A strategy for the struggle for reparations for colonialism


The article takes up the arguments pro and contra reparations, links the discussion to the colonization of the mind, provides an economic model to calculate the amount that has to be paid to colonized countries for reparations and develops a strategy for the struggle for reparations. [1]

What are reparations?

There are two types of reparations. One type is about material (monetary) and immaterial compensation for historical injustice. That is how reparations are conceived in the current popular discourse. But there is another one which has the opposite meaning: imposing monetary payments on parties that were defeated in war; in many cases the wars were acts of historical injustice.

In the latter case the parties that are involved in reparations are states. Reparations are paid by the state that has lost the war to the state that has won the war. There are three rationales behind these reparations. The first is to repair of the damage caused by the war. The second is the punishment of the defeated state. The third is the amount due for the costs of keeping an occupying army and administration in the defeated state to ensure payment of reparations.

The rest of this article deals with the first form of reparations: compensation for historical injustice.

The arguments against reparations

Whenever victims of crimes of colonialism, especially the black communities, bring up the issue of reparations, there is a list of arguments produced by adversaries against reparations. This is more or less the list.

  1. There is no direct relationship between harm and compensation: the victims are already dead.
  2. A person cannot inherit the guilt of the perpetrators of a crime.
  3. Black people owe reparations to white people for the civilizing work of white people.
  4. Blacks should pay whites for reparation because whites abolished slavery.
  5. Africans should pay reparations to blacks in the Americas for their role in the trans-Atlantic slavery.
  6. The amount for reparations is so huge that it is not worth considering.
  7. There is no use in giving money to the former colonies because of corruption and inefficiency.
  8. There are more important issues in the world than reparations.
  9. Reparations should address modern day slavery and not the slavery of the past.
  10. It took place a long time ago: let us forget it.
  11. Let us forget the past and focus on the future.
  12. The issue of reparations creates divisions in society.
  13. A call for reparations is emotionally devastating because it raises false hopes that will never be fulfilled.
  14. Reparations have already been paid (in the case of the USA with the Civil Rights Act)
  15. The West has already been paying for reparations through decades of development aid programs so there is no need for a new program of reparations

These arguments were never invoked when reparations were paid to the perpetrators of historical injustice. Some examples:

  1. The Haitian revolution (1791-1804). The French never accepted the victory of the Haitian Revolution. In 1825, the French came with 14 warships and 528 cannons and presented Haiti with the choice: pay 150 million gold francs as reparations and get recognition of Haiti as a free nation by France and other European nations or face economic blockade, starvation, war and the reinstatement of slavery. The amount was equivalent to a whole year of Haiti´s revenues. Haiti accepted unwillingly. They were forced to borrow the amount from French banks who charged a 6% interest rate for their loans. Haiti finished paying reparations to France in 1947.
  2. The British, French and Dutch enslavers got reparations with the legal abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. In the UK it amounted to 20 million British pounds. The criminals got compensation for their so-called loss of property.
  3. Another case where criminals got compensation was the case of the Opium Wars in China. British drugs dealers with the help of the British state forced China in the Opium Wars (1839-1842/1856-1860) to import drugs and get millions of Chinese addicted. China had to pay for the costs of the wars: US$ 21 million.
  4. When Indonesia won their independence from the Dutch in 1949 after a bloody war in which the Dutch killed 150.000 Indonesians, the Indonesians under the pressure of the Americans had to pay NF 6,5 billion to the Dutch. Indonesia paid NF 4 billion between 1950 and 1956, which is more that the aid of the Marshall plan that the Dutch got from the United States after World War II.

Reparations and Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)

These cases of reparations are not brought up in the public debate whenever there is a passionate discussion about reparations. The facts are not well know. Why? It is a matter of the colonizing the mind.

