Book: Colonialism and neo-colonialism
Author: Jean Paul Sartre
Paul Jean Satre, Colonialism and Neocolonialism, Routledge, 2001, 175 pages. $17 and $103
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Jean Paul Sartre through his writings had elaborately explained the unbridgeable divide between Post-Colonial and anti-Colonial. But he presented a different nature of Post-Colonial theory and was extensively concerned with the colonial and Third World issues since 1948 onwards. He also well-defined about the colonial violence in his famous work “The critique of dialectical reason”. He is one of the founders of the epistemological revolution. It was Sartre and Algerian Born Philosopher Frantz Fanon, who put the anti-colonial struggle at the heart of the Political agenda as part of their commitment as Marxist. Moreover, they both were influenced by the ideas of extreme Bolshevism.
In “Being and Nothingness”, Sartre rejects Marx argument that “Consciousness is determined by life, by proposing ‘Freedom’ as the central characteristic of being human”. Likewise, Sartre also rewrites Descartian Cogito as “I am my choice, I am my freedom”. What Sartre said; the individuals are not fixed but in a constant state of self-transformation and self-reproduction playing an active role within the masses as conscious assortment of individuals; who make history. As Marx wrote: “Men makes their own history, but not of their own free will, not under the circumstances they themselves have chosen but under the given and inherited circumstances with which they are directly confronted”. However, Sartre was not agreeing with the Marxian standpoint that individuals are wholly determined by the circumstances (Historical and economical) rather Sartre believed that “Individuals possess responsibilities for themselves”.
Sartre repositioned his philosophy and Political views after experiencing the colonial war in Morocco and, Algeria, when the Muslim Towns of Casablanca and Satif was indiscriminately bombed. He was also a strong supporter of Negritude (The conception of African and Caribbean identity) and has critically worked on racism and tried to approach Racism through phenomenology, via which he associated racism with the ideology of Colonial rule. It was famous writer Richard Wright, who famously remarked on racism that: “The problem of racism does not lie with Negros rather it is the problem with Whites” and Sartre took racism in the context of anti-Semitism, what he said; it is the Jewish character, that provokes anti-Semitism. Basically, the main problem lies in the split between annihilated and the Triumph and the colonial legacy of the Western European empires had widened this split. Thus, the anti-Semitism has not created the un-assimilation of Jews rather it is their strange behavior that creates contradiction. What Sartre said: if the existence precedes essence, then the essence of colonized subjects aspiring to a “White-Mask” is one of inauthenticity and bad faith (means I am no longer master of the situation).
On the other hand, Frantz Fanon also staunchly criticized the psychopathology of the Colonial rule, which had given birth to the concepts like inferior subjects or inferiority across the colonial territories. According to Sartre colonial subjects oscillated between the two states, internalizing the colonial ideology of inferiority and being less than fully human—until he or she assumes the responsibility and choses authenticity and freedom. Basically, it was Sartre’s Hegelian training that enabled him to recognize that Power is a Dialectical phenomenon that torturer and tortured, racist and victim, colonizer and colonized, and the powered and the disempowered were all locked in symbiotic relations in which the first could not escape the consequence of his relations with the second. What Frantz fanon said, “it is the system that has choked him and reduced him to silence”.
Hegel through his dialectics also put forward the concept of “excluded Middle”, which refers to the spectral presence of subaltern, liminal figures who slip between two antithetical categories. With this preposition Sartre argued; the racial hierarchy is the major ideological pivot of Colonial rule. Moreover, the Western discourse of “Humanism” and “Human rights” Sartre argued had worked by excluding a majority of world Population from the category of Humanism.
#Note: During colonial rule, the colonized subjects were being treated as sub-human.
Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara had aphorized this kind of harsh colonial rule in their famous writings “The wretched of the Earth” and “men and socialism in Cuba”, both writings stressed on the necessity of the creation of New men. Thus, both according to Sartre, Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon: “It was through revolution that oppressed could attained their own humanity as well as their Freedom”. What fanon said:
“At the individual level, violence is the cleansing force; it frees the native from his inferiority complex, despair and inaction”.
#Note: Famous scholar Stuart hall called Frantz Fanon’s “The wretched of the Earth” as the bible of decolonization.
