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Year 2001 No. 151, September 4, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

British Government’s Hypocrisy at the UN World Conference Against Racism:

Whitewashing the British State in the Name of "Multiculturalism" and "Tackling Racism"

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Whitewashing the British State in the Name of "Multiculturalism" and "Tackling Racism"

For Your Information:
UN World Conference Against Racism

Address by Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Durban, South Africa. September 1, 2001.

The "Enemy Within":
EU Plans for the Criminalisation of Political Protest

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British Government’s Hypocrisy at the UN World Conference Against Racism:

Whitewashing the British State in the Name of "Multiculturalism" and "Tackling Racism"

The UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) is taking place in Durban, South Africa, from August 31 to September 7. The British delegation is being headed by Baroness Amos, the "Minister for Africa" in the New Labour government.

Baroness Amos addressed the Conference on September 2, saying that Britain "draws strength from its diversity". She said: "The multicultural nature of British society is one of the first things that you notice when you arrive in the UK. Our culture is born of the talents and creativity of many different groups - white, black, Asian and other minorities. In London alone, nearly 200 languages other than English are spoken. A quarter of London's school pupils speak a language other than English at home." She did not mention the recent remarks by the Immigration Minister, Lord Rooker, backed by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, that all immigrants should receive compulsory English lessons.

This set the hypocritical and sanctimonious tone of Baroness Amos’ address in Durban on behalf of the British government. To hear the Minister for Africa, one would think that racism and the application of racist criteria were abhorrent to New Labour and the British state, and that Britain is extremely concerned to make a priority of "tackling racism". One would be led to the conclusion that the problem of racism in Britain lies in "young people of different ethnic communities" and that the causes of "disturbances" in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley are "deeply rooted in the structures of our society" and that the government is "doing everything we can to support local people in finding practical ways to bring communities together". The reality, as is well known, and as was attested to by a member of the Labour Party’s own NEC, who was attacked and injured by the police, is that the peoples of these towns and cities have resisted the attempts of the state to develop "race riots" as they were called, and that the sentiment of the broad masses of the people is to unite in defence of the rights of all. The reality is that in Britain considerations based on national origin and colour of skin are the very basis of a racist division of the body politic and the creation of second class citizens arising from nationality or national origin. In this way, the notion of a society responsible for the well-being of its members is being made the priority for attack by the government. Far from it being the case that "government policies alone cannot defeat racism", the fact that the law of the land does not recognise all members of the polity as equals is the well-spring for the promotion of racism and gives an entirely unwarranted respectability to racism and racial discrimination, racist organisations and "institutionalised racism". It underpins the xenophobia being promoted by the government and the capitalist media against "asylum seekers" and "illegal immigrants".

The WCAR reflects the deep aspirations of the peoples of the world to provide the problems of racism with solutions. This includes dealing squarely with the legacies of the past and righting historical wrongs, as well as identifying and eradicating the source of racism today. Among the main themes of the WCAR are the "sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism". The WCAR, among other things, is bringing to the fore the legacy of 19th century empire-building, and its ideology of liberalism and colonialism, in which everyone is to assimilate to the system of domination and espouse their values and aims.

The crimes of British colonialism and imperialism are too well-known to need reiterating in depth. But to the British government, this colonialist and imperialist history, with its subjugation and genocide of peoples, its inhuman trafficking in human flesh, known as the slave trade, its backing for the apartheid regime in South Africa, its empire on which the sun never set – while its crimes against humanity are referred to as in the distant past, this history is called by sleight of hand a long-standing friendship between peoples.

When the demand of the peoples who were the subject of this genocide and subjugation demand reparations, a declaration that slavery was a crime against humanity, and that the British government, as other colonialist and imperialist governments, must take full responsibility for these crimes, Baroness Amos gives the fine-sounding words: "The Conference must also inspire. We want a strong statement which looks unflinchingly at the past. The European Union profoundly deplores the human suffering, both individual and collective, caused by slavery and the slave trade. They are amongst the most dishonourable and abhorrent chapters in the history of humanity. Such acts of acknowledgement, regret and condemnation will allow us to move forward in a spirit of hope and give us the basis on which to continue to tackle contemporary problems." This "spirit of hope" is nothing but a ploy to whitewash the British state and get the British government off the hook.

The British government’s entire outlook is bogged down in such racist concepts as the "white man's burden", whereby British is to be the imposer of "civilised values", "universal values", on the benighted non-European peoples. These policies are a continuation, not a break, from the racist past. The British government’s hypocrisy is an attempt to cover over the reality of this continuation, this chauvinism so deep that its exponents are unaware of its concrete existence, this insistence that if African and other governments do not follow its values, then they will be considered as pariahs. It is a refusal to break with the old conscience of the colonialist past in order to keep in place the block to the progress of society at this time. They are deepening the crisis in British society. Retrogression is being entrenched in the name of "endorsing the role of civil society".

WDIE denounces the British government's self-serving intervention in Durban. The government is striving to dismiss the crimes of the past in order to cover up the crimes of the present, and divert attention from the retrogression of the neo-liberal agenda.

