Bishop Speech – Address by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada to the 34th General Assembly of the
|Mr. President,Today it is a great honour and privilege for me to deliver my country’s address to the United Nations on behalf of the People’s Revolutionary Government and the people of Grenada. It is particularly pleasing to be able to deliver this address in 1979 – a year that will undoubtedly be recorded as “the year of the fall of the dictators,” including from my region Somoza of Nicaragua and Gairy of Grenada.At this 34th session of the General Assembly I would like to welcome His Excellency Salim Ahmad Salim and to congratulate him on his election as President of the United Nations General Assembly. The People’s Revolutionary Government and the people of Grenada have the closest ties with the government and people of Tanzania and as such, we hold you and your President – Julius Nyerere in the highest regard and we are fully confident that your presidential term will be successful.We also place on the record our warmest appreciation for the excellent manner in which your predecessor Mr. Indalecio Lieveno presided over the work of the last session. I wish also to join with those preceeding (sic) me to this rostrum in conveying through you our gratitude for the dedicated and untiring efforts of our distinguished Secretary General and staff. History will certainly record the tremendous contribution of Dr. Kurt Waldheim in particular, to the cause of World Peace.
At the same time, I wish on behalf of the People’s Revolutionary Government and the people of Grenada to congratulate and warmly welcome the newly independent state of St. Lucia to membership of the United Nations. This is a particular pleasure for us because St. Lucia is not only our neighbour in the Caribbean but is also a fraternal friend.
ROOTS OF THE PEOPLE’S REVOLUTION
As I speak before this body today, I do so as the representative of a small country which intends to speak with a resolute and principled voice on the issues of substantive concern to the world today.
The advent of our Revolution has signalled the beginning of the end of the most dangerous and vicious stage of the colonial experience, that which we recognise as neo-colonialism. This stage had seen us exposed to various constitutional manipulations, all of which had failed to hide the reality of economic bondage under imperialism. Moreover, this neo-colonial stage has also exposed our nation to the vicious, ruthless neo-fascist dictatorship of Eric Gairy. To you here at this renowned body, this petty dictator was known as “Mr. U.F.O.,” but to us in Grenada this amusingly descriptive title did not hide the reality of a dictator whose closest links were with imperialism and international criminal elements and openly fascist and dictatorial regimes.
Apart from his criminal record, Gairy left Grenada in an economic wilderness. Indeed, due to his neo-fascist regime we have a legacy of a total dependence on imperialism, a reality that has meant extreme poverty characterized by wholesale repression of the working people and their organisations, massive unemployment, with more than half of the work force out of work, high levels of illiteracy, malnutrition, superstition, “Mongoose Gang” brutality and murder of our people, poor housing and health conditions, combined with overall economic stagnation and massive migration.
Such a legacy was the motive force behind our Revolution, on March 13th of this year. Our Revolution had its roots with the formation of our party, the New Jewel Movement in March 1973. From that date till March of this year our party was subjected to various forms of the most gross and openly hostile brutality at the hands of Gairy and his fascist allies . I am proud to announce to this body today that such abuses of human rights ceased as of March 13th, 1979, (the day of our successful Revolution,) and since that time, the democratic rights and freedoms of the people have been restored and expanded.
Indeed, our Revolution in Grenada is a people’s Revolution and as such one of the fundamental principles of our Revolution is the establishment of the people’s rights. Among these rights, we include the right to equal pay for men and women, the right to social and economic justice, the right to work and the right to democratic participation in the affairs of our nation.
At the same time we also have a firm commitment to the establishment of people’s rights in the international community and as such we firmly oppose imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism (including zionism) and fascism. More than this, we strongly condemn any attempt by any country to maintain any of these hostile and repugnant systems and for this reason we particularly join in the chorus of support for the application demanding mandatory sanctions against the racist state of South Africa as is provided for in Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations.
I wish at this time to clearly assert our Nation’s commitment to this body’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a clear understanding that one of the fundamental rights of all peoples in the achievement of economic well being, a reality that is hindered by imperialism. I emphasise also our Nation’s unyielding support for the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, and in particular I wish to record our firm commitment to the Genera Assembly’s resolutions Numbers 1514 of December 1960 and 2621 of October 1970, both asserting the need for an end to colonialism.
