Decolonization is the historical manifestation that arises when a country seeking freedom from foreign rule. That is, it is a movement that can be generated when the inhabitants of a nation achieve independence or are incorporated into another State through a law of free association.
This process can be seen as the “natural way out” that the colonies find to emancipate themselves from secular governments. It is often called a natural way out because a revolution and citizen participation are generally needed. The will of the peoples is what gives the impulse to achieve free will.
In this sense, decolonization is defined as an anti-colonial ideology that is inspired by national progress and growth, seeking the development of its own values and culture.
Decolonization adopts the following principles: a peaceful and autonomous policy, the strengthening of liberal parties and not belonging to any organization in which a foreign power country has direct influence .
Decolonization is a social construct that is not located in a specific time or space, as it is an act as old as humanity. Thus, it has been going on since the beginning of history, when there were communities that tried to rule others while they struggled not to be oppressed or to obtain freedom.
However, etymologically the term arose in 1952 in the text “Colonization, colonialism, decolonization” by Henri Labouret (1878-1959), who stated that the word had the function of generating a rupture of the legal-political structure of colonialism. According to this author, all states should be sovereign and not be under any regime.
Decolonization is characterized by being a process created due to colonial empires, which subjugate some nations in order to expand their territory and power. However, the overwhelmed regions recognize their rights and fight for their liberation.
This movement does not have a specific chronology. Although it is true that it had its peak between 1945 and 1967, even so, a specific date of its beginning and end cannot be determined. The pro-independence currents are usually constant in the historical field.
Anti-colonialism in the nineteenth century used the concept of decolonization as an essential element of its revolutionary project, but the idea was little valued due to the evolution of the power countries that continued to expand their colonial territories. The term had not yet influenced political and social thoughts.
At first, decolonization was called the warlike conflicts for liberation that occurred in America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but from the 20th century on, this term refers not only to the peoples who achieved self-determination but to the rebellions that they were generated in the different colonies to reach it.
The ideology of this process influenced the development of postcolonial theory, which aimed to study the effects that the colonizing nations caused on the colonized ones and how their inhabitants struggled to acquire their own identity that would separate them from the colonial yoke.
The decolonial turn and decolonization
Decolonization is an ideal of national freedom whose precept is not to be part of any military institution, since during the emancipation process endless deaths and horror are generated.
For this reason, its foundation is to move away from the traumas created by oppressive states and institute an ethical-political stance that establishes new bases on state and citizen rights.
These bases are known as the “decolonial attitude”, which establishes the strategies that will provide a radical change in the ways of being, knowing, and acting of individuals. The decolonial turn refers to the recognition and representation of the power that a region acquires after emancipation.
He also exposes a position that contradicts his ideals; that is, it opposes its initial approach because some politicians have developed this turn in order to hide and produce technological weapons that affect the environment and the subjects.
While decolonization is a feeling and a value to restore the identity, the decolonial attitude is the establishment of the norms that promote said transformation.
Decolonization occurs when the members of a usurped nation become aware of the situation and seek to end it. However, for this movement to take place both internal and external factors intervene.
Nationalism is one of the essential causes for decolonization to be formalized since nationalist movements consolidate the emancipatory project. Within this expression there are three main aspects:
Opposition to the colonizing countries
This occurs when the conquering countries assume all the commercial and social benefits, displacing the subjugated nations, who end up rebelling to assert their rights.
The notions of sovereignty and autonomy are disseminated and assimilated, which cause patriotic sentiment and are manifested in two ways. The first is conservative nationalism that focuses on the past and the relevance of culture, while progressive nationalism seeks to copy the positive actions of power states.
The propagation of the ideas of freedom and democracy generates the rejection of extreme ideas. For this reason, colonies seek to shed the dominance and influences of empires.
Several elements contributed to the development of decolonization. Among these are the solidarity of independent peoples, the support of international organizations and the institutional role of the Church, which from the 20th century favored the autonomy of peoples and the well-being of citizens.
However, two war conflicts that resumed liberal thought stand out especially:
World War I (1914-1918)
It was the beginning of the fractionation and decline of the colonial system. This war —which had as its objective the expansion and territorial defense— not only caused numerous deaths and material losses, but also promoted the principles of sovereignty and equality of the dependent nations.
In the midst of this context, dependent nations had to decide about their destiny and be ruled by their inhabitants.
World War II (1939-1945)
Faced with the mobilization of men and the triumph of democratic projects, the colonizing states gave up promoting the colonial system.
Much of the world superpowers had collapsed due to the effects of the war, which destroyed the Japanese regime and caused Europe to lose the dominance of the Asian colonies, being stripped of its hegemony.
Decolonization not only represented freedom and national power, it fueled both neocolonialism and underdevelopment.
In other words, the nations that achieved their independence did not find an economic system suitable for their progress, which is why they still depend on the developed countries today. They remain dependent peoples, although they have proclaimed their emancipation.
Underdevelopment also encompasses the absence of a stable social-administrative structure, which is the reason for the high population growth that leads to increased hunger, starvation and disease.
This context also generates a lack of infrastructure and technical means since there is no local production, which implies that essential resources must be imported.
On the other hand, these nations tend to unbalance the social system by nationalizing industries and gradually dissipating capital. For this reason, the external debt arises, causing a greater dependence on foreign states due to the liquidation of interests.
At present, some underdeveloped peoples usually request a political negotiation due to the impossibility of paying off their foreign debt, acquired during the decolonization process.
Decolonization is a process that can originate in a peaceful or revolutionary way. The first occurs when the colonizing countries cede their territories in order to safeguard their commercial and monetary relations.
Instead, the revolutionary path involves violence and armed confrontation between metropolis and colonies in which both compete for similar interests, such as resources and space. In this sense, the movements that originated in Asia and Africa stand out.
Decolonization of Asia
The independence of the Middle East
This movement took place when the United Kingdom (which dominated Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan) and France (which controlled Syria and Lebanon), who were in charge of the Arab territories after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I , did not they managed to maintain the dominance of the regions due to the rivalry that existed between them.
This process caused a destabilization that resulted in enmity between Jews and Arabs and constant wars for control of the Suez Canal and oil . However, the emancipation of Iraq in 1930 was key for the rest of the colonies to speak out, which is why from 1946 the other peoples became independent.
Decolonization of Africa
The independence of “Black Africa”
One of the episodes that stands out most in the decolonization of African nations was when the United Kingdom, after World War II, decided to end the exploitation it carried out in these territories and, in a peaceful way, gave them autonomy.
The first independent state was Ghana in 1957. The purpose of the United Kingdom with this action was that all regions belong to the same political organization.