WDIE Masthead

Year 2005 No. 7, January 24, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Gordon Brown and Africa:

The Caring Face of New Labour Apologists for British Colonialism

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Gordon Brown and Africa:
The Caring Face of New Labour Apologists for British Colonialism

Building a New Compact between Rich and Poor Countries

Daily On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: (Local Rate from outside London 0845 644 1979) 020 7627 0599
Web Site: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk
e-mail: office@rcpbml.org.uk
Subscription Rates (Cheques made payable to RCPB(ML)):
Workers' Weekly Printed Edition:
4 issues - £2.95, 6 months - £18.95 for 26 issues, Yearly - £33.95 (including postage)

Workers' Daily Internet Edition sent by e-mail daily (Text e-mail):
1 issue free, 6 months £5, Yearly £10

Gordon Brown and Africa:

The Caring Face of New Labour Apologists for British Colonialism

The media has been full of reports of Gordon Brown’s recent tour of four African countries, during which he made several major speeches announcing the government’s declared aim to fight world poverty and launch a new "Marshall Plan" for Africa and "the entire developing world", which he claims will be "a new deal between the richest and the poorest countries". The Chancellor also signed agreements with Tanzania and Mozambique pledging to pay 10% of each country’s foreign debt, and similar agreements were offered to around 70 other poor countries around the world. Gordon Brown concluded his trip by chairing and speaking at a session of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, held in South Africa.

Both before and during his African tour Gordon Brown repeatedly stressed that the British government is committed to debt relief, fair trade and new funds for development aid for poorer countries. Such are the problems facing the African continent that some African leaders welcomed these proclamations. But commentators expressed a degree of cynicism about the tour and Brown’s motives and many African commentators were openly critical. A report in Mozambique’s Correio da Manha concluded that the tour "fits within the framework of a powerful campaign London has undertaken to wipe clean its image, which has been adversely affected by the policy that it has been pursuing in Iraq". A commentator in Kenya’s The East African wrote to condemn visits to Africa by representatives of the big powers claiming: "These are, after all, the same people ultimately responsible for the decisions taken by the bilateral and multilateral financiers, the multilateral trading system and so on."

Gordon Brown’s African tour and his professed commitment to end world poverty came on the eve of Britain’s presidency of the G8 and the EU, where the British government has announced Africa will be high on the agenda, and in a year when Britain will host the UN Millennium Summit. They also come at a time when there is increasing worldwide demand for "another world" and support for campaigns such as Make Poverty History. Even the big powers are realising that the world’s economic and social problems are "indivisible", and have consequences, albeit different ones, for rich and poor countries alike. In this regard even Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to Kofi Annan and a leading strategist of the UN’s Millennium Goals, recently told African leaders that if rich countries did not cancel Africa’s debts then they should annul them themselves.

Tony Blair has already made clear his wish to have Africa high on the agenda this year, and his Commission for Africa will deliver its report on the continent’s problems in March. However, it is already clear that the UN’s "Millennium Development Goals" – the plan agreed five years ago that rich and poor countries would work together to make sure that by 2015 every child was at school, "avoidable" infant deaths would be prevented and poverty would be halved – are not likely to be met in Sub–Saharan Africa for at least a century. It is in this context that Gordon Brown is a proposing a "modern Marshall Plan" particularly aimed at Africa, a continent that has grown even poorer over the last 20 years, which is still beset by major armed conflicts and one in which the big powers have continued to intervene and then fish in troubled waters.

The professed concern of Gordon Brown and the government has to be seen in the context of all the comments he made during his recent African tour. Perhaps the most telling was a remark made to journalists in Mozambique, where Brown is reported by the BBC to have said, "Britain should stop apologising for colonialism and be proud of its history." As if to add insult to injury he then added that in the past, "African soldiers died to defend British values of liberty, tolerance and civic virtue." It is therefore clear that Gordon Brown is as much an apologist for British colonial rule as Tony Blair, who has boasted that the British Empire was "a remarkable achievement" and who wishes to make Britain "great" again.