NON-ALIGNMENT-A POSITIVE CONCEPT
Grenada has recently joined the Non-Aligned Movement and attended the sixth Non-Aligned Summit hosted by the fraternal revolutionary Government of Cuba in Havana. That historic gathering was attended by ninety-one out of ninety-four full member states and national liberation movements, and several observer countries and guests drawn from all parts of the Third World. We were greatly honoured at our first Non-Aligned Summit at being elected to the Bureau of the Movement.
We like to feel that this honour is indicative of our firm adherence to the fundamental principles of non-alignment. We joined this great Movement not out of considerations of convenience or selfish gain but because, following the assumption of power of the People’s Revolutionary Government in Grenada, we undertook, as a matter of the highest priority, to elevate our country’s foreign policy to the plane of principle and purposefulness.
Non-Alignment does not imply for us that we must be neutral in the sterile and negative sense, nor does it imply that our country must regard itself as a political eunuch in the conduct of our international affairs. Our Non- Aligned policy will certainly not lead us to surrender our independence of judgement in world affairs; or to retreat from our right and duty to fully participate in international forums and discussions concerned with issues vital to our interests, concerns and principles. To the contrary, non-alignment for us is a positive concept characterising a vigorous and principled approach to international issues. It is an affirmation of that fundamental attribute of all peoples and states to sovereignty, independence and the right to freely determine their own domestic and foreign policies.
It is perhaps true to say that during the early years of the history of the movement that the major concern of non-alignment was the achievement of independence for colonial countries, and the second was the struggle to maintain and enhance their sovereignty with all that implies, including first and foremost the fight against Imperialism.
THE CHARACTER OF IMPERIALISM
It in undoubtedly true to say that today the anti-colonial aspect of the struggles of the Non-Aligned Movement has become much leas important than 18 years ago. And this is so for the obvious reason that the vast majority of countries which were colonies in 1961 are now independent.
Not unnaturally, in this new situation more and more countries in the Non-Aligned Movement in common with more and more countries in the Third World as a whole have been focusing their attention on the struggle against imperialism. Our concern increasingly has been concentrated on the fight to regain control over our natural and national resources from the grips of the rapacious multi-national corporations backed by their power governments of hte imperialists worldwide.
This has led more and more Third World countries to recognise that imperialism is the greatest enemy of mankind and that the perpetrators of this rape of our resources are to be found in the imperialist world. Nor does the matter end here. We have had for example, the cold blooded support of the imperialist countries for the murderous apartheid regime of Southern Africa as opposed to the moral and material support given the freedom fighters by the socialist community. This more than anything else exposes the true character of imperialism today.
Obviously not only the socialist community supports this struggle against racism and apartheid, the front line states which are 3rd world and non-aligned have also provided crucial and meaningful support. So too has the non- aligned movement.
A further important indicator of the character of imperialism can be seen from the fact that the high cost of manufactured products and machinery, the refusal to enter into reasonable and just commodity agreements, the stone- walling of attempts to agree on a new international economic order, the refusal to accept that an international regime should be created to exploit the resources of the deep sea for the benefit of all mankind and not just for a few multinational corporations can all be placed at the doorstep of the Imperialist World. It is clear therefore, there is an affinity of principle and policy among the Non-Aligned and the Socialist World.
Consistent with our opposition to colonialism, imperialism and racism, we affirm today before this great assembly our firm support for the struggles being waged by the peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa under the leadership of the Patriotic Front, SWAPO and ANC for their liberation and against apartheid and racism. We recognise and applaud the principled and consistent support being given to these struggles by the Front Line States.
We express our firmest support for and solidarity with the struggles of the people of Palestine led by their sole and legitimate representatives, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). On this basis, we reject the Camp David Agreement which does not have the support of the Palestinian people, the PLO, the Arab World or the entire democratic, progressive and Socialist World.
We reaffirm our support for the people of Western Sahara under the leadership of the Polisario Front in their struggle for independence and self determination. We call upon the people of Korea to continue the just struggle for the reunification of their homeland. We express our firm support for Heng Samrin government and the heroic people of Kampuchea – a Government which we recognised on the 20th of August last. We support the struggles of the government and people of Belize for independence with full territorial integrity. We also wish to express ear strongest solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico in their struggle for independence. We fully support the ongoing and determined struggle of the government and people of Cuba in their fight to gain control ever Guantanamo Bay. Our profound solidarity also goes to the government and people of Panama in their just struggle to recover the Panama Canal. We support fully the struggles of all the people of the Caribbean who are fighting for an end to colonialism.
