Persia and China
By Frederick Engels
This is an extract from a newspaper report written in London, May 22, 1857 and published in the New York Daily Tribune on June 5, 1857. It happens to cast light on the thinking of the victims of imperialist terrorism who give their oppressors a taste of their own medicine. Were Engels alive in London at the time of the recent subway and bus bombing he could have written a report such as this one.
…There is evidently a different spirit among the Chinese now to what they showed in the war of 1840 to 1842. Then, the people were quiet; they left the Emperor’s soldiers to fight the invaders, and submitted after a defeat with Eastern fatalism to the power of the enemy. But now, at least in the southern provinces, to which the contest has so far been confined, the mass of the people take an active, nay, a fanatical part in the struggle against the foreigners.
They poison the bread of the European community at Hongkong by wholesale, and with the coolest premeditation. (A few loaves have been sent to Liebig for examination. He found large quantities of arsenic pervading all parts of them, showing that it had already been worked into the dough. The dose, however, was so strong that it must have acted as an emetic, and thereby counteracted the effects of the poison.)
They [Chinese coolies] go with hidden arms on board trading steamers, and, when on the journey, massacre the crew and European passengers and seize the boat. They kidnap and kill every foreigner within their reach. The very coolies emigrating to foreign countries rise in mutiny, and as if by concert, on board every emigrant ship, and fight for its possession, and, rather than surrender, go down to the bottom with it, or perish in its flames.
Even out of China, the Chinese colonists, the most submissive and meek of subjects hitherto, conspire and suddenly rise in nightly insurrection, as at Sarawak; or, as at Singapore, are held down by main force and vigilance only. The piratical policy of the British Government has caused this universal outbreak of all Chinese against all foreigners, and marked it as a war of extermination.
What is an army to do against a people resorting to such means of warfare? Where, how far, is it to penetrate into the enemy’s country, how to maintain itself there? Civilization-mongers who throw hot shell on a defenseless city and add rape to murder, may call the system cowardly, barbarous, atrocious; but what matters it to the Chinese if it be only successful? Since the British treat them as barbarians, they cannot deny to them the full benefit of their barbarism. If their kidnappings, surprises, midnight massacres are what we call cowardly, the civilization-mongers should not forget that according to their own showing they could not stand against European means of destruction with their ordinary means of warfare.
In short, instead of moralizing on the horrible atrocities of the Chinese, as the chivalrous English press does, we had better recognize that this is a war pro aris et focis, [“for altars and hearths”] a popular war for the maintenance of Chinese nationality, with all its overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism if you like, but yet a popular war. And in a popular war the means used by the insurgent nation cannot be measured by the commonly recognized rules of regular warfare, nor by any other abstract standard, but by the degree of civilization only attained by that insurgent nation.
In Marx, Engels, On Colonialism, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974,pp. 123-124.