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A new phase in the development of the global decolonial movement

Sandew Hira, 1-6-2023


From May 1 till May 26 I visited nine universities in South Africa and Zambia in my capacity as secretary of the DIN Foundation and as author of the book Decolonizing The Mind. The trip taught me a lot about where we are in the global decolonial movement right now and where we should be heading.

Here is an overview of the trip.

  1. South Africa – University of Cape Town (UCT)

I began on May 2 in Cape Town with a lecture on How mathematics and the hard sciences were colonized and how to decolonize them. Frank Kronenberg and Dr. Tiri Chinyoka were the organizers of the event.

  1. South Africa – University of Western Cape (UWC)

Bassey Antia, an applied linguist from UWC, contacted me after a Zoom lecture that I gave at the Pennsylvania State University which he attended. He wanted to work with my in applying the DTM theoretical framework to the field of applied linguistics. On May 2 and 3 he organized a mini-conference with four of his PhD students from Ghana and Cameroon on this topics. On May 4 he organized a public lecture at UWC.

  1. South Africa – University of Pretoria

On May 8 I gave a book presentation at the University of Pretoria. This was organized by Adekeye Adebayo. He is a prolific writer and an expert on international affairs.

  1. South Africa – UNISA in Pretoria

On May 9 I spoke at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Johannesburg. Professor Grace Khunou and her team has been so kind to host me at UNISA. Nokuthula Hlabangane has been instrumental in linking me to Grace. UNISA was the center for the decolonial movement in South Africa.

  1. Zambia – Kwame Nkrumah University in Kabwe

On May 10 I flew to Zambia where I had dinner with Jive Lubbungu in Kabwe, 140 km from Lusaka. Jive has been preparing the ground for a cooperation between DIN and the Kwame Nkrumah university through an MOU. On May 11 I visited the VC, the deputy VC and the dean. Jive also organized a meeting with staff members for an introductory presentation on DTM. They are the people who are going to work with the DTM Center of Excellence.

  1. Zambia – University of Zambia in Lusaka

On May 11 I had dinner with Yvonne Kabombwe and Ferdinand Chipindi in Lusaka. For many months Yvonne Kabombwe and Ferdinand Chipindi have been preparing the ground for a Memorandum of Understanding between DIN and the University of Zambia in Lusaka. The MOU entails the establishment of a DTM center of Excellence (Chipindi came up with the term).

On May 12 I gave a public lecture at the University of Zambia in Lusaka. After that I had a lunch meeting with the board of the Education Research Association of Zambia (ERAZ) headed by Sitwe Benson. This was a very important meeting. ERAZ is an organization of about 100 members (researchers) at different universities of Zambia. It is a national network.

  1. South Africa – University of Kwazulu Natal in Durban

On May 16 I spoke at the University of Kwazulu Natal in Durban about decolonizing mathematics and the hard sciences. After the lecture the organizer invited me to talk to 10 members of the staff about what it means to decolonize the hard sciences and how they could get involved.

  1. South Africa – University of the Free State Bloemfontein

On May 22 The Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS), The International Office, and the University of the Free State Library of UFS organized the presentation of my book. Two days later I attended the Africa Day Memorial Lecture by Prof. M. Thabane. Africa Day is a huge event at UFS.

On May 26 I participated as a speaker in the 2023 UFS Africa Month Dialogue. Munyaradzi Mushonga was the host and MC. The theme of the Dialogue is Promoting and appreciating knowledge in and from Africa. I spoke on the topic “The importance of being creators and co-creators of knowledge (in and from Africa”). Prof. Francis Peterson, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of UFS, participated in the Dialogue.

  1. South Africa – Central University of Technology Bloemfontein

On May 25 I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Africa Day organized by the Central University of Technology. In South Africa the foundation of the African Union is celebrated as the Africa Day. Apparently it is a huge event in many universities. The communication was done by Sekoele Ramajoe, coordinator of international affairs at Home Projects. I asked for a lunch meeting on May 24 with his colleagues. Leolyn Jackson, a Senior Lecturer, Head of Student Enrolment, Director of the Southern African-Nordic Centre (SANORD) and Director of the International Relations Office is a key figure at CUT. He is keen on working with us.

The lessons

The central question that came up time and again is: what is decolonial theory about and what is its practical relevance? What does it mean to decolonize the university, and for that matter, the society and the world?

In my interaction with many people in Africa I argued that we need to move from the current stage of general decolonial critique of Eurocentrism to specific critique and alternatives per discipline. Moving from general critique to specific critique per discipline makes it easier to make the transition from theory to practice. If you decolonize economic theory, you are forced to also decolonize economic policy.

This transition requires a different type of decolonial thinkers and activists. We need more experts from the different disciplines involved in order to produce the critique and alternative per discipline.

It is not an easy transition. Take the question of decolonial economic theory and policy. The European Enlightenment has produced two economic schools: Liberalism that argues for an economic system based on private property and markets and Marxism that fights for an planned economy and the abolition of private property and markets. The first system is called capitalism and the second socialism. Many decolonial activists are against capitalism. Does that mean that they are for socialism? What is so decolonial about socialism? If the only categories you know is capitalism and socialism, then decolonial theory ends up being part of Marxism with is appeal for socialism. But we already have decades of experience with planned economy, and the results are questionable.

I argue that there are other economic systems possible besides capitalism and socialism. Islam and Buddhism, but also Chinese philosophy have produced systems that are more successful and appeal more to social justice than capitalism and socialism. Decolonial economic theory looks beyond the dichotomy that the European Enlightenment has produced in order to find solutions to practical economic problems of today.

In a similar way I focused in my lectures and discussion on decolonizing the hard sciences, because often people think that this is not possible: mathematics, physics, biology. With common sense one can understand that this is possible, as I explain in my book.

If the decolonial movement does not make this transition, it will become a relic of the past, a fashion that come and goes like all fashions.

The organizational problem

Africa also taught me about an organizational model that might work for the decolonial movement in academia. We have to experiment with that model. Dr. Ferdinand Chipindi from the University of Zambia came up with the idea of a DTM Center of Excellence. It focuses on Decolonizing The Mind but in such a way that it contribute to the improvement of excellence. Such a center is based on concrete projects.

Some ideas about projects that were discussed are:

  1. A new system of performance assessment for higher education that includes monitoring the extent to which a university is decolonized and a new measurement of excellence in higher education.
  2. A decolonial math book for primary and secondary education.
  3. The decolonial history app.
  4. A research database on reparations that documents activities on reparations across the globe in different languages.
  5. A database of measures of economic boycotts and how to avoid the effects.
  6. Reconstructing the discipline of law.

The projects should be carried out by students and staff in a certain discipline. And they should engage in working together with other centers and people from other universities. There are many problems that need to be tackled, not in the least the problem of funding. But there are many ideas about how to get these projects going.

In that process we will find and experiment with solutions so we can see what works and what does not work.

The way forward

After my return from Africa I immediately got involved in a Zoom panel on Eurocentrism, organised by the Pakistan Institute for Development Economics (PIDE), a university in Pakistan that focuses on economic theory and policy. Prof. Asad Zaman introduced me to PIDE. He studied mathematics at the MIT in the US and economics and statistics at Stanford University. He is also a specialist on Islamic thinking. He is former Vice-Chancellor of PIDE. He is a prolific writer and has a broad interest and knowledge. I was amazed by extent to which he could combine a wide range of disciplines with Islamic thinking. Asad suggested that we develop a course on the history of Western philosophy from the perspective of Islam and DTM. I think this is a valuable suggestion.

