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The imperialist coup in Venezuela: a decolonial analysis

Sandew Hira
The Hague, Holland
February 8, 2019

A new form of coup has emerged in 2019. Apart from military coups and invasions by foreign USA and America has invented a new form: setting up a virtual state supported by the imperialist by acknowledging a president that is not elected by the people, seizing state assets and transferring them to this president, and in the final analysis setting up an alternative army.

The facts

The Western media has created an image of the Bolivarian revolution as the ultimate proof of failure of revolutionary politics. I will not deal with these distortions and refer to sources that goes in depth on this issue:

https://www.globalresearch.ca/venezuela-straw-breaks-empires-back/5667967

https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14305

I will develop a theoretical analysis of the new technique of imposing colonial/imperial rule on oppressed people.

The classical method

The classical method of colonialism since 1492 has been invasion, occupation, genocide, colonial administration rule with brutal and violent means, divide and rule, using “house negroes” and promoting mental slavery. In the rise of colonialism European nation states have competed with each other in gaining imperial supremacy. Spain and Portugal ruled in the sixteenth century, Holland played a major role in the seventeenth century, France and England rose to the imperial top in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and the United States gained the upper hand in the 20th century. America, who was a colony of England, ruled in a different way than its predecessors. The purpose of colonial rule was economic exploitation: enriching the West at the expense of the rest.

The European states use invasion, occupation and colonial administration as the main instruments of colonial rule. The USA use military intervention often followed by the installation of indigenous elites as rulers and safeguarded by military bases as its main instrument. They don’t set up an own colonial administration as the Europeans did.

Here is a list of military interventions by the USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations.

Military coups and interventions

Since World War II America has used military coups and military to establish its rule. The military cadres were often trained by the Americans. The generals and officers were in close contact with their instructors and when the times was their they staged a coup and took over the state apparatus.

A military coup aims to take over state power from within. Military intervention aims to topple a regime that can not to toppled from within.

Taking over the state means in practice:

  • Establishing a new government and administration: the executive power.
  • Controlling the army, police and intelligence services; killing and imprisonment of opposition forces and installing a reign of terror.
  • Closing down the parliament (legislative power) or installing a rubber stamp parliament.
  • Controlling the judiciary: judges, prosecutors.
  • Controlling the communication infrastructure, media and the educational system to impose the narrative of the ruling power and controlling the mind.
  • Controlling the economic institutions of the state: central bank, state companies, trade unions etc.
  • Controlling the institutions for dealing with the world (participation in international institutions, formal relations with other states).

The anti-colonial and anti-imperialist forces

He biggest threat to colonial rule was the anti-colonial movement. Every act of oppression generated an act of resistance. The struggle of the anti-colonial movement resulted in the twentieth century in the political independence of the former colonies. The classical European colonizers (France, England) lost their direct political grip, but American military might and networks re-established control in an indirect political way.

The triumph of the Russian revolution in 1917 and the ensuing new world system after World War II resulted in a world that was divided in a socialist and capitalist bloc. Socialism had an answer to capitalism: the working classes were in power.

  • The oppressed classes (workers and peasants) controlled the government via workers and peasant councils.
  • The capitalist economy was replaced by a planned economy: private companies were nationalized.
  • The educational system was based on concepts of scientific socialism. Culture and media celebrated socialism.

Socialist states came into being via violent revolution: conventional wars (World War II), insurrection, guerrilla war.

The armed forced are the key to the establishment and maintenance of the state. Taking over the armed forces means taking over the most important element of the state. That is the point of departure for the establishment of the political, judicial and cultural control.

The fall of the socialist bloc

Until 1989 two third of the world population lived in the socialist bloc. And then the socialist bloc collapsed. In 1989 socialism was abolished in Cambodia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. In 1990 Benin, Czechoslovakia, South Yemen, East Germany, Mozambique and Bulgaria followed. In 1991 the socialist system collapsed in Somali, Ethiopia and the Soviet Union. Finally in 1992 Mongolia, Congo-Brazzaville, Albania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Angola followed suit. In less than four years a large part of the socialist bloc just ceased to exist and capitalism was re-established. The largest socialist society (China) re-introduced the market economy but within the political framework of socialism. The same goes for Vietnam and to a much lesser extent to Cuba.

The ideological implications of this collapse were important. Marxism is the theoretical basis for socialism. If socialism collapsed, what should we think of Marxism as a theory of liberation? Where did it go wrong? In struggling with these question new theories of liberation came into existence under such labels as orientalism, liberation theology, postcolonialism and decolonial theory.

There are also practical implications: preparing for socialism meant establishing a Leninist vanguard party to take over the state in a period of social revolution and thus establishing a military wing of the party that can act at the moment of truth and seize state power during a revolution. But if socialism is a questionable answer, what do you do if you take state power: keep the capitalism system in tact? How do you organize for a just social, political and economic system.

In the Middle East a country like Iran provided an answer outside of Marxism: Islamic Liberation Theology. In 1979 the pro-Western dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was ousted from power by a mass revolution led by anti-colonial Islamic theologians. In Latin America an answer was sought in the combination of Marxism, nationalism and indigenous thinking under labels as Zapatismo, buen vivir, pacha mama etc.

