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Lecture 11

Lecture 11-Cold War and Decolonization.docx

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HIST 1707
Susanne Klausen

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History Lecture 11: Cold War and Decolonization The Berlin wall was taken down in November, 1989. It’s something we always refer to because it didn’t actually come down. They let people cross it, and people could climb on it and party on it. It was a revolution that ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union. The US won and Capitalism won. The end of the cold war had a profound effect across the world, especially in the colonial world. What happened was, with the end of the Cold War, the colonies were no longer of interest to the superpowers. They lost their political appeal, and they found themselves essentially overnight irrelevant. They had no more funding and political support, and the rivalry was replaced with complete indifference. This abandonment of colonial interest is especially prominent in the Horn of Africa. As soon as the war ended, both sides dropped all support for Ethiopia and Somalia. The powers, no longer having to support the client war, turned their attentions elsewhere. The US started to focus on the War on Terror, and that has continued right up till now. The bright side is that the dictators who were propped up by Washington and the USSR had no means of enforcing their rule, and the political situation changed positively in some colonies. That doesn’t stand true for all of them. As we talked about last week, the process of throwing off the yoke of colonial rule in Asia and Africa started right after WW2. By the mid-seventies, most of the world was liberated. This was at the exact same time as the cold war’s escalation. They influenced each other. In another way, it’s coming full circle back to the colonial scramble in the Berlin Conference in the 1880s, where the Europeans talked about how they were going to split up Africa. In some ways, decolonization was very similar. It was poorly planned, rushed, and equally complex in how it placed out and its consequences. There are three main reasons for decolonization. First, colonial subjects wanted decolonization and independence and they began working for it. Second, WW2 led to a decline in the capacity of Europeans to resist. Third, European powers decided it was in their best interests to let their colonies go. The desire to escape the rule of European powers spiked after WW2. Colonies were furious with how Europe behaved after the 2 war. The war was hugely costly in both life and money, and the West was putting forward democratic rhetoric. They said that it was antidemocratic and racist, and that the fascists were evil. This was the ideology that Africans and Asians heard and experienced. And, after the war, Europeans started tightening their grip on their territory. The colonizers were working even harder after the war than they were in the 30s, as a means of stopping the spread of communism and recovering their economies. Britain had fought off the Nazis alone in the battle for Berlin, and other economies like France took a beating. So, all these powers saw the colonies as very important to the process of rebuilding their economies. They saw them as even more vital as commercial territory. They saw them as potentially valuable sources of the usual stuff: cheap labour, resources, and captive markets. This was, of course, incredibly hypocritical. It further eroded any respect colonized people had for their colonizing masters. A lot of these people in the war went home wanting to bring the fight against oppression home. Asia was the first to get away from the European powers, with India breaking away in 1947. In a non-violent way, India got the Brits to go home. Others in Asia and across Africa watched this happen, and they were amazed and inspired, and doubly so because it happened without bloodshed. Ghandi was of course the leader of this protest movement in India. World War 2 really put the Europeans in an unflattering light. You had Europe and Japan as industrially developed nation states, causing a massive war and dragging the whole world into it. They forced everyone to take a side, and it was unbelievably violent. It was essentially nonstop slaughter. The Imperial powers who did this began to look very uncivilized. The war heightened the confidence of the colonial peoples because the colonial men were fighting just as well as the white men who were with them. When they were fighting the Germans, they were killing white people, and it put them on even ground. One last reason for independence was the movement of people to cities. When they got there, they had the chance to organize unions and strikes. Right after the war, you had Africans striking and demanding better working conditions and pay. You also had peasant riots. Literacy also contributed to the independence movements, as the emergence of newspapers became crucial to the independence movement and the spread of communications. The colonial governments were very worried with the way things were going. The colonizers didn`t want to improve things, and they were worried that the strikes could bubble up into something overtly political. They didn`t want the strikes to continue on the path to independence. Faced with strikes, we saw the authorities responding in different ways. On the one hand we saw some use repression and brutally put down any kind of organization and protest. On the other hand, we saw some authorities attempt to co-opt Unions and political Asians and Africans emerging. You saw efforts to buy off leaders and take the fuel out of the growing movement. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that two countries were infamous for their treatment of Africans. Belgium was brutal in the Congo, and Portugal was ruthless in Angola and Mozambique. Others thought that a middle ground approach would do the trick, but they wanted to find a way to maintain their economic benefits that came with being colonial rulers, while at the same time offsetting the ideological baggage that we beginning to emerge after WW2. The rise of leftist, social democratic governments made the idea of colonization look less appealing at home, and the colonies were starting to revolt. Being an imperial power was becoming something of a dirty word after WW2. So, the Europeans tried to find the best of both worlds. Britain and France began to (using force or threat of violence) include colonial subjects in the running of thei
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