Decolonization: Post-World War II Era (1945-1980)

Figure 1.--Until World War II, Europeans were able to mintain large colonial empires with very small colonil military forces. The war not only weakened the Europeans, but the Japanese inparticular exposed the fragility of Europen colonial rule. At the same time the spread of Communist/Socialist ideology became widely accepted among colonial elites. In addition to ideology, the Soviet Unin began to deliver weaponry to nationlist groups througout the Third world. For the first time since the Europeand began their maritnme outreach (late-15th century) colonized people were able to challenge the Europeans. The Soviet Kalashnikov (AK-47) became a Third World ikon. Tragically capitalism and democracy were not see seen as the driving force of national success. Te boys were photographed in the southern Sudan 1971). Note the mixture of weapons, only one AK-47. That is because the Soviets in this case were aiding the colonial power, the fundamentalist Arab Government in Khartoum which was using Soviet weapons to terrorize the largely Aftican south and seize boys like this to enslave. They were also resonsible for terrible attrocities in Darfur.

After World War II, the European empires could no longer be sustained. The War had further weakened the European powers. In addition, issues raised by the War, namely Fascist and Japanese efforts to create empires, undercut the idea that European power was unassailable. And Communist/Socialist ideology undercut moral justification of European empires. In addition, Socialist parties opposed to colonialism power or influenced public policies in Europe. At the same time, Socilist ideology achieved wide currency in the West. The Soviet Union also promoted anti-colonial policies and lent aid to Communist parties in the colonies. Perhaps more importnt, weaponry provided by the Soviets made it impossible for the Europens to direct the decolonization process or slow it down to give Third World leaders and populations time to more carefully pursue the process. Many nationalists saw the weakness of the colonial regimes and independence movements grew in strength. Among these movements there was little support for either democracy or capitalism. Here the British decession to grant independence to India was a major turning point (1947). The decolonization process varied greatly from country to country. India had been the jewel in the Crown. And unlike the rest of the Third World, the Indians did embrace democracy, but the new leaders like other Third World leaders were convinced that Socialism was not only more just, but was aaster route to economic development. World War II has inspired nationalist groups in the European colonies, especially in the countries occupied by the Japanese. Fascist propganda had proven effective in the Arab world. Britain's decession on India meant that it was only a matter of time before other colonies were granted independence.


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Created: 4:06 PM 8/25/2016
Last updated: 4:06 PM 8/25/2016