The British working class has the honour and duty to settle scores with its class oppressors and make an indelible contribution to the solving of the problems of racism and racial discrimination on a world scale.

Article Index

For Your Information:

UN World Conference Against Racism

From August 31 to September 7, the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) is taking place in Durban, South Africa. According to the UN, more than 17,000 participants were officially registered for the WCAR as of August 31. This includes 2,218 delegates from more than 150 countries; 3,416 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and 1,230 media personnel.

Fifteen heads of state and government are attending the WCAR from Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Congo, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Latvia, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Palestinian Authority, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. The leaders participated in a round table discussion on September 1, chaired by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Also participating in the WCAR are Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General; Harri Holkeri, President of the UN General Assembly; Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the WCAR; and representatives of other numerous other UN bodies. Representatives of other international organizations are also participating, including the League of Arab States and the Organization of African Unity.

According to the United Nations, the objectives of the WCAR are:

In preparation for the WCAR, regional meetings and expert seminars were conducted in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas beginning in July 2000. Between May and August of this year, three Preparatory Committee sessions were held in Geneva, Switzerland.

These meetings determined five main themes to form the core of the Conference's agenda for Durban. These themes are:

(bracketed text indicates wording unresolved in preparatory meetings)

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Address by Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Durban, South Africa. September 1, 2001.


Delegates and guests:

Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions of the human beings but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon born directly of wars, military conquests, slavery and the individual or collective exploitation of the weakest by the most powerful all along the history of human societies.

No one has the right to boycott this Conference which tries to bring some sort of relief to the overwhelming majority of mankind afflicted by unbearable suffering and enormous injustice. Neither has anyone the right to set preconditions to this conference or urge it to avoid the discussion of historical responsibility, fair compensation or the way we decide to rate the dreadful genocide perpetrated, at this very moment, against our Palestinian brothers by extreme right leaders who, in alliance with the hegemonic superpower, pretend to be acting on behalf of another people which throughout almost two thousand years was the victim of the most fierce persecution, discrimination and injustice that history has known.

Cuba speaks of reparations, and supports this idea as an unavoidable moral duty to the victims of racism, based on a major precedent, that is, the indemnification being paid to the descendants of the Hebrew people which in the very heart of Europe suffered the brutal and loathsome racist holocaust. However, it is not with the intent to undertake an impossible search for the direct descendants or the specific countries of the victims of actions occurred throughout centuries. The irrefutable truth is that tens of millions of Africans were captured, sold like a commodity and sent beyond the Atlantic to work in slavery while 70 million indigenous people in that hemisphere perished as a result of the European conquest and colonization.

The inhuman exploitation imposed on the peoples of three continents, including Asia, marked forever the destiny and lives of over 4.5 billion people living in the Third World today whose poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and health rates as well as their infant mortality, life expectancy and other calamities --too many, in fact, to enumerate here-- are certainly awesome and harrowing. They are the current victims of that atrocity which lasted centuries and the ones who clearly deserve compensation for the horrendous crimes perpetrated against their ancestors and peoples.

Actually, such a brutal exploitation did not end when many countries became independent, not even after the formal abolition of slavery. Right after independence, the main ideologists of the American Union that emerged when the 13 colonies got rid of the British domination at the end of the 18th century, advanced ideas and strategies unquestionably expansionist in nature.

It was based on such ideas that the ancient white settlers of European descent, in their march to the West, forcibly occupied the lands in which Native-Americans had lived for thousands of years thus exterminating millions of them in the process. But, they did not stop at the boundaries of the former Spanish possessions; consequently Mexico, a Latin American country that had attained its independence in 1821, was stripped off millions of square kilometres of territory and invaluable natural resources.

Meanwhile, in the increasingly powerful and expansionist nation born in North America, the obnoxious and inhumane slavery system stayed in place for almost a century after the famous Declaration of Independence of 1776 was issued, the same that proclaimed that all men were born free and equal.

After the purely formal slave emancipation, African-Americans were subjected during one hundred more years to the harshest racial discrimination, and many of its features and consequences still persist after almost four more decades of heroic struggles and the achievements of the 1960s, for which Martin Luther King, Jar, Malcolm X and other outstanding fighters gave their lives. Based on a purely racist rationale, the longest and most severe legal sentences are passed against African-Americans who in the wealthy American society are bound to live in dare poverty and with the lowest living standards.

Likewise, what is left of the Native-American peoples, which were the first to inhabit a large portion of the current territory of the United States of America, remain under even worse conditions of discrimination and neglect.

Needless to mention the data on the social and economic situation of Africa where entire countries and even whole regions of Sub-Saharan Africa are in risk of extinction the result of an extremely complex combination of economic backwardness, excruciating poverty and grave diseases, both old and new, that have become a true scourge. And the situation is no less dramatic in numerous Asian countries. On top of all this, there are the huge and unpayable debts, the disparate terms of trade, the ruinous prices of basic commodities, the demographic explosion, the neo-liberal globalisation and the climate changes that produce long draughts alternating with increasingly intensive rains and floods. It can be mathematically proven that such a predicament is unsustainable.

