France’s Hypocrisy In Its Slave Trade, Colonialism, and Racism Past and Present

My Criticism to The Newly Published Book “Les Mondes de l’Esclavage - Une Histoire Comparée”

Book Cover of "Les Mondes de l'esclavage" (The Worlds of Slavery)
“History is Written by The Victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side”

A French history book came out recently on 16 September 2021 titled Les Mondes de l’esclavage – Une Histoire Comparée (The Worlds of Slavery – A History in Comparison), which was written by Paulin Ismard, Benedetta Rossi, Cecile Vidal to name a few. There were around 50 writers who contributed to the book ranging from historians, economists, political writers, novelists, academics, etc. They are mostly from France and English-speaking countries. This book claimed to be an international book with a global view on the history of slavery and use the most recent work and findings on the subject of slavery. 

One of the writers of the book Cécile Vidal, the director at EHESS (L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) was interviewed by Mediapart, an alternative French media to discuss her new book. 

In the interview with the journalist in Mediapart Ludovic Lamant, Cécile Vidal said that this book that she co-wrote with her colleagues shows the different slave societies around the world and doesn’t reduce slave societies to only 5 slave societies that historian Moses Finley categorized which are: Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Caribbean, the United States before the Civil War, and Brazil.

In a short period of 366 years from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 19th century, Europeans have deported approximately 12,5 million women, men and children as slaves to America. Though the Portuguese and British dominated the transatlantic slave trade, the French were the third largest slave traders.

This book of 1168 pages and took 4 years to write failed to mention anything related to the French present colonization in Africa. It failed to mention the CFA Franc, where the French Central Bank Banque de France controls the currency and monetary system of its former African colonies and those African countries are not allowed to set up their own central banks by France. Every time there is a rebellion for true independence, this rebellion is quelled by the strong French military presence in those African countries. In France, these rebels or freedom fighters will be reported as Djihadiste or terrorists by all the television networks or mainstream media. 

Despite the popular belief especially in France that France is a rich country and African countries are poor countries, the truth is the contrary. Many of these African countries possess a wealth of natural resources and France is poor in terms of natural resources. France’s wealth comes from the pillaging and exploitation of other countries for centuries including from its slave trade. 

This recently published book explains in details the history of slavery of different nations  around the world from the Viking, the Arab, the African, etc but deliberately minimizes French own history on its trade slave and French role in the enslavement of African people by highlighting the crimes of other nations. 

For the slavery in the French Caribbean itself, as of 1778, the French were trafficking approximately 13,000 African people as slaves to the French West Indies each year. While slavery had been active in French colonies since the early 16th century, it was theoretically not legitimized by the French government until the Revolutionary convention in 1794. The French slave trade functioned along a triangular route, wherein ships would travel from France to colonized African countries, and then to the Caribbean colonies. 

The book put colonialism and imperialism as the French’s past, ignoring its current colonization and pillaging in Mali, Chad, Senegal, Togo, Burkino Faso, Uganda, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. It even hypocritically discuss reconciliation as if slavery, colonialism, and imperialism as something of the past when the book deliberately ignores the current pillaging in Africa and the existence of the French military bases in those countries.

Reconciliation is only lip service when France is still in denial of its past and current crimes against humanity. Slavery can’t be seen as the past as France together with the US, UK and NATO destroyed Libya when they assassinated Qaddafi in 2011 and makes Libya a slave market ever since, which the book conveniently doesn’t mention either.  

This book and its authors use a reductionism strategy to whitewash French crimes against humanity and put France in a more honorable light as the abolitionist of slavery. This total hypocrisy and superiority shine when a museum to remember slavery is called the museum of the abolition of slavery, instead of the museum to remember the victims of slavery. It is about minimizing the French crimes against humanity and promoting France as the country of high moral values. 

One of the authors of the book also failed to make a convincing correlation between past slavery and modern slavery. In this interview below with Nicolas Patin on behalf of Librairie Mollat, Paulin Ismard the lead author of the book failed twice to elaborate on his logic and ideas. 

