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An Anti-Fascist Commonwealth: 'If its so easy, Blair, then you do it!'

Joshuapooleanox

electoral asbestos
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Eric Blair, or George Orwell was known for many works, specifically often '1984' and 'Animal Farm' amongst most political commentators, but also 'Homage to Catalonia' for many Anarchists. However, something he's less well known for is his writing on what he wished for the British Empire. He seems to have been conflicted with his views regarding the British Empire, publishing 'Shooting an Elephant' with pretty clear themes of anti-Imperialism, but then there is his other writings in his essays:

"To a Labour government in power, three imperial policies would have been open."​
"One was to continue administering the Empire exactly as before, which meant dropping all pretensions to Socialism."​
"Another was to set the subject peoples 'free', which meant in practice handing them over to Japan, Italy and other predatory powers, and incidentally causing a catastrophic drop in the British standard of living."​
"The third was to develop a positive imperial policy, and aim at transforming the Empire into a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics. But the Labour Party's history and background made this impossible. It was a party of the trade unions, hopelessly parochial in outlook, with little interest in imperial affairs and no contacts among the men who actually held the Empire together. It would have had to hand the administration of India and Africa and the whole job of imperial defence to men drawn from a different class and traditionally hostile to Socialism. Overshadowing everything was the doubt whether a Labour government which meant business could make itself obeyed. For all the size of its following, the Labour Party had no footing in the navy, little or none in the army or air force, none whatever in the Colonial Services, and not even a sure footing in the Home Civil Service. In England its position was strong but not unchallengeable, and outside England all the points were in the hands of its enemies. Once in power, the same dilemma would always have faced it: carry out your promise, and risk revolt, or continue with the same policy as the Conservatives, and stop talking about Socialism. The Labour leaders never found a solution, and from 1935 onwards it was very doubtful whether they had any wish to take office. They had degenerated into a Permanent Opposition."​
He also suggests the policies of which to do this, notably anti-fascist:

"1. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.​
2. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.​
3. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.​
4. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.​
5. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.​
6. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers."​
With his policy further explained, he goes onto write about India especially:

"If India were simply 'liberated', i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.​
What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England.​
That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions."​
Now, I don't know how the hell this could happen, but a United Social Republics of the Commonwealth is a completely bonkers idea that I just can't help but like the idea of for a Timeline. How would World War Two factor in, if at all? How would disputes between the British government and colonial ones? Is there a potential cold war scenario between the USRC, USSR, and USA, even if one of those is hopelessly outmatched? Most importantly, how does this set of events occur?
 
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Mumby

Always mysterious!
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Eric Blair, or George Orwell was known for many works, specifically often '1984' and 'Animal Farm' amongst most political commentators, but also Homage to Catalonia for many Anarchists. However, something he's less well known for is his writing on what he wished for the British Empire. He seems to have been conflicted with his views regarding the British Empire, publishing 'Shooting an Elephant' with pretty clear themes of anti-Imperialism, but then there is his other writings in his essays:

"To a Labour government in power, three imperial policies would have been open."​
"One was to continue administering the Empire exactly as before, which meant dropping all pretensions to Socialism."​
"Another was to set the subject peoples 'free', which meant in practice handing them over to Japan, Italy and other predatory powers, and incidentally causing a catastrophic drop in the British standard of living."​
"The third was to develop a positive imperial policy, and aim at transforming the Empire into a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics. But the Labour Party's history and background made this impossible. It was a party of the trade unions, hopelessly parochial in outlook, with little interest in imperial affairs and no contacts among the men who actually held the Empire together. It would have had to hand the administration of India and Africa and the whole job of imperial defence to men drawn from a different class and traditionally hostile to Socialism. Overshadowing everything was the doubt whether a Labour government which meant business could make itself obeyed. For all the size of its following, the Labour Party had no footing in the navy, little or none in the army or air force, none whatever in the Colonial Services, and not even a sure footing in the Home Civil Service. In England its position was strong but not unchallengeable, and outside England all the points were in the hands of its enemies. Once in power, the same dilemma would always have faced it: carry out your promise, and risk revolt, or continue with the same policy as the Conservatives, and stop talking about Socialism. The Labour leaders never found a solution, and from 1935 onwards it was very doubtful whether they had any wish to take office. They had degenerated into a Permanent Opposition."​
He also suggests the policies of which to do this, notably anti-fascist:

