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Westernism: the Ideology of Hegemony – French Imperialism

Posted by musliminsuffer on October 15, 2010

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Westernism: the Ideology of Hegemony

By Dr Javed Jamil

Part 21

French Imperialism

Though British Imperialism and its shoots are the biggest perpetrators of crimes against humanity, other Western countries have also made strong contributions. France has also been a big colonizer.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the sixth largest in the world behind the British Empire, the Russian Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Qing Empire. The French colonial empire extended over 12,000,000 km² of land at its height in the 1920s and 1930s. It had under it almpst 9 percent of the total area of the land. French became the fourth-most spoken colonial European language, behind English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

In 18th Century there was a rivalry between France and Britain for supremacy in Northern and South America and some parts of India but ultimately Britishers defeated French. Then France focussed on Africa and in the 19th century, it established a new empire in Africa and South East Asia.  By the 1960s most of the French Colonies gained independence include the last ones in Vietnam and Algeria.

Though france has not been as ruthless in suppression as Bririshers and Prtugalese, in the areas it controlled, still it has been notrious in many areas and on manyy occasions.

The period between 1830 to 1914 is in fact known as New Imperialism as it is the period which is specially known for am uprecedented attempts at capturing the lands. This began with French conquest of Algeria, and saw a fierce competition for capturing the markets of the world. British monoploy was challenged among others by France. Long Depression of 1873-1896 led to the emphasis on home industry. The resulting limitation of both domestic markets and export opportunities led government and business leaders in Europe, and later the U.S., to see the solution in sheltered overseas markets united to the home country behind imperial tariff barriers: new overseas colonies would provide export markets free of foreign competition.

In France, Government leaders concluded that sheltered overseas markets would solve the problems of low prices and over-accumulation of surplus capital caused by shrinking continental markets.

The expansion of the French colonial empire did also provide a psychological recoup after its humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871; the military actions were seen as ‘the first, faltering steps of convalescence’. This plan, however, did meet with some popular resistance, and Ferry, the proponent of this exercie, himself was removed from office twice over colonial disputes.

The New Imprilaism had several social implications. The social scientists led by Rudyard Kipling urged Western powers to civilise the rest of the world through expnasion even if they did not want their Western civilisation. He urged them, using his words, “to take up the White Man’sburden”. To stop the rise of labour power stirred by socialists, military jingoism was used.  They also implanted corrupt leaders in the countries they ruled.

France Role in First and Second World War and itsdeaths

The First World War took place in Europe between 1914 and 1918. In this war, the Allied Powers defeated the Central Powers. France, Russia, the British Empire, Italy and the United States led the Allied Powers. The Central Powers comprised of Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottomon Empire. But the cost of the war was very high. Let me quote from an article, “Role of France in the First World War”:

“The first four months of the war, led to heavy losses for France. In France, around 850,000 people were dead. ..There was large-scale slaughter. The number of casualties increased in 1915. Later the symbolic tragedy of Verdun took place. United States entered the war in 1917. With the country’s entry, the war turned in the favor of the allies. ….. The birthrate dropped tremendously after the war. In the year 1919, France fell short of around 3 million workers.”

There were more than one hundred thousand other deaths as  a result of the war.

In the Second World War, France declared war on Germany but was soon defeated and surrendered. Later, with the help of the US and allied forces, it won back its territory. But as a result, by the end of the war, about 350,000 French soldiers had been killed, and almost a half million French civilians had died. And of course, France’s contribution to the overall all figure of 70 million deaths was significant.

Worst Crimes in Algeria

The worst crimes against humanity by France were committed against Algerians. According to a report,

“Among the worst atrocities were those committed by France in Algeria between 1830 and 1962……

France invaded Algiers in June 1830 under the excuse of fighting piracy and avenging an affront caused by Hussein Dey’s reprimand of the French ambassador over the failure to pay a long-standing debt owed to the Algiers regency, which was recognized as a sovereign state by the United States and most of Europe. According to many historians, the main reason for the military assault on Algiers was the need of French ruler Charles X to build up his weak popularity and power at home. After Algiers fell to the invading forces, it took more than forty years of violent and highly destructive military campaigns to control the rest of the country.

