Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reparations or Wealth Redistribution?



The Caribbean Community regional organization represented by more than a dozen nations has established a Reparations Commission and hired a British human rights lawyer to press the issue of compensation from Britain, France and the Netherlands for what is described as "the lingering impact of the Atlantic slave trade,"……….Caribbean nations prepare demand for slavery reparations

The Big Bang of Slavery:


  • For Europeans and their descendants, Slavery was to wealth, what the Big Bang was to the Universe, I look at slavery as a Big Bang of wealth creation. An instant explosion of Wealth that ripples through space and time, creating compounded wealth that transcends generations, the benefits of which is still being felt to this very day by Europeans and their descendants.
  • For Africans and their descendants, Slavery was to Poverty and suffering, what the Big Bang was to the Universe, I look at slavery as a Big Bang that created great suffering and poverty. An instant explosion of human Suffering that ripples through space and time, creating compounded suffering and hardship that transcends generations, the negative effects of which is still being felt to this very day by the descendants of the conquered and enslaved people.
FIRST… I do not consider myself a Pro-Reparation activist, I have never really given reparations much thought. I am really not consumed by it, as it is not a burning issue in my book. Not to mention the countries demanding reparation are all poor third world countries with majority black population with no real power to demand anything.

UWI Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sir Hilary Beckles speaks with George Davis, Kalilah Reynolds and Patria-Kay Aarons about Jamaica's stated intention to remove the British Monarch as Head of State

These days however, I find myself debating on the side of the Pro-reparation advocates simply to combat some of the ignorance being spouted by some "Anti-Reparatist". The fact is I can find more arguments justifying Reparation than against it. Simply because in my view the Pro-Reparation advocates are on the right side of history trying to right a great wrong and as such whenever I engage the “anti-Reparationist” I almost always come across as this diehard “Pro-Reparationist” person. But that is mainly because I cannot let some people get away with spouting what is sometimes racist ignorance, arrogance and I love a good debate.

One cannot deny that the argument for reparation is a compelling one. It is deeply rooted in Historical facts and present day realities which represents an injustice like no other. An injustice that exist to this very day. The anti-Reparation people lack solid arguments based on facts and approach the debate from an emotional combative position. As a result they normally end up attacking the “Pro-Reparationist” on a personal level with insults, intended to shame anyone who dare advocates for reparation, while others take the let bygone be bygone, and the past is the past approach, these people I can live with.

Before we continue with this debate let me first deal with a few lines of arguments that I always get from the Anti-Reparation people:

The First Line of Argument, I normally get is from the Anti-Reparation people who are mix-raced and normally pride themselves on being descendants from the whip-hand of Slavery. We have lots of these kind of people in Jamaica and around the globe and their argument goes something like this: “I am mix-raced, mixed with both black and white, so how much do I have to pay and how much will I receive and do I pay myself”… This line of argument is retarded and tells me that any persons spouting this garbage is not worth engaging in a real debate. The fact is People and Governments that are Pro-Reparation are not proposing a system of individual payments, let-off and handouts, where money is deposited into people’s personal accounts.

Here is a perfect example of the stupidity posted in an online debate, I am referring to: …..“(1)Apart from the fact that I don't believe reparations for slavery will ever be delivered, and that I feel like it would be more glorious to become successful as a people without such reparations despite deserving them, I would still like to hear a proposal as to how we would distribute such funds. Would each Caribbean black person get a cheque? What, if anything, would mixed people like me get? I can trace my ancestry back to specific slave masters who benefited from that 20 million pounds, but also to specific slaves. And let's not forget that many, if not most, 'black' Caribbean people actually have some amount of European ancestry (probably from Planter-slave relations) as well. Would the amount you get be dependent on you ethnic composition, subject to DNA test or genealogical records? Or would the money be used to fund national institutions? In which case people who are not descended from slaves would still benefit, or at least people who are descended from slave masters probably. (2) As a descendant of both Africans and Europeans do I pay myself reparations?

