certain peculiar features. It does not, like other constitutions, confine itself to political organiza­ tion, but also lays down the economic and social bases of society. The Russian constitution, like other constitutions, concerns it­ self with the rights of the individual but it differs from others in that it postulates certain different rights, as well as those which are generally accepted, and also specifically couples rights with duties, e.g. every citizen has both the right and duty to work (arts. 12 and 118). It is significant to find that the Russian con­ stitution is permeated by the same liberal principles as those advanced by western democratic states: the independence of the judiciary is asserted (art. 112); freedom of conscience and wor­ ship, and of speech, press, and assembly are proclaimed (arts. 124 and 125); the federation is defined as a voluntary union of equal Republics which, apart from the sphere of authority reserved to the federal government, exercise sovereign powers (arts. 13 and 15). It may be deduced, irrespective of their intere



pretation, that the framers o f the constitution regarded these things as prima facie desirable, as corresponding to certain prevalent human aspirations which, in any government scheme, must be taken into account. The Russian constitution, like that of the United States, makes provision for the admission of new republics into the U.S.S.R. by authority of the federal government (art. 14). There is no comparable statutory or conventional provision in the British Commonwealth. The framers of the Russian constitu­ tion, like the American founding fathers 150 years earlier, had an eye on expanding the territorial limits of their authority, whereas the Commonwealth statesmen who drew up the Statute o f Westminster were dealing with an empire already consoli­ dated. The area which the U.S.S.R. now covers is roughly that of the old Russian Empire of the Tsars. In the west, those terri­ tories which were lost after the first world war have been re­ gained and since 1940 have constituted five new republics within the Union (viz. the Karelo-Finnish, Moldavian, Eston­ ian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics). In the east, there has been large-scale new expansion of virtually colonial areas and the boundaries of the U.S.S.R. are more fluid. Whereas in the west only the former Tsarist regions have been directly incorporated in the Union and other spheres of influence, such as Poland, have been left outside it, in the east territory which was formerly nominally independent, like the small republic of Tannu Tuva, has been directly in­ corporated. How has the U.S.S.R., in the terms of her constitution, grappled with the imperialism and attempted to cut the claws of sovereignty? She has done it mainly by asserting the prin­ ciple of equality, economically, socially and politically, for all citizens throughout the Union. She has made no distinction between status and function. Theoretically, there is no differ­ ence between the R.S.F.S.R. with over 50 per cent of the total population, the Ukraine with over 20 per cent and Kirghizstan with i per cent. Theoretically, too, emphasis is placed on the 66


powers wielded by the Union republics and on the volun­ tary nature o f their association in the federal state, but here those clauses emphasizing liberty, whether o f individual or of republic, must be weighed against other clauses in the constitu­ tion which override them. Sometimes the clue to reality lies outside the constitution. For example, the right of every Repub­ lic freely to secede from the Union is laid down in article 17 and is given great prominence in Communist writings as the most complete proof of each Republic’s individual sovereignty, but this right, comprehensibly enough, is a purely academic con­ cession to anti-imperialist feeling. It is doubtful whether any federal state could base its structure on this negative principle. The southern states of America thought that they exercised this right implicitly and it took a civil war to disillusion them. No Republic has tried to leave the U.S.S.R. and there is no ground for supposing that it would, under any circumstances, be al­ lowed to do so. Moreover, the Communist Party is expressly enjoined to work against secession. Their treatment of secession is a good indication of what the Russians, in their government, are getting at. They show them­ selves acutely conscious, in their constitution, of the need to re­ move the stigma of imperialism and also of the need to find some place for the standards of liberal morality and its concomitant ideas of liberty. But much of this awareness, which findsitsexpression in many articles of the constitution, is no more than an aca­ demic concession in so far as it does not coincide with what they are really trying to do. Their aim is a unity which can permit not secession but a more limited dynamic, namely the progress from Autonomous Republic to Union Republic or the exten­ sion of the range of authority of each Union Republic in re­ lation to that of the federal government. The fundamental conception of the Russian Union is, there­ fore, quite'different from that of the British Commonwealth. Britain has aimed at liberty, which goes naturally with her fostering of self-government and diversity in her territories. Russia has aimed at equality, fundamentally material equality, 67


which goes naturally with unity and conformity. Britain’s starting-point has been the liberty of the individual, and from that she has gone on to the conception of t he state as responsible for economic and social welfare. Russia starts with the latter con­ cept and is, therefore, inimical to ideas of liberty as we under­ stand them. First things first. And this means for the Russians a stable communist state, with uniformity in the essentials, economic and social policy. There could hardly be a greater difference than that between the constitutionalism of the Commonwealth and the constitu­ tionalism of the U.S.S.R. In the latter there is none of that com­ promising spirit and reluctance to insist on logical results, which is the British heritage of long democratic, tolerant institu­ tions. There is none of that process whereby progress in fact outstrips progress in theory, as in the case of the Dominions’ development; in the U.S.S.R., theory precedes fact and the advanced status of Republic is conferred before a territory lias the functions fully to avail itself of it. There is none o f that supreme attachment to the individual in upholding his rights against the executive government; the Russians have never known liberty and they regard any increased activity by the state as the inevitable concomitant of stable governmental authority. In the use of force or persuasion as the imperial tool for carrying out policy, there is a different emphasis. In her relations with the Dominions, Britain relies entirely on persua­ sion and in her relations with the colonies, she prefers it, but force is in the background should it be necessary, so that action in the colonies is often an admixture of the two. To the Russians, force is never entirely superseded by persuasion and this applies equally to the Ukraine, which on the British analogy would count as the foremost Russian dominion, and the smallest Cen­ tral Asian republic, a colonial area; the federal government’s relations with the Ukraine Republic are governed by persuasion only in so far as the latter perfectly interprets its policy. It would be idle to pretend that any Republic in the U.S.S.R. has the sovereign powers of a British Dominion: that the Ukraine 68


for example, has independent authority comparable with that of Canada. The Ukraine has no power to alter the pattern of its government, or to remain neutral in time of war, or to leave the Union. The list of limitations can be extended, but there is no need to look further than articles 13 to 15 of the Russian consti­ tution and the definition o f Dominion status embodied in the Statute of Westminster (quoted above, page 20), to see the essen­ tial differences between the two. The Russians-wonld not be proud of the development of India to full self-government and the relinquishing of all imperial control. They do not aim at such independence. They aim at the greater development of each constituent part of their empire within and to the greater glory ofth e whole. ~~ ^That great problem for British imperial policy of finding ways of holding the Commonwealth together, does not apply to the U.S.S.R. now or potentially in the future. There the problem still is, and must remain, the one of allowing greater autonomy to its constituent parts within an essentially unified framework. Viewed in this light, Russian imperial policy in the last resort is a positive policy, while British imperial policy in the last resort is a negative policy. A Possible System of World Government In the U.S.S.R. the established communist system of govern­ ment is regarded as the pattern o f future world government. This conviction is the foundation of communist philosophy and it provides the key to much. The Russian Communist Party is, in essence, a militant organization which regards a world prole­ tarian revolution as not only desirable, but inevitable. Capital­ ism will destroy itself in a series of ever more bitter imperialist wars, and from capitalism mankind will pass to the interim stage o f socialism, that is, to ‘ the common ownership of the means of production and the distribution o f products according to the work performed by each’, and thence to communism with its maxim, ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according



to his needs’ . 1 The Russian Communist Party is dedicated to ‘strengthen and extend the union o f the toilers of the whole world— the Communist International’ .12 The International, a worldwide organization of all communist parties in which the Russian Com m unis^artylis the strongest member predomin­ ates, lias been, after a brief eclipse in 1943, revived as the Coininform. This international goal of communism has been frequently obscured by the tactics the Russian communist leaders have seen fit to pursue. Since the late nineteen-twenties, the open advocation of world revolution has been superseded by a policy of concentrating on the strengthening o f the U.S.S.R. as the ‘home base’ of the revolution, a policy which has been described by Stalin as that o f‘Socialism in one country’ . Nevertheless, the Soviet rulers have never lost sight of the ultimate goal o f world communism. It is their belief in the historical mission of the U.S.S.R. in assisting the progress o f humanity to its Marxian utopia which gives the Russian communists their complete selfconfidence, rejecting the possibility of doubt as to the merits or demerits of their actions, and which feeds the great positive appeal of the system in many other lands. It is this which ex­ plains the highly tactical approach of orthodox Russian com­ munists to co-operation o f any kind with the outside capitalist world; as one example, the U.S.S.R. has played little part in the promotion and espousal o f international conventions to raise the living standards of colonial peoples, but should she subscribe to any one of them, her action would be interpreted by communists everywhere as a temporary gesture required by present circumstances, pending the advent of a world com­ munist system. Though in practice affairs of state are handled by the Russians with the same motives of security to their own interests and with the same realism and compromise, as are those of any other 1 See the official History o f the Communist Party o f the Soviet Union, edited by a Commission o f the Central Committee o f the C.P.S.U .(B ) (1938), p. 170. 2 Stalin’s speech at the Second Congress of Soviets o f the U .S.S.R . in 1924, ibid., p. 247. 70


Power, it is their underlying international philosophy which gives rise to the greatest conjecture in the outside world, in calculations o f the perhaps incalculable connection between this philosophy and future Russian action.







