When the terrible news was announced to the world on 1 March 1986 that Olof Palme had fallen to an assassin`s bullet, the peoples of southern Africa reacted with a stunned disbelief that quickly grew into grief and anger. Accustomed as we have become to the animal savagery of the apartheid system and therefore to swift and unnatural death, yet the passing of this great Swede and the circumstances which caused him to cease to be, evoked among us a sense of horror which recognised that a crime beyond comprehension and forgiveness had been committed.
Olof Palme had come to epitomise for us the commitment of the Swedish people to our cause. He was as well a factor of assurance and encouragement because he demonstrated that we were right to expect that leading politicians and statesmen of the Western world could overcome all constraints, both real and imagined, finally to side with the poor, the oppressed, the exploited, and the brutalised in southern Africa. When he died, a beacon of hope was extinguished.
Of him, his successor as prime minister of Sweden, Ingvar Carlsson has written that:
"During more than three decades, Olof Palme consistently argued against the insanity of the apartheid system. He showed that it is incompatible with all basic values of a civilised society, but also that it is a threat to international peace and security. And furthermore he took action, and argued for action, to help abolish the system."
Seven days before he was murdered, Olof Palme spoke in Stockholm at the "Swedish People`s Parliament against Apartheid"Palme and Oliver Tambo addressed the opening session of the Conference. in pursuit of these goals. This speech, in which he described apartheid as "this despicable, doomed system" was his last statement on international affairs. By virtue of these circumstances, it has taken on the nature of a testament.
In this inspiring statement of his own beliefs and convictions, Olof Palme reaffirmed that "a system like apartheid cannot be reformed; it can only be abolished". He went on to spell out the role of the international community in the struggle to achieve this objective, and declared: "...the world is directly implicated in the continuance of this system. If the rest of the world decides, if people all over the world decide that apartheid is to be abolished, the system will disappear."
The programme of action he elaborated included the imposition of mandatory sanctions by the United Nations Security Council and, if necessary, unilateral action by member States of the United Nations. He spoke of the need for a country such as Sweden to encourage others also to take action. He strongly urged the need for support to the ANC, SWAPO, and the Frontline States. Those of us who were present as Olof Palme expressed this firm resolve to act against the apartheid system were particularly moved because we knew that many of the steps he spoke of had already been translated into reality: others would surely be acted upon.
Precisely because of his deep-seated interest to see the world community take action against apartheid, Olof Palme also addressed the question of the forces that are opposed to such action. He pointed out that "among those with vested economic interests in the survival of this system, there is resistance". There is also resistance "from those who regard people`s longing for liberty in a country as a potential cause of a global contest between different superpowers". To overcome this resistance he called for people`s action, for "mobilising popular opinion in support of human dignity". The one thousand Swedish delegates at the "People`s Parliament," representing exactly this popular opinion, responded with warmth when Olof Palme said:
"Fundamentally this is a profoundly emotional question and one which goes to the depth of our feeling because it is such an uncommonly repugnant system... This system will be to the discredit of the world for as long as it persists... we must live up to our responsibility to bring this repulsive system to an end."
Those who took Olof Palme`s life, whoever they might be, are rejoicing that he is no longer with us to play his role in bringing the repulsive apartheid system to an end. Much as they might celebrate, yet they cannot obliterate and reduce to nought the legacy that Olof Palme left behind, an important part of which is the unwavering involvement of the Swedish and other peoples in the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa, the establishment of a just and lasting peace in this region, and its development as a prosperous zone of free and equal nations. The durability of that legacy of solidarity and its fundamental long-term importance lies in the fact that it is an integral part of the political formation of the Swedish people. Without it, the definition of a Swedish national consciousness is incomplete. Thus it is not an accretion that has been affixed to a fully formed nationhood, as an incidental element imposed on the body politic by the exigencies of the moment.
From the activities of Olof Palme and from representatives of various schools of political thought in Sweden and the people as a whole, we have come to understand that Sweden sees solidarity not as an expression of pity but as an affirmation that the Swedish people are themselves not free if others elsewhere are oppressed - that freedom, independence, democracy, and peace are indivisible. To act in solidarity is therefore to seek to transform the world so that both those who extend solidarity and those who are recipients of such support move in consonance to produce a human order which favours both. Thus in the course of extending solidarity to the peoples of southern Africa, Sweden has contributed to the birth of a world in which the forces of racism, colonialism, fascism, and war have been put to flight and into permanent retreat. The same process further guarantees that these forces will not raise their ugly head in Sweden itself and that their frontiers of operation are restricted universally, for the common good.