Reparation is not about an individual nor is it about a person’s percentage of blackness, reparations is about Nation States created out of slavery and colonization used primarily for wealth extraction and then left at a disadvantage many of which are still suffering from the lingering negatives effects of European slavery and colonization.

Reparation is about the equitable redistribution of stolen wealth back to the countries where such wealth was unfairly extracted. It does not matter the colour of skin or genetic makeup of the people living in these territories, what matters is that country’s like Jamaica was unfairly used and abused, suffered greatly under a cruel and In-humane system that extract all its wealth and was left with nothing and to suffer for hundreds of years to come.

Slavery and colonisation left more than half the planet at a huge disadvantage and has given certain countries and races the clear advantage. The British racist Enoch Powell, who seem to be National Hero to many xenophobic Brits, declared in a speech he delivered on 20 April 1968 that "In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man."  ...  Enoch "racist/xenophobic" Powell,can rest easy in his grave because the white man still very much controls the Whip Hand.

Later we can take a look at how the wealth from Slavery and Colonisation transcends generation but for now let’s just say that reparation does not have to mean direct big money pay-outs but finding ways to re-balance the scales. So that countries that are at a disadvantage as a result of this disgusting system can break free from the shackles of poverty. As such when we talk about reparations we are talking about reparations to countries on a whole and not individuals lining up to get easy money hand-outs or what the "anti-reparationist" like to describe as lazy, freeloading black people looking for easy money. Reparations can take several forms such as Debt Forgiveness or Direct Investment or Preferential Trade Agreements as well as subsidies. In fact anything that could help to re-balance the scale and ease the burden can be regarded as reparations and a comprehensive reparation plan would be the way forward.

The Second Line of Argument, is what I find both amusing and aggravating, and it goes... even if you give these countries with these people reparation in the form of money, they will just squander it and their corrupt Government officials would just take it for themselves. This line of argument is insulting on so many levels because it implies racial inferiority. It implies that Black people are genetically predispose to corruption. That black people have no concept of managing money wisely and like sheep would allow themselves to be used and abused. It implies that we are so dumb, so thick …that to give black people money or the means to better ourselves is a total waste of time and would be like throwing pearls before swine.

Let say for argument sake that we have no concept of managing money wisely, slaves to the bling. Then it stands to reason that reparations in the form of money would find its way back to the rich white countries thus making them even richer because we would import whatever crap they had to sell. From my point of view what you think we would do with the money is irrelevant, how you think we would use the money is irrelevant and the only thing that is relevant is the fact that the countries that benefited from slavery and colonisation must be made to re-balance the scale. Even if we choose to pile that money in a big bonfire heap and burn it, then that is our business. If we choose to use that money as toilet paper then that is our prerogative. All that matters is that reparation must be paid in some form and the scales must re-balance.


One argument put forward by Jamaicans against Reparation declares that, if Jamaica in particular was to get Reparation money, then Jamaicans will squander it….and I must ask ….Squander it? …..as opposed to what? … Squandering borrowed money? One can also say that we squander borrowed money anyway, billions of the stuff but at least with Reparation money we would not have to repay that money or pay blasted interest on it. Currently Jamaica pays about 70 cents out of every dollar to repay loans and interest payments on loans. We are so worried about squandering reparation money but we have no such concerns with regards to borrowed money that is actually costing us and making us poorer and the lender richer.

I do not agree with squandering any money but given the choice between squandering Borrowed Money and Reparation Money then Reparation Money wins every time… I have a problem getting my head around these so called Jamaicans who would rather their country continue to remain broke, struggling and suffering under a mountains of debt engineered by developed first world countries as a means of control and even if Jamaicans are fool enough to squander it, I am sure the rest of the Caribbean and other countries would put that money to good use while selling us weave. I say lets is put aside what you think we would do with the money and worry about actually getting our day in reparation court.


