The colonization was one of the most disgraceful phenomena in the history of mankind. It was inhuman, humiliating, and oppressive and it came to its natural end in the 20th century. Colonization in its turn can be considered as the extension of an even more disgraceful spot in the human history, namely slavery. The process of colonization was no doubt the synonym of violence.
It is very difficult to trace the early roots of the slavery. But it has been associated in the history of humanity with the colonization of the new territories in Asia, Africa and Latin America by the Europeans. This caused the strong trend of the interracial confrontation because the colonization was associated with the conflicts on the interracial basis. On one hand, white Europeans colonized the countries and territories of people who did not belong to the white European race.
The colonization was the catalyst of racism and racial segregation. The colonization was the basis of Negrophobia which could not exist without violence.
It is no doubt that the colonialism could not exist forever and the aspiration of people to the national self-determination and self-estimation would cause the collapse of the colonial system. The decolonization process was unavoidable, and it was absolutely logical from the historical point of view.
The decolonization process of colonization ruling was the absolute anachronism in the second half of the 20th century and illogical from the point of view of historical development which was clearly understood by both, former colonizers and the colonized nations and on the other hand, the former colonizers had to lose certain economical benefits with the decolonization.
If the colonization was the result of the military, aggressive actions, the decolonization was rather the transition than the violence. It was the result of both the revolt movements in the colonies and the global understanding that the humanity could not bear with such shameful phenomenon as colonialism anymore.
At the same time, the humanity faced the serious problem of the methods of getting rid of colonialism. What is more, this problem was not only the problem of the colonized nations but the colonizers as well.
Frantz Fanon in his book “The Wretched of the Earth” tries to find the solution for decolonization. He tries to choose between the evolutionary, violence-free transition from colonialism and violent revolutionary decolonization.
Fanon experienced the racial discrimination himself. Being the soldier of the French Army during the WWII, being told that he was a part of France, he experienced the hypocrisy of the colonial ideology when the high mottos stating that all citizens of the colonies had to defend their “Mother France” contradicted to the attitude to him as to a person of the second grade based on the racial prejudices.
According to Fanon, the colonialism is violent. Its violence is displayed in everyday life. Violence and oppression are the backbones of the colonialism. Then he concludes that only the violence can be the driving force of the colonized in the decolonization process.
The colonization is displayed in the humanitarian violence when the natives accept the false European cultural values thus dissolving and losing their cultural roots. Fanon states that the oppressive nature of colonialism can be overcome through violence only. Fanon says that the violence could be the only driving force of developing the self-identity of the colonized people. “…for the colonized people this violence, because it constitutes their only work, invests their characters with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole since each forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged upwards in reaction to the settlers’ violence in the beginning”1. Fanon states that the revolutionary struggle is the only way to create the self-consciousness of the colonized people. According to him the new society and new consciousness can be born only through the revolutionary struggle.
The entire history of humanity with its bloody revolutions proves the fallacy of the Fanon’s conclusions. Violence is destructive and can bear nothing but new violence.
The decolonization and violence was the subject of studying of the brilliant thinkers of the 20th century, one of them is the brave son of America Martin Luther King, Jr.
Unlike Fanon, King was confident that the oppression and humiliation could be overcome by non-violent methods only. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he outlines the non-violent principles of liberation movement against the racial oppression and segregation. The approaches of Fanon and King are different in their essence. Fanon called to the violent actions aimed to change the entire political system while King’s actions were aimed to improve the conditions of the certain group within the existing system without destroying the political structure. The King’s actions were aimed to eliminate the humiliation of minority by the ruling majority.
The non-violent actions of Martin Luther King were directed to accord the State with its main objective to be the Sovereign to provide the natural rights, i.e. the rights given by nature, to all members of the society disregarding their social position, skin color, and other prejudices. This objective was worked out in the Theory of State by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan. These nonviolent actions also correspond to the basic principles of the Christian morality.
Unlike Fanon, Martin Luther King called for non-violent direct actions aimed to create tension which would force the authorities to start the negotiations. “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. … The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”2
Martin Luther King Jr. as it is seen from his “Letter” considered the negotiations to be the main instrument of his struggle against the humiliation of the African Americans.