During this process there has also emerged a natural system of relations between southern Africa and Sweden, from people to people. It is a system of international relations which is not based on the policies of any party that might be in power in Sweden at any particular time, but on the fundamental reality that the peoples of our region and those of Palme`s land of birth share a common outlook and impulse which dictates that they should all strive for the same objectives.
To write about Olof Palme and the liberation of southern Africa must necessarily be to reflect on the struggle, especially since the Second World War, to establish a new system of international relations. Central to this system are the end of colonialism and the domination of small by big powers, and thus the restructuring of the world as a community of independent and equal partners, all committed to the pursuit of peace and a commonly shared prosperity and social progress. These ideas found their most concentrated and hopeful expression in the establishment of the United Nations Organisation in 1945 and the adoption of its Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is little wonder, therefore, that Sweden, a neutral country, too joined the United Nations, and treated action with and through the world organisation, in pursuit of its agreed objectives, as a fundamental tenet of its foreign policy.
Consequently it was natural that Sweden moved in 1946 that the complaint lodged by India at the first General Assembly about the racist treatment of the Indian population in South Africa should be referred to the International Court of Justice. This reflected her confidence in this and other international institutions and her desire to see them operate successfully, within a specific context of international law. In the first two decades of its existence, despite the high hopes that were raised when it was founded, the United Nations was unable to resolve such issues as the rapid escalation of international tension brought about by the cold war, conflict in the Middle East, United States invasion of Cuba and Vietnam, the war in Algeria, and the persistence of apartheid and colonialism in southern Africa.
Two issues of major importance to Olof Palme`s contribution to the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa derive from this situation. The first is that it ultimately became clear to the Swedish people in general that it was vital that popular opinion be mobilised in support of human dignity, as Olof Palme said a week before he was murdered. The second is that to contribute further to the purposes of the United Nations, it was necessary that Sweden and other countries should also act unilaterally and not always restrict themselves by acting according to the lowest common denominator within the United Nations. Olof Palme emphasised this position when he addressed the Security Council on the question of apartheid in March 1977. He said:
"... the actions taken in the United Nations, or lack of such actions, cannot serve as an alibi for passivity on the national level. Each country and government, each popular movement, has its own responsibility and its own role to play... the situation in South Africa has progressed to such a point that each country has to consider unilateral prohibitive measures."
A point of additional importance in this context is that this outlook, adopted and expressed by an outstanding international figure, such as Olof Palme, put the final nail to the assumption that neutrality implies passivity - that neutral countries, such as Sweden, could only act on major issues of international relations so long as this was within the spirit and letter of decisions of the United Nations. It also swept aside the argument that smaller countries with less involvement in the direct or indirect perpetuation of racism and apartheid in southern Africa had, correspondingly, a reduced obligation to act against white minority rule.
Vietnam and Cuba
But to return to the question of the mobilisation of popular opinion: in the mid-1960s the Vietnam solidarity movement burst out in the streets of the towns and cities of Sweden in common with many other countries. From then on it became clear that major issues of international concern would never again be the predominant or exclusive concern of those who debated such questions within the hallowed precincts of national parliament buildings or the United Nations centres in New York and Geneva.
In truth, it was the extraordinary high level of mobilisation of popular opinion on the Vietnam question, and later Chile, which made it possible to develop the massive movement of solidarity with the peoples of southern Africa that exists in Sweden today. That mass reawakening not only brought many people into active involvement in world affairs but also united the Swedish people as never before - regardless of party affiliation, class origin, sex, or age - in favour of human dignity. History will never forget the role that Olof Palme played in this process when, as a senior government leader in 1968, he joined these active masses, as well as the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam to the Soviet Union, in a mass demonstration in Stockholm to demand an end to United States aggression against the Vietnamese people. Later on, as prime minister, he was to denounce the United States bombing of Hanoi in very strong terms, which led to the USA withdrawing its ambassador from Stockholm.