New challenges

In countries with a parliamentary system these forces managed to take state power in elections with leaders like Evo Morales of Bolivia, Cristina and Néstor Kirchner in Argentina; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay and Lula da Silva in Brazil. Elections made it possible to take control of the executive and legislative branch of government. The most crucial problem however are the armed forces: army, police, intelligence services. Any revolutionary government that has no control of the armed forces will sooner or later end up like Allende: murdered in a violent coup d’état.

But then there is still the judiciary, the communication infrastructure, the media, the educational system and the economic institutions. How to deal with them?

Do you want nationalization of all private properties, or just some. Do you want a planned economy or a combination of market and planned economy? Do you want to bring the private media and cultural institutions that are not controlled by the state under the control of the state? What does independence of the judiciary means? Can the judiciary be independent or can it be used as an instrument of warfare (lawfare).

Political struggle by revolutionary forces within a parliamentary democracy with the old state institutions in tact get a new dimension. In the old context of revolution the focus of political struggle was armed forces: social struggle sooner or later ends up in taking control of the armed forces.

Now it is proven that revolutionary forces can come to political power by elections and the masses of oppressed people is able to understand and act on revolutionary policies by electing leaders that want to deliver on promises for a just and social society.

This brings in a new dimension of political struggle: the election as the platform for social struggle that inevitable have to address the state power. The old elite is now removed from one part of state power. They will react with a reorganization of the power they have in other parts of the state and society, such as the use of private media, parliament and opinion makers to constantly attack the new government and create an atmosphere of crisis and panic, the use of those parts of the judiciary they control, the organization of demonstrations my making use of legitimate concerns of sections of the population that is suffering from economic crisis that is created and maintained by the opposition etc.

Now there is a new element in the struggle: the organization of a coup by taking over not the whole state of elements of the state. Venezuela is the first country where this is being undertaken. What is the mechanism of struggle that is used in this coup? The create an atmosphere of illegality of the current government.

The good, the bad and the ugly

In Venezuela this has not worked despite the fact that the private media are in the hand of the opposition and in a country of 30 million it is possible to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the street for protest. They still constitute a minority that is not able to win elections. In Venezuela the technique has failed, but outside of Venezuela it works in the countries where imperialism controls the narrative of the mass media. The use of lies is an crucial element in creating this atmosphere.

  • Elections that are lost by the opposition are fraudulent.
  • The masses of the people hold the government responsible for the economic crisis and therefore they have no legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
  • The government is brutal and uses violence against its own people.

The power of deceit is in the constant repetition of lies. Thus it is possible to colonize the mind of people who act on false information. Because there is no free press in the west where the principle of multiple views is respected (the views of the Venezuelan people are not aired in the West) it is possible to have large sections of the people who believe and act on this false information: the support the demand for getting rid of an elected government by force.

Another element in the colonization of the mind is the hypocritical framing of politics as a choice between the good versus the ugly. The west represents the good of humanity and universal values of freedom and the political adversaries of the west are the bad and the ugly. The framing is constituted by the media and the Western experts/pundits who constantly stress the ugly and the bad by constructing lies based on selective presentation of facts: Maduro is dictator and the people are demonstrating against him. The images shows that.

Once the framing is established, anything goes. There are no legal of moral limitations on what the good can do against the ugly, because the good is by definition always right. And so international laws and institutions are pushed aside. War and economic boycott are justified. Just anything is possible, however outrageous it is to common sense. You are either for or against Maduro and at the same time you don’t question those who present themselves as good. There is no discussion about principles of sovereignty or hearing both sides of the story.

A new coup d’état: Juan Guaidó

And so the stage is set for a new form of coup. An individual who until recently was unknown to the majority of Venezuelans declares himself the unelected president of the country and immediately get recognition of mightiest country in the world. In fact, he is the puppet of his master: the USA. And now parts of the functions of the state are transferred to this person.

The function of president of a country is conferred upon him. Then the puppet president can exerts his power: he can invite the USA to invade his country. He uses an alternative justice system. A new Venezuelan Supreme Court now functions in exile that supports this president. Its 33 jurists live in the U.S., Panama, Colombia and Chile. Every 15 days, they hold court via video conference. It has sentenced Maduro to 18 years in prison.

The economic assets of Venezuela that are outside of the country and under direct influence of the West are brought under control of the puppet president: the Bank of England refuses to return gold that belongs to the Central Bank of Venezuela and thus operates within the economic boycott policy of the puppet president. The bank accounts of Venezuela in the USA are handed over to the puppet. It block $7bn in assets and results in $11bn of lost export revenue over the next year.

But all this are part of a coup that ultimately needs a military component. As Mao Zedong says: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. An so there are frantic attempts to split the army. If this does not succeed the next step is the organization of a military intervention. But the result is uncertain. In the storyline of the good versus the bad a military intervention immediately produces the desired result: the masses of Venezuela will welcome the liberators with open arms. Given the experience in Iraq, Afganistan and Vietnam the outcome might not be so certain, so the military intervention might me more of a threat than a reality. Then the next stage is to organize armed resistance by a mercenaries and fomenting a civil war in the hope that this will tear the country apart and eventually will lead to the downfall Maduro.

The new coup scenario is mind blowing for people with decency, common sense and feeling for justice. But is a logical outcome of a decay of the old imperial world system.

