For unlimited access to Class Notes, a Class+ subscription is required.
Lecture 8: 11/02/10
Decolonization Part II – Africa
Khrushchev – a new policy: capitalism and communism can co-exist (opposite to
This idea culminates in 1955 at the Geneva Conference – none of the goals were
achieved. However, Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin caused problems in Poland
and Greece – they criticized Khrushchev’s as denouncing Stalin too soon. The United
States and the Suez Crisis – American unwillingness to make concessions; today we
look at consequences of a re-emergence confrontation and the decolonization of
Africa where the world powers (Russia and American) were prompted to play a part.
In many places, the two world powers were put down imperialism; however Africa had
been mostly untouched at this point in time. France and Britain had lost much power
The Suez Crisis backfired: Britain and France had to back down because of the
international outcry – even though they had dominated the confrontation with Egypt.
This indicated how much the situation had changed – how much these powers had
lost their military and diplomatic clout. The bipolar world system changed the
European state system. Exacerbating the situation is that both these world powers
were opposed to each other. The budding national African movements were given a
choice: either to align with the West or with the Eastern bloc; capitalism or
communism. Unlike the earlier independence movements in Asia and Latin America
which had occurred before this bipolar world system had fully blossomed. Up until this
point, the Soviet Union never considered playing a role in Africa – Stalin dismissed the
entire 3rd world. The communist part of the Soviet Union from the early 1920s had
dismissed Africa. Western Europe had always been the apple of their eye. After Stalin
died in 1953, Khrushchev had denounced Stalin and recognized that perhaps the
Soviet Union could gain influence by gaining entry into the part of the world in which
they had never played a role: the 3rd world. Khrushchev asserted that they could still
have good relations with the United States and the west while also playing a role in
Africa – not doing anything would be the tacit agreement that the United States
owned the rights to Africa. Khrushchev argued that they could establish relationships
with the budding national movements and new leaders of Africa.
The new arena of a struggle between the United States and Soviet Union would be in
Africa – and there, they would be able to undermine capitalism and ensure
communism. 1) By supporting the national independence movements and gaining 3rd
world support; 2) if they win, we will undermine the position of the west; 3) if we can
undermine the west, we will have a better chance of succeeding in Europe.
To make a selection of a few states and invest the money in those countries – they
cannot support the entire continent – they must choose those most suitable of
accepting Marxist thought.
Policy: to create a showcase for communism in Africa; if successful, it will
demonstrate the superiority of communism and the rest of the continent will follow on
their own. And thus Khrushchev followed a policy of establishing satellite states in
He creates a university: Friendship University in Moscow which opened all African
states to send their brightest students to be educated in Marxist philosophy/economy
and international statehood – then they would return to spread these ideas.
The Americans were not blind to these Soviet endeavors. Their position was
somewhat compromised by the very fact that their best allies were the same colonial
powers that these independence movements wanted to overthrow. While America
preached everyone has the right to self-determination and to fight imperialism, they
could not push Britain and France around. By doing so, they would undermine the
very essence of NATO. The integrity of NATO was extremely important for them. If
they pushed the French and English to forcefully, they would undermine NATO. But,
by not pushing the British and French, they would show favoritism to the imperial
powers and alienated the independence movements, thus making it easier for Soviet
influence to grow in Africa.
The Americans had an added problem: if they were to transfer power too fast from
British and French in Africa, they would assume power. If they waited too long, the
countries might turn over to the Soviet Union. How would the Americans know which
movements were open to western type development? There was a general approach,
that all of the movements had leftist tendencies. It was hard for the Americans to
determine that the power transfer would be put in the right hands (hands which
supported the west).
The African nationalists themselves were not always communist. Most of the
movements were nationalistic movements, but it was hard for the West to discern.
Many of the intellectual Africans who were schooled in Moscow were not tempted by
communism. These movements whether nationalist/socialist/political, unlike the
Chinese, Indians, etc. they did have an option and made a deliberate decision
whether to go to America to study or to the Soviet Union. Under this context, we must
understand how decolonization occurred in Africa. Primarily, it is Britain and France
that we are concerned with.
The two most important French colonies were: Morocco and Tunisia. These were
clear-cut colonies and yet from the 1940s, independence movements developed in
both of them (nationalist movements). The movements in these countries were not
necessarily socialist; they were open to help from either side. France tried to destroy
these movements, but having already been deeply engaged in South East Asia, they
could not support full-scale military engagements in both places. France would cut
their losses and hand over the reins to these movements because they also had an
interest in Algeria. Algeria belonged to France and there was no wish in France to give
up that colony. The only chance France had was to isolate Algeria and make sure the
nationalist movements in Morocco and Tunisia from spreading to Algeria is by making
compromises: offering them (Morocco and Tunisia) financial and technological aid
(huge incentives). They hoped that the new nationalist movements would support
French dominance in Algeria. Thereafter, both of these countries become members of
the UN and both of these states offer Algeria support in throwing off the yoke of
The British having seen the failure of the French and the victory of the first
independence movements in North Africa – the British decided to do the same: they
created a new system (multiracialism) realizing that holding onto the old form of
colonialism would not work. Colonialism strengthened the Soviet Union in Africa.
Multiracialism offered equality. The British offered a vote, a right to participate in the
political life of their state; but not a vote per person – a vote per racial group. Giving a
right to each individual would result in the immediate loss of power because the
whites were a minority in each country. Each race would have one vote: 100 000
white, 2 million black: each would have the same political power. In each case, this
system failed. 1) In the French part of Africa, all the states gaining outright
independence made other states wish the same (proportional representation); 2)
The British would offer full independence after this. Thereafter, these states would be
represented in the United Nations (altering the balance in the UN).