Dominique Meeùs
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The British Rule in India

Karl Marx, « The British Rule in India » (London, Friday, June 10, 1853), New-York Daily Tribune, no 3804, samedi 25 juin 1853.

Mots-clefs : ❦ travaux publics, irrigation par un pouvoir central en Orient

There have been in Asia, generally, from immemorial times, but three departments of Government ; that of Finance, or the plunder of the interior ; that of War, or the plunder of the exterior ; and, finally, the department of Public Works. Climate and territorial conditions, especially the vast tracts of desert, extending from the Sahara, through Arabia, Persia, India, and Tartary, to the most elevated Asiatic highlands, constituted artificial irrigation by canals and water-works the basis of Oriental agriculture. As in Egypt and India, inundations are used for fertilizing the soil in Mesopotamia, Persia, &c. ; advantage is taken of a high level for feeding irrigative canals. This prime necessity of an economical and common use of water, which, in the Occident, drove private enterprise to voluntary association, as in Flanders and Italy, necessitated, in the Orient where civilization was too low and the territorial extent too vast to call into life voluntary association, the interference of the centralizing power of Government. Hence an economical function devolved upon all Asiatic Governments, the function of providing public works. This artificial fertilization of the soil, dependent on a Central Government, and immediately decaying with the neglect of irrigation and drainage, explains the otherwise strange fact that we now find whole territories barren and desert that were once brilliantly cultivated, as Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in Yemen, and large provinces of Egypt, Persia, and Hindustan ; it also explains how a single war of devastation has been able to depopulate a country for centuries, and to strip it of all its civilization.

Now, the British in East India accepted from their predecessors the department of finance and of war, but they have neglected entirely that of public works. Hence the deterioration of an agriculture which is not capable of being conducted on the British principle of free competition, of laissez-faire and laissez-aller.

MECW, vol. 12, p. 127.

Il continue en montrant comment cette destruction de l’agriculture n’est rien encore à côté de la destruction économique (et sociale).