The experience in Africa and the discussion with Asad show me the way forward.

We need to train a new generation of scholars and activists to look at practical problems from a pluriversal perspective, from different civilizational backgrounds. We need to decolonize academia from the distinctive disciplines and move beyond general theories. These are all steps towards building a new world civilization.


Sandew Hira


Is the defacement and tearing down of statues of Gandhi a progressive step in the fight against racism? For some activists, the answer is unequivocal: “Yes”. Gandhi made a number of racist statements about black people. Such a person does not deserve a statue. For many people, especially in the Indian community, Gandhi is the leader of the Indian liberation struggle against British colonialism and is honored in many ways. The defacement and tearing down of his statue is viewed with horror. How should you deal with this as a decolonial activist?

You should start by trying to get the facts about Gandhi and the black struggle? What  are the facts?

Gandhi ‘s sayings go back to his collected works which are available for free download on the internet . It concerns 98 volumes of an average of 500 pages, so there is a total of about 50,000 pages. It was commissioned by the Indian government. The material was collected between 1956 and 1994 and is now available. The compilers did not censor the publications, so you also have Gandhi ‘s statements that he would be ashamed of if he was alive.

Gandhi was born in Gujarat , India, on October 2, 1869, and was assassinated at the age of 79 by a Hindu fundamentalist on January 30, 1948, six months after India declared its independence on August 15, 1947.

Gandhi graduated as a lawyer in London at the age of 22 and returned to his native country where it was difficult for him to set up a practice. In April 1893 he left for South Africa to become legal adviser to an Indian businessman. He would stay there for 21 years and become closely involved in the struggle of the India community against apartheid. In 1915, at the age of 45, he returned to India where he successfully led the fight against British colonialism that resulted in India’s independence.

Gandhi ‘s relationship with the black community involves two communities:

  • South Africa.
  • The black community in the US.

The accusation of racism relates to his time in South Africa.

South Africa

South Africa as we know it today emerged in 1948 as a unitary state. The Western colonization of South Africa began with the establishment of a military fortress and trading post on the Cape by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 under Jan van Riebeeck . They forced black people into slavery. In 1795, the Dutch faced competition from another colonial power, England, who eventually took control of the area in 1815. The Dutch and British regularly went to war against each other. The Dutch Boers separated themselves into four independent republics: Transvaal, Orange Free State, Natal and the Cape. In 1869 diamond was found in Transvaal and Orange Free State and in 1886 gold in Transvaal. The British tried to gain control over these areas. In 1880 the first Anglo-Boers war was fought which was won by the Dutch Boers. In 1899 the second Anglo-Boer war took place which brought the British the final victory over the Boers in 1902. Gandhi would live through this war and sided with the British. He offered help to the British in the form of nurses from the Hindustani community.

The Indian community in South Africa has two sources of origin: several thousand enslaved people from Bengal and South India who were brought to the Cape by Van Riebeeck and associates in the seventeenth century and 150,000 indentured laborers who were brought under the system between 1860 and 1911 from “ indentured labour ”. They were recruited in India and taken to South Africa to work on the sugar plantations in Natal . They were British subjects. Gandhi was active in this community. The relationship between the Indians and Africans was complex. On the one hand, both groups were suppressed for the white population through apartheid legislation. The land of Africans had been stolen by the white colonizer. He then deployed black police officers to keep the contract workers in check with brute force: the old divide-and-conquer tactic.

In 1888, the Pass Law for Indians was introduced in Natal to control their movements in apartheid society. Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 and soon began to lead the movement against the pass law. He was sent to prison four times for his resistance.

The criticism of Gandhi in South Africa concerns three points:

  • Gandhi was an admirer of the British system.
  • Gandhi supported the British during a rebellion of black Africans led by Bambatha kaMancinza in 1906.
  • Gandhi made racist statements about black people.

Admirer of the British system

Two South African Historians – Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed – make this point in their book “The South African Gandhian – Stretcher Bearer of the Empire”. [1] They quote Gandhi from are farewell speech in Cape Town in 1914 when he decided go back to India: “I have always believed there is something subtle, something fine in the ideals of the British Constitution. Tear away those ideals and you tear away my loyalty to that Constitution; keep those ideals and I am ever a bondman. [Cheers] Both races should see that those ideals of the British Constitution always remained a sacred treasure.” [2]

Desai and Vahed don’t pose the question: how is it possible with this attitude of Gandhi to become a leader in the struggle for Indian independence from Britain? It is a fair question to ask.The answer is simple. Gandhi was colonized in his mind in 1914 and had to undergo a mental liberation in order to assume the role of leader of the liberation movement. Is it difficult to understand that people grow in their spiritual development? Desai and Vahed don’t go into this question which is crucial in the assessment of Gandhi’s contribution to the world.

We see the admiration for the Western system among more anti-colonial leaders. In 1964 Nelson Mandela gives a comparison between communism and the Western system. “From my reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with Marxists, I have gained the impression that Communists regard the parliamentary system of the West as undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer of such a system. The Magna Carta , the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights, are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world. I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fail to arouse my admiration. The American Congress, that country’s doctrine of separation of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouse in me similar sentiments.” [3]

Should we bring down statues of Mandela because of this quote?

Support for the British in the 1906 Rebellion

In 1906, the British introduced new tax laws. Africans led by Bambatha kaMancinza from the Zulu community organized an armed uprising against the British. The uprising was bloodily crushed. Gandhi had offered the British to mobilize nurses from the Indian community for the colonizer.

Desai and Vahed point to this pro-imperialist action of Gandhi and they are right : “The Gandhian pattern that emerges during the South African War and the Bhambatha Rebellion is the erasure of Africans as a people who suffered and resisted a brutal system. Alongside this was the use of war and violence as opportunities to display loyalty to local settlers and, by extension, to the British Empire.” [4]  We advocate solidarity with other oppressed groups. The fight against colonialism and imperialism is international. Gandhi was on the wrong side of history in 1906. Gandhi himself explains his attitude as follows: “We are in Natal by virtue of British power. Our very existence depends upon it. It is therefore our duty to render whatever help we can.” [5]

Later his attitude would change radically, but Desai and Vahed don’t mention that.

Racist statements

Teachers of the University of Ghana have filed a petition asking the board to remove Gandhi ‘s statue from the university grounds. In that petition they cites a number of racist quotes from the collected works of which Gandhi should be ashamed. Here are some quotes:

  • “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.” [6]
  • “In the face, too, of financial operations, the success of which many of their detractors would envy, one fails to understand the agitation which would place the operators in the same category as the half-heathen Native and confine him to Locations, and subject him to the harsher laws by which the Transvaal Kaffir is governed.” [7]
  • “So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.” [8]
  • Desai and Vahed add: “In The Green Pamphlet Gandhi objected to the fact that ‘Indians are classed with the natives of South Africa—Kaffir races’ . For example, Indians had to use the same entrance as Africans at the post office in Durban. ‘We felt the indignity too much and . . . petitioned the authorities to do away with the individual distinction and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics and Europeans.’ Gandhi was irate that ‘the sons of this land of light [India] are despised as coolies and treated as Kaffirs’ “. [9]

The general picture from such quotes is that Gandhi regarded black Africans as inferior to Indians. If you are reading this, you should be outraged by these statements and not try to understand them. The question you also have to ask, however, is whether Gandhi has kept these views for the rest of his life or has said goodbye to them.