Olof Palme`s simple and peaceful march for humanity lent remarkable weight to the solidarity movement, affirmed its character as the voice of all the people of Sweden, and underlined the importance and the necessity for the masses of the people to act as conscious makers of history for the transformation of the world into a just and peaceful patrimony of all peoples.
The principle and objective of solidarity among citizens of one nation State is an important element that underlies the debate and consensus which led to the establishment of the Swedish system of public welfare. Its extension to the realm of world affairs and its rooting as an international obligation in the making of the consciousness of the Swedish people constitute a development which has benefited the peoples of southern Africa to the extent that we can today count these people as reliable allies.
In 1961 the USA invaded Cuba at the Playa Giron with the intention of overthrowing the government of that country and installing its own puppets in power. Through their own efforts the Cuban people repulsed these forces of aggression and thus asserted their right to determine their own future. The Swedish Government of the day decided to extend material assistance to the people of the new Cuba, in recognition and support of the right of this small nation to decide its destiny, independent of the wishes of any other country, however powerful. Olof Palme summed up these sentiments as he shared a public platform with Fidel Castro when he paid an official visit to Cuba in 1975. "Long live the solidarity of the peoples!" he said. "Long live this free and independent Cuba!"
We mention these positions with regard to Cuba and Vietnam also because the fact that a Western country such as Sweden could and did stand up for the cause of national independence and justice, knowing that it would earn the wrath of a country as powerful as the USA, increased determination of the peoples of southern Africa to stand up to the alliance of major Western countries which were supporting the white minority regime in our region.
In 1973 Olof Palme stated that it was "difficult for the Western democracies to dissociate themselves unequivocally from US intervention in Indochina". As he explained, this was because:
"Criticism of America`s involvement in Vietnam has been regarded as anti-Americanism. The demand that the people of Vietnam should be given the same self-evident right to national independence as other people that were formerly colonised has been depicted as support for Communist expansionism."
The fact that Olof Palme and the Swedish people could speak their minds on the Vietnam question, notwithstanding such accusations and despite the timidity of Western governments in general, demonstrated that even in the West which had colonised our peoples the liberation movement of southern Africa had friends who would not maintain a Western solidarity if it was directed against the right of the peoples to free themselves from colonial and racist domination. We believe that this is of long-term importance in the general struggle against racism and contributed to the strengthening of democratic principles in the structuring of relations among the peoples.
Assistance to Tanzania
As Cuba was defeating the forces of aggression at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, Tanganyika was attaining its independence from British colonial domination. From the day of its liberation, Tanganyika (later renamed Tanzania after the union with Zanzibar) became, for the peoples of southern Africa, our Frontline State. Tanzania became a Frontline State not only to the extent that she allowed the liberation movements of southern Africa to establish a presence on her territory and extended assistance to them; but also because it would, in practice, provide the peoples of our region with experience of how to conduct the business of developing a newly independent State.
Sweden started extending development assistance to Tanzania in 1963. This has continued to the present, with Tanzania being the single largest recipient of Swedish assistance among all the countries which have cooperation agreements with Sweden. Through this extension of solidarity, Sweden has therefore played an important part in helping Tanzania to play its outstanding role as a Frontline State. It is indeed impossible to imagine how the process of liberation of southern Africa would have evolved if Tanzania had not made herself available to our rear base.
When Olof Palme visited Tanzania in 1971, he paid tribute to the country and expressed admiration for the role she was playing in support of the struggles for liberation in southern Africa. He observed correctly: "You are making great sacrifices, both political and economic, in aiding the struggle for freedom in South Africa." Explaining some of the fundamental ideas which inspired Swedish development assistance to Tanzania and other countries, Olof Palme said:
"National liberation does not automatically lead to real national independence. We see examples of former colonies which have been tied again to the metropolitan powers by measures of commercial policy and other steps. It has been a matter of flag independence rather than national independence. National liberation must be reinforced by economic liberation and the overcoming of poverty. Cooperation is needed for this purpose."
It is of interest to note that even before the independence of Tanganyika, Olof Palme played an important role in establishing relations between the two countries. As part of the leadership of the Social Democratic Youth of Sweden, he helped to build up relations with the TANU Youth League. He later observed that "these contacts became the introduction to a close and far-reaching cooperation between our countries and movements".
