XR’s The Big One – climate justice

In this video, Amrit Wilson speaks outside HM Treasury in London at XR’s The Big One, on the 21st of April.

Amrit discusses colonialism, World Bank/IMF debt conditionality, the root cause of climate change and the current context in India where Narendra Modi, the BJP and Gautam Adani, who are allied to the interests to global capital, and wreaking havoc on the environment and commiting atrocities. Amrit also mentions Adani’s sponsorship deal with London’s Science Museum. And concludes, to confront climate change, we must take a stand against capitalism.

The full transcript of her talk is below.

Now when I look at this huge triumphal building before me next to the absurd rituals of the horse guards I can’t help thinking of the cruel plunder of colonialism which hid behind this pomp and show. My country, India, like so many countries of the global south was plundered by the British. Robert Clive who is celebrated with a statue which we see next door was a merciless asset stripper, and it was he who set up the world’s first multinational company – the East India Company.

The East India Company was a blueprint of the corporate power we see today. It had its own private army, which tortured, raped and killed all those who resisted, just as the corporates are doing today across the world from India to Ecuador to Nigeria, it left devastation and death everywhere and like the corporates of today it had no qualms about dealing in harmful commodities.

It imposed crippling taxes on India’s people and extracted forced labour – forcing people to grow cash crops, at gun point and preventing them growing food crops. It created a famine in which 10 million people, one third of the population of Bengal died. After the first war of independence in 1857, in which the people of India of all religions and classes united against the East India Company, the British state took over and ruled directly.

They put in place divide and rule policies nurturing enmity between Hindus and Muslims. And we see the legacy of that divide and rule, that enmity, today in Narendra Modi’s Hindu-supremacist fascist regime in India which is engaged in genocidal violence against Muslims.

Once one of the richest countries in the world, India became one of the poorest. So while they still tell us, from that building over there, that colonialism brought benefits to India and didn’t do much for Britain, we know that this is a stupendous lie. Utsa Patnaik the well-known Indian economist has shown, between 1765 and 1938, Britain drained a total of 45 trillion dollars from India which is 17 times the Britain’s total GDP today.

In the period after ww2, in the era when colonialism was being swept away by anti-colonial struggles across Asia and Africa, to keep control of the economies of the countries the imperialists invented another stupendous lie. That they would give loans to the ex-colonies to help them develop. Eventually these loans led to debts and then conditionalities like austerity and privatisation. Each conditionality leading to a further draining of resources, and further debt.

And the development they imposed caused and is continuing to cause untold suffering and Climate crisis. Last year Pakistan was engulfed in devastating floods – they were largely a result of World Bank policies and also of the so-called irrigation networks the British had set up – networks which were more about extraction than about irrigation. Networks which changed the nature and course of the mighty Indus river.

Today in the neoliberal era with the growing power of finance capitalism we see a reconfiguring of capitalism and the emergence of a new colonialism where British banks like HSBC and Barclays who were deeply implicated in slavery now working closely with global corporations – launching wars and shoring up repressive governments. In India the Adani group works closely with British banks on the one hand and Modi’s fascist Hindu supremacist regime on the other.

Adani has been exposed as the biggest fraud in corporate history but he is continuing to destroy pristine forests, and extract coal from new mines and he is spreading Modi’s poisonous Hindu supremacist ideology. And shockingly not only the banks but our own Science Museum in Kensington is involved in greenwashing Adani. Science Museum director ex-Banker Sir Ian Blatchford has ignored his own organisation’s due diligence report on Adani and kept it secret from the trustees. But – the activists of the Fossil Free Science Museum group have made it available as a wonderful book. Hopefully it will shame Blatchford into seeing sense Because Adani must and will be defeated and with him the genocidal Modi regime!

And, for that, solidarity is crucial! So let us be clear demanding an end to debt can only be a confusing half way house. Justice demands reparations for all the historic and continuing plunder of the lands and from the peoples of the global south, and justice demands we show our total solidarity with those who are resisting both the corporates as well as the fascist regimes in countries like India. Climate justice is a global issue inextricably tied up with capitalism. It is only by confronting capitalism that we can achieve climate justice.

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