MILITARISM VERSUS PEACE
The peace of the world is a matter that concerns not only the rich and powerful nations, some of whom produce, purchase and deploy sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, but more profoundly, the poor, weak and small nations, who are the victims of the squander and waste that are characteristic of militarism. The expenditure on arms and weapons of war is truly collossal and stupendous. As has been expressed elsewhere, more than US $300 billion a year is spent on arms and other military equipment and installations throughout the world.
This astronomical sum, if spent on health, could build and equip 30,000 hospitals with 18 million beds. It could construct 20,000 factories with jobs for more than 20 million workers. In fact, $300 billion represents the budget of my country for 14,000 years at current rates of exchange and taking into consideration a very generous rate of inflation i.e. 17% per year. This says a lot for the small size of my country’s budget which is less than a fraction of the budget of most multi-national corporations and 10% of the cost of one single project – a fertiliser plant being constructed in Trinidad and Tobago, a small and neighbouring Caribbean State. But it also says a great deal about the enormous waste of financial resources expended on armaments by nations some of which already have the capacity to wipe out the whole of mankind several times over.
You can well understand the deep concern that we harbour for lasting peace. It is for this reason that we strongly support the efforts of the World Peace Council and any and all moves towards détente, peaceful co- existence and disarmament. The people of Grenada are gratified therefore that the Helsinki Final Act and now SALT II have been signed by both the U.K. and the U.S.S.R. We are however disturbed to note that reactionary elements who definitely have a vested interest in the prolongation of the arms race, have been making efforts to prevent the ratification of SALT II in the U.S. Senate.
These same reactionary elements have been pushing the United States Government to reintroduce “cold war” principles and to create new or strengthen old military pacts, alliances, arrangements or manoeuvres aimed at serving the interests of expansionism and imperialism and/or of trampling upon the struggles of the people against fascist methods and the suppression of democratic rights. These reactionaries have succeeded in their aims in the Caribbean and Latin American area with the recent speech by President Carter.
We view with very grave concern the “cold war” and militaristic steps proclaimed by President Carter in his national address to the people of America on Monday lst October in which he announced the establishment of a permanent full-time Caribbean Military Task Force with headquarters in Key West, Florida. Such a force will be made up of all the military services and will conduct military manoeuvres in the region. These manoeuvres have in fact, already begun by the deployment of some 16 naval vessels in the Caribbean Sea along with other manoeuvres in Guantanamo Bay on Cuban soil. And mention of Guantanamo Bay should remind us of the absurdity of a country that has bases in Cuba and Panama against the will of the peoples of those countries denouncing another country maintaining troops in Cuba even with the consent of the Cuban people. We note too that of the seven proposals announced by President Carter. Six are of a military character.
A WIND OF CHANGE IN THE CARIBBEAN
We believe that this is a reaction to the recent progressive changes and its developments within the Latin American and Caribbean region.
A wind of change is blowing through the Caribbean bringing with it a new regional balance of forces as a result of the changes towards progress by the peoples of Nicaragua, Grenada, St. Lucia and Dominica – a situation that has led the U.S. Secretary of State to define the Eastern Caribbean me one of the world’s “trouble spots.”
It is our view that the new regional balance of forces has implications for the profits being made by the U.S. multinational corporations and for geo-political considerations in the region. This is making reactionary elements in the United States desperate.
The international community must take this new threat to the region seriously because the U.S. Government, has an established pattern of using gunboat diplomacy, blockades, destabilisation tactics and other “cold war” measures against the peoples of Latin American and the Caribbean region. It is an attempt to revive the Munroe (sic) Doctrine under which the United States claims the unilateral right to intervene militarily in the domestic affairs of any country in the region. And it is a matter of historical record that such ;interventions took place, among others, in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Columbia, Mexico, Nicaragua and the very Cuba that they are now expressing so much hostility towards.
For our part, we uphold the democratic right of the people of the Caribbean to choose their own Government or political system. The Caribbean belongs to the peoples of the Caribbean. We reject the U.S. plan to set up a Caribbean task force and call upon the international community to join with us in demanding an immediate withdrawal of this proposal. We join with our sister Caribbean nations in re-emphasising our determination to preserve the Caribbean as a zone of peace, free from military intimidation. We demand the right to build our own processes in our own way, free from outside interference, free from bullying and free from the use or threat of force.
We desire normal friendly relations with the Government of the United States. Many of our citizens reside and work in this country and many U.S. citizens are frequent visitors to our country. But it must be manifestly clear that our relations must be based on the fundamental principles of mutual respect for sovereignty, equality and noninterference in each others’ internal affairs, a positron which in fact applies to all other states.