Character and Long-Term Aims

of Russian colonial policy will be limited to the five Central Asian Union Republics, the Uzbek S.S.R., the Kazakh S.S.R., the Turkmen S.S.R., the Tadzhi S.S.R. and the Kirghiz S.S.R. There are, however, other large areas of the U.S.S.R. which may equally be regarded as colonial, notably the Far Eastern Territory, within the R.S.F.S.R. The latter territory would repay attention, since it demonstrates the Soviet policy of settlement in remote, strategic and potentially wealthy regions; the spearhead of these pioneer­ ing colonizers consists of communist enthusiasts from European Russia, and it would be interesting to compare their impact on the indigenous peoples of the region and the methods they have employed with those of say, the British settlers in Kenya, or the political temper of Komsomolsk, the new City of Soviet Youth, with that of Nairobi. The absence of reliable statistics and the refusal of the Soviet authorities to grant outside ob­ servers access to these regions unfortunately makes any such comparison impossible. All the colonial areas of the U.S.S.R. have one important feature in common. They are very thinly peopled. The greatest concentration of population is found in European Russia and, although some progress has been made towards redressing the balance, there are immense, infertile regions in Asiatic Russia 72


o n sid e r a t io n


still practically unpopulated, save for the imported populations of the new Soviet industrial centres and the traditional settle­ ments along the railways: within the 578,000 square kilometres of the Ukraine live over forty million people, and within the 3,974,000 square kilometres o f all the five Central Asian Repub­ lics live less than seventeen million people.1 Although the U.S.S.R. is a land of nearly two hundred different nationalities or distinct ethnic groups, most of these groups constitute a very tiny proportion o f the total population; in the 1939 census, 179 out of the total of 189 such groups accounted for only 9 per cent of the total population while Russians had an absolute majority and accounted for 58 per cent o f the total.2 The U.S.S.R. has certain localized problems of over-population, for example the existing amount of cultivable land in Central Asia is thickly occupied, but she has none of the general problems o f over­ population common in British colonies. In the West Indies, in the African colonies, in Malaya, a teeming population which is rapidly increasing through improved health and living ameni­ ties, presents pressing problems. In the Central Asian Repub­ lics the problem is how to get enough people on the spot to carry through the pre-determined plan of industrial and agricultural development. To remedy the deficit of population, Russian and Ukrainian labour power is imported and this, in turn, leads to the Russification of the Central Asian Republics. The fact that the U.S.S.R. has no limitless resources of native manpower to draw upon, comparable with those of, say, India or South Africa or Nigeria, also has its advantages. It greatly simplifies racial issues. The large preponderance of Europeans over Asiatics in the U.S.S.R. as a whole makes the communist solution of the racial question much simpler than it otherwise would be. Men o f all races and colours throughout 1 A t the last census in 1939, population figures for the Ukraine and the Central Asian Republics were 40,525,221 and 16,626,760 respectively. 2 I n 1939 the ten leading groups and the percentage o f the total popula­ tion which they represented w'ere: Russian 58-41; Ukrainian 16-56, Belo­ russian 3-11, U zbek 2-86, T artar 2-54, Kazakh 1-83, Jewish 1-78, Azerbaijan 1-34, Georgian 1-33 and Armenian 1-27.



the Union can be made citizens with equal rights in all respects without the European population having to fear that they will be ousted and outnumbered. Here arc none of the intractable problems which face any government in that other Union, South Africa, where there are eight Africans to every European member of the population. The Soviet Government inherited the colonial empire of the Tsars, together with a legacy o f policies against which it re­ acted and which it rejected wholesale. Although the Russian conquest of Siberia and the move towards the Pacific sea-board go back to the end of the sixteenth century, it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that the Tsars, in one of their periodic withdrawals from European commitments, which was ever the signal for their renewed expansionist activity in the East, turned their attention to Central Asia and con­ quered the three ancient Moslem Khanates of Turkestan, namely Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand. Turkestan was the land of Tamer­ lane legends; its peoples were o f Turkic and Iranian stock and lived by agriculture, either nomadic or of different settled types; in Samarkand, with its mosques and colleges, it possess­ ed one of the great world centres o f Moslem culture. Under Russian suzerainty, the region consisted of the military province of Turkestan ruled by a governor-general and two semi-feudal principalities, the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva. The Russians went to Central Asia to draw upon its valuable primary products, particularly cotton, rather than to settle in the region as they had done in other parts of the empire, more climatically favourable. They suppressed slave-trading but otherwise interfered very little. The indigenous people were ruled indirectly and all the traditional framework of their society, organized round their chiefs, was left intact. In law, they continued to settle their affairs according to tribal custom, with the exception of capital offences which came under Rus­ sian law. In religion, they met with no hindrance and the population continued to be almost solidly Moslem. The Tsars left the peoples of Central Asia alone; they did not interfere with



traditional ways but neither did they proffer assistance, and the people continued to be illiterate and economically backward. This state of happy stagnancy came to an end with the ad­ vent of a communist régime in 1917. The arduous task o f turn­ ing these primitive tribal peoples into active communist citizens, of transforming their ways o f life by the introduction of collec­ tivized, mechanized, agricultural methods and of industrializa­ tion, requiring not only the import o f plant but also o f industrial workers, was pressed through by methods which took no cog­ nizance of the national peculiarities of the peoples concerned and often at a pace more suited to the requirements of military than o f economic development. The results, if Soviet propa­ ganda is to be believed, have been notable, in literacy, in local cultural life, and in material output. Here again, however, the Soviet government’s practice of sealing off these areas from out­ side observers leaves us with very little indication of what real progress has been made, or of the cost in human suffering by which this metamorphosis has been achieved, particularly the suffering occasioned by the drastic policy pursued in the settle­ ment of the Central Asian nomads. Like young crusaders, picked bands o f communists were despatcncHTrom' M oscow to spread the gospel among the Mos­ lem , pastoral, pa triarchral'~Cômmütiitiés of Central Asia. The instructions given by Stalin to these emissariëTarë^typical of the discrepancy between Soviet practice and the carefully edited pronouncements of the central authorities. For example, Stalin charged thecommunist missionaries bothtotread carefully,to es­ chew the ‘dominant-power spirit, the colonizing spirit, the spirit of Great-Russian chauvinism’ and also, on the other hand, to beware not to ‘exaggerate the importance of national peculiari­ ties in Party work, leave the class interests of the toilers in the background, or else simply identify the interests of the toilers of the given nation with the “ general national” interests o f that nation, failing to pick out the former from the latter and to base their Party work on them’ . 1 1 Stalin, op. cit., p. 97.



This is the classic caution which, mutatis mutandis, is applicable to any colonizing power. Behind it is the idea o f striking a balance between imposing the policies of the mother country on colonial peoples on the one hand, and exalting local traditions too highly to permit o f the progress which the mother country conceives herself responsible to undertake on the other. But it takes time and experience to weed out the bad and conserve the good and any attempt to ignore this can only succeed by treading rough-shod on all dissenting local opinion and by destroying alike those established virile local institutions and those which have outlived their present purposes. Down went the framework of indirect rule through mullahs, khans and emirs in Central Asia and up went the framework of federal republics in its stead; away went the nomadic and peasant systems o f agri­ culture and in came the collective farms; down came the Moslem faith and culture from their pre-eminence to a lowlier place, where they were tolerated but found all the weight of the new secular faith against them1; Samarkand gave way to Tashkent, the new economic and cultural centre, with its agricultural machine-building plant, its cotton and silk mills and its Central Asiatic State University. ‘Marxism and the National and Colonial Question’: the Communist Approach to Colonial Problems The general approach of communists to the problems of Central Asia and the political framework into which its peoples were to be fitted were worked out by Stalin, who preoccupied himself with this subject for several years. The collection o f his essays and speeches between 1913 and 1934, entitled ‘Marxism and the National and Colonial Question’ , is studied throughout the Union and is the leading exposition oTcommunist colonial ^_policyTINothing could better demonstrate the great gulf between the Western democratic approach to colonial problems as exemplified by British policy and the Soviet approach. The reader of these essays finds himself at once in an alien land where 1 See A rticle 124 of the Constitution and Stalin, op. cit., pp. 52-3.



