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About French Colonialism

What comes next is a work in progress!

Some might say colonialism is something of the past and once again, France proves it wrong. As a small reminder, qualifying colonialism as a crime against humanity (which it is) in France will get you insults from the current government and most of the political landscape.

For instance, when the neoliberal oligarch E. Macron said that colonialism was a crime against humanity1) during a conference in Alger (Algeria), in order to gain traction in leftist spaces, most of the right became obfuscated at this idea that killing and enslaving people for the name of profit is wrong. Since then, E. Macron praised the imperial ruler Napoleon which is mostly known for his battles but also for re-enacting slavery in France2·3.

France still struggles to battle its old demons, that is with slavery, nazism or colonialism. The two latest colonial currencies, the CFA Franc4·5 and the Comorian Franc6·7·8 are still controlled by the Bank of France and minted as Paris Currency. All the “DROMS” (or “Overseas Departments and Region of France”) are ‘former’ colonies (which are still treated as such and forgotten about in french politics in general). The leading right party, the “National Front” was founded by literal nazi sympathizers9·10 and hasn’t changed a bit since (even tho they are trying to polish their external image).

It is without saying that what wasn’t possible to say about ten years ago in terms of pure racism, Islamophobia, LGBT-phobia and anti-Semitism is now legion in the french media and political landscape. Still to this day, even tho the government finally admitted that the French army tortured civilians during the Algerian Revolution11, they are refusing to make official excuses citing “we must not get attached to the past”. This is where problems begin: the refusal to admit that colonialism is a form of fascism and is oppression. For the people of Algeria, that fought for France during WW2, that gave their lives to protect a country that treated them like insects, the parallel between the iron fist of France and of nazi Germany was easy to dress:

  • Both had a colonial project that oppressed and killed
  • Both were motivated by racist reasons and to extend to get resources

The main difference between France and nazi Germany is that the latter did it in a very short time span and with a violence rarely seen before. As a keen reminder, when the first revolts in Algeria happened, France started a bloody repression that killed around 45k people (mostly civilians; Algerian estimates)12·13·14. While France was busy looting Algeria, they also started doing nuclear tests in the country, which still hurts people to this day (exactly the same process as in French Polynesia)15.

Never forget there never was and never will be “good colonialism” as it is a crime against humanity and just the natural extension of capitalism16. Never forget about the starvation, exploitation and oppression that colonial powers inflicted (and are still inflicting) on colonies. As said earlier, France didn’t only have major parts of Africa but also islands all over the world, some of which being Polynesia that are located at the East of Australia & New Zealand. For the most part, France used Polynesia and most particularly the atoll of Moruroa as a testing ground for weapons of mass destruction that got used until 199617. As a result of those tests, it is still prohibited (as of 2005) to visit the atoll18. Another aftermath is the high concentration of cancer and other diseases caused by the toxic matter spread after the explosions (see footnote n.15). Again, there never was any official apologies and official reports had to be declassified in order to know some truth19. As with every single french colonies, the local languages (for instance the Tahitian language and other Oceanic languages) aren’t authorized to be used for official business as per article 2. of the french constitution stating20:

La langue de la République est le français.

Or translated:

The language of the French Republic is French.

Now, let’s talk about Guiana, little piece of Europe in South America, bordering the countries of Brazil and Suriname. Guiana was established as a slave society that only got abolished during the French Revolution (that abolished from the same stone the slave trade & slavery in french colonies)21. After the french ceded Louisiana to the United States of America, Guiana became a penal colony, where prisoners from metropolitan France were sent to do forced labour. During that time, about 56k prisoners got sent there and only about 10% survived to their sentence22. The infamous penal colonies officially got closed around 1951 and only the prisoners that could afford it could ever return to France. It is later, in the 60’s that the location was chosen to house the Guiana Space Centre that became operational in 1968 and still is in use to this day23. Guiana is still used to this day to train french armed forces24.

  1. https://archive.ph/MMHgZ Francetvinfo.fr, “Emmanuel Macron qualifie la colonisation de “crime contre l’humanité” : la polémique en quatre questions”, 2017 ↩︎

  2. Sue Peabody, “French Emancipation”, October 2014, Oxford Library, doi:10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0253 ↩︎

  3. Adélaïde-Merlande Jacques, Ed Karthala, “La Caraïbe et la Guyane au temps de la Révolution et de l’Empire”, 1992, ISBN 2-86537-342-8 ↩︎

  4. Aubin Nzaou-KongoAubin Nzaou-Kongo, Marceleau Biankola-Biankola, “International Law and Monetary Sovereignty: The Current Problems of the International Trusteeship of the Cfa Franc and the Crisis of Sovereign Equality.”; The African Institute of Legal and Critical Thinking; August 2020; doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.12808835.v3 ↩︎

  5. Ian Taylor, “France à fric: the CFA zone in Africa and neocolonialism”, Tandfonline, April 2018, doi:10.1080/01436597.2019.1585183 ↩︎

  6. Abal Anrabe Abdou Chacourou (2003). “Franc comorien” (in French). Editions L’Harmattan. ISBN 2-7475-4843-0 ↩︎

  7. Pick, Albert (1994). “Standard Catalog of World Paper Money: General Issues”. Colin R. Bruce II and Neil Shafer (editors) (7th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-207-9 ↩︎

  8. http://www.banque-comores.km/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=10&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=114 La Banque Centrale des Comores; In French ↩︎

  9. https://archive.ph/IWcdO Liberation.fr; April 2012 ↩︎

  10. Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin – “The Downfall 1945”. Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0670030415. ↩︎

  11. https://archive.ph/7aW9M AA.com.tr, “Alger salue la reconnaissance par Macron de la torture durant la colonisation”, September 2018 ↩︎

  12. https://archive.ph/GtcgD Geo.fr, “Alger instaure une journée de la mémoire pour dénoncer les “crimes du colonialisme””, June 2020 ↩︎

  13. Jean-Pierre Peyroulou, “Les métamorphoses du martyrologe algérien du 8 mai 1945”, Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2009 doi:10.4000/books.psorbonne.850 ↩︎

  14. Barbara Harff, Ted Robert Gurr, “ Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides: Identification and Measurement of Cases since 1945”, International Studies Quarterly, Volume 32, Issue 3, September 1988, Pages 359–371, doi:10.2307/2600447 ↩︎

  15. https://moruroa-files.org/ Disclose NGO ↩︎

  16. Vladimir Illych Lenin , “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, 1916, The Marxists Internet Archive(https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/) ↩︎

  17. Maclellan, Nic; Chesneaux, Jean (1998). “After Moruroa: France in the South Pacific”. Ocean Press. ISBN 978-1-876175-05-4 ↩︎

  18. https://archive.ph/QXIBr “High levels of radioactive contamination in French Polynesia”, October 2005, NZ Herald ↩︎

  19. https://moruroa-files.org/en/declassified-documents Disclose NGO ↩︎

  20. https://archive.ph/T3Waq Article 2 - Constitution du 4 octobre 1958 ↩︎

  21. see footnote 2 ↩︎

  22. Marshall, Bill (2005), “France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History”, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. pp. 372–373. ISBN 1-85109-411-3 ↩︎

  23. Gorman, Alice (2009). “The Archaeology of Space Exploration”. The Sociological Review. SAGE Publications. 57 (1_suppl): 132–145. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2009.01821.x ↩︎

  24. https://archive.ph/GHsHz “L’action en mer” , préfecture de la Guyane, guyane.gouv.fr ↩︎