In the collected works you will also find other quotes from Gandhi which are the opposite of the one mentioned above.

  • “I regard the Kaffirs, with whom I constantly work these days, as superior to us. What they do in their ignorance we have to do knowingly.” [10](1910 quote)
  • “In cocoa plantations, Negro workers are subjected to such inhuman treatment that if we witnessed it with our own eyes we would have no desire to drink cocoa.” [11] (1913 quote)
  • Among the Negroes, the tallest and the most handsome are the Zulus. I have deliberately used the epithet ‘handsome, in connection with Negroes. A fair complexion and a pointed nose represent our ideal of beauty. If we discard this superstition for a moment, we feel that the Creator did not spare Himself in fashioning the Zulu to perfection. Men and women are both tall and broad- chested in proportion to their height. Their muscles are strong and well set. The calves of the legs and the arms are muscular and always well rounded. You will rarely find a man or woman walking with a stoop or with a hump back. The lips are certainly large and thick, but as they are in prefect symmetry with the entire physique, I for one would not say that they are unshapely. The eyes are round and bright. The nose is flat and large, such as becomes a large face and the curled hair on the head sets off to advantage the Zulu’s skin which is black and shining like ebony. If we ask a Zulu to which of the various races inhabiting South Africa he will award the palm for beauty, he will unhesitatingly decide in favor of his own people, and in this I would not see any want of judgment on his part. The physique of the Zulu is powerfully built and finely shaped by nature without any such effort as is made by Sandow and others in Europe in order to develop the muscles. It is a law of nature that the skin of races living near the equator should be black. And if we believe that there must be beauty in everything fashioned by nature, we would not only steer clear of all narrow and one-sided conceptions of beauty, but we in India would be free from the improper sense of shame and dislike which we feel for our own complexion. If it ‘s anything but fair.” [12] (1926 quote).

The earlier quotes are from his early period in South Africa and the later ones are from 1910, 1913 and 1926. Should we leave out the latter quotes, as Desai and Vahed do, if we to make a assessment of Gandhi’s contribution to the world?

His views on blacks were later mainly determined by his view of the struggles of the black community in America.

The black community in the US

Gandhi wrote a lot. He also wrote regularly about the plight of blacks in America. In 1926 he wrote: “The Negroes of the United States have accepted Western civilization. They have embraced Christianity. But the black pigment of their skin constitutes their crime, and if in the Northern States they are socially despised, they are lynched in the Southern States on the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing.” [13]

He regularly published articles on the injustices that were done to blacks. Take this example: “In South Carolina (USA) a white man stole a motor car. He’s got four weeks. The same Court of Justice sentenced a Negro to three years’ penal servitude for stealing a bicyle . A Delaware (USA) ‘colored’ man was sentenced to death for committing rape on a white girl. At Alabama (USA) two whites were fined $. 250 each for committing rape on colored girls.” [14]

In 1929 he made a comparison between the caste system in India and the US: “There can be no true comparison between the two. They are dissimilar. Depressed and oppressed as the untouchable is in his own country, there is no legal discrimination in force against him as it is in the case of the Negro in America. Then, though our orthodoxy sometimes betrays a hardness of heart that cannot but cause deep anguish to a humanitarian, the superstitious prejudice against the untouchable never breaks out into such savage fury as it does sometimes in America against the Negro. The lynching of the Negro is not an uncommon occurrence in America. But in India such things are impossible because of our tradition of nonviolence. Not only that, the humanitarian sentiment in India has so far prevailed against caste prejudice as to result even in the canonization of individual untouchables. We have several untouchable saints. I wonder whether you have any Negro saints among you. The prejudice against untouchability is fast wearing out. I wish somebody could assure me that the tide of color prejudice had spent itself in America.” [15]

Eight years later, he returns to the comparison and emphasizes how in India the caste system was part of the Hindu religion, while in the US it was not. Gandhi: “Can it be a divine law that some persons are born untouchables and remain so for generations? Even men do not have such a law. It does not exist anywhere in this world. The duty of Negroes in America is very bad. They are untouchables but they are not considered to have been born so. Treating them as untouchables is not considered a dharma. There are a vast number of people who treat Negroes as untouchables but such behavior is not considered a part of religion.” [16]

Gandhi had a conversation with black American soldiers in Madras. A soldier asked him: “There are several religions in the world. They were all originated in foreign countries. Which one of these should Africa follow? Or should she discover her own religion? If so, how?”

This is Gandhi’s answer : “It is wrong to say that all religions were originated in foreign countries. I had fairly extensive contact with Zulus and Bantus and I found that the Africans have a religion of their own, though they may not have reasoned it out for themselves. I am not referring to the rites, ceremonies and fetishes that are prevalent among African tribes but the religion of one Supreme God. You pray to that God.” [17]

Here he begins to recognize that you have to reason outside the box and recognize that there is such a thing as an Indigenous African philosophy with its own roots.

Another soldier asked : “How can a continent like Africa fight down the fetters of slavery when it is so hopelessly divided?”

Gandhi: “The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others. Freedom and slavery are mental states. Therefore the first thing is to say to yourself: ‘I shall no longer accept the role of a slave. I shall not obey orders as such but shall disobey them when they are in conflict with my conscience.’ The so-called master may lash you and try to force you to serve him. You will say: ‘No, I will not serve you for your money or under a threat.’ This may mean suffering. Your readiness to suffer will light the torch of freedom which can never be put out.” [18]

Gandhi took up the issue of mental slavery and the need for the decolonization of the mind. Writes in 1931 he about the British education system in India: “We know what history we learn in schools and what we have to unlearn by bitter experience. We are taught to imagine the blessings and virtues of British rule; we learn, as we grow, to know the contrary. Our greatest enemy is therefore ignorance often spread willingly to prejudice us.” [19]

Finally a soldier asked: “Africa and India both drink of the cup of slavery. What necessary steps can be taken to unite the two nations so as to present a common front?”

And Gandhi makes the following connection : “India is not yet free and yet Indians have begun to realize that their freedom is coming, not because the white man says so but because they have developed the power within. In as much as India’s struggle is non-violent, it is a struggle for the emancipation of all oppressed races against superior might. I do not propose mechanical joint action between them. ‘Each one has to find his own salvation’ its true of this as well as of the other world. It is enough that there is a real moral bond between Asiatics and Africans. it will grow as time passes.” [20]

He was right. Black leaders from America connected with Gandhi. The most notable is Marcus Garvey. Garvey had built an international organization of radical black activists with over a million members. Garvey was well aware of the tensions between Africans and other colonized communities, including between Indians and Africans. But Garvey saw Gandhi ‘s significance to the international struggle against colonialism. In 1924, when his organization was at the height of its development, Garvey sent a telegram to Gandhi that read: “The Negroes of the world through us send you greetings for fight for the freedom of your people and country. We are with you. Fourth Annual International Convention Negro Peoples of the World. Marius Garney , Chairman.” [21] Two years later, his wife , Amy Jacques Garvey sent, two books by Garvey to Gandhi (“The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” and “Africa for Africans”). Gandhi sent her a note of thanks on May 12, 1926. [22]

Another important black leader, the founder of the NAACP, WEB du Bois, was in regular contact with Gandhi . Du Bois published articles by Gandhi in his monthly magazine Crisis. Du Bois was a Pan-Africanist . Many Pan-Africanists in West Africa were inspired by Gandhi .

