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French philosopher Sartre .. rejected his country's colonization of Algeria and resisted Nazism


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Jean-Paul Sartre, a famous philosopher and writer, was a loving advocate of his country, resisting Nazism, and participating in World War II, but something changed. In the next report, we see how Sartre, a philosopher of liberty, was facing many problems with the policy of his land in its colonization of Algeria and other countries, and how this affected his vision of human rights.

Article text

Have you ever heard of a person who loves and abhors the same thing at the same time? There is no doubt that this may lead to madness or - at least - to deep pain, and it may get worse if this thing is your home. This was the case of Jean-Paul Sartre. He was a French philosopher against France, a descendant of René Descartes and a fan of Honoré de Balzac, who fought for France in World War II and was a prisoner of war in Germany. However, the situation changed after the war; it turned into one of the most severe and harsh critics of French politics. What is the reason?

Sartre examined how France - the land of freedom, equality and brotherhood - was a colonial predator in Algeria, Cameroon, and Indochina (part of the French colonial empire in Southeast Asia). In the first opening of the magazine "Les Temps Modernes" in 1945, both Sartre and the phenomenological scientist Maurice Merlio Ponte announced that the sons of the French resistance who had fought to liberate France in World War II, and who were then in Indochina, were like German soldiers; fighting for fascism . For him, Paris bore a symbol of freedom against the fascist mechanism, but just one week after Hitler's death, Paris - the very city whose name was associated with romance and freedom - sent troops to commit a bloody massacre in the Algerian economic city of Setif, and massacred thousands of Algerians. Years later, civilized France continued its brutal suppression of the escalating anti-colonial movement, and often sentenced to death individuals in military courts.

Photo of Jean Paul Sartre and revolutionary Che Guevara

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This prompted Sartre to declare, "We are all murderers," in the title of his article in 1958, in which he wrote:
"In November 1956, Fernand Efitton, a member of the Liberation Fighters Movement (a gang group created by the Algerian Communist Party), planted a bomb at the Hama power station, a sabotage attempt that could in no way be equated with a terrorist act. Analysis has shown That the accident was a time bomb so precisely so that the explosion could not occur before the staff departed, but that was in vain; Eviton was arrested, sentenced to death and refused any postponement of the sentence, so the man was executed. Without the slightest hesitation this man declared and demonstrated his unwillingness to No one was killed, but we wanted to kill him and we did so without eyelids. "

France was no longer the protagonist of freedom for Sartre. On the contrary, she was anti-freedom. She was playing a double game, trying to take a leadership role in human rights discourse, and at the same time suppressing the indigenous people of the lands she colonized.

France should get rid of France!

In his introduction to Franz Fanon’s 1961 book "The Wretched of the Earth," Sartre said that France must rid itself of France; that is, France, that ideal free, must separate itself from France, the colonial state. René Cassin, the French law professor, was the French representative on the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and worked on revising his first draft in the years after the war. There is no doubt that Sartre would have been nauseous if he saw this project, because he declared that human rights presuppose a high degree of civilization, and therefore do not apply to those in the "primitive" stages of development. This indicates that human rights are not for all people, but rather for the most human.

(Remember, George Orwell's Animal Farm Declaration of Pigs: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.")

In any case, Sartre wavered for three decades towards and away from the idea of ​​human rights, because he questioned the integrity of human rights theory vis - vis those tortured whom they call "uncivilized" peoples. If the declaration was made by colonial empires such as France and Britain, would it really be a declaration calling for peace, fair and goodwill, or was it behind that gentle human smile, a set of sharp teeth?

If Sartre was just a left-wing thinker, his position against absolute individualism was to be clear; but he was existential as well, and individualism is one of the cornerstones of existentialism.

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Sartre was sometimes defending the Declaration because he saw that despite his restrictions, he reinforced the fundamental rights that every human being should have. In his statement entitled "Genocide" at the second session of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal in 1967, he expressed his deep concern about universal human rights and condemned the United States for violating human rights in Vietnam.

But as a Marxist, Sartre was also concerned about what he considered bourgeois elements included in the declaration, especially extremist individualism, and he criticized "the bourgeoisie" for using an analytical method to explain everything, where each complex reality must be divided into simple elements. The bourgeois analysis aims to reduce human society to become isolated individuals. Sartre said in "Les Temps Modernes" that he believed that this principle presided over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well, but that when a people loses their land, trade and young generation and does not have anything that they own but themselves, it does not need individualism and private property, but rather the opposite of Therefore, he needs collective rather than individualism, a return to his traditional group and their collective right to self-determination.

And if Sartre was just a left-wing thinker, his position against absolute individualism was to be clear; but he was existential as well, and individualism is one of the cornerstones of existentialism. In his 1945 lecture titled "Existentialism is Humanity," he declared that the "starting point" of Existentialism is in fact the subjectivity of the individual "not because we are bourgeois, but because we seek to build our faith on the truth." In the lecture “Being and Nothing” (1943), he said that everyone is existentially responsible for creating his way of life and adhering to it. It is a type of existence that the theologian philosopher Surin Krekegaard calls singularity or individuality. It must be noted that for Sartre, individuality or individuality is different from individualism. Extremist individualism is the negation of any collective identity, while individuality can include being with others.

Slavoy Cicek - Left thinker

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Although Sartre belongs to the left side of the human rights debate, his criticisms are not entirely consistent with contemporary left-wing thinkers such as Slavoy Cicek in his book "Against Human Rights" (2005). Cicek connects human rights theory with liberal capitalism, just as Sartre did, but he pays attention to a new phenomenon which is the phenomenon of humanitarian intervention. Critics like Cicek recently witnessed the devastating way that Western countries intervene politically, economically and militarily in third world countries in the name of defending human rights.

As Cicek says: “It is clear, for example, that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein under the leadership of the United States, which gained legitimacy on the basis of ending the suffering of the Iraqi people, was not only driven by political and economic interests, but also relied on a specific idea of ​​the political and economic conditions that "Freedom" is delivered to the Iraqi people, which is liberal capitalism, democracy, integration into the global market economy, etc. "

So it is not easy to say that Sartre was with the theory of human rights absolutely, nor totally against it. Two critical points must be mentioned: Firstly, human rights theory has many human potentials, and it can be said that it contains at least the seeds of equal rights for all people. Secondly, if we do not pay enough attention to the capitalist colonial establishment to protect its political and economic interests, while ignoring human rights when they are incompatible with those interests, then human rights theory can be easily misused by those powers.

It can be said that although Sartre and Third World activists have appealed to human rights in their demands for equality and human dignity, the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shows that at first the rights were written to defend European citizens against Nazi terrorism, not to defend non-Europeans Against European colonialism.


This report is translated from: Philosophy Now and does not necessarily reflect the location of Meedan.

Source: aljazeera

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