The developed countries and their consumer societies, presently responsible for the accelerated and almost unstoppable destruction of the environment, have been the main beneficiaries of the conquest and colonization, of slavery, of the ruthless exploitation and the extermination of hundreds of millions of people born in the countries that today constitute the Third World. They have also reaped the benefits of the economic order imposed on humanity after two atrocious and devastating wars for a new division of the world and its markets, of the privileges granted to the United States and its allies in Bretton-Woods, and of the IMF and the international financial institutions exclusively created by them and for them.

That rich and squandering world is in possession of the technical and financial resources necessary to pay what is due to mankind. The hegemonic superpower should also pay back its special debt to African-Americans, to Native-Americans living in reservations, and to the tens of millions of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants as well as others from poor nations, be they mulatto, yellow or black, but victims all of vicious discrimination and scorn.

It is high time to put an end to the dramatic situation of the indigenous communities in our hemisphere. Their own awakening and struggles, and the universal admission of the monstrosity of the crime committed against them make it imperative.

There are enough funds to save the world from the tragedy.

May the arms race and the weapon commerce that only bring devastation and death truly end.

Let it be used for development a good part of the one trillion US dollars annually spent on the commercial advertising that creates false illusions and inaccessible consumer habits while releasing the venom that destroys the national cultures and identities.

May the modest 0.7 percentage point of the Gross National Product promised as official development assistance be finally delivered.

May the tax suggested by Nobel Prize Laureate James Tobin be imposed in a reasonable and effective way on the current speculative operations accounting for trillions of US dollars every 24 hours, then the United Nations, which cannot go on depending on meagre, inadequate, and belated donations and charities, will have one trillion US dollars annually to save and develop the world. Mark my words! One trillion US dollars every year! There are no few people in the world who can add, subtract, divide and multiply. This is not an overstatement! Given the seriousness and urgency of the existing problems, which have become a real hazard for the very survival of our specie on the planet, that is what would actually be needed before it is too late.

Put and end to the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people that is taking place while the world stares in amazement. May the basic right to life of that people, children and youth, be protected. May their right to peace and independence be respected; then, there will be nothing to fear from UN documents.

I am aware that the need for some relief from the awful situation their countries are facing has led many friends from Africa and other regions to suggest the need for such prudence as would allow something to come out of this conference. I sympathize with them but I cannot renounce my convictions, as I feel that the more candid we are in telling the truth the more possibilities there will be to be heeded and respected. There have been enough centuries of deception.

I have only three other short questions based on realities that cannot be ignored.

The capitalist, developed and wealthy countries today participate of the imperialist system born of capitalism itself and the economic order imposed to the world based on the philosophy of selfishness and the brutal competition between men, nations and groups of nations which in completely indifferent to any feelings of solidarity and honest international cooperation. They live under the misleading, irresponsible and hallucinating atmosphere of consumer societies. Thus, regardless the sincerity of their blind faith in such a system and the convictions of their most serious statesmen, I wonder: Will they be able to understand the grave problems of today’s world which in its incoherent and uneven development is ruled by blind laws, by the huge power and the interests of the ever growing and increasingly uncontrollable and independent transnational corporations?

Will they come to understand the impending universal chaos and rebellion? And, even if they wanted to, could they put an end to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related issues, which are precisely the rest of them all?

From my viewpoint we are on the verge of a huge economic, social and political global crisis. Lets try to build an awareness about these realities and the alternatives will come up. History has shown that it is only from deep crisis that great solutions have emerged. The peoples right to life and justice will definitely impose itself under a thousand different shapes.

I believe in the mobilization and the struggle of the peoples! I believe in the idea of justice! I believe in truth! I believe in man!

Thank you.

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The "Enemy Within":

EU Plans for the Criminalisation of Political Protest

A special report has been published by Statewatch, a European network drawn from 12 countries encouraging the publication of investigative journalism and critical research in the fields of the state, civil liberties and openness. The report shows that the EU's plans to combat future protests at EU and international meetings in Europe would:

* give control of operations to the newly-created EU "Task Force of Chief Police Officers" which has no legal basis for its activities;

* create mechanisms for "operational" cooperation for which there are no legal powers;

* legitimise the ongoing surveillance by "police and intelligence officers" (internal security services) of "persons or groups likely to pose a threat to public order and security";

* create national databases of "troublemakers" based on suspicion and supposition without any legal standards or data protection and allow the unregulated exchange of this data;

* allow EU member states to pass laws to prevent people from going to protests in other countries if their names have been recorded as "suspects" or if they have been convicted of minor public order offences (i.e.: obstructing the highway).

Statewatch editor, Tony Bunyan, commented: "The plans by EU governments to counter protests threaten the right of free movement and the right to protest. They were rushed through in secret meetings in just two weeks without any reference to national or European parliaments.

"The plans will have little effect on the ground where we are likely to see more authoritarian policing of protests on the streets. But a green light has been given to the law enforcement agencies to put groups concerned with global issues under surveillance on the grounds that they are all potential ‘troublemakers’.

"EU governments should spend their time and resources resolving the underlying issues which are bringing the people onto the streets instead of targeting a new ‘enemy within’ which smacks of Cold War ideology."

The report and full-text documentation is on: http://www.statewatch.org/news

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