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The Boomerang Effect

Published: 
Sunday, August 3, 2014

How might we make sense of the current situation in Gaza? What knowledge and experience can we bring to bear on the situation from Caribbean colonial history? 

One place to look is the writings of the late Martiniquan Aimé Césaire and his powerful book Discourse on Colonialism. Born in 1913, Césaire was a gifted thinker who completed his studies in France and was a leading light of the Caribbean diaspora in Europe.

Some described the book as “a declaration of war.” Others spoke of it as a “third world manifesto.” Its central thesis was: what is the impact of colonialism, not simply on the colonised and their own societies, but on the coloniser themselves?

Written soon after the end of World War II, Discourse on Colonialism spoke to the West from an anti-colonial position and considered reasons for the moral and spiritual collapse of Europe that led to fascism, Nazism and the Holocaust. There are two key observations amongst many in the book that might be most pertinent to current Israeli actions. 

The first is colonialism as a system of “proletarisation.” By this concept Césaire explained how in the construction and later continuation of a system of domination and subordination, colonialism prepared the ground for capitalism. It did this through the creation of “false consciousness” within both the coloniser and colonised.