Assistance to Liberation Movements
We should also draw attention to the fact that the purposes of development assistance to which Olof Palme referred were in the first instance laid down in legislation adopted by the Swedish Parliament in 1961. Emphasising anti-colonialism and the promotion of national emancipation, this law was largely drafted by Olof Palme. Though not directed specifically at southern Africa, it is however clear that the fact of the existence of such legislation has been of enormous assistance to the peoples of our region, which today receives more than 40 percent of total direct Swedish development and humanitarian assistance.
The point to emphasise in this context is not only the fact and the volume of this assistance but also its orientation, which coincides with the fundamental aspirations of the peoples of our region for the total liberation of Africa and for economic emancipation, including the reduction of economic dependence on apartheid South Africa. Olof Palme has contributed immensely to the attainment of these objectives as Sweden today occupies the same trenches with all the Frontline States which joined Tanzania as each one of them gained its independence. Swedish assistance to the liberation movements of southern Africa, the ANC and SWAPO, is today taken for granted. Yet as Olof Palme observed, even as late as 1971 Sweden was being criticised for extending this humanitarian support to the liberation movements. At the time, during his visit to Tanzania, he said that despite this criticism "we shall continue to follow the demands of solidarity... [and] the Swedish Government is prepared to increase further its assistance to such movements". He went on to add that "the European nations must take up a much more active and more decisive action in these questions" of material and political support for the liberation movements.
Olof Palme could and did persist in his determination to assist the liberation movements, in part because, already in his youth, he understood the need to provide the material assistance to the victims of oppression and racism. As his widow, Lisbet Palme, has observed: "He did not stand to one side as an observer. He took part actively, from the time when he gave his blood as a 20-year-old to collect scholarship money for young blacks of his own age, who had been thrown out of school because of the colour of their skin."
But in 1968, when Sweden started extending direct humanitarian assistance, in the first instance to the liberation movements fighting Portuguese colonialism, and later to ZANU, ZAPU, SWAPO and the ANC, much of the Western world thought that this was unacceptable. This assistance has been and is of immense and critical importance to the liberation movements and the tens of thousands of people who were and have been forced into exile.
Of importance also has been the political work that Sweden has carried out to educate and persuade the Western countries to recognise the fact that the liberation movements are the genuine representatives of their peoples and indeed ultimately representatives of their liberated countries. Through practical deeds the Swedish people compelled the Western countries to translate their publicly stated support for the right of all peoples to self-determination into actual recognition and support for those who were and are fighting to secure for themselves and their peoples the possibility to exercise this right.
Respect for the right of all peoples to determine their destiny also resulted in Sweden leading the Western world in taking the position that support for the liberation movements should not be conditional on any requirement that these movements should change their politics to accommodate what might be different views of donor countries. The extensive political and material support for the liberation movements, in the terms we have described above, is therefore yet another of the outstanding contributions that Sweden has made and is making to the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa. Without in any way seeking to minimise the importance of the contribution and commitment of other political forces in Sweden to our cause, we should nevertheless make the observation that much of the work of establishing and consolidating relations between the African liberation movements and the Swedish Government was initiated at the time between 1969 and 1976 when Olof Palme was prime minister of Sweden. Happily those relations were maintained at the highest level when other parties took power. Armed Struggle
The stubbornness of the racist and colonial regimes in southern Africa compelled the liberation movements of our region to take up arms. When the time came for us to take this decision, we stated that the choice before us was "to submit or fight". In recent times many Western governments have demanded that we cease fighting and renounce the use of arms as an inducement to the racist regime to enter into negotiations with us. It has been argued that our resort to arms for political ends cannot find understanding in the West because it is anathema to "Western traditions".
We are of course clear that the import, if not the purpose, of these arguments is to persuade us to submit and put the apartheid regime in a position in which it has exclusive power to determine the future of our country. Given the importance of this issue, we have spared no effort in seeking to get the widest possible Western understanding of our positions.
Olof Palme understood the centrality of this question in the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa. He therefore knew that he could not stand aside from the debate around this question. When he spoke at a United Nations Conference on Namibia and Zimbabwe in Maputo in 1977,May 20, 1977 in customary fashion Olof Palme confronted the cant and hypocrisy on this question without any equivocation. Here is what he said:
"We all obviously prefer peaceful solutions to violent ones. But those of us who are privileged and who have had the good fortune of peaceful change should never moralise about it, never try to appear virtuous in relation to those who have been forced to take up arms to liberate themselves. If we do we have forgotten our own past."
