– In an essay, explain the process of global decolonization starting with India in 1947. Discuss whether the great colonial powers (Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands ” gave” freedom to their colonial subjects – in this regard think of contrasting ” struggles” like the French in Indochina and the British in West Africa. Describe the temporary approaches of the British and French to keep their colonies tied to them. Finally explain how the United States and the Cold War effected decolonization.
In India, the nonviolent methods of Gandhi like the famous Salt March of 1930 were instrumental in forcing Britain to grant a large measure of home rule and autonomy in 1935. It had already done so long before to its ‘ white’ colonies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Over time, these former colonies were transformed into the British Commonwealth, which was the informal successor to the empire. During World War II, though, especially as the Japanese rapidly overran Burma, Thailand and Malaysia in 1942 and threatened the borders of British India, Gandhi and the Congress Party demanded complete independence (Wolpert 2009). In this particular case they also had the support of Franklin Roosevelt in the U. S., while Winston Churchill remarked that he had not become prime minister to dismantle the British Empire. On the other hand, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, pledged support for the British war effort in 1939 in return for independence after the war. In practice this meant the partition of the subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, which finally occurred in 1945-47 under the Labour Party government. Over one million people died in communal violence as a result of partition, including Gandhi himself in 1948. He was shot by a Right-wing Hindu nationalist enraged at his offers of concessions to the Muslims (Wolpert and Sisson 1988).
As European rule crumbled in Asia during and after the Second World War, Mao Zedong’s Communist revolution in China in 1949 offered another alternative to the colonies seeking independence, as well as support for leftist anti-colonial movements everywhere in those regions that would soon be called the ‘ Third World’. His model of peasant-based revolutions had been perfected in the long wars against the Nationalists since the 1920s and in the anti-Japanese war of 1937-45. In countries that had no real working class, the only real path to independence was through mass organization of the peasants, which was a radical departure from the original ideas of Karl Marx (Heuston 46). Communism also seemed to offer a model of social and economic development that great appeal to the former colonies, which had always been exploited as sources of cheap labor and raw materials. For the U. S. and its allies in the Cold War, one of the key problems was to devise policies of nationalist or non-Communist development that would satisfy the aspirations and rising expectations of the impoverished majority in the former colonies.
During the Cold War, the U. S. was not consistently opposed to colonialism because it required the cooperation of Britain and France in Europe and other regions of the world and always feared a Communist takeover of the former colonies. Mao Zedong’s example of a successful peasant revolution was widely copied in Asia, Africa and Latin America and wherever possible the U. S. preferred that non-Communist nationalists would control the newly-freed colonies after independence. For this reason, it supported France during the First Indochina War in 1946-54 and then created South Vietnam and installed the nationalist anti-Communist Ngo Dinh Diem as its ruler. At the same time, it also used covert means to overthrow leftist governments in Guatemala in 1954, Cuba in 1960-62 (where the CIA failed to dislodge Fidel Castro), Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965, Chile in 1973 and Nicaragua in the 1980s (Kinzer 2007). It generally refrained from interfering in Africa out of deference to British and French interests, and independence for most countries on that continent was delayed until the 1960s. One exception was the Belgian Congo, where the U. S. and Belgium supported a transition to a non-Communist nationalist regime and overthrew the leftist government of Patrice Lumumba for fear that he would be allied with the Soviets in Chinese. In Angola, East Timor and Mozambique, it supported the Portuguese against the leftist independence movements in those countries up to 1975 and continued to back anti-Communist nationalists for many years afterwards.
– In a paragraph or less explain the significant of psychiatrist Franz Fanon his role in the Algerian revolution and his theories about independence for the peoples of Africa.
Franz Fanon was a psychiatrist from Martinique who fought in the Algerian struggle for independence from France in the 1950s. His book The Wretched of the Earth (1961) is widely considered one of the classic works in the anti-colonialist genre, particularly in its description of racism and the all-pervading sense of repression and inferiority felt by nonwhites in the Third World. Like Mao, he argued that the peasants and marginalized peoples of the colonies were the only force capable of overthrowing imperialist rule, and that violent struggle against their white masters was necessary for their psychological health and well-being, given how they had been dehumanized by colonialism.
C) Finally in a sentence or two, explain the invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956.
On this occasion, the U. S. supported a Nasser’s nationalist government in Egypt against its European allies, when he nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and Britain, France and Israel occupied Suez in retaliation. They were soon forced to withdraw due to pressure from Washington, which was attempting to accommodate non-Communist nationalism of the Nasserite variety, even though Nasser later allied with the Soviet Union.
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Heuston, Kimberley Burton. Mao Zedong. New York: Franklin Watts, 2010.
Kinzer, Steven. Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books, 2007.
Wolpert, S (2009). Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wolpert & Sisson, S. (1988). Congress and Indian Nationalism, the Pre-Independence Phase. Los Angeles: University of California Press.