The Case Against French Colonialism
By Nguyen-Ai-Quoc (Ho Chi Minh)
Translated by Joshua Leinsdorf, Copyright, 1990.
Colonial Life Style
Worker’s Library, Quai de Jenapes, 96, Paris
[Translator’s note: Ho Chi Minh wrote in French, a foreign language. The English translation is stilted because the important point is to see Ho’s logic and analysis.]
In 1923, French colonialism was the object of a case arousing world-wide interest.
The scandals in Togo and the Cameroons had provoked such a turmoil among the natives under the French “mandate”, that the League of Nations itself has ordered an inquiry.
The indictment which we intend to bring today embraces the entire colonial domain pertaining to French imperialism. In turn, we will examine the Senegalese, the Antillians, the Algerians, the Tunisians, the Malagachians, the Annamites, etc…, and the claims, as well as the sorrows, of fifty-nine million colonial slaves will be piously collected in a series of pamphlets.
We begin the series with the testimony of an Annamite: Nguyen-Ai-Quoc.
Another thing: it is not the League of Nations whose humanitarian zeal concerns us, it is before the Tribunal of History that we want to bring this matter. Thanks to our numerous, varied, precise and “living” documents, future humanity, which we wish better and greater happiness, will be able to judge the colonial crusade at its true value.
Next, it is to the colonial people themselves that we appeal. The day, and that day is near, when these enslaved masses will have, by effective means, regained their liberty, they will not fail to convene a revolutionary court to judge the colonial clique as it deserves.
One says to us – but what about civilization? This is true; French colonialism brings us the railroad, the electric trolley, radio (not counting the Gospel and the Declaration of the Rights of Man); only, the question is to know who forks out to pay for these marvels? Who sweats to build these machines? And later, who then profits from the well-being they bring? And who gets the dividends they produce? – Is it us, or those who exploit and oppress us? Are they the blacks of Sudan and the yellow of Annam, or the conquistadors with pink faces, who steal their lands and their herds, and who steal the fruit of their work, after having massacred their countrymen?
France, or more precisely the French people, who many a time are used to undertake costly and bloody foreign conquests, and about which they complain unceasingly to justify the crimes without name, who might daily deal severely and with impunity in the colonies: these people themselves do they take the least profit of the colonial spoils, or are they exploited, like us, by the same exploiters?
Ng. The Truyen.
I.War and the Natives
Before 1914, they were nothing but dirty blacks and dirty Annamites good at the very most for pulling pedi-cabs and receiving the beatings of our administrators. The joyous and new war declared, those became “beloved children” and “worthy friends” of our paternalistic and tender administrators and even our more or less general governors. They (the natives) were suddenly promoted to the highest rank of “defenders of right and of liberty.” This honor they underwent cost them, meanwhile, dearly enough, because to defend this right and this liberty of which themselves are deprived, they had to abruptly leave their paddies or their sheep, their children and their wives to come, beyond the oceans, to rot on the battlefields of Europe. During the crossing, many natives, after having been invited to the wonderful sight of a scientific demonstration of torpedoing, went to the bottom of the sea to defend the country of the maritime monsters. Others left their skin on the poetic desert of the Balkans wondering if the mother-country had the intention to enter as the first in the Turkish harem, or else why were they being killed in this country? Still others, on the edge of the Marne River or in the mud of Champagne Province were heroically massacred to water with their blood the laurels of the general and sculpt with their bones the marshals’ batons.
Those, after all, who toiled in the rear, in the monstrous powder magazines in order not to have breathed the asphyxiating gas of the “Boches”, underwent the glowing red vapors of the French; what comes back amounts to the same thing since the poor devils spit out their lungs as if they had been gassed.
Seven hundred thousand Vietnamese natives in all came to France and, of this number, 80,000 would never again see the sun of their country!
II. The Enlisted
Here is what we tell a friend: the native proletariat of Indochina are always squeezed under all forms of taxes, loans, forced labor of every kind, mandatory purchases of alcohol and opium, and submit since 1915 – 16, to the punishment of being enlisted.
The events of these last years gave the excuse, extending over the whole country, of mass round-ups of human material, confined to barracks under various denominations; rifleman, semi-skilled workers, unskilled workers, etc.
In the opinion of all impartial authorities who were asked to utilize in Europe human Asiatic material, this material did not give results in keeping with the enormous cost incurred by his transport and upkeep.
`Then, the hunt of said human material, named for the circumstance “volunteers” (a word with frightening irony) gave way to more scandalous abuse.
Here is how this voluntary recruitment is but into practice: The “satrap” who is every one of the [French] residents, warn their mandarins that in a fixed time, his Province is required to have supplied such number of men. The means are of little importance. For the mandarins to find a way out of this tight spot and for the D system [debrouillard – resourcefulness, skill in getting out of trouble] they know it, the strong, above all, cash in on the business.
They begin by gathering the able bodied penniless subjects, who are sacrificed without recourse. Then they command the appearance of the sons of the rich; if they are reluctant, an opportunity is easily found to examine some past, of them or that of their family, and, when required, to imprison them until they have resolved the following dilemma: “enlist or pay.”
One imagines that the people gathered in these exemplary conditions are devoid of all enthusiasm for the trade to which they are destined. Immediately put in barracks, they watch for the slightest opportunity to take flight.
Others, unable to protect themselves from that which constitutes a troublesome fate, inoculate themselves with serious illnesses, the most common of which is purulent conjunctivitis, resulting from rubbing the eyes with varying ingredients, from quick-lime to gonorrheal pus.
Yet, having promised to give the rank of mandarin to Vietnamese volunteers who survived and posthumous titles to those who died “for the native land”, the general government went on with its proclamation like this:
“You enlisted in large number, you left without hesitation the land of your birth to which you are, nevertheless, so attached; you fighters, to give your blood; you workers, to offer your arms.”
If the Annamites were so delighted to be soldiers, why were some led to the province capital in chains, while others were awaiting embarkation locked up in the College of Saigon, under the eye of French sentries, bayonets fixed, guns loaded? The bloody Cambodian demonstrations, the riots in Saigon, Bien-Hoa and elsewhere, are they then demonstrations of this eagerness to join up “in large number” and “without hesitation”?
The escapes and desertions (50 percent counted in the category of reservists) provoked pitiless repressions and these revolts were smothered in blood.
The general government took care to add that it was well understood that to deserve the “open kindness” and the “noble goodness” of the administration, “It is necessary that you (Indochinese soldiers) behave well and give no cause for dissatisfaction.”
The senior commander of the troops of Indochina took another precaution, he had inscribed on the back or wrist of each recruit, a number made indelible by means of a solution of nitric acid.
Like in Europe, the great misery of some is cause of profit for others: professional non-commissioned officers, to whom this windfall of recruitment and officering of natives permit them to remain the longest possible removed from perilous operations in Europe, suppliers who enriched themselves rapidly by starving the unfortunate recruits, and market keepers who have underhanded dealings in agreement with civil servants.
Let us add, while we’re on this subject, that there exists another kind of enlisted, the enlisted for the subscriptions to various loans. Identical procedures. Whoever possesses is gotten to subscribe. One employs against the recalcitrants the persuasive and coercive means such that everyone pays up.
As most of the Asiatic subscribers know nothing whatever about our financial mechanism, they consider the paying into loans like new taxes and accord no other value to the bonds than that of receipts.
Let us see now how the enlistment was organized in the other colonies.
Let’s take, for example, occidental Africa (now Senegal, Mauritania, Sudan, Upper Volta, Guinea, Niger, Ivory Coast and Dahomey).
The commanders accompanied by their armed forces, go from village to village obliging the eminent natives to furnish IMMEDIATELY the number of men that they wish to recruit. A commander, was he not thought clever, to bring the young Senegalese who fled before him to abandon their escape and put on the military fez, by torturing their parents? Did he not stop elderly, pregnant women, young girls, and make them strip off their clothes which were then burned before their eyes? Naked and securely tied, the unfortunate victims, flogged, go through the towns on the double “to give an example”! A woman who carried her baby on the back had to beg permission to have a free hand to keep her child in balance. Two old people fell from starvation during the run; the young girls, terrorized by such cruelties, had their period for the first time; a pregnant worman gave premature birth to a child born dead, another put into the world a blind child.
The methods of recruitment were, moreover, very varied. This one was particularly expeditious:
A string is stretched at the end of the main street of a village and another string at the other end. And all the Negroes found between the two strings are officially engaged.
“March 3, 1923, at noon,” a witness wrote to us, “The wharfs of Rufisque and Dakar having been surrounded by mounted police, made a round-up of all the natives who worked there. As these scamps did not appear agreeable to go quickly to defend civilization, they were invited to climb onto trucks which took them to prison. There, and when they had taken the time to think better of it, they were led to the barracks.
“There, after patriotic ceremonies, 29 volunteers were proclaimed potential heroes to the next to the last… All fired now with desire to return the Ruhr to the mother-country.
“Only,” wrote General Mangin who knew them well, these are the troops “to be consumed before winter.”
We have in hand a letter from a native of Dahomey, former combatant who did his “duty” in the war of right. Some extracts from this letter will show you how the “batoala”1 are protected and in what manner our colonial administrators fabricate the native loyalty which decorate all the official reports and which nourish every size article of the Regismansets and the Hausers.2
“In 1915,” says the letter, “At the moment of the forced recruitment ordered by Mr. Noufflard, Governor of Dahomey, my village was pillaged and burned by the agents of the police and the military club guards. In the course of these lootings and burnings, all that I possessed in the way of goods was taken from me. Nevertheless, I was enlisted by force, and without paying any attention to this heinous outrage of which I was the victim, I did my duty at the French front. I was wounded at Aisne.
“Now that the war is ended, I am going to return to my country, without home and without resources.
“Here is what was stolen from me:
“1,000 francs in cash;
“10 kids [goats];
“8 loin cloths;
“1 silver cross;
“2 trunks containing various objects.
“Here are the names of friends living in the same neighborhood as me and who were enlisted by force, the same day as me, and whose houses were looted and burned. (Seven names follow.)
“Many are still the victims of Governor Noufflard’s feat of arms, but I do not know their names to tell them to you today….”
The “Boches” of [Kaiser] Wilhelm could not have done better.
1 Batouala, the name of an African prince in a 1921 French novel of that title.
2 Regismanset and Hauser are the names of authors.
III. The Fruit of Sacrifice
As soon as the canons were satiated with the black or yellow flesh, the loving declarations of our governors fell silent like magic and Negroes and Annamites automatically became members of the “dirty race.”
In remembrance of the services rendered, did they not, before re-embarking at Marseilles, strip the Annamites of everything they possessed: new clothes bought at their expense, overcoats, various souvenirs, etc…. Were they not subjected to the control of brutes who beat them without reason? Were they not fed like pigs and accommodated like such in humid holds, without beds, without air, without light? Arriving in the country, were they not received warmly by this patriotic speech of a grateful administrator, “You have defended the fatherland. This is good. Now, we have no more use of you, get out of here!”
And the former “French soldiers” – or those who remained of them – after having valiantly defended right and justice, return mumbling to their native population where right and justice are unknown.
According to the Indochinese newspapers, the licenses to sell opium were granted to the widows of the French soldiers killed in the war and to the wounded Frenchmen.
Thus, the colonial government committed with the same blow two crimes against humanity. On one hand, they were not content to do themselves the dirty work of poisoner, they want to unite their poor victims in the fratricidal butchery. On the other hand, they valued so low the life and blood of their dupes, that they believe in throwing them this putrid bone, to pay enough for the loss of a limb or the mourning of a husband.
We do not doubt that the mutilated and widows of war do not spurn this repugnant offer in spitting their indignation into the face of its author; and we are sure that the civilized world and the good French people are with us in condemning the sharks of the colonies who do not hesitate to poison an entire race to fill their pockets.
Following an Annamite custom, if, in a village, someone dies, the huskers of rice must show that they respect the repose of the soul of the deceased and the sadness of its family in refraining from singing during their work, as they are in the habit of doing. Modern civilization, implanted by force in our country, does not behave at all in that manner. Read the following anecdote which was published in a Cochinchinese magazine:
The Fair of Bien Hoa
“The committee entrusted with organizing the entertainment for the benefit of the monument to dead Annamites from Bien Hoa Province worked hard to get a magnificent program underway.
“One speaks of a garden-party, of Flemish village fairs, of country ball,, etc…., in short, the attractions will be many and varied to permit everyone to contribute to a good work in the most agreeable manner in the world.
“The gentlemen fliers of Bien Hoa air base will give their support and the organizers can now and henceforth count on the presence of the highest Saigonese authorities to heighten by their presence the glitter of the party.
“Let us add that the Saigonese men and women will have no need to return to the capital to dine, which would result in shortening thereby their pleasurable party; a buffet magnificently prepared and carefully and specially garnished will give satisfaction to the finest gourmets.
“Let’s all go to Bien Hoa on the 21st of January, we will attend the beautiful festivities and we will have shown to the families of the Annamites of Bien Hoa dead during the war that we know how to remember their sacrifice.”
Other times, other customs.
But what customs!
The following letter was conveyed to us:
“…If there is an irregularity at once sad and grotesque, it is to celebrate the victory of ‘right’ and of ‘justice’ to a people who suffer all the injustices and not any right. It is however what we have done here. It is useless to tell you of the parties and ‘public enjoyments’ that took place in this city on November 11th. It’s always and everywhere the same. Torchlight processions, fireworks, review of troops, ball at the Governor’s Palace, procession of floral floats, patriotic collections, advertisements, speeches, banquets, etc. Of all these masquerades, I haven’t held back but one psychologically interesting act. Like the crowds of all the countries, those of Saigon are very fond of movies. Thus, a dense crowd took up position in front of the Palace Theater where the films run continuously and at the Charlot, the cowboys, the glorious marched by one after the other. Overrunning the boulevard, the crowd reached the street. Then the proprietor of the Saigon-Palace, wanting to clear the sidewalk in front of his establishment, hit the crowd with a switch. His wife aided him and hit, she also, in the pile. Some ragamuffins succeeded in ‘swiping’ the cane of the missus; and there was applause. Furious, mister came to the rescue, with a night stick this time, and heroically he hit all around him. The ‘dibblers’ moved back toward the boulevard, but intoxicated by his ‘victory’, this good Frenchman bravely crossed the street and continued to rain his big cane on the head, on the shoulders, and on the back of these poor natives. A child was taken by him and copiously ‘bastinadoed’….
IV. THE MILITARISM CONTINUES
Since his arrival in Casablanca, Marshal Lyautey addresses the troops of the Moroccan occupation force the following order of the day:
“I owe [to] you the highest military rank of which I have been honored by the Republican government because, for nine years, you have given without counting your devotion to duty and your blood.
“We are going to undertake a campaign which will assure the final pacification of Morocco for the common benefit of its loyal populations and of the protective nation, etc.”
Now, on the same day (the 14th of April) arrives the following bulletin:
“In the course of an engagement with the Beni-Bou-Zert at Bab-el-Harba we had 29 dead and 11 wounded.”
When one thinks that the blood of fifteen hundred thousand workers was well necessary to manufacture six marshals’ batons, the death of 29 poor fellows does not applaud enough the eloquent speech of the senior resident field-Marshal. But where is then the right of people to rule themselves, for which we slaughtered ourselves for four years? And what a strange way to civilize: to teach people to live well, one starts by killing them.
Here (in Haiphong), there are also seamen’s strikes. Thus Thursday (the 15th of August) two ships were to leave taking a large quantity of annamite riflemen to Syria.
The sailors refused to depart, on the pretext that they didn’t want to be paid in paisters. As a matter of fact, the piaster’s market value was 10 francs instead of 2.5, the companies establish an unheard of abuse, the deduction from the sailors in francs while the civil servants are paid in piasters.
Everyone then debarked and the ship’s crew was immediately arrested.
As it is seen, the sailors of the Yellow Sea have nothing to be envious of the sailors of the Black Sea.
We protest with all our might against sending annamite contingents to Syria. Is it considered, in high places, that there were not enough of our unfortunate yellow brothers massacred on the battlefields between 1914 and 1918, during the “war of civilization and of right?”
It is usual among our boasters “to instruct” the natives with insults and beatings.
The unfortunate Nahon, twice assassinated, first by Captain Vidart, and then by the military doctor charged with the autopsy, who, to save the skin of his companions, did not hesitate to save the skin of his companions, did not hesitate to steal and to hide the brain of the deceased – isn’t that right, alas! – the only victim of colonial militarism. One of our colonial colleagues has called attention to another:
“This time,” he said, “It was at the headquarters of the 5th Infantry. The victim was a young soldier of the 21st class, Terrier, originally from the port of Tenes in Algeria.
“The circumstances of his death are particularly sad. On the 5th of August, the young soldier Terrier went to the regimental infirmary to ask for a purgative. He was given it, or more exactly what he believed was this purgative; he took it, and some hours later, he writhed in excruciating pain and died.
“Mr. Terrier, the father, received at that time a telegram telling him, without consideration nor explanations, that the son, - his only son, - had died and that he will be buried next Sunday.
“Mad with grief, the poor father runs to Algiers, to the 5th Infantry, to headquarters. There he learns that the body of his son is in the hospital at Maillot. (How was it transported there? Is it true that to avoid the statutory investigation prescribed for all deceased occurring at the infirmary, he was taken dead to the hospital, under the sham of a death on the way?)
“At the hospital, the unhappy father asks to see the corpse, he is answered to wait.
“A long time after, arrives a Major who told him that the autopsy which was just performed revealed nothing and left him there without giving him the authorization to view the corpse of his son.
“At latest news, it seems that Mr. Terrier, the father, who asked the explanations from the Colonel of the 5th Infantry, received this reply about it: his son died drunk.”
The Poisoning of the Natives
The good Mr. Sarraut, former radical minister of Colonies, Augustinian monk of the natives (according to what he says), adored the Annamites and was adored by them.
To instill them with French civilization of which he was the principal agent, he shrinks at nothing, not even before foul deeds and crimes. Here is the proof: It is the letter in his capacity of Governor General of Indochina and to fatten the pockets of the colonial bandits and his own, he addresses his subordinates:
“In conformity with the instructions of the Director General of Administration, I have the honor of asking you kindly to help the efforts of my department in establishing new taxes on opium and alcohol.