A long view of history

The 21st century if the scene of the downfall of American imperialism. The Spanish and Portuguese empire lasted for 325 years from 1500 till 1825 (more or less). The Dutch empire lasted 350 years from 1600 till 1950. The French empire lasted for 310 years from 1650 till 1960. The British empire lasted for 360 year from 1600 till 1960. The year are not exact time markers but give a sense of the duration of the empires with each empire have its prime might in different centuries.

American imperialism came to prominence at around 1900 and reached its peak fifty years later when it rise from the ashes of World War II to global power. After the demise of the Soviet bloc liberal theorists like Fukuyama argued that history came to an end and capitalism has triumphed indefinitely. But the rise of China as a super power poses new challenges. Henry Kissinger argues: “We have been dominant in the last fifty years. They have been dominant in 1800 of the last 2000 years.” Conservative political scientist Graham Allison says: “The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. Twelve of those ended in war.”

We are living through an era of the decline of an imperial power that is part of colonialism and the rise of a new world order in which countries that have been under colonial influence are being liberated and take on a new role. The US empire is being challenged in every part of the world.

In Latin America the Cuban people were in the forefront of fighting American imperialism, who never succeeded in establishing regime change in Cuba. The rise of revolutionary movements for change challenges the power of the American backed old elites and Venezuela is at the forefront in leading these movements together with Bolivia.

In the so called Middle East the coalition of the apartheids regime of Israel with the corrupt dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Egypt is the cornerstone of US policy and they are challenged by the struggle of the Palestinian people. Iran is a major anti-colonial force in this region and a leading supporter of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

And alongside the resistance against imperialism comes the rise of China as a new superpower and the old tension between the West and Russia that challenge American hegemony.

Any conflict in the world is now a complex relation of local struggle with an global and historical dimension. The struggle in Venezuela is not just about a controversy between Maduro and Juan Guaidó. It is not only about the struggle between the oppressed Indigenous and colored population and the old white-skinned elite in Venezuela. It is not simply the age-old fight of the colonizer and the colonized. It is part of a new changing world order in the era of decline of American imperialism.

Therefore it is a duty of every progressive person who wants a world of peace and justice to take sides in the struggle in Venezuela, because it is part of a wider struggle for peace and justice. We need to defend principles of honesty and integrity in media coverage and hold on to the principle that both side should have equal hearing and fight the colonization of the mind. And especially for activists in the global north who are enduring a daily bombardment of misinformation about what is going on in Venezuela, this is the time to show if you understand the historical dynamics of colonialism and imperialism: do the right thing and mobilize against military interventions and economic boycotts.

 

 

In solidarity with Angela Davis

In October 2018 the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute announced that Angela Davis, a Birmingham native, would receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights award, calling her “one of the most globally recognized champions of human rights, giving voice to those who are powerless to speak”.

Recently, the organization changed its position and said Davis does not meet the criteria after all but did not explain why. It is now clear that it is because of her outspoken support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that protests against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

DIN urges all activists to distribute the statement by sister Davis on this issue.

Angela Davis’ Statement about Birmingham

On Saturday January 5, I was stunned to learn that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Board of Directors had reversed their previous decision to award me the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. Although the BCRI refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action, I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue. This seemed particularly unfortunate, given that my own freedom was secured – and indeed my life was saved – by a vast international movement. And I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to U.S. grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex, and racism more broadly. The rescinding of this invitation was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the spirit of the indivisibility of justice.

I support Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque Country, in Catalunya, in India, and in other parts of the world. I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to other discriminatory U.S. policies. Through my experiences at Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York City and at Brandeis University in the late fifties and early sixties, and my subsequent time in graduate school in Frankfurt, Germany, I learned to be as passionate about opposition to antisemitism as to racism. It was during this period that I was also introduced to the Palestinian cause. I am proud to have worked closely with Jewish organizations and individuals on issues of concern to all of our communities throughout my life. In many ways, this work has been integral to my growing consciousness regarding the importance of protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The trip to Birmingham, where I was born and raised, to receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Award, was certain to be the highlight of my year—especially since I knew Rev. Shuttlesworth personally and attended school with his daughter, Patricia, and because my mother, Sallye B. Davis, worked tirelessly for the BCRI during its early years. Moreover, my most inspirational Sunday School teacher Odessa Woolfolk was the driving force for the institute’s creation. Despite the BCRI’s regrettable decision, I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.

Angela Y. Davis

January 7, 2019 to exist.

Institute for Decolonization of Suriname

Suriname, a former Dutch colony in Latin America, is going to set up an Institute for Decolonization of Suriname (IDS). After Venezuela that has set up a National Institute for the Decolonization of Venezuela and Bolivia with a Ministry of Decolonization Suriname is the third country in Latin America to undertake a systematic approach at decolonizing society. In its message to the people at the celebration of the 43rd day of independence the ruling National Democratic Party of Suriname stated that political independence is not enough and independence in thinking is needed. “The concept of Decolonizing The Mind is embraced and propagated by the NDP,” says the declaration.

IDS has the following goals:

  • Conducting a scientific research into the history of Suriname from this decolonial vision.
  • Producing a six-volume encyclopedia about the modern history of Suriname.
  • Promoting other publications about the history of Suriname.
  • Developing international networks on decolonization of science.
  • Providing educational programs on the (de) colonization of the mind and decolonization of history and science.

