Emancipation from oppression, in reciprocity and rights

Poster of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade © ONU/DIP

Emancipation of peoples, civic peace, social justice and dialogue in reciprocity and rights, these are the goals that guided, often at the cost of lives and sacrifice, several generations of men and women who have fought to win and share political, social, economic and cultural rights and participate to the Universal.

These are the foundations for which Tagore, Neruda and Césaire, in complex historical and geo-cultural contexts, committed themselves as active visionaries.

The anti-colonial struggle of these three men, was a fight lead by determined humanists, convinced that rule of law will prevail over exclusion, sectarianism, extremism, racism or intolerance, and that the values of a responsible universal are not the prerogative of a few determined peoples or the monopoly of a few groups within societies.

Tagore’s was an early voice for a modern Indian national consciousness against British colonialism. He overcame the isolation of a colonial subject to become a global one. All his arguments were drawn directly from his experience of the social and natural environment in which he lived 150 years ago. These gave meaning to his stand against colonialism, social and racial discrimination and dehumanization, and coherence to his faith in the relationship between human beings and their environment. Protagonist of his time, his global embrace of emancipation and inclusive universalism became a powerful agent of the ideas Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal  Nehru adopted.

Tagore had a clear vision of the great threats that nationalism would bring to the construction of any nation, especially India. Protesting against ‘fascist tendencies’ in Indian nationalist movements, he repeatedly voiced his opposition to all forms of totalitarianism, of whatever origin. He described it as a manifestation of ‘unreason’, as ‘a fundamental source of all blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect’. The construction of a nation on that basis is ‘the worst form of cancer to which humanity is subject’.

Tagore was one of the inspirations of the Déclaration pour l’indépendance de l’esprit, led by Romain Rolland and other western intellectuals, which was perhaps the first organized attempt to mobilize intellectual opinion internationally against the second world war.

Pablo Neruda’s life and poetry are deeply committed to the socialist ideal of human rights and remained faithful to that ideology. From this militant faith and the bonds between the Chilean experience and that of other peoples, other cultures, other struggles, Neruda’s humanism acquires a universal dimension.

The poet celebrated the resistance of the Araucanian people to the Spanish invader in his Canto general.

In his first work, Cahier du retour au pays natal, the young poet Césaire declares his commitment to the emancipation of all people. His first cry for humanization is hurled into the face of the world for black people. From the incandescence of the texts of his youth, the struggle for the humanization of all people guided the whole poetic and political work of Césaire the man. With his friends, Léopold Sédar Senghor at the Lycée Louis Legrand and Léon Gontran Damas, and the young students from Africa or the USA, he discussed the evils of colonialism and the rise of fascism, struggling for the primacy of political, cultural, economic and social emancipation and dialogue.

Despite historical periods of troubles and in spite of their diverse multicultural backgrounds as those of Asia and Indian subcontinent, Latin America or the Caribbean, Tagore, Neruda and Césaire set a dialogue in northern and southern countries based on integrity and emancipation from all forms of oppression.

Through their literary and political commitment, they acted as peace-builders, struggling for the eradication of racism, intolerance and exclusion in order to promote and raise awareness of Human rights instead.

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