The approach of Brown and Blair, in regard to Africa, is rooted in the thinking of the 19th century imperialists, whose notions of the "civilising mission" and "taking up the white man’s burden" were used to justify imperial conquest and occupation. They are mainly concerned with how Africa can be used to solve the problems that confront them, as representatives of the big monopolies and financial institutions, not how to solve Africa’s problems in the interests of the peoples of Africa. In this regard they wish to create confusion over the main cause of Africa’s problems, the savage exploitation of the continent and its peoples which occurred not just in the past but which is continued by Britain and the other big powers today too. They refuse to accept any responsibility for Africa’s problems nor make any reparation for the crimes that have been committed, but rather prefer to appear as Africa’s greatest friends and benefactors. At the same time they are determined that Africa should continue along a path determined from outside, that it should have no real economic nor political independence and that the African people themselves should not become the decision makers.

So although Gordon Brown speaks of debt relief for the poorest countries he does not offer any explanation for the growing disparity between rich and poor countries. His proposals, especially the much-heralded International Financial Facility, are a way of privatising aid by issuing bonds on the international money markets for the benefit of the financial institutions. Such "aid" continues to be tied to demands for so-called "good governance", a Eurocentric notion that allows the big powers to continue their interference in Africa’s affairs and maintain neo-colonial political institutions. Britain also continues to maintain its neo-colonial ties with countries throughout Africa. So that although a country like Tanzania may receive all kinds of British "aid" and "debt relief", its economy remains strongly tied to Britain and dominated by British monopolies such as BP, Unilever and Standard Chartered. Indeed 45% of Tanzania’s budget is based on external, mainly British, sources. Tanzania also manages to be ones of the world’s leading diamond producers and one of the world’s poorest countries.

There should be no illusions about the aims of Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and the British government in Africa. In that continent as elsewhere they remain the representatives of the big monopolies and financial institutions and continue to act in their interests.

Article Index

Building a New Compact between Rich and Poor Countries

Extracts from Speech by Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Pope Paul VI Memorial lecture, Cafod (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), Wednesday 8 December 2004


Today I want to sketch out for you a vision of a new deal that demands a new accountability from both rich and poor countries.

A new compact between those to whom so much is given and those who have so little.

More than a contract – which is after all one group tied by legal obligations to another – and nothing less than what the author of "The Politics of Hope" called a "covenant" – the richest recognising out of duty and a deep moral sense of responsibility their obligations to the poorest of the world.

And I want suggest that at the same time as developing countries devising their own poverty reduction plans, we the richest countries must take three vital steps:

* first, agreeing a comprehensive financing programme – that is we achieve a breakthrough to complete 100 per cent debt relief; find a way to persuade others to join us in declaring their timetables on increasing development aid to 0.7 per cent of national income; and immediately raise an additional $50 billion dollars a year, doubling aid to halve poverty, through the creation of a new International Finance Facility;

* second, with this new finance, that we advance to meet the Millennium Development Goals on health, education and the halving of poverty; use this unique opportunity to drive forward the internationalisation of AIDS research and the advance purchase of HIV/AIDS and malaria vaccines; build the capacity of health and education systems; and deliver to the 105 million children who do not go to school today, two thirds of them girls, our promise of primary education for all;

* and third, that we deliver the Doha development round on trade, and make it the first ever world trade agreement to be in the interests of the poorest countries.

Indeed, because progress on each of these is dependent on progress on all of these, we must during 2005 advance all of these causes together.

Exactly five years ago in New York and in a historic declaration every world leader, every international body, almost every single country signed up to a shared commitment to right the greatest wrongs of our time.

The promise that by 2015 every child would be at school.

The promise that by 2015 avoidable infant deaths would be prevented.

The promise that by 2015 poverty would be halved.

This commitment was a bond of trust, perhaps the greatest bond of trust pledged between rich and poor.

