Socialist Worker

New Labour leads the hypocrisy on slavery

Issue No. 1765

The big powers at the UN conference also pushed aside calls for them to apologise for the slave trade. The British government led the pack. Britain was at the forefront of the slave trade in the 18th century.

Some 12 million black Africans were ripped from their homes and transported in inhuman conditions across the Atlantic to work the plantations of the Caribbean and America. The profits from the plantations and trade in human beings laid the basis for the fortunes of banks like Barclays and firms like Tate & Lyle. The continent of Africa was hurled backwards. It suffered again when the European powers, led by Britain, carved up the continent into colonies in the late 19th century.

It suffers today from the domination of the globe by a few hundred huge multinational corporations in alliance with the most powerful states, and institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The New Labour government does not want to apologise for the slave trade because it fears doing so would open the way to massive claims for reparations. There should be a settling of accounts. The cancellation of all Third World debt would be a start.

But humbling the corporations and states that continue to suck the life out of the vast majority of the world's population would be a necessary step to overcoming obscene divisions between rich and poor. That is what Western rulers are terrified of. The British government lectures people from the Balkans to Zimbabwe about human rights, but will run from criticism itself. The US has boycotted the two previous UN conferences on racism. It turned up to this one only to make a show of wrecking it.

The conference has exposed the hypocrisy of our rulers. It has also shown that such shindigs are incapable of bringing them to heel. The people who can do that are the hundreds of millions across the globe who will be sickened by the spectacle this week in South Africa.

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Sat 8 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1765
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