Black people it seems are easily embarrassed about some things and asking for Reparation is one of them. If black countries ask for Bailout, Compensation or Reparation then everyone mostly other black people will get embarrassed and immediately start describing this action as being worthless. However when it comes to bailout or a history of requesting reparations the Europeans are like greedy pigs at the trough as they are not afraid to demand their pound of flesh. And if you refuse to give it to them, then they are not afraid to dig it out of you. As Lance-Corporal Jack Jones from dad's Army would say "those Fuzzie Wuzzies ...They don't like it up em!"...


The Third Line of Argument is, what I find really amusing comes from European sources, mainly the United Kingdom but I am sure others share their view and it goes something like this. If the descendants of slaves are going to ask us for Reparations for slavery then can we ask for reparation from the French, Germans, Spanish, the Vikings, Romans and all the other European invaders? And my answer to that is, go right ahead, knock yourself out because I do not understand how these inter-European invasions, rape and pillage come into this. This reparation claim is between the descendants of slaves in the New World and Europeans who benefited from this system. Now if you really feel that strongly about your many inter-European invasions then go ahead and stake your claim with the guilty party but stop trying to tell me that you are not asking for reparations from the French, Germans, Spanish, the Vikings, Romans and all the other European invaders so we should not ask anything of you, I care nothing about your run ins with "dem other lot'.

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Plus I am sure other Europeans countries not only invaded England but England also invaded other European countries. In the Invasion, Rape and Pillage department the United Kingdom of Great Britain is second to none and gave as good as she got, there was an English king on the French throne for hundreds of years and in many other European countries not to mention after reading Geoffrey of Monmouth it seems Invading, Raping, Pillaging, followed by enslaving was a way of life for Europeans. The fact is the English cannot claim reparations from the French because the French have just as much rights to claim reparation from the English for the amount of time the English lay waste to parts of France. No to mention Europeans were constantly claiming and do get reparations from each other, so this line of argument is selective and bogus.

From the 1340s to the 19th century, excluding only two brief intervals in the 1360s and the 1420s, the kings and queens of England (and, later, of Great Britain) also claimed the throne of France. The claim dates from Edward III, who claimed the French throne in 1340 as the maternal nephew of the late king. Edward and his heirs fought the Hundred Years War to enforce this claim, and were briefly successful in the 1420s under Henry V and Henry VI.

In 2010 Legislation has been signed by President Barack Obama to provide $4.5 billion in reparations to American Indians.

The Fourth Line of Argument is, why should I pay for something I did not do and that was done long ago by my ancestors? Well the fact is you are still benefiting today from the system of slavery implemented by your ancestors. The wealth of slavery still finances much of Europe and Europe still controls most of the resource of the former colonies, Europe still control most of the oil, diamond, gold, silver etc, they are still in Europeans hands as independence documents were carefully drawn up by Europeans to guarantee that these resources remained in European hands. Your corporations were all financed from colonisation and slavery, your streets and infrastructure built from slavery's wealth. People might come and go but the British monarch is forever, the crown transcends time and is a constant. The English crown engineered slavery and benefited greatly from it, the very same crown that exist today created slavery, which is why they say the "King is dead, long live the king", to express continuity. So who you are today, the life you enjoy today is as a direct result of slavery and colonization. So it is impossible to disconnect yourself from the legacy of slavery. You still benefits today and the ex-colonies, descendants of slaves still suffers today... Why should I continue to suffer because of what your ancestors did to my ancestors...? What would England, that small island with about 60 million people be today without Slavery and Colonisation?