“For this purpose, I permit myself to recommend a list of amount which should be imposed on the various villages mentioned, of which the most part are totally deprived of alcohol and opium.
“Through the instrumentality of the Cambodian governors and Messocks [name of native colonial official in Cameroon] your leading influence can successfully emphasize, to certain small native businesses, the advantages they would have in taking part in extra trade.
“For our part, the active revenue agents, on their rounds, seek to impose the taxes, unless you would prefer, Mr. Resident, that they wait until you have used your influence with the authorities so they can support your action, in which case will you kindly inform me?
“It is only by a complete and firm understanding between your administration and ours that we will obtain the best result, for the greatest good of the interest of the Treasury.”
Signed, Albert Sarraut
There existed, then, 1500 taxes of alcohol and opium for 1000 villages, while there are only 10 schools for the same number of places. Already, before this famous letter, 12 million natives were made to swallow – including women and children – 23 – 24 million liters of alcohol annually.
“For the monopolies, Indochina will be represented by a magnificent stag, pitilessly bound, agonizing under the hooked beak of insatiable vultures.”
The alcohol monopoly board included among its subscribing members the most eminent individuals of Indochina and all the branches of administration were sparklingly represented there. Most among them had the advantage to be of an incontestable use;
Justice, to settle the quarrel with those who would like to impose it:
2 attorneys general;
1 public prosecutor;
1 notary clerk.
The army, to quell a revolt that was considered possible from the sole fact of the application of the desired monopoly:
1 brigadier general;
2 lieutenant colonels;
2 military doctors of high rank;
The administration, whose disinterested compliance should have been the best guarantor for the success of the operation:
1 resident of France;
1 tax collector;
1 chief treasurer and paymaster;
1 postal inspector;
1 receiver of registry fees and stamp duties;
1 civil service administrator;
2 professors, etc., etc.
Finally: the honorable Mr. Clementel, deputy of Puy-de-Dome.
“What France sees and is proud of!” wrote Mr. Sarraut at the Marseille Colonial Exposition. Indeed, here beside the majestic alligators of occidental Africa, camels from Tunis yawn philosophically; and the sympathetic Malagache crocodiles chat familiarly with the august Indochinese cows. Never was understanding so perfect, and opposite this peaceful invasion of colonial animals, the legendary sardine of the old port, a real hostess, smiles graciously.
The visitors look with lively interest at the historical sofa of a certain governor general, the sword of the administrator with which the resident Darles pricked the thighs of tonkinese detainees, and the torch which the administrator Bruere used to smoke out alive more than 200 natives from Housassas.
The pavilion of Cameroon attracts particular attention. A board was seen there bearing these patriotic words:
“The Germans imported to Cameroon ‘large quantities of alcohol.’
“The French forbade any of its use.”
Meanwhile, a malicious hand pasted underneath this board the letter of Mr. Sarraut prescribing to his subordinates to increase the number of alcohol and opium taxes in the Annamite villages, with this inscription:
“When the Annamites already have: 10 schools; 1,500 alcohol and opium taxes for 1,000 villages.”
Here is a significant fact in connection with a civil servant who was at the head of a province in Tonkin, Son-Tay.
In this province, there was a population estimated at 200,000 inhabitants. For the needs of the cause, when it is a matter of pushing consumption, this population rises with a sudden rapidity: it carries it to 230,000 residents. But, as these 230,000 inhabitants consume too little, the resident of Son-Tay arrives, at the end of the year, to obtain a consumption of 560,000 liters of alcohol.
Forthwith, his advancement was assured, he received congratulations.
Mr. de C affirms that another resident showed him a letter from superiors and in which it reads: “The alcohol consumed in the Prefecture of X… has fallen below that of Z…, per registered head. Don’t you think it is necessary to make an example? The resident thus summoned a convocation of village chiefs and explained to them that they are consuming so little, that they were smuggling; and immediately the villages, to have peace, will buy the official quantity of alcohol, proportional to the number of inhabitants that the estimates of the office wants to impose on them.
It was determined, in actual fact if not by legal means, the annual consumption of each native. And when it is said each native, it is necessary not to forget that it is not a question only of adult natives; it is a question of the whole population; it concerns elderly, women, children, even suckling infants; it compels the parents in some way to serve as a substitute for them to consume not one more, but two, three liters of alcohol.
The inhabitants of a village in Tonkin, being forced to consume, saw the menace which weighed on them, would speak to their European civil servant:
“We do not even have enough to eat.” The civil servant replies: “You are accustomed to eating three meals of rice every day; You only have to leave out one meal, or, if necessary, a meal and a half in order to be able to consume government alcohol.”
Until then, the native consumers had the habit of obtaining alcohol in small quantities and they could take delivery of it in convenient receptacles. But the system of stamped bottles was established. Alcohol cound not be delivered except in official bottles of half liters or a liter. The Annamites were used to an alcoholic content of 20 to 22 percent; alcohol of 40 to 45 percent is imposed on them. They were accustomed to drink alcohol with a certain heavenly taste, due to the high quality of the ingredients which everyone used and, among which, was the most delicate rice: the drug ingurgitated by force on the Annamites is made with cheap rice, chemical ingredients and has a dirty taste.
The monopolists flung out a circular to stipulate to their employees the watering of alcohol to be sold: it was necessary to mix a hectoliter of alcohol with 8 hectoliters of pure water.
It was calculated that, being given that everyday 500 hectoliters of that alcohol is slod in Indochina, that means 4,999 (sic) liters of pure water, and that 4,000 liters at 30 centimes per day makes 1,200 piasters a day, 36,000 piasters a month, is a small profit drawn from a well alone. Of 432,000 piasters or 4 million francs per year!
Thus alcohol, such as is made and offered for sale by the monopolists of Indochina, does not correspond, neither in strength nor in taste, to that asked for by the natives, and it is necessary to impose it on them by force.
The administration, hard pressed by the constant need for money, by the obligation to face the rising expenses of general government, the big loans, the military construction and by the need to find – if not some real jobs – at the very least some salaries for a crowd of civil servants imposed on it by Paris, the Administration has, by all means, pushed the functionaries, the agents, from the resident to the most humble state employee, to increase the consumption of alcohol.
I. Mr. Fourn
Mr. Fourn, Governor of Dahomey, governs so well that all the natives of the colony complain to him. To quiet the dissatisfaction, an inspector seemed to be sent to this colony. This one inspects so well, that he l… the camp without investigating the complaints that the population presented to him.
We have, on this subject, received a letter from the Porto-Novo Franco-Moslem Action Committee, of which here are the essential passages:
“Well before the arrival of the French in Dahomey, there lived in Porto-Novo a Moslem chieftain named Iman, instructed to represent the Moslem community everywhere where that is necessary, to administer the property belonging to this group and to assure the celebration of religious ceremonies.
“According to custom, the Iman had to be chosen by an electorate among the devout Moslems noted for their morality and who served the functions of deputies for a long time. Moreover, before his death, the Iman in power gives his judgment of the deputy who, ordinarily, combines the requisite qualities to replace him.
“The decision made by the Iman on this occasion is irrevocable.
“Before the death of the Iman Cassoumou, the latter designated as his successor the deputy Saroukou who the electoral body as well as the majority of the Moslems accepted.
“The Iman Saroukou had to be elected upon the death of Cassounou, but Ignacio Paraiso, strengthened by the support of the Governor, opposed it arbitrarily in imposing on the Moslems the named Lawani Kassoko, who is his personal friend and who, like him, is not a Moslem except in name.
“Seeing that the electoral body and the majority of Moslems were against the illegal nomination of Lawani Kassoko, some Ignacio Paraiso or other brought in the high chieftain Houdji, who is a fetishist, and who with the authority of the government elected the named Lawani Kassoko against the wishes of the Moslems.
“Still, if Lawani Kossoko was a good and honest Moslem, we should keep quiet about his nomination, but he is the most dishonest man on earth. Here, besides, is the proof which supports us.
“Lawani Kassoko was born in Lagos (English Nigeria). He is an English subject. Following murders and other crimes committed in English Nigeria, Lawani Kassoko was pursued by the English authorities.
“Our Governor of that time sheltered this undesirable English subject and, to reward him, named him chief of the lake dwelling villages: Affotonou, Aguegue, Agblankantan, etc. etc., where all the inhabitants have enough now of his extortions, his crimes and complain about him.
“- We had a mosque in the Akpassa quarter in Porto-Novo. The French administration demolished this mosque for a public utility and gave us an indemnity of 5,000 francs.
“The indemnity not sufficing for construction of a new mosque, wehave raised, by private subscription, a sum of 22,000 francs.
“Among the members of the Committee charged with the purchase of materials and of payment of the workers, was Ignacio Paraiso.
“On the death of Iman deputy Bissirou, to whom was entrusted the key to the vault, Ignacio Paraiso became the trustee of the key. He profited from this title to divert a sum of 2,775 francs. The Committee was obliged to exclude him.
“Ignacio Paraiso, incensed, concerted with the Governor. The latter took arbitrary measures against us and hindered the construction of our mosque.
“Now, on account of the intrigues of Ignacio Paraiso, to which the Governor lent a hand from the moment of the tainted nomination of Lawani Kassoko as Iman, the Moslems of Porto-Novo were divided in two camps. This state of things hurts the good harmony, the free exercise of our cult, and creates great disorders.”
II. Mr. Long
Extracts of a letter addressed to the French Republic of June 12, 1922, by Colonel Bernard who, set your mind at ease Mr. Minister, is not a communist.
“The exports of Indochina,” says the letter, “Are stationary or even falling. Indochina exported in 1914: 45,000 kilos of silk; 99,000 tons of corn; 480 tons of tea; it did not export last year but 15,000 kilos of silk; 32,000 tons of corn and 156 tons of tea.
“It is also believed that the Indochinese government pursues even now with dispatch the execution of the large works indispensable to the development of the colony. Now, since 1914, one has not constructed a kilometer of railroad track nor a hectare of rice paddies. Mr. Sarraut gave approval, ten years ago, to a program of works which called for construction of a railroad from Vinh to Dong Ha and the creation of four huge irrigation systems. All these works have been suspended for more than 5 years, on the pretext that there was no more financing. Now, during this same period, Indochina devoted 65 million piasters and 450 million francs to the construction of roads and public buildings. Let Mr. Faget ponder well such numbers! Near half a million spent on roads for cars which carry not a ton of merchandise, to build lodging and offices for functionaries who proliferate in Indochina with the luxuriance proper to tropical vegetation; and, during this time, works considered indispensable, approved already by a vote of parliament, have been abandoned.
“And don’t believe that there is any intention, in Indochina, to change the system. To finish the program of 1912, Mr. Long has already asked from parliament the authorization to float a loan; he asks today the permission to float a second one. Those who direct at the present time the development of Indochina seem determined to do nothing truly useful if they are not permitted, in the first place, to incur debt. As for budgetary resources, as for reserves accumulated during the war and the post-war period, they have decided to throw them royally down the drain if parliament will not put it in good order.
III. Mr. Garbit
Mr. Garbit, Governor General of Madagascar, has returned to France. Like all the Governors, his colleagues, Mr. Garbit is very content with “HIS” colony. Progress, wealth, loyalty, plans, calm, organization, etc. Such is the eternally unchanging baggage of proconsuls on vacation which Mr. Garbit, on his tour, obligingly hawks to whoever can see. And, on top of these bluffs, Mr. Garbit artistically uses the other bluff (or the bluff of the other) superfine that one: the development of the colonies. In welcoming him, we ask of Mr. the Governor:
“Is it true that the inspection mission, sent by the ministry, did not have enough soap to haul the Governor of the coals3 and greas the slope on which his excellency must be left to slide toward the capital, there to remain always, always? [3 Laver la tete, literally meaning to wash the head (hair) idiomatically means to haul someone over the coals. The reference to soap is a play on words which works only in French.]
“Is it true, to save face, some zealots have organized a reception before his departure; and that this necessitated a laborious recruitment, because no one, outside the organizers, had wanted to come?
“Is it true that the creatures of Mr. the Governor have thought up a petition asking his return to the colony; but that this petition did not see the [light of] day because it was believed to be a counter-petition?
“Is it true, finally, that the affectionate wish that the native population had addressed him was this:
“Goodbye, Garbit! I hope we shall never meet again.”
IV. Mr. Merlin
The destiny of 20 million happy Annamites is placed in the hand of Mr. Martial Merlin.
Who is this Mr. Merlin? I ask you. He is a man who has been administrator of the Gambian Islands, then secretary general of French Occidental Africa, then governor of the same colony. He is a man who has spent 36 years of his life stuffing the natives with stories, with the benefactress civilization of France.
You may say, perhaps it is an immense dirty trick to govern a country with a man who doesn’t know the first thing about it.
Well! Yes. But that, it is the fashion. A colleague points out that he has found, enthroned in the office of the minister of colonies of French Occidental Africa, a former Indochinese administrator. – A former administrator of French Occidental Africa is entrusted with the services of French Equatorial Africa. – A former functionary of Sudan was chosen to keep busy with questions concerning Madegascar; while Cameroon is represented at the colonial exposition by a civil servant who has never set foot there.
Therefore, before going to civilize the Indochinese in Indochina, the proconsul Merlin has wanted to begin by civilizing the Indochinese dead in France, you know, these dead for the native land, justice and so forth.
To laugh in the cemeteries is a pleasure of great men, but to laugh there all alone would be probably without charms. That is why his Excellency Martial Merlin was given the order to the young state subsidized Annamites to accompany him to the Garden of the Dead at Nogent-Sur-Marne, a speech having to be delivered before his high presence. But, before being read before the public, the said speech had to be presented to his Excellency for censorship. Which was done, and the speech, judged too subversive, was unreservedly cancelled by His Excellency and replaced by another of which His Excellency gave himself the outline.
Naturally, the speech thus cooked in official sauce, expressed the loyalty and the inalienable affection in full view.
If the dead could speak, as the spiritualists claim, the Annamite ghosts of Nogent would say, “Th…anks to you, of Governor! But for pity’s sake, - don’t bother us.”
V. Mr. Jeremie Lemaire
We read in the Colonial Annals this paragraph:
“We learn that Jeremie La Maire, former governor of colonies, former deputy of India, is really the object of a pursuit by correctional officials. He was, indeed, President of the bank of which Mr. Frezouls was the managing director; bank adjudged bankrupt, two years ago.
“There it is the just crowning of the career of this sad individual.”
Well, Well! There are then some sad individuals in the noble body of governors and colonial deputies? Who might have believed it!
He is a Cochinchinese deputy (as Cochinchinese as Mr. P. Loti4 is Turkish). He makes speeches at the palace and about the affairs in Saigon. As a member of Parliament, he regularly puts the touch on his seals of office; as a colonist, he does not pay his taxes. This upright representative of the people has a concession of 2,0000 hectares of land, and, for 15 years, the honorable concessionaire has not spent a cent. When the tax collector asked him to put himself in order, he has replied: Th…ank you. Because he is a deputy, he is left alone. [4 Pierre Loti is a French writer who had recently died. His novels take place in exotic foreign lands like Tahiti, Senegal, Japan and especially Turkey.]
There was a time when this same Mr. Outrey was interim governor of Cochinchina.
Cochinchina is administered by a governor named by decree of the president of the Republic. This functionary is assisted in his high function by a mixed assembly, the Colonial Council, of which one of its characteristics, the most important, now doubt, is to vote every year the budget of the colony. Let us say right away that this budget is fed by receipts provided by either direct or indirect taxes, paid by the Annamites, that the expenditures that are provided there should, in principle (but never in fact!) be done for the Annamites, in a word, these are the interests of the Annamites, that are entrusted to this Colonial Council. As it happens, this infamous Colonial Council is composed more of Frenchmen than Annamites: 18 French members, of which 12 are elected and 6 are representatives of different companies: the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Agriculture, etc., and 6 Annamite members. Acknowledging that they are always complete, what can 6 Annamite voices do against the 18 French voices? The government then puts into the budget everything it wants and it is certain that the items will pass.
Moreover, here is what happens three-quarters of the time: thus in 1905, the interim governor Outrey, today deputy of the French in Cochinchina, raised by one hundred percent, the already too heavy taxes on the rice growers. This increase, which has immortalized Outrey in the memory of Annamites has motivated, on the part of our native councilors, a collective resignation. No matter! Outrey replaced them with others that he imposed himself on the Annamite electors. One of his enforcement agents, the administrator Maspero (province of Bienhoa) did he not imprison all the voters of the district, by withholding their ballots, to prevent them from passing on a message to the candidates? He then forced them to vote, under pain of retribution, for Outrey’s candidate Bùi-Thê-Kam, in order to prevent the re-election of resigned Councilor Hoa; who was wrong not to behave as Outrey wanted.
I. M. Saint
As you know, the colonies are the overseas Frances and the French of these Frances are the Annamites or the Malgashes, or the …etc. Also, that which is good here is bad there: and that which is tolerated there is forbidden here. Examples: It is permitted for the French to exhaust the natives with opium, the more they sell them, the higher they are estimed; but if you advise yourself to sell this poison here, you will be immediately incarcerated. In contrast, in France a high functionary is allowed to travel in his undergarments, it is, on the contrary, forbidden to a native prince to wear a native robe, even when sick at home.
Being sick, the late Bey of Tunis received the resident-general in a house coat. This was already bad enough, but worse was that his grandson and grand-nephew of said Bey forgot to salute the aforementioned resident. Two days later, just at siesta time, Mr. Resident, dressed in his uniform, escorted by his squadron, came to demand apologies. It was done. When one is Bey and under the protection of a saint, whether the holy father, holy son or holy spirit, he does not have the right to be sick. And you “Poulbot” natives know that when you are born under the maternal wing of democracy, one must not play, nor laugh, nor make a racket, but rather learn to salute. [Francois Poulbot was a cartoonist famous for drawing children.]
In Indochina, and in other colonies, quite a lot of “protectors” modestly satisfy themselves beating up the natives who do not salute fast enough: but they never again mobilized the armed forces to demand greetings from their “kids”. It is ture that they are not all residents-general.
