Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor: a radical vision

GettyImages-478479384-960x515Gary Wilder at Aeon Magazine:

From the perspective of power politics, Césaire and Senghor’s projects might be regarded as utopian schemes with little hope of being realised, out of sync as they were with the nationalist direction in which history seemed to be moving. They were not revolutionary nationalists, and revolutionary nationalism carried the day. Their untimely belief that decolonisation might not require national independence and that self-determination might not require state sovereignty helps to explain why Césaire and Senghor are neglected figures.

But from the present vantage point, their visions seem more pertinent than ever. Since the end of the Cold War, the limits of state sovereignty and the failures of internationalism have become more evident. Private economic actors, unaccountable international agencies, and technocratic experts have superseded state and democratic sovereignties. The failed promises of national self-determination and universal human rights are underscored by Fortress Europe’s handling of the Mediterranean refugee crisis, or the Greek debt crisis. The bankruptcy of international law is revealed by the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Russia’s annexation of Eastern Ukraine, not to mention the new forms of US imperialism that are legitimised through UN‑sanctioned policies regarding human rights, humanitarianism, and the ‘responsibility to protect’. The absence of a vital framework for internationalist solidarity is clear given the left’s inability to effectively challenge Islamic State’s assaults on Syrian Kurds.

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