Colonialism is a global system of oppression, exploitation and dehumanization in five dimensions: economic, social, political, cultural and geographical. The mechanisms for setting up and maintaining this system are diverse and vary from brutal violence, military occupation and repression to cultural and educational institutions that produce lies about inferiority and superiority of people along the line of race and culture. One mechanism in the colonization of the mind is the organization of amnesia for historical injustice committed by colonialism. Organizing amnesia means that historical injustices committed by the colonizer are intentionally pushed out of the public memory and replaced by discussions on either the benevolence of colonialism or on the ridiculousness of bringing historical injustice to the table. In the case of reparations the constant repetition of the arguments against reparations are combined with the intentional silence on cases where reparations have been paid to whites. It is also a form of intimidation by ridiculing the arguments for reparations for the crimes of colonialism.

The arguments for reparations

The DTM concept of historical injustice

There are two aspects to the DTM concept of historical injustice. The first is the aspect of injustice. There are crimes committed by one community or groups of communities (the perpetrators) that impacted other communities (the victims). A community can be a state or groups of states. It can also be a nation: an ethnic group with common historical, social, cultural and in some cases biological traits. The crime is not related to an individual as a perpetrator (Hitler) but a community or state as a perpetrator (Nazi Germany). The injustice is inflicted not upon individuals as individuals, but on a individuals as part of a community. The injustice was related to their community to which they belong.

The second aspect of the concept of historical injustice is the nature of the historical legacy of the crimes that have been committed. The legacy of the crime has different dimensions:

  • Economic dimension: the gravest crime is the theft of land. Since the start of colonialism (with 1492 as a marker) Western nations have occupied and stolen land of communities of colour all over the world. In many part of the world where land was stolen from the indigenous communities there are struggles going one to recover that land, in some cases with success. In Canada the indigenous people are called the First Nations. They are engaged in a long struggle to regain their land titles. In 1996, the Canadian government had received 745 claims. Some were settled by negotiation, some by litigation and some were rejected. Subsequently, First Nations and the Canadian government are still fighting on the issue. In 1999, the First Nations Land Management Act was enacted as a federal law. It transferred administration of land to First Nations. This includes the authority to enact laws with respect to land, the environment, and most resources. It was the first step for a First Nation to assume control over its reserve lands, resources and the environment. Its great value became clear when oil and gas companies wanted to build pipelines. They had to deal with the First Nations.
    In Africa many Africans have lost their land to white Europeans and are still in the process of reclaiming their land. In Zimbabwe a major land reform program in 2000-2002, distributed large tracks of land from white farmers to the local Black population.
  • Social dimension: The genocide committed in the Americas against the indigenous people changed the social structure of their society. Settler colonialism brought alien communities from Europe and constructed a racially hierarchy that exists till today. The kidnapping and forced migration of Africans during the trans-Atlantic slavery deprived Africa of its young labour force and contributed to the underdevelopment of this continent. In the America’s slavery and institutional racism have created communities of colour that are treated as second class citizens in the USA, Brazil and the rest of North and South America.
  • Political dimension: the political legacy of historical injustice is the use of instruments of control which exist until today such as disenfranchisement, police brutality and the prison industrial complex.
  • Cultural dimension: this is probably the most complex and most lasting legacy of historical injustice: the colonization of the mind. It impacts the mind of the communities of perpetrators and the communities of victims. It involves a broad range of aspects from the production of knowledge and lies to the dissemination of knowledge and lies through education, media and culture. There are mechanism in the colonization of the mind that are used in the arguments against reparations.

Evaluating the arguments against reparations

Let us evaluate the arguments against reparations with the DTM concept of historical injustice. Many arguments use mechanisms of the colonization of the mind.[2]

The following arguments uses the concept of an individual instead of a community.

  1. There is no direct relationship between harm and compensation: the victims are already dead.
  2. A person cannot inherit the guilt of the perpetrators of a crime.

From the DTM concept of historical justice reparations regards the living communities, not the dead individuals. There is a direct relationship between harm and compensation because the communities are not dead. A community can inherit the guilt of the perpetrators because the perpetrators are not individuals but economic, social, political and cultural institutions that still exist.

One mechanism of the colonization of the mind is the presentation of a crime as a benefit. Arguments 3 and 4 use this mechanism.

  1. Black people owe reparations to white people for the civilizing work of white people.
  2. Blacks should pay whites for reparation because whites abolished slavery.

