The following was written by French Socialist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon (on 25 December 2016) after his visit to Memorial ACTe when he traveled to overseas territories Guadeloupe and Martinique. My favorite segment from the passage is: “Slavery was not a peripheral phenomenon, but rather the economic heart of a specific period of globalization and capital accumulation. Colonial capitalism is a system rooted in the suffering, violence and denial of the humanity of the dominated.” Follow up on these excerpts by accessing the full text (in French) on Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s blog, L’Ère du people (also the title of one of his books):
I came to the West Indies not to “discover” or pretend to hear “everyone,” in the ridiculous tradition of this type of trip. I have already visited the Caribbean several times, on personal trips and also as a minister. [. . .] This time, I was just embarking on the discussion process of the booklet that the “disobedient France” [reference to the publication Livrets de la France insoumise, which translates roughly as “pamphlets of the disobedient (or unruly) France”] brings to the conversation on policies to be carried out in these territories, which is very much in line with the overall plan of the program L’Avenir en commun [The Future in Common]. For me, it is crucial that this program remains an open, evolving process throughout the campaign.
[. . .] This is why the West Indies can be a vanguard and pilot site for the new economic model that we propose. But above all, I have been able to see closely how the opposing model works: mass unemployment, generalized “junk food,” pollution galore, and waste of natural resources; and poor living conditions [la malvie]: here without water, there without transport, and everywhere, everything is very expensive. Not only expensive, but very, very, expensive! I have already begun to personally reprocess the working document that we discussed. But now I want to speak about something else: about a burn I received there.
The Memorial ACTe [on slavery] that I visited in Guadeloupe still haunts me. Since that visit, I have read a few pages every day from the superb book that was given to me. So many things have been set in motion in my mind! The ideas that my brain had stored, and all the events in which I had previously participated, had not really pierced my skin. I think about the inauguration of a statue of Toussaint Louverture, which I had installed as deputy mayor of culture in my town of Massy, on a spot next to the market place. Then, [I think about] the first day of the commemoration of the end of slavery in the Luxembourg Gardens, in the week of the transition of power between Chirac and Sarkozy. Maryse Condé was sitting in a small armchair and Christiane Taubira doted on her with care. But the speeches [la parole] remained masculine and tragically distant. [. . .]
Slavery was not a peripheral phenomenon, but rather the economic heart of a specific period of globalization and capital accumulation. Colonial capitalism is a system rooted in the suffering, violence and denial of the humanity of the dominated. The powerful passed from this system to the one we now have right under our eyes, just like we change shoes. The logic remains the same: to secure human labor at a despicably low rate, to produce “cheaper” merchandise obtained for export at the expense of all other considerations or productions. What the slave and the “uberized” [l’uberisé] worker have in common is that they are workers without rights for those who exploit them without any contractual obligation. But this recent rapprochement does not make me lose sight of what remains as the most striking, something that continues to upset me as I type these sentences.
The most traumatic element for me, as a philanthropist, is the understanding (which one should take up with oneself) of the enigma of the duration of the crime that has been committed and perpetuated for several centuries. As a result, on this trip to the Caribbean, a fact of knowledge became a fact of [my] personal existence. It became engraved [he uses incrusté, literally “inlaid”] in me. The memorial tends to carry out this operation on its visitors. And it does not come without pain. [. . .]
For full post, see http://melenchon.fr/2016/12/25/memorial-acte-formidable-machine-a-incruster/
See more on Les livrets de la France insoumise at https://avenirencommun.fr/livrets-thematiques/
You can download a PDF file in a link found here: https://avenirencommun.fr/livret-outre-mer/