Most people think slavery is prohibited becausevit is wrong ... If that’s true we would have ended slavery thousands of years ago.
Graeco-Roman slavery actually ended in Europe a long time ago and it more or less morphed into feudalism with people tied to the land and a hierarchy of duties, obligations and rights. It was revived when Europe expanded beyond its borders, it saw the vast resources that lay plentifully in its reach, and it also saw that its military power exceeded that of its neighbours and having surveyed the global scene, it decided to appropriate it for itself, to put it baldly - to steal. Europe became a thief. Though it called itself a conquerer.
A word that might mean something to some people but when Alexander the Great came upon some Jain philosophers in India, they angrily rebuked him. So likewise. They stole land, nations and men. Leaving behind an immense devastation. The Mongolian warriors were called the Golden Horde because of their violence and their military might. Europe had seen nothing like it and it was fearful. Likewise for the world and Europe. The world had seen nothing like this before. The ‘white hordes’ pouring out of their remote peninsula, maddened by gold and greed.
Aime Cesaire, in his Discourse on Colonialism, begins by saying:
A civilisation that proves itself incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilisation.
A civilisation that chooses to choses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilisation.
A civilisation that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilisation.
And later he quotes Renan from his book Refonne moral et intellectuel:
We aspire not to equality but to domination. The country of a foreign race must once again become a country of serfs, of agricultural labourers, of industrial workers. It is not a question of eliminating the inequalities between men butbof widening them and making them into a law.
To which he comments ‘This rings clear, haughty and brutal. We are planted squarely in the middle of the howling savagery. He then goes on further quoting from Renan:
The regeneration of the inferior or degenerate races by the superior races is part of the providential order of things for humanity. With us the common man is nearly always a déclassé nobleman, his heavy hand is better suited to handling the sword rather than a menial tool. Rathercthan work, he chooses to fight, that is, he returns to his first estate. Regere imperio populos, that is our vocation. Pour forth this all-consuming activity onto countries which, like China, are crying out for foreign conquest. Turn Europe into a ver sacrum, a horde like those of the Franks, the Lombards or the Normans, and every man will be in his right role.
Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honour; govern them with justice, levying from them, in return for the blessing of such a government, an ample allowance for the conquering race, and they will be satisfied. A race of tillers of the soil, the Negro, treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should be. A race of masters and soldiers, the European race.
Reduce this noble race to working in the ergastulum, like the Negroes and the Chinese, and they rebel. In Europe, every rebel is more or less a soldier who has missed his calling. A creature made for the heroic life, before whom you are setting a task that is contrary to his nature. A poor worker and too good a soldier. But the life at which our workers would rebel will make a Chinese and a fellah happy, as they are not military creatures in the least. Let each one do what he is made for, and all will be well.
Cesaire himself is shocked that something like this can come from Renans pen. It’s worth deconstructing this: Renan is exhorting his fellow Europeans that the feudal elites had for so long oppressed, to forget their differences, to forget the fact that they had been more or less enslaved and set to work, he is telling that that there are new countries to plunder, to set to work, and over whom together they could lord it over. They are not crying out to be conquered - he is crying out that they should be conquered. That’s some sleight of phrase.
Where once they were despised as peasants, they are now almost set up as equals with the nobleman, he is merely a ‘déclassé nobleman’. In the architecture of racial hierarchy that they were building, the Europeans were to be enobled and set up before all others as the madter race. And so he encourages their fighting spirit, calling his jingoism heroism. This is the heroic jingoism that ended up with over a million dead in the battle of the Somme.
And then he quotes Monsieur Albert Sarraut, a Governor-General of Indochina, holding forth at the Ecole Coloniale, teaching them it would be peurile to object to the European colonial enterprises in the name
name of an alleged right to possess the land that one occupies and some sort of right to remain in fierce isolation which would leave unutilised forever resources to lie idle in the hands of incompetents.
So much for the sancity of property when the property belongs to some other people. And then from Marshall Bugeaud:
We must have a great invasion of Africa like that of the Franks and the Lombards.
And then Cesaire reminds the reader of the ‘remarkable feat of arms’ of General Gerard in the capture of the Algerian village of Ambike, which being a village, ‘would not have dreamt of defending itself.’
The native riflemen had orders to kill only the men but no-one restrained them. Intoxicated by the smell of blood, they spared no-one, not one woman, not one child ... At the end of the afternoon, the heat caused a light mist to rise: it was the blood of five thousand victims, the ghost of a city, evaporating in the setting sun.
Sometimes it pained the conscience of these military men, Colonel de Montagnais, another conquerer of Algeria confessed:
Sometimes when thoughts besiege me I cut off some heads, not the heads of artichokes, but the heads of men.
Then he quotes a certain Carl Siger, author of an Essai sur la colonisation, published in Paris, 1907:
The new countries offer a vast field to the individual, violent activities, which in the metropolitan countries would run up against certain prejudices, against a sober and orderly conception of life, and which in the colonies have a greater freedom to develop, and consequently, to affirm their worth. Thus to a certain extent, the colonies can serve as a safety valve for modern society. Even if this was their only value, it would be immense.
I’ve quoted at length from a scholar of colonialism to show that slavery in the modern era was not some random contingent fact of fate, but a scheme planned, plotted and schemed for. It wasn’t technology that stopped slavery but technology that allowed it, because it increased the military might of Europe.