The French occupied Algeria for 132 years and imposed a series of policies which aimed at controlling the territory and its people by all means possible, opening the country to European settlers, and extracting substantial economic and geostrategic benefits. These policies, which were systematically and violently implemented, had devastating human, social and economic consequences.

“In the late 1830s French rule in Algeria was entrusted to the military, which was ordered to pacify the country by all means and to facilitate the immigration of European settlers (mainly from France, Italy, and Spain). Command was given to General Thomas Bugeaud, who was named Governor General of Algeria in 1840. His army of 108,000 troops tracked down Algerians, tortured, humiliated, and killed them, or expelled them from their lands and villages. …..The crimes associated with this “pacification” campaign reached their peak in 1845, when hundreds of people were burned alive or asphyxiated in caves where they sought refuge from the advancing French troops that were conducting large scale razzia (systematic raids on villages). The raiding French troops burned, destroyed or stole property, food, and animal stocks; they also raped women and killed villagers in great numbers. The violent acts committed at that time against the indigenous population, and which today would constitute internationally recognized crimes, were documented in several witness accounts and reports such as the one issued by a royal commission in 1883:

We tormented, at the slightest suspicion and without due process, people whose guilt still remains more than uncertain [. . .]. We massacred people who carried passes, cut the throats, on a simple suspicion, of entire populations which proved later to be innocent. . . . [Many innocent people were tried just because] they exposed themselves to our furor. Judges were available to condemn them and civilized people to have them executed. . . . In a word, our barbarism was worse than that of the barbarians we came to civilize, and we complain that we have not succeeded with them!

This policy of racism, wide-scale massacres, and scorched earth, enabled France to win the war of conquest by the end of 1847, and Algeria was annexed to France in 1848. In the years that followed, colonization increased the destruction of local social and economic structures and worsened the impoverishment of the indigenous population through property confiscation and forced mass migration from fertile lands……..

In 1871 right after the ill-fated El-Mokrani rebellion, a group of notables published a text, Colonisation de l’Algérie par le système de colonisation du Maréchal Bugeaud, assessing the policy of Bugeaud. They declared that

the empire has done in Algeria what it would never dare do in France. It has committed against the Arabs a crime against humanity and against the army, that of offering the elite of its officers to the monstrous appetite of the leaders (p. 13)….

“At the end of World War II in Europe, large-scale, peaceful demonstrations were organized, and on May 8 demonstrators throughout Algeria voiced their demands for independence. The most notable demonstrations took place in the northeastern cities of Setif, Guelma, Kherrata, Bejaia, Annaba, and Souk-Ahras. The demonstrators were met with hostile gun fire and physical attacks, both from settlers and from the French security forces. An Algerian carrying the then-prohibited Algerian flag was shot to death in Setif by a policeman, touching off riots. General Duval, commander of the military division of the province of Constantine, called in the air force and paratroopers, who responded to the demonstrators with such extreme violence that 45,000 Algerians were killed within a few days.

The Algerians began a well-coordinated push for independence, while France employed every means available to quell the uprising, including military repression, collective punishment, torture, and even concentration camps. The irony of the situation was not lost on some observers. Writing in Le Monde Diplomatique, Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire, and Nicolas Bancel observe:

Of course, one cannot compare colonialism to Nazism, but the contradiction was reinforced between a France that celebrates the victory of democratic nations over a genocidal state and its maintaining, by military means, the submission of a population that was subjugated for over a century (pp. 10–11)….

“…. The torture techniques used by the French included electricity applied to the most sensitive parts of the body, near drowning in water, sodomy with glass and wood objects, hanging by the feet and hands, and burning with cigarettes….In his book, Services Spéciaux 1955–1957, Aussaresses admits to a specific act of torture: “It was useless that day. That guy died without saying anything . . . I have no regrets for his death. If I regretted something, it was the fact that he did not speak before dying.” He also tells of how he ordered and watched many cold-blooded killings of prisoners, just because he did not have enough room to keep them. The International Human Rights Federation indicated that the general should be charged with crimes against humanity, but the French government chose not to prosecute him and others like him because of a 1968 law that absolves everyone for acts committed during the war. This protection disregards the dispositions of Article 303 of the French penal code, which sanctions any person who engages in torture…..