"1. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.​
2. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.​
3. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.​
4. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.​
5. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.​
6. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers."​
With his policy further explained, he goes onto write about India especially:

"If India were simply 'liberated', i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.​
What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England.​
That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions."​
Now, I don't know how the hell this could happen, but a United Social Republics of the Commonwealth is a completely bonkers idea that I just can't help but like the idea of for a Timeline. How would World War Two factor in, if at all? How would disputes between the British government and colonial ones? Is there a potential cold war scenario between the USRC, USSR, and USA, even if one of those is hopelessly outmatched? Most importantly, how does this set of events occur?
This basic attitude is sorta kinda what the post-war Labour government attempted to do - but it ended up often fumbling into the hands of Imperial institutions. Not helped by how elderly that post-war Cabinet was. Bevan was basically the only member of Attlee's first Cabinet who wasn't in his sixties. I think you need to somehow inject a more youthful contingent into the Labour parliamentary ranks well before 1936 - people whose formative memories aren't of the glorious Victorian age, but of the First World War and the steady surpassing of the Empire by the more organised industrial powers - be that the United States, the Soviet Union or the German Reich.
 

Joshuapooleanox

electoral asbestos
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This basic attitude is sorta kinda what the post-war Labour government attempted to do - but it ended up often fumbling into the hands of Imperial institutions. Not helped by how elderly that post-war Cabinet was. Bevan was basically the only member of Attlee's first Cabinet who wasn't in his sixties. I think you need to somehow inject a more youthful contingent into the Labour parliamentary ranks well before 1936 - people whose formative memories aren't of the glorious Victorian age, but of the First World War and the steady surpassing of the Empire by the more organised industrial powers - be that the United States, the Soviet Union or the German Reich.
Makes sense. As much as I wish to inject him into running for MP, I doubt Eric Blair's getting a memorable place, so I'd need maybe some of the Lib-Left people that appeared during the war e.g. Common Wealth Party, maybe some Spanish Republican volunteers and others to hop on board.
 

Mumby

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Makes sense. As much as I wish to inject him into running for MP, I doubt Eric Blair's getting a memorable place, so I'd need maybe some of the Lib-Left people that appeared during the war e.g. Common Wealth Party and others to hop on board.
I think the arrival of Common Wealth and Independent Progressive MPs is an excellent opportunity to put some more youth into the Labour ranks (given that so many joined Labour after 1945).

For that to be statistically significant however, you'd need two things, first a much smaller National Government presence in Parliament so that you can get a fresh influx of MPs and a more significant momentum to the left at subsequent by-elections, and second a longer war with a couple of rough years that sees 'Government' MPs defeated.

Possibly having a later war, allowing for a 1940 general election to whither the National Government's ranks, and giving the Axis a longer time to prepare for war?
 

Joshuapooleanox

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I think the arrival of Common Wealth and Independent Progressive MPs is an excellent opportunity to put some more youth into the Labour ranks (given that so many joined Labour after 1945).

For that to be statistically significant however, you'd need two things, first a much smaller National Government presence in Parliament so that you can get a fresh influx of MPs and a more significant momentum to the left at subsequent by-elections, and second a longer war with a couple of rough years that sees 'Government' MPs defeated.

Possibly having a later war, allowing for a 1940 general election to whither the National Government's ranks, and giving the Axis a longer time to prepare for war?
Could have Britain/France be a bit more angry at Poland and make it concede Gdansk to Germany, that or just have the Germans wait a bit longer alongside Plan Z. Maybe start the war in '42, thereby we've had a year or two to have this weird new Labour government, then have the Commonwealth Federation (I'll use this name for now) fight WW2 and win to prove itself.
 

Mumby

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Could have Britain/France be a bit more angry at Poland and make it concede Gdansk to Germany, that or just have the Germans wait a bit longer alongside Plan Z. Maybe start the war in '42, thereby we've had a year or two to have this weird new Labour government, then have the Commonwealth Federation (I'll use this name for now) fight WW2 and win to prove itself.
I assumed that the National Government would return a majority in 1940 - if war hasn't broken out at that point, Neville Chamberlain is still the Man Who Kept Peace In Our Time.

And that the Commonwealth Federation is effectively built during the war, thanks to stuff like a more successful Cripps Mission, reaching out to the Pan-African Federation etc.