Although this “serious event” drew the attention of the high forum of parliament, it might have, as M. Poincaré said, harm the influence of France, we can not, without being ungrateful to the resident-general Saint, accuse him of “defeatism”; because thanks to this amicable demonstration, child-like and peaceable, the natives know from now on how to greet a “white brother.” One recalls, during his visit to Africa, M. Millerand was greeted by the natives who, to show their sincere attachment and profound respect to the protector chief of state, pulled their shirts out of their pants.
II. Mr. Darles
The Notebook of the Rights of Man recently published a letter from M. Ferdinand Buisson, president of the League of the Rights of Man to M. Sarraut, minister of the colonies, on the subject of the revolt which happened in 1917 in Thaï N’Guyen (Indochina) and the suppression that followed.
In this letter, the role of the resident of the province, M. Darles is clearly specified: this functionary, by the abuses of which he has been held guilty, was the person responsible for the rebellion. Moreover, his guilt was established by the Saigon Court in 1917.
But can you believe it? No administrative penalty was taken. On the contrary: M. Darles was made a member of the Saigon Municipal Council. As for judicial sanction, it was derisory. 200 francs fine.
This M. Darles is an administrator of value. He acquired his knowledge of political science in the Latin Quarter where he sold soup.
Through the offices of a politically influential man, M. Darles, without resources and crippled with debts, was made an administrator in Indochina.
Comfortably installed at the head of a province of several thousand inhabitants and invested with uncontrolled power: he is prefect, mayor, judge, bailiff, tax collector, in a word, he held all these powers concurrently. Justice, taxes, the property, lives and goods of the natives, rights of functionaries, elections of mayors and canton chiefs, that is to say the destiny of the entire province is entrusted to the hands of this former cook.
Seeing as he never could have become rich extorting his clients in Paris, he takes his revenge in Tonkin in having arrested, imprisoned, arbitrarily sentenced the Annamites to pressure them.
Here are some events which illustrate the despotic reign of this charming administrator that the mother republic sent to civilize us.
The volunteer! Natives are let into service as riflemen and go, to that end, for a physical. There are the illiterates, intimidated, to whom Mr. Resident addresses rude remarks and who he strikes with a punch or a cane because they do not answer fast enough.
He brutally struck with punches three militiamen who allowed a prisoner to escape, dragged them along the ground by their hair, knocking their heads against the wall of his house.
To interrogate the prisoners, Mr. Resident pricks their thighs with his administrative sword. Some vanished on their return to prison.
The unfortunate prisoners, malnourished, dressed in squalid rags, woken at dawn, cangue around their necks, heavy chains on their feet attached one to the other pull a roller, an enormous road roller that must be pulled over a thick bed of stone. Completely exhausted, they painfully advance under the implacable sun. The resident arrives, carrying his usual strong cane, and without reason, with an inconceivable sadism and beastiality, he hits these unfortunates with his cudgel with all his might while reproaching them for being lazy.
One day, our civilizer had just reproached a European agent and, not knowing on whom to vent his anger, took from his desk an iron ruler and broke two fingers of an unfortunate native writer who had nothing to do with the affair.
Another time, he buried up to their necks militiamen who displeased him and did not have them dug out until they were half dead.
When he comes back on the roads where he forces the natives to work for one or two cents per day, after having redeemed their day of courvée labor for 15 cents a day, it is by the half dozens that one counts the broken legs from hits of shovels and pickaxe handles.
One time, at a roadworks, he grabbed the rifle of a surveillance guard to hit a prisoner. The latter managed to evade, the resident turned toward the guard who he hit with the same gun. His better half, Madame Resident, contributes in her turn, she gladly hits the prisoners and punishes the militiamen on occasion.
One has seen Mr. Resident puncture the eye of a sergeant with a strike of his cane. He has accomplished other high tasks, but we can not enumerate them all here.
All this is known and seen by everyone, including his superiors, governors general, and residents-superiors who, to reward his “energy” and his “well republican virtue” pitiless promotions are inflicted on him.
III. Messeurs Boudineau, Beaudoin and Others
In spite of flashy expositions, pompous speeches, royal strolls and grandiloquent articles, nothing changes in Indochina.
The accused in the dock are scarcely discouraged when in the circuit court of the honest administrator Lanon, who tells us of other scandals in prospect.
First in the affair Boudineau. Mr. Boudineau is a typical civilizer, a concessionary administrator. Among the charges against him we come up with this:
“The village of Tânan, seat of the canton, built an electric utility with communal resources and loans. The operation was profitable since the village had receipts greatly exceeding expenses. Its buildings and streets were, furthermore, lit for free.
It happens that the ingenious enough administrator (Boudineau) was found to impose a scheme where the village Tânan gave for free its utility to have the pleasure of paying to light the buildings and streets of the city. One notices today that there is an interest to repurchase this privilege conceded for free and this in round figures of several tens of thousands of piasters would have to be spent. This entire affair is a story where the gift of imagination of a former province chief was given free reign with an incredible cynicism.
The second scandal in view, is the matter of Théard. Here is what an Indochinese colleague said:
“We live in truly unusual times: the matter of Boudineau, the business of Leno and soon the affair of Théard.
“For Mr. Théard, engineer of great merit, director of a big French firm in Haiphong, came and offered a part of the remuneration anticipated and due, to Mr. Scala, director of Customs and Control, a sum of ten thousand dollars to conclude an opium business with the administration, it is necessary that he be guided by special considerations to think that similar processes are not at all abnormal. It will be then in this world of Indochinese business the common practice of the squeeze. All these who hold a similar authority in speculating for the greater good of their purse and the greater detriment of the collective.
Seeing that Mr. Darles, torturer Resdient of Thaï N’Guyen is made a member of the Saigon municipal council, and Mr. Baudoin, impatiently waited on by Mr. Judge Waren, is made acting governor-general of Indochina, the least one can do for Misters Théard and Baudineau is to decorate them.
One question: is it true that in the Criminal Investigative Deparmtne of the general government of Indochina is employed a Frenchman named C…? That C…, sent on a “mission” to Phy-Xuyen, requires the Annamites of that place to call Quanlon “high mandarin” and violently hits those who do not do so fast enough? Is it true that this same C… raped an Annamite militiaman? Everything is permitted, everything is possible in this Indochinese paradise.
In the middle of the month of December 22, a sub-brigadier of the Saigon city police – completely “plastered” – entered a native house and seriously wounded two of its inhabitants, one a woman.
Questioned by the examining magistrate, the policeman said that he did not remember anything all the while denying that he was drunk.
The witnesses, of which one was a European, maintains, on the contrary, that this guardian of order was not in his normal state at the moment of this tragic incident.
Whether this civilizer was mad or drunk matters little, we wish with all our heart that he be decorated for the courageous act he carried out.
In the colonies, when one has white skin, one is of the aristocracy: one seems a superior race. To achieve his rank, the least of the European customs officials have at least one domestic, a “boy” who, very often, serves as a “maid of all work.”
As native domestic staff is very malleable and costs little, it is not rare to find colonial functionaries returned to France on vacation or in retirement, to take their domestics along with them.
It is the case of Mr. Jean Le M..arigny, resident of Carnot Street, Cherbourg. This gentleman, returned from Indochina, brought with him a boy with a salary of 35 francs a month. It is not at all necessary to tell you that this native was obliged to slave away from dawn to dusk. Days off and holidays were unkown in this house. Even more, he was poorly housed and very badly fed.
One day, Mr. Jean Le M..arigny wanted to send his “protégé” to dig with a pickaxe in the country. The son of Annam, having already tasted beforehand the happy rural existence which his kind patron saved for him, declined the offer.
Then, the ex-civilizer, seized with anger, threw the Annamite out the door after having seriously beaten him. In spite of repeated complaints of the native, Mr. Le M..arigny did not want to return that which belonged to him: money, trunk, clothes, etc… Thrown abruptly on the street, ignorant of the language of the country, without means, without a friend, disoriented, this unfortunate is in dreadful poverty.
The colonial functionnarism4 is the principal cause of the high cost of living in the colonies. To better understand to what point this parasitic factor weighs heavily on the budget, therefore on the backs of the working people:
English India counts 4,898 European functionaries for 325 million inhabitants.
French Indochina counts 4,300 european functionaries for 15 million inhabitants.
That is to say that there is in the English colony 1 european functionary for 66,150 inhabitants and in the French colony there is 1 european functionary for 3,490 inhabitants.
In India, the Customs and Control Administration possesses 240 european functionaries.
In Indochina, the same administration possesses 1,100 european functionaries.
There is in India 26,000 post and telegraph offices with 268 european functionaries.
Indochina counts 330 offices and 340 functionaries. Why this disproportionate quantity of budgetivores in Indochina? Because the colony is an earthly paradise where, with a few rare exceptions, all the wash-outs of politics, of finance, of journalism, etc… spit out by the metropolis, finds a field fertile for their development… Beginning with the biggest cheese, the governor-general. On this subject, an impartial colonist has written this. “On arriving in Tonkin, the governors have only one goal; that of finding a job for everyone, friends, sons, parents, election brokers, of all those whose support he seeks. Often, it is a man crippled with debts, pursued by his creditors, he needs money for them.
For the noble writer who penned the glorious history of civilizing colonization, the said war of right and justice will be a source of inexhaustible documentation. Albert Sarraut in a movement of eloquence and enthusiasm said, “It is in the conquest of the colonial empire that most of the great leaders were educated in combat, who led us to victory and of which French public opinion still celebrates the glory and exploits when they carry our flags beneath African and Asian skies.”
As frank in concept, but less juggling with the verb, The Journal of Geneva says straight out that “the devil, is it in Geneva?” – says blatantly that “the Republic has seen in the constitution of its colonial empire, an undoing of its 1870 defeat. The French race has found it as a revenge for its European difficulties, and the military, a new opportunityto stand out in happy combat.
And get the hell out of here if, after all these authorized testimonies, you persist in not believing that colonization is neither more nor less that a civilizing and humanitarian mission.
4 functionnairism – absorption of all civil society into hypotrophic administrative machinery. Coined by the writer Pierre Joseph Proudhon, a contemporary of Karl Marx. Proudhon coined the word “anarchist” and was the first one.
1st A theft of 5,000 francs was taken from Mr. Guinaudeau. To obtain the confessions of his native employees, this good boss and grand civilizer, submitted the latter to electric current. It was discovered later tha the author of this theft is not a native, but well another civilizer: it was the sonny of Mr. Guinaudeau! Mr. Guineaudeau is acquitted. And the eight unfortunate natives are still in the hospital.
2nd Mr. Vollard, civilizer and merchant, does not regularly pay his native employees. One of them begged the foreman to ask for the salaries due him. Mr. Vollard presented the following bank note to the foreman: Tell this pig to eat shit, this is the only nourishment that is suitable for him.”
This happened in Tunisia in 1923, at the same time that Mr. Millerand made his presidential rounds in this country.
When one has white skin, one is as a matter course a civilizer. And when one is a civilizer, one can commit savage acts all the while remaining the most civilized.
Thus, an operator of public works of Cochinchina obliges the Annamites met on his way to make the formal nod due to the superior race by the vanquished race.
One day, a native scribe left his work while reading a novel. Coming to a comic passage, the reader laughed. Just at this moment, he came across Mr. Conductor of Public Works, and he became enraged, first because the native, absorbed in his reading, had not noticed him and saluted; then because the native had allowed himself to laugh while passing in front of a white person. Our civilizer therefore stopped the Annamite and, after having asked his name, asked him if he wanted a slap. Naturally, the scribe turned down the far too generous offer and expressed astonishment that he caused him such a row. Without any other proceeding, the functionary took the native by the coat and brought him before the province chief.
This same driver of Public Works, under the pretext of aligning houses and gardens, prescribes for the inhabitants set up on the edge of the provincial roads to have, under threat of a fine, to split and remove their trees and remove their gardens by a deadline set by him.
And one is astonished by the discontent of the colonial natives!
Not only the governors and residents can do what seems good to them, but also the customs agents, police and all those who hold a particle of authority to use and abuse certain that they can do so with impunity.
A police superintendent in Tuyen-Quang (Tonkin) hit a native and broke his arms.
Another superintendent, this one in Dalat (Cochinchina) has just inaugurated a marvelously interesting commercial system that we have the pleasure to bring to the attention of Mr. Dior and Mr. Sarraut. One day, this functionary needed planks. He sent his militiamen to buy some in the city. Buy, it is a manner of speaking, because Mr. Commissioner had not given money to his men. The latter went however to the city and expected to get it, without paying, naturally. The seller would not let them take his merchandise without being paid. The militiamen rendered an account to their white leader of the extraordinary pretentions of the merchant.
Furious, Mr. Superintendent delegated three armed men to seize the person of this pretentious merchant. The latter suffering from the flu, refused to let them take him. The militiamen returned and informed their superior. Exasperated, Mr. Superintendent doubled the team; intimating the order to bring the recalcitrant, dead or alive.
The armed guards surrounded the house of the seller and went to execute their orders.
A European businessman intervened on behalf of the native merchant and wrote to Mr. Superintendent. But the energetic collaborator of Mr. Long maintained his “summoning” and made it understood that if the native agreed to return there, he would expose himself to a lot of problems.
The native merchant was obliged to give up his business and his country to flee the “civilizing” anger of a white functionary.
They were seven, the poor Annamites, in a thin and long boat which, pushed by the current and by the effort of their seven oars handled with two arms, slipped on the water as fast as a steam ship. The sampan of the tax collector, popped out from a brook, hidden by mangrove, with a French flag on the back. A sailor shouted for them to stop: they continued to row. They had not understood. And the sampan of the customs agent went scarcely as fast. The customs agent took a Winchester and fired. The boat passes. Blam! Blam! A rower cries and falls. Blam! Another. In the meantime, a european brickmaker, prowled by in a boat, he also surprised the “pirates” at a bend in the river. Blam! Blam! Blam! He was a good marksman. The boat, with two survivors, loses itself in the brooks.
Another day, the same customs agent, followed by six armed sailors, had discovered a poor devil, concealed in a pond, dove into the mud, breathing by a pipe of which one end was placed in his mouth and the other emerged; the leaves of water lilies were artistically arranged on the surface: the customs agent brought to his house the head of this “pirate”, a simple villager who took fright in seeing strangers come toward his village with terrible expressions, armed with revolvers, with ammunition pouches, clutching a Winchester. It was found in his boxes three cartridge casings, Chinese cakes, a woodcutters saw. Can it be doubted that the village was not pirate and did not supply the pirate?
A young officer coming from France arrives in a village, sees the huts empty and the population gathered in the square. He imagines he has fallen into an ambush and fired on this inoffensive group which celebrated a religious holiday and which dispersed in a panic. He followed and killed them.
When I arrived in Tonkin, says an old “Tonkinese” on the ships of the great exploiter, do you know the value of an Annamite life? Not a sapek!5 It’s true. [5 1/1000 of a piaster.]
Well, I remember when we came up the Red River in our motorboats, we played “absinthe” to see who in the boat could “knock over” the most number of Annamites on the bank in ten rifle shots.
Some, Winchester in hand, demand ransom from villagers and the boats.
A marine infantry company left for Viahthoung: the mandarin of the county, as a courtesy, departed with great pomp with his militiamen to meet the arrivals. The chief scout of the company gave the order to his section to fire on the mandarin’s escort and harvested several cadavers.
When one can not get rid of a rebel, the whole village is burned. Thus was the area around Hunghoa razed.
On a lost footpath, one came across a yellow man who staggered because he was carrying two big baskets of peanuts, with the help of a beam resting across his shoulders. He did not make a move as we approached. He was seized and shot.
One spends the whole day whacking Annamites with blows of a stick or the flat of a sword, to make them work.
Annamites are very gently, very submissive; but one speaks to men only with kicks in the c…
We consider the Annamite patriots as brigands. It is thus that Doi-Van, patriot who had fought against the domination for several years, was decapitated in Hanoi, his head displayed at Bachnin, his body thrown into the Red River.
Ton-duy-Tan, taken after ten years of desperate struggle, was condemned and decapitated.
Phan-dinh-Phung, a high mandarin, resists for ten years, finally dying in the forest. This death does not disarm us at all; his body was exhumed, the parts spread around, he is pursued beyond the grave.
In the province of Quangtri, an overseer of public works, alcoholic, with a rifle shot “dismounted” from his elephant a native guilty of having not heard or understood his orders.
A customs official kills a militiaman in Dalat where a left over native joiner, following the violence of another civilizer, succumbs just the same.
An entrepreneur requires his workers to work night and day in the water to bore a tunnel, a large number died, the rest went on strike. The entrepreneur himself burned the houses of the strikers to force them to return to work. A whole village was burned in the middle of the night.
A chief warrant officer of artillery fired on a house on the pretext that the proprietor, whose husband was absent, did not want to receive him at midnight. The poor woman was naturally terrified.
A polygamous lieutenant throws to the ground a young woman and knocked her out with blows from rattan cane because she did not want to live with him.
A functionary of the dockyard murdered an Annamite railroad employee by pushing him into a blazing fire, after having violently beaten him.
There isn’t in the world, wrote Vigne d’Octon, conquered people who are the object of more abuse and bad treatment than the native.
Another traveler wrote: “Colonial life does nothing but develop loses for the individual: absence of moral sense, debauchery and dishonesty, cruelty toward those who have seen war; the profiteers and other adventurers with their taste for rape and theft. For this, in France, the opportunity is lacking and the fear of the police is much stronger! Here, these types are sometimes alone with some natives, on their junk or in some village, they will be more pillagers than Europeans in the market and more brutal toward the peasants who protest.
All the French, wrote a third, arrive here with the idea that the Annamites are their inferiors and have to serve them as slaves. They treat them like beasts of burden driven with sticks. All have taken the attitude to consider themselves members of a new and privileged aristocracy. Whether soldiers or colonists, they can not ordinarily conceive of other forms of relations with the natives than they use with their domestics. It seems that the boy is for them the entire representation of the yellow race. One must hear with what silly distain a Frenchman in Indochina speaks of the “yellow”. One must see with what rudeness a European treats a native.