The brilliant Indian thinker Gandhi was the passionate advocate of non-violence in political struggle. In his “All Men Are Brothers” Gandhi shares his vision on the non-violent means of reaching the social justice. He opposed the violence to the civil disobedience. “I have believed that it is possible by proper training of the lowliest by non-violent means to secure the redress of the wrongs suffered by what that means is non-violent non-co-operation. At times, non-co-operation becomes as much a duty as cooperation. No one is bound to co-operate ii) one’s own undoing or slavery.”3
According to Gandhi, the civil disobedience is the inherent right of the citizen and an indisputable attribute of the democracy. Gandhi makes a very interesting conclusion to support the non-violent nature of the human existence which somehow contradicts to the statement of Thomas Hobbes regarding the war as a natural state of the human being. Gandhi says that “The fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the force of arms but the force of truth or love. Therefore, the greatest and most unimpeachable evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the world, it still lives on.”4
National self-consciousness is the top priority of the decolonization. The education of the nation is the main objective of getting rid of the colonial rule. “Mere withdrawal of the English is not independence. It means the consciousness in the average villager that he is the maker of his destiny; he is his legislator through his chosen representative.”5
Gandhi calls for creating the government which also contradicts to the Sovereign described by Hobbes in Leviathan. Hobbes states that the sovereign is not interested in educating the people, thus developing their self-consciousness. Non-violent struggle, civil disobedience and developing the national self-consciousness are the main methods of decolonization struggle according to Gandhi.
There were two approaches of decolonization in the modern history. They are non-violent based on the principle of the civil disobedience and the violent one as it was in India. Gandhi believes that the spiritual strength and power of people is much stronger than the physical one. Gandhi accepts the violent methods may bring certain results regarding overcoming the colonial rule, but these methods would destroy the decolonization movement ideologically, i.e., regarding spiritually. People who follow the violent methods of decolonization may get rid of the colonial rule, but instead, they would get the spiritually poor country.
This is very narrative if the decolonization movement of the Northern Ireland is studied. The violent struggle of IRA with its terror methods has led to a dead end. The chain of bloody bombings committed by the IRA worldwide did not bring any regarding getting rid of the British rule. At last, the IRA was legalized and even gained some presentation in the Parliament. But by that time the terror methods have transferred from the means of decolonization into the final aims. The organization armed with the terrorist methods happened to be unable to build the independent country. The violent means did not bring any positive results as for the final aim and confirmed the accepted theory of terrorism according to which the terrorism does not have any distinct political aim; its only one and final aim is the fear. If the declared aims are observed, then the terrorists find the additional ones to continue the violent struggle.
The major argument of the violent methods supporters is that violence is accepted as a response to the violence of the colonial rulers. This is one of the major fallacies of the violent methods supporters and which has been disillusioned by Gandhi.
Gandhi said that the major decolonization should take place in the human consciousness; it should be constructive. The violent struggle is the visible part of the iceberg called decolonization. The domination of the violent struggle does not benefit the creation of the free nation.
It is distinctly seen in Ulster when the freedom fighters turned into the terrorist movement without any creative program of building the British rule free society.
The supporter of the civil disobedience Martin Luther King brought the examples of the past when the non-violent methods brought the desired results. “Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.”6 King uses the Biblical example to convince his audience who are black Christians to accept the non-violent civil disobedience in their struggle for freedom, to convince them to get rid of the violent methods. This is maybe the greatest achievement of Martin Luther King to direct the black Americans to the non-violent methods.
The basis of violent struggle is revenge which cannot be constructive according to its nature. Martin Luther King did his best to direct his supporters from the way of the meaningless revenge. The IRA in the Northern Ireland failed to do this and failed to present any constructive program of the political changes in Ulster when it got the legal opportunity to do this.
The decolonization could not be based on the violence only. The process of the country decolonization involves the decolonization of minds. It is the easiest way to destroy everything without having an idea which way should be taken and what kind of house should be built instead. The colonization took the considerable period, and the most important is that the decolonization should be done in the nation self-consciousness.
At the same time violence can cause nothing but the violence. The most dangerous is that the vacuum of the national identity can be filled with the tyranny and violence which could be observed in some African post colonies with the tyrannical totalitarian rulers.
The prominent thinkers of the 20th century tried to work out the basic principles of decolonization, and it is obviously that decolonization process is first of all the political transition and not the destruction based on the violence.
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- Fanon, p.87
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fanon, Frantz. (1967) The Wretched of the Earth, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Martin Luther King, Jr., available at http://www.africa.upenn.edu/, retrieved 22.02.2006
Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, available at http://www.mkgandhi.org/index.htm, retrieved 22.02.2006