Moejinga Aboikoni-Linga will be the general director of IDS, who will have a staff of eight people. Sandew Hira, coordinator of DIN, will be the scientific director.

Declaration DIN on the case of Tariq Ramadan

In early 2018 the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan was arrested in France on charges of rape and assault. Since then he has been kept in solitary confinement without adequate medical services that would enable him to be treated for the debilitating condition, multiple sclerosis, from which he suffers.

The case of Tariq Ramadan is typical of how the French justice systems treats Muslims with a record of combating Islamophobia and Zionism. Ramadan is being denied the right to bail and due process. He has been denied the right to presumption of innocence, a fair and equitable judicial procedure, and fair treatment by the French justice system which has dealt with others accused of near identical crimes very differently.

DIN acknowledges the rights of complainants, that their cause be heard without prejudice or injury to their honour, but also demands respect for the principles which guarantee the integrity of French justice.

 

Hatem Bazian: Islamophobia, “Clash of Civilizations”, and Forging a Post-Cold War Order!

In this article Hatem Bazian provides an in-depth analysis of the phenomenom of islamophobia. Bazian argues “that Islamophobia is an ideological construct that emerges in the post-Cold War era with the intent to rally the Western world and the American society at a moment of perceived fragmentation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in a vastly and rapidly changing world system. Islamophobia, or the threat of Islam, is the ingredient, as postulated in Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis that is needed to affirm the Western self-identify after the end of the Cold War and a lack of a singular threat or purpose through which to define, unify, and claim the future for the West. Thus, Islamophobia is the post-Cold War ideology to bring about a renewed purpose and crafting of the Western and American self.”.

Israel denies visa for talk on decolonisation exposing Einstein

The Palestine Technical University, Kadourie, Palestine, is organizing the Sixth Palestinian Conference on Modern Trends in Mathematics and Physics PCMTMP-VI, 5th-8th August 2018.

Decolonial mathematician Prof. C.K. Raju was invited to give two plenary talks (scheduled on 7th and 8th Aug) on
Decolonising mathematics: how and why it makes science better (and enables students to solve harder problems).

Israel denied him a visa. Read more.

A campaign against the exploitation of African children to raise money for white saviours

Why was I not immediately outraged when I saw the 12-year-old black African, heavily pregnant girl-child, Fridah, posing in pastel-coloured maternity clothes, in quite a sensual manner, in the Plan International Finland campaign advertisements meant to raise awareness about child pregnancies, placed on billboards, streets and public transport spaces all over Finland?”, asked Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Executive Director of the non-profit organization SahWira Africa International and researcher in gender studies at Åbo Akademi University. The advertisement campaign was awarded prizes for best advertisement.

SahWira Africa took a bold step to challenge the negative representation of Africans that perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices in the West, and demanded that Plan International Finland withdraws the campaign, and offers apologies to the African and PoC community, and return the prizes awarded to them. Plan has refused to apologise, and to return the prizes.

They started a campaign with discussion on social media, a demonstration at the office of Plan International where a petition was sent with the demands.

More information is to be found on: https://www.ruskeattytot.fi/rakenteet/protectblackgirlstoo.

See more information on:  www.sahwira-africa.org

Twitter: @sahwiraAfrica

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sahwiraafrica/

Other links:

DIN wholeheartedly supports this campaign and will help mobilize against the dehumanization of African people in Western media.

We call upon other organization to join the campaign of SahWira and offer their support for their campaign. More information: Faith Mkwesha, faithmk20@gmail.com, whatsapp: 00 35 45 66 888 75.

A decolonial critique of a colonial project

This is the text of a lecture by Sandew Hira on April 22, 2018 at the University of Amsterdam for Indonesian students on decolonizing history.

You can download the powerpoint here.

Slide 1: A decolonial critique of a colonial project

I would like to thank PPI Belanda, PPI Leiden and PPI Amsterdam for inviting me to present my views on the colonial research project of white Dutch academics on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people. I will explain why this project does not meet basic standards of scientific research, why nonsense is presented as scientific knowledge and what the alternative can be for this colonial project. I will present my critique from a decolonial theoretical framework. I will briefly touch on some theoretical aspects of a decolonial critique of Western knowledge production before going into the aforementioned questions.

Slide 2: If you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist, you can be an ideologue of colonialism

Let me start with a basic critique of the authority of knowledge production. What is the authority of knowledge production? The authority of knowledge production is the collection of institutes that assures society of what is valid knowledge and what not. In Western science professors are the authority of knowledge production. If you are a professor, you are supposed to be knowledgeable and searching for the truth. In decolonial critique we argue that if you are a professor, that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism presenting nonsense as science. It is not the position at a university that determines whether you are a scientist, but the content of your argument. Ideologues are not searching for the truth, but are producing lies to cover the truth. This is a theoretic proposition of decolonial theory and does not only bear specifically on this colonial research project but on Western knowledge production in general.

