About colonialism

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The text “Discours sur le colonialisme” by Aimé Césaire, first published in German in 1968, drafted as a French speech in 1950 and expanded in 1955, is about colonialism . From the perspective of the author, who himself came from colonization and who lives in Martinique, it includes an account of the colonialist European way of thinking from the perspective of the colonized.


The starting point for Césaire's dispute is the thesis that European and with it the entire Western civilization is not in a position to solve “the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem”. This inability is hidden under hypocrisy, while the European masses and colonized around the world have understood "that their current 'masters' are lying" (p. 6).

Césaire rejects the claim that the colonization was about the spread of human values ​​or Christianity; Neither Hernán Cortés nor Francisco Pizarro could see anything of this. So it is distracted from the fact that the goal of colonization has always been the plundering and murder of Indians, Yellows and Negroes (p. 8). The great opportunity for Europe to be a hub for equal human contacts and exchange has been wasted.

Through their racial arrogance , the colonization also led to a wilderness of the continent, in whose civilization it has settled like a cancerous tumor. But this only became clear to the European bourgeoisie with the rise and victory of National Socialism , which suddenly used colonial practices to exercise rule in Europe itself. One cannot forgive Hitler that he directed “the crime against white people” and that Europeans became his victims (p. 12). With Hitler it had become obvious that European humanism was a pseudo-humanism which threatened "at the end of the dead end Europe" with people like Hitler in many forms (p. 13). This can be seen in the respected scientist Ernest Renan , whose work “La réforme intellectuelle et morale” speaks to a white racism , so that his sentences could also come from Hitler or Alfred Rosenberg . Statements by men who took part in the French colonization and its atrocities would show that colonization is always a "bridgehead of a civilization of barbarism" (p. 17 ff.). He therefore does not refrain from repeating their boasting “because I think that these human heads, these ears, these burned houses, these Gothic invasions, these smoking blood, these cities that evaporated under the edge of the sword, are not so cheaply disposed of ”(p. 20). The human contact between the colonizer and the colonized is frozen in the reification of power and brutality of forced submission, which cannot be trivialized by the assertion that this only occurs in cases of abuse. It is his business to defend the societies destroyed by imperialism without being branded as “the enemy of Europe” (p. 26). Rather, it is about keeping alive the memory of "that Europe has to answer to humanity for the largest pile of corpses in history" (p. 27) and that it continues to prevent the colonized from developing.

Not only the practice of colonization is abhorrent, but above all its intellectual pioneers and defenders, which Césaire enumerates in the form of French parliamentarians, writers, scientists, missionaries and journalists and reviews them with their statements. Their justification pattern is in the tradition of a "corpse drooling" Joseph de Maistre :

“That spontaneous impulse of the European contemporaries of Columbus, who refused to recognize their kind in the decrepit people who populated the new world, was all too justified ... Not for a moment can one fix one's gaze on a savage without the anathema , I say not only to see in his soul, but also to see it inscribed in the outer appearance of his body ”(p. 32 f.).

Nevertheless, "the best", among whom Césaire counts the ethnologist Leo Frobenius (p. 38), but also writers such as Charles Baudelaire , Honoré de Balzac and Lautréamont (see The Chants of Maldoror ), have recognized since the 19th century that the “barbaric negro” was a creation of Europe (p. 56 ff.).

Finally, Césaire speaks of a law of "progressive dehumanization" which the bourgeoisie has long given up on its once liberal tradition and turned into its opposite (p. 60). The also do Roger Caillois with his writing of 1954-55 " Illusions à rebours " no harm when he visits a crusade for the spirit of the West against his detractors and the ruling outside Europe "primitive thinking". Caillois continues to cultivate humanism as a European attitude to rule and is far from a humane attitude on a world scale (pp. 62–69).

In the final part, Césaire speaks of the dawn of the “American hour” when Harry S. Truman wanted to inherit the legacy of imperialism from the Europeans (p. 74). On the other hand, he sees a European legacy in Marxist theory , with which a classless society can be striven for against the USA in order to overcome imperialism and colonialism , starting with the proletariat suffering on a world scale (p. 76).


The text, conceived as a speech, is a pamphlet that shows the talent of the author, as a person affected by colonization, to play their own melody to the colonizers, in which they, however, did not want to recognize themselves for a long time. This initially set narrow limits to the reception in France. With the increasing opportunity since the 1990s to critically deal with one's own colonial era, the “Discours sur le colonialisme” could for the first time become an examination subject in the French Abitur, the Baccalauréat , in 1994 , but was removed from the program by the then Education Minister François Bayrou because he himself, admittedly an admirer of Césaire, who found his comparison of National Socialism with colonialism exaggerated after protests had broken out in the National Assembly . In science, the text continuously developed its effect with Frantz Fanon , a student of Césaire in Martinique, with Domenico Losurdo and in 2001 with the Afro-Colombian journalist Rosa Amelia Plumelle-Uribe , who lives in France , who in her book “ La férocité blanche. Des non-Blancs aux non-Aryens: génocides occultés de 1492 à nos jours ”(German 2004: White Barbarism. From Colonial Racism to Racial Policy of the Nazis , Rotpunktverlag: Zurich) most emphatically is the trace of colonialism in National Socialism, which Césaire repeatedly mentioned picks up and pursues.

See also


  • Übers. Monika Kind, Wagenbach, Berlin 1968 (poor translation, the translator is unknown)
  • Translated by Heribert Becker, Karin Kramer, Berlin 2010

Web links

  • Full text, in French, scan
  • Munzinger archive : Discours sur le colonialisme, full text available for all customers of public libraries in Germany, free of charge, customer access data required


  1. The page numbers refer to the outdated translation by Wagenbach 1968
  2. See Charlie Marlow, the main character in Joseph Conrad's " Heart of Darkness " (1902). After her successful mediation, his aunt congratulates him on going to the Congo as “ an envoy of light, a not yet fully developed apostle ” for a Belgian trading company . " She talked about how to 'drive these ignorant millions out of their appalling customs' until, I swear, I felt rather uncomfortable. I took the risk of pointing out to them that society wanted to make a profit ”(Joseph Conrad, Herz der Finsternis . Story. Translated from the English and with an afterword by [[Urs Widmer (writer) |]], Frankfurt a . M., Vienna, Zurich (Gutenberg Book Guild), 2007, p. 31).
  3. See Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, Coloniser. Exterminers. Sur la Guerre et l'État colonial , Fayard: Paris 2005.
  4. In connection with the crimes under Josef Stalin revealed by Nikita Sergejewitsch Khrushchev in 1956 , Césaire justified his resignation from the Parti communiste français in a detailed letter to Maurice Thorez on October 26, 1956 . (Printed in: Georges Ngal, “Lire” le Discours sur le colonialisme d'Aimé Césaire , Paris [Présence africaine] 1994, pp. 135–141; ISBN 2-7087-0581-4 .)
  5. ^ Césaire im Baccalauréat in the French Wikipedia.
  6. ^ Backtrack by the Minister of Education in "Le monde" of May 13, 2008
  7. ^ Ulrich Teusch: White barbarism. March 2, 2016, accessed November 22, 2016 .