The argument that colonialism was a civilizing mission of white Europeans and whites abolished slavery is a misrepresentation of historical facts. The abolition of slavery by Europeans was not an act of benevolence. It is like saying: “Thank you for not raping me anymore”.

The next argument uses the mechanism whereby the guilt of the collaborators of a crime is put on the shoulders of the victim.

  1. Africans should pay reparations to blacks in the Americas for their role in the trans-Atlantic slavery.

In the case of the trans-Atlantic slavery the perpetrators are white Europeans that have set up a system of kidnapping Africans for the plantations in the Americas. This system made use of African collaborators. During the Holocaust Jewish collaborators were used by the Nazi’s in organizing the arrest and transport of Jews in occupied Holland, France and Belgium to the killing fields in Eastern Europe. It would be shocking and immoral to argue that because of these collaborators Jews should pay reparations for other Jews.

Arguments 6 to 13 use the mechanism of shifting the focus from relevant to irrelevant topics.

  1. The amount for reparations is so huge that it is not worth considering.
  2. There is no use in giving money to the former colonies because of corruption and inefficiency.
  3. There are more important issues in the world than reparations.
  4. Reparations should address modern day slavery and not the slavery of the past.
  5. It took place a long time ago: let us forget it.
  6. Let us forget the past and focus on the future.
  7. The issue of reparations creates divisions in society.
  8. A call for reparations is emotionally devastating because it raises false hopes that will never be fulfilled.

The relevant topic is: how to deal with historical injustice. Argument 6 explicitly states why the focus should be shifted. Argument 7 uses a possible fear not as a means to discuss proper ways of paying reparations, but as an argument for not paying it at all. Arguments 8 to 13 just shift the focus without explaining why.

The last two arguments require a model for the calculation of material reparations:

  1. Reparations have already been paid (in the case of the USA with the Civil Rights Act)
  2. The West has already been paying for reparations through decades of development aid programs so there is no need for a new program of reparations

A model for calculation

How much should the Western states that were the perpetrators of the crimes of colonialism pay to the victims? I have developed an economic model to make a rough calculation.

This model can be used by the researchers supporting the communities of color to calculate the amount that a specific state has to pay to the communities they have colonized.

The calculation consists of five elements that everybody with common sense can agree upon:

  1. If you build an enterprise on land that is not yours, you should pay rent

You don’t set up a business  on a property in London, Paris or Amsterdam without asking permission  from the person owning the land and without negotiating about the rent you should pay. Colonization was the conquest of land that did not belong  to the Europeans. In our model we take the areas in km2 that the colonizer has occupied without paying for rent and specify the rent that should be paid per year.

  1. If you take goods that are not yours, you should pay for them

You don’t steal, you buy. This principle is vested in religion and morality of all civilizations, including the West. One of the ten commandments of the Bible is: “Thou shalt not steal.” We should draw up a list of commodities in the colonies that have been stolen or not properly paid for. We should make estimates about the volume, price and value per year of the amount that has been stolen or not properly paid for.

  1. If somebody performs labor on your behalf, you should pay a proper wage for his or her services

If a painter comes to paint your house, you give him of her a decent payment. What is decent is negotiable but the principle that labor is not free is generally accepted, even in the West. The colonizer has used forced labor in the colonies. Make an estimate per year of the number of people who had to perform forced labor in that year and the number of hours they had to work per day. Check what the average wage was in Europe for the type of labor that was performed and the averaged number of working hours per day. With these data you can calculate the amount of unpaid or underpaid wages that the colonizer owes to the people they have colonized.

  1. If you intentionally (or even unintentionally) cause injury to an individual or a community, you should pay financial compensation for the injury

In the case of an individual the injury can vary from emotional injury (stress from forced labor or kidnapping) to injury in property and body, and even death. In the case of a community, the injury consists in the annihilation of social institutions, the destruction of human dignity and the suppression of basic human rights. Under point three the data were collected on the number of people that were forced to perform forced or underpaid labor per year. We can add to these numbers the number of the total population they represent and make an estimate based on the number of persons per family. We have the total number of individuals per year that should receive compensation for injury. Look at the practice of the law in the colonizers country and take the court cases that paid financial compensation for injury. Make an estimate of what the colonizer has to pay per year for compensation for injury.