The core of that inspiration lay in the strategy that Gandhi had developed with regard to . nonviolent resistance. One of the early leaders of the civil rights movement in America was Howard Thurman (1899-1981). He was an African American theologian and a mentor to Martin Luther King. Thurman writes in his autobiography about his trip to India and meeting Gandhi : “He had questions . Never in my life have I been a part of that examination: persistent pragmatic questions about American Negroes, about the course of slavery, and how we had survived it. One of the things that puzzled him was why the slaves did not become Muslems . “Because,” he said, “the Moslem religion is the only religion in the world in which no lines are drawn from within the religious fellowship. Once you are in, you are all the way in. This is not true in Christianity, it is not true in Buddhism or Hinduism. If you would have become Moslem, then even though you were a slave, in the faith you would be equal to your master…. He wanted to know about voting rights, lynching, discrimination, public school education, the churches and how they functioned. His questions covered the entire sweep of our experience in American society.” [23]

Thurman was an important leader in the American civil rights movement. He was a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. King had studied Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolent resistance especially with the bus boycott in Montgomery. King writes in his autobiography : “Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha ( Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.” [24]

The strategy, tactics and techniques developed by Gandhi were adopted by large groups of black activists in Montgomery. King: “In the summer of 1957 the name of Mahatma Gandhi was well known in Montgomery. People who had never heard of the little brown saint of India were now saying his name with an air of familiarity. Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.” [25]

King has described, explained and defended his strategy of nonviolence in his book Stride Toward Freedom. He goes into detail on all philosophical, strategic, tactical and technical aspects of nonviolent resistance, including the arguments against this strategy. At every step he harks back to what he has learned from Gandhi .

Prime minister Nehru of India was in the US and invited King and his wife Coretta to visit India. Gandhi was already dead by then.

King describes his experience in India: “We had a grand reception in India. The people showered upon us the most generous hospitality imaginable. Almost every door was open so that our party was able to see some of India’s most important social experiments and talk with leaders in and out of government, ranging from Prime Minister Nehru, to village councilmen and Vinoba Bhave , the sainted leader of the land reform movement. Since our pictures were in the newspapers very often it was not unusual for us to be recognized by crowds in public places and on public conveyances. Occasionally I would take a morning walk in the large cities, and out of the most unexpected places someone would emerge and ask: “Are you Martin Luther King?” We had hundreds of invitations that the limited time did not allow us to accept. We were looked upon as brothers, with the color of our skins as something of an asset. But the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa, and Asia struggling to throw off racism and imperialism. We had the opportunity to share our views with thousands of Indian people through endless conversations and numerous discussion sessions. I spoke before university groups and public meetings all over India. Because of the keen interest that the Indian people have in the race problem these meetings were usually packed. Occasionally interpreters were used, but on the whole I spoke to audiences that understood English. The Indian people love to listen to the Negro spirituals. Therefore, Coretta ended up singing as much as I lectured. We discovered that autograph seekers are not confined to America. After appearances in public meetings and while visiting villages, we were often besieged for autographs. Even while riding planes, more than once pilots came into the cabin from the cockpit requesting our signatures. We got good press throughout our stay. Thanks to the Indian papers, the Montgomery bus boycott was already well known in that country. Indian publications perhaps gave a better continuity of our 381-day bus strike than did most of our papers in the United States. We held press conferences in all of the larger cities—Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay—and talked with newspapermen almost everywhere we went. They asked sharp questions and at times appeared to be hostile, but that was just their way of bringing out the story that they were after. As reporters, they were scrupulously fair with us and in their editorials showed an amazing grasp of what was going on in America and other parts of the world.” [26]

It is interesting to see how King and his companions became acquainted with the issue of reparations and affirmative action in India for the “untouchables ” in a conversation with Nehru. He compares that policy with the policy in the US regarding black emancipation. King writes : “The Indian government spent millions of rupees annually developing housing and job opportunities in villages heavily inhabited by untouchables. Moreover, the prime minister said, if two applicants compete for entrance into a college or university, one of the applicants being an untouchable and the other of high caste, the school is required to accept the untouchable. Professor Lawrence Reddick , who was with me during the interview, asked: “But isn’t that discrimination?” “Well, it may be,” the prime minister answered. “But this is our way of atoning for the centuries of injustices we have involved upon these people.” From the prime minister down to the village councilmen, everybody declared publicly that untouchability is wrong. But in the United States some of our highest officials declined to render a moral judgment on segregation, and some from the South publicly boasted of their determination to maintain segregation. That would be unthinkable in India. Although discrimination has not yet been eliminated in India, it is a crime to practice discrimination against an untouchable.” [27]

King gave the gist again from the relationship between Africans and Indians : “The strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa, and Asia struggling to throw off racism and imperialism.”

Unity makes strength, division breaks strength

The issue of unity among oppressed peoples has been an important theme for many leaders in the colonized. European powers had colonized the world and ruthlessly oppressed and exploited the peoples. They have used the strategy of divide and conquer and the colonization of the mind. All the leaders of the liberation struggle against colonialism realized this essential rule: united we stand, divided we fall.

The divide-and-conquer strategy was often very effective. Among all colonized communities there is fear of the colonizer and anger at the humiliation, oppression and exploitation. The divide-and-conquer strategy directs the focus of fear and anger away from the colonizer and toears one’s own communities. In the black communities, the color shade was used as an instrument: the lighter the skin color, the better the social, economic and cultural position. In the multicultural communities, Africans were pitted against Asians and vice versa. And if that strategy was combined with mutual violence, the consequences for generations are incalculable: the anger is directly linked to suffering inflicted on each other.

In the Caribbean, Indians and Africans have been pitted against each other in elections. Politics was based on the manipulation of tensions between these populations. In 1950 the Marxist Chedi Jagan (India descent) and Forbes Burnham ( African descent) together founded the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as a socialist party that would lead the fight for independence from England. The PPP won the 1953 elections and began to implement social reforms on its way to independence, which was finally achieved in 1966. The English sent soldiers to Guyana and deposed Jagan. The British and American intelligence services began to act on the PPP and effected a separation between Indians and Africans. That was effective. In the 1957 election, two factions of the PPP (Jagan and Burnham ) ran separately in the election, but Jagan won 9 of the 14 seats and Burnham 3. Many Africans had voted for Jagan. The CIA, with the support of the British, set up a campaign to drive the two populations apart. Anger about racism and colonialism were directed at each other. Colonized Indians tell racist stories from the white colonizer about the inferiority of Africans and their desire to rape Indian women. Africans tell racist stories from the colonizer about greedy Indians who want to exploit blacks. These tensions are combined with strikes and demonstrations and resulted in hundreds of deaths in the early 1960s. It has disrupted ethnic relations in Guyana for decades. Stephen Rabe , who has extensively documented the British-backed US intelligence campaign in Guyana, concludes: “US policymakers generated political instability and economic chaos and incited race warfare in the British colony .” [28]

Social movements often have to deal with intelligence services. The Black Panther Party in America has been wiped out by FBI infiltrators. The Russian revolutionary Victor Serge has compiled a handbook for revolutionaries entitled: “What everyone should know about suppression ”. The archives of the Russian intelligence service had fallen into the hands of the revolutionaries after the 1917 revolution. Serge explained in his handbook how intelligence services work to undermine social movements. An important element is the use of provocateurs who use divide-and-conquer strategies and create mutual distrust. [29]

A similar handbook was compiled fifty years later by American CIA agent Philip Agee entitled “ Inside the Company – CIA diary ”. [30] Agee spent 12 years working for the CIA in Latin America against anti-imperialist organizations. He later regretted it and collected his experiences in the form of a manual that has been used by social movements on how to deal with intelligence services.