The Fifth Line of Argument, is that Africans use to enslave other Africans and Africans sold other Africans to the Europeans, so Africans should also pay reparations or because you were sold by other Africans we should not have to pay you. Back in those days Europeans declared themselves superior and civilised and declared Africans inferior and uncivilized and if Europeans were that superior and civilized then they would have declared slavery immoral and wanted nothing to do with it but Europeans did the complete opposite, they created an even bigger, more global system of slavery while expanding their murderous empire. Whenever you hear a people start going on and on about how superior and civilised they are, then this is normally a precursor for them to carry out the most inferior, uncivilized and inhumane acts, before they can slaughter you wholesale, they must first dehumanize you wholesale. The Germans shouted to the world their superiority, the master race and everyone else’s inferiority then started two World Wars, one of which that eliminated over 2.5% of the worlds population, that is over 60 million (60, 000,000) people were killed and then started chucking Jews in ovens. So it was with Europeans in general, Rape, Pillage and Laying Waste are concepts Europeans embraced with great zeal.

It is very obvious that the only people who really benefited from Slavery and Colonisation was the Europeans and their descendants and also very obvious also that Africa and African descendants were the real victims of Conquest, Slavery and Colonisation not to mention I doubt the Africans could have said no to people who considered themselves superior and civilized because that is one thing they do not respect, some inferior people telling them no. They have no problem leaving mountains of dead bodies of people who tried to stand up to them, take for example the Lobengula in Matebele who tried to say NO, get off my land:

Cecil Rhodes embarked on war with Lobengula in Matebele, his troops used a new "secret weapon:" the Maxim which could fire 500 rounds a minute. In 1893, in the battle of Shangani River, 1,500 Matebele warriors were killed while only four British died. The English Liberals penned a bitter satire on the victory, which Rhodes' men --- the Chartered Company Volunteers --- then cynically adopted as their anthem (below):

Onward Chartered Soldiers, on to heathen lands,
Prayer books in your pockets, rifles in your hands.
Take the florious tidings where trade can be done,
Spread the peaceful gospel --- with a Maxim gun.

Tell the wretched natives, sinful are their hearts,
Turn their heathen temples into spirit marts.
And if to your teaching they will not succumb,
Give them another sermon with the Maxim gun...

When the Ten Commandments they quite understand,
You their Chief must hocus, and annex their land;
And if they misguided call you to account,
Give them another sermon --- with a Maxim from the Mount.

The Haitian Revolution and French Compensation:
In 1825, the French King, Charles X, demanded that Haiti pay an "independence debt... Haiti’s legacy of debt began shortly after gaining independence from France in 1804. In 1825, France, with warships at the ready, demanded Haiti compensate France for its loss of men and slave colony. In exchange for French recognition of Haiti as a sovereign republic, France demanded payment of 150 million francs (modern equivalent of $21 billion). In 1838, France agreed to reduce the debt to 60 million francs to be paid over a period of 30 years.

In 2004 a lawsuit launched by the Haitian government to recuperate these extorted funds (extorted because it was pay me or I invade and enslave you again) was aborted prematurely in 2004, with the French-backed overthrow of the government. And this ladies and gentlemen is how the Europeans roll, they stick together like bar flies, having each others back, upholding each others evil.

Europeans are the Compensation Masters: 
On the day of the Emancipation, 1 August 1834, the former slaves were told that they should now start paying their former slave masters rent for room and board. Not the next day or the next month or the next year but on the first day of freedom the British demanded that the poor black slaves who had been working for free for hundreds of years should now find money to pay their former slave masters and I can assure you that no one in Great Britain at the time was too embarrassed about demanding and taking this money, you owe me, fuck you! ...pay me.

Samantha Cameron is descended from aristocratic slave owner
Prime Minister's wife can trace her roots back to businessman William Jolliffe
He received £3.25million in compensation for sugar plantation in St Lucia
Research into Slave Compensation Commission shows estate had 164 slaves
Samantha Cameron descends from aristocracy on both sides of her family. Mrs Cameron’s father, Sir Reginald Sheffield, is the 8th baronet and has an estimated fortune of £25m

Great Britain then set out to properly compensate British Slave Masters for the loss of properties, a mean what is a poor white Slave Master to do without free, forced labour? These Slave Masters and plantation owners got paid and got paid really well. The Emancipation Act allowed for the compensation to plantation owners who feared their livelihoods would suffer but no compensation was paid to the former slaves. The British government paid out £20m to compensate families that owned slaves for the loss of their "property" when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury's annual spending budget and, in today's terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5 BILLION, “but no compensation was paid to the former slaves”.