concrete issues are lost in an involved whirl of polemic, where the familiar liberal signposts appear, only to prove on closer inspection unrecognizable, and where, by tortuous argument, every step must be shown to be firmly planted on the narrowly demarcated highway o f Marxist-Leninist doctrine. There is nothing like this in all British authoritative writing on the British colonies, where emphasis is on the concrete case rather than the abstract principle, reasoning proceeds from the par­ ticular to the universal rather than vice versa, and there is an aversion to, and ineptitude for, propaganda. There is almost a temptation to say that if Soviet Russia is pursuing a cogent colonial policy she is doing so in despite o f doctrine, while if Britain is pursuing a cogent colonial policy, she is doing so in despite of her lack o f it. Stalin has much of value to say in these essays but, given a free hand, how- much more he could havesaid. In the long arguments he advances to disprove the national programmes of the Austrian school, headed by Springer and Bauer and supported in Russia by the Bund and the Mensheviks, and to prove the correctness o f his own alternative programme, or in his complicated sifting of permissible deviations from orthodox communist doctrine from those which are not permissible, as when he proves that Marx’s dicta about Poland in the middle of the nineteenth century were right while an opposite course of action advanced fifty years later was equally right,1 it is difficult not to wish that facts were more freely mingled with all this theory. When an underlying note of realism intrudes, as when he warns students o f the University o f Toilers of the East against over-simplification of their tasks, against attempts ‘mechanically to transplant models of economic development which are quite comprehensible and practicable in the centre of the Soviet Union, but which are absolutely inapplicable to the conditions of development o f what are known as the border regions’, or when he warns them against failing to understand both that conditions in the centre and the border regions are not the same and far from being 1 Stalin, op. cit., p. 21.



identical, and also that the Soviet Republics of the East them­ selves are not all alike and are at different stages o f develop­ ment,1 one can only wish that lie had gone on to enlarge upon and give concrete illustrations of these points. He is constrained at every turn by the need to prove that communist policy is the only right policy and is, moreover, right on Marxist-Leninist principles; on this historic basis, he is concerned to erect a com­ plete system o f thought on colonial policy, armed with an answer to imperialism at every point, as Marx erected his great struc­ ture to meet the assaults of nineteenth-century capitalism. Two important aspects o f Stalin’s essays may be mentioned here, his treatment of the national question and of the training of communist leaders for work in the colonies of other imperial Powers. The Soviet Government inherited a rising tide of nationalism in its territories, in Central Asia and elsewhere, and Stalin’s concern is how to remove all reasonable source of nationalist grievance within a communist state. He does this by empha­ sizing the difference between a nation and a state. He defines the former as ‘a historically evolved, stable community of lan­ guage, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture’ .2 He goes on to identify national liberation movements with the epoch of rising capi­ talism and to regard them, primarily, as struggles of the bour­ geoisie. The fate of national movements is connected with the fate of the bourgeoisie and the collapse of the former depends upon the collapse o f the latter; with the attainment of com­ munism, the phenomenon of nationhood will be outmoded. To meet the transient needs of national feeling within the Union, he postulates the right of each nation to self-determination, to arrange its life as it pleases on the basis of autonomy, and to join or secede from the federation. At the same time, the claims of nationalism are subordinate to the claims of the class struggle, whose whole course is contrary to national autonomy. Thus, although nations have the right to return to their old ways, the 1 ibid., p. 213. 2 ibid., p. 8.


task of the Communist Party is to work against this and to up­ hold the interests o f the proletariat against the differing interests o f the various classes of which a nation consists: ‘Nations have the right to preserve any of their national institutions, whether beneficial or pernicious . . . but that does not mean that [the Party] will not combat and agitate against the pernicious institutions of nations. On the contrary, it is the duty o f [the Party] to conduct such agitation and to endeavour to influence the will of nations so that the nations may arrange their affairs in the way that will best suit the interests of the proletariat.51 Stalin’s differentiation of the nation from the state is not new, but it is a valuable distinction in that it does permit o f indi­ genous cultural life in a wider political organization. The extent to which the new Soviet Government was prepared to make con­ cessions to national feeling was clearly demonstrated by its opposition to the national and therefore bourgeois movement for a United Turkestan, and its suppression of the Basmaschi revolt led by Enver Pasha in 1922. The same approach to nationalism as something not sacro­ sanct, but to be tamed and rendered innocuous, figures largely in Stalin’s discourse to the students of the Communist Univer­ sity of the Toilers of the East in Moscow, when he dilates upon the tasks facing non-Russian students when they return to their homelands, which are still under the imperialist yoke.2 One of the main lines of the University’s activity is to train such students as ‘cadrescompetent to minister to the revolutionary needs of thetoiling masses7~Ih the colonies and~dependent countries of th^East’ ." In these non-Russian territories, the colonial peoples are under a double yoke, the internal yoke of their own bour­ geoisie and the external yoke of the foreign imperialist bour­ geoisie. The immediate tactics of returning students vary with the actual state of affairs in each territory, but they are en­ joined always to identify themselves with the local proletariat 1 ibid., p . 53.

2 ibid., p. 214-20.


3 ibid., p. 207.


and, if need be, with the local bourgeoisie, if the national move­ ment is a strong one; for their task is, first to throw off the yoke of external imperialism by supporting nationalism and second, when this has been achieved, to dislodge the nationalist leaders and replace them by communist leaders. In Central Asia, new boundaries were drawn primarily on economic lines, that is, racial and religious differences of the component national groups were taken into consideration, mainly when they coincided with some clear distinction of economic activity. Within the new Union Republics, sub-divi­ sions were made where there were large concentrations of any particular national minority, under the title of autonomous republic, autonomous region or national area. The Black Kirg­ hiz, a mountaineering people south of the Aral Sea, differed from the nomad Kirghiz-Kazakhs of the plains to the East; the nomad Turkmens differed from the cotton-growing Uzbeks and the latter, in their turn, were of Turkic stock and so differed from the Tadzhiks who, while they pursued the same forms of agriculture, were of Iranian stock. Turkmenistan was sep­ arated from Uzbekistan and, within the latter, the Black Kirghiz were formed into the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Republic; two completely new territories were carved out of the old Khanates o f Bukhara and Kokand, namely Tadzhikstan and Kirghizia; and the nomad Kirghiz-Kazakhs were formed into the large territory of Kazakhstan. The five new main regions were given, within a few years, the status of Union Republics. Imperial Strategy The interests of imperial strategy have played their part in the development of Central Asia. In the nineteenth century the whole dynamic of Tsarist Russia’s expansion in the Far East and Central Asia, was the imperial quest for natural frontiers. T hejruijding o f the Trans-Siberian railway, started in 1885, aimed at linking the European Russian homeland with her farthermost outposts on the PacifitTand was a political event of the highest importance.JThe existence of this track right across 80


Asia deeply affected the relations between the Great Powers and, in the East, emancipated the land power of’ Russia from the sea power o f Britain. Imperial economic considerations motivated the Soviet Government in their construction of the Central Asian railway system, linking up these lands with European Russia, Siberia and the Caspian and converging on Tashkent. While the Soviet Government has developed the Far Eastern Territory directly as a self-sufficient military area, with a large permanent Red Army base and numerous fortifications, and the Urals and Central Siberia for indirect security purposes, as industrial bases to take some of the off-load from the old-established regions of European Russia, the Central Asian Republics are being de­ veloped as sources of tropical crops, cotton and non-ferrous metals, for the benefit of all-Union economy. The products of Central Asia are complementary to the wheat, coal and heavy metallurgical industries of European Russia and the Ukraine. Notable progress has been made in the production of cotton, which is now increasingly milled locally, and in mining. Eight industries have been developed and heavy metallurgy is starting as a productive industry, although output is small and not yet sufficent for local needs. This economic development has had repercussionson the traditional patternsof Asiatic life. For example, the building of completely new towns peopled by imported workers in formerly rural areas, and the increase of the urban population at a far greater rate than the rural population, can­ not fail to have raised acute social problems; one such town is Karaganda, the coal-mining centre in the midst o f the steppe desert of Kazakhstan, which did not exist in 1926 and thirteen years later had a population of 166,000. The pace of economic development in Central Asia has been set by the interests of the centre rather than those of the peoples most nearly involved at the periphery. The latter have in some cases benefited and in others suffered from it, but they have had no choice in the matter. Apart from the immediate economic needs of the Union, the F 81


Central Asian peoples are subject to the highly tactical approach of the federal government to colonial problems. Thus, after nine years under the New Economic Policy, when they were allowed to some extent, to carry on private trade and continue with their accustomed methods of agriculture, they were suddenly in 192930 subjected to a complete reversal of policy when industry, such as it was at that time, was completely nationalized and agriculture, with far more profound effects, was almost entirely collectivized. Such a volte-face could be carried through with the complete support o f the Communist Party, although they would have roundly condemned it as ‘imperialist exploitation’ had it been undertaken by any other Power.


