Civilization That Kills

Ho Chi Minh

How the whites have been civilizing the blacks. Some deeds not mentioned in history textbooks.

If lynching-inflicted upon Negroes by the American rab­ble is an inhuman practice, I do not know what to call the collective murders committed in the name of civilization by Europeans on African peoples. Since the day the whites landed on its shores, the black continent has constantly been drenched in blood. There, mass murders are blessed by the Church, lawfully sanctioned by kings and parliaments and conscientiously perpetrated by slavers of all calibers, from yesterday’s slave traders to today’s colonial administrators. 


It was to spread the blessings of Christianity that, towards 1442, the knights of the most Catholic king of Spain landed  on the shores of Africa. Their apostolate began with massacres. “And in the end,” said their logbook of the journey, “our Lord, who rewards acts of kindness and ventures undertaken to His glory, has obtained for His faithful servants victories over His enemies. He has given us laurels for our work and recompense for our expenditures and we have, thanks to Him, captured 165 men, women and children, not to mention the great number of killed and wounded.”

These pious conquerors instituted a tradition. The list of property confiscated from Jesuits in Brazil in 1768, contains, among salvation crosses and other objects of worship, irons for branding slaves. 

For a long time, English societies “for the propagation of Christianity” drew their missionary resources from the slave traffic.

On February 12, 1835, the Independent Church of the Parish of Christ (Church (South Carolina) advertised in the local newspapers the sale of “a batch of ten slaves accustomed to cotton-growing.” How many of these deeds can be quoted!

The churches in North America were the most resolute enemies of the abolition of slavery.

The Kings

From Charles V down to Leopold II, King of the Belgians, from the virtuous Queen Elizabeth of England down to Napa­leon, all the crowned heads of Europe were engaged in the Negro trade. All colonizing kings signed treaties and granted monopolies for the exploitation of black flesh.

“On August 27, 1701, His Most Catholic Majesty of Spain and His Most Christian Majesty of France granted the Royal Company of Guinea a ten-year monopoly for the traffic in Negroes in the colonies of America in order to obtain, by this means, laudable and mutual benefits for Their Majesties and their subjects.”

“His Britannic Majesty undertook to introduce into Spanish America 144,000 Indians of both sexes and of all ages in con­sideration of a payment of 33 piastre-crowns and 1/3 piastre per head.”

The Slave Traders

In 1824, a slave ship that had just taken on board Negroes from the shore of Africa bound for the West Indies, was given chase by a cruiser. During the chase, several barrels floated past the cruiser. It was believed that the slave ship had got rid of its casks of water to speed its flight. But when the ship was boarded, moans were heard from a barrel left on the deck. Two black women were found in it almost asphyxiated. The slave traders had hit upon this means of lightening their ship. An English ship saved a foundering slave ship. Negroes as well as the crew were taken on. But when it was noticed that provisions were short, it was decided to sacrifice the blacks. They were lined up on deck and shot down in cold blood with two cannons.

The Conditions of the Slaves

Arrested blacks were chained in pairs, by the neck, the arms, and legs. A long chain linked them in groups of twenty or thirty. Bound in this way, they were forced to walk to the port of embarkation where they were bundled into the holds with no room, light, or air.

“For the sake of health” they were made to dance under a rain of whiplashes once or twice daily. It often happened that, in the hope of making room for themselves, men strangled each other and women drove nails into their neighbor’s skulls. The sick, considered as damaged and unsaleable goods, were

thrown into the sea. As a rule, at the end of the journey, a quarter of the living cargo had succumbed to infectious diseases or asphyxiation. The surviving slaves were branded and num­bered with white-hot irons like cattle and counted in tons and bales. Thus the Portuguese Company of Guinea signed a con­

tract in 1700 by which it undertook to supply 11,000 “tons” of Negroes.

More than fifteen million Negroes were transported to America in these conditions. About three million died or were drowned on the way. Those who were killed while resisting or during revolts have not been recorded. That infamous trade ended in 1850, giving way to a new form of slavery on a larger scale: colonization.


The examples of atrocities that we are going to quote, if they were not proved by irrefutable documents or related by Europeans themselves, would be hard to believe.

