Will this Fight Ever End?
Vijay Prashad: Well, first, I’ll say thanks to forcing me to come to Glasgow. When I walked the streets of cities like this, you know, Glasgow was the UK’s second most important city, beautiful streets, beautiful buildings, a gorgeous city, you know. It had Red Clydeside in 1919, the uprising to create a Soviet Scotland. But it was crushed, of course. When I see cities like this, I think also about the other side of it.
There’s a phrase from Walter Benjamin, “Every monument of civilization is also a monument of barbarism.” I think of the furnace in Bengali, the jute workers in Bengali sending jute to Dundee through the Glasgow port. I think of human beings from Africa enslaved and brought from Ghana to the New World and all those profits getting sucked into cities like London and Glasgow.
Between 1765 and 1938, the British Isles stole £45,000,000,000 from India. £45,000,000,000 in sterling silver from India.
We never got paid for that. When the British left India, when we threw the British out, our literacy rate was 13%. So much for several hundred years of so-called civilization. Meanwhile our landscapes were destroyed. You know, coal was foisted on India. You foisted coal on us.
There’s the permanent condition of the colonial mentality. You want to lecture us. You want to tell us that we are responsible for all of those problems, because you’ll never accept that you are one principally to blame.
You signed the Rio Formula in 1992 on common and differentiated responsibilities. You like the common part! You like to say “we’re all in this together,” and so on… We’re not in this together! The United States has 4 or 5% of the world’s population, still uses 25% of the world’s resources! You outsource production to China, and then you say, China is the carbon polluter. You were the ones that came and made us all dependent, and then you left. And now you dare to condescend to us.
When I listened to Boris Johnson, when I listen to people like Joe Biden, when I listen even more to Emmanuel Macron, all I can think of is how condescending you are. You condescended to us 400 years ago. You condescended to us 300 years ago. You condescended to us 200 and 100 years ago. You condescend to us today. You only know condescension!
Because for you, colonialism isn’t something that happened in the past. And we defeated you! It’s not that! For you, colonialism is a permanent condition, and that permanent condition happens in two ways:
China is producing your steel. China is producing your nuts and bolts. China is producing your phones! Try to produce in your own countries, and see your carbon emissions rise!
You love lecturing us, because you have a colonial mentality. Then there are colonial structures and institutions. You lend us money, and every time you lend us money (which is our money), every time the International Monetary Fund comes to our societies and they tell us, “Here is the money we are giving you.” We are giving you? NO! It is our money you are “giving” us, our money. You “give” us our money back as debt and then then you lecture about how we should live!? It’s extraordinary! It’s not just the colonial mentality, it’s the colonial structures and institutions which reproduce themselves year after year after year.
And let me tell you something. The climate justice movement, not clued enough, on this climate justice movement, a movement that says: We’re worried about our future.
What future??? What future?
Children in the African continent, in Asia, in Latin America – they don’t have a future!!!
They don’t have a PRESENT!! They’re not worried about the future – they’re worried about the present. Your slogan is we’re worried about the Future? What future?? That’s some middle class bourgeois Western slogan.
You’ve got to be worried about NOW! Two point seven billion people can’t eat now! And you’re out telling people, reduce your consumption!! How does this sound to a child who hasn’t eaten in days?! You’ve got to clue into this, guys! You’ve got to clue into this, otherwise this movement will have no legs in the Third World. No legs.
I’d like to tell you about the International Peoples’ Assembly, a network of 200 political organizations that we are setting up, rooted in the Global South. We want to tell you what our issues are. But are you willing to listen?
Transcribed for Change Links by Nia Asante from a speech in Glasgow