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Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Friday, December 18, 2020

Labour supporting Reparations


Yesterday it was a pleasure to chair a meeting of the General Committee (GC) of Brighton Pavilion Labour Party which had been convened (by earlier decision of the GC) to work through a backlog of motions submitted by branches over recent months.

One particularly interesting motion dealt with the issue of reparations for the consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade - continuing the precedent set by the late Bernie Grant MP when he tabled Early Day Motion 1987 back in 1992/93 (supported by more than 60 other Labour MPs) welcoming the Abuja Proclamation issued after the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations, sponsored by the Organisation of African Unity, and the Government of Nigeria.

To quote from the motion agreed overwhelmingly yesterday; “The United Kingdom (UK) played a major role in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans (TTEA) which saw at least 15 million Africans forcibly trafficked to the Western Hemisphere with many thousands losing their lives during the crossing from Africa to the Americas on British Ships. A great deal of the wealth of the UK was founded on this vile crime against humanity and the legacies of chattel enslavement are still visible in our society today. The Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without the wealth generated by enslaved labour. The insurance and banking industries were developed to compensate enslavers who would throw enslaved people overboard rather than provide sufficient food and drink for the journey from Africa. The money from enslavement paid for UK roads, the railways, quaysides, warehouses, factories, trading houses, universities, opulent town houses and rural stately homes. Cities such as London, Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool grew from the ‘trade’. Royal Crescent, Brighton was built from the profits of an enslaver. The national curriculum fails to educate our nation’s children and young people about the history of enslavement and its legacies. It is institutions such as the Black Cultural Archives in London and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool which teach people about the history of the TTEA and its legacy, not statues of enslavers.”

These arguments have been well developed over the past half century, since the great Guyanese Marxist, Walter Rodney wrote “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” - and came into renewed focus this year as a result of the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement (not “moment”). The motion went on to call for “African people be part of building a framework within which to define and identify institutional racism affecting African people and that the Labour Party will fully support and encourage this” demanding also, amongst other things “that the Labour Party leads in education curriculum reform, working towards mainstreaming the excluded African history that has been hidden and denied at all levels of education, identifying and teaching constructively about the history and contribution of those subjugated by enslavement and colonial rule.”

I look forward to Brighton Pavilion CLP taking these arguments up in the Party in the coming year, and encouraging Party members to support the call from Global Afrikan Conference for an All Party Parliamentary Group on Reparations.

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