One just needs to travel around the UK, to the various villages, towns and cities to gets an idea of how the wealth from slavery was used to develop Great Britain and how it allowed generations of British citizens to live the life of luxury compared to the people in the Colonies. Slavery enriched England more than anything else ever did. Slave labour on sugar plantations created most of the wealth that fueled the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution. Virtually all of that wealth went to the Colonizers and very little was spent on the enslaved and Colonised people.

The county of Devon in the South West of England contains many prominent people and families who owe their wealth to these slave plantations in the West Indies. One such family for example the Swetes from Modbury, owned a plantation on the island of Antigua which produced sugar and rum.

Bishop Philpotts benefited from slavery
The Swete family lived in a house called Old Traine Manor in the village of Modbury where Adrian Swete used his slavery wealth to bring water supply to the village. This water conduit was a gift in 1708 and was fed by the reservoir located higher up the street and sourced water from the Silverwell spring. The Bishop of Exeter Henry Philpotts spent a considerable amount of slave compensation money and used some of it to restore the palace behind Exeter Cathedral then built himself a large house in Torquay which is now the Palace Hotel, perfect examples of how slavery money was used to build Britain as stories like this can be found in every villages, towns and cities across the UK, built from the blood of Slaves.

Colonisation and Slavery gave Europeans and their descendants 100% control of all resources in countries they took by force. Coupled with the fact that various independence agreements were organized so that they retain full ownership of the resources they captured with maximum profit. Europe for example controls the gold and diamond mines in Africa, paying limited, starvation wages while taking home the lion share of the profit, the value of gold and diamond in Africa is very different to the value of the same gold and diamond when it reaches Europe. It is safe to say that the wealth generated from Slavery and Colonisation catapulted Britain into the Industrial Age and made her the most powerful country on the planet. Slave labour on sugar plantations created most of the wealth that fuelled the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution.


The Industrial Revolution would NOT have been impossible without the wealth generated by slave labour. Britain’s major ports, cities and canals were built on invested slave money. Several banks can trace their origins to the financing of the slave trade. Apart from the Barclays Brothers, who were slave traders, we also know of Barings and HSBC which can be traced back to Thomas Leyland’s banking house. The Bank of England also had close connections to the trade. Hundreds of Britain’s great houses were built with the wealth of slavery and the Church of England also acknowledges its pecuniary gains from slavery. As an excellent project at University College London is showing, not only many contemporary millionaires and politicians but also perfectly ordinary middle-class people come from families which were compensated for the loss of slaves. The freed slaves, of course, never received such compensation and their families inherited, instead, the poverty and landlessness which blights them to this day. Capitalism itself, along with cheap beach holidays, would have been impossible without slavery.


NewStatesman: Much of Britain's wealth is built on slavery. So why shouldn't it pay reparations?

I'm not even sure that "reparations" is the right term because what is needed is an equitable redistribution of the wealth that was created. Historically, that has never happened... and sadly, ....probably never will!