Slide 3: Western epistemology

Another theoretical note I want to touch on is the difference between Western epistemology and decolonial epistemology. Epistemology deals with what is knowledge en more specifically what constitutes valid knowledge. Western science has developed in opposition to Christian theology since the second half of the seventeenth century and evolved from David Hume’s view of knowledge based on experience thought Immanuel Kant’s concept of the need to understand experience with theoretical analysis to George Hegel notion of testing theories by prediction. Karl Popper later developed this notion into the concept of falsification. And August Comte conceptualized it in the idea of positivism that holds that knowledge is solely derived from observation and reasoning and detached from ethics. The idea that ethics is not part of knowledge has now become entrenched in the canon of Western epistemology. Knowledge is about true or false and not about right or wrong.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) says: “Our knowledge of truths … has an opposite, namely error.”[1] Not quite. In decolonial theory the opposite of truths are lies. The difference between a lie and an error is that an error should be corrected, while a lie should be opposed. An error is a false statement in an effort to find the truth. A lie is a false statement in an effort to block the truth. Once you realise that there is an error, you will try to correct it. A lie is produced with the intent to manipulate the mind.

Slide 4: DTM epistemology

In the theory of Decolonizing The Mind knowledge is not only about true or false but also about right and wrong.  In DTM the basic unit of knowledge is a concept. A concept is an idea that describes and explains certain aspects of the social and natural world. Knowledge is contained in concepts.

A concept has five dimensions.

The five elements of a concept are treated differently in an error, a lie and a truth. They have to be understood in relation to each other.

  1. In search of the truth you develop a terminology that is an adequate representation of the object of knowledge. If you make an error and you use a term that does not adequately represent the concept, you correct that and use another term once you realise the error. If you produce a lie, you intentionally come up with a term that is not an adequate representation, yet you use an inadequate term because you want to paint a different picture of the object that does not correspond with reality. Take the story of Columbus. The colonial scientist use the term “discovery of the Americas”, while the indigenous people use the term “the illegal occupation of their lands”. The Dutch would never use the term “the discovery of Holland by the Nazi’s in 1940” to describe the German invasion of their country. And they are right.
  2. Observations (facts). In search of the truth you take all relevant facts into account that relate to the concept. If you make an error, you might mistakenly leave out facts, but once you realise that, you make a correction and include these facts in making your argument. If you produce a lie, you select facts that fit into your concept and intentionally leave out or twist the facts that contradict your concept. In the case of Columbus his first crime – the fact of the kidnapping of seven Taino’s – is left out of the narrative of the colonizer but is very much present in the stories of the Taino’s.
  3. The analysis offers a framing and a storyline that makes us understand the concept. In search of the truth you develop a framing and a storyline that matches the facts and provides a logical explanation of the concept. If you make an error in the storyline, you correct it by adapting the storyline so it matches the facts and logic. If you produce a lie, you intentionally develop a storyline that matches your concept and manipulates the facts and logic so as to suit the concept. If you need to fantasise, then you put the fantasies into the storyline. The analysis use a logical framework. The logical framework of Western science is the two-value logic that goes back to Aristotle and use two values: true and false. It does not help us to understand problems of uncertainty and change. Non-Western logical systems like the Indian philosophy of Jainism use a seven value-logic that enables use to understand reality in its uncertainty and process of change. The colonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of colonialism in the story of discovery. The decolonial analysis of Columbus is the legitimization of the struggle to colonialism in the story of resistance.
  4. A theory is a collection of interrelated concepts that provides a bigger picture of the natural and social reality. In search for the truth you put your concept in the context of a theory that provides a factual and logical extension of the storyline of the concept. If you make an error, you correct it by looking for a theory that better matches the facts and logics of the bigger narrative. If you produce a lie, you select a theory that extends the storyline of your concept despite the facts and the logic that go against the theory. The colonial theory behind Columbus is the rise of modernity and human civilization. The decolonial theory behind Columbus is the demise of human civilization through the horrors of colonialism.
  5. A concept often contains ethics, a value judgment about what is right or wrong, good or bad. In searching the truth you acknowledge the ethics, make it explicit and defend your position. If you make an error, you correct it by acknowledging the ethics, make it explicit and move on. If you produce a lie, you hide or disguise the ethics by presenting your concept as objective and devoid from ethics. Western epistemology has hidden their ethics from science and cloaked it in notions of objectivity.

Slide 5: What happens when you hide your ethics in knowledge production?

When you hide your ethics in knowledge production, you are then able to present lies as scientific knowledge. How?

First, you present pose knowledge only in two terms: true or false and neglect the dimension of right and wrong.

Second, you claim objectivity on the basis of the authority of knowledge production, not on the basis of arguments. You present yourself as a scientist who is objective.

Third, you claim universality of your knowledge. Not only are you objective, your objectivity has a universal claim: your truth is the absolute truth.

And thus you are able to present blatant lies as scientific knowledge.

A decolonial theoretical framework enables us to lay bare the ethics behind Westernized knowledge and the fallacies it contains from  scientific point of view.

Slide 6: Critique #1: extreme and normal violence is not about facts, but about morality

Let us take a look at the colonial project of these white Dutch historians. The aims and content of the research program is defined on the website of het Koloniaal Instituut voor Taal, Land en Volkenkunde: “The program, which consist of nine parts, should answer questions about the nature, extent and causes of structural extreme (they use the Dutch term ‘grensoverschrijdend’) violence in Indonesia, seen from a broader political, social and international context. In this regard extensive attention will be paid to the chaotic period of August 1945 till the beginning of 1946 – often termed as the Bersiap – and the political and social legacy in the Netherlands, Indonesia and other places.”[2]

The first decolonial critique of the project is that is not a scientific project, but an ideological one. Why? Because it does not use a scientific concept to define the content of the program but an ideological one. In the ideological concept extreme violence is wrong and normal violence is OK. In the decolonial concept the judgment of violence depends on many factors: strategy, tactics, the nature of violence as one of oppression or one of liberation etc.