The conqueror attaches a high price to marks of submission or respect of the conquered. The Annamites of the cities, like those in the country, are obliged to take off their hats in front of Europeans.
A security agent brutally hits Annamites who forget to treat him like a High Mandarin. A customs commissioner obliges the natives who pass in front of his house to lift their hats or descend from their mounts. One day, this civilizer brutalized an Annamite woman who had greeted him, but had forgotten to treat him like a High Mandarin. This woman was pregnant. A violent kick that the agent sent directly to the stomach caused an abortion; the unfortunate died a little time after.
If our protectors require that the Annamites be humble, submissive, docile and polite, on the other hand “it seems to take nothing to make our presence odiously intolerable” said a writer who has visited Indochina. And he continues: “In Europe, the yellow race is considered as holding all ruses and treachery. Yet, we do not care that very few value our franchise.”
Some officers pull the beard of the bonzes during services. Such a young man with an influential father beat an Annamite functionary because this one, the first occupant, did not want to give up his place on the bus.
During the arrival of a governor-general in Marseilles, at the luncheon that was offered, it was proposed to bring some Annamite Mandarins to stay in this city. “If the Mandarins are brought, replied the commissioner-general of Indochina, I will bring my boy.”
We extract from the travel diary of a colonial soldier the following fact:
While some “Tonkiners” entertain themselves on the starboard side, some junks sell fruits and shellfish. To get to us, the Annamites lift long poles equipped with baskets in which their merchandise is found. One has only to choose. In the guise of money, those who are given over to paying deposit in the front of those baskets the most diverse objects: pipe stems, pant buttons, and butts of cigarettes. (It is perhaps like this that one teaches commercial honesty to the natives!) At other times, funny story, some drivers throw a bucket of boiling water on the spines of the unfortunates. Then, there are the howls of pain, a desperate flight of oars banging together the dugout canoes.
Just below me an Annamite, BURNED FROM HEAD TO FOOT, absolutely mad, wants to throw himself into the sea. His brother, oblivious of the danger, drops the oar, grabs him, and forces him to spread out on the floor of the sampan. The struggle, which did not last two seconds, is just over when another bucket of water, with a sure hand, SCALDS THE SAVIOR IN HIS TURN. I saw him rolling in his boar, his flesh bright, with cries not at all huan! And this makes us laugh, this seems extremely funny to us. WE ALREADY HAVE THE COLONIAL SOUL!
During the time when I found myself in there (in Tonkin) we did not spend hardly a week without seeing some heads fall.
Of these sights, I have retained but one thing, it is that we are more cruel, more barbaric than the pirates themselves. Why these refinements toward the condemned who are going to die? Why these physical tortures, these processions of prisoners through the villages?
Mr. Doumier, former Governor-0General of Indochina, in a speech during a session of the Chamber of Deputies, his solemn words: “I knew the policemen in the colonies and I even expanded the number of their brigades, after having stated that it was the police force that gave to natives the guarantee of being defended against the possibility of abusive measures taken by certain colonists. The policemen were popular among the natives.
We will see how these gentlemen of the police intend to fabricate “their popularity.” Let us say at once that they are generally very sweet and paternal for criminals, it is an established fact. But for the peaceful natives, it is another story. Without speaking for the moment about the painful affair of the Saigon Central Prison in 1916 where pushed by a highly patriotic zeal, the policemen arrested at random, without rhyme or reason, and the innocents thus arrested were convicted and executed. If the Annamite blood that reddens the Plain of Tombs wears away with time, the broken hearts of widows, of orphans and of mothers will never be healed. The guilty policemen who were the vile instruments were not punished and justice is still not done. Today we are drawing attention only to some particular cases.
A commissioner of Tonkin, under the pretext of maintaining the cleanliness of the gullies, walks all day along the drainage ditches and as soon as he sees the least strand of grass in the water, metes out countless punishments and fines to the unfortunate inhabitants in the area.
To avoid accidents on the waterways that are an alternative to the rivers and canals in the west of Cochinchina, police yachts were installed in each canal with the job of preventing the junks that dashed by too fast or hindered the traffic. With the presence of policemen, it was a veritable lock of fines and tickets that was opened. Almost all the junks that pass in their stretch of water are inflicted with a fine of from one to two piasters. To crushing taxes collected by the state is added the right of pillage established by the “popular” policeman, and the Annamite is happy, very happy!
Besides the promotion that awaits the most zealous, it seems that the gentlemen of the police have the right to a commission of 20% on the product of taxes. What a beautiful system!
A native journal says that “the native population does not want any more French police who are too often a calamity for honest people.”
A certain Mr. Pourcignon threw himself, furious, on an Annamite who had the curiosity and audacity to look for several seconds at the house of the European. He hit him and lastly slaughtered him with a bullet to the head.
A railroad employee hit with a rattan cane a Tonkinese village chief, arrested him, and locked him in a dog cage.
Mr. Beck split the skull of his chauffeur with a punch.
Mr. Bres, entrepreneur, killed by kicking, an Annamite whose arms he had tied, after having him bitten by his dog.
Mr. Deffis, tax collector, killed his Annamite domestic with a formidable kick in the kidneys.
Mr. Henry, mechanic, hears some sound in the street; the door of his residence opens; an Annamite woman enters, pursued by a native. Henry, who believes that the chased individual was his own maid, grabbed a hunting rifle and fired. The individual dropped down dead.
A Frenchman tied his horse in a stable where there was already the mare of a native. The horse reared up, which provoked, in the Frenchman, a blind rage. He hit the native until blood flowed from his mouth and ears. After which he garroted him and hung him from his stairwell.
A missionary (ah yes! A sweet apostle) suspected his native seminarian of having stolen 1,000 piasters from him, he tied him, suspended him from a frame, and hit him. The poor man passed out. He is taken down. When he comes to it starts over. The native is dying. Perhaps he is dead today.
Did the law punish these individuals, these civilizers?
Some have been acquitted and the others have not even been indicted.
Having seen three natives grazing their sheep in his olive grove, a French colonist sent his wife to get a gun and cartridges. He ambushed them in an underwood, fired three times and gravely wounded three natives.
Another French colonist had two native workers in his service, Amdouni and Ben-Belkhir. They had, it seems, a bunch of grapes. The colonist sent for the natives and beat them black and blue with a bull’s penis until they fainted. When they regained consciousness, our protector tied them up, arms in the back, and hung them by their hands. Although the two lost consciousness, this odious torture lasted four hours and did not end until a neighbor protested.
Taken to the hospital, they each had one hand amputated. It is not sure that their other hand can be saved.
An Annamite, 50 years of age, and employed for 25 years by the railroad of Cochinchina, was murdered by a white functionary. Here are the facts:
Lé-Van-Taï had under his command four other Annamites. Their function consisted of closing off access to the train bridge and opening it for the river craft. The order prescribes the closure of the bridge 10 minutes before the trains pass.
On April 2nd, at 4:30 p.m., one of the Annamites had just closed the bridge and lowered the signal. Just at that moment arrived an administrative launch carrying a dockyard official returning from the hunt. The launch whistled. The native employee ran to the middle of the bridge, waving his red flag to make it understood to the officers of the little motor boat that the train was going to come. But then the launch drew alongside a bridge pillar. The functionary jumped on land and headed, with a furious look, toward the Annamite. The latter, prudently, ran off toward the house of his boss, Taï. The functionary chased after him, throwing stones. Hearing the noise, Taï left his house and came before the representative of civilization who shouted at him. “What kind of brute are you? Why didn’t you open?” For his whole answer, Taï, who does not know how to speak French, points to the red flag. This simple gesture exasperated the collaborator of Mr. Long who, without further ado, fell on Taï and after having well “beaten him” pushed him into a fire that was found nearby.
Horribly burned, the annamite barrier-guard was taken to the hospital, where he died after six days of atrocious pain.
The functionary has not been worried. In Marseilles, the official prosperity of Indochina is exhibited; there is death by starvation in Annam. Here one sings of loyalty, there, one assassinates!
Even though the life of an Annamite dog is not worth the smallest coin, for a scratch on the arm Mr. inspector general Reinhart receives 120,000 francs indemnity.
The Moroccan civilization continues under artillery fire.
A commander of Algerian infantry, garrisoned at Settat, in addressing the soldiers, tells them: “It is necessary to be finished with these savages. Morocco is rich in agricultural products and minerals. We, French, civilized, we are here for two objectives: to civilize it and to enrich ourselves.”
He is right, this commanding officer. He has especially the frankness to acknowledge that, if one goes to the colonies, it is to steal from the natives. Because, after only 10 years of being a protectorate, 379,000 hectares of cultivable Moroccan land are occupied by the Europeans, of which 368,000 by French civilizers. The surface of the colony is 815,000 square kilometers, if civilization thus continues its march; in a few years, the unhappy Moroccan will not have more than a thumb of land free to live and work in his own country without suffering the yoke of exploitative and enslaving colonialism.
The Administrative Waste
The budget of Cochinchina, for example, rose to 5,561,680 piasters (12,791,000 francs) for 1911; it was at 7,321,817 piasters (16,840,000 francs) for 1912. In 1922, it climbed to 12,821,325 piasters (96,169,000 francs). A simple calculation shows us that between 1911 and 1922 thee ws a difference of 83,369,000 francs in the budget of this colony. Where does this money go? Quite simply to the expenses of the personnel who swallow almost 100% of the total receipts.
Other follies add to one another for squandering money that the poor Annamite has sweated. We do not yet know the exact number of piasters spent for the ballad of the King of Annam who is in France; but we know that, to await the lucky day, the only place where the Dragon in Bamboo could embark, the steamship Porthos had to be compensated for its 4 day delay at 100,000 francs per day (400,000 francs). Cost of the voyage, 400,000 francs. Cost of the welcome 240,000 (without counting the salaries of the police officers entrusted with observing the Annamites in France). For lodging in Marseilles the Annamite militiamen meant to “present arms” to His Excellency and His Majesty, 77,600 francs.
Since we are in Marseilles, it is to our benefit to see what the colonial exposition has cost us. In the first place, and besides the influential of the capital, one got from the colonies some thirty high civil servants who, while they are having a cocktail at the Cannebière Hotel, draw salaries at the exhibition and in the colonies. Indochina alone has to spend 12 million for this exhibition. And do you know how this money has been spent? Here is an example: the famous reconstruction of the palace of Ankor has required 3,000 cubic meters of construction timber at 400 or 500 francs per meter. Total 1.2 to 1.5 million francs!
Other examples of squandering. To carry Mr. governor-general, the automobiles and luxurious carriages do not suffice: a special railroad car is necessary for him, the fittings of this car costs the treasury 125,250 francs.
In eleven months of discharging its duties, the Economic Agency (?) has burdened the economies of Indochina with a sum of 464,000 francs.
At the colonial school, where future civilizers are made, 44 professors of all categories are subsidized by the state for 30 or 35 students. Several thousand more francs.
The permanent inspection of the colony’s defensive works annually costs the budget 785,168 francs. Now, the gentlemen inspectors have never left Paris and are no more familiar with the colonies than they know the old moon.
If we go to the other colonies, we find the same waste everywhere. To receive an officious “economic” mission, the treasury of Martinique is “relieved” of 40,000 francs. In the space of 10 years, the Moroccan budget went from 17 to 290 million francs, although expenditures of local interest may have been reduced by 30%, that is to say the expenditures which should have benefited the natives!
Upon returning on a visit to the colonies, a former deputy cried out, “The highway robbers are honest people compared to the civil servants of our colonies!” Although being favored with enormous salaries, (a european agent, even illiterate, begins at 200 piasters = 2,000 francs) these gentlemen are never satisfied. They want to take advantage by every means.
The scholastic scholarships have been awarded to young men with influential fathers who, residents or administrators on duty, receive meager salaries (40,000 to 100,000 francs).
Certain meetings of the colonial Council are thus said to be uniquely consecrated to the methodical pillaging of the budget. Such a president, by himself, has almost two million francs worth of work to allocate. Such a director of the Interior who represents the government in the bosom of the Council, asks for and gets his salary doubled. The contract for a road, drawn out from year to year, executed without inspection, receives benefits third. The office of the doctor for colonial civil servants is furnished fourth with genuine salaries. The fifth, is doctor for the municipal services; the sixth, is purvey or paper, public printer. And so on.
If the coffer sounds a little empty, certainly they do not take a long time to refill it. On their own authority, they warn the natives that they need a determined amount. The distribution of charges is made between the villages which hurry to pay up so as not to bring immediate reprisals upon themselves.
When a resident general has any expense to pay, he issues mandarin’s certificates. Someone cites such a province where an operation of that type has been done to the extent of 10,620 francs. And these things are not at all rare.
One of our higher residents, whose credits for his boat were used up a few months too early, was reimbursed for the expenses of I don’t know what party where the king was invited on his boat.
The traveling salesmen of civilization and democracy well know the D system. [Refers to système débrouillard – meaning one who is resourceful at getting out of difficulties by any means necessary.]
A former governor-general of Indochina acknowledged one day that this colony was covered with civil servants too numerous for his budget and often useless.
A good half of these functionaries, writes a colonial, province chiefs or others, do not fulfill except in a very imperfect way, the qualities required of men on whom are conferred so large and formidable powers.
All of them, they are good at wasting public funds, and the poor Annamite fellows pay, always pay. They pay not only the civil servants whose functions are useless, but they pay also employees whose jobs don’t exist! In 19…, 250,000 francs has been thus vaporized.
For moving a Minister, a warship was assigned. The fitting out rose to 250,000 francs, without counting the “pocket money” which cost Indochina more than 80,000 francs for each move.
Mr. governor is not contented with the sumptuous palaces which he inhabits in Saigon and in Hanoi, he has needed a villa on the seacoast. It is again Indochina that “foots the bill”.
In 19… a so-and-so with foreign identification marks came to Saigon, the governor received him in a princely manner. For four days, it was a debauch of festivities, of feasts, of champagne, poor Cochinchina paid the bill: 75,000 francs.
The administrators are little potentates, who like to surround themselves with luxury and sumptuousity to raise, they say, their prestige with respect to the native. One such resident created a company of armed cavaliers to serve as his guard and never goes out without escort. In all the residences, one finds 6 to 11 horses, 5 or 6 carriages: victorias, tilburys, mylords, malabars, etc. To these means of transport, already superfluous, is added luxurious automobiles costing the budget tens of thousands of piasters. A certain administrator even maintained a racing stable.
These gentlemen are lodged, furnished, enlightened at government expense; and more than that, their coachmen, their chauffeurs, their stable hands, their gardeners, in a word their household is paid by the administration.
The literary distractions themselves are furnished for free to these happy people. One such administrator fit in the budget 900 piasters for his heat! And 1,700 piasters of expenses for newspaper subscriptions! Another succeeded in changing by a game of compatibility, the purchase of dresses, of pianos, of toiletries, in buying necessary materials to maintain the residence or other designations of the same genre, to bring the charge to bear on the state budget!
Whether they had been soup merchants or masters in the schools, once arrived in the colonies, our civilizers lead the life of princes. One such administrator uses five or six militiamen to guard his goats. Another had made, by militiamen sculptors, pretty figurines of Buddha or elegant trunks from camphor wood.
Someone cites the case of a brigade inspector to whom the regulations authorized only one militiaman with the title of officer’s servant and who employed:
1 quartermaster sergeant, 1 head waiter, 3 waiters, 2 cooks, 3 gardeners, 1 valet, 1 coachman, and a groom.
And Missus had in her service: 1 tailor, 2 laundrymen, 1 embroiderer, 1 basket maker.
The child had a special boy who never left him.
A witness cites a meal at an administrator’s – an ordinary meal and not a banquet – where each guest had behind him a militiaman to change his plates and pass him the courses. And all the militiamen in the room were put under the direction of a senior quartermaster sergeant.
The Exploitation of the Natives
After having stolen the fertile ground, the French sharks levy on the bad lands the tithe one hundred times more scandalous that the feudal tithes –
Before our occupation, the roll of land taxes carried by category of cultivation all the lands in the villages, public improvements and private improvements. The rate of tax varied from 1 piaster to 50 cents for rice paddies. For the other grounds from 1 piaster and 40 cents to 12 cents. The unit of surface area was the Mau, a square of 150 Thuoc on a side. The length of the Thuoc varied. It was, around the provinces, of 42, 47 and 64 centimeters and the area corresponding to the Mau was 3,970; 4,900 and 6,200 square meters.
To increase the revenues of the State, it takes as a base for all measures a length of 40 centimeters, less than all the units of measurement employed: the area of a Mau is thus fixed at 3,600 square meters. The land tax is increased by that very reason in the proportions which varied with the provinces: a twelfth in certain locations, a third in others, two-thirds in the least favored.
From 1890 to 1896, direct taxes were doubled; from 1896 to 1898, they increased again by half. When an increase was imposed on a village, it resigned itself and paid: to whom could it take its complaints? The success of these operations encouraged the residents to repeat them. In the eyes of many of the French, the docility of the municipality was manifest proof that the measures were not excessive!
The personal tax goes from 14 cents to 2 piasters and 50 cents. The unenrolled, that is to say the young people under 18 years old, who had to pay nothing until then, are hit with a tax of 30 cents, that is to say more than double that which was formerly paid by the enrolled.
After a decree of the senior Resident of Tonkin dated December 11, 1919, all natives aged 18 to 60 years old, are subjected to a single personal tax of 2 piasters and 50 cents.
One requires that each Annamite carry, constantly, his identity card and that he present it at every request. Those who forget or mislay this card, are arrested and imprisoned.
To remedy the decline of the piaster, the governor-general Doumer has simply increased the number of enrolled taxable!
One assigns each year, to each village, a certain number of enrolled, a certain area of land of different categories; does one want additional resources? the numbers are changed during the fiscal year, the villagers are required to pay on a number of taxed, an area of land higher in number and in area than had been given them at the beginning of the fiscal year. It is how in the province of Nam-Dinh (Tonkin) where the total area does not reach 120,000 hectares, the statistics mention 122,000 hectares of rice paddies and the Annamite is forced to pay the tax for lands that do not exist! If they cry, no one hears it.
Not only the taxes are crushing, they change daily.
