Michael Manley Addresses the UN in Observance of the International Anti-Apartheid Year, 1978

Address at a special meeting of the General Assembly in observance of the International Anti-Apartheid Year, UN by Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica

11 October 1978, New York

michael manley 5It was with deep humility and a profound sense of history and its obligations that I accepted the invitation to address this Assembly, at this particular moment in the struggle against apartheid and for the final liberation of southern Africa. Even as we meet here, we feel the presence of the spirit of the martyrs who died at Sharpeville and Soweto. We feel that Steve Biko is a witness to these proceedings. Even as I speak, millions of young lives are being warped and crushed in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and their blighted hopes stand as a monumental reproach to all mankind.

I dare to speak, not in my own right, but as a part and product of a process of the struggle in Jamaica and the entire Caribbean. We look at our tormented brothers in southern Africa from a unique historical perspective; ourselves the victims of every outrage still perpetrated in South Africa, we are the products of a slave system which was the foundation for a unique colonial experience. We have known genocide, racism, oppression and exploitation as colonialism and later neo-colonialism have dominated our lives. Equally, we have struggled for our own liberation and have always recognized that our labours were a part of a world experience and very particularly linked to Africa`s struggle.

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey  2In the late nineteenth century, Edward Wilmot BIyden of the Virgin Islands raised the cry for African liberation. It was a Trinidadian, H. Sylvester Williams, who convened the first Pan African Congress, in 1900. In the 1930s the great George Padmore and C. L. R. James, both of Trinidad, were to become the mentors of Kwame Nkrumah. Aime Cesaire of Martinique laid a psychological and cultural foundation for the liberation struggle, and Frantz Fanon summoned a generation to the necessary indignation. And alongside them all, and before most, was the towering figure of Marcus Garvey inspired Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and an entire generation of modern black leadership, on both sides of the Atlantic, to the struggle whose cause we seek to further today.

In 1921 Garvey petitioned the League of Nations about the rights of black people throughout the world. It is both pointed and ironic that in 1928 Garvey petitioned the League of Nations again, contending that South Africa was unfit to exercise the responsibilities of a mandatory Power in South West Africa. His catalogue of South Africa`s racist crimes in 1928 could stand, virtually without amendment, as a definitive submission to the Security Council 50 years later.

norman manleyWe in Jamaica are proud that our Government in the 1950s, under the leadership of another national hero, Norman Manley, joined the Republic of India, led by the immortal Nehru, as the first States in history to ban all trade with South Africa as a mark of common protest and indignation. We have felt deeply enough about southern Africa that along with Guyana, we have offered to raise volunteers for the liberation struggle. All of us in the Caribbean contribute what we can to the liberation armies and train cadres of a modern State against the day when freedom will come to Salisbury, Windhoek and Pretoria.

We are diminished and incomplete so long as apartheid remains

One might ask what has moved so many men and women of the Caribbean to such internationalist concern. The answer is, in part, that we seek the rediscovery of our own identity misplaced in history as the slave ships made their way through the Middle Passage between Africa and the Americas. More importantly, however, we recognize Nkrumah`s claim that no African was free until all Africa was free to be a universal truth applying with equal force as between all races of all continents. We know this to be true even though the Caribbean has probably come closer to the ideal of the multi-racial society than any other community in the modern world. Yet despite our comparative success, we know that we are diminished and incomplete so long as apartheid remains.

And even as we note the credentials of the Caribbean in the struggle for liberation, we pause to pay a tribute to the giants whose work altered the course of history. We remember Mahatma Gandhi and his extraordinary disciple Toussaint L`Ouverture, Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti and forward to modern giants like Julius Nyerere, Fidel Castro and Ho-Chi Minh.

Kwame NkrumahMay I offer my congratulations to: Kwame Nkrumah, whose Pan African vision was the logical precursor to the activist dedication of Murtala Mohamed; Jawaharlal Nehru, who committed the Indian sub-continent and his own immense prestige to the struggle; Paul Robeson, whose extraordinary commitment and lonely dedication foreshadowed, and was paralleled by, the uphill campaign which has been waged relentlessly by Canon Collins; and last, Olof Palme, that courageous and uncompromising leader, who stands as a symbol of the increasingly progressive and vanguard position of the Scandinavian countries.

