The Practical Impact of the Concept of Free Nationalism Following the First World War

This concept, promulgated by the victorious allies, was modified by self-interest and intended, not as an altruistic attempt to free subjugated peoples from imperial yoke, but to an exercise in maintaining control of their empires by the victors, while slicing up the sphere of influence and control of the losers.  Sri Aurobindo describes the results:

“In America it would have no field of immediate application.  In Africa there are not only no free nations, but with the except of Egypt and Abyssinia no nations, properly speaking; for Africa is the one part of the world where the old tribal conditions have still survived and only tribal peoples exist, not nations in the political sense of the word.  Here then a complete victory of the Allies meant the partition of the continent between three colonial empires, Italy, France and England, with the continuance of the Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese enclaves and the precarious continuance for a time of the Abyssinian kingdom.  In Asia it meant the appearance of three or four new nationalities out of the ruins of the Turkish empire; but these by their immaturity would all be foredoomed to remain, for a time at least, under the influence of the protection of one or other of the great Powers.  In Europe it implied the diminution of the Austrian empire, the reversion of the Adriatic coast to Serbia and Italy, the liberation of the Czech and Polish nations, some rearrangement of the Balkan Peninsula and the adjacent countries.  All this, it is clear, meant a great change in the map of the world, but no radical transformation.  The existing tendency of nationalism would gain some extension by the creation of a number of new independent nations; the existing tendency of imperial aggregation would gain a far greater extension by the expansion of the actual territory, would-wide influence and international responsibilities of the successful empires.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 29, The Idea of a League of Nations, pp. 258-259