Slide 7: Critique #2: the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victim of oppression

The second critique is that this concept of normal and extreme violence is an insult to the victims in a war of liberation. There is no extreme violence without normal violence.  How would any Dutch person feel when German historian would set up a project to assess whether the bombing of Rotterdam was normal or extreme violence? On May 14, 1940 the German bombed the Dutch city of Rotterdam which killed 650-900 victims. On February 13-14 1945 the allied forces carried out a massive bombardment of the city of Dresden which killed 25.000 German, 25 times more than in Rotterdam. How would the Dutch feel when German historians would then claim that the bombing of Rotterdam was not extreme violence but normal violence compared to Dresden? They would feel extremely insulted, and rightly so. The whole notion of normal violence which is inherent to the concept of extreme violence is an insult to the victims of this violence. What are the criteria of these white Dutch historians applied to Indonesia. Is cutting off the balls of a freedom fighter normal violence but beheading is extreme? You get into these ridiculous discussions if you use the concept of normal and extreme violence.

Slide 8: Critique #3: the concept of extreme violence is a direct legitimization of the crime of colonialism

The concept of normal violence means that Dutch racist colonizers who introduced apartheid in Indonesia are perfectly in their right to use normal violence to maintain their colonial rule. Normal violence means the acceptance of the relationship of power. Colonial power is legitimate as long as they use normal violence. This is nonsense presented as science.

Slide 9: Critique #4: the moral judgment of violence should be related to its purpose and cannot be judged in absolute terms

There are two moral categories of violence: the category of the injustice of oppressors violence and the category of the justice of the violence for freedom and liberation. The violence of a woman who is raped by a man cannot be placed in the same moral category of the violence of the rapist. The violence of Dutch freedom fighters against Nazism could not be placed in the same moral category as the violence of the Nazi’s. The violence of the freedom fighters of the people of Indonesia cannot be placed in the moral category as the violence of the Dutch racist colonizers to maintain their apartheid state in Indonesia.

Slide 10: Critique #5: the most obvious comparison is not made: extreme and normal violence of Nazism and colonialism

Scientific research often has a comparative dimension. You compare the phenomenon you want to study in different situations in order to get a better understanding of the phenomenon. In 1945 the Dutch just came out of a struggle for freedom in which they also used violence. The Dutch resistance organized violent resistance in coordination with the allied forces. Shortly after their fight for freedom from Nazism they used violence against the freedom fighters of Indonesia. If you are an objective researcher into violence, why don’t you take this obvious comparison into account?

Slide 11: Critique #6: this colonial research project is a racist project

The leader of this colonial research project, Gert Oostindie, wrote a book on this topic as a prelude to this investigation titled Soldaat in Indonesie, soldier in Indonesia. He claims to be objective and open-minded, as many racists do and contrasts his attitude to the historians in Indonesia who are not objective and open minded. He writes about the way he conducted his research on documents of Dutch soldiers who were fighting their colonial war: “Each of the ego-documents is just an individual account, but an open-minded, systematic analysis of the whole body can produce a more balanced picture and thus also more insight into the war.”[3]

So he is the white objective and open-minded researcher. This is what he says about the historians  in Indonesia: “Until now no Indonesian government has ever showed any interest in serious historical research into the war of decolonization, whether it is carried out in cooperation with the Netherlands or not. That is not strange. Open-minded research would undermine the image of a united heroic people that expelled the colonizer under the leadership of the army.”

The racism of Oostindie lies in his contradiction which he does not even notice. How can you know the result of a research that was never started according to your own account? Why is the conclusion of the white Dutch historian Oostindie open-minded and the conclusion of the historian in Indonesia narrow-minded without judging the facts of a research that was never conducted? Objectivity and open-mind means that you have to subscribe to the conclusion of the white Dutch colonial historians without discussing the fact of the research.

Oostindie is the leader of the colonial research project so he will carry his racist arguments into this project.

Slide 12: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule deligitimizes the fight for freedom – 1

In a debate in Amsterdam Jeffry Pondaag from Indonesia asked his panel members the basic question regarding Dutch colonialism: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? This is the crucial question that anyone should pose at the start of any discussion on colonial history. If you evade this question, you evade the crucial context that determines your position in the discussion.

Slide 13: Critique #7: the legitimization of the racist colonial rule delegitimizes the fight for freedom – 2

Colonialism was a system of oppression that used any means necessary to establish and maintain its rule: rape, theft, violence, yrs extreme violence, humiliation, occupation. They colonize by any means necessary. And when colonized people fight for their freedom by any means necessary the colonizers start to scream: you use extreme violence. That is not fair! Oostindie claims that the violence of the freedom fighter was worse than the violence of the occupier and there illegitimate. He writes: “It is clear without any doubt the Indonesian side have committed cruel crimes – probably on a much larger scale and directly mostly against other Indonesians.” Oostindie argues that without Dutch rule the Indonesians would kill each other. He writes: “An important part of violence in the Archipel can be explained by the absence of an effective (colonial) power, but reflected further local contradictions of which the Netherland was partly party to, other than in the function of the keeper of public order.” The Dutch as the neutral ruler that keeps the Indonesians from killing each other. This is belanda racism of the worst kind.

