After World War II, Western Europe collapsed and the Soviet Union decisively routed Hitler’s invading army from Russian soil in the great battle of Leningrad. The Axis powers surrendered in 1945 and the two halves of Europe were divided between capitalism and communism. In his 1946 study, The World and Africa, Du Bois characterizes Europe’s shock upon coming face to face with the calamity of its collapse as a “nervous breakdown”. In 1947, U.S officials summarily sent aid to war-torn Western Europe through the Marshall Plan; she was rapidly losing her colonial lifelines as oppressed peoples all over the world wrested control of their destiny.
Jealous of their gains, in 1949, the United States and eleven other Western powers joined forces against the liberation struggles of the darker races with the joint aim of suppressing the spread of communism. It was these efforts which led to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that year. The Soviet Union and allied socialist states responded with the Warsaw Pact in 1955. This constellation of events is significant now more than ever because they gave bitter fruit to the nightmare of war today. Moreover, the responses organized by revolutionary forebears in light of these developments ought to guide our battle for peace today in a concrete and constructive way.
W.E.B Du Bois prophesied that the confrontations between the dying capitalist order chafing against the promise of black independence, the kingdom of heaven on earth, would conflagrate into a Third World War: “Drunk with power we are leading the world to hell in a new colonialism with the same old human slavery which once ruined us; and to a Third World War which will ruin the world.” The erudite Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister of liberated Ghana, ousted at the behest of the American Empire, would call this neocolonialism, the base attempt of finance capital to renegotiate the terms of the white man’s burden, under which Africa, Asia, and the Americas were held in thrall by Western civilization in the colonial period, into the twenty-first century.
Today, as James Baldwin so memorably put it some decades ago, the central psychic challenge faced by white people is their inability to directly and decisively contend with their actual role in history and the glaring truth that a society founded on rape, greed, and theft is not society at all but its antithesis. Incapable of looking at themselves in the mirror and their family members squarely in the eye, white people recuse themselves from the common human fellowship and, as such, can never make amends for the crimes that we know they have perpetrated against humankind, in the name of spreading Christianity, democracy, and civilization to the very people who enlightened them.