Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism

Aimé Césaire

In 1955, the poet Aimé Césaire, from Martinique in the Caribbean, published his Discourse on colonialism, in French.

An English translation with introduction is here.

From that introduction:

“The force of [Frantz] Fanon and a stylistic elegance unique to himself….” — CHOICE

Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World: here.

Liberal imperialism and political Islam: here.

5 thoughts on “Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism

  1. A brilliant book. I started it a few months ago. Had to put it down to finish some other books and haven’t gotten back. Looking forward to reading more. What I read was genius. I haven’t read his poetry, but he was supposed to be a good poet. The American surrealist group has been talking about him for many years. Monthly Review press published the discourse in English.


  2. Dear friends,

    The following is the speech of the Permanent Secretariat of AAPSO at the Ministerial Meeting of NAM on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity which is taking place in Tehran (3-4) September 2007.

    The speech is delivered by the Secretariat Coordinator, Mr. E.A. Vidyasekera.

    Best regards

    AAPSO Permanent Secretariat


    The NAM Ministerial meeting on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

    Tehran – September 3-4th 2007

    Your Excellencies,

    As a peoples movement Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization from its inception had been involved in the campaign for uplifting the human rights in a culturally diverse people in Africa and Asia in particular and the developing countries in general. The priority of the early days of our movement was the attainment of freedom from colonialism.

    The very fact of providing assistance to the liberation movements was to attain the human rights of the colonial people which was denied under imperialism.

    The Afro-Asian Peoples solidarity Organization composed of national committees in both Africa and Asia and other parts of the world whose cultures are diverse in character. It is the recognition of this diversity and their great contribution to the humankind that make our civilization stronger by infusion of the best talents of different cultures.

    In close cooperation with other civil society organizations we adhere to the U.N. Declaration of Universal Human Rights and work to implement the charter of the International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights followed by the other U.N. instruments concerning genocide, slavery, torture, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, rights of the child, minorities, indigenous people and religious tolerance.

    In this regard the attitude of the developed western world and the United States towards the African, Asian and Latin American countries is based on that of a position of superiority. In other words they tacitly imply the “inferiority” of the cultures of the rest of the world. Their yardstick of “civilized nations” has a narrow connotation and applies to the western way of life. Naturally this “imperial mindset” has a disastrous consequence on the concept of human rights and creating more social problems than solutions.

    A notable deficiency of the western conception is their inability to comprehend the diversity of culture through their tainted glasses. Looking from a neo-liberal angle, they expect the rest of the world to line up behind them and follow their prescription. Hence they consider the third world countries culture as backward and far behind the “civilized world”. They consider that democracy, human rights, and good governance as the “monopoly of the developed world” and authoritarianism of the third world countries is a result of “backward culture”. This is a shortsighted vision. Lacking in deep investigation of the social and historical development of the rest of the world. In reality the ancient, Indian, Chinese, Islam, Arab, African and even indigenous cultures have made very important contributions to the development of human civilizations in the field of ethics, medicine, justice and good governance.

    Ten years ago our organization AAPSO held an international conference in Cairo on the “Dialogue of cultures” in response to the publication by Hungtinton of “clash of civilizations”. Respected personalities around the world participated and made valuable contributions to dispel the erroneous and one sided approach of Hungtinton. This kind of philosophy has been widely propagated in order to perpetuate the hegemonistic tendencies of the ruling circles of the developed countries and misguide the rest of the world.

    The meeting of the ministers of culture of the Non-aligned Movement, held at Madeline, Columbia, 3-5 September 1997 was an important land mark to provide better understanding of the diversity of cultures. In its final document, it has pointed out that despite “the end of ideological confrontation, new barriers have emerged between the north and the south. Globalisation, unipolarism, and technological gaps threaten and marginalize ancient cultures and question the survival of the sovereign nations of the movement”.

    The Non-aligned Movement in its capacity as the largest segment in the United Nations has played a positive role in enhancing in the culture of indigenous people. This has been substantiated by acknowledging the “cultural diversity and different views of the world as the greatest asset to mankind for construction of new world order including opportunities for cooperation and solidarity”.

    It is the task of AAPSO, as the peoples wing of Non-aligned Movement to carry these concepts to the grass roots.

    It is a well known fact that certain communities, ethnic groups inhabiting South countries have suffered marginalisation as a result of negligence by imperialist domination and owing to historical reasons leaving them in isolation. This is specially so among the indigenous communities. As a result of Non-aligned movement’ strong assertiveness of assisting these people, the U.N. and other world organizations have taken positive action to uplift them in recognizing their hidden skills and valuable talents.

    All countries have accepted the fact that Globalisation cannot be reversed. What is harmful in present Globalisation is the attempt to eliminate identity by imposing the economic might of the developed countries on the rest of the world. As for the south countries Globalisation should be a concept of solidarity among countries and different people. In such an atmosphere diversity of culture is recognised and all cultures will develop with interaction with one another.

    Even in the 21st century, hegemonism still dominate over international institutions such as the World Bank, WTO, and International Monetary Fund. The chief executive officers of these three organizations are monopolised by the west and the U.S. on a tacit maneuverability of the superior status both in culture and finance capital. Under their guidance prescription provided for economic harness in third world countries often end in more poverty and hardship for the people.

    As we know Africa was divided among the western imperialist powers who had utter disregard for the cultural identity of different people. Today much of the conflicts in Africa emanate from this artificial division which they themselves fan the ethnic groups for the exploitation of mineral and other natural resources. They failed to acknowledge the cultural diversity as a great asset to mankind, for a beautiful future world order, but utilize these differences for sinister motives such as divide and rule policy. Even a liberal political scientist John Stuart Mill who lived in the 19th century acknowledged the benefit for advancing the human civilization by the interaction of different cultural groups living together.

    It is unfortunate that 21st century did not herald with a peace agenda. Rather the world become engulf with more violence, terrorism, fundamentalist intolerance, rising ethnic and national contradictions for which most powerful states are responsible. Therefore it is the task of the Non-aligned Movement to create an alternative avenue to defuse the negative tendencies by infusing the noble ideas of the diversity of cultures.

    The great civilizations were not built in isolation, as we know from history of China, India, Islam, Arab, and other countries. There was always interaction among them, despite preservation of identity.

    Thank you.


  3. Pingback: Poet Aimé Césaire on abolition of slavery by France | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: African 20th century liberation movements, film review | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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