Small Sample of Reparations

  • Following the Greco-Turkish War (1897), defeated Greece was forced to pay a large war indemnity to Turkey (£4 million). Greece, which was already in default, was forced to agree to see its public finances overseen by an international financial commission.[2]
  • After the Franco-Prussian War, according to conditions of Treaty of Frankfurt (May 10, 1871), France was obliged to pay a war indemnity of 5 billion gold francs in 5 years. German troops remained in parts of France until the last installment of the indemnity was paid in September 1873, before the obliged date.
  • Treaty of Versailles - World War I, 26 billion that Britain got from defeated German government after World War I, with interest, compounded annually....
  • Russia agreed to pay reparations to the Central Powers when Russia exited the war in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (which was repudiated by the Bolshevik government eight months later). Germany agreed to pay reparations of 132 billion gold marks to the Triple Entente in the Treaty of Versailles. The amount of reparations was later reduced by the Agreement on German External Debts in 1953. The last installment of these reparations was paid on 3 October 2010.[4] Bulgaria paid reparations of 2.25 billion gold francs (90 million pounds) to the Entente, according to the Treaty of Neuilly.
  • Germany paid Israel 450 million DM in Holocaust reparations, and paid 3 billion DM to the World Jewish Congress to compensate survivors in other countries. No reparations were paid to the Romanis who were killed during the Holocaust. Some of the estimates of homosexual men and women murdered under the Nazi regime range from 2,000-10,000. Little evidence exists of the numbers of actual homosexuals murdered. Though many homosexual survivors applied for reparations, only one received financial compensation; the presence of many homosexuals in Party organizations such as the S. A. is thought to have had a chilling effect on such claims in post-war Germany.[6]
  • According to the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947, Italy agreed to pay reparations of about US$125 million to Yugoslavia, US$105 million to Greece, US$100 million to the Soviet Union, US$25 million to Ethiopia, and US$5 million to Albania. Finland agreed to pay reparations of US$300 million to the Soviet Union; Finland also was the only country which fully paid its war reparations.[citation needed] Hungary agreed to pay reparations of US$200 million to the Soviet Union, US$100 million to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Romania agreed to pay reparations of US$300 million to the Soviet Union. Bulgaria agreed to pay reparations of $50 million to Greece and $25 million to Yugoslavia. According to the articles of these treaties, the value of US$ was prescribed as 35 US dollars to one troy ounce of pure gold.
  • According to the Treaty of Peace with Japan and the bilateral agreements, Japan agreed to pay around ¥1.03 trillion.[citation needed] For countries that renounced any reparations from Japan, it agreed to pay indemnity and/or grants in accordance with bilateral agreements.
  • The government of the United States under the Reagan Administration officially apologized for the Japanese American internment during World War II in 1988 and paid reparations to former internees and their descendants.
  • 1990 U.S.A $1.2 Billion or $20.000 Each JAPANESE AMERICANS
  • 1990 AUSTRIA $25 Million to Holocaust Survivors JEWISH CLAIMS ON AUSTRIA
  • 1988 CANADA 250,000 Sq. Miles of Land INDIANS & ESKIMOS
  • 1988 CANADA $230 Million JAPANESE CANADIANS
  • 1986 U.S.A. $32 Million 1836 Treaty OTTAWAS OF MICHIGAN
  • 1985 U.S.A. $31 Million CHIPPEWAS OF WISCONSIN
  • 1985 U.S.A. $12.3 Million SEMINOLES OF FLORIDA
  • 1985 U.S.A. $105 Million SIOUX OF SOUTH DAKOTA
  • 1980 U.S.A. $81 Million KLAMATHS OF OREGON
  • 1971 U.S.A. $1 Billion + 44 Million Acres of Land ALASKA NATIVES LAND SETTLEMENT
  • 1952 GERMANY $822 Million to Holocaust Survivors GERMAN JEWISH SETTLEMENT

The Moyne Commission
In looking solely at the Jamaican economy, the most developed in the British West Indies by 1930, reports shows that plantation economics still dominated to the point that per capita output was only slightly higher than when slavery was still the dominant means of labour in the early 19th century. After slavery was abolished the colonial government took greater measures to protect British interests and the plantation system and did almost nothing for the people.

Prior Caribbean Commissions placed emphasis not on the worker’s welfare or the colonies' economic well-being but rather strategies for maintaining a dependent labour force. For those reasons, social and health conditions remained relatively inert since emancipation.

The labour riots that began across the region came about because of the horrendous working and living conditions of the people and most of Jamaica was without electricity and running water. Poor health system resulted in increased frequencies of water borne illnesses.