In any freedom struggle the strategy and tactics is related to the means of oppression of the colonizer. Why is the colonizer allowed to establish their rule by any means necessary and the colonized is limited in their struggle of freedom to the means that the colonizer finds acceptable? What kind of logic is this?

Oostindie explicity legitimize colonial oppress in the following statement: “The Dutch military actions should be understood in the context that was given then by the Dutch: protection of the population en restoring law and order.” This is how the so-called scientist conceptualized a system of oppression: colonialism as the protection of the colonized and law and order as the natural way of governing the colonized. The most outrageous comment from Oostindie is to deny the role of violence in maintaining colonial rule. He writes that the Netherlands never had a strong military culture. It was always about protecting the Dutch border. If that is the case, why did you go 11.000 km from you country to occupy and exploit other men’s and women’s country? How was colonization achieved? By saying to the colonized: we come here in peace to rape your women, steal your resources, enslave your people and impose a racist aartheid system. Was this all done with peacefull means? In what kind of world does Oostindie live? What kind of colonial fantasies does he produce. Rember: if you are a professor that does not mean that you are a scientist. You can be an ideologue of colonialism and that is what this project is about: producing the lies of the legitimacy of Dutch fascist rule of Indonesia.

Slide 14: Critique #8: the colonial project turns the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim

A common technique in colonial the production of lies is the technique of turning the victim into the criminal and vice versa. Oostindie draws the following conclusion from his research on the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people: “Veterans reject Dutch apologies with reference to war crimes of the opponents.” Then the socalled objective researcher takes a political position in the debate: “It is clear that the other party was guilty of war crimes on a large scale.”

Oostindie turns the victim of oppression into a criminal of war crimes because of the war of liberation. While the oppressor is granted the method “by any means necessary” to impose oppression the oppressed cannot use the same method “by any means necessary” to liberate him or herself from oppression. The colonizer will put limits to the forms of resistance.

Oostindie leaves all claims of objectivity aside when he openly honor the soldiers who weer sent to put down the liberation struggle of an oppressed people. According to him his book should be seen as “a testimony of honor to these men.” What happened to the objective researcher that does not give moral judgments?

Slide 15: What is Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)?

Let me go back to the theoretical framework of Decolonizing The Mind. In this framework decolonizing the mind means three things:

  1. The articulation of a scientific critique of Western knowledge production on different levels: conceptualization, methodology of research etc. This critique exposes the lies of Western knowledge production, in this case the lies of normal and extreme violence and the lies about the legitimacy of colonialism crimes.
  2. The production of alternative decolonial concepts. If we study the period of 1945-1950 we use the concept of the legitimate fight for freedom and not the concept of normal and extreme violence to understand what has happened.
  3. The translation of the alternative knowledge in activism.

I will deal with the third point in the form of the question: what is a decolonial alternative for this colonial research project?

Slide 16: Understanding the nature of Westernized academia and the colonization of the mind

In order to develop an alternative you must understand the nature of westernized universities. You must understand the difference between education and training. Education is the liberation of the mind through free discussion and open debate, critical research and the search for the truth. Training is the imposition of limitations on the mind, disciplining the mind to think in one particular way, acquiring the skills to produce lies and developing the attitude to criminalize people who disagree with you and criticize you.

Education is related to power because education is an attack on the authority of power. We don’t accept propositions that are based on positions of power. We accept proposition on the basis of arguments.

If I talk about Westernized universities I mean not only universities in the West, but also universities in the former colonies of Suriname and Indonesia where we have Surinamese and Indonesians who are eager to defend their former masters against decolonial critique. Jeffry Pondaag can pose the crucial and basic question in every discussion on the history of colonialism because he was not trained in the Westernized university. He is a cement worker in an factory who has not lost his common sense and dares to ask: who gave you white people the moral right to occupy my country that is 11.000 km away from your country and oppress, exploit and humiliate coloured people? That is the question is ask to any Surinamese of Indonesian historians who stand up to defend his or her colonial master. What gave them the right to colonize our land, institute apartheid, enslave, exploit, oppress and humiliate our people? That is the basis of my conversation of coloured people who are trained to defend their white masters.

In 1940 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a Muslim country; 90% of the kingdom were Muslims, yet there was a minority racist dictatorship in the Kingdom that prevented the coloured people to vote. In Indonesia racism and apartheid was instituted in public places under the banner of “No dogs and Indonesians allowed”. In Nazi-Germany Hitler instituted racism and apartheid with the banner “No Jews allowed”. At least the dogs were better off under Nazism compared to Dutch colonialism.

Slide 17: An alternative decolonial research project

My suggestion for the alternative is to organize a network of activists and academics to set up and carry out a decolonial research project into the colonial history of Indonesia. This project should systematically document the crimes of Dutch colonialism, calculate the amount of reparations that the Dutch should pay as compensation for colonialism and documents the resistance struggle against the racist colonizer. That is the most appropriate answer to this colonial project. The Decolonial International Network would be happy to support any initiative in this direction.

