Decolonisation and decoloniality

India’s commemoration of their 1947 independence today reminds us that their “tryst with destiny”, as Nehru put it, opened up vistas for all the other colonies in the British Empire. After the unified nationalistic PPP, under the leadership of Cheddi Jagan and chairmanship of Forbes Burnham, were summarily ejected just 133 days after winning the first elections under universal franchise in 1953, these two leaders went to India to secure moral and political capital. Ghana’s independence under Nkrumah was to follow a decade later, and, like cascading dominoes, so would that of the other colonies in the following two decades.
Nkrumah himself was ousted just one month before we were “granted” independence in 1966, but he had unconsciously prophesied his downfall in his book “Neocolonialism: the last stage of imperialism”, a year before the coup. To use a phrase coined by George Lucas, “The Empire struck back”, even as Nkrumah explained that “independence” would always be nominal and enmeshed in neo-colonial relations. As he stated, “The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State, which is subject to it, is in theory independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality, its economic system and thus its political policy, is directed from outside.”
He elaborated, “The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries (from) being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.”
Fifty-five years later, in Guyana today, Nkrumah’s analysis is sadly as relevant in the Africa he loved, most ex-colonies, and certainly in Guyana. In fact, in the intervening years, guided by Nkrumah’s insight, there have been numerous empirical and theoretical studies deepening and widening the neocolonial relations that conspire to keep us in thrall beyond Nkrumah’s Marxist economism. One explicated the “coloniality of power” – an expression coined by Anibal Quijano to distinguish it from the formulation of Nkrumah – serves “to name the structures of power, control, and hegemony that have emerged during the modernist era, the era of colonialism. He posits that the coloniality of power takes three forms: systems of hierarchies, systems of knowledge, and cultural systems. The power of coloniality as a structure of control is that it speaks for us so forcefully that we see no recourse but to represent it, to uphold its existence, to ratify its dispensing with ethics and with the sanctity of human life in everything we say and do as labour and resource.” The process to extricate us from this multidimensional matrix of intersectional power has been dubbed “decoloniality”.
What all of this suggests to us in Guyana is that our efforts to reverse the deforming effects of the PNC’s five-year rule between 2015-2020 must be seen as only the beginning of a much more expansive project to decolonise our nation, going all the way to the coloniality foundation that goes way beyond the economic substratum. In a word, decoloniality. Particularly crucial for us is that decoloniality insists that our reality at each level – individual, community, national and international – is imbricated in a racialised order that is coeval with the “modernity” we have all been persuaded to pursue. As such, when we rail against some Guyanese being “racist” against others, we invariably ignore the institutionalised structures that impel us unconsciously in the practice.
One of the starting points must be to introduce the perspective of decoloniality into our educational system, from nursery to university and beyond, so that we move beyond using the inherently subversive “tools of the master” to free us from the belly of the beast.