The general lesson is: you fight divide and rule by putting the focus to where it belongs: the fight against colonialism. Leaders of the Asian and African liberation movements have understood this well. They know well the anger in their communities about humiliation and oppression and realize that that anger must have a focus: the colonizer. If that focus shifts to infighting, then you have lost an important battle.

The removal of statues of slaveholders has a clear focus: the colonizer. Removing Gandhi’s statue is not part of that. Gandhi was not part of the colonizer. He was colonized in his mind like many people of color. He decolonized his mind. Shifting the focus from the colonizer to him is part of divide-and-conquer . Therefore, decolonial activists should not support these actions. We can have a honest and balanced discussion on how to assess the contribution of leaders in our liberation struggle and include their weaknesses in their growth. That conversation is much needed. But it must be based on facts and the big picture. Then it is part of the growth of social movements, otherwise it becomes part of the divide-and-conquer strategy.


Agee, P. (1975): Inside the Company. CIA diary. Stonehill Publishing Company. London.

Carson, C. (1998): The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Sr.. IPM/Warner Books. New York.

Desai, A. and Vahed , G. (2016): The South African Gandhi. Stretcher Bearer of the Empire. Stanford University Press. Stanford.

Gandhi, M.K. (1956-1994(xx)): The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Accessed 6/19/2004 . The reference to the different parts is included in parentheses ( xx ).

King, M. L. (1958): Stride Toward Freedom. The Montgomery Story. Beacon Press. Boston.

Mandela, N. (1964): I am not a communist. From speech in his defense at the Rivonia Trial while Secretary General of the ANC, in June 1964. The speech is known by the title ‘I Am Prepared to Die’. in: Bragança , A. de and Wallerstein , I. (eds.) (1982), p. 91-95.

Petition (2016): Gandhi’s Statue at the University Of Ghana Must Come Down. Accessed 6/20/2020 .

Rabe , S. (2005): US intervention in British Guiana. A cold war story. Univ. Or North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill.

Serge, V. (1979): What everyone should know about repression. New Park Publications. Original: 1926.

[1] Desai, A. and Vahed , G. (2016): The South African Gandhi. Stretcher Bearer of the Empire. Stanford University Press. Stanford.

[2] Desai, A. and Vahed , G. (2016), p. 36.

[3] Mandela, N. (1964), p. 95.

[4] Desai, A. and Vahed , G. (2016), p. 89.

[5] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (1)), p. 179.

[6] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (1)), p. 193.

[7] Ditto, p. 225.

[8] Ditto, p. 229.

[9] Desai, A. and Vahed , G. (2016), p. 30.

[10] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (11)), p. 107.

[11] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (12)), p. 432.

[12] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (34)), p. 11-12.

[13] Ditto, p. 79.

[14] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (36)), p. 397.

[15] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (45)), p. 148.

[16] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (63)), p. 351.

[17] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (89)), p. 280.

[18] Ditto.

[19] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (52)), p. 102.

[20] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (89)), p. 280.

[21] Gandhi , M.K. (1956-1994 (29)), p. 28.

[22] Gandhi, M.K. (1956-1994 (36)), p. 361.

[23] Thurman, H. (1979), p. 132.

[24] Carson, C. (1998), p. 34.

[25] Carson, C. (1998), p. 72.

[26] Carson, C. (1998), p. 127-128.

[27] Carson, C. (1998), p. 136-137.

[28] Rabe , S. (2005), p. 175.

[29] Serge, V. (1979).

[30] Agee , P. (1975).


Sandew Hira: My upcoming trip to South Africa and Zambia

From May 1 till May 26, I will be visiting South Africa and Zambia. I will present my book Decolonizing The Mind – A guide to decolonial theory and practice and I will build relationships with institutions, individuals, and organizations. I am excited about this trip. It seems that Africa is moving more and more towards a leading role in the global decolonial movement. I hope to learn about this process in the coming period.

I will begin on May 2 in Cape Town with a lecture on How mathematics and the hard sciences were colonized and how to decolonize them. My dear friend mathematician Dr. Tiri Chinyoka will give a first response after which there is room for Q&A. I thank Frank Kronenberg for connecting me with Tiri.

On May 4 I will give a talk at the University of the Western Cape. It is organized by Bassey Antia, a linguist with whom I am going to work in the future on language and decolonizing the mind. Bassey has been very gracious in setting this up.

On May 8 I will do a book presentation at the University of Pretoria. This is made possible by Adekeye Adebayo and Kirsty Nepomuceno. I am so grateful for their hands-on energy and support.

On May 9 I will speak at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Johannesburg. Professor Grace Khunou and her team has been so kind to host me at UNISA. Nokuthula Hlabangane has been instrumental in linking me to Grace. She will be my discussant at the talk.

On May 10 I will fly to Zambia where I will stay till May 15. For many months Yvonne Kabombwe and Ferdinand Chipindi have been preparing the ground for a Memorandum of Understanding between DIN and the University of Zambia in Lusaka. The MOU entails the establishment of a center for decolonizing knowledge production. I will be signing the MOU.

On May 11 I will give a public lecture at the University of Zambia in Lusaka. I will spend time to build relations with the University of Zambia and the Education Research Association of Zambia.

On May 12 I will give a public lecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University in Kabwe, 168 km from Lusaka. Jive Lubbungu also has been preparing the ground for a cooperation between DIN and the Kwame Nkrumah university. I will also hold discussions with university officials to develop relations with DIN.

On May 15 I will return to South Africa.

On May 16 Vimolan Mudaly of the University of Kwazulu-Natal will be my host where I will speak about decolonizing mathematics and the hard sciences.

On May 21 we will fly to Bloemfontein, where I look forward to meeting my brother Munyaradzi Mushonga, global academic director of DIN and Programme Director for Africa Studies in the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) at the University of the Free State (UFS).

On May 22 at UFS Munya has organised the presentation of my book at UFS. Two days later I will attend the Africa Day Memorial Lecture by Prof. M. Thabane. Africa Day is a huge event at UFS. I look forward to learning from Prof. Thabane.

On May 25 Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein is organizing a lecture on decolonizing mathematics and the hard sciences, thanks to the efforts of Munya to get them interesting in my lecture on this topic.

On May 26 I will participate as a speaker in the 2023 UFS Africa Month Dialogue. Munyaradzi Mushonga will be the host and MC. The theme of the Dialogue is Promoting and appreciating knowledge in and from Africa. I will speak on the topic “The importance of being creators and co-creators of knowledge (in and from Africa”). Prof. Francis Peterson, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of UFS, will also participate in the Dialogue.

That will conclude my visit to Africa in 2023. I hope that this will be the beginning of a long process of involvement in the African movement for decolonizing the world.