It is the same way with certain rights of movement. It is impossible, besides, to equitably collect taxes of this kind: someone issues a permit for 150 kilos of tobacco, and fixes it to impose duties several times in succession on this same product, when it will have changed owners, when these 150 kilos will have been divided between three or four different buyers? There are no other rules except the imagination of the customs agents; they inspire such fear that the Annamite, at the sight of them, abandon on the road the basket of salt, of tobacco or betel-nut which he carries: he prefers to give up his goods than pay eternal royalties. In certain regions, one is obliged to tear out the tobacco plants, throw on the ground the areca palms, to no longer endure the difficulties which was going to entail the new tax.
In Louang-Prabang (Laos), the pitiful beggar women loaded with irons are employed in cleaning the streets. They are not guilty of anything other than not having been able to pay.
Devastated by the flood, the province of Bac-Ninh (Tonkin) has been obliged to pay 500,000 piasters of taxes.
You have heard Mr. Maurice Long, governor-general of Indochina, Mr. Albert Sarraut, minister of Colonies and their press – an unbiased press – trumpet the success of the Indochinese loan. Meanwhile, they take good care not to tell you by what means they obtained this success. They are perhaps correct to not divulge their professional secret, and this secret is this: First, one begins by luring the dupes by the baits of perks. As this does not yield enough, the villages are stripped of their communal goods. This is not always enough; then the well-off natives are summoned, they are given a receipt in advance, and they need only extricate themselves by paying the sums written. As the governmental till is large and the native manufacturers and merchants are not numerous, the obligatory looans of those do not at all fill the fathomless bottom of this. Then the constantly borrowing State, taps on the pile of the most abused: one compels two, three, four or several fellows to subscribe in common to one share!
Here, for example, is a trick which our administrators employ for withdrawing money from the pockets of the cai-ao natives.
It was in a Western province, a few weeks before the opening of the Indochinese loan.
The chief of this province brings together all the canton chiefs of his jurisdiction, and after having made an expositor explain to them the terms and conditions of the loan, says to them as a sign of conclusion:
- “There it is, my duty is to give you these explanations.
Seeing then a canton chief standing beside im, the distinguished “quan-lon” [name of a high ranking mandarin pagoda near Hanoi] asked:
- And you, what can you have from your canton?
The poor man, which the question caught off-guard, mumbled a few words to make it understood that he could not give the figures, having not yet seen his administrators to go and make an account of their possibilities.
- Shut your m…. You are not worthy of your office. I dismiss you!
The loan is opened. The governor of Cochinchina, in the course of his rounds, stops at the canton seat and asks the number of subscriptions since last week.
- 73,000 piasters! He is told.
The governor seemed not content with the number, having understood that the province is reputed to be the richest in the east of Cochinchina, and that it did not than that, in the last loans.
After the departure of the chief of the colony, the province chief decides to make his publicity tour in his fief. He sees all the rich natives possessing firearms. To each he gives a number, and, to make it well understood to those concerned that this is not for amusing themselves, he confiscates the gun from them.
- You know, if you do not do it, your arms will not be returned!
And the people do it.
Let us point out in passing that the same administrator spent 30,000 piasters to build a 9 kilometer road which is caving in a nearby canal. We hope that the Transindochina road may have a better fate.
A pagoda was under construction. The labor was furnished by prisoners under the direction of a notable. The sheets of materials, the day workers were regularly noted and regularly paid by the entrepreneurs. But it was Mr. Resident who pocketed the money.
Mr. Resident had just been decorated. To celebrate his decoration, a public subscription was opened. The amounts of the subscriptions were imperatively fixed for civil servants, agents and notables, the minimum was 6 piasters. The sum gathered: 10,000 piasters. A nice rosette [of the Legion of Honor], isnt’ it?
The construction supplies of the wooden bridges and communal schools have left to our upright administrator a little tip of close to 2, 000 piasters.
The registering of the animals is free. Mr. Resident allows his employees to collect from .5 to 5 piasters per head of registered animal. In exchange, he receives form them a monthly rent of 200 piasters.
A faked classification of rice paddies returns in addition to this functionary – now decorated – 4,000 piasters.
An illegal concession of some hectares of ground adds 2,000 piasters to the residential till.
Civilizer, patriot, diehard, Mr. resident has known how to profit amply from the Victory loans: certain villages subscribed to the loan of 1920 – note that we have a loan for every victory and a victory for every year – for 55,900 francs, at the rate of 10 fr. 25 per piaster, makes 5,466 piasters. In 1921, the piaster having fallen to 6 francs, Mr. Resident generously took all these bonds at his expense and reimbursed 5,466 piasters, he received 9,325 piasters later, as a result of the rise.
We call attention to the Official Journal, 1st session of December 22, 1922, the following fact:
“During the war, the African riflemen had sent to their families money orders which, often, made up considerable sums. These money orders have never reached the payee.
A colleague has just pointed out to us quite recently an analogous “phenomenon”. This time, it concerns Réunion. For some months, the inhabitants of the island have been unable to receive any parcels at their intended destination.
“Such a phenomenon, says the journal, surprise at the same time those who send and those who do not receive.
“There have been complaints. There has been an inquiry and this, hardly begun, leads, with the explanation of the mystery, to the discovery of a series of thefts committed with a rather remarkable diligence and steadfastness.
“An employee was arrested, then another, then the head of the department, finally, when all the employees were under lock and key, the director went to rejoin his staff in prison.
“The inquiry revealed every day some new fact. There were more than 125,000 francs worth of stolen packages, the book-keeping was faked and the mess was such, that to succeed in putting the accounts back in order, it might have required more than six months.
“If it is possible to meet, sometimes, a dishonest employee in an administration, it is rare that an entire service, from the top to the bottom of the ladder, are overtaken by the contagion; but what is more strange, is that this whole band of thieves has been able to operate for several years without being worried.”
On the occasion of the debate of the draft law related to the expenses of the air force, expenditures for which the colonies, that is to say the natives, are obliged to fork over (Indochina 375,000 francs, Occidental Africa 100,000 francs), Mr. Morinaud, deputy of Algeria, has said this:
“On this occasion, you permit me, my dear colleagues, after all the congratulations which have been directed to them, of which that of the Times, which has called this act miraculous, to bring in our turn a token of our admiration for the valiant French who have just accomplished such a fine feat of arms, compliments which deserve to be shared by Mr. Citroën, unselfish industrialist, who did not hesitate to supply them with the financial and technical means. (Applause.)
“What has happened in the days after this great event? It is that the military posts that we have in the South of Algeria have immediately ordered these unequaled means of transport for the Sahara, which are called half-track vehicles.
“The posts of Touggourt and of Ouargla - this information was given to me in the past few days by the governor of Algeria – have just ordered two of them.
“All of our other forts are, evidently, going to be rapidly provided with them.
“It is necessary, shortly, to show off some four or five more, in such a manner that they follow every 200 kilometers.
“New posts will be created accordingly. They will immediately command the half-tracks. Thus, all the Saharan forts will easily communicate between themselves. They will be able to assure their resupply from post to post with astonishing ease. They will regularly receive their mail. (Applause.)
(From the Official Journal, Jan. 22, 1923.)
The forced labor is not used only to neaten up around the residences and public walks for the pleasure of some Europeans, the forced laborers, always at the mercy of the residents, also perform more arduous labor.
At the announcement alone of the minister of colonies’ trip to Indochina, 10,000 men were raised to complete the line of V. L., which they wanted him to dedicate.
During the summer of 18.., some time before the famine which desolated the center of Annam, 10,000 Annamites, led by the mayors of their villages, were requisitioned to dredge a canal. A good part of this enormous manpower was without work; it was kept just the same during those months, far from the rice paddies, at the time when the presence of so many idle arms would have been indispensable in the fields. It is necessary to remark that such an army has never gathered when it concerned warding off a public disaster; at the end of 18…, most of the unfortunates who perished from hunger would have been saved, if someone had organized, a transport service from Tourane for supplying the areas where the famine was rampant; the 10,000 Annamites of the canal would have been able, in a month, to distribute in their provinces 2,000 tons of rice.
The work on the Tourane road and those of Tran-Ninh and of Ai-Lao leaves painful memories. The forced laborers had to travel, before arriving at the construction sites, one hundred kilometers. Then they were lodged in deplorable straw huts. No hygiene; disorganized health service; on the road no relief, no shelter. They received an insufficient ration of rice, a little dried fish, and frank unwholesome water and feared the mountain. The illnesses, the fatigue, the bad treatment induced a tremendous death rate.
If the forced laborers are replaced by requisitions, there is only one difference between the two systems, it is that the duration of the forced labor is limited and that of requisitions is not. Both satisfy all the needs: if customs wants to transport salt, it requisitions the boats, does it need to build a warehouse, it requisitions workers and materials at the same time.
The requisition above all is a poorly disguised deportation. Without taking into account agricultural work, religious festivals, it drains the entire community to the work site. It does not take anything but a weak party and, furthermore, nothing is done to assure these return.
On route to Lanabion, on route to the mountain where death waits for them, nourished with parsimony, spending even the days without living, forced laborers or requisitioned, by entire convoys, relaxed or rebelled, bringing about a terrible repression on the part of the guards and strewing the road with their corpses?
The administration of Quangchou-Wan received the government instructions for recruiting. On this occasion, all the natives who worked on the piers were seized. They were tied up and thrown in the convoy ship.
The inhabitants of Laos, the miserable aboriginals, live in perpetual fear of forced labor. When the recruitment officers arrive before the huts, they find the huts empty.
At Thydau-Mot, an administrator thinks that he needs a compression roller. What does he do? He comes to an understanding with the licensed firm which finds cheap manual labor. The firm buys the roller and delivers it to the administrator for the price of 13,500 francs. The administrator imposes a corvée [a day of unpaid labor]on his jurisdiction for the benefit of the firm, in agreeing that the day of a forced laborer was worth 50 cents. For three years, the inhabitants of Thydau are put at the disposal of this firm and paid in forced labor for the roller that it has pleased Mr. Administrator to buy for his garden.
In another place, the forced laborers, their day finished, were required to transport for free, over a distance of one kilometer, the rocks destined to construct the wall to surround the administrator’s mansion.
At all hours, the Annamite can thus be taken away, compelled to do the worst jobs, malnourished, badly paid, requisitioned for limitless time, abandoned a hundred kilometers from his village.
The Annamites, in general, are crushed by the benefits of the french protection. The annamie peasants, in particular, are even more hatefully crushed by this protection: they are oppressed as Annamites; they are expropriated as peasants. It is they who are the forced laborers, they who produce for the entire band of parasites, of civilizers and others. It is they who live in misery when there is abundance at their executioners; and die of starvation when there is a bad harvest. They are robbed on all sides, in every way, but the administration, by the modern feudal system, by the Church. It times past, under Annamite rule, the land was classified in several categories, according to their productive capacity. The tax was based on that classification. Under current colonial rule, it is changed. When it wants to find money, the french Administration simply modifies the categories. By a magic stroke of the pen, it transforms a poor land into a fertile land.
That is not all. It artificially increases the surface area of the land by reducing the unit of measure. By this act, the tax is automatically increased up to one-third in certain places, two-thirds in others. This does not suffice to appease the voracity of the protector State which increases the taxes from year to year. Thus, from 1890 to 1896, the taxes have doubled. They have increased again by half from 1896 to 1898, and so on. The Annamites tire of always being fleeced, and, encouraged by the success of these operations, our protectors continue their speculation.
In 1895, the administrator of a province of Tonkin skinned a village of several hectares for the benefit of another village, catholic that one. The dispossessed made complaints. They were put in prison. Don’t believe that the administrative cynicism stopped there. It still obliged the unfortunate skinned to pay until 1910 the taxes on the lands that were taken from them in 1895!
After the thieving Administration, comes the thieving concessionaires. One gives to Europeans who have only a big belly and white skin, concessions whose extent frequently surpass 20,000 hectares.
These concessions are founded, for the most part, on the legalized thefts. During the conquest, the annamite peasants – like the Alsacians in 1870 – had abandoned their lands to take refuge in the part of the country left free. When they returned their lands were “concessioned”. Entire villages have been thus despoiled, and the natives have been reduced to working for the lords of the modern feudal system which appropriates sometimes up to 90% of the crop.
Under the pretext of encouraging the colonization, a large number of big grant holders are exempt from the land tax.
After having obtained the ground for free, the concessionaires obtain for free, or almost, the manpower. The administration supplies them a certain number of convicts who work for nothing, or at least it uses its influence to recruit for them the workers to whom starvation wages are given. If the workers do not become numerous enough, or if they are not content, there is recourse to violence; the concessionaires seize the mayors and the notables of the villages, beat them, and torture them until they may have signed a contract pledging them to supply the number of workers desired.
Besides this temporal power, there are the spiritual saviors who, while preaching to the Annamites the virtue of poverty, do not seek less than to enrich themselves with the sweat and the blood of the natives. Only in Cochinchina, the Saint Apostolic Mission owns by itself the 1/5th of rice paddies of the province. Although it was not taught by the Bible, the means of acquiring these lands is very simple: it is usury and corruption. The Mission benefits from bad harvests for lending money to the peasants they are obliged to pledge their lands as a guarantee for it. The rate of interest being usurious, the Annamites can not repay by the due date; then the pledged lands belong permanently to the Mission.
The more or less generous governors, to whom the mother country has confided the destinies of Indochina, are generally the ignorant or the dissolute. It is enough for the Mission to have some of these secret papers, personal, compromising, to frighten the sparrows and to obtain from everything it desires. This is how a governor general granted to the Mission 7,000 hectares of riverside land belonging to the natives who are condemned, promptly, to begging.
By this brief glimpse, one sees that, under the mask of democracy, French imperialism had transplanted in the country of Annam, the accursed rule of the middle ages, and that the annamite peasant is crucified, by the bayonet of capitalist civilization and by the cross of prostituted Christianity.
Algeria suffers from famine. Here is how Tunisia is ravaged by the same scourge. To remedy this situation, the Administration has arrested and imprisoned a large number of starving. And in order that the “down and out” do not take the prison for a shelter, they are not given anything to eat. There are some who die of starvation during the imprisonment. In the caves of El Ghiria, the hungry nibble at the carcass of a donkey dead for several days.
In Beja, the Khammes [a kind of sharecropper who receive a small portion of the crop, usually one-fifth] quarrel like crows over animal corpses.
In Souk El Arba, in Ghida, in Oued Mlize, the natives die of hunger every day, by dozens.
With the famine, typhus breaks out in several regions and threatens to spread.
To hide the ugliness of its criminally exploitative rule, colonial capitalism always decorates its rotten coat of arms with an idealistic motto: Fraternity, equality, etc.
In the same workshop and for the same work, the white worker is several times better paid than his colored brother.
In the administrations, the natives, in spite of their length of service and in spite of recognized fitness, receive starvation wages, while a white who has recently had strings pulled for him receives a high salary for doing less work.
The young natives, having done their studies at the universities of the mother country and obtained their doctorates in medicine or in law, can not practice their profession in their own country if they are not naturalized and heaven knows what difficulties the native encounters, what humiliating steps he must carry out before obtaining naturalization.)
Torn away from their land, from their homes, regimented by force as “volunteers”, the militarized natives are not long in savoring the exquisite “equality”.
At the same rank of the native, the white is almost always considered a superior. This “ethno-military” hierarchy is even more striking when the white soldiers and colored soldiers travel together in a train or on a boat.
How can a native become naturalized?
The statute of March 25, 1915, relating to the acquisition of the qualification of French citizen by the French subjects, tells us this:
Art. 1st – To be allowed to be, after the age of 21 years old, admitted to the enjoyment of the rights of a French citizen the subjects or French protected, not natives of Algeria, of Tunisia or of Morocco, who has settled their resident in France, in Algeria or in a country put under the protectorate of the Republic and who has satisfied one of the following conditions:
1st Have gotten the cross of the Legion of Honor or one of the university or professional degrees of which the list will be decided by decree.
2nd Have rendered significant services for the colonization or for the interests of France.
3rd Have served in the French army and there have acquired either the rank of officer or non-commissioned officer, or the military medal.
4th Have married a French woman and have one year of residency.
5th Have lived more than ten years in the said countries and to possess a sufficient knowledge of the French language.
In spite of the insufficiency of this law, I have nothing to say against it if it applied sincerely; but no, Misters the civil servants sit up above them and, like nosy imbeciles, they oblige the candidates for naturalization, to respond in writing to the following questions:
A – Your wife and children, do they speak French?
B – Do they dress like a European?
C – Do you have furniture at hour house?
D – And chairs?
E – Do you eat at the table or on the mat?
F – What do you eat?
G – Do you eat rice or bread?
H – Do you have property?
I – And your wife?
J – What is the income of your profession?
K – Your religion?
L – What societies do you belong to?
N – What are your functions in these societies?
O – Why are you asking for naturalization, the regulation of natives being good and pleasant. Is it to be a civil servant? To become big? Or to prospect for gold and jewels?
P – Who are your most intimate friends?
A little more, and these gentlemen will ask us if our wife made l… to us?
Is it true that, from excessive humanitarian sentiments, many times proclaimed by Mr. Sarraut, they have, in the prison of Nha-Trang (Annam), put the inmates on a dry diet, that is to say that they are deprived of water for meals? Is it true that they have painted the noses of detainees with tincture of iodine to make them more easily recognizable in case of escape?
On the subject of the precautions taken to combat the “plague” the July 13, 1921 Independent of Madagascar, published a report whose excerpts follows:
A number of huts have been burned, notably a rather pretty one, last Monday, that of Rakotomanga on Gallieni Street. The hut of Mr. Desraux, was not of the same sort, its estimated value too high, with all it contained (50,000 francs); in consequence, it was decided that it would be simply disinfected, and that it would be forbidden to live in it for a rather long time, 6 months we believe.”
We add that Mr. Desraux is a French citizen while Rakotomanga is a subject because of being a native. We recall in our reading that the law of 1841 has been passed for all French countrymen.