“Violence against Algerians was not limited to Algeria proper. ….The police charged the protesters with gunfire and night sticks, killing more than 200 immigrants, many of whom were thrown into the Seine river. Papon’s culpability for crimes was not limited to his treatment of Algerians. He was tried in the year 2000 for having helped deport Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II.

“The horrific violence used by France against Algerians in the context of colonization did not limit itself to physical brutality and cruelty. It also came in the form of humiliation, economic dispossession, and social dislocation. After France decided to colonize Algeria and transform it into a French land, its military repression was complemented by a series of actions and policies that disrupted the lives and livelihoods of several generations of the indigenous population.

During the repressive “pacification” of Algeria’s population, the colonization of the land also went forward, involving the destruction of the existing social structures and economic system. This was done by force and by passing laws, such as the sénatus-consulte and the Warnier law of 1873, which dispossessed rural families and communities of ancestral land that was not alienable under the existing Islamic and customary laws. General Bugeaud summed up France’s interest in the land: “What is to take in [Algeria] is only one interest, the agricultural interest. . . . Oh, yes, I could not find another way to subdue the country other than take that interest” (Stora, 1991, p. 25). The expropriation of land was massive, and most Algerians found themselves deprived of their main mean of subsistence. Those who were lucky found insecure employment in the new large European-owned properties. Collective punishment was also used a regular means to take more land away from the local population. This happened after the El-Mokrani upheaval, in which 500,000 acres of land were confiscated. This punishment was accompanied by a total denial of due process and the 1881 imposition of harsh common law sanctions formulated in the Code de l’Indigénat (laws for the natives).

When France lost Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in 1871, thousands of residents of that region were resettled in Algeria and awarded land confiscated from the Algerians. By the end of the century, over half of Algeria’s arable land was controlled by the Europeans. The few Algerians who had retained their land were so heavily taxed and victimized by so many natural and bureaucratic calamities that they could barely subsist. This condition led Alexis de Tocqueville—who wrote a blueprint for colonization—to observe in 1847 “we have rendered the Muslim society a lot more miserable, more disorganized, more ignorant, and more barbarian than what it was before it knew us” (p. 170).

Between 1830 and 1860 there were 3 million Algerians, 3.5 million by 1891 and 5 million in 1921. In 1886 there were 219,000 French settlers and 211,000 other Europeans (Spaniards, Italians, and Maltese). The total European population reached 984,000 in 1954, while the Algerians numbered 6 million. Yet the European minority controlled not only most of the country’s wealth, but also the fate of those they had subjugated in their own land.

Using the “divide and rule” principle, the French created through the 1870 Crémieux Decrees, which extended French citizenship to Algerian Jews and European settlers while excluding Muslim Algerians from citizenship. The French also created a distinction between Arab and Berber Algerians, and promoted Berber over the Arabic language because the latter was a unifying medium for Algerian nationalism. ….

“The war of independence waged by the Algerians for more than 7 years (1954–1962) left 1.5 million Algerians dead and substantially weakened the already meagre economic and social infrastructure. Eighteen months after coming to power in 1958, retired General Charles de Gaulle understood that the war in Algeria no longer served France’s interests. In 1960, negotiations with the Algerian nationalists (National Liberation Front) began for a “clean” and orderly exit of France from Algeria. A referendum in Algeria and France gave an overwhelming support to de Gaulle’s policy with regard to Algeria. The Evian Accords between France and the Algerian nationalists sealed the final terms for Algeria’s independence in July 1962….. A few months before Algeria regained its sovereignty, French radical settlers and disenchanted members of the military engaged in a systematic campaign of murder and destruction. Hundreds of people were killed in the midst of burning towns and cities.

In June 1962 French settlers began their exodus, returning to France by the thousands each day, leaving behind them death and destruction. France was exiting Algeria the same way it had entered, with a widespread terror and scorched earth policy. On July 1, 1962, a referendum in Algeria showed that 91.23 percent of voters supported independence…..

“When the French began to withdraw from Algeria, they knew that the harkis were in imminent danger of being slaughtered by fellow Algerians for treason. Nonetheless, French officials did not seem too concerned with the fate of their erstwhile allies. Thousands of harkis were left behind to die within the first weeks of independence. According to a 2003 book, Un Mensonge Français (A French Lie) by Georges-Marc Benamou, the government of Charles de Gaulle explicitly refused to repatriates the bulk of the harki population.

