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The "minority problems" in Africa and Europe

Jens Bjørneboe
Jens Bjørneboe
Author. Wrote in Ny Tids predecessor Orientering.
COLONIALISM / What is the bill from the colonies after four centuries of colonial rule? Almost not a thing of what Hitler did within Europe was different from what the colonial powers over the centuries had done outside Europe.


There are two things that are claimed by everyone who today tries to defend or beautify colonialism – and we more or less belong to these defenders. This is simply because we know that colonialism is a particularly dark chapter in our history, but also because we know more: we know that colonial history is worse – much worse – than its bad reputation. And we guess here almost right, but no matter how terrible our guesses on this point are; after all, this underappreciated part of world history is worse than we think. The two "arguments" most commonly put forward for our self-defense are:

Look at the new, independent states in the "third" world. They cannot take care of themselves after liberation!

In any case, the whites brought civilization and culture to America, Africa and Asia.

First we will deal with these two defense barricades, afterwards it will be easier to look at the issues as they are – then we can consider the accounts – the account after four centuries of colonial rule, both the moral but also a small part of the financial settlement.

"We brought culture and civilization..."

It is a fact that almost everyone Africane country has "minority problems" – often of a hideous and bloody nature, and this is one of the things we can refer to with the comment: Look how the blacks treat each other! Are they better than the civilized colonial powers were? But one forgets that the African states have had their completely unnatural borders drawn by the colonial powers, who didn't give a damn about natural and ethnic borders, and divided Africa between them like a sponge cake on the desk of the general staff. They divided the map of Africa into "Spanish" Africa, into "German" Africa, "Portuguese" Africa, "French" Congo, "French" and "Portuguese" Guinea, etc., etc. – completely as if Africa belonged to them, and without worry about which population groups were lumped together in this wildly random way as compatriots within the delineated boundaries established by the colonial "authorities". It is also typical that we unblinkingly accept such "property relations" and such "authorities" – but "authorities" do not become real authorities until they are installed by the people who own the country. But as I said – Africans have minority problems.

How have the Europeans now minoritysproblems seen in the last hundred years? It is boring to remind you, but our own minority problems have been no less than Africa's, and they have in part had an even more sinister and far bloodier character. We know the minority problems from Schleswig-Holstein, from the areas between Germany and France, we have to this day Spain's oppression of the Basques, we had until not long ago England's oppression of the Irish, we have the conflicts between Italy and Austria in the Alpine regions, and we have had the disasters in Poland, Czechoslovakia, in the Baltics and in the Balkans. Finally, we can bring one of the most horrific "minority problems" the world has seen – the Romanian-German solution to the minority question "the Jews".

Our own minority problems have been no less than Africa's, and they have in part had an even more sinister and far bloodier character.

Already they Yugoslave minority problems have triggered a world catastrophe through the assassination in Sarajevo, or at least were used as a main pretext for the First World War. We have two such world wars behind us, triggered in Europe, but with catastrophic effects across the globe. We have Soviet Russia's repression of "minorities" both inside and outside Russia. If we go back in history, we still have other mass exterminations and genocides to refer to. Should we – with this historical and current background – hover over the misfortunes in Africa? – Over Africa, whose carnage has been trifling in comparison with our own massacres!

The Biafra tragedy was a direct effect of i.a. the arbitrary European border policy in Africa. But this is only the smallest part of the difficulties that the former "Portuguese", "French", "Belgian" and "English" colonial areas are struggling with today. (It is important to note the use of national adjectives – what would we have said to the fact that between 1940 and 1945 the Germans had renamed Denmark "German Scandinavia" and Norway "German North-West Scandinavia"?

"We brought humanity..."

To the colonies the whites brought a civilization that looked like this: When the French in 1830 attacked and oppressed Algeria, according to French records there were two schools in each village. "Practically speaking, all Arabs can read and write", says a French officer – "... there are in (the far smaller) Algeria at least as many primary schools as in France". – What is the state of culture and civilization 120 years later, in 1954, when the Algerians began to throw out the French? Yes, the sum is clear: 92 per cent illiterate. Vive la France! What accounts for the miracle, what accounts for France's enormous civilizing achievements? Simply that Arabic schools were banned, and Arabic banned as an administrative and official language. In Tunis and Morocco too, the decay under the regime of the lords is respectable. And this is under the auspices of Europe's notoriously most cultured people.

