Ho Chi Minh

Uprising at Dahomey

First Published: La Vie Ouvriere, March 30, 1923
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 1
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2003

French capitalism, anxious at the awakening of the working class in France, has tried to transplant its threatened domination to the colonies. It draws from them both raw materials for its workshops and human materials for its counter-revolution. Bourgeois newspapers in Paris and in the provinces regularly devote entire pages to articles on the colonies. Generals and members of Parliament are delivering speeches on the colonies all over the country. These virtuous hacks and braggarts cannot find words enough in their vocabulary to extol the loyalty of the natives and the benefits of their civilization. Sometimes these gentlemen push their impudence so far as to compare British colonial brigandage with their own: they qualify British policy as a ‘cruel method’ or ‘high-handed’ and maintain that French practice is of the essence of justice and kindness!

A glance at our colonies is enough to appreciate how ‘fine and gentle’ this civilization is.

Recently, in Indo-China, a young French settler, after having tied an Annamese spreadeagled with his face to the ground, gave him one hundred and sixty strokes with a cudgel. The victim, black and blue from head to foot, was detained all night. And the next day, the young civilizer battered his head and put out one of his eyes with the butt of his revolver. This brute was acquitted by French justice.

In Dahomey, the taxes, already exorbitant for the natives, have been increased. Young people are dragged from their homes and land to become ‘defenders of civilization.’ The natives are forbidden to have weapons to defend themselves against wild beasts which devastate entire villages. Education and hygiene are wanting. On the other hand, no means are spared to submit the ‘protected’ Dahomeans to the abominable native status, which is an institution placing man on the level of the beasts and dishonouring the so-called civilized world. The natives, at the end of their tether, revolt. Then there is bloody repression. Harsh measures are taken. Troops, machine-guns, mortars and warships are sent to the place and martial law is declared. People are arrested and imprisoned en masse. There is the kindness of civilization!