Olof Palme drew attention to the fact that his own party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, had once adopted a resolution which stated that it "must take into consideration the possibility of using organised violence as the final means of liberating the suffering proletariat". He further explained that:
"It is easy to foresee that when people in search of peace and progress are met only by oppression and exploitation, they will ultimately resort to violence. The armed struggle becomes the last possible resort... And... once a people has taken up arms to liberate themselves, they will not give up until freedom has been achieved."
Olof Palme returned to this issue when he visited southern Africa for the third time in 1984. Speaking in Arusha, Tanzania, once more he identified the cause of the violent conflict in South Africa and made important observations which our white compatriots would do well to study carefully. He pointed out that:
"The longer the white leaders insist on maintaining the white dictatorship, the harder and more violent the conflict will become. Long-term security and stability are sacrificed for a policy that is in clear contradiction to the long-range interests of the white minority itself. It is really a march of folly."
Sanctions against South Africa
When he addressed the United Nations Security Council in 1977 he said: "How much armed pressure from the nationalists is necessary depends on how much unarmed pressure the Western Powers apply in the form of sanctions and the like." Thus he challenged those in the West who say they are opposed to armed struggle to act to reduce the need for armed resistance by imposing sanctions.
And indeed, at the "People`s Parliament," Olof Palme related sanctions to the issue of a negotiated resolution of the South African and Namibian questions. He pointed out that "the white people must be aware of their own interests in a peaceful solution, while such a solution is still at all possible". To raise that awareness to the point where white South Africa is compelled to act for a peaceful solution in its own interests, he said: "Pressure on the regime must increase. It must be made clear to the minority regime that it has no support in the world around."
These positions are of course diametrically opposed to those adopted by the proponents of "constructive engagement" and "quiet diplomacy". They signify Olof Palme`s principled refusal to enter into any compromises with racism and reaction. They correctly emphasise the point that, in the midst of all the talk about peaceful solutions of the Namibia and South Africa questions, nobody should lose sight of the fact that the task facing the world community is the destruction of the apartheid system through struggle.
As far as Sweden itself was concerned it was in fact popular opinion which took the lead to impose sanctions through the boycott of South African products. This was immediately after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. By 1963 the Government had imposed a voluntary arms embargo against apartheid South Africa. Prohibition of credit guarantees for exports to South Africa came in 1967. It is also important to note that in 1971 the Palme Government piloted an enabling "Act on Certain International Sanctions" through the Swedish Parliament. This makes it possible for the Swedish Government to take swift action if this was called for as a result of decisions or recommendations issued by the United Nations Security Council. This Act was used to impose sanctions against Rhodesia in the period 1971-79 as well as the mandatory arms embargo against South Africa in 1977.
The Government also acted successfully to press the Swedish firm ASEA to withdraw from participation in the construction of the Cabora Bassa Dam in colonial Mozambique. In 1973 the Government made a recommendation to the Swedish firms with subsidiaries in South Africa that they should refrain from making new investments in that country.
It would be true to say that in the period from 1963 to 1976 even Sweden moved very slowly in terms of implementation of a vigorous programme of sanctions. Apart from other reasons to which we have referred, Swedish action was slowed down by the continued arguments that she had to act as a part of a concerted United Nations offensive. Yet it was clear that the situation in southern Africa demanded action - unilateral action, given that the USA, the United Kingdom and France remained committed to thwart all meaningful action by the Security Council.
Once more Sweden sought to get the United Nations to act. She moved a resolution at the General Assembly, which was approved with an overwhelming majority, urging the Security Council to prohibit new investments in South Africa. But already in August 1976, Olof Palme had urged at a public meeting that Sweden itself "must seriously consider the question of company representations and new investments in South Africa". During April 1977 the Swedish Parliament discussed this question on the basis of a motion introduced by the Social Democratic Party which was then in opposition. Parliament agreed that it was necessary that Sweden should adopt some unilateral measures against apartheid South Africa.