The Supreme Soviet is the all-Union parliament and it con­ sists o f two Houses of equal powers. Q^e of these, the Soviet of the Union, Js_selec ted~ on~the -same, principles as the British House of Commons, that is, it is elected in proportion to the population by electoral districts or constituencies. T he Soviet member represents, however, a far larger number of constituents than his British counterpart, namely 300,000 as against 55,000. The second House, the Soviet of Nationalities, is elected on the same principle as the American Senate and is designed to represent each Republic equally, regardless o f pop illation. It is intended to represent, at the highest level, the specifically national interests of the population. The Central Asian Repub­ lics elect their representatives like the rest; for example,Uzbekis­ tan, the most thickly peopled, with a population of approxi­ mately six million sends some twenty members to the Soviet of the Union and twenty-five members to the Soviet of Nationali­ ties, and Kara-Kalpak, an autonomous republic within Uzbekis­ tan, also sends eleven representatives to the latter House. The Supreme^Soviet does not, like the British Parliament, meet frequently: it is usually in session twice a year, each time for less than a week.„Work is carried on between sessions by a~ 02



joint standing committee, the Presidium, elected by both Houses. Although the Supreme Soviet is- theoretically the ‘ highest organ of state power’ and exercises exclusive legislative authority (arts. 30 and 32 of the constitution), in practice far greater power resides in the Presidium. The latter consists of a chairman, sixteen vice-chairmen (one for each Republic), fifteen other members and a secretary. Theoretically its deci­ sions or decrees (ukazes) must be ratified by the Supreme Soviet in order to become law, but in practice it legislates without hindrance, even amending the constitution, and its decisions are always ratified, sometimes after long intervals and usually with­ out discussion, by the Supreme Soviet.1 would be impossible for the Supreme Soviet to challenge an act of the Presidium on thegrounds that it was ultra vires since the Presidium is also endowed with judicial functions; it is the interpreter of the constitution and can annul any ministerial or administrative order if it considers that such an order does not conform to the law. The Presidium can appoint or dismiss ministers and it can call for the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet. It also discharges other functions comparable with those discharged by the King, as Head of the state. The Supreme Soviet and its Presidium legislate for the Central Asian Republics over an extremely wide field in theory, and a wider one in practice. Their all-Union jurisdiction is defined in article 14, and it embraces all the essentials o f authority, not only in the relations of the Republics with the outside world and with each other, but also in (he internal affairs of each Repub­ lic, in the fundamentals of its economic and social life. For ex­ ample, the basic principles of education and family life are within its competence. So, also, is finance. The Supreme Soviet levies taxes and draws revenues from the Central Asian Repub­ lics and decides how they shall be apportioned between Union, Republic and local budgets; it holds the purse-strings tightly, for example in 1946 the all-Union budget amounted to 320,000 1 A . N ove, Some Aspects o f Soviet Constitutional Theory, The Modern Law Review (January 1949), p. 17.



million roubles while that of all the sixteen Republics put to­ gether amounted to no more than 63,000 million roubles. There is no parallel to this financial integration in the British Common­ wealth; Britain has, until recently, expected her colonics to pay their own way but she does not levy any taxes upon them. In­ deed the legislative pattern of the U.S.S.R. and her constituent colonial Republics is far from any British parallel. For the Central Asian Republics, the laws passed in Moscow by the Supreme Soviet, and even more, the decrees of the Presidium, arc the focal point both in details and in general outlines, while for the British colonies the outline of general legislation may be looked for in Parliamentary proceedings, but the great bulk of legislation must be sought in the statute book o f each colony. The limited part played in the British Parliament by those with business interests in the colonies has no parallel under the sys­ tem of complete public ownership in the U.S.S.R. Nevertheless, the economic life of each of the five Central Asian Republics is settled at the centre, in the Supreme Soviet, to a very high degree by all those who are concerned with the determination and bringing into effect of the national-economic plans. The Supreme Soviet legislates for the Union as a whole and it treats the affairs of the five Central Asian Republics as part of that whole. While the tiny minority of members who repre­ sent these Republics in both Houses can chip in and state their case, they must conform to the great majority and think, first and foremost, in Union terms. The underlying assumption is that, although local conditions vary, in all essentials all the Republics have the same basic interests. This assumption itself makes for centralization or for what Lenin described as ‘.demo­ cratic centralism*, which has been applied equally to thg struc­ ture o f the governjil.enlof the U.S.S.R. and to that of its hand­ maid, the Communist Party. One extraordinary feature of the proceedings of the Supreme Soviet is the unbroken, complete unanimity of both Houses in all their decisions. Neither House has yet recorded a majority and a minority vote, on even the most unimportant issues. This 84


unanimity renders certain provisions of the constitution prac­ ticable and others superfluous. The two Houses have equal formal powers, but no government scheme yet has been able to work on this basis and power has, perforce, accrued to one or the other; frequent deadlock between the two Houses in the U.S.S.R. would be doubly likely owing to the great differences in their composition, were it not for their practice of voting alike. This practice, in turn, has made superfluous the complicated proce­ dure outlined in article 47 in the event of their disagreement. Policies are discussed, the work of government departments is criticized, and bills are introduced and passed by both Houses. But criticism which ranges freely over the management of affairs and small points of execution, never touches policy itself and, even on minor points, critics never go so far as to record their dissent by an adverse vote. There is thus no opposition as Western democratic states know it. No member of the Supreme Soviet can freely ventilate colonial grievances and formally register his disapproval o f government action as the British member of parliament can. Nor does any Soviet minister have to stand up and defend his policy, as the Secretary of State for the Colonies must do in the House of Commons, where adverse votes or abstentions are for him a sounding-board of public opinion and may lead him to make important changes of policy. The All-Union Communist Party The unanimity of the Supreme Soviet is a natural result of one-party rule, although there is no reason to suppose that such rule need necessarily be pushed to such lengths of concordance as it is, in practice, in the U.S.S.R. The Communist Party has adhered to its old principle o f a small active membership bound by rigid discipline. It therefore follows that not all members of the Supreme Soviet are members of the party, although such non-members are equally elected on the party ticket, since this support is the sine qua non of election. The organization o f the party is o f cardinal importance in the relationship of Union to Republican government, for the party is organized not, as might 85


be expected, on a federal basis but on a unitary basis: it is the All-Union Communist Party. Its hierarchical structure stretches from the inner Politburo appointed by its Central Committee in Moscow, at the apex, down to the party committees of Repub­ lic, krai, oblast and okrug. In this one-party system, the key to the actual autonomous rights enjoyed by each Republic lies in the authority allowed to local party organizations in relation to the centre. In article 71 of the charter which lays down the party’s organization and functions, it is decreed, in respect of all subordinate party groups, that ‘in all questions the groups must be guided strictly and un­ swervingly by the decisions of the leading Party organs’ . Article 72 goes on to declare that ‘ the preservation of Party unity, the merciless struggle with the slightest efforts at double-dealing, at fractional strife or at causing a split, and the observance of Party and state discipline, all form the very first obligation of all members of the Party and all Party organizations’ . The charter goes on to list the measures of punishment for violation of party discipline. This centralization is enhanced by the fact that, although in the charter much is made of the democratic quality of the party’s organization and its supreme organ is de­ clared to be the All-Union Congress of the Party, in practice all effective power resides with the Politburo and the Central Com­ mittee, the position of whose members in no wise depends on the reactions of the rank and file to their policy. In spite of statutory provisions for the convening of an All-Union Congress not less than once every three years (article 29), no such Con­ gress has been held since March 1939. Therefore, even theoretic­ ally, the rank and file have had no opportunity of expressing their views on party policy since that time. The party is demo­ cratic only in the purely formal sense that all its officers, at every level, are elected, although not directly; in reality it is autocratic, in army fashion, in the sense that it demands un­ questioning obedience to higher authority, and in that its officers are actually nominated by the leading organs. The party is defined in the constitution (article 126) as ‘the



leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state’ . The whole Soviet system and constitution rest on this leading rôle of the party. The party controls the selection and training of personnel in all fields of administration and no major decisions of federal or state government are taken without its prior instructions. Any pronouncement of its Central Committee has, for practical purposes, the force of law. There is, therefore, no question in the case of the Supreme Soviet comparable to that which arises in the case of the British Parliament, o f ensuring continuity of colonial policy within a two-party system. In the Supreme Soviet the direction of colonial policy is shaped by the higher organs of the Communist Party, and continuity is subject to the incalculable shifts of high policy of the Politbureau. Central Asian affairs are controlled both locally and in Moscow by one highly centralized party. The Republics are encouraged in their political life, to build thriv­ ing, active party cells. The great problem for them is, and must remain, how to get adequate ventilation and redress for their grievances without these being stifled either as wrongful devia~ tions from the party line, or as conflicting with the overriding general interests of the Union. When one thinks of the differ­ ences of outlook which must be bridged in the British Empire between views taken of the same problems at Westminster and in the colonies and how frequently, despite all the advantages of free expression in speech and press, the two get out of step, one can only guess at the magnitude of discords between Moscow and Central Asia which are given no airing in the care­ fully controlled proceedings of the Supreme Soviet.I.