Starting from minute 35:00 Paulin Ismard stated that the idea of Alessandra Mezzadri, one of the contributor authors of this book who makes a relation between the exploitation of worker in the factory to slavery is provocative and prevent us from taking the right steps to change the situation. And then he failed to back up his statement and didn’t elaborate his logic or his idea. I find his statement baseless and it is disappointing to see a professor and a historian fail to make a connection between different forms of slavery, from the ancient form of slavery to the modern form of slavery and his incompetence to explain why comparing human exploitation to slavery problematic and prevent it from moving society forward. 

Paulin Ismard’s broken logic or his tendency to state an argument without backing it up with explanation happened again on minute 42:59. This video screams French hypocrisy, arrogance, superiority and denial of its crimes against humanity.

My comment on this YouTube interview video disappeared, it is being censored as my criticism jeopardizes the narrative they are trying to purport which might affect the book sales. This is not my first time being censored, but it starts to get frustrating to get the truth out in France, an Orwellian thought-police country.

This book is not going to help solve the problem of rampant racism and discrimination in France by the omission of truth and history, let alone help the reconciliation process between France and the countries it pillages. This book is dishonest and it abuses history. 

The description of Friedrich Nietzsche, an influential German philosopher, gives on the German society at the time in his essay “The Use and Abuse of History”, written in 1874, that the Germans had no culture as they didn’t use history to improve life can be applied to the present French.

A country can not progress without knowing and acknowledging its real past and learning from it. France since its beginning has been denying every crime possible to maintain its dying empire. A nation that doesn’t know its real history and learn from it is on the path of self-destruction.

“…and history as an expensive surplus of knowledge and a luxury, because we lack what is still most essential to us and because what is superfluous is hostile to what is essential. To be sure, we need history. …That is, we need it for life and action, not for a comfortable turning away from life and action or merely for glossing over the egotistical life and the cowardly bad act. We wish to use history only insofar as it serves living. But there is a degree of doing history and a valuing of it through which life atrophies and degenerates. To bring this phenomenon to light as a remarkable symptom of our time is every bit as necessary as it may be painful.” – On the Use and Abuse of History for Life by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1874

These profound and thought-provoking words from Nietzsche echoed from the past to remind us and to teach us from his own experience and thinking and how we can use it to advance life. How we use history is essential for how we live. History is a part of who we are and a part of our culture. A country’s history is a reflection of the country’s identity. A country or society’s problems and issues could even be analyzed through its use and abuse of history. 

The symptoms of France’s deep acute illness could be seen from its vast and growing problems in society from violence, injustice, racism, sexism, tyranny, corruption, and the country’s politics that moves more and more to the extreme right. The gaining popularity of Eric Zemmour or even Marine Le Pen as France’s next president is a symptom of a self-destruct nation that keeps denying and running away from its past and refusing to learn from it. 

David N. Myers in his book “The Stakes of History” reminds us of the role of the historian in the contemporary world. 

“History, properly applied, can both destroy ideologically rooted myths that breed group hatred and create new memories that are sustaining of life. Alive in these investigations is Myers’s belief that the historian today can and should attend to questions of political and moral urgency. Historical knowledge is not a luxury to society but an essential requirement for informed civic engagement, as well as a vital tool in policy making, conflict resolution, and restorative justice.”

These French and Anglo-Saxon historians and intellectuals who wrote this book “Les Mondes de l’esclavage” failed dismally to use history to its noble purpose to bring the world forward into a more humane, just, and equal world. This highly mediatized book is another perfect example where academia and intellectuals working together with the mainstream media are just tools of the government and the powerful rich elites who are behind them. Their betrayal will be forever remembered. 

The French mainstream media just like other Western mainstream media manufacture consent and spread propaganda. They are also owned by the French oligarchs. The French education system is an indoctrination system to perpetuate the French Exceptionalism, Colonialism/Imperialism and White Supremacy. 

How the rest of us research, write and use history will determine the course of our world. How France wants to use its ignominious past and present, whether to make amends for its crimes against humanity or to use it as self-denial to desperately clung to its see-through vanity as the pseudo-superior nation will determine the rest of the story of France as a nation and how it will be remembered in the world history.

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