From French daily L’Humanité:
By Maurice Ulrich
All in the Same Boat?
Translated Tuesday 15 May 2007, by Carol Gullidge
At the recent celebrations for the anniversary of France’s abolition of slavery, Nicolas Sarkozy’s inflammatory remarks on historic memory provided fuel for the fire of confrontation.
L’Humanité urges the left to get back on its feet and fight back.
In Nantes – one of the hubs of the triangular slave trade – the new museum of the city’s history is displaying account books, meticulously kept by its wealthy merchants.
In perfectly ruled columns, the trade figures can be read: black men, black women, and black boys and girls, with each one’s respective price and state of health.
You see the ships’ plans, together with the most efficient method of piling the slaves on board; you see the leg irons, and iron collars with their inward-pointing metal teeth…
Slavery was an abomination.
On the 10th of this month, we commemorated its abolition for the second time, and so we should.
For, if there were traders, and if there were whole towns that lived off the slave trade, very soon there were also men who stood up for emancipation.
Symbolic of these is Toussaint Louverture, who liberated the slaves of Santo Domingo before dying in a French prison in 1803. …
The future president came out of his “retreat” in Malta [on a billionaire’s yacht], for which he made it clear that he has no intention of “apologizing, lying, or hiding his face”.
From the first words he uttered on Sunday evening, we know that he proclaimed his wish to finish with “repentance”, and with “the battle of memories that fosters hatred of others”.
But can there be a battle of memories if the memory itself is the subject of a collective study? A matter of collective responsibility.
The term repentance does of course smack a teeny bit of masochism, but should we, for all that, relinquish efforts to establish and recognize responsibilities?
Because they did exist, and this should not be swept under the carpet.
In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy was not thinking of slavery in particular.
At his second major meeting, in Montpellier, the same terms were addressed to the more right-wing electors.
These words were levelled at the colonial wars, and the wars of Indo-China and Algeria.
Because, for Nicolas Sarkozy, those dirty wars are part of the greatness of France, just as May ’68 contributed to its downfall.
In every respect, Nicolas Sarkozy wants a right totally devoid of hang-ups.
His stay in Malta is in keeping with this desire.
This is rupture from now on, and it’s already violent.
Confronted with this, we need a strong left and one that believes in itself as such, the bearer of real changes and ready to be rebuilt.
Sarkozy update: here.
Senegalese Leftists on Sarkozy: here.
Sarkozy and culture: here.
21st century Haiti and Canada: here.