There is no single executive department of state in the U.S.S.R. which embraces all the affairs of the Central Asian Republics, like the Colonial Office under its Secretary of State in Britain. Instead there are thirty-six all-Union ministries, all



dealing with different aspects of economic life (they are listed in article 77 of the constitution). Each ministry' directs the branch of administration entrusted to it, throughout the U.S.S.R. In addition, other key ministries in Moscow have certain powers over the corresponding ministries assigned to each Republic under the constitution. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the Supreme Soviet or, between sessions, by the Presidium and is responsible to them: any instructions it issues must be based on laws or decrees of these bodies. The Council consists of a chairman, eleven vicechairmen, the heads of the ministries, and the Chairmen of the State Planning Commission and the Arts Committee. In all, it is a body of about seventy strong. It is probable that, in view of this unwieldy size, the vice-chairmen control groups of ministries and act as a kind of inner cabinet. The Council works in very closely with the Presidium.1 The doctrine o f ministerial responsibility is not so completely followed as in Britain. In the U.S.S.R. each all-Union minister has under him a council to whom he must refer all important matters; this council is appointed, not by the minister, but by the Council of Ministers and, in the event of disagreement, it has the right to appeal to the latter. Both the Council of Ministers and individual ministries are intimately linked with the Communist Party. The chairman and vice-chairmen of the Council are members of the Politburo, and many of the Council’s more important executive acts are issued as the joint work of the Council and the Party’s Central Committee. In addition the administrative staff of each ministry has its core of party workers. Commissions of Inquiry The Supreme Soviet has authority, under the constitution, to appoint commissions of investigation whenever these may seem to be required, and it ‘is the duty o f all institutions and officials (o comply with the demands of such commissions and to sub1 ibid., p. 29,



mit to them all necessary materials and documents’ (art. 51). There is no constitutional provision to ensure that the reports of such commissions shall, like their British counterparts, be made public. Nor is their membership comparable. The whole value of the British commission of inquiry lies in the fact that it is composed o f independent people who are prepared to analyse and recommend action in a given situation, on the merits of the case and without fear of the adverse criticism of government policy which this may entail; it is their task to dis­ cover, to the best of their ability, whether something is rotten in the colonial empire and to suggest how it may be put right. The membership o f Soviet commissions is more circum­ scribed. Members are either members of the Communist Party or have the approval of the party. Moreover, in their investiga­ tions they cannot disregard the dictates of the party; they must see in any difficult situation in Central Asia what the party wants them to see, and their findings must similarly conform to party principles. Even though their reports are not made public but are restricted to the higher organs o f the central government, it is difficult to see how, within these limitations, any local situation can be honestly analysed in a necessarily biased, partial account. Apart from such commissions, the Soviet government machine has special internal methods of investigating local conditions, through the powers o f inspection and checking with which several of its ministries are endowed. The Ministries of State Control, State Security, Internal Affairs (which covers the secret police), Finance, Transport, and the economic planning authorities, are examples. Thus a trade union dispute or a re­ fusal to participate in collective farming or be directed to work in one of the new industries or a political outbreak, by a group o f Uzbeks or Turkmens, might well be treated as an internal government matter, and be investigated and subjected to dis­ ciplinary action by one or other of these ministries. Lenin’s postulate that the Communist Party must be selfcritical and keep its ear attuned to the voice of the toiling masses, 89


has been reaffirmed by Stalin and by the party itself, in its charter. Soviet government, like any other system o f govern­ ment, has need o f criticism no less in its colonial territories than elsewhere, but it cuts itself off'from this life-giving source by its practice o f identifying criticism too often with high treason. This lack of strength and confidence of the Soviet government ren­ ders unlikely any private, far less any public, report on Central Asia like that of, say, the West Indies Royal Commission of 1938; so that not only the outside world but also, to some extent, the government in Moscow itself, donning the magic cap o f Perseus indicated by M arx,1 are in the dark as to the true state of affairs in Soviet colonial territories.


Each of the five Republics has an apparatus of state govern­ ment in conformity with that of the other eleven Republics in the Union. It consists of a presidium, a council of ministers and a supreme soviet. ofjwHich the equivalents in each British colony are, respectively, the governor, executive council and legislative council. Each Republic has its own written constitution, adopted by its supreme soviet and drawn up in full conformity with the constitution of the U.S.S.R. Smaller national areas called autonomous republics have, in their turn, written constitu­ tions drawn up in conformity with those of the Union Republic of which they form parts, and arc endowed with their own miniature presidium, council of ministers and supreme soviet. There is only one autonomous republic in Central Asia, the Kara-Kalpak, in Uzbekistan. The Presidium The presidium of each of the five Union Republics is elected, constituted and accountable to its respective state organs of 1 See above, pp. 38-9.



government as is, in its larger sphere, the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. There is, however, a difference in that the presidium of each Republic has two masters, its own supreme soviet and the Presidium o f the U.S.S.R., and also in that it exercises a strictly limited range o f authority, which will be dealt with below in the section on the supreme soviets of the Republics, which are similarly circumscribed. The Council of Ministers Executive and administrative power in each Republic is vested in a council o f ministers on the same pattern as the Council o f Ministers of the U.S.S.R. The council of ministers of each Republic has collective responsibility both to its own supreme soviet and to the Council of Ministers o f the U.S.S.R. Every ministry in a Republic is either all-Union or UnionRepublican according to a list set out in articles 77 and 78 of the constitution. I f a ministry is all-Union like, for example, the Ministry of Railways, or Labour Reserves or Agricultural Stocks, then it operates in a Republic either as a branch office or through its own appointed body, directly responsible to its head office in Moscow, and in no way responsible to the local Republican government. If, on the other hand, a ministry is Union-Republican, it has its own local minister, and he is re­ sponsible not only to the local supreme soviet but also to the corresponding federal ministry o f the U.S.S.R. in Moscow (article 69). This principle of dual subordination weakens the Republics’ authority as reflected by the number and kind of Union-Repub­ lican ministries. There are twenty-two of these ministries listed, of which thirteen are economic. The rest include subjects which, if the Republics enjoyed responsible government, would be of key importance in their autonomous development: they are the Ministries o f Internal Affairs, Armed Forces, Higher Education, State Control, State Security, Public Health, Foreign Affairs, Finance and justice. All these ministries are, to an extent which varies according to their importance for the Union, under the 9i


control of Moscow. For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs over which, together with the Ministry of State Security, per­ haps the closest central control is exercised, deals with the secret police and corrective labour camps in each Republic, but it is in no way accountable to them, being directly subordinate to the Ministry in Moscow. The Ministry' of Armed Forces has hardly more latitude since local Republican formations of troops fall within the highly unified organization of the Red Army. The basic principles of education and public health fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal Government under article 14. So, in greater detail, do foreign affairs. The Minister of Finance in a Republic is responsible for drawing up the state budget, but the latter must be approved at the centre. The Minister of Justice is dwarfed by the Procurator of the Republic; the latter is charged with ‘supreme supervisory power to ensure the strict observance of the law by all ministries and institutions sub­ ordinated to them, as well as by officials and citizens’ (art. 113), served by subordinate procurators in every city and rural area and, ‘independently of any local organs whatsoever’ (art. 117), is responsible solely to the Procurator-General of the U.S.S.R. It is not in Union-Republican ministries of this type that the authority of each Republic in managing its own affairs must be sought, but rather among the economic ministries, in those deal­ ing with consumer goods, whose local ministers exercise a good deal of independent authority and liberty o f action. The Supreme Soviet In each Republic the supreme legislative power is vested, under the Constitution, in a directly elected supreme soviet, which resembles the Supreme Soviet o f the U .S.S.R. It is elected for four years and, on election, proceeds to elect its council of ministers and presidium, the latter being entrusted with its work when the supreme soviet itself is not sitting. The supreme soviet of a Republic, however, is a uni-cameral legisla­ ture, elected on a population basis like the Soviet of the Union. There is no second chamber like the Soviet o f Nationalities, the 92


reason for this being, perhaps, the desire not to let the weight given to national groupings go too far lest it impair the unity of the Soviet State. It may well be that nationalist feeling among the different ethnic groups in Central Asia would be vented more strongly and with greater splintering effects in a second chamber of nationalities in their own, immediate Republican government, than it is by the small band of isolated delegates in remote Moscow. The supreme soviet of a Republic consists, like its great pro­ totype, of party and non-party members. This twofold com­ position does not imply a division between government spokes­ men and an unofficial opposition. For non-party members re­ quire the approval of the party to be elected. The party organ­ izes a bloc of communists and the non-party masses, which puts forward joint candidates on the basis of one candidate for each electoral ward. Non-party candidates outside this bloc have no chance of election. In all Soviet elections the voter has, in effect, only one candidate to elect, the alternative being to waste his vote. In the 1937 elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., 96-8 per cent of the electorate went to the polls and of these 98-6 per cent voted for the bloc; only 632,000 voters or less than 1 per cent voted against the bloc and they failed to gain one seat.1 It is the same in the supreme soviets of the Republics; proceedings are similarly marked by a great amount of discus­ sion followed by unanimity in voting, on the lines more of the committees than of the legislatures of Western democratic states; once a decision is reached, its correctness and inevitability on Marxist principles are expounded by members and by all the organs o f publicity. The field of legislation covered by the supreme soviet o f a Republic is limited by those subjects which are laid down in article 14 of the constitution as falling within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Apart from these specified limitations, all residuary powers arc exercised by the Republics. In any federal scheme the allotment of residuary powers is im1 History o f the Communist Partyy pp. 32 1-3. 93