Finally, I pay a special tribute to the Anti-Apartheid Committee for its vital work under the dynamic chairmanship of Ambassador Leslie Harriman of Nigeria. We urge that full support be given to the work of that Committee by Member States. We are grateful, too, for the efforts of the United Nations system itself and of its dedicated staff, and for the tireless, unswerving leadership of the Secretary-General.

A Tradition of Outrage, but Inaction

If our research reveals that the League of Nations was petitioned 50 years ago – long before the word `apartheid` entered the political vocabulary – how does it happen that we are today seeking to mobilize world opinion afresh in 1978? How does a world that produced Lincoln, Marx, Lenin, Mao and Franklin Roosevelt still stand impotent before the vicious edifice of shame and degradation? Apartheid has been denounced by every significant political leader of the twentieth century. It has been the subject of political indignation. It has been officially designated a crime against humanity. How, then, does this great Assembly of nations stand mocked by South Africa`s unyielding position with respect to its racial policies? What of the latest rejection of the will of the United Nations in Namibia?

It is incredible that this meeting should have to take place at all. Even to those who see apartheid in simplistic terms as a matter of desegregated railways, restaurants and rugby teams, the survival of systematic segregation must seem as surprising as it should be morally repugnant. The truth is, however, that these external symptoms, terrible as they are, are only superficial manifestations of a deeper process which is as old as the history of modem imperialism. I use the word `imperialism` advisedly. Like all words it can be overused and I know that there are those who would prefer it if it were not used at all.

Imperialism: the Root of Apartheid

In fact, however, it is impossible to understand apartheid and the structure of oppression in southern Africa without understanding the origin and continuing nature of greater imperialism. The three centuries which ended in 1945 witnessed a unique event in history: the subjugation of three-quarters of mankind by a technologically competent minority. Imperialism consisted of military and political organization for the purpose of economic exploitation. Territories were occupied, ancient and often glorious civilizations were destroyed in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The raw economic force of these events is without parallel in human history.

Racism was a terrible progeny of the process. However, the human passions which it provokes must not be allowed to mask the true motivator of the process, which is the economic exploitation of nation by nation and of man by man. It is precisely because racism is not the cause but the effect of injustice in southern Africa that we must look beyond the broken bodies of Soweto to find the true targets and focus for our efforts.

The common source 

Thus, for us in the Caribbean, justice in southern Africa involves more than a recovery of the identity that we lost in the Middle Passage; more than a reconquest of our ancestral pride. We have learned by bitter experience that apartheid, the frustrations of Namibia, the manoeuvres of the Smith regime, corrupting so many who cross its path, cannot be separated from the anger that ultimately drives people to rebellion against fascist oppression everywhere; cannot be distinguished from the continuing frustrations which beset the search for a new international economic order; cannot be distinguished from the adverse terms of trade for those who survive by exporting primary commodities; cannot be separated from the insensitivity of the world`s financial institutions to the true social and economic needs of two-thirds of mankind; cannot be separated from the anguish of more than 2 billion of the world`s poor; cannot be separated from the helplessness of the citizen who cannot read; cannot be separated from the anger of a woman who loses rightful opportunities because of her sex; cannot be separated from the experience of the Government of a struggling nation which faces the choice between economic destruction and political surrender in its dealings with transnational corporations; and, finally and critically, cannot be separated from the stranglehold over the dissemination and interpretation of news, so that the true causes of their suffering will remain concealed from three-quarters of mankind.

Thus, ultimately what is on trial is not only racism; it is not only apartheid; these are symptoms. It is also the exploitation of mankind, which stands accused today. The co-defendant is the world and its political systems. For in the last analysis, southern Africa and apartheid represent a massive failure of a political process. It is well, then, that we should pause to reflect upon the situation in which the world finds itself.

A Fall from Grace: People no Longer Source of Authority

Political conquest has always been perpetrated in the name of economic advantage. In a previous era, however, economic advantages were such a product of political events that they depended upon the political process. If the conquest were reversed, the economic advantages would cease to flow. Hence, political liberation would naturally guarantee the removal of economic inequities. But in the modem world that is no longer the case. As the tide of modem imperialism in its visible political aspect receded, it left behind its economic structures and essence. This system, through its huge supra-national structure of financial, productive and distributive corporations and institutions, has created a system of international influence and control which threatens to make the traditional political process redundant. Nor can this be ignored by any country, regardless of size or ideological persuasion.

