The limits of solidarity in a decolonising world

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The limits of solidarity:
Europeanism, anti-colonialism and socialism at the Congress of the Peoples of
Europe, Asia and Africa in Puteaux in 1948.
In June 1948 some 300 delegates from all over the world gathered in the Parisian suburb of
Puteaux to discuss two questions: the relations of a united Europe with the decolonising world
and the situation in eastern Europe. The Congress of the Peoples of Europe, Asia and Europe
was organised by the Movement for the United Socialist States of Europe with the support of
the British Independent Labour Party, the French SFIO and the Indian Socialist Party. This
congress brought together European anti-imperial socialists hoping for a Socialist United
States of Europe and ultimately World Federation, with socialists and democratic nationalists
from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. At a time of both great insecurity and opportunity,
with the possibility of a third world war between the superpowers looming, with nationalism
in Europe discredited but starting to blossom in the colonial world, they attempted to bridge
difference and create links between peoples from across the globe. The European organisers
hoped to create a socialist Europe, covering both east and west. This united Europe would
closely cooperate with future independent states in the colonial world in a Third Camp
between the superpowers, skirting both capitalism and state socialism. However, they had
difficulty convincing the colonial delegates that this socialist Europe would be on the one
hand viable and on the other would not resort to neo-colonial practice; would the interests of
these aspiring nation states not lie more with the anti-colonial superpowers?
While explicitly set up as an inclusive and multiform platform, the diverse backgrounds
and priorities of the delegates led to misunderstandings and significant differences of opinion.
While the congress at Puteaux created ‘a feeling of fraternity’ among the delegates, it also
showed the limits of solidarity. As such, it was at once a highlight and a low point of
transnational dreams at the onset of the Cold War.
This paper explores how European socialists imagined a new future for Europe and the
colonial world. Furthermore, it examines the reasons why, at this time of a solidifying iron
curtain and dissolving colonial ties, the interests of the delegates from eastern Europe and the
colonial world could not be brought into agreement. It will point to relations with the
superpowers as a decisive factor. In doing so, this paper will bring together longer histories of
European integration, anti-colonialism and socialist internationalism in the framework of the
developing cold war.
Anne-Isabelle Richard
[email protected]
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