In Madagascar, six natives are arrested on the concession of a colonist for not having paid their taxes. In court, the prisoners declare that the colonist who employed them, Mr. de la Roche, had promised them: 1st to pay their taxes; 2nd to have them exempted from performance of public forced labor, and 3rd to give them 10 francs in salary for 30 days of work. It is remarked that this colonist employed them for only one day a week. To provide for their needs, these natives imagine they are obliged to go to work for the Malagachians in the vicinity of the concession. On the other hand, Mr. de la Roche not only did not pay their taxes, like he had promised, but even has, it seems, kept the money which these natives had given him to pay off these taxes.
The administration, for once, started an investigation. But you will see…
Acquainted with the affair, the agricultural Association of Mahanoro, of which Mr. de la Roche is probably a member, telegraphs the governor general to protest against the inopportune police raid on the property of Mr. de la Roche and to ask for a sanction against the head of the station, as if the crime was to have discovered the abuses committed by a Frenchman to the detriment of the natives.
The governor general, to not “be at loggerheads” simply and solely stifled the scandal.
The Council of war in Lille has just condemned to 20 years of hard labor Von Scheven, a german officer, who, during the occupation, horsewhipped the natives of Roncq.
But why, in Indochina, this French gentleman who slaughters an Annamite with a pistol shot in the head; this French functionary who locks a Tonkinese in a dog house, after having ferociously “beaten” him; this French entrepreneur who kills a cochinchinese after having tied his arms and having him bitten by his dog; this French mechanic who “drops” an Annamite with a hunting rifle; this French naval employee who killed a native barrier guard by pushing him in a coal fire, etc., etc. Why are they not punished?
And why these young gentlemen from Algiers who, after having pistol whipped and kicked a small 13 year old native have impaled him on one of the pikes which surround “the tree of victory,” they could only think of “inflicting” a penalty of 8 days in prison – suspended?
And why do the N.C.O. who horsewhipped Nahon, and the officer who killed him remain unpunished?
It is true that Annam and Algeria are conquered countries – like Roncq has been; but that the French of these countries are not the “Boches” and that which is criminal for the latter is an act of civilization when it is committed by the former, and finally that the Annamite and the Algerian are not men; they are the dirty “nhaques” and dirty “arabs”. There is no justice for them.
The ironic Vigne d’Octon is not mistaken when he writes: “The law, justice for the native? Nonsense! The stick, the revolver and the rifle, that’s all that it deserves, this vermin!”
In the arsenal, terribly provisioned, the penalties are made to weigh on the head of the natives, one finds the fines can go from 200 to 3,000 piasters.
Mr. Doumer is not unaware that the Annamites will never be able to pay such sums; nevertheless, he wants to make money at all cost, and this clever man provides that the villages will be made responsible. (Article 4)
To condemn a whole village, it should be necessary, I tell you, to establish its complicity.
By no means, with Article 4, this is not necessary. Being responsible for an individual offense, the whole village would not have known how to prevent this offense.
This article 4 is of a diabolical ability, because it is adequate for the farm tax agents, paid to bring the most infractions possible, to declare that the village did nothing to prevent such infraction.
Title III regulates the mode of verifying the infractions that the farm tax agents have the power to cite.
But there is a snag. Most often these agents are illiterates, draw up irregular police reports. One prevents this inconvenience in having the police reports drawn-up by the customs agents of the province capital, on the basis of reports prepared by the farm tax agents.
Indochina is a darling daughter. She deserves good from mother France. She has everything that there is there: its government, its wages, its justice and also its small conspiracy. We will speak only about the two last ones.
Justice is represented by a good woman with the balance in one hand and the sword in the other. As the distance between Indochina and France is large, so large that, arriving there, the balance loses its equilibrium and the trays are melted and transformed into opium pipes or into official bottles of alcohol, nothing remains to the poor woman but the sword to strike. She strikes even the innocents, and especially the innocents.
As for conspiracy, that’s another story.
We are not going to speak about the famous plots of 1908 and 1916 thanks to which a good number of French protected have been able to taste the benefits of civilization on the scaffold, in the prisons or in exile; these plots are already old and leave no trace but in the memory of the natives.
Let’s talk only about the most recent conspiracy. Even when the mother country had the overwhelming Bolshevist conspiracy, the gentlemen colonists of Indochina – like the frog in the fable5 – wanting themselves a conspiracy also, inflated one themselves and ended by having one. [5 LaFontaine’s fable of the frog that wanted to be as big as an Ox. The frog inflated itself so much in the attempt, that it exploded.]
Here is how they prayed for it.
A French mandarin (resident of France, if you please), an annamite sub-prefect and a native mayor are charged with fabricating a conspiracy.
The administrative trinity spread the rumor that the conspirators had concealed two hundred fifty bombs intended to explode all over the country of Tonkin.
But on the 16th of February, the Criminal Court of Hanoi acknowledged that not only the existence of a revolutionary organization setting destructive devices was not by any means established; but that the plot was simply a provocative maneuver by government agents desirous of getting administrative favors for themselves.
Do you believe that after this arrest the incarcerated Annamites were released. No! It is necessary at all costs to protect the prestige of the conquerors? For that, instead of simply decorating the clever inventors of the affair, one condemns, to 2 to 5 years in prison, 12 Annamites, most of them literate and, on the door of this prison, one reads – in French, of course – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
And the said native-loving newspapers hurry to sing of the impartiality of this caricature of justice!
Listen rather to the Colonial Dispatch which holds the championship of Annamite hating: “French justice has just given her verdict. It is an acquittal for half the accused and light sentences for the other half…Convicted were the literate who had, in bad occasional verse, extolled the benefits of liberty.
You see, it is a veritable crime for the Annamites to sing of the benefits of liberty and one throws them into jail for five years, for nothing more than that!
“It is necessary, continues the same newspaper, it is necessary to be glad of the highly impartial verdict of our judges and juries, etc.”
And in addition, the Colonail Dispatch has recorded, with joy, the highly impartial verdict of French justice in the affair of the famous Viuh-Yên plot. The Annamites of Paris have, like their distant compatriots, shown their confidence in our judges and have declared that they were right and that the affair in question ends to their complete satisfaction. No, Mr. Pouvourville, you poke fun a little too strongly.
The newspaper France-Indochina has called attention to the following fact:
“A few days ago, the house of Sauvage reported to the security service the disappearance of his staff, of a large quantity of iron, about a ton. From the receipt of the complaint, our police were immediately put to the task of discovering the perpetrators of this theft, and we learn with pleasure that a European inspector of security aided by some native agents have just laid their hands on the thieves as well as on their accomplice.
“Mr. S…, running Sauvage’s house, as well as those named Trâvan-Loc, apprentice mechanic, and Trânvan-Xa, have been apprehended and brought into court for theft and complicity…”
Did you notice the extreme delicacy of our colleague? When it concerns Mr. French thief, running Sauvage hourse, his name is kept secret, it is replaced with points of suspension. The prestige of the superior race must be saved before all. But for the vulgar Annamite thieves, their name and first name is cited, and it is no more M…, these are the “named”.
By the decree dated October 10, 1922, the government has just carried out an important change in the colonial magistrature. We notice there, between other names, those of Misters Lucas and Wabrand.
It is suitable to relate in a few words the story of these two magistrates.
Mr. Lucas, who was at that time appointed attorney general in french occidental Africa, is the same of who there was a question on the occasion of recent scandals in Togo. In a release to the press, the minister of Colonies has been obliged to declare that “the inquiry brought out equally that the participation of Mr. Lucas in the affair should weigh on this magistrate the HEAVIEST RESPONSIBILITIES.”
It is probably to compensate for these heavy responsibilities that he today bombards the presiding judge of the appeals Court of French European Africa.
As for Wabrand, his story is simpler and less known. In 1920, a Frenchman, named Durgrie, agent of the firm of Peyrissac, in Kankan (Guinea), went hunting. He shot down a bird which fell in a river. A little native boy happened to pass by there. Durgrie caught him and threw him in the river, giving him the order to go and find the game. The water was deep, the waves strong. The child, not knowing how to swim, drowned. The parents of the victim lodged a complaint. Durgrie, summoned by the commander of the group, consents to give one hundred francs to the weeping family.
The unhappy parents refused this infamous deal. Mr. Commander, angered, took the side of his compatriot, the murderer, and threatened the parents with putting them in prison if they persisted in pursuing the assassin, then he “closes” the case.
In the meantime, an anonymous letter exposed the fact to the attorney general in Dakar. This high magistrate sent the public prosecutor Wabrand to conduct an investigation. Mr. Wabrand came to Kankan, spent the evening at the station master’s and the following day at Mr. de Cousin de Lavallière’s, assistant to the group commander. He left the following day, without having even started his inquiry. This did not prevent Mr. Wabrand from concluding that the denunciation was slanderous. The Intercolonial Union has called the fact to the attention of the League of the Rights of Man (22 December 1921), but they, considering perhaps that the affair is not sensational enough, is not interested in it any more.
Since his visit to Kankan, Mr. Wabrand remains calmly at his post, receiving the chickens and the sacks of potatoes sent by his friend de Cousin de Lavallière, while waiting for the promotion. As you see, Mr. Wabrand has well deserved the … just reward that the government has just accorded him in naming him public prosecutor in Dakar (?).
With the Darles and the Beaudoins, the Wabrands and the Lucases, the superior civilization is in good hands and the lot of the colonial natives also.
The court of summary jurisdiction has just given out 13 months in prison to Fernand Esselin and the widow Gere, and 10 months of the same punishment to George Cordier, for having possessed, transported and sold a kilo of “coco” or opium.
Very good. And that amounts to – by a simple calculation – 36 months in prison for 1 kilo of drug!
It was necessary therefore – if justice was equal for all, as it is said – that the life of Mr. Sarraut, governor general of Indochina, be tremendously long so he may be able to pay his entire penalty; because he should have to do at least one million three hundred fifty thousand (1,350,000) months in prison each year, because every year he sells to the Annamites more than one hundred fifty thousand kils of opium.
Incapable of getting rid of the famous Dê-Tham, not having succeeded either in killing him, nor in making him disappear by poisoning or dynamite, they have had disinterred the remains of his parents and thrown them in a river.
After the demonstrations of South-Annam, several scholars have been condemned to death or exile. Among others, Doctor Tan-qui-Cap, distinguished scholar and venerated by the whole world, was arrested at his post of professor and, without having been interrogated, was decapitated twenty-four hours later. The Administration refused to return his body to his family.
In Haiduong, as a result of a riot which had no victims at all, sixty-four heads were made to fall without trial.
At the time of the execution of the riflemen in Hanoi, the Administration brought by force their fathers, their mothers and their children to make them attend this solemn butchery of the beings who are dear to them. To prolong the impression and to “give a lesson to the population” it has repeated what has been in the eighteenth century, in England, when one planted on the pikes, in the streets of the City or on London Bridge, the heads of the defeated Jacobites. For weeks, one has been able to see on the principal routes of Hanoi, grimacing on the bamboo pikes, the heads of the victims of the French repression.
Overwhelmed with ruinous charges and exposed to numerous vexations, the Annamites of the Center demonstrated, in 1908. In spite of the entirely peaceful character of these demonstrations, they have been curbed without any pity, there were some hundreds of heads cut off and mass deportation.
Everything possible is done to arm the Annamite against their own and to provoke treason.
Villages are declared responsible for disorders which take place on their territory. The whole village which gives shelter to a patriot is blamed. To obtain information, the process, - always the same – is simple: one interrogates the mayor and the notables, those who hold their tongue are executed on the spot. IN TWO WEEKS, A MILITARY INSPECTOR EXECUTED SEVENTY-FIVE NOTABLES!
Not a moment was taken to distinguish the patriots who fought in despair from the rabble of the towns. To destroy the resistance, no other means are seen than to entrust the “pacification” to treacherous betrayers of our cause, and who undertake in the Delta, in Binh-Thuan, in Nge-Tinh, these terrible columns of police whose hideous remembrance remains forever in the memory.
During the pacification, the ministers of God did not remain inactive. Like the brigands who lie in wait for the panic of the people to indulge in looting after burning, our missionaries have benefited from the disorganization of the country after the conquest to… serve the Lord. Some betrayed the secret confessional and delivered the Annamite patriots to the guillotine or execution post of the conquerors. Others went out in the country to impress some forced proselytes. Such a priest, “the feet and legs naked, the pants rolled up to his buttocks, the belly girded with a belt full of cartridges, the rifle on his shoulder and the revolver in the small of his back, walked at the head of his flock armed with spears, with machetes and with a pump rifle; it is in this manner that he made proselytism with armed hand, supported by our troops which he guided in the pagan villages pointed out by him as rebels.”
` After the expedition of Peking, Monsignor Favier, apostolic bishop and knight of the Legion of Honor, had pocketed to himself alone a sum of 600,000 francs, product of pillage. “In front of the palace of prince Ly, wrote an eyewitness, arrives a long convoy of carts and conveyances, under the direction of Monsignor Favier, escorted by 3 to 400 Christians, as well as the French soldiers and seamen.
They become furniture movers in the interest of Heaven!... The work finished, soldiers and sailors each receive a check of 200 francs, drawn on the Congregation of Saint-Vincent de Paul.” In an official report, we read this formal accusation: “The dikes of discipline are underhandedly broken by the example of collective pillaging under the direction of Monsignor Favier.”
Naturally, Mgr. Favier was not alone in evangelizing of the sort. He had emulators. “Since the lifting of the siege, he wrote, the missionaries escorted the soldiers in the bankers houses which they knew and where gold ingots were deposited: they were accompanied by their students or by the converted Chinese who accomplished the pious work in helping to rob their countrymen and in procuring for the good Fathers the money necessary for the saints’ use.”
It would take too long to tell here all the satanic acts committed by these deserving disciples of the Compassionate. We cite in passing this priest who has detained, canned, tied to a post of his office a small native boy, knocked around, hit, threatened his master with a revolver, a European, who came to reclaim the small martyrized. Another has sold a native catholic girl to a European for 300 francs. Another hit half to death a native seminarian. When the village of the native victim, wanted, in waiting for divine Justice, to bring a complaint against the brute – pardon, I meant to say against the reverent father, - human justice forewarns the naïve plaintiffs in these terms: “Attention! My children, no stories, otherwise…” Monsignor M… did he not declare that French instruction is dangerous for the Annamites: and Monsignor P.., that God knew well what he did in using the switch on the side of the Annamites’ r…umps?
If paradise existed, it would really be too confined to accommodate all these brave colonial apostles; and if the unfortunate Christ crucified had returned to this world, he would be disgusted to see the manner in which his “faithful servants” observe the holy poverty: The catholic mission in Siam owns 1/3rd of the cultivable land of the country. That of Cochinchina, 1/5th. That of Tonkin ¼, only in Hanoi, plus a small fortune of close to 10 million francs. It is useless to say that the largest part of these goods are acquired by unacknowledgeable and unavowed means.
“That which the colonist does in aid of the State, wrote colonel B., the missionary does in spite of the State. Beside the domain of the planter forms the domain of the church. Soon there will not be a corner of available land where the Annamite may be able to establish himself, work and live, without resigning himself to be nothing but a serf!”
God is good and all-powerful. Sovereign fabricator, he has created a race said superior to foist it on another race said inferior, created, it also, by Him. This is why, the whole civilizing mission – whether it is intended for the Antilles, for Madagascar, for Indochina, for Tahiti – has always like a tug boat a mission called evangelization. We know, for example, that it was under the instigation of Their colonial Eminences, supported by the wife of Napoleon III, that the Tonkin expedition was decided. And what had they done, their Eminences? They had benefited from Annamite hospitality to purloin military secrets, to map out the area, and to communicate it to the expeditionary force. We do not know how this conduct is called in latin, but in vulgar French, it is called espionage.
As the F. Garniers, the H. Rivières and their associates did not know the country and were ignorant of the native language, the missionaries served them as interpreters and guides. In those roles, the holy men did not fail to put in practice Christian pity. Such a priest said to the soldiers: “Burn this village, it has not paid us the taxes”, or “Spare this other, it is subject to Us.” (Gl. B.)
The colonial clergy has been not only the responsible for colonial wars, but in addition the continuers, the diehards, distaining “pre-mature” peace. In a report to the Admiralty, the admiral R. de Renouilly wrote: “I want to find a way to establish relations with the Annamite authorities with the goal of concluding a peace treaty, but we encounter very great difficulties created by the missionaries… A treaty with the Annamites as advantageous as it would be, would not satisfy the desires of these Gentlemen; they aspire to the complete conquest of the country and the overthrow of the dynasty. Monsignor Pellegrin has proclaimed it many times, and I have found the same ideas in Monsignor Lefèvre.”
Was this for patriotism? No, because further on, the admiral declares that “the clergymen who operated in Cochinchina sacrifice the interest of France to their particular views.”
The following anecdote will illustrate this declaration:
The king of Ham-Nghi has left his capital occupied by the French. With his partisans, he besieges a village which defends the Christians, of which six are missionaries. Forewarned, a French general asks a priest to lend him some junks to carry the troops to the relief of the besieged. The priest refuses, on the pretext that all the junks have gone fishing, at sea, and would not be returning until three or four days later. Upon inquiry, the general understands that the priest has made the junks leave on purpose so that the relief troops could not be able to leave. Then he sends for the priest and tells him: “If I don’t have my junks in six hours, I will have you shot.” The junks arrived, the general asks of the Reverend Father: “Why did you lie? – My general, if you would arrive after the massacre of the missionaries, we would have six more martyrs to beatify.”
Such are the evangelical actions that our “Fathers” strive to do every day, and always in His name.
The Martyrdom of the Native Women
According to that which we have related in these preceding pages, one has been able to see in what manner the Annamite woman is “protected” by our civilizers. Nowhere is she sheltered from brutality. In town in her house, in the market or in the country, everywhere she is the object of bad treatments of the administrator, of the officer, of the policeman, of the customs agent and of the railroad station employee. It is not at all rare to hear about a European treating an Annamite woman as a con-dhi (prostitute) or as a bouzou (monkey). Even in the central market of Saigon, in the French quarter, one says, the European guardians do not hesitate to strike the native women with hits of a black-jack or of a bludgeon to make them move!