  1. If you have a debt, you should pay interest

This is an accepted principle in economics and morality in the West. If you are a Muslim, you might argue that interest is forbidden in Islam, so no interest can be charged. But the European states are Christians or atheists. In the case of reparations for Haiti the French used 6% as the interest rate.

Base on these assumptions I drew up the following economic model to calculate the amount of reparations.

(1) rRent(y) = (qRent(y) * pRent (y))*(1+i) ^(cyear-y)

(2) sRent= SUM(rRent(y))

(3) rGood(x,y) = (qGood(x,y) * pGood(x,y)) *(1+i) ^( cyear-y)

(4) sGood(x)= SUM(rGood(x,c))

(5) sGood = SUM(sGood(x)

(6) rWage(y) = (Wage(y) * wPerson(y))*(1+i) ^( cyear-y)

(7) rWage= SUM(rWage(y))

(8) rHumsuf(y) = (Humsuf(y) * hPerson(y))*(1+i) ^( pyear-cyear)

(9) rHumsuf= SUM(rHumsuf(y))

(10) rTotal(y) = rRent(y) + rGood(y) + rWage(y) + rHumSuf(y)

(11) rTotal = SUM(rTotal(y))

Explanation of the variables:

  • y = a particular year.
  • i = interest rate (%).
  • qRent(y): the surface in km2 in year y.
  • pRent(y): the price per km2 in US$ in year y.
  • cyear: the year of today (2020) to calculate the current value of the amount.
  • rRent(y): the rent that had to be paid in year y in the current value
  • sRent: the sum of the rent of all the years
  • qGood(x,y): the quantity of a good x that was stolen in year y.
  • pGood(x,y): the price of a good x that was stolen in year y.
  • sGood(x): the sum of the amount of good x for all the years in the current value.
  • sGood: the sum of the amount of all goods.
  • Wage(y): the annual wage that was not paid in year y per person per year.
  • wPerson(y): the number of persons that should have received the annual wage in that year.
  • rWage(y): the amount of wages that should have been paid to all persons in a year in the current value.
  • rWage: the sum of all unpaid wages in the current value.
  • Humsuf(y): the amount that should have been paid for human suffering to a person in one year.
  • hPerson(y): the number of persons in a year that should have received compensation for human suffering in the current value.
  • rHumsuf: the sum of the total amount for human suffering for all the years and all the persons
  • rTotal(y) = the total of the amount for rent, stolen goods, unpaid wages and human suffering in a year.
  • rTotal: the total amount that pas to be paid for reparations.

These formulas can be used in a spreadsheet or in a computer program. Whatever means we use, the resulting amount is astronomical.

I developed a computer program that used the following values for the variables:

  • Rent: for the rent of land and water I used US $ 10 per square km at the start of colonization and an increase of US $ 0.50 per year till the end of colonization. The periods of colonization differed per region.
  • Stolen good: for stolen goods I have only taken figures for gold and silver that were stolen from Latin America. The start production of gold was 8,000 kg per year with an annual increment of 2 kg, a starting price of US $ 3,000 per kg and an increment of US $ 10. For silver the starting quantity was 300,000 kg with an annual increment of 200 kg, a starting price of US$ 80 per kg and an annual increment of US $ 1.
  • Unpaid wages: for unpaid wages I used US $ 0,01 per hour for a working day of 10 hours and 313 working days in a year) at the start of colonization. That is US $ 31,30 for a whole year. The increase per year of the annual wage is US $ 0.01.
  • Human suffering: for the compensation for human suffering I have US $ 1,00 per person and an annual increase of US $ 0,01.
  • Interest: in one variant I used an interest rate of 0% (variant I). In another variant I use the interest rate of 3%, which is half of rate that France imposed on Haiti for reparations (variant II).

For the purpose of simulation the values of the variables can be chosen randomly. How would be the result of the calculation if put the value to X or Y? But the values can also be based on specific research, for example the goods that have been stolen or the demographic development of specific communities.