In the end, both the traditional and the more recent people`s democracies, trace the source of their sovereignty, through the political process, to the people. We may question the authenticity or otherwise of either claim, but both systems owe unmistakable allegiance to the same source of authority – the people. We are now confronted with a new authority, a new authorship of fundamental decisions, a new determinant of the course of events within nations and among them.

A new international economic order

That authority resides within the inscrutable mysteries of the international corporate system, and has this terrible feature which mankind dare not ignore; its decisions derive authority from, and owe responsibility to, no identifiable popular source. In the face of the awesome power of this phenomenon, decent men in positions of power shed genuine tears over the horrors of apartheid and confess secretly that they cannot act concretely because they fear the consequences. And what are the consequences that are invoked in support of this counsel of despair? They are economic.

Thus, a new international economic order and the right of the black South African to dignity in his own country, represent a fundamental question which mankind must answer. Who is going to run the world, and on whose behalf? Will the world continue to live with a contradiction between purpose and concrete experience? Or are those who are chosen to lead, by the people, in the interest of the people and on behalf of the people, to assert the sovereignty by compelling events to unfold in accordance with our declared purposes?

Forces which seek to dominate in the name of glory or profit, 

Some would retort that this is unrealistic; as always the “pragmatists” will swear that it is visionary. But, I suggest that this is the time for mankind to reflect and exercise a deeper pragmatism before it is too late. For just as surely as half of history is the product of those forces which seek to dominate in the name of glory or profit, equally history is the product of the forces of those who rebel.

Ultimately, the United Nations presents all mankind with a unique opportunity to achieve liberation without violence, through intelligent, concerted international action. I should like, therefore, to invite this Assembly, conscious of the deeper issues that are at stake, to address itself in a serious, practical, non-rhetorical way to the question: what action can we, indeed must we, take to remove southern Africa from the agenda of international injustice, and apartheid from the agenda of international crime?

And as we consider what action to embark on, we may pause to state the present situation for the record. It is now universally recognized that the struggle involves the refusal to accept a systematic organization of society on the basis of an inherent superiority of one race, the white minority, and the institutionalized subjugation of another, the black majority.

The illegality of the Smith regime

Therefore, nothing is accomplished when a few blacks are selected to represent South Africa in sport so long as black people are paid a fraction, for the same work, of the rewards of their white counterparts; so long as black people must get a pass to travel within the borders of their own country; so long as black people are excluded from the highest reaches of the economy; so long as black people are denied relevant education; and, most critically, so long as they are excluded from the political process. Nor can we ignore the critical relationship between events in South Africa and those to the north in Rhodesia. The illegality of the Smith regime is a technical though important question, that should never be allowed to obscure the essential unity of the problem. That is why the presence of Ian Smith in the United States represents more than a technical defiance of the will of the Member countries of the United Nations and is regrettable from every point of view.

Need for Government Commitment

What is needed now is the commitment of Governments to a total mobilization of the world community. At this critical juncture the world does not lack the popular will to act. We have seen trade unions, student bodies, church organizations, citizens` bodies of one kind or another all over the world embarking upon, or pledging themselves to, action aimed at the isolation and ultimate defeat of the racist regimes. Often these are organizations and bodies within countries whose Governments still refuse to act. Hence we repudiate the suggestion that Governments cannot act because their people would not support action. We believe that any Government which has the courage to mobilize its people and tell them the truth will receive the overwhelming support of its citizens.

I realize that when we propose yet again that specific measures be taken against South Africa there will be heard, upon the instant, voices that will counsel inaction on all sorts of grounds. On the one hand, there will be those who admit that they are not prepared to suffer any loss of profit or dislocation as a consequence of any action that may be taken against South Africa. Then there will be the more subtle persuaders who claim that action against South Africa will hurt the black South African in terms of some loss in material standards. To the latter we reply that no loss in material standards could be measured on a scale of values against the prospect of recovering human dignity.

