This is a special issue of the ground-breaking anti-racist and anti-imperialist journal, an issue that focuses on the search for “Truth?” in a series of articles about several truth/reconciliation projects, from Chile to Northern Ireland.
The achievements of these organisations are examined, but also their limitations. “Let me tell you quite honestly, truth without justice is not truth; it only means the acknowledgement of what has happened.” (The wife of a Chilean “disappeared”, quoted p20). A “truth and reconciliation committee” is usually established in a situation where formal “justice” is not possible, such as in a country where the perpetrators still occupy positions of influence, as is the case with most South American military dictatorships. The problem remains that such superficial “reconciliations” are more palatable to the systems of established power, at the national and international levels, than they are effective tools for restoring people's trust in their society.
These issues are handled by the various writers - most of them with personal experiences of working with the victims of state terror in the countries they write about - with a sense of honesty that is sometimes painful but always highly thought provoking and illuminating. Race and Class can always be relied on for solid, pertinent analysis that speaks against the power of states and companies.
The parent organisation of Race and Class, the Institute of Race Relations, was originally set up in 1958 as a part of the web of “race relations” bodies that grew up in Britain as a response to white racism and the revolt of black communities. A grassroots revolt in 1972 by IRR volunteers and junior staff, led by the Institute's Marxist librarian A Sivanandan, turned the Institute towards closer links with the radical black and anti-racist struggles and away from a cosy relationship with the British establishment. I should point out that the term “black”, as used by the IRR, is a broad term that indicates any community targeted by racism; a term broad enough to include both a person like Sivanandan, of Tamil Sri Lankan origin, and my own father, of Greek-Cypriot origin, as well as West Indian, African or “Asian” identities. Since then Sivanandan has written at length on the desultory fate of much of the black liberation movement in Britain which has gained a “liberation” primarily for a class of black professionals and anti-racist specialists, while allowing questions of class, poverty and political power to fall by the wayside.
Recent issues of Race and Class have covered issues such as the civil liberties impact of the “War Against Terror”, analyses of globalisation and the recuperation of black rebellion in 1960s USA by “blaxploitation” films.
To order a copy of Race and Class or to contact the IRR, write to: Institute of Race Relations, 2-6 Leeke St, London WC1X 9HS, Britain (+44 20 7833 2010; mail firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.irr.org.uk/publications/).