14 Caribbean nations, most being members of Caricom with the inclusion of Haiti and Suriname, are suing Britain, Holland, and France for the legacy of slavery which they claim has “condemned the region to a poverty that still afflicts it today” . The plaintiff nations could be seeking upwards of £200bil citing the British compensation of slave owners when slavery in British lands ended 175 years ago. This legal suit took place after Caricom formed an official commission on reparations for slavery .
Interestingly enough, the Caricom committee hired the legal team responsible for winning compensation for the Kenyan victims of British torture following the Mau Mau Rebellion . Coincidentally building upon the conscious nature of this suit that will likely make the British Crown its biggest target.
Clearly, legal action is not what one might consider a manifestation of Global People’s War. Equally so, action within the bourgeois legal system should not be seen as a universal precedent for struggling against imperialism. We understand such action to usually fall within the realm of liberalism; especially when granted that the bourgeois legal system could not possibly take real action against the standing of the major imperialist powers as a whole (meaning in the context of the reformist movements and other non-revolutionary socialist politics). Rather what is important to understand is how such action works to advance the consciousness of the world’s oppressed peoples against their oppressors.
Now, critics have made the usual objections to such action. The most popular being a distrust for reparations as a justifiable mechanism. The problem here being that this suit represents more than reparations for slavery (not diminishing the importance of reparations or the legacy of slavery) but a conscious recognition of how current material conditions have been shaped by imperialist processes and how these current powers are culpable for the abhorrent poverty. Even then a dislike for reparations usually stems from a reactionary understanding of race and politics at large. With that said there is a legitimate criticism of reparations to be made in this case; specifically how the imperialist powers might embrace reparations to absolve themselves from the terrible consequences of their subsequent exploitation. This is worrisome especially in the era of neocolonial ‘reconquest’ which has intensified in South America and the Caribbean over the past couple decades. If the imperialist powers were to absolve themselves in this way it would certainly damage the standing of ideological struggle among within and outside the periphery.
However, the fact that the respective imperialist powers have resisted this action by the plaintiff nations lends some credibility to the potential victory to be won should damages be awarded.
Other critics have drawn attention to the objective contrast between the more wealthy plaintiff nations and the more drastically poor. Essentially the argument being that nations such as the Barbados and Bahamas have no real need for the development money from damages considering their relative wealth to the region. This would make sense if these nations were not still developmentally depressed from the same legacy of oppression shared with the other plaintiffs. Nations like the Bahamas and the Barbados are still functionally dependent on the Global North and if anything are just neatly disguised neocolonies. These nations have only been able to experience infrequent success because their economies have been conditioned by the monopolists in their service. A quick glance at the composition of their economic activity makes it clear these nations are ‘successful’ only as tropical options for capital to be accumulated by the oppressors.
Setting aside the handbag of contradictions that make themselves apparent when analyzing such action within the scope of Marxism-Leninism, we should see the practical nature of these nations winning such a suit. The case being made by the plantiff nations is fundamentally true. The present condition of the Caribbean specifically the underdevelopment of its productive sectors are directly traceable to the respective history of colonialization, slavery, and imperialism. The incredible squalor under which so many anguish in the Caribbean is a living testament to the imperialist processes of uneven development and superexploitation. The point at which potential damages improve the material security of millions of impoverished Carribbeans is the point at which we must support such action or at least stand in solidarity with the plaintiff.
However, we know that we cannot rely on the bourgeois framework to defeat the bourgeois as a global class. Victory for the exploited and oppressed peoples of the world will only come through a socialist revolution which destroys imperialism and all vestiges of the capitalist class. Yet, we should recognize this suit as a concrete indication of rising consciousness among the oppressed peoples of the Global South. Whether or not this suit succeeds, whether or not its results parallel legitimate relief, we must see this as progress in cultivating proletarian consciousness and internationalism; hopefully, what might progress into the construction of base areas for the anti-imperialist struggle. Nevertheless we need to consolidate our victories, crystallize allied forces, and cement ourselves firmly in solidarity with the oppressed peoples of Caricom and the Global South; with the world proletariat against the global capitalists and all their reactionary allies.
For the destruction of the old and the construction anew.