PROBLEMS OF SMALL STATES
I want now to raise the issue of small states in the international community. Notwithstanding our basic position that all states are equal, sovereign independent entities, we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are significant physical, demographic and economic differences among us. The issues of small size and small scale are not incidental to the levels of development of small countries or to their significance in the conduct of international relations. Small size must be explicitly recognised as a dimension of international relations. Poverty and dependence can of course apply to both small and large states but there are some special disabilities experienced by small countries that weigh heavily in explaining their economic and social problems.
The Caribbean is characterized by several small island states. Many have populations of approximately 100,000 people and sizes between 100 and 300 square miles. Most lack significant material resources, being dependent for all their history on agricultural production and more recently on tourism and light manufacturing. Additionally, such economies lack adequate capital aend skilled manpower resources, infrastructural and technological underdevelopment abound, and exhibit a high dependence on the export of one or two basic raw materials for foreign exchange earnings.
We face political disabilities in many ways. As island communities separated by stretches of water and linguistic barriers we have experienced the consequences of imperialist domination and cultural fragmentation. Consistent with our struggle to overcome these problems, the new governments of Dominica, St. Lucia and Grenada jointly issued the St. George’s Declaration which pledged as follows:
Notwithstanding the fact that as long ago as 1970, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the landmark Declaration of Principles which states that the sea bed, ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as their resources, constitute “the common heritage of mankind,” we are still today without a global oceans regime. And while the people of Grenada welcome the progress which has been made on the Law of The Sea, we remain anxious about the absence of a definite Treaty because for us a satisfactory Treaty has fundamental implications for our economic well-being and the establishment of a new international economic order.
Winning the economic war against imperialism and its concomitants poverty, high unemployment, poor health, and the alienation of the people from the fruits of their labour requires us to conduct struggles on both the domestic and international planes. As sovereign governments we are separately responsible for our own programmes of economic transformation, but our international solidarity and cooperation are critical for the meeting of our goals.
THE STRUGGLES FOR A NEW ORDER
The present distribution of world economic power, wealth and living standards is manifestly unjust. It derives from the long history of imperialist expansion and control of the third world. We seek to change this order and to substitute for it a New International Economic Order. But we must be clear about our conception of this New International Economic Order.
By the New International Economic Order, we mean the assertion of national sovereignty over the ownership and control of our economic resources. Further, we mean the establishment of the freedom to determine the disposition and use of our resources in whatever ways our peoples wish, in furtherance of their own aspirations for economic development. We mean the creation of an equitable system of international trade based on just prices for our exports. We mean the opening up of markets internationally, in particular in the wealthy countries to facilitate the growth in exports of the Third World:
We mean the establishment of an international agreement on the exploitation of the resources of the sea which would secure a just share of the resources and the wealth generated therefrom for the underdeveloped countries. The importance of this aspect of our conception of the New International Economic Order cannot be overestimated as the sea is the last frontier – and the oil, fish, manganese, nickel and minerals in the deep sea must be exploited by an international regime for the benefit of all of mankind and not just for the benefit of a handful of multi- national corporations and their governments.
We desire a new system of international inter-dependence, based on mutual respect for sovereignty and a collective will to put an end to imperialist machinations designed to disrupt our unity and purpose.
Broadly, the whole thrust of any New International Economic Order could for us only lead towards the elimination of the severe economic problems besetting our peoples: inadequate diet, poor medical care, insufficient clothing and other basic amenities. All or any of our grand schemes of economic re-organization and transformation must be designed to fulfill these basic goals.
Before closing I would like on behalf of the People’s Revolutionary Government and the people of Grenada to express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with the Government and people of Angola in particular and the peoples of Africa in general on the loss of President Augustino Neto, a truly great, revolutionary and patriotic son of Africa.
I wish also to formally support earlier calls for urgent assistance to the hurricane stricken and devastated countries of Dominica and the Dominican Republic. We certainly hope that the response of countries in the United Nations and of international organs and agencies will match the great extent of their needs.
The People’s Revolutionary Government and people of Grenada salute the outstanding work and achievements of the United Nations over the past 30 years. For our part, we confirm, our commitment to the noble aims, ideals and objectives of this great body and pledge our contribution to the building of a new world in which the poor of the world will at last obtain social, economic and political justice.
Thank you Mr. President.