We would have been able to multiply these sad examples to infinity, but the facts already cited suffice, we hope, to edify our sisters in the mother country on the misery and oppression which the unfortunate annamite woman suffers. Let us now see if the native women of the other colonies – equally under the protection of the mother-country – is better respected.
In Fedg-M’Zala (Algeria), a native has been sentenced to one year of imprisonment for theft. The condemned escaped. A detachment commanded by a lieutenant was sent to corner the Arab. After meticulous searches, the escapee was not found. Then, 35 women belonging to his family and to his relations were brought together. Among them were little girls of 12 years old, grandmothers of 70, pregnant women and women still suckling their children. Under the benevolent eye of the lieutenant and of the supervening administrator, each soldier took hold of a woman. The notables, the heads of the religious confraternity were forced to attend this spectacle. It was to make an impression on them, it is said. After which, the house is demolished, the livestock was carried away, the women were stuffed in a building where they were watched over by their tormentors themselves and where the same sadistic acts recurred during more than a month.
Someone said: “Colonialism, it is a theft.” We add: a rape and an assassination.
Under the title “Colonial Bandits”, Victor Meric has related to us the incredible cruelty of this colonial administrator who did pour rubber into the sexual parts of a Negress. After which, he made her carry an enormous rock on her head, in the blazing sun, until death followed.
This sadistic functionary continues today the course of his exploits in another district.
Acts as odious are unfortunately not rare in what the good press calls “Overseas France.”
In March 1922, an agent of customs and excise of Baria (Cochinchina) has nearly sent from this life an Annamite, salt carrier; on the pretext that she had disturbed his nap, in kicking up a row under the proch of the house which he inhabited.
The most beautiful part is that this woman has been threatened with being sent back into the bush where she worked if she made a complaint.
In April, another agent of customs and excise, who succeeded the first, made himself worthy of his predecessor by his brutalities.
An old Annamite, carrier of salt also, had had a discussion on the subject of a deduction from her salary, with her supervisor. This one complained about it to the customs agent. The latter, without further ceremony, administered to the porter two formidable slaps. And while the old woman bent over to pick up her hat, the civilizer gave her a violent kick in the lower part of the abdomen, which immediately induced an abundant discharge of blood.
She fell, inanimate; but the collaborator of Mr. Sarraut, instead of picking her up, sent for the village chief and ordered him to take away the injured person. The notable refused. Then the agent sent for the husband of the victim, who was blind and gave him the order to take away his bride.
Would you like to bet, like their colleagues the administrator of Arfica, our two customs and excise agents have not been worried. They are even due to receive the promotion.
The small natives of Algiers are hungry. To have enough to eat, the youngsters of six or seven years old become boot blacks or bread basket carriers in the market.
The colonial and civilizer government, thinks that these small pariahs earn too much. It requires each one of them to have a notebook bearing the holder’s name and to pay a license fee of 1 fr 50 to 2 francs per month.
Workers of the mother country who protest against the iniquitous tax on the salary, what do you think of this odious tax?
Before the war, sugar, in Martinique, sold for 280 francs the ton; rum, 35 francs the hectoliter.
Today, the first sells for 3,000 francs and the second for 400 francs.
The business owner thus realizes a profit of 1000%.
The worker earned, before the war, 3 francs per day. Today, he ears 3 fr 75 to 4 francs per day.
The increase in salaries then reaches hardly 30%.
The cost of living has risen at least 300%.
Add to this scandalous disproportion the decline of purchasing power of the franc and you will have an idea of the misery of the native worker.
In the month of February 1923, on account of the refusal of the business owners to raise salaries, the workers went on strike.
Like everywhere, and in the colonies more than elsewhere, the employers do not hesitate at all to spill the blood of the worker. That is how, during this strike, two young workers from Martinique, one 18 years old and the other 19 years old, have been murdered in a cowardly manner.
The ferocity of the employers has not spared neither children, nor women. Here is what we have told The Pariah in its edition of May 1923:
“The bias of the authorities is obviously against the workers. All those who have refused to work at the price offered by the proprietors are denounced, arrested, searched by the police, who have everywhere showed the greatest malevolence toward the unfortunate.”
Thus, the day before yesterday, two policemen went to gather, at the Almshouse of the Trinity, a woman, Louise Lubin, who had had two thighs wounded by bullets, the 9th of February, at the time of the execution of Bassignac. She is thrown in prison on the pretext that “by way of deeds or threats, she would have cast aspersions on the liberty of work.”
“But, this is certain, it is that the poor woman could not walk, and the policeman meant to lead by foot for 32 kilometers from there, before Mr. examining magistrate.
“At the moment when she had been arrested, it was five or six days that the doctor, who lived in Fort-de-France, 32 kilometers from there, had not visited her.
“Who then has given the dismissal, since this mother of three children, incarcerated, declares that she is not healed, that she remains disabled and that she can not walk?
“I have cited this fact beside many others, as revolting, which recur a little everywhere in the colony.
“During the strike, on certain property, the “employed” workers were forced to work under the surveillance of policemen and marine-riflemen, just like in the era of slavery.
We read in a newspaper:
“In Constantine (Algeria), troops of meskines (derogatory term for arab from nearby Ait el Meskine, Morocco) circulate and beg. One of these unfortunate women died near the Bridge of El-Kantara, her child in her arms.
“From Boghari to Djelfa, the trains are assailed by the old people, the children and the women, carrying babies in their arms, asking for charity.
“They have a skeletal appearance, covered with rags. They are prevented from approaching the railroad stations.”
It is a sad irony that civilization – symbolized in its different forms, liberty, justice, etc…, by the sweet image of the woman and arranged by class of men who pride themselves on gallantry – inflict on their living emblem the most ignoble treatments and attain it shamefully in their morals, in their sense of decency and in their life.
The colonial sadism is of an incredible frequency and cruelty, but we content ourselves to relate here the few facts which have been seen and told by witnesses not suspected of partiality, and which will permit our Western sisters to understand the worth of the “civilizing mission” and the suffering of their sisters in the colonies.
“Upon the arrival of soldiers, tells a colonial, the population had fled, the only ones who remained were two old people, a young girl and a woman suckling her new-born and holding a little 8 year old girl by the hand. The soldiers had asked for money, brandy and opium. And as no one understands French, becoming furious, they knocked out with a hit of rifle butt one of the grandfathers. Then, for several long hours, two of them, already drunk when they arrived, amused themselves by cooking the other old man on a fire of branches. However, the other rape, in turn, the young girl, the mother, and her little girl. Then, they lay the young girl on her back, they tie her up, gag her, and one of them sticks his bayonet into her stomach, cuts off her finger to deprive her of a ring, and her head to seize the necklace.
On the flat land of the old salt marsh, the three corpses are placed: the little girl in the nude, the young girl disemboweled, of which the left forearm stiffens up toward the sky indifferent to the clenched fist, and the body of the old man, naked like the others, disfigured by the cooking, with his fat which had run and which was congealed with the flesh of his stomach, swollen, browned and golden like grilled pork.
After the taking of Chomoi (Tonkin) in the evening, an officer of the African battalion sees a prisoner, living, without an injury. In the morning, he sees him again, dead, burned, fat cooling, the flesh of the stomach puffy, golden. The soldiers had spent the night grilling this disarmed being, while others martyrized a women.
A soldier forces an Annamite to give herself up to his dog. She refuses, he kills her with a bayonet thrust in the stomach. The same witness recounts, “that on a holiday a tipsy soldier threw himself on an old Annamite woman who he had stabbed with his bayonet without any reason.”
A soldier gardener seeing enter, at ten o’clock in the morning, a group of men and women in his garden, a peaceable group of market-gardeners attracted by curiosity, fixed immediately on them with a hunting rifle and killed two young girls.
A customs agent, being seen refused entrance to the dwelling of a native, set fire to the hut and broke the leg of the woman of the latter at the moment when, blinded by the smoke, the unfortunate left to flee with her children.
The unchained sadism of the conquerors knows no limit. They push their cold cruelty as far as the refinement of a blood thirsty civilization permits them to imagine.
The crushing taxes are imposed not only on the lands, the animals and the men, but their blessings (!) extending also to the female population: “The poor native women, loaded with irons, are employed in cleaning the streets. They are guilty only of having been unable to pay.”
Among all the efforts which the civilizers have done to ameliorate the Annamite race and to lead it toward progress (?), it is necessary to point out the forced sale of official alcohol. It would take too long to enumerate here all the abuses borne of the sale of a poison, destined to divide into doses and swallow democracy.
We have told how, to enrich the sharks of the monopoly, the criminal government of Indochina permits its servants to compel the women and children to pay for alcohol that they do not consume. To please the monopolizers, laws are dreamed up intended to punish smuggling, an arsenal dreadfully furnished with penalties weighs on the head of the native; customs agents are armed. These have the right to enter private property.
We are somewhat a little astonished, and with good reason, when we see arrive in Hanoi or in Haiphong, long strings of old people, of pregnant women, of children tied one to the other, two by two, led by policemen, given an accounting of their offenses in customs matters.
But that is nothing beside that which happens in the provinces, and particularly in Annam, where the resident judges and imprisons in groups, young and old, men and women.
This same author then recalls the procession of parents, at the door of the prisons: “Old people, women, street urchins, everyone was dirty, in rags, the cheeks hollow, eyes burning with fever; the children were dragged along, unable to follow with their little legs. And all these exhausted people carried the most diverse objects, hats, clothes, balls of cooked rice, food of all kinds, destined to be passed on the sly to the accused, father, husband, breadwinner, almost always head of the household.”
All that one has been able to say does not do justice to the truth. Never at any time, in any country, has the violation of all human rights been practiced with such cruel cynicism.
It is not only the domiciliary inspections which continue to be thrown around, it is the corporal viswits which can be performed in every place and on the natives of the two sexes! The customs agents enter the native dwelling, oblige the women and the young girls to undress completely before them and, while they are in the dress of the Truth, push their lustful fantasies up to putting on the body the customs seal.
Oh! Mothers, women, French girls, what do you think about that, my sisters! And you, French sons, husbands and brothers? It’s good the French “colonial” gallantry, isn’t it?
The Annamite enthusiasm for modern instruction frightens the Administration of the Protectorate. This is why it closes the common schools, it transforms them into stables for the gentlemen officers, it chases the children and imprisons the teachers. A native woman instructor was arrested, led, head naked, to the province capital, under the burning sun, the yoke around her neck.
An artillery warrant officer set fire to a house, under the pretext that the proprietress did now want to receive him at midnight.
A lieutenant, polygamous, threw on the ground a young Annamite girl and beat her unmercifully with blows of a rattan cane, because she did not want to be his concubine.
Another officer had violated a little girl in the odious conditions of sadism. Arraigned before the Criminal Court, he was acquitted, because the victim was an Annamite.
In all the discussions, in all the reports, in all the places where they have the opportunity to open the mouth and where there are the idlers to hear them, our statesmen do not cease to assert that only the German is barbarian and imperialist and militarist, while France, this peaceful France, humanitarian, republican and democratic, this France represented by them, is not imperialist, nor militarist. Oh! Not at all! If these same statesmen send the soldiers – children of workers and workers themselves – to massacre the workers of other countries, it’s simply to teach the latter how to live well.
The Awakening of the Slaves
I. IN INDOCHINA
In the month of November 1922, on account of a decrease in salaries, 600 dyers of Cholon (Cochinchina), decided to stop work.
The employers offensive is launched everywhere and everywhere the working class begins to become aware of its force and of its value.
If these unhappy native workers, ordinarily very docile and very manageable, not educated and not organized, have been pushed – by the instinct of self-preservation, if one can express it like that – to form a group and fight against the wild demands of the employers, it is that their situation is much more miserable than can be imagined in Europe. It is the first time that such a movement happened in the colony. Let us mark this sign of the times, and don’t forget that our duty to ourselves – workers of metropolitan France – is not only to show verbal solidarity to our brothers of class over there, but to educate them, to teach them the spirit and the methods of organization.
II. IN DAHOMEY
French capitalism, worried about the awakening of the working class in metropolitan France, looks to transplant its domination in the colonies. It puts out its hand there and the raw materials for its factories and the human material for its counter-revolution comes. The bourgeois newspapers of Paris and of the country sanctify regularly the colonial heading, the entire pages. The generals and members of parliament have conferences on the colonies. These virtuous pen pushers and these braggarts do not find enough words to sing of our loyalty and the benefits of “their” civilization.
Sometimes, these gentlemen push the impudence to the point of opposing English colonial banditry, their… generosity; they call English politics the “cruel method” or the “violence” and hold that the French practice is full of justice and charity.
It suffices to glance at our colonies to estimate how much this civilization is “beautiful and sweet.”
In Dahomey, one increases the already crushing taxes for the natives. The young men are torn away from their hearths and their lands to be the “defenders of civilization.” The natives are forbidden to have arms to defend themselves against the game which devastates the entire communities. Instruction, hygiene are lacking. On the contrary, no means are neglected to subject the “protected” dahomians to the abominable rights of native citizenship, and institution which puts man on the level of the animal and which dishonors the world called civilized. The natives, at the end of their patience, rebel. Then, it is the bloody repression. Energetic measures are taken. Troops are sent, machine gunners, mortars and warships; a state of siege is proclaimed. Masses of people are arrested and imprisoned. Here is the sweetness of civilization!
III. IN SYRIA
The population of Syria is content, very content with the administration of general Gouraud, say the officials. But the following facts prove the contrary:
In the month of March 1922, Mustapha Kemal returned to Messina. To receive him, the Moslems of Syria had raised an arch of triumph draped with black flags carrying the inscriptions: “Turko-arab friendship”, “Don’t forget your Syrian brothers!” “Rescue us!”, etc. etc.
The visit of Mustapha Kemal to Adana provoked enthusiastic demonstrations. The irredentists (annexationists) of Antioch and Alexandretta (Iskenderun, Turkey) have flown for two days black flags in the streets of the city uttering hostile cries against the administration of the French mandate.
Responding to the proclamation of the irredentist delegation, Mustapha Kemal had said: “A home which dates from so many centuries should not remain between foreigner’s hands.”
French colonialism has not varied its slogan: “Divide to rule.” This is how the empire of Annam – this country inhabited by a people descended from the same race, having the same customs, the same history, the same traditions and speaking the same language – was divided in five parts. By this hypocritically exploited division, it is hoped to cool the feeling of solidarity and fraternity in the heart of Annamites and replace it with an antagonism of brother against brother. After having thrown them one against the other, the same elements are artificially regrouped in a “union”, the Indochinese Union.
The same tactic is established in the new colonies. After having divided Syria into a “series of States”, the high french commissioner in Beirut has intended to constitute a Syrian “Federation” formed from the “States” of Aleppo, of Damascus and Alido. A flag has been invented for this purpose. As with the flag of Annam, it has not forgotten to graft onto the federal flag – at the top and near the staff – the “protectress color”. The 11th of December 1922 was the “solemn” day when this flag has been for the first time hoisted on the federal palace, in Aleppo.
On this occasion, the official speeches have been given. Soubhi Barakat Bey, federal president, has spoken of “generous protectress”, of “sincere guide”, of “victorious leaders” and of a heap of things. Mr. Robert de Caix, interim high commissioner, has discoursed a lot, he also. Among other things, this high functionary has recalled that “independent Syria is not the first people the cradle of which France has watched over”, … All these bombastic discussions mislead no one nevertheless. And the syrio-palestinian delegation in charge of defending beside the Conference of Lausanne the independence and unity – the true – of Syria, has sent a letter of protest, a letter which was published by our colleague TheTribune of the Orient and which we are happy to reproduce here.
“At the moment when every effort is made to repair the breaches which the Treaty of Sèvres opened in the question of the Near-East and where the Arab people are, in proportion to the sacrifice which they have made, the most direct reached by the bad resulting from this treaty, the voice of its representatives of the different districts continues unfortunately to not find an echo in this conference which, nevertheless, is called to establish a solid and durable peace.
“And this is the moment that the french authorities find opportune to crown in a solemn fashion the work of colonization which she has undertaken four years ago, in hoisting the emblem of eternal slavery, the French flag, on the flag which is about to be adopted by the so-called Syrian Confederation. It repudiates, once again, the declaration of the Allies, the agreements of England made in their name with the Arabs and even the promises of French statesmen assuring independence to the unfortunate country. Syria, which has incontestable title to prompt and complete independent and which is not at all less deserving than any other country in the Orient or the Occident, sees itself deprived of a national flag of its own. As a sign of the mandate, which camouflages the annexation, the three colors of its national flag are imposed on them.
“Mr. President, we have always protested against the mandate, we have never recognized it, we protest now energetically against the adoption of its symbol in our flag.
“Almost all the powers, even those which are not less great than France, have not adopted this humiliating method in their most backward colonies.
“The charter of the League of Nations states precisely the provisionary character of the mandates (Article 22, Paragraph 4). On what bases do then the french authorities have adopted their colors by a country which it pretends to lead toward independence already recognized in the aforementioned pact?
“Excellency, we beg you to take into consideration our protest on this subject and repeat to you our great longing to enforce our just demands on the conference.
“Yours sincerely, etc…
“For the chief of the syrio-palestinian delegation,
The Secretary general,
“Emir Chekib Arslan”
On the other hand, the inhabitants of Hamas, of whom several are functionaries, lawyers, professors, journalists and businessmen, have addressed a letter to the Preident of the Council of ministers of France of which here are the essential passages:
“We have the honor, Mr. council President, to show you our demands, just as we protest against the reaction of this Council which we judge contrary to our interests and to those of the country in general.
“1st The said federal council is not at all elected by the suffrage of the nation. Its members should not be, in any way, the representatives of the nation, not even to reflect its thinking.
“2nd The said Council is deprived of all power; it can not even deal with the vital questions which interest the country, compelled to know only those things which one wishes submitted to it. Finally, its decisions are at the discretion of the high commissioner who can carry them out or reject them.
“3rd The basis even of said Council is false by the fact that each State possesses one voice on it in spite of the numerical inequality of the States. Add to that, inexplicable curiosity, that the majority does not exist in this Council, and that each difference of opinion annuls the discussion which is then brought before the high commissioner.