Thank you for your attention.

[1] Russell, B. (1912), p. 186.

[2] http://www.kitlv.nl/vierjarig-onderzoeksprogramma-dekolonisatie-geweld-en-oorlog-indonesie-1945-1950/.

[3] All references are from my review of his book in: https://www.iisr.nl/koloniale-geschiedschrijving-van-indonesie/.

Free Tariq Ramadan

Since Friday, February 2, Prof. Ramadan has been held in a solitary cell in the high security wing of Paris’s Fleury-Mérogis prison. Since last Wednesday, January 31, when Prof. Ramadan voluntarily went to the police station in Paris to answer questions about the allegations leveled against him, his family has been denied access either to visit or speak with him over the phone. It remains unclear when Prof. Ramadan’s family will be able to communicate with him and check on his condition. See more: https://www.facebook.com/FreeTariqRamadanCampaign/posts/1949252545103191

 

Below is an important open letter by Houria Bouteldja, spokesperson for the Party of the Indigenous People of the Republic. In this letter, she calls on feminists and others to condemn the discriminatory manner in which the court has dealt with Tariq Ramadan: “The silence of feminists on this difference in treatment has already had a negative impact on their own cause. Not only does this indifference reinforce patriarchy, it also deepens the already-existing rift between white women and women from post-colonial migrant backgrounds. In truth, closing ranks is what these women need to do in their struggle for freedom.”

Here is the full article:

“Yes to tough, exemplary action against rape
No to the racist treatment of Tariq Ramadan

As a woman, I demand that rape is severely punished, no matter who the perpetrator of the crime is, regardless of whether he is white or black.

As an indigenous woman, I demand the same punishment for perpetrators of rape, whether they are white or black.

Indeed, the French justice system is one that tends to patriarchy, and, yes, it tends to be complaisant towards sex crimes, especially when committed by influential men. Women’s voices are constantly demeaned and dismissed, except when the perpetrator is said to be black, Arab, Muslim or from the suburbs.

Here, justice tends to become racist. The tables turn: Men, who are usually protected at the expense of women, lose this immunity. They could even be condemned in advance. This is true whether it is a petty crime, or a serious offense. It may be the reason why men from migrant backgrounds are overrepresented in prison.

Is it possible to believe that we are championing women’s causes by charging one category of men while ensuring the impunity of another? Is it possible to believe that we are serving women’s causes when the perpetrators of such crimes exploit their positions of power, and enjoy their freedom and presumption of innocence with the support of their peers? And yet Tariq Ramadan, who has already been condemned by the media, has to bear a temporary detention, that the likes of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Patrick Balkany, Georges Tron, Gérard Darmanin, Denis Baupin, Thierry Marchal-Beck, Jean-Claude Brisseau, Gilbert Cuzou, and many others, have evaded or are evading?

Of course, no two cases are similar, but the difference in media, political and judicial treatment of those men, as opposed to the treatment inflicted on Tariq Ramadan, speaks for itself. This is particularly true in the case of Gilbert Cuzou [a politician in the Ile-de-France region, which includes the city of Paris]: Even though he was charged with five accounts of rape, he was released on bail while he awaits his trial. Meanwhile, Tariq Ramadan has been left to rot in Fleury-Merogis prison since February 2.

The humilitation and discriminatory treatment of indigenous people has disastrous consequences on our lives as women. It has a tragic impact on the lives of our children and our communities who pay a collective price.

As for the impunity of white men in particular, it has catastrophic consequences on the lives of women in general.

The silence of feminists on this difference in treatment has already had a negative impact on their own cause. Not only does this indifference reinforce patriarchy, it also deepens the already-existing rift between white women and women from post-colonial migrant backgrounds. In truth, closing ranks is what these women need to do in their struggle for freedom.

Hence, the only dignified course of action available to us women is to demand, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings concerning Tariq Ramadan, and without any prejudgment of his culpability or innocence, that he is treated without humiliation–in other words, with dignity, just like the others were treated… Or else, to demand that the others are treated in the same way. This is imperative and non-negotiable.

Sincerely,
Houria Bouteldja”

 

Survey Decolonial Academic Network

The Decolonial International Network (DIN) is considering setting up a service for academics working in/at universities around the world. The service is called Decolonial Academic Network and consists of the following parts:

  • An academic peer reviewed biannual journal where academics can publish the results of their research.
  • An accessible database on current, past and future research (PhD dissertations, collaborative research projects).
  • Publication of books via Amrit Publishers.
  • The organization of conferences for academics working in universities.
  • A vacancy alert for positions at universities (Lecturers, PhD researchers, Post-doctoral researchers, Professors).
  • Facilitating joint research projects.
  • Linking academics to decolonial activism.

DIN will invest in the service infrastructure and will facilitate a steering committee of academics who develop a policy for the network.

Currently the steering committee consists of the following people:

Sandew Hira, coordinator of DIN

Silvia Rodríguez Maeso, Centre for Social Research, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Adrian Groglopo, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

DIN would charge a membership fee for the service.

We want to have an idea whether a service like this would be useful for decolonial academics working in universities by conducting a survey. Click here to conduct the survey.