But already, so close to the start of our journey – and 20 years after the problems were first exposed to this generation through Live Aid – we can see that our destination risks becoming out of reach, receding into the distance.

And at best on present progress in Sub Saharan Africa:

* primary education for all will be delivered not in 2015 but 2130 – that is 115 years too late;

* the halving of poverty not by 2-0-1-5 but by 2-1-5-0 -- that is 135 years too late;

* and the elimination of avoidable infant deaths not by 2015 but by 2165 -- that is 150 years too late.


It has been written that, "if we answer the question why we can handle the question how".

And this evening I am going to put forward three propositions:

- that our dependence upon each other should awaken our conscience to the needs not just of neighbours but of strangers;

- more than that, that our moral sense should impel us to act out of duty and not just self interest;

- and that the claims of justice are not at odds with the liberties of each individual but a modern expression of them that ensures the dignity of all – and there is such a thing as a moral universe.


So does not everything that we witness across the world today from discussing global trade to dealing with global terrorism symbolise just how closely and irrevocably bound together are the fortunes of the richest persons in the richest country to the fate of the poorest persons in the poorest country of the world even when they are strangers and have never met, and that an injury to one must be seen as an injury to all?

But is not what impels us to act far more than this enlightened self-interest?

Ought we not to take our case for a war against poverty to its next stage – from economics to morality, from enlightened self interest that emphasises our dependence each upon the other to the true justice that summons us to do our duty – and to see that every death from hunger and disease is as if it is a death in the family?

For is there not some impulse even greater than the recognition of our interdependence that moves human beings even in the most comfortable places to empathy and to anger at the injustice and inhumanity that blights the lives not just of neighbours but of strangers in so many places at so high a cost?

It is not something greater, more noble, more demanding than just our shared interests that propels us to demand action against deprivation and despair on behalf of strangers as well as neighbours – and is it not our shared values?


In her recent book Gertrude Himmelfaarb shows that, when the 17th and 18th centuries brought a revolt against outmoded forms of hierarchy, there was understandably a preoccupation not with justice or duty but with liberty. In 1789 "liberty" literally came before "equality" and "fraternity".

The call for freedom from outmoded forms of hierarchical obligations was then the only path to ending the power of absolute monarchs and repealing old mercantilist laws.

But although the great Enlightenment philosophers marched under the banner of liberty, rightly wishing to prevent any ruler invading the freedom of the citizen, a closer reading of these writers shows that, for them, the march of individual freedoms did not release people from their obligations to their fellow citizens and fulfilling the duties they owed to each other. For them liberty was not at odds with justice or duty but liberty and duty advanced together.


Enlightened self interest may lead us to propose a contract between rich and poor founded upon our mutual responsibilities because of our interdependence. But it is our strong sense of what is just that demands a covenant between rich and poor founded on our moral responsibility to each other – that even if it was not in our narrow self interest to do so it would still be right for every citizen to do ones duty and meet the needs, and enhance the dignity, of strangers.


So we do not wipe out the debt of the poorest countries simply because these debts are not easily paid.

We do so because people weighed down by the burden of debts imposed by the last generation on this cannot even begin to build for the next generation.

To insist on the payment of these debts offends human dignity – and is therefore unjust.

What is morally wrong cannot be economically right.


But the truth is that the scale of the resources needed immediately to tackle disease, illiteracy and global poverty is far beyond what traditional funding can offer today.

That is why the UK Government as part of the financing package to reach the Millennium Development Goals has put forward its proposal for stable, predictable, long-term funds frontloaded to tackle today's problems of poverty, disease and illiteracy through the bold initiative of a new global finance facility.

The International Finance Facility is in the tradition of the Marshall Plan of 1948, when to finance the development of a ravaged post war Europe, the richest country in the world – the USA – agreed to transfer one per cent of their national income each and every year for four years – a transfer in total of the equivalent in today's money of $75 billion a year.

And it is modelled on the founding principles of the World Bank in 1945 where nations provided resources to an international institution that then borrowed on the international capital markets.


Article Index

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Index Page