I gave a speech in Beijing at the opening ceremony of The Second International Forum on Democracy – The Shared Human Values, organised jointly by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and think tanks from Cambodia, Chile, Nigeria, Spain and Tonga.
More than 300 guests, scholars, and experts from over 100 countries and regions attended the forum in person or virtually to discuss democracy and sustainable development, democracy and innovation, democracy and global governance, democracy and the diversity of human civilisation, and democracy and the path to modernisation.
This is what I said:
“If We Struggle for the World We Want We Will Win”
In a truly fair, free and peaceful world, democracy takes many forms of expression, not only one. I believe democracy is a government in which all the people participate, in which the interests of the people reign supreme, in which the country’s sovereignty, the country’s honour, is at the top.
This month is a month of democracy discourse in the world. At the end of this month, there’ll be a conference in Lusaka, or a summit in Lusaka, Zambia, my country, led by the United States. They have come to southern Africa to teach us democracy: a country that was opposed to our liberation, a country that supported colonial regimes – their puppet regime in South Africa, the white racist minority regime in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the Portuguese colonial governments in Mozambique, in Angola, in Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde – today is coming to Africa to teach us about democracy.
A country that has toppled so many governments in Africa, that has led so many coups in Africa and other parts of the world, a country that has killed so many of our leaders in Africa and other parts of the world, the killers of Patrice Lumumba, those who toppled Kwame Nkrumah, those who killed Nasser, those who killed Muammar Gaddafi, today are coming to teach us about democracy. A country that has been built on brutal force, on the enslavement of other human beings, on the humiliation of Africans, the exploitation of Africans, the plunder of Africa, today is coming to teach us about democracy.
That’s the arrogance, the imperialist arrogance, the racist arrogance that we are subjected to.
We cannot have democracy where there is hegemony of the strongest, mightiest, imperialist power. We cannot have democracy where a country’s resources, a country’s decisions are dictated to by another country. A country that is dominated by another country cannot be democratic, a country that lacks sovereignty cannot be democratic, a people who cannot decide for themselves cannot be democratic. A colony and neocolony cannot be democratic.
That’s why today, at the United Nations, membership is on the basis of sovereignty. Only sovereign nations can be members of the United Nations, because only sovereign nations can decide for themselves. A colony cannot be a member of the United Nations. It’s not by accident. It’s not a mistake.
If you have no respect for the dignity of others, if you have no respect for the sovereignty of other countries, you cannot claim to be a champion of democracy.
They used to say all roads lead to Rome. Today we can confidently say, all roads to progress, all roads to what is better for humanity, lead to Beijing. This is a people who have developed themselves, a country that has developed itself without colonising any country in the world, without plundering any country in the world, without subjugating any people in the world. This is a country that is developing with maximum respect for others, for its history, for its cultures, and recognises the diversity that is civilisation. We were only taught one form of civilisation, one form of modernisation; that was the western way. Westerness was a measure of how civilised, how modern you are. We reject that. We reject it because it’s not correct. We reject it because it’s undemocratic. We reject it because it’s uncivilised to think of other people and the world in that way.
Today, they cannot accept that China has caught up with them, China is about to surpass them in many areas of human endeavour. Their imperialist arrogance is inhibiting them from accepting that reality, their racist arrogance is inhibiting them from accepting that reality. But the world is changing. The Chinese we are witnessing today, as President Xi said in Moscow the other day, have not been seen in 100 years.
They (the Americans) have shaped a world that they themselves are scared of, and they have shaped a world that is not sustainable. Democracy, human development is not sustainable on the basis of plunder, on the basis of enslavement, on the basis of humiliating other people every day. That is a system we are seeing today, a system that will not survive if plunder is eliminated, if subjugation of other peoples, other nations, is eliminated, if inequality in the world is eliminated. That system will disappear. The only system that can survive and can endure for long is a system that is based on mutual benefit, win-win relationships, mutual respect for others, accommodation and tolerance of others, and fraternal love for all humanity. This is what we find in China today. This is what China’s example is showing us.
Indeed, all pathways are different. There is no path that is the same. Even if we are leading to the same destination each path has its own characteristics. We are seeing that, we are learning that, we are experiencing that today with China.
There are many things that have to be done to get the world that we want. A more just, a more fair, a more peaceful world is possible. But it won’t drop from the skies, we have to struggle for it. And, as Fidel (Castro) said, if we struggle we will win.
The U.S. will be holding a second edition of its Summit for Democracy this week. What’s the purpose of the summit? Is democracy simply an end in itself or a means to something more substantial? Why is the U.S. promotion of democracy viewed with suspicion? And while it regularly examines the human rights record of every country around the world, why doesn’t the U.S. examine itself and its own human rights record both domestically and internationally?
The guest in this edition of Dialogue is Dr. Fred M’membe, president of the Socialist Party of Zambia.
Fred M’membe: It’s the US, Not China, that Threatens African Sovereignty
Socialist Leaders from Zambia and Ghana Share Their Views on China