All events will be announced at

Decolonial Europe Day: bringing decolonising initiatives together on 9 May, ‘Europe Day’

The Decolonial Europe Day is a new initiative that uses the occasion of ‘Europe Day’ (9 May every year) to bring together existing decolonising initiatives, civil society organisations and other actors around the common project of decolonising Europe, understood as an ongoing process.

Our intention is to create a space for exchange on how to decolonise Europe, to amplify decolonial voices and praxis in and on Europe, to support the creation of synergies and to make this type of conversation more mainstream in Europe. Ultimately, the purpose is the dismantling of colonial power structures. The first edition of the Decolonial Europe Day will take place in online format on 9 May 2023 (9:30-18:00 South/Central African & Central European Summer Time).

The online event on 9 May will include nine sessions on the topics of decolonisation, anti-racism, justice, reparations, identity and much more, offered by our partner organisations, as well as plenary sessions with moderator Samie Blasingame and professor Gurminder K Bhambra. As a starting point for conversations during the event, we will publish a booklet with contributions by partner organisations addressing the question “what does it mean to decolonise Europe?” Stay tuned for this booklet to come out around 3 May.

Want to check the full programme and find out more about this new initiative? Check our website and do not hesitate to share your feedback and ideas by writing to hello[at] We hope many of you will join us for the online event: you can register through this link.

Maarten de Groot
Decolonial Europe Day

Note Sandew Hira

The DIN Foundation fully supports this initiative.

Paris April 15: Decolonizing The Mind and ecology.

On April 15 DIN, Verdragon, Maison de l’Ecologie Populaire and L’Observatoire Terre-Monde (OTM) are organizing an event around the theme of Decolonizing The Mind and ecology. Speakers are Sandew Hira, Malcom Ferdinand of OTM and Fatimah Ouassak of Verdragon.

Sandew Hira recently published his book Decolonizing The Mind – A Guide to Decolonial Theory and Practice. Malcom Ferdinand is the author of the book Decolonial Ecology – Thinking from the Caribbean World. Angela Davis wrote a preface in the book. Fatima Ouassak is a well known activist and writer in France.

The event is held in Paris in Verdragon.

Reading group Decolonizing The Mind

DIN is organizing a reading group on the book Decolonizing The Mind  – A Guide to Decolonial Theory and Practice by Sandew Hira. You can order the book here. For twelve years Sandew Hira has been working on this book. Now there is a 600 page publication with detailed theories and facts that require time and discussion to digest, criticize and develop. Information about Hira’s interaction with academics and activist can be followed here.

Pursuant to the book’s publication, DIN now invites the readers, in progress or completed, and interested readers to come together in a web-based forum to discuss the book’s contents. Our aim is stimulating people as individuals or in groups to further develop the narrative and its specificities worldwide and in their locality, leading to an educational framework for decolonization theory, with its own formalization and course work. Our hope is that this forum will promote critical thinking and literacy giving rise to new ways of thinking about the human condition and society.

For an effective group discussion, we anticipate 5-8 members in each group. Larger enrolments will be accommodated in two or more groups. The groups will meet twice a month (first and last week) and discuss the book’s contents in one segment per each session. Every segment is 50 pages, more or less.  The preliminary segmentation of the book can be arranged as follows, but can also be revised on recommendations

1 Introduction; Background; Eurocentric Philosophies of Liberation 12-68
2 Mental Slavery; Colonization & Mechanisms 70-123
3 Epistemology; Knowledge Production 123-166
4 Theory of Racism 167-224
5 Decolonization: Mathematics & Natural Sciences 224-253
6 Decolonization: World History 253-285
7 Decolonization: Economic Theory 285-339
8 Decolonization: Social Theory & Political Theory 339-408
9 Decolonization: Political Theory 408-473
10 A New World Civilization 473-522

The individual members of the group are invited to select two segments that they will present (20 minutes each) to the group, before group discussion for the remainder of the hour.  The discussion will be facilitated by Raj Mathur. Dr. Raj Mathur is a retired materials scientist & engineer whose career has involved patented innovations in the aerospace, automotive, electronics and chemical industrial sectors. Born in India and a citizen of the USA, he is now retired and lives with his wife in the Netherlands.

Mathur will also post a summary and the highlights of each session online, as well as mailing it to individual members of the group for critical review. Finally, the facilitator will submit the group’s activity and summary to the author and invite the author to interact with the group in a final session. Adding up the sessions, it will be a six-month long commitment and exploration of decolonization.

Click here to register for the reading.


Ramon Grosfoguel visits the Pope

Ramon Grosfoguel saying goodbye to Pope Francisco after a long week staying in his home in the Vatican

On March 30-31 the Vatican led by the Pope organized a seminar on colonialism, decolonization and neocolonialism. Ramon Grosfoguel, chairman of the board of the Decolonial International Network Foundation, was one of the invited speakers. You can watch the 10 hour conference here. After the conference the Vatican issued a statement repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery,’ which was used to justify colonialism. The doctrine was invoked as a legal and religious standing by Europeans who “discovered” new lands and violently seized it from people who had been living there for generations.


Decolonial Reparations Conference April 22-23

On April 22nd and 23rd, 2023, Aralez and Decolonial International Network (DIN) are organizing a decolonial reparations conference in Ru Paré, Amsterdam. During this 2-day meeting, community organizers are invited to formulate demands and actions aimed at repairing colonial damage. The first day is aimed at making an analysis and inventory of the damage caused by 500 years of colonisation. The second day focuses on formulating concrete demands, actions and strategies to bring about reparation. The conference will be the first edition of a yearly returning gathering in april, we specifically aim to inspire coalition building and actions surrounding reparations and global south solidarity.

Practical information

Date: Saturday April 22nd and Sunday April 23rd, 2023
Time: 10am-5pm on April 22 and 11am-5pm on April 23 (with optional dinner afterwards on saturday)
Location: Ru Paré
Address: Chris Lebeaustraat 4, 1062 DC Amsterdam
Entrance: € 15 per day including lunch
Sign up: can be done here via the sign up form.
More information: the program time-table can be found hereMore information and details about the speakers and content wil follow soon!

Why this conference?
This conference has two intended outcomes. The first is a collective manifesto with concrete demands that can be introduced into the public debate when it comes to reparation and repairing colonial damage. The second is concept plans for concrete campaigns to achieve the reparation demands that have been formulated. The conference focuses on grassroots organizations and individuals who want to contribute to the decolonial movement and/or have concrete initiatives aimed at repairing colonial damage in the Netherlands and/or in solidarity with initiatives from the Global South.

The conference will take place on April 22nd and 23rd, 2023. These dates were intentionally chosen in the spirit of the Bandung conference, which took place from April 18-24, 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. It was the first conference that united former colonized countries from Africa and Asia to develop a strategy and vision for a new decolonial world civilization.

With the HERSTEL decolonial reparations conference, Aralez and DIN aim to organize an annual conference to continue to monitor and further develop the reparation initiatives that will be formulated in 2023.

International book tour Sandew Hira

Sandew Hira has completed the first phase of his international book tour. On March 15 he was in London. On March 18 and 19 was in Scotland, in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. On 27 March he was in Birmingham. Information about all meetings can be found here.