I have made a reference point to assess the amount that has to be paid by the colonizers: the total GDP of the colonizers countries in 2013, which was US $ 30,980,662,000,000 (US $ 30 trillion) for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and USA.

The result is that in variant I (interest rate is 0%) the amount for reparations in 2013 was US $ 10,759,777,102,101 (10 trillion dollars); that is 0.3 times the total GDP of the colonizers in 2013. In variant II (interest rate is 3%) the debt grows exponentially to US $ 321,090,670,376,971,000 (US $ 321 quadrillion), that is 10,364 times the total colonizers GDP.

The significance of the simulation is twofold. First, it shows the inconceivable damage that colonization has caused upon the colonized communities and the unimaginable debt that rests on the shoulders of the colonizer as a legacy of colonialism. Second, some writers argue that colonialism was a burden rather than a profit for the colonizer. It does not take into account the crime of stealing land, products and labor and the compensation for human suffering. Our model shows that if colonizers would have acted as decent human beings rather than as criminals it would have been impossible to develop their wealth. The global world system would be radically different with the West ending up being poor and the rest would have developed their economy and society to a higher level.

Immaterial reparations

Reparations for historical injustice has an immaterial component. The damage that colonialism has inflicted on the colonized communities has to do with the quality of life that cannot be expressed in statistics. One example is the question of identity. In the African American community the issue was addressed by the Nation of Islam. They have rejected the enslaver’s names and replaced them with an X, the symbol for the unknown variable in mathematics. Malcolm X is a famous example. Eventually the “X” was replaced with an Arabic name that is more descriptive of a person’s personality and character. Malcolm X took the name El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The process of reclaiming one’s African identity is a form of repairing the damage inflicted upon the identity of individuals from an community.

Colonialism has created a superiority complex in white people and inferiority complex in people of color. That has far reaching consequences in the economic, social, political and cultural dimensions of society. How do we repair the damage that was done in knowledge production where racist theories were propagated about the superiority of white people and the inferiority of people of color? How is racism expressed in education of public memory (statues) and what does reparation means? Bringing down the statues of superiority? Changing the text books in the educational system? Redesigning museums?

A strategy for reparations


I present an outline for a strategy in the struggle for reparations that is based on the following premises:

  1. The struggle is not a tea party where people chat cozily with each other. It is a process of confrontation with structure of power in all dimensions of society. How to deal with power structures is a crucial part of the strategy.
  2. The process of the struggle is more important that the goals. Obviously, it is very important to set goals, but at the end of the day the process of creating awareness and empowering communities of color is what the struggle for reparations is about.
  3. The struggle for reparations is part of a larger struggle, the fight for a new world civilization that effectively settles the legacy of colonialism.[3]


I define three main goals in the struggle for reparations:

  1. To force the colonizer states to pay material reparations for historical injustice. Obviously, the amount that should be paid is astronomical. The amount that will be paid will depend on how strong communities of color are in changing the relationship of power between the colonizer and the colonized.
  2. To create global awareness about the historical injustice inflicted by white European states and communities on communities of color that have been colonized in the past five centuries.
  3. To introduce the concept of a new world civilization. The basic tenet of this concept is that colonialism has created a global system of economic, social, political and cultural institutions that threatens life on planet earth, has brought death, misery and despair to the majority of the world population and is filled with in justice. The struggle for reparations is not only about repairing, but also about rebuilding a new world society based on the belief that another, better, world is possible in which the human community can live in peace, harmony, justice and welfare.

These three goals are interrelated.

I will develop a strategy for reparations based on my experience with communities of color in Venezuela. In 2019 I had the privilege to be invited to Caracas to give a course on decolonizing the mind and reparations. The ideas which I present here are a result of the discussions I had with the participants.

Statistics as a flag ship

The material component of reparations provides us with a flag ship in the struggle: a statistic. This is the outrageous amount that is on the table as a representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed by the West. Suppose that the indigenous and black communities of Venezuela make a calculation of reparations that Spain should be paying. Suppose that the calculation is based on work of historians that have collected the data for the economic model that I have explained above. Suppose that the resulting number is 100 times the GDP of Spain (US$ 1,5 trillion in 2018).

