One of the most significant political events of the 1950s was the movement of the African states, and in particular the Negro peoples of sub-Sahara Africa, toward independence. As the previous decade belonged to the liberation movements of Asia, so the same wave of nationalism swept forward to engulf what had been considered the most backward continent in the world. And the crescendo has not yet been reached in this unheaval which, historically considered, seems to kaleidoscope eons into mere months. The white man, whose domination was so assured throughout sub-Africa ten years ago, may in another decade be a distant memory of oppression.
The flood tide of freedom in Negro Africa is singularly different from the liberation of the Asian states. An open explosion in India was only averted by the sympathetic reaction of the British Labor party to demands for freedom. Indochina and Indonesia came to statehood by revolt against the European masters. And the Arab states, in their chaotic campaigns for both freedom and the new freedom to oppress others, almost dragged the major powers into a new world war. But without exception the new states of black Africa have achieved their independence while maintaining a degree of relative harmony with the former colonial powers.
An analysis of the nature of these new nations adds to the bewilderment. The colossal population of India made British toryism decline combat. Little Holland could not hope to defeat in direct warfare the natives of the thousand-mile archipelago of Indonesia. The close-knit culture and religion of the Arab states presented a forbidding face to new European adventures. But the African states were small, impotent and lacking in industrial equipment. Most of these backward territories had not even arrived at a historical level where national feeling was a deep impulse. What then has happened? Are the European nations suddenly becoming benevolent, are they deliberately yielding power out of fatigue? Is it possible they have finally accepted the position of Thucydides, suggested over two thousand years ago, that a democracy by its very nature cannot be imperialist?
To touch beneath the skin of events, it is imperative to relate political to economic movements. A world transformation is now beginning whose ripples, contrary to the image of a stone thrown in water, are seen best at the outer shores of impact.