Reparations campaigner David Denny (Picture: David Denny on Twitter)

Stand Up To Racism is hosting a tour across Britain with Barbadian reparations activist David Denny to demand justice for victims of the slave trade. The tour focuses on Richard Drax, the Tory MP for South Dorset who refuses to pay back the money his family made from slavery.

David is the general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, and an executive member of the Barbados Workers Union.  

“I’m coming to Britain to demand reparations from Drax for African descendants who have been affected by slavery,” he told Socialist Worker. “I also want to extend our solidarity with the trade union movement in Britain.”

Reparations can be given in the form of apologies, payment or transfer of land. It’s not just about atoning for the crimes of the past—it addresses injustices today.

The profits of slavery fed the growth of capitalist development. So much of the wealth in Britain today has historical roots in the slave trade. Likewise, much of the world’s inequality is also rooted in the legacy of the slave trade, which plundered, destroyed, and held back societies in Africa and the Caribbean.

David explained that the demand for reparations is crucial “because our ancestors suffered so much”. “If you have benefited financially from the exploitation of people during slavery you should pay.”

Philip Marfleet is the joint secretary of Dorset Stand Up To Racism. He told Socialist Worker, “Black Lives Matter made us look at the role of the British colonial state in ­creating plantations in the Americas and Caribbean.”

Activists in Dorset dug into the nasty right winger Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax MP. Worth £150 million, Drax is the wealthiest landowner in the House of Commons. Anti-racists’ campaigning has included protests on his land to make him pay up.

The Draxes are dripping in blood. They were one of the first to bring sugar to the Caribbean and commercialise its cultivation through slave labour.

Britain forcibly transported 3.1 million Africans across the Atlantic between 1640 and 1808. The 2.7 million people who survived the inhumane journey faced barbarity in the Caribbean.

David Comissiong, Barbados’s ambassador to Caricom, described the Draxes as “the architect of slaver-based sugar production.” James Drax established the first plantation in Barbados in the 1640s. Here 30,000 slaves died over 200 years. Yet in 1836 John Erle-Drax was compensated £4,293, 12 shillings and 6 pence for 189 slaves—around £3 million today.

But the horrors of slavery didn’t end when it was abolished in Barbados in 1834. “It’s a live issue,” David explained. “Our standard of living remains at the bottom of the ladder because of what happened to our ancestors.

“Reparations are very important for us because they can help change our livelihoods. And Drax is still exploiting people. It’s not true that he doesn’t benefit from what his family did.”

Richard Drax owns Drax Hall Estate in Barbados—with 620 acres that still produce sugar cane and the original 17th century Jacobean house. Phil added, “Campaigners in Barbados want to use it for a museum addressing the question of slavery. The estate forms a fraction of Drax’s wealth.

“Why doesn’t he pass ­ownership over to Barbados? It’s morally reprehensible. People think it’s likely that when they’re able to investigate the estate they could find a number of horrors—including burial grounds.

“We wonder to what extent is Drax unwilling to allow people to investigate their own history on his land.”

Build unity between activists in Caribbean and Britain

David hopes the upcoming tour will “highlight the call for reparations”. And he wants to bring activists in Barbados and the Caribbean closer to anti-racists and trade unionists in Britain.

“This is an opportunity for us to create consciousness for our reparations struggle—and to build unity,” David added. “Workers internationally must work together to lift each other’s struggle.”

Richard Drax has previously said “no one can be held responsible today for what happened many hundreds of years ago”. David disagrees.

He says reparations should be paid “in the form of upgrading the standard of living of Barbados’ people—especially those whose families suffered at the hands of Draxes,” he added.

“We can benefit from that in terms of upgrading our medical institutions, our education institutions and schools. Our infrastructure and roads can also be improved—we can build houses for poor people who today still live in bad conditions.

“We have been developing programmes to educate our people about the call for reparations, not only in Barbados, but all over the Americas. We have to make those at the top listen by organising these kinds of activities.”

Philip says the fight for reparations should matter to people in Britain because “we recognise the crimes of British colonialism and the period of slavery.” “After the murder of George Floyd in 2020 we had a demonstration of 2,000 young people in Weymouth,” he said.

People feel strongly about this issue and it’s becoming a very mainstream one across Europe. But the Tories are concerned with fighting back over issues of racism. There are still people in the Caribbean living with the consequences of slavery. We can’t let this stand.”

Where to hear David speak

David Denny’s tour with Stand Up To Racism begins this week.  It will also involve local and national speakers and anti‑racists.

This includes, for some events, SUTR national co-convenor Weyman Bennett, the family of Chris Kaba, Care4Calais, refugees and refugee campaigners, and SUTR activists. Meetings will also hear from members of the Unite, NEU, Unison and PCS unions, as well as local councillors and politicians.

Go to Stand Up To Racism’s Facebook page for confirmed meeting times and locations. Also go to the page for information about SUTR’s 18 March demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff.

Wednesday 1 March—Dorset. 7.30pm at The Dortford Centre, Bridport Road, Dorchester DT1 1RR
Thursday 2 March—Bristol. 7pm at Docklands Community Centre, 29 Brigstocke Road, St Paul’s, Bristol BS2 8UA
Saturday 4 March—Manchester. 2pm at Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS
Sunday 5 March—Liverpool
Tuesday 7 March—SOAS University, central London. 10 Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG
Thursday 9 March—Hackney, east London. 7.30pm at the Halkevi Centre, 31 Dalston Lane, Hackney E8 3DF
Friday 10 March—Bookmarks Bookshop. 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE
Sunday 12 March—Brighton
Monday 13 March—Cardiff
Tuesday 14 March—South London
Thursday 16 March—West London

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