The meeting in Birmingham led to a new invitation. The Business School of the University of Birmingham will host a one-day conference on July 29 to mark the publication of Hira’s book. He will give a keynote speech, after which various working groups will discuss the various topics in the book in more detail.

On April 15, he will be in Paris where his book will be presented with two environmental organizations: L’Observatoire Terre-Monde en Verdragon, Maison de l’Ecologie Populaire.

From 1 to 27 May he is traveling in Africa, in particular South Africa and Zambia.

A decolonial critique of Ten Theses on Marxism and Decolonisation by Vijay Prashad

Sandew Hira, The Hague February 21, 2023


On September 20, 2022, Vijay Prashad published an article with ten theses on Marxism and Decolonisation. It is an important article because it addresses the question of decolonisation from a Marxist perspective and that can be a good starting point for a conversation between Marxists and Decolonial theorists on the relationship between Marxism and decolonial theory.

I come from a Marxist tradition and have evolved to decolonial theory. Vijya Prashad is a firm believer in classical Marxist theory. He is doing great work in the anti-imperialist movement with the Institute for Social Research (Tricontinental) of which he is a director. I respect and admire this work. We are in agreement on issues like the need for a global unity against imperialism and the fight against capitalism. Where I disagree with him is his analysis that Marxism is the only correct theory of liberation and socialism is the only solution for capitalism. I argue that outside the Eurocentric Western Enlightenment – that produced Marxism – there are other philosophies of liberation possible and necessary (decolonial theory is one of them) and thus Marxism is not the only or even the correct one. I explain this proposition in my critique of his ten theses and in more detail in my book Decolonizing The Mind.[1]

In this critique I make a distinction between classical Marxism with basic concepts such as the labor theory of value, historical materialism, class and class struggle etc., and modern Marxism that still looks at socialism as an ultimate goal, but don’t base their arguments on classical Marxism. One example is Deng Xiao Ping in China who introduced the concept of market socialism which basically discard the labor theory of value whose direct policy implication is a planned economy. Prashad is clearly a classical Marxist.

Thesis One: The End of History

Prashad rightly criticizes the liberal concept of the “end of history” as articulated by Francis Fukuyama. His critique is that capitalism is not the end of history. The concept of the end of history is actually an old concept and was put forward by German philosopher George Hegel (1770-1831) in his notion that Europe is the pinnacle of human history, the end of history, or as Hegel puts it: “the last stage in History, our world, our own time.”[2] History has come to an end with the rise of European modernity. Hegel wrote this in 1830. Since then a lot has changed. He is an important philosopher in the history of Marxist philosophy. Fukuyama repeated this claim more than 150 years later in 1989. Since then a lot has changed. The decline of the Soviet bloc led to “the weakened confidence of millions of people with the clarities of Marxist thought,”[3] says Prashad. My decolonial critique of this thesis is that it uses the same concept of the “end of history” as was articulated in the European Enlightenment, but then it is not capitalism, but socialism, or more exactly, communism, that will be the end of history.

But the idea of the end of history is problematic. It has a unilinear view of world history. History moves from a lower to a higher form of social organization. In Marxism communism is the highest form of social and economic organization based on the concept of mode of production. In my decolonial view history moves like a spider web web and is based on the concept of civilization, not on mode of production.

A civilization is a collection of economic, political, social and cultural institutions in a society with a common cultural base. The common cultural base is a combination of a variety of elements: knowledge production, cosmology, religion. An empire is a political unit that operates from a specific geographical center (a country, an urban center) and controls nations and communities outside that center through an elaborate system of economic, political, social and cultural institutions. Liberalism and Marxism are based on the European Enlightenment. Both are Eurocentric theories of the world that claim to be universal.

In my decolonial view of world history, civilizations develop like a spider web in different directions. The colonial world civilization – in which industrial capitalism was part (not vice versa) – imposed its cultural base on the colonized world, but we are now in a phase that it is losing its power and other civilizations are re-emerging. My critique of Marxism is that it also has a concept of the end of history, and that this whole concept is false.

Thesis Two: The Battle of Ideas

Prashad refers to Fidel Castro’s campaign of the battle of ideas which proclaimed that “people of the left must not cower before the rising tide of neoliberal ideology but must confidently engage with the fact that neoliberalism is incapable of solving the basic dilemmas of humanity… the political forces for socialism must seek to offer an assessment and solutions far more realistic and credible.” Prashad holds that there are two tendencies that continue to create ideological problems in our time:

“Post-Marxism. An idea flourished that Marxism was too focused on ‘grand narratives’ (such as the importance of transcending capitalism for socialism) and that fragmentary stories would be more precise for understanding the world…

Post-colonialism. Sections of the left began to argue that the impact of colonialism was so great that no amount of transformation would be possible, and that the only answer to what could come after colonialism was a return to the past. They treated the past, as the Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui argued in 1928 about the idea of indigenism, as a destination and not as a resource.”

So the battle of ideas is between Marxism and Liberalism on the one hand and between Marxism and these two schools of thought that criticize Marxism. Apparently he does not acknowledge that there is another school of thought that criticizes Marxist theory: decolonial theory. In the theoretical framework of Decolonizing The Mind (DTM) I criticize Marxism and Liberalism for their Eurocentric views on world history, and their economic, social, political and cultural theories. My basic argument is that from a civilizational approach Marxism and Liberalism are not scientific theories, but theories of ethics. Other civilizations had developed ethical theories with concepts of social justice that is not based on the Marxist idea of surplus value, which I regard as an ethical concept, not as a scientific concept.

So what does the battle of ideas mean if we talk about Marxism and decolonization? In my decolonial view there are two dimensions of ideological struggle: a battle of ideas and a dialogue of civilizations. The battle of ideas has to do with how knowledge production has been colonized by the European Enlightenment and the need to battle these ideas by decolonizing the mind. Marxism, as part of the European Enlightenment, has made important contributions to emancipating oppressed people across the world. These people have different civilizational backgrounds. Another part of the ideological struggle is a dialogue between civilizations: how to build a new and just and pluriversal global civilization with ideas from different civilizations.

Thesis Three: A Failure of Imagination

Prashad says that in the period from 1991 to the early 2000s, the broad tradition of national liberation Marxism felt flattened and was unable to answer the doubts sown by post-Marxism and post-colonial theory. Prashad: “Platforms that developed to germinate left forms of internationalism – such as the World Social Forum – seemed to be unwilling to be clear about the intentions of peoples’ movements. The slogan of the World Social Forum, for instance, was ‘another world is possible’, which is a weak statement, since that other world could just as well be defined by fascism.” This is a lack of imagination. But it is a lack of imagination on the part of Prashad to think that there are no valid narratives of envisioning a new and just society outside Marxism and Liberation. I show in my book that these narratives have been there in many civilizational traditions from Islam and Buddhism to Indigenous philosophies in Abya Yala and Africa.

Thesis Four: Return to the Source

Prashad: “It is time to recover and return to the best of the national liberation Marxist tradition. This tradition has its origins in Marxism-Leninism, one that was always widened and deepened by the struggles of hundreds of millions of workers and peasants in the poorer nations.” Marxism has inspired many people, including myself, to become active fighters against imperialism, capitalism and colonialism. I believe that this experience gained more relevance as revolutionaries dared to go beyond the sources and develop new ideas. Che Guevara thought of an alternative for the Leninist vanguard party in the form of the guerilla army. Deng Xiao Ping, in my view one of the greatest decolonial thinkers, managed to dramatically change the face of China and the world by introducing concepts like breaking with mental slavery, developing policies based on facts and not dogmas and using market socialism to eradicate poverty. Hugo Chavez experimented with the concept of socialism of the 12st century. By going beyond the sources they have managed to make contributions that we can now acknowledge as being part of a new philosophies of liberation.