The figure of US$ 150 trillion will become the flagship of the struggle. The communities of color of Venezuela can put the demand on the table in the form of a request to the state of Spain to US$ 150 trillion as reparations for historical injustice. This number will become ingrained in public memory as the representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed by Spain during the colonization of Venezuela. Of course Spain cannot pay this amount, even if there is a willingness to pay at least some amount. So this request should be followed by an understanding that Spain will not be able to pay the whole amount, so it is now a matter of public negotiation. Spain has to make a move and state what amount it can and will pay.

One might argue that we should put a realistic number for a reparation claim, a number that can actually can be paid, which might be a few million dollars. This sounds reasonably if the primary goal is to get monetary payments. The downside of this argument is the acceptance that the amount that is actually paid is an accurate representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed. That would be really outrageous and go against the other goal of creating awareness about the nature of the crimes of colonialism.

Probably the most likely response from Spain will be to neglect the request and a refusal to discuss any claim.

Then other means of resistance will come in place.

Law fare

Law is an expression of the moral principles and power structures in a society. In 2006 the then prime-minister of Britain, Tony Blair, expressed his ignorance about this principle, when he declared the government’s position on the trans-Atlantic enslavement: “It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time.”[4] It is not hard to believe that a crime was legal if you concede that criminals can make laws. Law is not made by nature or gods, but by human beings. At that time criminals were in power in Europe as heads of state and in government administrations. These criminals had a different moral than their victims. So it is not a case of different morals in different times, but different morals at the same time for different human beings. If criminals get state power, naturally they will constitute a legal system that enables them to sustain their criminal acts and make it legal to kidnap, enslave, exploit and oppress people. In Europe it was illegal to enslave white people in Europe, yet at the same time it was perfectly legal to enslave Black people in their colonies.

Law can be an instrument of struggle and a form of warfare: lawfare. When the colonizer controls the judicial institution it uses them do deny justice to the victims of colonialism. However, the pretense that the judicial system is not biased, can sometimes create avenues to use the court as an instrument to put the struggle on the social and political agenda.

In the case of Venezuela the first actor to be brought to the court is the Spanish state. But because its monarchy was the head of the state and the monarchy still exists in Spain as well as in other colonizers country such as Britain, Holland and Belgium, it is logical to also bring the monarchy to the court.

The court case can start locally like the case of Israel’s former Defense minister Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts. Sharon led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. On September 18, 1982, 2,000 – 6,000 Palestinians were systematically murdered in Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese extremists with the support of Israel. In 2001, 23 Lebanese and Palestinian survivors of the massacre filed a law suit against Ariel Sharon in Belgium. Under a Belgium law, Belgian courts could prosecute foreigners for certain offences committed abroad. The case looked promising, but then the USA stepped in to support Israel. They told the Belgian Government that if their legal authorities were planning to continue with the process, the NATO headquarters in Brussels would be moved out of Belgium. This shocked the Belgians. The Belgium parliament hastened to change the law. It adopted changes that created barriers for future plaintiffs, such as provisions that a plaintiff or victim should have lived in Belgium for a minimum of three years.

The whole process was a big distress for the Zionists, the imperialism powers and its advocates. That process was already a big gain for the social movements against the Zionist occupation of Palestine.

If the Spanish king is brought to court in a trial in Venezuela and the court would decide to rule in favor of the social movements, the conviction is a big distress, irrespective of the fact whether the king well ever go to prison.

Uniting the plantations

Much discussion on reparation was focused on the African-American community in the USA. It has a long history in that country. At the end of the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman issued a famous military order to confiscate 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of land along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and divide it into 40 acres (0.16 km2) parcels to 18,000 freed slave families and other Blacks living in those areas. The order could not be enforced because President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, revoked the order. The idea is known as forty acres and a mule.

In 1992, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) set up a body of eminent persons to explore the modalities and strategies of an African campaign for restitution similar to the compensation paid by Germany to Israel and to survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. The group’s work has not borne much fruit.

