Three other Western governments, not to mention the United States and the Soviet Union, conferred that night too. In London, Pretoria, and Canberra, to be precise. Despite their respective reactions—dismay in London, determination in Pretoria, and a sense of tragic isolation in Canberra—they had all arrived at the same conclusion, after hours of feverish consultation. To wit, that, since the Ganges armada had first set sail, the West had assumed the precarious posture of a house of cards, in the midst of a great Third World upheaval, and that, if the card marked “France,” at the base of the uneasy structure, should suddenly give, all the rest would go toppling, one after the other. At half-past eleven, on the night of that same Easter Sunday, the President of the French Republic received three pitiful wires, one from each of the capitals in question, imploring him to take a firm stand, even if it meant the spilling of innocent blood. (For the record, we should note that, today, all three of those wires form the central exhibit at the Antiracism Museum in the UN’s new Hanoi headquarters, as the dying examples of a racial hatred that wouldn’t go unpunished. Schoolchildren the world over know the texts by heart, and have to be able to recite and discuss them on demand, whatever their age or class, for fear that we may let down our guard, and allow a rebirth of those loathsome sentiments so much at odds with man’s true nature …)

In London, during those last three days, the situation had become what official jargon would describe as “confused and uncertain.” Nothing disastrous. No riots, no brawls. Not the slightest incident of a racial nature. No threats whatsoever of real or verbal violence. Nothing but a silent and orderly march on London, by tens of thousands of Third World workers from every corner of England, at the urging of the Non-European Commonwealth Committee. A good example of the curious lethargy that seemed to engulf the country was the incident at the Manchester station—if “incident” is even the proper term for an event whose actors and spectators alike never once lost their calm or composure. At least on the surface. No anger on anyone’s face, no insult on anyone’s lips, no hostile reactions on either side. What happened was this. On Easter Sunday evening, some thirty thousand Pakistanis, Bengalis, and Indians, reinforced by Jamaicans, Guyanans, Nigerians, and such, swarmed into the Manchester railroad station, on their way to take part in the demonstration planned for the following morning in London. The tide of black flesh flooded over the lobby and onto the sidewalks, as endless lines stood waiting at the windows. Because, strangely enough, no one had the slightest intention of traveling without a ticket. This detail, and several others of the sort—not due to mere chance—sealed England’s fate. After all, in the land of the habeas corpus and the unarmed bobby, who could possibly object to even a mass migration, when everyone paid his way, nice as you please! One after another, without a word, the whites in the station began to leave, assuming no doubt that space on the trains was a hopeless cause. But the ones who doggedly stuck it out in line—white ducklings among the black brood—were treated with the utmost respect. No one elbowed them aside, no one dreamed for a moment of using the force of numbers to push them away from the windows. Still, in no time, most of the whites seemed to find themselves feeling hemmed in, although they were quick to admit that their dark-skinned neighbors, pressing in on all sides, were polite to a fault. Some may have been put off by the rather pungent and unfamiliar smell. More likely, they merely decided—as they saw themselves suddenly becoming a minority—to step graciously out of the way and avoid complications. Simple lack of experience … The same strategic retreat took place once the trains had been boarded. With twelve to a compartment, two whites crammed in with ten blacks would quickly decide not to travel that day. They would hurry off, many of them, out the wrong side, usually with some excuse or other, for fear of offending, or of seeming to be racists uncomfortable with blacks. In one compartment, a British gentleman who had shown up well in advance, sat calmly in place as the seven other seats disappeared in a pile of fourteen black bodies, all terribly careful not to disturb him, sitting there reading his Times. Two minutes before the train was to leave, the gentleman stood up, mumbled something inaudible, and disappeared onto the platform. But no one had forced him out. He had left of his own accord. … In Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, the stations and trains were every bit as crowded. So much so, in fact, that by midnight on Easter Sunday, as the world awaited the message of the President of the French Republic, two million foreigners were already camped out on the streets of London, as quiet—for all their mass—as a party of Bantu huntsmen stalking through the bush. At the height of the influx the British government had attempted a few discreet maneuvers: power failures along the electrified lines, lastminute layoffs of various conductors … But no use. The “Paks” formed better than half of the crews, and once the unions had gotten the word, many of them chose that particular day to work. No one ever quite figured out why….

Africa, meanwhile, had turned herself loose over underbrush trail and forest pathway, rallying round one single cry: “On to the Limpopo!” Beyond the Limpopo River spread the detested Republic of South Africa, dagger in Africa’s back, gaping wound in her proud heart, white rash on her tender black skin. An old score to settle, and one that the politicos, and gunrunners, and gangs of capitalist hoodlums had always been able to keep from erupting. Now cry no more, my beloved country! Your brothers and sisters are here, and their children with them, rising up from the depths of the African past, ancient and noble, to bring you your freedom in their bare, unarmed hands! … There were thought to be more than four million strong, massed by tribes and by peoples, along the Limpopo’s northern bank, in Rhodesia, that next-to-last tomb of the white race in Africa. Certain contingents, from the furthermost points, were there in little but token strength. And yet they were all represented: Algerians, Libyans, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Congolese, Tanzanians, Namibians, Ghanaians, Somalis … All waiting for Easter evening to wipe away a world dead and done with, and let the dawning sun, at last, shine over an Africa cleansed of her shame. Along the Limpopo, the beating of tom-toms. And over the river, over the white man’s vineyards, and fields, and mines, and skyscrapers, other tom-toms throbbing their reply, tom-toms held captive in prison cities, where nobody slept that night, all squatting on their haunches at the ghettos’ rigid edge, facing the white man’s army, gazing back now, for the first time, with eyes cast down in apprehension …

The Australian army had no one to face. Just the vast, barren sea, protecting their island continent on every side. But they all knew the threat: a peaceful fleet all ready in Jakarta, waiting for dawn to weigh anchor, and sail for the white man’s paradise …

Marcel and Josiane weren’t the only ones that night to read the truth in big, covetous eyes, agleam with hope, biding their time on the landing, outside the door that will open at last on a flat much too large just for two, as all the while, to the blare of justice, Jericho’s worm-eaten walls will come tumbling …


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