The right to self-determination

Of course, there is the often heard view that economic necessity within South Africa and the emergence of a sense of decency amongst the racist leaders themselves will bring apartheid down. But why should the absolute rights of millions today await the uncertain outcome of a pious hope? It is precisely that kind of moral evasion which has cost the world so dearly in the past.

Finally, we must expect the crude contention of a minority that they prefer apartheid to change, since change might lead to an ideology of which they do not approve. But we cannot have it both ways. In a plural world it is the right to self-determination, and not its outcome, which is the inalienable right of every man; and it is where the absolute right to self-determination is denied that peace is most at risk.

Toward a More Concerted Action

Last year the United Nations in a modest step forward imposed an arms embargo. Under Chapter VII of the Charter, it was decided that the sale of arms to South Africa represented a threat to international peace and security. However, we all know that it is not the sale of arms that represents the threat. South Africa is heavily armed to begin with and has a sophisticated arms industry of its own. Thus, even while we accept this step forward for its psychological effect, we do not delude ourselves; it is the regime itself and the system of apartheid that represent the threat to the peace and security of the world.

Let us recall South Africa`s sordid intervention in Angola, its support to the client Smith regime in Rhodesia and the continuing intervention of that client in Mozambique and Zambia. Now that we have seen South Africa`s latest act of defiance in Namibia one is tempted to ask: What more must it do before the major Powers confess the threat that it represents? We therefore call upon the Security Council to declare without qualification that South Africa represents a threat to international peace and security in the terms of Chapter VII of the Charter of this Organization.

An effective convention against contacts in sports

Let us demand that all members of the international community begin now to prepare for the various kinds of action that are required. Let us finalize, pass and enforce an effective convention against contacts in sports and let us do it without further delay.

Under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council can take practical steps to deal with a State which represents a threat to peace. These include economic sanctions. The international community is by now entirely familiar with a range of measures that can be brought to bear: the cutting off of oil supplies and the halting of investment and machinery replacements are examples of steps that can be taken in addition to economic sanctions.

But even while we prepare for this kind of action, there is a step contemplated in Article 41 that is simple to apply, fully within the capability of all nations and which would have a dramatic, if not devastating, impact upon the racist regime. Let the nations of the world acting under Article 41 move now to break all air, sea and land links with South Africa. Let us instruct all airlines and shipping lines to eliminate South Africa as a port of call; equally, let us deny landing and berthing rights to all aircraft and ships which are either owned by South Africa or which have come from South Africa; and let us be prepared to invoke Article 42 which authorizes blockades if any action under Article 41 should prove to be ineffective.

Let this be the first action in the final mobilization of the world. And we say “first action”, because we must be prepared to go to all the lengths contemplated in Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter. Total sanctions, diplomatic isolation and even blockades are not too high a price to pay now to avoid the holocaust that will surely come and into which we will all be drawn, if we fail to act.

No subject in history has been more thoroughly discussed nor practice more universally condemned than apartheid. Surely the time for action must be now.

At issue throughout southern Africa is nothing more nor less than justice itself. Zimbabwe must be free and the Patriotic Front and its freedom fighters must be a full part of that freedom. Namibia must be free and secure and the South West Africa People`s Organization must enjoy full and unimpeded access to the fruits of that freedom. In South Africa no person must be denied access to the political process, the economic benefits or the cultural experiences of that country by reason of race.

Those are the issues; on trial is the capacity of the world community to act; at risk is peace; in the balance is our capacity to build a civilization resting surely upon foundations of justice and human dignity. In the name of every martyr who has died for freedom; in the name of every child now facing the blank wall of racial rejection; in the name of all who must now risk their lives to be liberated from the stigma of that shame, let us prepare to act, and let us determine that we shall not fail.

3 thoughts on “Michael Manley Addresses the UN in Observance of the International Anti-Apartheid Year, 1978

  1. Pingback: British secret police spying on anti-apartheid movement | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Michael Manley was the best Prime Minister second to none Jamaica has produced. He really cared for the people of Jamaica. It is unfortunate that those who followed in his foot steps have ye t to hold the office with dignity and respect. He truly tried to empower the Jamaican people versus those who are there to dis-empower.

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