The Communist Party and colonization in the early 1930s

The Communist Party and colonization in the early 1930s

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Support the independence of the colonies!

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: July 2008

Historical context

A minority voice in France in the 1930s.

Since the Berlin conference of 1885, the race for colonies has been a major issue for European countries. France is proud of its achievements in Asia as well as in Africa.
This consensus is only challenged by a handful of intellectuals and the Communist Party. It stands out from the other left-wing parties as it is the only one to openly advocate the independence of the colonies.

Image Analysis

An enemy: the Capitalist.

This poster defines what are, for the Communist Party, the actors and the causes of colonization. The central figure, paunchy, in costume, wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar, represents the class enemy, "the Capitalist". It is the main beneficiary of the conquests and systematic exploitation of the dominated regions. It is located at the top of a pyramid built by the natives using agricultural or mining production. The bent backs of these workers reflect the hardship of labor and the immorality of enrichment based on human suffering.
To achieve his ends, the Capitalist relies on two pillars, the Army and the Church, "the Saber and the Bottle Brush". Both, through speech or violence, contribute to the submission of the natives and allow the plundering of wealth.
The images at the top of the poster describe the similarities between workers in the colonies and workers in France. Both suffer the throes of repression: colonials had been engaged in the French army and were used to suppress social movements while at the same time, the indigenous revolts were quelled by force, as during the pacification of the Moroccan Rif between 1921 and 1926.
The text insists on the iniquity of colonization, the systematic search for profit but also on the need for the French working class to encourage the desire for independence in order to improve its own condition.


"Workers of all countries ..."

The text is indicative of the message that the Communist Party wishes to convey. Colonization is blacklisted because of the abuses committed in the conquered territories and the enslavement of local populations. But it is also criticized because this indigenous labor force ensures the enrichment of the capitalist. The communist strategy since 1928 has been based on the "class against class" struggle. The bourgeois order taking advantage of colonization and becoming more powerful, it is the communist aims to destroy this source of income.
The end of colonization is both a moral (protecting exploited peoples) and a national (weakening the class enemy) necessity. Images showing the repression of an indigenous mob and a workers' demonstration reinforce this need for a class struggle, transcending national and ethnic divides. By allying French workers with the natives, this poster wishes to see the emergence of an international proletarian class consciousness. Internationalism, the class struggle, the union of the proletarians, the cynicism of a triumphant bourgeoisie leaning on the Army and the Church ... so many elements which plunge their ideological roots in Marxist thought and translate the ideological axes of the French Communist Party ten years after its creation.

  • caricature
  • Communism
  • colonial history
  • imperialism
  • working class

To cite this article

Vincent DOUMERC, "The Communist Party and colonization in the early 1930s"

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