- When England left India, the defenders of democracy and freedom left behind more than half of the world's total population of illiterates – out of 520 million, 390 million could not read and write. India's vast wealth had gone to English firms, banks, private individuals and to the state – not to Indian schools, hospitals or means of communication. The building up of Indian industry had consistently been prevented. India's economy and culture were almost wiped out.

If we now consider Portugal, which, after plundering its colonies for 400 years, still has Europe's lowest standard of living, if we consider fascist NATO allies, then we get a picture of what real misrule, barbarism and brutality are. "Portuguese" Africa is approaching a world record. Portugal itself has a European record for the number of its own illiterates, and they have energetically brought their own culture and civilization on to Africa: Angola today has 97 per cent illiterates, Mozambique 98 per cent. The state of health and nutritional conditions here, as in the other colonial countries, are today far worse than before the European invasion and its gifts of culture and civilization. We shall remain silent about Belgium.

Culture and civilization…

After 300 years of "cultural work", the Dutch left 95 percent illiterate in Indonesia. Out of a population of today 100 million, in 1908 exactly 23 students had the opportunity to study at Dutch universities. 300 years earlier – before the Dutch invasion – the majority of Indonesians could read and write. Poverty and police soldiers took their toll.

When England left India, the defenders of democracy and freedom left behind more than half of the world's total population of illiterates.

This is how one can go through regimes of lords after lords. And if anyone still believes that the Europeans brought culture and civilization to Asia and Africa, then they should skip the rest of the article.

In America, the indigenous population was simply wiped out – and this part of colonial history is a textbook example of how a brutalized and barbaric people (the Europeans) eradicated a far higher culture.

But then an objection: We then taught them humanity and gentle manners in the name of Christianity!

They were whipped, shot, their hands cut off, forced to drink the urine of the white rulers.

Almost not a thing of what Hitler did within Europe was different from what the colonial powers over the centuries had done outside Europe. The torture, the massacres, the genocides, the repression and the terror – everything was the same – only with the difference that Hitler's gas chambers seemed faster and more humane than the French, Belgian or Spanish methods of extermination – and with the other difference that Hitler was now doing to white people, what they others did with coloreds. It was a mistake on Herr Hitler's part.

Severed hands

To look a little at the colonial methods, I give the floor to Roger Casement, who has already met a seven-year-old Negro boy with a severed hand – he now continues: "After a while a boy of fifteen arrived, with his left arm in a dirty rag. I removed the rag and discovered that his left hand had been cut off at the wrist, and he also had a bullet wound in the thicker part of his forearm. The boy said it was a guard in the Oa Luganga company who had cut off his hand. I looked for the man, and a little later he came. I confronted him with the boy, who face to face blamed him for the mutilations. The men at the scene confirmed what the boy said. The soldier had nothing to say about the accusations – he made some vague remarks about another guard who had maimed the boy. His predecessor had cut off many hands, and this was probably one of his victims.”

In any case, one should not say a specific thing about this: One should not say that it was a special case or an exception. Because it wasn't. We can again quote Roger Casement: "It was not the custom (to cut off people's hands) before the arrival of the whites. It was not the result of the primitive instincts of wild men…”

This with the severed hands was particularly widespread in the Congo, and further south in the "Belgian" Congo. Originally the system was introduced to count the day's dead from the rubber areas, i.e. how many black soldiers had had to shoot to keep discipline and morale up. Since then, it has developed into custom and use, also with live animals.

Electrical wires are attached to the breasts, vagina, penis or rectum.

There is, in and of itself, nothing sensational about the case, and Casement had to meet many people with severed hands. It is simply daily routine in an area ruled by terror. They were whipped, shot, cut off their hands, forced to drink the urine of the white rulers – in short, they did exactly what they could think of to crush any hint of intent. It was done as "punishment" if they "broke" the "laws" the foreign invaders had made. This very thing with the hands was – at least in part – a Belgian speciality.