“4th The said council, which is presented as progress on the road to unity, is in reality the negation of unity and of even the personality of the country, in this sense that this Council being appointed officially does not reflect at all the national thinking; maybe even it would go against this thinking, while in the eyes of the whole world it would be considered as the interpreter of national aspirations and would supply an argument against the nation itself.
“As for our desires, we can formulate them in the following manner:
“a) The recognition of the effective independence and of the unity of Syria;
“b) The census currently underway, once finished, one will proceed to the election, by universal suffrage, of a national Assembly which will draft the constitution and determine the form of government of the country. This Assembly could be convoked toward the end of 1922, the date at which the federal Council will be convoked:
“c) The constitution of a government responsible before the Assembly having in its functions the full legislative power.
“There are the true aspirations of the population of Hama, these are equally those of the majority of the Syrian people.”
Since this booklet has been written, serious events have arisen in several colonies. We cite the bomb of Canton, thrown by an Annamite, the bombs of the Antilles and the bloody strikes of Guadeloupe, the not less bloody demonstrations of Damas, the strikes of Bizerte, of Hammanlif and the restiveness of Tunisia.
IV. THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND THE COLONIAL PEOPLE
Capitalism is a leech giving one sucker applied to the proletariat of the mother-country and another to the proletariat of the colonies. If one wants to kill the anima; both suckers must be cut at the same time. If only one of them is cut, the other will continue to suck the blood of the proletariat; the animal will continue to live and the cut sucker will re-attach.
The russian Revolution has well understood that. That is why it is not contented to make nice platonic speeches and to vote humanitarian motions in favor of oppressed people, but it teaches them to fight. It helps them morally and materially, like Lenin wrote in his colonial thesis. It has summoned them to a congress in Baku, where twenty-one Oriental nationalities have sent their delegates. The representatives of western workers’ parties have participated in the Congress. It was the first time in history that the proletariat of conquering counties and that of conquered countries have extended the hand of friendship and, together, have looked for the means of effectively fighting capitalism, their common enemy.
After this historic Congress, and in spite of internal and external difficulties which beset it, revolutionary Russia has never hesitated to come to the aid of these people which already – by the example of its heroic and victorious revolution – it has pulled out of its lethargy. Its first gesture was the creation of the University of the Orient.
This university numbers today 1, 025 students of which 151 are young girls. Of these students, 895 are communists. Their social status is the following: 547 peasants, 265 workers, 210 intellectuals. There are, besides, 75 ward students aged from 10 to 16 years old.
150 professors are instructed to give the courses in social science, mathematics, historical materialism, the history of the workers movement, natural science, the history of revolutions, political economics, etc., etc. In the preparation rooms, the young people of sixty-two nationalities fraternally rub shoulders with each other.
The university possesses ten big houses in the students’ service. It also has a movie house, which is at the free disposition of the students Thursdays and Sundays, and rented to an entrepreneur the other days of the week. Two libraries, with 47,000 volumes, permit the young revolutionaries to study thoroughly their research and to nourish their thinking. Each nationality or “group” has its private library, with books and newspapers in its mother tongue. Artistically decorated by the students, the lecture halls are full of daily papers and magazines.
The students themselves published a journal “in a single copy” which is stuck up on a large board at the exit of the reading room. The sick receive medical care in the hospital belonging to the University. A rest house, in Crimea, is reserved for the convalescents. The Soviets have given to the university two vacation colonies, with nine houses. Each has an enclosed courtyard, where animal husbandry can be studied. “We have already 30 cows and 50 pigs” I was told, with poorly hidden pride, by the agricultural secretary of the University. The 100 hectares of land assigned to these colonies are cultivated by the students, who, during the vacations and after their hours of work and exercise, go to help the peasants.
Let us say, in passing, that one of these colonies was the property of the grand duke. It is altogether curious to see the red flag proudly floating on the turret decorated with the grand ducal crown, and the little Korean or Armenian peasants chatting and playing irreverently in the main hall of “His Imperial Highness.”
The students are fed, housed and dressed for free. Each receives 5 roubles in gold per month as pocket money.
To give its pensioners essential ideas in child rearing, the University supports a children’s home and a model nursery, of which the population stands at 60 pretty babies.
The University spends 516,000 gold roubles per year.
The sixty-two nationalities represented at the University form a “commune”. The president and the functionaries of the commune are elected every three months by universal suffrage. A student delegate takes part in the economic and administrative management. In rotation, all the students must work in the kitchen, in the library, in the club, etc. All the “offenses” and disputes are judged by an elected tribunal and in the presence of all the comrades. The commune meets once a week, to discuss the international political and economic situation. From time to time, one organizes meetings and evening entertainment, where the extemporaneous artists make you taste the art and literature of the most diverse, distant countries.
The most characteristic fact of all, and which illustrates the “barbarity” of the Bolsheviks: not only do they treat these colonial “inferiors” as brothers, but in addition they invite them to participate in the political life of Russia. In the soviet elections, the students who, in their country of origin, are the “subjects”, the “protected”, that is to say that they have no other right than that of paying, who have no say in the matter of the affairs of their own country, and to whom it is not permitted to talk about politics, participate in popular suffrage and send their delegates to sit in the Soviets. What my colonial brothers, who ear yourselves out begging in vain for naturalization, do you make of the comparison between bourgeois democracy and workers democracy!
All these students have suffered and have seen suffering. All have lived under the “superior civilization” and under the exploitation and oppression of foreign capitalism. That is why everyone is enthusiastic and avid to learn. They are ardent and serious. They do not at all have the air of the young Oriental men about town on the boulevards and in the latin quarter of Paris, Oxford or Berlin. One can say, without exaggeration, that the University shelters under its roof, the future of the colonial people.
The near and far East, which goes from Syria to Korea – we are not speaking of the colonial and half-colonial countries – have an area of more than 15 million square kilometers and a population of more than 1,200 million inhabitants. All these immense countries are today under the yoke of capitalist imperialism. And, in spite of their number, what should be done with their power, these oppressed people never have been seriously tempted to emancipate themselves, in the sense that they have never understood the value of national and international solidarity. They did not have – like the peoples of Europe and America – international relations. They have among themselves a gigantic force and they know nothing of it!~ The founding of the University of the Orient marks a new era, and the University in bringing together the young, active, intelligent constituents of colonial countries undertakes a grand work:
a) To teach to these future combatants the principle of class warfare, principle of race warfare, on one hand, and the patriarchal customs on the other, which have been confused in their mind;
b) Put the advanced-guard of colonial workers in close contact with the Western proletariat, in order to prepare the way to a close and effective collaboration, which, alone, will assure the international working class the final victory;
c) To teach the colonial peoples – up till now isolated one from the others – to know each other better and to untie themselves – thus laying the base of a future Oriental federation, which will constitute one of the wings of the proletarian revolution;
d) To give to the proletarians of the countries of which the bourgeoisie possesses colonies, the example of that which they can and should do for their subjugated brothers.
V. PROLETARIANS AND PEASANTS OF THE COLONIES1
The worldwide carnage has opened the eyes of millions of proletarians and colonial peasants, about their intolerable conditions of life. A series of revolutionary explosions, powerful, but not yet organized, has marked the end of the world war. This irresistible, spontaneous force, which longs to fight for a better future has been directed and organized by the national and native middle-class. Increased and fortified during the war, this middle class has not wanted to remain in the hothouses of imperialism and abandoned to it the greatest part of the exploitation of “its workers and peasants.” The fight for national liberation, the keynote of the young colonial bourgeoisie, has been taken up with enthusiasm and powerfully supported by the laboring masses of India, Egypt, Turkey, etc…
The International communist fights without slackening against the rapacious capitalists in all the countries of the world.
Can it hypocritically step aside from the fight for national liberation of the colonial and half-colonial countries?
The international communist has openly proclaimed his support and his cooperation for this fight and, true to its goal, it continues to supply this support.
(Extract from the Manifest of the Executive Committee of the IIIrd International.)
VI. AN APPEAL OF INTERNATIONAL COUNTRYWOMEN TO THE PEASANT WORKERS OF THE COLONIES
The international countrywomen, assembled in their first Congress, which has taken place lately in Moscow, has made a point to mark the interest which it took in the peasant workers of the colonies in addressing to them the following appeal:
To peasant workers of the colonies!
Peasants of the colonies, modern slaves who, by millions, in the fields, swamps and forests of two continents, suffer under the double yoke of foreign capitalism and your native masters.
The International Countywomen’s Conference, meeting for the first time in Moscow to draw up the organization for fighting which was missing up to the present of workers of the earth, makes an appeal to your class consciousness and asks you to come and enlarge its ranks.
Even more than your peasant brothers in the mother-counties, you suffer long days of work, misery and the insecurity of tomorrow.
You are often compelled to hard labor, to murderous transport and to interminable forced labor.
You are crushed with taxes.
Exploiter capitalism keeps you in the dark, oppresses you ideologically and decimates your race by the use of alcohol and opium.
The odious rule of the native population, imposed by capitalist imperialism, deprives you of all individual liberty, all social and political rights, placing you thus on a lower rung than beasts of burden.
Not content to reduce you like that to misery and ruin, capitalism uproots you from your hearths, from your culture, to make you canon fodder and throw you, in fratricidal wars, against other natives or against the peasants and workers of the mother country.
Pariahs of the colonies!
Join your action to ours; let us fight together for our common emancipation!
Long live the liberation of the natives of the colonies!
Long live the Worker’s International!
Long live the International Peasant’s Committee!
VII. TRADE UNION ORGANIZATION IN THE COLONIES
Extract of the report of the meeting of June 27, 1923 by the third session of the Central Committee of the Red Trade Union International:
The trade union fight in the colonies
Contemporary imperialism is based on the exploitation of several million workers in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. Also, the dismemberment of imperialism will not be complete and final until we have succeeded in rooting out these foundations of the imperialist edifice. From this point of view, the organization of trade unions in the colonial countries acquires a particularly serious importance. The supporters of the Red Trade Union International have done almost nothing in this direction, not in Egypt, nor in Tunisia, nor in all the countries which are under the boot of French imperialism. The connection which exists between the different groups of French colonial workers and the French trade unions is nothing but the result of chance. No systematic work is undertaken. But, it stands to reason that before having conquered the colonial masses, we will be powerless to undermine the imperialist organization. What is necessary, is to undertake a big propaganda campaign to create trade union organizations in the colonial countries and foster the trade unions existing in an embryonic form. It is equally necessary that we surmounted the distrust of workers of the colonies in regard to the representatives of the dominant races, in showing them the actual class friendship between the workers of all nations and all races. The organic connection between the colonial trade unions and those of the mother-country can only be the result of very long work in the colonies.
Do not forget the workers of the colonies, help their organizations, fight constantly against the governments of the mother-countries which oppress the colonies, there is one of the most urgent duties of all the revolutionary trade unions, especially in the countries which the bourgeoisie enslave and exploit, the colonial and semi-colonial countries.
MANIFESTO OF THE “INTERCOLONIAL UNION”, ASSOCIATION OF NATIVES OF ALL THE COLONIES
“Brothers of the colonies! In 1914, the public Powers at grips with a frightful cataclysm, turned to you and you asked them then to accept your part of the sacrifice for the safeguard of a fatherland which is called yours, and which, until then, you had known only in the spirit of domination.
“To induce you, one did not fail to make shine in your eyes, the advantages which your collaboration would be worth to you. But the past torture, like before, kept you submissive to the rules of the native population, to the jurisdiction of an exceptional court, deprived of rights which make for human dignity: freedom of association, right of assembly, freedom of the press, right of free movement, even in your country, there for the political side.
“From the economic point of view, you remain submissive to an unpopular and heavy head tax and of transport; to the salt tax; to the poisoning and forced consumption of alcohol and opium, like in Indo-china; on guard at night like in Algeria to look after the good of the colonial sharks.
“For equal work, your efforts keep earning less than your European comrades.
“Finally, you were promised the earth.
“You realize now that it was nothing but lies.
“What must be done to achieve your emancipation?
“Apply the formula of Karl Mrx, we tell you that your liberation can not come except by your own efforts.
“It is to help you in this task that the Intercolonial union has been founded.
“It groups, with the agreement of comrades of the mother-country sympathetic to our cause, all the colonial natives, residing in France.
“Means of action: To realize this work of justice, the Inter-colonial Union intends to put the problem before public opinion with the aid of the press and by oratory (conferences, meetings, by utilization of the rostrum of deliberative assemblies by our friends the holders of elective mandates) and finally by all the means in our power.
“Oppressed brothers of the mother-country! Dupes of your bourgeoisie, you have been the instruments of our conquest; practicing this same Machiavellian politics, your middle-class intends today to use us to check in your country all inclinations of liberation.
“Opposite Capitalism and Imperialism, our interests are the same; remember the words of Karl Marx:
“Proletarians of all the countries, unite!”
“The Intercolonial Union”
To the Annamite Youth
Mr. Paul Doumer, ex-governor general of Indochina, writes: “Shen France arrived in Indochina, the Annamite people were ripe for slavery.” More than half a century has passed since. Tremendous events have upset the world. Japan is classified among the first rank of world powers. China has made its revolution. Russia has chased its tyrants, it has become a workers republic. A big blast of emancipation raises the oppressed people. The Irish, the Egyptian, the Korean, the Hindu, all the defeated of yesterday and the slaves of today fight heroically for their independence of tomorrow. Only the Annamite remains what he was, ripe for slavery.
Listen to that miserable prose, pronounced by guest at a banquet of 200, given in honor of the honorable Outrey, Valude and Company, and where, to sniff the odor of the socks of the coalition-makers of nations, the Annamite has not hesitated to pay 85 francs for a pig-out! “I am proud, says the speaker, I am proud to express to you, in everyone’s name, our sentiments of very profound respect, of joy and of recognition, for you, who, to our dazzled eyes, synthesize the government of the glorious french nation.
“No word nice enough comes to me in spirit to precisely state to you exactly the sense of our intimate thoughts, but, Gentlemen, be very certain of our faithful affection, of our sincere loyalty, and of veneration for Guardian and Protective France, which we consider like all its children, without distinction of race and of color.
“We have all ascertained by ourselves for how many benefits we are indebted to the High Administration and to the representatives of France in this country for the just and clearsighted application of liberal and benevolent laws.”
At the funeral of governor general Long, Mr. N…-K…-V…, doctor in judicial sciences, doctor in political and economic sciences, attached to the Saigon Stock Exchange, says that if all of Indochina could have expressed itself through his voice, it is certain that this voice would sorrowfully lift itself to thank the governor for all that this one has done for the Annamite people. E. M. V. cried out:
“Those who, thanks to your liberal measures, participate today, with the representatives of the protective nation, in the growing prosperity of Indochina, thank you with the greatest depths of their heart and venerate your memory. The economic question was your major preoccupation. You wanted to endow Indochina with all the economic tools to make her a second France, the France of the Far-East, strong and powerful, and which will be the daughter of republican France.
“You were heart and soul, in your mission, to civilize a people stopped on the road to progress by a combination of historic circumstances and climate. You were the champion of progress and the apostle of civilization…”
For his part, Mr. Cao-van-Sen, engineer, president of the Association of Indochinese, says that Indochina is in mourning because of the premature death of Mr. Long. And he finishes his speech in these terms:
“We sincerely weep for you, Mr. governor general, because you have been for us a benevolent and paternal leader.”
Of all that, I conclude that if truly all the Annamites were so groveling as these creatures of the Administration, it would be necessary to agree that they have only the fate which they deserve.
It is unavailing for our youth to know that there are actually more than two thousand young Chinese in France, and some fifty thousands in Europe and in America. Almost all are graduates and all are student workers. We, we have seen these scholarship students and the students merely, who, thanks to the generosity of the State or the fortune of their family (both are unfortunate inexhaustible displays) spend half their time at the academy…of billiards; half and half in other places of pleasure; and the rest, and it is rare that there is any rest, at the University or in School. But the Chinese student-workers, they do not consider anything less than the effective raising of the economic condition of their country, and who have for a motto: “Live by the fruit of your own work, and educate yourself through working.”
Here is how they proceed: Immediately arriving at a destination, all those who have the same aptitude and want to learn the same trade, form in groups to apply to the proprietors. Once admitted to the workshop or factory, they begin naturally as apprentices, then as simple workers. It is very painful for many who have been raised in luxury and the sweetness of family to do heavy and tiring work. If they were not equipped with a firm will and driven by a prodigious moral force, most of them would have broken. But thusfar all have continued their work. Another obstacle that they have known how to overcome, thanks to the sense of observation which is practically a privilege for us, Far-Easterner, and which our young neighbors know how to put to their benefit, is the language. If they do not understand or understand their employers with difficulty, they observe attentively that which these show them.
They do not earn much. With the little they earn, they must first be self-supporting. They then make a point of honor to forbid themselves from asking for financial help from the government or their family. Finally, according to the gain which they realize from their work, they pay in a percentage to the mutual fund which they have founded. This fund is formed for two ends: 1st to come to the aid of sick students or unemployed supply a doctor’s certificate for the first, and for the second an employers certificate; 2nd to give an allowance for a year to all those who will have finished their apprenticeship, in order to permit them to do a period of perfection.
In all the countries where they work, they have founded a review (always with the contribution of student-workers). The review, in chinese characters, keeps them abreast of what is happening in the native land, and the great events of the day of the two worlds, etc… In the journal, a forum is reserved for teachers where these last convey the information useful to their apprenticeship, become acquainted with the progress of each one, and devote themselves to advice and encouragement. They work during the day; they study at night.
Parties to such tenacity, to such desire, to such spirit of solidarity, our “young uncles” will surely achieve their goal. Aided by a workers’ army of 50,000 men endowed with an admirable courage and formed by discipline and modern technicality, China won’t be long in conquering its place among the industrial and commercial powers.
We have in Indochina everything that a people could desire: ports, mines, immense countryside, vast forests: we have a skillful and hard working labor force.
But we lack organization and organizers! This is why our industry and our commerce equals zero. What then will our young do? It is sad, very sad to say: They will do nothing. Those who do not have the means can not leave their village; those who do wallow in their laziness; and even those who go abroad think only of satisfying the curiosity of their age.
Poor Indochina! You will die, if your old fashioned youth do not resuscitate themselves.