Noam Chomsky Belfast lecture warns of right-wing threat and urges popular action to fight poverty

Professor Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s leading intellectuals, is expected to warn that the far-right may take advantage of growing inequality and will urge people to organise against poverty, as he gives the annual Amnesty International Lecture on Friday in the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University.

Professor Chomsky will say that:

“In the US, inequality has soared to unprecedented heights. There is now a mass of people with real grievances, who want answers but are not receiving them. The far-right is providing answers that are completely crazy: that rich liberals are giving their hard-earned money away to illegal immigrants and the shiftless poor.

“A common reaction in elite educated circles and much of the left is to ridicule the right-wing protestors, but that is a serious error. The correct reaction is to examine our own failures. The grievances are quite real and should be taken seriously.

“There are real dangers in letting these calls go unanswered, as recent history shows all too bitterly.

“If the protestors are getting crazy answers from the hardline right-wing extreme, the proper reaction is to provide the right answers, and do something about them.

"An organised public can achieve a great deal, as we see right now in many places.

“In South America, there are at last serious steps to confront poverty and other severe human rights abuses. The driving force is mass popular movements. They are beginning to address what Amnesty calls ‘the unheard truth’: that ‘poverty is the world’s worst human rights crisis, this generation’s greatest struggle.’ “

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, said:

"Noam Chomsky's message is as relevant for people in Belfast as it is for those in Beirut, Baghdad or Beijing. We all have a responsibility to stand up for justice and to stand against those who would take away the human rights of the most vulnerable. By standing together, through organisations like Amnesty International, ordinary people can make a call for justice which will be heard in all the world's capitals."

This year Amnesty is campaigning at the Festival for Dr Binayak Sen, an Indian doctor facing trial on trumped-up charges that Amnesty believes are a response to his activism, speaking out on behalf of the poor and marginalised. If convicted he could face a life term in jail. Amnesty is asking people to fill in one of its Action Cards or go to www.amnesty.org.uk/binayak-sen to send an appeal to the Indian authorities.

Amnesty campaigners have been at Belfast Festival events with Amnesty’s Protect the Human placards, asking festival-goers to take their own stand for human rights by posing for a photo brandishing an Amnesty banner. All the photos will be displayed online as part of Amnesty’s global campaign.

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