From this followed the law passed in 1979, prohibiting or restricting new investments in South Africa and Namibia. Other measures have since been adopted, including the cessation of SAS flights to South Africa (taken jointly with other Scandinavian countries) and the prohibition of imports of agricultural produce from South Africa. At the time of writing this chapter, there are expectations that the Swedish Government will go further to impose comprehensive sanctions.
The unilateral actions taken by Sweden since 1979 have done a great deal to move the sanctions campaign forward. As Olof Palme said in his speech at the "People`s Parliament" in 1986, to which we have referred:
"When in the 1970s, we in Sweden began to pursue the issue of unilateral Swedish sanctions against South Africa, many people shook their heads and said it would have no effect and that no one would follow suit... The Swedish initiative has now been followed by many countries. Criticism has died down. More and more people who were earlier doubtful are now beginning to understand that this type of action is necessary. Sanctions are not a guarantee that a bloody settlement can be avoided. But the surrounding world must take its responsibility and seek every opportunity of actively contributing."
By imposing comprehensive sanctions unilaterally Sweden would, as before, break new ground for the Western countries and act in consonance with this view to which we subscribe, that the surrounding world must take its responsibility and seek every opportunity of actively contributing.
Assistance to Angola
Of the Western countries, Sweden had once more to stand alone in 1975-76 in defence of the People`s Republic of Angola when apartheid South Africa, the USA, surrogate and other forces combined [to impose] their will on the people of Angola.
On the day that Angola attained her independence, November 11, 1975, Olof Palme addressed the United Nations General Assembly. In welcoming Angola "as a new nation in Africa," he said,"we must reject any foreign aspirations to limit the right of the Angolan people themselves to decide their future". As the second war of liberation raged in Angola, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs told his parliamentary colleagues:
"The Government`s view is that the MPLA is the political movement with roots among the people that has combined the struggle for independence with efforts to establish social and economic justice in Angola."
In May 1976 the Swedish Government announced its decision to extend economic assistance to Angola, a government delegation having visited that country during the previous month. But before that, Sweden had had to take positions within the United Nations Security Council which were of historic importance for the future of the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa and, indeed, the future of the sovereignty of all African countries. The question at issue was the situation in Angola. As the Swedish Foreign Minister explained in a public meeting in Sweden in April 1976:
"The Angola question came up in the Security Council recently... [The] Western Powers emphasised the Soviet-inspired Cuban intervention in Angola... Sweden also criticised the Cuban intervention in commitment of Cuban forces in Angola. At the same time it was clear that the MPLA`s decision to invoke Cuban military assistance was mainly prompted by the need to counter South African aggression. The two commitments could not in any way be equally rated."
The Minister went on to explain:
"The draft resolution presented by the African States in the Security Council condemned South Africa alone. Following a Swedish initiative, this draft was made to include a reference to the principle that no State is entitled to intervene in the affairs of any other State. After this, we voted for the resolution. Because the Western States all abstained, Sweden`s vote decided the adoption of the resolution. If we had abstained and the resolution had been defeated, South Africa would have scored the greatest victory in terms of prestige in the history of the United Nations."
Olof Palme himself was to return to the issue of Angola in August of 1976 when he observed:
"There is particular cause for alarm in the information that is reaching us concerning persistent foreign attempts to sabotage Angola`s independence in what is alleged to be a struggle against Communism."
A week before he was murdered, and expressing his opposition to United States assistance to the UNITA bandits, he said:
"The plans for foreign military and other assistance to the opposition UNITA guerillas in Angola is an example of a measure which can reasonably only obstruct a negotiated settlement and would be perceived as support of South Africa."
Undoubtedly those words and the positions that the Palme Government took during the critical days of 1975-76, when independent Angola was fighting for its existence and for the future of the African revolution, rankled with those who think that our mother continent is too important in the matrix of world affairs for us as Africans to settle its future as we see fit.
Uncompleted Tasks The struggle for a just and democratic international political, economic and social order, to which Olof Palme dedicated his life, continues. So does the struggle for world peace which Olof Palme, himself a combatant for peace, saw as impossible to realise fully unless all peoples were free to determine their future and free to enter into mutually beneficial cooperation for the creation of conditions of equality, prosperity and progress for all, across the barriers of colour, nationality and different social systems.
