Socialist Worker

Dennis Brutus — Don’t get duped again

The poet and veteran anti-apartheid activist Dennis Brutus gave this speech at the G8 Alternatives counter-summit last Sunday

Issue No. 1959

illustration by Tim Sanders

illustration by Tim Sanders

I’m glad to be a part of this historic occasion which, as I’m sure you all know, is part of a much larger series of events taking place here in Edinburgh and in Gleneagles.

Our topic today is “Africa: can Blair and Brown deliver?”

I will attempt to respond to that, but it seems to me that we ought to add an additional B to those two, because there is one other B who is a part of this process, and opposition to him is part of the whole struggle for social justice.

So I would add another B, and then we will go ahead and boo together, for the third B is, of course, George W Bush.

We boo because we understand that much of the problem here in Britain and particularly with Tony Blair as he tries to deflect people’s attention, is about war, and people’s involvement in war and about Britain’s involvement in that war.

And above all it’s about the dishonesty and the lies surrounding that involvement in war.

When we talk about Africa and can Blair and Brown deliver we must not forget Bush. We must not forget the whole issue of global justice for all the people of the world.

And so to the question, and as you know there are really two elements to the question.

The first is what exactly is being proposed and the second is what can be delivered from what is being proposed?

I don’t need to remind you that in the run up to these talks there have been discussions both here and in Washington of the possibility of 100 percent cancellation of debt.

At the time of the 60th birthday celebrations of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington, and I was there as part of the protests against them, the discussion was quite serious of the 100 percent cancellation of debt.

They went further, both in Washington and in Britain. They researched and discussed. The result was that they said it is possible to arrange the 100 percent unconditional cancellation of debt and it would not make a significant impact on the global economy.

Therefore it was entirely feasible to do it. This was their own research, their own findings.

But then it turned out that hidden in the detail there was an additional element—George Bush was asking for the 100 percent cancellation of the debt of Iraq.

The argument was that this was an odious debt.

In fact he failed to get 100 percent, but he did get 80 percent cancellation of the debt of Iraq. But, as we know, this is not what is on offer to others.

The countries of the global south, whether in Africa or Asia or South America have come together to take a position.

If you do nothing else I would urge you to get the document that states the position of the global South—here I will settle for reading you the opening lines.

Jubilee South’s response to the G8 debt proposal says, “Justice demands unconditional and total debt cancellation for all global South countries.”

That is our position. I hope that you will take the document and you will study it carefully.

I would like to focus on the most significant aspects of this most significant occasion, the whole of the G8 summit and all of the people in the streets, all the declarations and all the denials—how does one sum it up?

Well firstly in some ways it is a distraction from a much more serious issue, that this country, Britain, has been dragged into a war, and dragged into a war by lies. And I think we should go on nailing those lies.

Secondly, somehow another very serious issue, an issue of life and death, an issue that involves the lives of millions of people who are going to die because of this debt, somehow the focus has turned to entertainment, to Geldof and Bono, to concerts around the world and Live8. It’s a very clever distraction from the issues of debt and of life and death.

And we are all implicated because we can either be placid and accept it, or active and reject it.

The third rather striking aspect is that with the emphasis on slogans like Make Poverty History we have really been duped into an approach to a problem by offering a solution that is no solution.

We are going to the G8 to ask them to help make poverty history.

And I have to remind you that the source of poverty, the engine and the generator of poverty, the system and the structures that have created massive poverty across the world emanate from the G8. They are the source.

They are the source of our suffering, the source of our pain, the source of our oppression. And so instead of making poverty history we should be making the G8 history.

Dennis Brutus was an activist against the apartheid government of South Africa in the 1960s. He was arrested in 1963 and jailed for 18 months on Robben Island. Nelson Mandela was his cell mate. Brutus was forbidden to teach, write and publish in South Africa. The Jubilee South statement can be found at

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Sat 9 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1959
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