Thesis Five: ‘Slightly Stretched’ Marxism

Prashad: “Marxism entered the anti-colonial struggles not through Marx directly, but more accurately through the important developments that Vladimir Lenin and the Communist International made to the Marxist tradition. When Fanon said that Marxism was ‘slightly stretched’ when it went out of its European context, it was this stretching that he had in mind… The dual task of the revolutionary forces in poorer states that had won independence and instituted left governments was to build the productive forces and to socialise the means of production.” Well this has been done, and the results are not great. Socializing the means of production according to the “Marxist sources” means bringing all the means of production into the hands of the state and setting up a planned economy that does away with the market as an instrument of allocation of goods and services. This policy is based on and is a direct outcome of the Marxist Labor Theory of Value that says that in capitalism the capitalist is the exploiter who extracts surplus value from the worker through the combination of the labor market and the ownership of the means of production. So according to Marxist economic theory the only just economic order is a planned economy. Well, it did not survive the first social revolution in the world and it went down with the dissolution of the Soviet system. In the largest country in the world, China, it underwent a drastic transformation. Capitalists play a crucial role in uplifting the economy and eradicating absolute poverty. In Cuba it survived and was probably even necessary because of the US blockade. With these experiences I think there is a need to rethink rather than to stretch Marxism.

Thesis Six: Dilemmas of Humanity

Prashad argues that neither post-Marxism nor post-colonialism addresses the fact of illiteracy, ecology and other big problems of humanity. Prashad: “The theory of national liberation Marxism, rooted in sovereignty and dignity, however, does address these questions.” I would add: and so does Islamic Liberation theology or Bhuddhist social and economic theory. The idea that a theory of liberation should be an exclusive Marxist theory is basically a Eurocentric idea. It stems from the analysis of the European Enlightenment as the exclusive source of science and social theory.

Thesis Seven: The Rationality of Racism and Patriarchy

Prashad: “It is important to note that, under the conditions of capitalism, the structures of racism and patriarchy remain rational.” He explains that apart from the two forms for the extraction of surplus value that Marx has distinguished (absolute surplus value and relative surplus value) there is a third form: super-exploitation. Prashad: “How are the suppression of wages and the refusal to increase royalty payments for raw material extraction justified? By a colonial argument that, in certain parts of the world, people have lower expectations for life and therefore their social development can be neglected. This colonial argument applies equally to the theft of wages from women who perform care work, which is either unpaid or grossly underpaid on the grounds that it is ‘women’s work’.” Racism is reduced to the justification of the super-exploitation. There is huge difference with our DTM theoretical framework of racism. In our framework racism is not a matter of justification of economic exploitation. It is a matter of civilization. The colonial world civilization has experienced three forms of racism, whereby racism is defined as the collection of economic, social, cultural and political institutions that organizes society along lines of superiority and inferiority. The three forms are related to the authority of knowledge production: theological racism that is related to Christian theology that argued between 1500-1650 that superiority/inferiority is organized along theological lines. Between 1650-1850 we have biological racism where superiority/inferiority is organized along biological lines and is related to the rise of the European Enlightenment philosophy and natural sciences. After 1850 we have cultural racism where superiority/inferiority is organized along cultural lines and is related to the rise of social sciences. This theory of racism is much more elaborated and fundamentally different from the Marxist economistic approach, because it is based on the concept of civilization.

Thesis eight: Rescue Collective Life

Prashad: “The breakdown of social collectivity and the rise of consumerism harden despair, which morphs into various kinds of retreat. Two examples of this are: a) a retreat into family networks that cannot sustain the pressures placed upon them by the withdrawal of social services, the increasing burden of care work on the family, and ever longer commute times and workdays; b) a move towards forms of social toxicity through avenues such as religion or xenophobia. Though these avenues provide opportunities to organise collective life, they are organised not for human advancement, but for the narrowing of social possibility. How does one rescue collective life? Forms of public action rooted in social relief and cultural joy are an essential antidote to this bleakness.” And public action is socialist action: Red Book Day, socialist manifestations etc.

This is a very narrow and Eurocentric view of how to look at collective life. It regards religion as a backward phenomena. The Iranian revolution shows how religion can be a strong anti-imperialist force in the world. By limiting the rescue of social life to socialist culture is really doing a disservice to the millions of people outside the socialist movement who are anti-imperialist and decolonial.

Thesis Nine: The Battle of Emotions

Prashad: “A degraded society under capitalism produces a social life that is suffused with atomisation and alienation, desolation and fear, anger and hate, resentment and failure… Since human experiences are defined by the conditions of material life, ideas of fate will linger on as long as poverty is a feature of human life. If poverty is transcended, then fatalism will have a less secure ideological foundation, but it does not automatically get displaced… It is, after all, through class struggle and through the new social formations created by socialist projects that new cultures will be created – not merely by wishful thinking.” His economistic approach runs into an empirical problem. If ideas of fate will linger on as long as poverty is a feature of human life, then the eradication of poverty will lead to the defeat of ideas of fate. The rise of fascism in Europe and North America is not among the poorest of the population about among white people living an affluent life style! And again, by claiming that only socialism can create new cultures is a Eurocentric denial of the contribution that other civilizations and culture have made to philosophies of liberation. Only look at the African philosophy of Ubuntu that is based on a culture of promotion social life (“I am because we are”). Why should we dismiss these contributions and position socialism as the only way to elevate culture?

Thesis Ten: Dare to Imagine the Future

This thesis goes back to the first thesis of the end of history. Prashad: “One of the enduring myths of the post-Soviet era is that there is no possibility of a post-capitalist future. This myth came to us from within the triumphalist US intellectual class, whose ‘end of history’ sensibility helped to strengthen orthodoxy in such fields as economics and political theory, preventing open discussions about post-capitalism… Certainly, socialism is not going to appear magically. It must be fought for and built, our struggles deepened, our social connections tightened, our cultures enriched. Now is the time for a united front, to bring together the working class and the peasantry as well as allied classes, to increase the confidence of workers, and to clarify our theory. To unite the working class and the peasantry as well as allied classes requires the unity of all left and progressive forces. Our divides in this time of great danger must not be central; our unity is essential. Humanity demands it.”

Earlier I criticized the concept of the end of history in both traditions: the Liberal tradition that sees the end of history in capitalism and the Marxist tradition that sees the end of history in communism. There are more views of world history possible that these two views. For Islamic Liberation Theology, African Ubuntu philosophy or Aymara vision of the relationship between humans and nature a vision for the future goes beyond Liberalism or Marxism. It requires a non-Eurocentric imagination to see this.

I think that moving from classical Marxism to other philosophies of liberation including philosophies that still see socialism as a larger goal would strengthen the anti-imperialist movement as a whole.

[1] Hira, S.: Decolonizing The Mind. A Guide to Decolonial Theory and Practice. Amrit Publishers. The Hague, 2023.

[2] Cited in Hira, S. (2023), p. 476.

[3] Prashad, V. (2022). All his citations are from this source.