COLONIES IN A CHANGING WORLD
all of the United Nations, into truly international bases at the disposal
of whatever Security League comes into existence.
Even when the advanced and the strategic colonies are eliminated,
the bulk of colonial territories remain to be consideredóthe, whole of
tropical Africa including Madagascar, the West Indies, the Nether-
lands East Indies, Malaya, New Guinea, Greenland, and various
islands in the Pacific. They all share one characteristicócultural,
social, and economic backwardness; and the colonial problem is
primarily the problem of abolishing this backwardness. Most
colonial territories would never have become colonies if they had not
been so backward.
In Britain during the war, in spite of all the urgencies of the military
situation, there has been a great revival of interest in the colonial
question. Different groups naturally arrive at different solutions;
but the general direction of progressive opinion is remarkably uni-
form. First, it presupposes a necessary minimum of international
organization, to guarantee security from military aggression, and to
promote economic stability. Secondly, it rejects the pooling of
colonies under an international body. Instead, it envisages the ad-
herence of all colonial powers to a colonial charter, the raising of
administrative and labour standards by a series of international con-
ventions, and the general supervision of colonial administration by an
international Colonial Commission. Thirdly, and most important, it
regards the development of the tropical colonies as one of the major
economic priorities before the world.
The question is how to raise their mode of existence at optimum speed
toward a new level. I have deliberately used the phrase optimum in
place of maximum speed. In the case of advanced societies it suffices
to prescribe the desirable direction of movement; for tropical areas
it is also necessary to discover the optimum rate of change. When
the advance to be made is not merely from one level of civilization to
the next, but from a pre-mechanical, analphabetic, primitive tribal
society, operating in untamed natural surroundings, to a technological
and highly educated civilization which has largely controlled and even
created its own physical environment, it is extremely easy to move
too fast: change, like food, must be provided in assimilable doses.
Equally, it is easy for change in one field to get quite out of step with
other sets of changes, so distorting and disturbing the whole process.
Thus in some areas concentration on economic exploitation has re-
sulted in enormous labour migrations which have not only drained