Olof Palme no longer lives to work with us in pursuit of these objectives. Yet he left us with these as uncompleted tasks - among them the total liberation of South Africa. No rest is possible while Olof Palme`s words ring in our ears that "we must live up to our responsibility for bringing this repulsive (apartheid) system to an end".
As he insisted throughout his life, the United Nations has both a special responsibility towards the question of ending the apartheid system and an obligation to act against this system. But as the world is only too aware, those within the Security Council who desire benefits from the continuation of racist tyranny in southern Africa are determined to thwart all concerted action. This lowers the prestige of the United Nations and renders it less capable of carrying out the noble tasks that are spelled out in its Charter.
The struggle to get the United Nations to act in a decisive manner on the question of apartheid is therefore a struggle to reestablish its effectiveness and to restore its character as a world parliament of the peoples, enjoying all the necessary authority to carry out its functions without let or hindrance. Those who do not derive any profit from the apartheid system - the overwhelming majority of the peoples and the nations of the globe - need to act firmly to ensure that the United Nations lives up to its responsibility. The United Nations Security Council must impose comprehensive and mandatory sanctions against apartheid South Africa. As Olof Palme said as long ago as 1977, when he addressed the Security Council: "The oppressed peoples look towards this Council with hope and expectation." The need continuously to increase pressure on the apartheid regime, for which Olof Palme worked tirelessly, also requires both that popular opinion should be mobilised as never before and that individual countries should act unilaterally, spurred on by the recognition that the apartheid system is a crime against all humanity, a threat to international peace and security.
Our dear friend, Lisbet Palme, addressed the Paris World Conference on Sanctions against Racist South Africa on the day of the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising, three-and-a-half months after her husband and companion had been murdered. She who had known a depth of grief impossible to imagine, transcended the liturgy of politicians and spoke of love:
"In order to justify their own actions or their failure to act, many people do not listen to what is said about apartheid. But those who reach out to others in love and community will be able to stop the haters in whatever form they may appear - as Nazis or fascists or racists or individual fanatics, the men and women of violence: those whose own frustration drives them to destructive attacks on people around them - in the absence of love and community, they get their perverted nourishment from evil forces."
One of our Own
When he spoke at the United Nations Conference in Maputo in 1977, to which we have already referred, Olof Palme presented one of those fundamental truths which mark him out as truly one of our own, one who was perhaps destined to perish as thousands of his comrades-in-arms have perished throughout southern Africa, one who took sides against the men and women of violence. He said:
"Neutrality towards the existing and coming struggles in southern Africa is impossible. Between the exploiters and the exploited there is no middle ground. We cannot escape the question: whose allies do we want to be? Which side are we on?"
Throughout his life he was on our side, on the side of the liberation of the peoples of our region and of others beyond the shores of the African continent; an activist who fought for our emancipation from colonial and racial domination, from hunger, poverty, deprivation, and degradation, and from the ravages of war.
As he bid farewell on February 21, 1986, seven days before he was murdered, he ascribed to us a degree of importance which others seek to deny. In the same words he made an appeal for justice, peace, and an end to bloodletting:
"It is a legacy of history that the black people of Namibia and South Africa have a wide popular movement, a really eminent leading stratum which would be a possible interlocutor in a dialogue to dismantle this despicable, doomed system. But the regime responds there by intensifying oppression and putting the leaders of this people in prison. This, then, is a classical example of madness of which nothing can come but evil - until the day it disappears and one day comes to an end."
We heard him and took his message to heart, as did the thousand Swedish delegates who attended a solidarity event which was unique in Swedish history for its magnitude, its representative character, and its expression of the united view of an entire people. Many years before, in 1973, Olof Palme had warned: "Practical solidarity is a thorn in the flesh of those who believe that egoism and self-assertion are the mainspring of the future." We believe he lost his life because these, whom he despised and opposed, had come to understand how dangerous the idea and practice of solidarity was to the defenders of privilege and domination.
Blood and death suffuses the history of southern Africa, but our lodestar is a noble hope. Present and future generations of the peoples of our region, our continent, and our world will forever sing of Olof Palme as the thorn in the flesh of the forces of reaction that represented a terrible and petrified old order. The poet too evoked his being and told us how to walk in his footsteps when he wrote:
And so History teaches with her light that man can change that which exists and if he takes purity into battle in his honour blooms a noble spring. (Pablo Neruda; translated by Miguel Algarin)