The inability of most households to meet the most basic of financial needs ensured that malnutrition and substandard living conditions created unbearable conditions.

Education was a major issue in colonial Jamaica and the vast majority of the population could not read or write, literacy was about 30% by the 1950’s.

In colonial Jamaica there was great unequal distribution of wealth which was still in the hands of the plantation class, wages were low and not considered a living wage. To feed their families people had to plant food crops in their yards.

Over population in Capital was a major concern because people moved to capital in search of employment opportunities which give rise to the Ghettos.

During Colonial Jamaica 
The vast majority of Jamaicans lived in darkness, only small sections of the island had electricity as the vast majority was without power and lived by lamp light.

The vast majority of Jamaicans lived without running water to their homes. Many had to carry water from the river or from community standpipe as no infrastructure was in place to supply running water in people’s homes. My own grandmother spent most of her life carrying buckets of water on her head from the community stand pipes for her basic needs. It was not that she could afford to have piped water but the infrastructure to pipe water to the houses in the community was not in place and it was not until late 1970’s when that work was done that she was able to install modern plumbing. I can still remember the look on her face as she turn on and off the water from the pipe in the yard.
 
The British only built roads if the British needed a road to support commerce and trade. They wasted no time building roads for the good of the people. As a matter of fact the British did almost nothing for the good of the people, they cared nothing about the people. They were Lord and Masters over us, they Governed over us but did very little for us.

Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations - Jason Hickel

If colonialism is ever acknowledged, it’s to say that it was not a crime, but rather a benefit to the colonised – a leg up the development ladder.

The reparations debate is threatening because it completely upends the usual narrative of development. It suggests that poverty in the global south is not a natural phenomenon, but has been actively created. And it casts western countries in the role not of benefactors, but of plunderers.
When Europeans arrived in what is now Latin America in 1492, the region may have been inhabited by between 50 million and 100 million indigenous people. By the mid-1600s, their population was slashed to about 3.5 million. It was like the holocaust seven times over.

Between 1503 and 1660, 16m kilograms of silver were shipped to Europe, amounting to three times the total European reserves of the metal. By the early 1800s, a total of 100m kg of silver had been drained from the veins of Latin America and pumped into the European economy, providing much of the capital for the industrial revolution. To get a sense for the scale of this wealth, consider this thought experiment: if 100m kg of silver was invested in 1800 at 5% interest – the historical average – it would amount to £110trn ($165trn) today. An unimaginable sum.

Europeans slaked their need for labour in the colonies – in the mines and on the plantations – not only by enslaving indigenous Americans but also by shipping slaves across the Atlantic from Africa. Up to 15 million of them. In the North American colonies alone, Europeans extracted an estimated 222,505,049 hours of forced labour from African slaves between 1619 and 1865. Valued at the US minimum wage, with a modest rate of interest, that’s worth $97trn – more than the entire global GDP.

Then there is India. When the British seized control of India, they completely reorganised the agricultural system, destroying traditional subsistence practices to make way for cash crops for export to Europe. As a result of British interventions, up to 29 million Indians died of famine during the last few decades of the 19th century in what historian Mike Davis calls the “late Victorian holocaust”. Laid head to foot, their corpses would stretch the length of England 85 times over. And this happened while India was exporting an unprecedented amount of food, up to 10m tonnes per year.

Before the British arrived, India commanded 27% of the world economy, according to economist Angus Maddison. By the time they left, India’s share had been cut to just 3%. The same thing happened to China. After the Opium Wars, when Britain invaded China and forced open its borders to British goods on unequal terms, China’s share of the world economy dwindled from 35% to an all-time low of 7%.

Meanwhile, Europeans increased their share of global GDP from 20% to 60% during the colonial period. Europe didn’t develop the colonies. The colonies developed Europe.

The colonial instinct is alive and well in the form of land grabs, illicit financial extraction, and unfair trade deals.









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