Recent comments by Tory Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have let the mask slip, revealing the cynical attitude of the ruling class towards human rights. Only socialist internationalism can protect the working class – at home and abroad.
“If we restrict [trade] to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”
These were the recently leaked words of the Tory Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab. The Tories’ priorities are plain to see. Profit comes before anything else.
Of course, Raab claims that this quote was taken out of context. Nevertheless, the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, was quick to defend Raab’s comments:
“Our ambassador in China has made really strong representations to the Chinese government about their behaviour and we’ve said that we don’t find this [oppression of Uighurs] remotely acceptable.”
So forceful is the response by British ambassadors that trade with China is to be increased – an action that will undoubtedly leave the Beijing regime trembling in their boots!
Decline of British imperialism
But what exactly are these “growth markets of the future”? This refers to countries such as Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and – notably – China.
In other words, countries where human rights abuses are the norm, and where the working class are routinely and brutally repressed.
But such unpleasantries have never troubled the British ruling class. For them, the ‘right’ of a handful of billionaires to amass profits trumps all others.
The days of the UK being a leading capitalist power in the world are long gone. Britain has been relegated to the position of a third-rate imperialist power – one desperate for whatever deals it can find.
Post-Brexit Britain, now outside of the EU, is caught firmly between the competing interests of the two leading imperialist powers: the USA and China.
It is this that leads to such blatant hypocrisy by the Tory government: denouncing the human rights abuses of countries such as China; yet increasing its trade operations with these countries in the same breath.
Of course, we cannot ignore the atrocious human rights record of the British government itself. In fact, half of the 30 countries on the government’s own human rights watch-list received military training from the British army in the first half of 2020!
And what about the Tory government’s continued arms sales to the Saudi regime, which has inflicted a humanitarian catastrophe on millions of Yemenis, all using British-made bombs.
None of this is anything new. A list of all the hypocrisies of the Tories and crimes of British imperialism would prove far too long for this article – or even for several books!
One recent example worth mentioning, however, is the Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This bill is a clear attempt by the British ruling class to clamp down on the basic democratic right to protest. And yet they sanctimoniously admonish countries such as China for their repression and violation of human rights.
At the end of the day, imperialist powers such as Britain cynically use ‘concern for human rights’ as a mere bargaining chip in trade negotiations, in order to apply pressure on foreign governments. Once the imperialists strike a favourable trade deal, all their humanitarian ‘concerns’ are quickly forgotten about.
There are superficial splits within the Tory Party on their approach to foreign affairs, with some favouring the carrot of aid, and others preferring the stick of arms sales. But both sides are fundamentally concerned with protecting Britain’s position as an imperialist power – not for the working class or oppressed minorities in places like Yemen or China.
Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Emily Thornberry, responded to Raab’s comments by saying that: “The mask has slipped, and the shameful truth of Tory trade policy is revealed…it makes an abomination of British values”.
Thornberry is correct to point out the hypocrisy of the Tories. But she is incorrect to imply that Raab’s words are somehow an aberration – especially one that goes against the ‘values’ of the British ruling class.
— Emily Thornberry (@EmilyThornberry) March 16, 2021
For a socialist foreign policy
As long as this decrepit capitalist system is allowed to stagger on, the acceptance and perpetuation of human rights abuses in the name of profit will continue. This is an objective fact that cannot be changed by moral persuasion or condemnation from liberal commentators.
The only way out of this blind alley is to adopt a bold internationalist position, based on the solidarity and shared interests of the working class across the world.
For inspiration, we need look no further than the French and Italian dock workers who, in 2019, refused to handle arms that were destined to be shipped to Saudi Arabia. Or to the inspiring story of the Rolls-Royce workers in Scotland in the 1970s, who took unofficial strike action and refused to service aircraft engines belonging to the reactionary Pinochet regime in Chile.
These examples show that, when united and organised, there is no force on earth that can stop the working class.
The Labour Party must abandon the flag-waving patriotism of the Starmer leadership and put forward clear socialist policies.
We must not forget that any ‘rights’ enjoyed by workers today were won through class struggle. There must be a mass mobilisation of the labour movement to defend these rights – both at home and abroad.
Ultimately, the only way to truly end these attacks on workers, made by the capitalists and imperialists for the sake of profit, is by establishing a socialist society – one where the working class is in power, able to decide its own destiny.