The sadism of colonial history

But we can have a taste of "English" India; this time we give the floor to the Times correspondent William Russel: « … one of the unfortunates was dragged by his legs out of the ruins. He was dragged across the sand to a place better suited for the operation being prepared. Some of his executioners held him fast, others stabbed him in the face and body with their bayonets, while still others with some difficulty gathered pieces of wood from which they made a kind of fire. When all was finished, this man was burned alive. Several Englishmen observed this horrible scene, several officers were witnesses…”

Unfortunately, the description goes on, but we will interrupt it here, and go to our French human brothers and their performance in Algeria a few years ago. From the Algerian war, we only have so many documents of the same kind: It concerns hundreds and thousands of tortured Arab women and men – tortured in all ways, but above all by the French specialty of electro-torture – very often with a sexual-sadistic features, where the electrical wires are for example attached to breasts, vagina, penis or rectum. French variants are different forms of water torture, i.e. prolonged, repeated, almost fatal "drowning" or rather suffocation under water.

And these are not special cases, right from the earliest Portuguese and Spanish attacks on the colored peoples we have documents of such abhorrence that one can easily state that sadism (in a completely different and radical form than what the old Marquis de Sade even imagined) is a consistent feature throughout colonial history. It is the story of what qualities can be shown in a person who has gained power over the defenseless. Words such as brutality and rawness or cruelty become far too weak in this context.

The economic looting

Yet the systematic sadism and bestiality seem almost human next to the economic plunder of the colonies. It may sound strange to say it – but the exploitation, the frauds, the thefts and the looting are of such a scale and assume such a character that it is actually even more disgusting than the atrocities. I do not think that anyone, who has not by chance gone through some of the colonial economic history, can even in their wildest dreams imagine the scale of the looting. that is, about organized "assault and robbery" as it is called in normal Norwegian criminal terminology. The more one deals with colonialism, the more dominant this point of view becomes; everything is murder, assault, abuse, terror – and first and foremost: theft, fraud and looting and robbery. There is not a single apologetic point.

In all colonies, without exception, it involved organized "assaults and robberies".

Just one sentence to indicate the size of the amounts that have gone from the colonies to Europe: Already our friend and childhood hero and adventurer, Cecil Rhodes, established himself in the Cap colony with an annual income of over ten million kroner (with the purchasing power of the time), but he got to see his superiors when it came to obtaining profits and dividends from investments in diamonds, copper, gold and oil for almost free labor: The firm Ferriere Estat#e has today, over 15 years, brought a dividend of 278 per cent, Premier Diamond Company has for 23 years brought a dividend of 367 per cent – deals of between 50 and 200 per cent are not rare in the countries we allow ourselves to call "poor", and which cannot afford schools and hospitals. Where have these dividends ended up – in which hands did they end up? Then the American copper companies that own it Ok mines in starved, lye-poor South-West Africa, reached an annual business profit of 460 per cent of invested capital, – then who got the money? Did they go to food, clothing, medicine and schools for the exhausted natives? No, we know where they went.

The whites are coming

Forfatter Paczensky calculates in his book that since 1900 approx. NOK 2000 billion from the "poor" to the rich. It is raining lightly.

These two articles can only give a very weak picture of Gert V. Paczensky's book The whites are coming. It contains a wealth of well-documented information, it is brilliantly written, factual, accurate – completely without sentimentality. It is a unique encyclopedia, and an invaluable and indispensable collection of documents for anyone who wants to try to understand something of the times in which we live.

The fact is that the "third" world knows these things very well. We cannot understand what is happening today in the former colonial countries, if we do not also know about it ourselves. Colonial history provides an eerily clear example of the truth that only by knowing the past can we understand our own time.

Reading does not make you happy The way is coming, but I think it makes you wiser.

See The Whites Are Coming – The True Story of Colonialism,
author Gert v. Paczensky, Hoffman u. Kampe, 560p., Hamburg, 1970

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