A French trader in Madagascar, noticing that a theft had been made from his cash-box, tortured with electricity many of his native employees suspected of the theft. It was discovered soon after that it was his son who had taken the money.

A colonial administrator forced a black woman to remain in the burning sun for a whole day with a heavy heated stone on her head. Then he had her tied and bound, and molten rubber poured into her genitals.

As he could not make his two native servants work for nothing, a colonist flew into a rage and tied them to poles, poured kerosene on them and burnt them alive.

Other colonists inserted dynamite cartridges into Negroes’ mouths or anuses and blew them up.

A functionary boasted that, single-handed, he had killed 150 natives, cut off 60 hands, crucified many women and children and hung a great number of mutilated corpses on the walls in the villages under his administration. On only one of its plantations, a concessionary company caused the death of 1,500 native laborers.

Exceptional, isolated cases? No. Typical cases. But let us quote a few collective crimes which cannot be attributed to the barbarous instincts of a few individuals, but for which the whole system is accountable to history.

“In our Algeria,” related a French writer, “on the confines of the desert I saw this. One day, some troops captured Arabs who had committed no other crime than fleeing from their conquerors’ brutalities. The colonel gave orders to put them to death on the spot without investigation or trial. And here is what happened. . . . There were thirty of them. Thirty holes were dug in the sand and they were buried naked therein up to their necks, their shaved heads exposed to the sun at its zenith. So that they should not die too quickly, water was poured on them from time to time as on cabbages. Half an hour later, their eyelids were swollen, their eyes starting from their sockets. Their swollen tongues filled their horribly gaping mouths . . . their skin cracked and roasted on their heads ”

A Bangi tribe was unable to provide the quantity of rubber demanded by the concession. To force the tribesmen to make good the deficit, they had fifty-eight women and ten children arrested as hostages. They were deprived of air, light, food, and even water. From time to time, they were tortured. Their cries, according to the plantation owners, helped to speed up work. After three weeks of atrocious sufferings, a great number of the hostages were dead. 

That year there was a drought. The crops had failed completely. That whole African region was desolated. The inhabitants ate grass and roots. Old people died of starvation. The civilizing government, however, demanded its taxes. The sufferers left their lands, gardens and thatched huts to the latter and took refuge in the mountains. The administrator sent out hunting dogs and troops in pursuit. The fugitives were caught in a cave and were killed by fumigation.

In 1895, the English massacred 3,000 Matabele rebels who had surrendered.

From 1901 to 1906, the Germans massacred no less than 25,000 Hereros in West Africa.

In 1911, the Italians turned the suburbs of Machiya into a slaughter-house for three days. Four thousand natives were massacred.

These mass murders were set forward as political principles. It was a policy of extermination. One government at the Cape has declared, “If the natives allow themselves to slip into disobedience or rebellion, they will be mercilessly swept out of the country; other peoples will take their place.”

Today, ten years after the war for “the right of peoples to govern themselves,” Spaniards and French continue their bloodthirsty advance into Morocco under the indulgent eye of the pontiffs of the League of Nations.

The history of the European advance into Africa-and the whole history of colonization-is written from beginning to end in the blood of the natives.

In addition to massacres pure and simple, there are corvees, porterage, forced labor, alcohol and syphilis to complete the des­tructive work of civilization. The inevitable consequence of this monstrous system is the extinction of the black races.

It is of painful interest to juxtapose to these facts some figures. It will be seen that the rapid enrichment of some colo­nizers corresponds exactly with the no less rapid depopulation of the exploited regions. From 1783 to 1793 the Liverpool Company made about £1,117,700 profit from the slave trade. During the same period, the population of the regions visited by that company, lost 304,000 inhabitants. In nine years, King Leopold II received £3,179,120 from the exploitation of the Congo. In 1908, the population of the Belgian Congo was 20 million. It was 8,500,000 in 1911. In the French Congo, tribes of 40,000 inhabitants dropped to 20,000 in two years; other tribes disappeared completely.

In 1894, the Hottentot population amounted to 20,000. Seven years of colonization brought it down to 9,700.