This is still assuming that the colonised peoples are even willing to go along with this - the reason the Cripps Mission failed IOTL was as much to do with Indian demands for independence as it was to do with Churchillian sabotage. There would also be consequences for the Free French - who IOTL were mostly fighting with African conscripts until after Operation Torch when they 'bleached' (their words, not mine) their army and replaced the Africans with former Vichy men so that Mother France would be retaken by white skinned sons of Gaul. Of course a lot of the fighting in Africa was overseen not by de Gaulle but by Felix Eboue, Governor of Chad, who died in 1944 but left behind a legacy of 'notable evolues' who would go on to be significant during decolonisation such as Jean-Hilaire Aubame and Jean Rémy Ayouné. Perhaps this weird new Labour Government could appoint black governors in some of the colonies - but you start to get into dangerously utopian territory then, and if this war is going rough enough as I said, you might see white minority governed colonies like South Africa go fuck this and take their ball home.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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I assumed that the National Government would return a majority in 1940 - if war hasn't broken out at that point, Neville Chamberlain is still the Man Who Kept Peace In Our Time.

And that the Commonwealth Federation is effectively built during the war, thanks to stuff like a more successful Cripps Mission, reaching out to the Pan-African Federation etc.

This is still assuming that the colonised peoples are even willing to go along with this - the reason the Cripps Mission failed IOTL was as much to do with Indian demands for independence as it was to do with Churchillian sabotage. There would also be consequences for the Free French - who IOTL were mostly fighting with African conscripts until after Operation Torch when they 'bleached' (their words, not mine) their army and replaced the Africans with former Vichy men so that Mother France would be retaken by white skinned sons of Gaul. Of course a lot of the fighting in Africa was overseen not by de Gaulle but by Felix Eboue, Governor of Chad, who died in 1944 but left behind a legacy of 'notable evolues' who would go on to be significant during decolonisation such as Jean-Hilaire Aubame and Jean Rémy Ayouné. Perhaps this weird new Labour Government could appoint black governors in some of the colonies - but you start to get into dangerously utopian territory then, and if this war is going rough enough as I said, you might see white minority governed colonies like South Africa go fuck this and take their ball home.
I think it will depend on the balance between giving rights to the colonised versus rights to the privileged. Because if more rights are given to those of the colonised, then there will be less unrest, but more internal dissent within the colonial governments, especially South Africa and Rhodesia. I think giving immediate Dominion status as Blair writes as a show of good faith might be a way to make that work, but again, I don't know.
 

Mumby

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I think it will depend on the balance between giving rights to the colonised versus rights to the privileged. Because if more rights are given to those of the colonised, then there will be less unrest, but more internal dissent within the colonial governments, especially South Africa and Rhodesia. I think giving immediate Dominion status as Blair writes as a show of good faith might be a way to make that work, but again, I don't know.
Consider the enormous faff that pre-war Labour governments endured trying to give Dominion status to India - that is after all where Attlee cut his teeth in a ministerial position and why Indian independence was such a priority to him when he became Prime Minister.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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Consider the enormous faff that pre-war Labour governments endured trying to give Dominion status to India - that is after all where Attlee cut his teeth in a ministerial position and why Indian independence was such a priority to him when he became Prime Minister.
Yeah this is going to be a shitshow if it ever happens. They'll need a good chunk of time for this to work.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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TBH if we go the Wartime Cripps path, then we could have this wartime Labour led government pass an Enabling Act that purges the Civil Service of the Imperialists.
That'd at least reduce the issues, because it then forces those who want to resist to go 'well, do you stick with your country, or resist your country while its fighting a foreign enemy'.

That plus more power given to governments in wartime.

Also, how would this different Commonwealth fare in war? Would it be better with autonomy given to Indian forces to fight as they see fit, or worse off due to less aristocratic experienced generals? I'm guessing a combination of worse in some areas, better in others that overall balances out.
 
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Joshuapooleanox

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Honestly, South Africa going 'nah we're good' and just flat seceding either during or after the war would be pretty interesting with a Commonwealth Republic or two right next door. If there was a Cold War scenario with these three superpowers, South Africa would be a very interesting situation, and while Rhodesia probably can't join them, they could be a spot of tension.
 
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David Flin

Real people take priority over imaginary people
Also, how would this different Commonwealth fare in war? Would it be better with autonomy given to Indian forces to fight as they see fit, or worse off due to less aristocratic experienced generals? I'm guessing a combination of worse in some areas, better in others that overall balances out.
I can only answer for the Indian Army, and then only if one assumes that the period 1925-1939 continues more or less unchanged from OTL.
Other areas, or other assumptions, and you're on your own.

