Politics

“Less parties and speeches, more human intelligence! “


[« Le tour du monde en un jour » : tel est le slogan de l’Exposition coloniale qui s’ouvre, le 6 mai 1931, à la Porte Dorée, sous les auspices du président de la République, Gaston Doumergue, et du maréchal Lyautey, commissaire général de l’exposition. Malgré des soulèvements dans le Rif marocain (1925-26) ou en Indochine, l’empire colonial français est à son apogée. Et c’est bien cette puissance – notamment économique en pleine crise après le krack de 1929 – qu’entend promouvoir le gouvernement afin de « donner aux Français conscience de leur empire », ainsi que le souligne Paul Reynaud, ministre des colonies, dans son discours d’inauguration.

Si quelques voix s’élèvent à gauche pour fustiger les festivités qui dureront six mois, elles laissent surtout entendre les divisions entre les socialistes, tel Léon Blum, qui dans “Le Populaire” dénonce les violences commises, sans condamner ouvertement le colonialisme ; et le Parti communiste qui propose à Paris une contre-exposition intitulée « La Vérité sur les colonies ». Pour sa part, le groupe des surréalistes rédige un tract invitant à boycotter l’exposition située au bois de Vincennes. Son message ne sera guère suivi puisque 8 millions de visiteurs viendront s’instruire et baguenauder entre les villages indigènes, les échoppes artisanales et les temples asiatiques reconstitués, dont celui d’Angkor Vat.]

At the precise moment when the constituted authorities of the Republic were inaugurating the Colonial Exhibition with the usual pomp, the following cable reached me from Saigon:

“On the occasion of the 1er May, in Annam, various processions presenting demands were received everywhere with gunshots. Several hundred dead on the side of the natives. No scratch on the side of the troop. People of heart raise their indignant protest. They expect other measures than unnecessary massacres and demand the urgent dispatch of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. “

This telegram is signed: Cancelliéri, lawyer in Saigon. I do not know M. Cancelliéri; I don’t even think he belongs to our Indochinese Federation. I am naturally not in a position to control the facts that he denounces. But how can you not be struck by the contrast between this dramatic appeal and the speeches that echoed at the same time under the official vaults of Vincennes? How can we avoid the bitter reflections that disturb the celebration for us?

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We celebrated once again, on this solemn occasion, the colonial work of France, “Honor and glory of the IIIe Republic “. We have never opposed to him the purely chauvinistic arguments under which Clemenceau and his school ended up overwhelming Ferry. Nor do we think of dismissing it with easy contempt. In all human work there are elements of greatness, and even of disinterested greatness. I have no doubt that the history of Republican colonization contains individual examples of courage, spirit of sacrifice, heroic ardor towards discovery. But consider how much the work accomplished has cost blood. Let us think of all that it has engendered in misery and revolt. Let us remember that it was founded by force and that on many points, alas! it is still only maintained by force.

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