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Decolonization is the undoing of colonialism, the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination over one or more other territories.


  • Decolonization, therefore, implies the urgent need to thoroughly challenge the colonial situation. Its definition can, if we want to describe it accurately, be summed up in the well-known words "The last shall be first." Decolonization is verification of this.
  • It is a fact as well as a matter of wonder that sixty-five years after India gained her independence, it still makes perfect sense to discuss “decolonization”. The omnipresence of the English language is the most visible factor of a permanently colonized condition, others are the total reliance on Western models in the institutions and in the human sciences. But unlike China, that has wholeheartedly suppressed its own cultural identity (except in language) to embrace Soviet and Anglo-Saxon standards and ideas, India has maintained more of its identity and shows a stronger resistance. That is why in India, the colonized condition can be an issue at all.... Recently, China has rediscovered its identity, witness the numerous Confucius Institutes. China has less complexes about its identity than India, which wouldn’t dream of naming its cultural representation after one of its ancient sages. At the same time, it has a far more historical view of decolonization: somehow there are no Chinese intellectuals imagining that the colonial Opium Wars are still going on.
  • That is why I don’t like the use of the term “decolonization” (as opposed to the act of decolonization, wherever needed), eventhough I myself have prominently used it in the past. It is a term of adolescent rebellion against the colonizer as father figure, who in reality has long left the scene. In the land of proud civilization-builders, not just philosophers like Kapila or Yajñavalkya but also scientists like Lagadha and Panini and resourceful strategists like Chanakya and Bajirao, this adolescent behaviour is unbecoming. It is high time for Indians to shed their acquired inferiority complex as colonial underlings and reconnect with their glorious, or at any rate independent, past... “Decolonization” is also a term of cowardice because it misdirects your combative energies towards a long-dead enemy, thus hiding your fearful appeasement of more immediate enemies. Whoever speaks of “decolonization” thereby shows his own use of colonial categories, with your own destiny still having to be wrested from some foreign authority. In reality, your destiny is yours, and foreign powers only have as much power in India as the Indian authorities themselves give them. Indians are responsible, not colonizers or other foreigners.... Nonetheless, it does almost look like the situation of a colonized nation when you consider the enormous cultural power wielded in India by Western, now mostly American-based, NGOs, think-tanks and institutions of higher learning. They have rarely been set up in order to serve some imperial goal, yet they still embody a very colonial psychology. They still think that India has to be lifted out of its own barbarism. They give themselves a civilizing mission, constantly nurtured with atrocity literature to justify the treatment of Indians as backwards in need of tutelage. But today, this “native barbarism” has been redefined in terms of human rights. American India-watchers and India-meddlers analyse Hinduism as a litany of human rights violations, and present themselves as the saviours whom India’s many oppressed categories have been waiting for.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Hindu dharma and the culture wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.
  • The struggle against war and its social source, capitalism, presupposes direct, active, unequivocal support to the oppressed colonial peoples in their struggles and wars against imperialism. A 'neutral' position is tantamount to support of imperialism.
    • Leon Trotsky "Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau" (July 1936).
  • In terms of American ideology, the wave of decolonization that began in the late 1940s and was mostly completed by the mid-1970s led in two different directions. On the one hand, American elites welcomed the breakup of the European colonial empires because it meant opportunities for extending US ideas of political and economic liberties. It also meant that the European elites – much reduced in stature after the two world wars – could concentrate on defense against Communism and reform at home. As Secretary of State Marshall had commented after discussions on NATO in 1949, ‘‘when we reached the problem of increasing the security of Europe, I found all the French troops of any quality were all out in Indochina, and I found the Dutch troops of any quality were out in Indonesia, and the only place they were not was in Western Europe.’’ On the other hand, however, decolonization increased the threat of collectivist ideologies getting the upper hand in the Third World. The Chinese Communist revolution, the US-supported wars against Communist guerrillas in Vietnam, Malaya, and the Philippines, the radical orientation of the post-independence regimes in Indonesia, India, and Egypt, and even the successful interventions in Guatemala and Iran convinced the Eisenhower administration that the Third World may not be ready for democracy – the ingratitude shown by Chinese and Indonesians to US efforts to secure their freedom during and after World War II signified a lack of appreciation for the principles America was attempting to further. If that was the case, then a covert strategy for influence would make more sense than open attempts at gaining friends through aid and trade.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Intervention and the Making of Our Times (2012), pp. 26-27

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