After 132 years of colonial subjugation and a bloody seven-year war for independence, Algeria went through a period of relative peace and economic development that lasted almost three decades. However, the country entered into another troubled era in the 1990s. As one of the nationalist leaders, Larbi Ben M’Hidi was quoted as saying to his compatriots in the 1950s: “the easiest part was to regain independence and the toughest one comes after that.” The economic and political systems that were established in independent Algeria failed. This led in the early 1990s to a social rebellion headed by Islamist groups, which, after having been denied a legitimate electoral victory in 1991, opted for armed rebellion against the state. However, the war they waged for a decade extended also to the civilian population and foreigners. Between 1992 and 2002, over 150,000 people were killed, entire villages were abandoned, and the economic infrastructure was badly damaged. While most of the violence is attributed to the Islamists, the government also committed repression and reprisals and is responsible for the disappearance of thousands of people. Many also accuse the Algerian security service of using French-style torture and of the summary execution of suspected Islamist rebels or their supporters. Because there has not been a full and independent inquiry of the massacres and other violations committed during this internal war, the whole truth about the ongoing tragedy in Algeria remains unknown.

France had several others crimes to its credit:

1. France had been engaged in the transatlantic slave trade since 1644. French demand for slaves in the Caribbean colonies, particularly in Saint Domingue (later Haiti), contributed to the institutionalization of predation in precolonial Africa. Slaves of varying status were widespread in France’s African colonies until 1848 when, under the Second Republic, France abolished slavery by reasserting the principle of the rights of man. Slaves, slavery, and servants remained central social and economic features of French colonies, however, well into the twentieth century.

2. Violence was an endemic part of this early phase in the establishment of colonial order. The capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey, Abomey, was burned to the ground and the king exiled in 1898.

1.      Administrative coercion was enshrined in the establishment of indigénat, the decree empowering administrators with police powers, in 1887. Administrators could impose fines and prison sentences for a set of defined offenses dealing mostly with acts of disrespect or disorder toward colonial officials and official regulations without recourse to the courts or approval from superiors.

2.      The suppression of the Madagascar revolt from 1896 to 1898, for instance, left as many as ninety thousand dead.

3.      Although the French prohibited forced labor in principle, a poll tax was introduced in 1897 that effectively forced Africans to work by extracting resources and selling them to the company. During the early colonial period, sleeping sickness and other diseases preyed heavily on tired workers’ immune systems, leading to a dramatic population decline. Concessionaires responded to this by increasing and elaborating new methods of coercion. On the Mpoko Concession, one of the few to declare a profit, forty European managers and 400 armed African guards shot on sight any African not collecting rubber. Between 1903 and 1905, the administration reported 1,500 murders

4.      Following the war, the French introduced obligatory peacetime recruitment. The French drafted 14,000 men annually into tirailleurs regiments. In the process, they discovered that the majority of young men were not physically fit to serve. Many of the unfit were conscripted into a second tier of recruits for the purposes of public works, a poorly disguised form of corvée (forced) labor. Some 127,250 Africans were recruited in this way to work on the Congo-Océan railway in Equatorial Africa, and an annual average of 2,719 Africans were impressed into labor in French West Africa between 1928 and 1946.

5.      Africans were forced to cultivate commodities, especially cotton. Forced commodity production led to a food crisis in Ivory Coast, and to various forms of resistance, as well.

The legacy of the French colonial experience for postcolonial human rights regime is ambiguous. Despite the French government’s commitment to human rights, its practices in Africa remained contradictory. Most states enshrined human rights in their constitutions during the immediate postcolonial period, but few respected them in practice.

global-right-path On: October 15, 2010 7:36 AM
On Behalf Of:doctorforu123


-muslim voice-

One Response to “Westernism: the Ideology of Hegemony – French Imperialism”

  1. Do you (or anyone else) know where the full text of “Westernism” can be found (online)? (I’ve done a couple searches and can’t find more than excerpts here and there).

    (I am following this thread so if you post a follow-up here I will get notified.)


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