portant since it usually results in the growth o f authority of the holder, whether this be federal or state government, in rela­ tion to the other. In the Soviet scheme, however, the range of authority of the Republic’s supreme soviet is narrowed owing to the fact that the list o f central powers is not only very exten­ sive but is vaguely phrased, allowing for wide latitude in interpre­ tation. It should also be noted that while article 15 declares that the Republic’s supreme soviet exercises sovereign legislative authority in regard to all residuary subjects, article 76 states that Union-Republican ministers ‘administer directly only a definite and limited number of enterprises according to a list confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U .S.S.R.’ . This means that the supreme soviet of a Republic cannot appoint its own ministers to deal with all residuary subjects, but can only appoint certain ministers to deal with those branches of public administration which have been assigned by the federal govern­ ment. The peoples of Central Asia arc encouraged to play their part in this political scheme. Many of their representatives both in the organs of state and of federal government are colonials rather than Russians. In the governments of the Republics par­ ticularly, the indigenous people figure largely in legislative and executive positions. The ministers in all the Central Asian Republics are usually colonials and sometimes include a wo­ man minister. The amount of authority thus entrusted to colonial leaders is, however, limited by the overriding control of the central committee of the Communist Party and by the special authority exercised, in practice, by the deputy ministers, who are nearly always Russians. Colonial political leaders who have been thought to exercise too much independent authority and local prestige have suffered heavy penalties. Among the many Central Asiatic leaders who were purged in the nineteenthirties, perhaps the best known are Faizulla Khodjayev, chair­ man of the Council o f People’s Commissars (now the Council o f Ministers) in Uzbekistan and Ikramov, first secretary o f the Uzbek Communist Party.



The Civil Service Most of the civil service in the Republics is recruited locally. It has been proclaimed part of Soviet policy to train local entrants and fit them for senior administrative positions, re­ placing personnel recruited in European Russia. Key personnel in those branches of state which deal with matters linked with high policy or security— both of which are interpreted very widely in the Soviet system— continue to be imported from the centre, partly from the lack of suitable local candidates and also, partly, from conscious design. Apart from the Central Asiatic State University, one of whose principal functions is to train local personnel, numerous technical and other educational institutions have been set up-in Central Asia under the Soviets. Here the future colonial administrator is given his practical training and also taught the communist approach to colonial problems; later, when he enters the civil service, his education is continued by the omnipresent nucleus of party members. Imperial Control in Practice Imperial control over Central Asia, through the apparatus of federal government and of the Communist Party, is positive in character and operation. It differs in many respects from the parallel control exercised by Britain over her colonies. Whereas the British system works by the device of reserved powers and allows an almost unlimited field to the local colonial legislature, the Soviet system circumscribes the scope o f the Republic’s leg­ islature and exercises control through counter-checks. In the British system, the governor holds the balance between the Secretary of State and the local legislature and, beneath him, all the trappings of colonial government are purely local in allegiance. In the Soviet system, on the other hand, there is dual subordination at all levels, in the presidium, the council of ministers, each ministry, and in the supreme soviet. It is as if the executive council in the Gold Coast were responsible to the British Cabinet, or the departments of agriculture or labour


th e

s o v ie t


affairs in Nigeria were responsible to the Ministry of Agricul­ ture and the Ministry of Labour in Whitehall, or Mr. Senanayake in Ceylon and Mr. Bustamante in Jamaica were responsible to Mr. Attlee. This practice of dual subordination makes for cen­ tralization. It confuses the apparent distribution of power, instead of placing responsibility fairly and squarely on the shoulders where it, in fact, rests. Tn the supreme soviet of a Republic there is no metamor­ phosis from irresponsible to responsible self-government like that in the legislative council of a British colony. The supreme soviet is not essentially an organ of change, except in so far as its membership alters, as more members of colonial stock be­ come fitted and are encouraged to stand in place of candidates of European-Russian origin. There is no process of advance from representative to respon­ sible government and thence to full self-government. There is a peculiar type of representative government and limited auth­ ority and there is a clear way ahead for the Central Asian peoples to play an increasing part in this scheme, within the limits set by the federal government and according to the dic­ tates of the Communist Party. The Soviet leaders claim that it is a great triumph of their rule that it docs draw a considerable part of the population of Central Asia into active political life. It is, however, difficult to find any evidence of what might rea­ sonably be described as free political activity in Soviet Central Asia— as, indeed, elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Neither in the governments of the Republics, where one looks for autonomy in relation to the centre and fails to find it, nor in the organs of local government which nourish them from below, is there any indication that local initiative and local feelings can obtain an uninhibited hearing. The Soviets of Working People’s Deputies, elected in the manner described above, carry out their work in all thedivisions, large and small, into which the Republics are divided and are found in every town and hamlet; at all levels, they are equallydominated and controlled by theorgansof the Communist Party, which implement the ‘ Party Line’ determined in Moscow.



The Colonial Electorate The Soviet Government is concerned to make communist citi­ zens out of the peoples o f Central Asia. As in the British colonies, the great obstacle to progress lies in the fact that these peoples are plural societies or, in Soviet terminology, of many nation­ alities and lacking a larger corporate sense. But there is a dif­ ference in emphasis. Whereas British policy regards this as the fundamental sociological problem, Soviet policy regards it as a subordinate question. Stalin defines its position clearly when he says: ‘ It is not the national, but the agrarian question that will decide the fate o f progress in Russia.’ J And again: ‘Proletarian in content and national in form— such is the universal human culture towards which socialism is march­ ing-’ 2 Soviet rule has made concessions to plural societies in that, where uniform racial groups are found together in considerable num­ bers, they are given special representation in the Soviet of Nationalities in Moscow, rather like communal representation, and their territorial boundaries are marked out. All races, whether concentrated territorially or intermingled, can use their own languages and are drawn into the system on equal terms, since there is no racial discrimination. Beyond these bounds local peculiarities are given short shrift, as the group of Uzbek nationalist ‘deviators’ , led by Faizulla Khodjaycv, found at the Twelfdi Party Congress in 1923,’ and as their successors would find to-day. In Central Asia religion is often a more powerful factor than race and presents sharper issues to Soviet rule. For as races divide, so the Moslem religion unifies the whole region and its 3 Stalin, op. cit., p. 25. 2 ibid., p. 210. 3 History of the Communist Party, pp. 241-2. Cl



tenets are diametrically opposed to the secular communist faith. Soviet rule could not afford to make concessions to such a chal­ lenger, and although men may attend the mosques they may not be missionaries and not only anti-religious propaganda but the whole weight of the state is thrown against them. Soviet propaganda claims immense progress in the field of popular education. Officially, universal seven-year education is in force throughout the Union. In fact, the remoter areas of the country have only comparatively recently implemented the government’s programme for universal four-year education. Thus in Central Asia, the great majority of the population get only four-year education. Such education is free, while in the higher levels, which include anything above seven-year educa­ tion, fees are charged. Moslem schools were previously the centres of instruction in these territories. They have been entirely closed down and their teachers have been sent into exile. In Central Asia, as in the rest of the U.S.S.R., there is highly cen­ tralized government and party control o f education and the type of instruction given is of a stereotyped pattern, calculated to produce citizens who will be entirely obedient to the country’s rulers. To-day, the Moslem Turki-speaking citizen of Samarkand leads a busy political life. He is constantly voting for one thing or another. He votes for his representative in the Soviet of the Union and for the twenty-five representatives of Uzbekistan in the Soviet of Nationalities (ifhe lived in Kara-Kalpak he would also vote for eleven representatives of that Autonomous Repub­ lic in the latter chamber). He votes for his representative in the Uzbek Supreme Soviet, and for another in the Samarkand City Soviet. If he is an industrial worker he votes for his trade union committee, while if he were an agricultural worker he would vote for the committee of his collective farm. I f this citi­ zen seeks a political career, he must seek to become a member of the Communist Party, by submitting himself to a year’s pro­ bation to ‘acquaint himself with the programme, charter and tactics o f the party, and to enable the party organization to



check the candidate’s personal qualities’ . 1 I f his ambitions are limited then he may aim only at becoming one oi'the non-party candidates who, at these elections, are put forward by groups of citizens, o f farm and factory, with the full support of the party. In either case, he must abandon his Moslem faith. Members of the party are not allowed to belong to any church and they weightily disapprove of those who do. During his schooling at one of the many new educational institutions he will have al­ ready been subjected to a barrage of Marxist propaganda in all his text-books and he will have received no religious instruction; later, in his social life, again new and varied, he will have attended plays and festivals, devised in his own language, preaching the new ways and scorning the old religion and cul­ ture of his forebears. The way to political advancement is open to him as it never was under the Tsars, but it is open on terms which, although they are applied equally, could hardly be more comprehensive and exacting. V. LEGAL SYSTEM IN CENTRAL ASIA

