A Decolonial International?

What is the ultimate aim of social movements?

The classical answer for social movements to this question was articulated long time ago in de socialist movement. Mankind is heading towards the abolishment of capitalism, the foundation of a socialist society with collectivization of the means of production, the establishment of a planned economy, a political system based on workers and peasant councils, a cultural system based on scientific knowledge, the abolition of non-scientific thinking (religion) and a working class culture, and international system of sister- and brotherhood in which the nation-state is replaced by a socialist international.

The socialist movement provided the instrument to achieve this society: a scientific theory (Marxism-Leninism) and the concept of a vanguard party: a party of full time revolutionaries that is rooted in the working class (trade unions) and other mass organizations (youth, women, peasants). The party has two central tasks. First is cadre formation of the revolutionaries to prepare them for the second task: taking over state power in a revolution, destroying the capitalist state and start building the new socialist society. Cadre formation took place on an international level during the era of the Communist International, where revolutionaries were trained to establish and support Leninist vanguard parties in different parts of the world.

The Marxist theory teaches us capitalism is a system that is characterized by periodic economic, political and social crisis. The party should be ready to lead the masses during such a crisis to a revolutionary situation in which they can take state power. The essence of cadre formation to train revolutionary cadres for this task.

The Marxist movement was not able to fulfill this promise. The decolonial movement came to the fore because of the failure of Liberalism and Marxist as theories of liberation of mankind. Many social movements have arisen that go beyond both paradigms.

The international experience

The socialist movement has a tradition of international organization. In 1864 First International – the International Workingsmen Association – was founded. It lasted for 12 years. Thirteen years later, in 1889, the Second International was established as an association of socialist parties. It was dissolved in 1916 due to differences on the First World War. After the Russian revolution of 1917 the communist parties formed the Third International in 1919 that lasted until 1943. There have been many more attempts ate international coordination and cooperation between socialist movement.

Outside the socialist movement there were also attempt to form international organizations and networks. In the African Diaspora the first conference on Pan-Africanism was organized in London in 1900. There were followed by several other conferences. The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League founded by Marcus Garvey had a mass following of about a million members across the world. In the Islamic World pan-islamist movements have united religious communities across Sunni and Shia lines in different parts of the world.

All these movements have a long history of political thought and analysis for hundreds of years. The decolonial movement is very young. After the demise of the Soviet Union we see movements with the banner of decolonial thought that go back to different philosophies in the world: the indigenous thought in Latin America, the black thinkers from the Caribbean, Brazil, USA and Africa with notion of the colonized mind and Islamic scholars who develop the idea of Islamic Liberation Theology are some examples of how social movement develop theories of liberation. In the academia this is reflected in discussion on decolonizing the educational system. There are two major characteristics of this movement. Historically speaking it is very young. And theoretically speaking it is very diverse and not as coherent as the Marxist philosophy of liberation.

Yet, modern technology has made possible the establishment of international networks (formal and informal).

A decolonial international?

DIN is one of the many networks that is dedicated to developing decolonial theory and practice. Our contribution is modest, but consistent.

We define the goal of DIN as a long term project: The Decolonial Internationl Network aims to bring about a transformation of the current colonial world civilization into a new world civilization that is based on a pluriversal concept of civilization. A pluriversal concept of civilization means the acknowledgement that there are more than one legitimate way to set up social, economic, political and cultural institutions as the foundation of society. The West claims that there is only one valid system based on the European Enlightenment. Its social system is based on individuals. Its economic system on capitalism. Its political system on the parliamentary democracy and its cultural system on positivist science. Outside the West there is a wide variety of experiences and ideas that challenges this universalism. The decolonial movement develops a decolonial theory and practice that is based on pluriversalism. One important element in the constitution and maintenance of Western supremacy is the colonization of the mind. DIN promotes the decolonization of the mind.

After years of informal meetings we have established a formal entity: the DIN Foundation.

The DIN foundation was founded on December 3, 2018 as a non-profit foundation in Holland with the following board members:

  1. President: Ramon Grosfoguel
  2. Secretary: Sandew Hira
  3. Financial secretary: Massoud Shadjareh
  4. Member: Arzu Merali

The aim of the foundation is NOT to guide the decolonial movement, but to facilitate individuals and organizations who develop decolonial theory and practice to engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation.

We have set up this website and publish a monthly newsletter. We develop an international database of individuals activists and academics and organizations who devote their time and energy on decolonial theory and practice.

We are setting up an international cadre school where people can share theoretical ideas and practical experiences. The first cadre school will be held in May in Amsterdam. The foundation is dedicated to develop a social and technical infrastructure to promote international cooperation between academics, activists and decolonial organizations.

These are first steps in a long process that eventually might lead to a Decolonial Internation. We don’t know how it will look like, but we wille certainly take into account the experience of other philosophies of liberation that promoted the idea of an international movement for liberation.

We have a long road ahead, but as Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said: a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.


Sandew Hira, The Hague, 3-3-2020