It was Karl Marx, who famously argued that; ‘Colonialism has presented Capitalism in a naked form—stripped off the decorated Clothing of the European Bourgeoisie’. Three kind of divisions emerged during Colonial rule as follows;
1. Cosmopolitan Modernity
3. Nationalist ideals
According to Sartre, colonialism has presented a deliberate and systematic form of exploitation that could analyzed with the latter divisions. Basically, Sartre was the first European Marxists who developed the theory of history by encompassing Colonialism and the endemic violence of the colonial regimes. He articulated the material history through the philosophy of existentialism. On the contrary, it was the anti-colonial and post-colonial theories that has the subjective and objective history—here the post-colonial theory is the product of the anti-colonial and anti-Eurocentric political knowledge, experience and its construction of tri-continental modernity. In a nut shell, through post-colonial studies philosophers had basically repositioned the West in terms of culture and political fervor.
Colonialism is a system, Sartre argues in his speech on Jan 27, 1956, during Algerian war of independence. In his speech he also criticized the old colonial structure of France, which was based on the ideology constructed in the nineteenth century. By engaging himself with the political writings and thoughts of Albert Memmi, Frantz Fanon, and Patrice Lumumba, Sartre understood the concept of the “Third World”. What he said; the colonialism and neo-colonialism went very much wrong because it has been wrongly placed in the history of the Third world and it was the West intellectual circles that had Orientalized the East in their own terms and with their own justification. Sartre also warned against the Mystification of neo-colonialism by taking a detailed analysis of French Colonialism in Algeria, a system that was put in place in the nineteenth century, maintained and supported by the Liberal ideology.
#Note: According to Sartre, the theory of Imperialism was first formulated by liberal ideologue Jules ferry not by Lenin.
Sartre further iterated that Colonialism had denied human rights to people, it has subjugated natives through violence, keeping them in Poverty and ignorant by force; what Marx called it “State of sub-humanity”. In this regard, Sartre used “dialectics” to see and elaborate the symbiotic relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. He said; ‘A pitiless reciprocity binds the colonizer to the colonized, their product and destiny’. But the colonizer always fears about their faces to be naked because the colonizer always relies on myth and through this Myth, the colonizer de-politicize its signifiers to hide the truth of their cruelty and oppression. Moreover, the colonial oppression was never static: it had to change the order in order to maintain their rule—but the oppression was nothing but a mass expropriation. In the “Constitution of Contempt”, Sartre criticized the policies of President Charles de Guelle, because of his returning to Power in 1958, through a referendum that give him more power to change the constitution and to decide to fate of French Colonies in North and West Africa after Decolonization. Basically, this referendum had paved the way for a new process of the super-exploitation of the natives through the petrified ideology and by force.
Objectives conditions across the Colonies:
The objective condition of the indigenous population across the colonized territories was very hostile; there was chronic malnutrition, hurtling demographic growth, epidemics and severe under-employment that were indeed a “controlled process” under the colonial administration. What Sartre suggested, in order to overcome these objective conditions, the colonized must confront the total negation to which they are subjected by another negation; violence with violence—here Sartre view of the violence of the colonized is no less than man reconstructing himself. Sartre openly claimed that violence was generated by the colonial Europe which, propelled by this violence was reaching with a mad and uncontrollable speed and heading towards abyss. Through the political thought of Patrice Lumumba, Sartre engages with the Political problems of the third world countries, more specifically with the Africa’s thwarted decolonization. Sartre also showed that, in case of Belgian Congo, how retreating colonialism was soon replaced by rapacious imperialism.
According to Patrice Lumumba, the colonial administration urged the Belgian government to grant independence to Congo in order to swap the colonial regime for neo-colonialism. Through education and division of labor, it had introduced colonialism managed to create and stratify social classes, which would serve their interests. What went wrong with Lumumba’s analysis is that he failed to suspect imperialism. When the European colonizer left, they handed over the administration to their belonged class, the petti-bourgeoisie of employees and civil servants- Later, this ignorance became the major reason behind Lumumba’s downfall. When Lumumba’s was assassinated Sartre wrote:
“The dead Lumumba ceased to be a person and became Africa in its entirety, with its unitary will, the multiplicity of its social and Political systems, its divisions and its disagreements, its power and its impotence; he was not, nor could he be the hero of Pan-Africanis; he was its martyrs”.
In contrast, it was the hypostatization of the destiny of native people that fueled over-exploitation and in the context of Colonialism, oppression and exploitation were the hall marks. Thus, the grand narrative of Western Humanism must be deconstructed.