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'The rich threaten the poor'
Tony Benn
Member of Parliament, Britain

The sanctions question has been on the margins of the world political agenda for some years now, but this conference moves it to the center. The way sanctions are being used now is really an act of political and economic warfare without war. But it has the effect of imposing the most terrible suffering, contrary to the Charter of the UN. It affects other countries. For example, countries that wish to trade with Cuba would be penalized by the U.S., as we heard this morning in the brilliant address from our Cuban legal representative.

This affects every country and is a threat to the stability of the world. It exemplifies the way the UN has been taken over by Washington in the unipolar world. The imposition of sanctions raises the question of the lack of democracy in the UN, and indeed it tells you something about the so-called New World Order, which is a return to the imperialism of the 19th century.

We must first understand what is happening, because the media distort and prevent us from understanding. The truth is, the world today is run by money, and money has the military behind it. It has the media behind it. The multinationals represent the money, and anyone who stands against the search for profit will either be the subject of a cold war, isolated, or sanctions or a blockade will be used against them. That is the reality, and if we explain that to people, then at least we will have explained something.

Why is it that sanctions are all right when it comes to food and medicine, but not when it applies to weapons of war? Because the U.S. and Britain supply weapons to both sides in conflicts.

Let us understand the world. Let us support the people who are suffering. I am glad that the representative from Cuba paid tribute to the internationalists from the U.S. There are some marvelous internationalists in the U.S. represented here by Ramsey Clark, one of the most distinguished.

What we need is solidarity. We need people supporting each other. We must campaign worldwide. Speaking as a Labour Party member, I should like to see the Labour Party coming out much more. No progress has ever been made without a challenge. If you wait for your bosses to do what you want,

you can wait till you're dead.

How do you think apartheid ended in South Africa? It wasn't because Nelson Mandela bought a new suit and changed Clause Four of the South African Constitution. The main advances have been made by struggle.

Sixty-five years ago I met an Indian who came to London. I was only five, and he had just come out of a British prison and was going back into another British prison. He was asked: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of civilization in Britain?" He replied, "I think it would be a very good idea."

Thirty-one years ago Nelson Mandela was put in prison, described as a terrorist. At the time of the Rivonia trial, I spoke in Trafalgar Square. The thing about human struggle is this. To begin with, they ignore us. Then if you go on, they say you are dangerous. Finally they claim you hadn't thought of it in the first place!

From speech to London Commission, August 1995.

The poverty that has been deliberately generated in Iraq is part of something much bigger, and reflects the need to redistribute the world's resources for the benefit of the many. Some 35,000 babies die every day in the world today from poverty-related diseases. Yet the Western governments, instead of using their resources to relieve this suffering, are spending enormous sums of money on weapons. In the case of Britain, the amount involved is such that every family of four in the country is effectively spending around forty pounds a week on weapons. And far from reducing the poverty, the Western governments hold out sanctions as a terrifying prospect, the ultimate weapon of the rich to threaten the poor. If we have the courage to speak out on these issues, then we shall find that we have allies everywhere.

From speech to London Commission, November 1995.

The continuation of the sanctions on Iraq has become symbolic of the threat of sanctions as a frightening prospect held over the world's poor by the big powers. They have become the ultimate weapon with which the rich threaten the poor. They are a demonstration of the counter-revolution against democracy which has been occurring on a global scale. They have the effect of imposing the most terrible suffering. contrary to the Charter of the UN. They have become a threat to the stability of the world political and commercial system.

They symbolize the way the UN has frankly been taken over by Washington. I strongly urge your government to take action at the [Security Council] meeting to redress this shameful situation.

From a letter sent to the London embassies of UN Security Council countries, October 11, 1995.