I'm also away from my references at the moment, so I'm going by memory rather than being able to quote chapter and verse.

Assuming autonomy given to the Indian Army to fight as it sees fit, and is essentially trying to be self-contained rather than operating within the framework of a pre-existant structure, then it is screwed nine ways from Sunday if it comes up against serious opposition.

The Gurkha element would be pissed as all hell with the Indian Army, and the racism shown by the Indians towards the Gurkhali was way beyond that the Gurkha experienced from the British. In the mid 1970s, the Gurkha was held in contempt by the aristocratic Indian, and regarded as sub-human. There was no love lost, to put it mildly, between them, and expecting the Gurkha element to be as effective as it was (and is) in the British army is away with the fairies.

To a lesser extent, but still significant, is the divide between Sikhs and others. There was a serious attempt, post-Independence, to stop Sikh units celebrating Saragarhi on 12 September, which is about on a level of telling Americans not to celebrate 4 July or the French not to celebrate 14 July.

You've also got the unanswered question about what you do with the Muslim/Hindu issue. The problems of partition didn't come out of nowhere, and it's hard to imagine good cooperation between them.

Add in to that the issue that, depending on when you set things up, you've got a very inexperienced set of officers. You've got a number with a great deal of experience, but these are relatively few, and are going to be spread thinly. The Indian Army would have some tough choices about where to deploy these experienced officers. They could go be focused on training, logistics, or combat. Pick one. It will be well-led. The other two are going to have crap leadership. Whichever you choose, the Army will have issues. If you invite British officers back to lead units, you're getting into distinction without a difference territory; it is also going to seriously upset those who are pushing for less, not more, British involvement.

The brief summary is that whenever an Army undergoes a massive change of culture, it has problems adapting to the new culture.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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I can only answer for the Indian Army, and then only if one assumes that the period 1925-1939 continues more or less unchanged from OTL.
Other areas, or other assumptions, and you're on your own.

I'm also away from my references at the moment, so I'm going by memory rather than being able to quote chapter and verse.

Assuming autonomy given to the Indian Army to fight as it sees fit, and is essentially trying to be self-contained rather than operating within the framework of a pre-existant structure, then it is screwed nine ways from Sunday if it comes up against serious opposition.

The Gurkha element would be pissed as all hell with the Indian Army, and the racism shown by the Indians towards the Gurkhali was way beyond that the Gurkha experienced from the British. In the mid 1970s, the Gurkha was held in contempt by the aristocratic Indian, and regarded as sub-human. There was no love lost, to put it mildly, between them, and expecting the Gurkha element to be as effective as it was (and is) in the British army is away with the fairies.

To a lesser extent, but still significant, is the divide between Sikhs and others. There was a serious attempt, post-Independence, to stop Sikh units celebrating Saragarhi on 12 September, which is about on a level of telling Americans not to celebrate 4 July or the French not to celebrate 14 July.

You've also got the unanswered question about what you do with the Muslim/Hindu issue. The problems of partition didn't come out of nowhere, and it's hard to imagine good cooperation between them.

Add in to that the issue that, depending on when you set things up, you've got a very inexperienced set of officers. You've got a number with a great deal of experience, but these are relatively few, and are going to be spread thinly. The Indian Army would have some tough choices about where to deploy these experienced officers. They could go be focused on training, logistics, or combat. Pick one. It will be well-led. The other two are going to have crap leadership. Whichever you choose, the Army will have issues. If you invite British officers back to lead units, you're getting into distinction without a difference territory; it is also going to seriously upset those who are pushing for less, not more, British involvement.

The brief summary is that whenever an Army undergoes a massive change of culture, it has problems adapting to the new culture.
Cheers David. I was guessing that autonomy to them would be what Eric Blair would be proposing, but honestly I have no real clue.


One other thing I'd like to bring up is events going on within traditional British Allies, e.g. Greece, Portugal and Belgium. Are they going to back a mediated peace between the Kingdom of Greece and National Liberation Front? Or simply back the Communists or Monarchists?

Belgium's Winter Strike and Portugal's dictatorship are also factors.
 