The Marxist View of Law The communist attitude towards the law and the place which the latter occupies in the constitutional scheme differ from Western democratic conceptions. Engels held that both law and the state would ‘wither away’ under communism, and many Marxist theorists have propounded the incompatibility of the rule of law with a communist system. According to them, the law was part of the coercive apparatus of the capitalist state, one of the many tools by which the ruling class imposed its behaviour and interests upon the rest o f the population, and they denied the possibility o f any ideas of abstract justice as the basis of laws. During the first twenty years o f communist rule, this attitude was prevalent in the U.S.S.R. and there were many who re­ garded both the state and the law as tainted by their connections 1 T h e Charter of the Communist Party, clause 13. C*




with bourgeois capitalist systems and as purely temporary phenomena in the Union. Then there occurred a most interest­ ing change of front, a gradual return to legalism, which was ushered in by the new constitution in 1936 and has since con­ tinued. The chief exponent of this new outlook was Stalin, who declared that the state and all its trappings would not ‘wither away’ by being weakened but by being strengthened to the greatest extent possible, for only by such strength would the millennium of perfect communism be reached. In the dictator­ ship of the proletariat, it is argued, the interests of the state and those of the people are one and the same: Soviet law' expresses the will of the people and the overwhelming power of the state is guarantor for the interests of each one of them. This thesis, with its implication that the law is the instrument of executive power, may be contrasted with that o f English law, which seeks to up­ hold the interests of the individual against the encroachments of the executive. It enables the U.S.S.R. to assert that her laws do not reflect sectional interests as do the laws of all capitalist states. While leading British jurists like Dicey have long been aware o f the relativity of law involved in its necessary connec­ tion with the changing face o f the society to which it ministers, they have always stressed its larger, unchanging impartiality and independence due, in large measure, to its exalted position in the state. Soviet jurists deny the sanctity of the law and the existence of any independent moral values in legal judgments. Instead, they openly direct justice to political ends and this conscious intention must be borne in mind in any consideration of the independence o f Soviet judges, laid down in article 112 of the constitution. The return to legalism in Soviet Russia was desirable and necessary in order to regulate the vast economic planning and stabilize the new structure of society. But it had one great time-wasting result. As communist writers on other aspects of changing Soviet life had already done, so now the lawyers bent their skill, in long and circuitous argument, to the barren task o f reconciling the new policy with earlier communist teachings 100


and proving that it was, in fact, the correct interpretation of Marx’s texts. A Unified Legal System There is a unified legal system which operates throughout the U.S.S.R. Mohammedan law and custom, which continued to regulate life in Central Asia under the Tsars, were gradually invalidated by the Soviet authorities and the system which now operates in these regions is the same as that in European Russia. Law is, therefore, yet another powerful unifying factor in the federal scheme. The fundamental law o f the land is the All-Union Constitu­ tion and the highest judicial organ, the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R., is charged with its interpretation (art. 104). In dis­ charging this function, the Supreme Court is, however, sub­ ordinate to the Presidium of the U.S.S.R., w hich has overriding authority to interpret the constitution and the laws (art. 49). The Supreme Court is also the High Court of the U.S.S.R. and stands at the top of the hierarchy of Republic Supreme Courts, regional courts, and courts of the first instance. The litigant in Central Asia may appeal from a decision of the lowest local court or People’s Court and take his case right up through this hierarchy to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is divided into five sections, civil, criminal, military, and rail and water transport, which, among other things, hear appeals from the Special Courts. The latter are established by decision of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. (art. 102), and are outside the regular courts of the land. Several ministries have their own special courts. Special transport courts have the responsibility of enforcing labour discipline. The Ministry o f Internal Affairs (M.V.D.) and the Ministry o f State Security (M.G.B.) jointly exercise the powers ofthe old N .K. V.D. or secret police, and they have authority to make arbitrary arrests and give sentences ofimprisonment, according to a special code of rules; they act as judicial investigators in all political cases and, as a result of their preliminary investigations, they 101


may decide either to let an accused person stand for trial and be sentenced by the ordinary courts, or they may try him in their own special courts and, if guilty, commit him to a period of exile or confinement in a corrective labour camp. These two ministries have their special courts functioning at different levels throughout the Union. The highest such court consists of the Minister o f Internal Affairs, his leading officials and the Procuror-General, of whom the Procuror has the right to appeal against the court’s decision to the Council of Ministers.1 The Procuror-General of the U.S.S.R. has five articles of the constitution devoted to his functions. He is not only the public prosecutor but also the guardian of legality in the system and he must see that strict observance of the law, by officials and private citizens alike, is enforced on correct communist principles. He stands, designedly, outside the federal, elective scheme. His subordinates of different ranks throughout the Central Asian Republics are responsible only to him. The Rights of the Subject It is axiomatic that the rights of the individual citizen will be less in a communist system than they are in the British, indi­ vidualist, democratic system. This follows not only from the corporate social philosophy of communism but from the public ownership of all the means of production and distribution. Cases which, in a British colony under capitalism, are a ques­ tion of the mutual relations between two individuals, become in Central Asia a question o f the relations between one individual and a public authority, e.g. a cotton-milling trust or a collec­ tive farm, or between one public authority and another. Such cases can no longer be settled impartially by the law as a matter of the private rights o f individuals, but must be settled in refer­ ence to the far more serious question of the rights of the state. Private law becomes public law. The citizen has certain rights against the executive power of 1 N ove, op. cit., p. 32. 102


the state. He has a very limited right of appeal to the courts, which is mainly restricted to financial matters, e.g. his refusal to pay fines to a municipal authority or taxes. There is no separate system of administrative law, and such action is taken to the ordinary courts. In addition the citizen may bring actions against economic undertakings, which are treated as legal entities, in the ordinary courts. With the exception of the latter, the normal channel for pleas against the state is, however, not the courts but the administration. Here the citizen exercises his right of complaint or, in English terminology, he is provided with a remedy against infringements on his rights. He may lodge his complaint either with the head of that department of the ministry against which he seeks redress, or with his local Pro­ curer, or with the local office of the Ministry of State Control. The complaint must be investigated in a given period and, if he is not satisfied, the citizen may make further representations to the immediate superiors in any of these offices. The chance of his case being estimated on its merits by these adjudicators depends on whether or not it has attracted the attention o f the party and been subject to one of its decisions. The restricted scope of the citizen in this field may be contrasted with the dia­ metrically opposite conception in English law, whose whole development centres round protection of the individual against the arbitrary power of the executive. Applied to their colonial empires, the contrast illuminates the fundamental differences in the constitutional practices of these two Powers. There are fifteen articles in the constitution specifically de­ voted to the rights and duties o f the individual citizen. His duties are to the Soviet state and they are set out in some detail (see articles 130-3 and, also, elsewhere in the constitution, e.g. article 12). His rights are of two kinds. The first kind deals with the obligations of society to the citizen: he or she has the right to work, to rest, to maintenance in sickness and old age, to education and to equality of treatment in all spheres irrespective of sex, nationality or race (arts. 118-23). Only one o f these, the right of racial equality, is enforceable by law, that is, there is a 103


legal remedy against its infringement; it is defined in article 123 in the following terms: ‘ Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, government, cultural, political and other public activity, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, con­ versely, the establishment o f any direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy o f racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and con­ tempt, is punishable by law.’ The other rights are ensured by the policy of the Soviet state, e.g. the right to work is ensured by the organization of economic life, and the right to rest by the regulation of working hours, the institution of holidays with pay and the provision of rest-homes and clubs; the right to education is ensured by the system of universal, compulsory education and by the various ancillary schemes of instruction for young and old. These rights have been described as more like opportunities than usual civil rights. Their incorporation in the constitution is a distinctive feature of the Soviet system and they are im­ portant both in theory and in practice. Their appeal to back­ ward peoples, both in Central Asia and other colonial areas out­ side the Union, should not be underrated .This appeal,couched in simple, positive terms in the fundamental law of the U.S.S.R., can be whittled down, term by term, by the daily, practical exigencies of Soviet life, and its distinctive quality can be lessened simply by looking beyond the Union at British home and colonial social policy or that of other Western states, but nevertheless it remains an appeal which cannot be discounted. The second kind of individual rights is a different matter. This kind deals with the familiar and dearly-held liberal rights which were seen earlier to have played so great a part in British rule, at home and overseas. Under the constitution, the Soviet citizen is ensured freedom of worship, o f speech, press, assembly and demonstration; he is guaranteed the right to unite in public 104


