first thoughts: slavish thinking


AT A RECENT conference in the Caribbean, Cuba denounced as "racist" the demand that only non-white delegates could discuss slavery and reparations to their descendants. Those who called for the exclusion of non-black delegates were from the largest delegation present – from Britain.

At the same time the US city of Chicago deemed that any company wishing to tender for work must be able to demonstrate that they never profited, owned or traded in slaves. How pious.

Slavery throughout history has been about the brutalisation of economic relations between people. Skin colour is but one aspect – one that is ignored by those who still perpetuate this barbarity in Africa to this day. Slave owning societies were replaced by wage-slave societies. Slavery in the USA was abolished 140 years ago, but the working class of the Americas – north and south hemispheres – still faces abject wage slavery.

The key to slavery is class, not race, whether the slaves are Britons resisting the Roman Empire or Irish deported to the Caribbean in the 17th century, or Jews and Soviet citizens in Nazi Europe or the millions drawn to the Tiger economies of the Pacific Rim.

The unravelling of the human genome last year has damned those who would divide humanity into so-called "races" to the dustbin of history – there is more genetic variation within ethnic groups than there is between them. So there is but one human race, and it is divided by class, not colour.

The nonsense of the perpetual victim guilt trip of those who would seek reparations as a remedy to the evils of the world would trap us into having to put up with those evils forever. We are not to be mesmerised by slavery, starvation, ignorance, homelessness, ill health, inequality, discrimination, denial of human dignity.

We are not going to grovel at past events and shriek and wear sackcloth and ashes for past wrongs. The brutality imposed on populations of the world stems from the economic system of capitalism. Permanently ending that system is the only way to hush the ghosts of past inhumanity and the only way to prevent future repetition.