Dan1988

Sorry, sunshine, wrong place
Yeah this is going to be a shitshow if it ever happens. They'll need a good chunk of time for this to work.
And not just for the rest of the Empire, either - the white dominions (or Old Commonwealth, however you want to call it) would have to be brought on board. How you get that to happen, I don't know - especially if there is resistance to it in various quarters.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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And not just for the rest of the Empire, either - the white dominions (or Old Commonwealth, however you want to call it) would have to be brought on board. How you get that to happen, I don't know - especially if there is resistance to it in various quarters.
Both terms work. It'll be interesting seeing which of the dominions is more receptive/distrusting of the idea. South Africa is almost a guaranteed 'nah'. Canada always has the option of better relations with the US, and so do Australia/NZ. They'd need a very good reason to stick with Britain and the New Commonwealth.
 

Dan1988

Sorry, sunshine, wrong place
It'll be interesting seeing which of the dominions is more receptive/distrusting of the idea. South Africa is almost a guaranteed 'nah'. Canada always has the option of better relations with the US, and so do Australia/NZ. They'd need a very good reason to stick with Britain and the New Commonwealth.
And a lot more besides, in Canada's case. (Newfoundland is a special case, considering the Commission of Government.) While the peripheries (primarily the Prairies and maybe Cape Breton) could be receptive to such a message, considering their views regarding the Montréal-Toronto-Ottawa axis, within Central Canada and most of the Maritimes reaction would be more muted, especially as you have moves towards a socialist Britain/Commonwealth conflict with an emergent Canadian national identity. In Ontario, the Tories had long held control over the province, aided by the Orange Order, which makes things difficult (even then, the CCF somehow managed to make a breakthrough here, for some reason, but the point still stands as many Ontarians were socially conservative). In Québec, you have an Anglo-American elite which allied itself with the conservative Francophone clerical nationalists within the Union Nationale after Adélard Godbout's Government created Hydro-Québec (which smacked too much of socialism within the business community), and even among Francophone Québécois/es opinion was divided along similar pétainiste/gaulliste lines despite a long period of separation between Québec/French Canada and France after the Conquest. Even with a (mildly) progressive PLQ government under Godbout, which was often accused by nationalists of selling out to Ottawa, much opinion - and one of the few pieces of common ground in Québec, as a result of the disaster that was WW1, was actually anti-conscription. So it's hard to make any neat divisions that would work, except that a considerable number of clerical nationalists were big admirers of Vichy. While progressive nationalism was making its name for itself, it was around the Bloc populaire, among which included many of the people who would transform both Québec and Canada post-War. A UK moving towards a socialist direction could either very well see Canada as a bastion for those opposed to the changes and/or see Québec marching down the road to independence, probably splitting New Brunswick in half in the process and leading to French-Canadians outside of those two trying to defend themselves by insisting that they were still loyal Canadians but just let us continue to speak our language and maintain our culture(s).
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
So what we seem to have is:

- To start down the road, you need a good number of (relatively) younger Labour MPs around to do the work

- You need a different WW2, possibly a later/longer one so Labour has some time to ram stuff through and say "yeah war work innit"

- There'll be some pushback from disgruntled imperialists in the colonies

- The idea is still to have a empire of sorts, but more 'equal' - Britain still wants to be the Big Cheese

- It's impossible to get all the dominions onboard with this, and maybe none of the dominions (and could kick off some splitting)

- Other Empires won't be too happy you did it

Of which the last four points aren't necessarily "this definitely can't happen" but are "this definitely can't happen the way Blair hoped". But then add in what people in Britain think - most won't have voted Labour for this, so Labour can't devote all the time and energy it might need to into this at the expense of the NHS et al at home. And the Tories will wail and gnash teeth!

I'm also remembering a plot point by @Nick Sumner in Drake's Drum, of an analysis that finds a bunch of colonies are a net drain and if this big overhaul took place, I'm betting this would come up. "Why are we wasting time with Pimlocan Burgandy when we still need to sort out Burma, where we actually get something?"
 

Makemakean

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May I propose that the working title be The Burden of the White Socialist?
A bit bewildered that this didn't generate more of a response.

Like, there's all this talk about what the white Dominions might think and what the white settlers in India and so forth will think.

My question is, is it really fair to assume that Indians, Africans, etc., that they will all be perfectly fine with the British colonial government starting massive campaigns of nationalizations and everything and so essentially obtaining a much stronger grip of power on those colonies? That the native population will just go, "Okay, so the British colonial government is now taking unprecedented control of the economy and means of production and transportation and infrastructure around here, but because the people who run the government over in London were elected with a red Labour rosette, I am totally fine with this and trust them with this. There is no way I'm worried at all about this! No, sir! God save the King, and all that!"
 
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