organizations of all kinds; his person and home are declared inviolable except by legal sanction and the privacy o f his cor­ respondence is protected by law (arts. 124-8). These are the rights which have had least influence on the constitutional development of the U.S.S.R. and which, in many instances, have amounted to little more than the lip-service paid to them in the constitution. They can be taken one by one and docu­ mented to show how, in every aspect of Soviet life, in any issue involving a choice between upholding one of these rights and state or party interests, it is the former which has been sacrificed and how this denial has conditioned the most grievous limita­ tions in the system to-day. These liberal, civil rights may be considered in several con­ texts. First, in the constitution itself. Everyone has the right to join organizations of all kinds, trade unions, co-operatives, youth clubs, cultural societies, etc., but it is stipulated that the Communist Party must be the leading core of each o f these and that it must be the only political party (art. 126). Freedom of speech, press and assembly are ensured, not by legal provisions comparable with the English laws of sedition, blasphemy, in­ decency, libel and trespass, but by the constitutional provision that printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings and streets be put at the disposal of ‘the toilers and their organiza­ tions’ (art. 125). This provision is, however, rendered meaning­ less by the opening words of article 125, which state that these material adjuncts to the rights in question are guaranteed ‘in accordance with the interests of the toilers and with the aim of strengthening the socialist regime of the citizens of the U .S.S.R.’. In other words, no citizen wishing to express views not aimed at ‘strengthening the socialist regime of the U .S.S.R.’ will be allowed access to ‘ printing presses, newsprint, public buildings, streets, means of communication and other material necessi­ ties’ . Second, in the Civil Code. The first article of the code states that ‘civil rights are protected by law unless they are exercised in a sense contrary to the economic and social pur­ poses for which they have been established’. Here these rights 105


are put in their proper position in the Soviet scheme. Third, in the Criminal Code and all the rules giving special powers to the various security organs, outside the regular courts. Here, the inviolability of person and property are most nearly affected and the way is opened for arbitrary arrest for treason, espionage, sabotage and political offences, each of these being very widely interpreted and political offences most widely, frequently, and severely of all. VI. CONCLUSION

The constitutional structure of the Central Asian dependen­ cies allows for their development within the strict limitations imposed by the Soviet state and the Communist Party, which are both intrinsic and of their own making. The political growth of these Republics is always in the direction of greater unity, of closer identification with the whole U .S.S.R. Both Britain and the U.S.S.R. are ‘decolonizing’ Powers in the sense that they do not seek to keep their colonial peoples in subjection. Britain aims at teaching her colonies to stand on their own feet and govern themselves, while the U.S.S.R. aims at bringing her peoples in Central Asia up to the level of those in the more politically advanced Republics in European Russia, so that they can play a greater part in the Soviet state. Both imperial Powers have exported to their colonies the guiding principles and political and legal patterns by which they rule at home. Both have acted according to their own very different lights and it may be that their constitutionalism is, in each case, to some extent temperamentally congruous with the national character. The policies of both are, in actual working, contingent and empirical, but the policy of the Soviet Union suffers from the disadvantage that she cannot admit this. She must always assert that her policy is the one right policy and is also correct on Marxist-Leninist principles. The bewildering distortions which this involves serve to emphasize, as an inestim­ able strength and blessing, the ability of those who frame British 106


policy both to admit imperfection and to concede that they may have been wrong. The differences between the colonial systems o f the two Powers have been revealed at all levels throughout these chap­ ters. It is not only that each is trying to do different things in the colonies. When comparable issues arc presented, there is a difference in degree, as in the readiness to resort to administra­ tive expediency when the regular constitutional or legal pro­ cedure presents obstacles. There are, throughout, differences in emphasis; those considerations in determining policy which Britain ranks of supreme importance, are relegated by the U.S.S.R. to second or even lower place, and vice versa; the rights of the individual and the attention given to local colonial authority in relation to central metropolitan control are examples. Where both are agreed on the importance of such matters as the promotion of the educational, social and eco­ nomic advance o f their colonial peoples, there are deep dif­ ferences of approach and treatment, and also of intention. Britain’s greatest contribution to colonial rule is political, the export and adaptation o f her highly perfected democratic art in the government of men by themselves, and by this achievement the British Empire will be judged long after its formal unity has gone. Soviet Russia’s greatest contribution to colonial rule is not political but economic; she has given a new time scheme to the process of raising the material, economic life of colonial people. Yet her achievements in industrialization, in the mech­ anization of agriculture and in the provision of schools within a generation in Central Asia, while they provide a spur to laggard colonial Powers, have only been made possible at the cost of ignoring or overriding other considerations of the indigenous peoples. The U.S.S.R. has an apparatus o f government suitable for sustained imperialist activity. One of the most highly developed tools in its armoury is propaganda, which adjures the colonial peoples o f other empires to throw off their shackles and estab­ lish a communist system. Such propaganda battens on poverty 107


and political stagnation for it appeals to the oppressed colonial as a way out and a hope for the future. Communism is one of the most powerfully evocative words in the world today and it has an anarchic attraction, whether or not the system it signifies is in the least comprehended. Democracy has no comparable battle-cry, although it is believed in no less profoundly and its strength is the greater, in that it tempers optimism in its own purposes with the habit of sceptical inquiry.


The British Commonwealth and the

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INDEX .Africa. 43, 45, 48, 73 Africa, Central, 12, 45 Africa, East, 12, 27-8, 36, 45, 48 Africa, South, 20-2, 46, 55, 73-4 Africa, West, 12, 27, 52 Amos, M aurice, 17, 19 Attlee, Clem ent, 96 Australia, 20 Bauer, 77 Bechuanaland, 54 Brierly, J . L ., 17 Bukhara, 74, 80 Burma, 21 Bustamante, 96 Canada, 20-2, 69 Central Asia, 12, 35, 65, 68, 72 pas­ sim Ceylon, 21, 28, 44, 46, 51-2, 56-8,

Egypt, 27 Eire, 20-1 Engels, 99 Enver Pasha, 79 Estonia, 66 Far Eastern Territory, 72, 81 French Empire, n - 1 2 , 22, 35 Gibraltar, 27 Gold Coast, 52-3, 96 Grifhths, James, 50 Hancock, W. K ., 17 H e wart, 19 Ikram ov, 94 India, 20-1, 23, 69, 73

Cominform, 70 Communist Party, British, 34-5 Communist Party, Russian, 14, 6263, 67, 69-70, 79, 82, 84-90, 93" 9 > io 3 > 105-6 Conservative Party, 31-3, 37 Crom well, 18 Cyprus, 48

K ara-K alp ak, 80, 82, 90, 98 Karaganda, 81 Karelo-Finnish S.S.R ., 66 Kazakhstan, 12, 72-3, 80-1 K eith, A . B., 17, 41-2, 49 K enya, 27, 54, 72 K h iva, 74 K hodjaycv, 94, 97 Kirghizstan, 12, 66, 72, 80 Kokand, 74, 80 Komsomolsk, 72

Dawson, R . M ., 17 D icey, A . V ., 19, 49, 100 Donoughmore, 44, 46, 56-7 D utch Empire, n , 35

Labour Party, 30-4, 37 Latvia, 66 Lenin, 6 1-2, 77-8, 84, 89, 106 Lithuania, 66


“ 3


M alaya, 27, 33, 43, 45, 48, 53-4, 73 M alta, 27, 49 M arx, K arl, 11, 17, 38-9, 62, 77-8, 9°, 101 Marxist, 13, 61, 70, 77-8, 93, 99IO O , IO G

Mauritius, 48 Mensheviks, 77 M oldavia, 66

Seychelles, 48 Siberia, 74, 80-1 Sierra Leone, 50, 52 Sin K iang, 12 Soulbury, 58 Springer, 77 Stalin, Joseph, 13, 6 1-2, 70, 75-80, 90, 97, 100 Tadzhikstan, 12, 72, 80 Tanganyika, 49 Tannu T uva, 66 Tashkent, 76, 81 Trotsky, 61 Turkestan, 74, 79 Turkmenistan, 12, 72, 80, 89

Nairobi, 72 Newfoundland, 20-1 N ew Zealand, 20 Nigeria, 12, 48, 52-3, 73, 96 Northern Rhodesia, 51 Nove, A ., 83, 88, 102 Pakistan, 20 Perham, M ., 26 Poland, 66

Uganda, 50 Ukraine, 66, 68-9, 73, 81 U nited States, 18, 22, 66-7, 82 Uzbekistan, 12, 72-3, 80, 82, 8 9 -9 0 .9 4 .9 7 -8

R .S.F .S .R ., 12, 63, 66 Samarkand, 74, 76, 98 Senanayake, 96 Seretse Kham a, 54-5

West Indies, 32-3, 36, 41, 43-4, 48,

52- 3. 73. 9°. 96 W ight, M ., 26, 28, 39-40