In 2004, the African Union adopted an Action Plan 2004-2005 with a recommendation on reparations to debate the issue of slavery in all African parliaments with the objective to declare slavery a crime against humanity and discuss the nature of reparations. In 2009, the then president of the African Union Muammar al-Qadhafi stated in a speech during the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, that Africa deserves reparations, which amounts to US$ 7.77 trillion for the resources and wealth stolen in the past. He also declared that colonization should be criminalized and that people should be compensated for the suffering endured during the reign of colonial powers.

In July 2013 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) made a call for reparations as an integral element of the Community’s development strategy. The Commission declared that it seeks reparatory dialogue with the former slave-owning states of Europe, which were enriched by these crimes, with a view to seeking their support for the eradication of the legacy that serves to subvert the development efforts of national societies. And although the Commission states that this dialogue should be conducted in a diplomatic, conciliatory, and morally uplifting fashion, consistent with the reparatory search for social justice and human decency, they also have hired a British law firm Leigh Day to sue their former colonizers.

In 2015 Shashi Tharoor, an Indian member of parliament for the Indian National Congress, argued the case that Britain should pay reparations to India in The Oxford Union debate that was held on 28 May 2015. His argument received wide attention. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, declared in parliament on July 23 2015: “Tharoor’s speech reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue and showed what impression one can leave with effective arguments by saying the right things at the right place.”[5]

As the question of reparations is not limited to one part of the colonized world it is makes sense to connect these struggles. Europeans have set up plantations in the colonized world and kept the colonized communities divided. The struggle for reparations is a struggle to united the plantations. That is a core part of the strategy for reparations.

Historiography, consciousness and a new world civilization

The struggle for reparations is a struggle for redressing historical injustice. A big part of the struggle is about how the canon about colonialism is being written. Colonial historians have presented colonialism as the white man’s burden and an attempt of Europeans to civilize the uncivilized world. Colonialism was called modernity, a phase in which human civilization reached its apex thanks to the work of white Europeans and their role in the rise of science, technology and economic growth.

The decolonial movement that have risen during the last two decades across the world regards colonialism as the nadir of human civilization. Colonialism is the downfall of human civilization with genocide, occupation, enslavement and atrocities committed by white people. It transferred massive wealth from the colonies to the colonizer and create a world full of injustice, crime and the colonization of the mind.

Reparations is not only about repairing a world of injustice, but also about rebuilding a new world civilization. The historiography, the canon of history, will be radically different from the current canon that is taught in the educational system and is based on the lies that European historians and their coloured disciples have produced. It does away with amnesia. It celebrates the resistance against colonialism. It rebuilds a new decolonial knowledge and new economic, social, political and cultural institutions on a global level. This vision of a new world civilization is a crucial part of a strategy for reparations.


Finally, a strategy for reparations is not based on a single organizational framework. State institutions of the colonized countries can play a role. Social movements can play a role. Academics can play a role. A decolonial strategy should be based on encouraging all forms of organization and promote cooperation, debates and discussion among the peole and organizations fighting for reparations. As in all other social movement there is a general agreement to fight for something but many differences about specific goals, strategy and tactics. By working together in an atmosphere of dignity and respect it is possible to create a broad front in the struggle for reparations.

Sandew Hira

Secretary of the DIN Foundation

The Hague, 14-3-2021

[1] This article is based on the book that I have published on reparations. Sandew Hira: 20 Questions and Answers on Reparations for Colonialism. Amrit Publishers. The Hague, 2014. The arguments on Decolonizing The Mind is based on the forthcoming book: Sandew Hira: Decolonizing The Mind. Imagining a new world civilization. Amrit Publishers. The Hague, 2021.

[2] The mechanisms of the colonization of the mind are developed in the forthcoming publication Sandew Hira (2021).

[3] The concept of a new world civilization is elaborated upon in my forthcoming publication.

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/nov/26/race.immigrationpolicy. Accessed 18-10-2020.

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/24/indian-prime-minister-modi-endorses-britain-paying-damages-for-colonial-rule. Accessed 18-10-2020.