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The Movement for Colonial Freedom was a UK based political campaigning organisation.[1]

In 1945 one fifth of the world was still under British sovereignty. 780 million people throughout the world still lived under European colonial world. Hopes of independence for the British colonies under a Labour Party Government were not encouraged by the Labour Party’s general election manifesto which gave no commitment to introduce bills to provide for self-government, except in the case of India. Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin said that the loss of the colonies would mean falling living standards for British people. However continued colonial rule was in contradiction to the Atlantic Charter which advocated full sovereignty for all the world’s peoples. In some British colonies, repression was on the order of the day – in Malaya for instance, communist insurgents were put down by British security forces, who even used head hunters to bring in rebels’ heads. This news was concealed from the British public but anti-colonial activists received the photographic evidence. Fenner Brockway played an active role in convening a conference of anti-colonialists and representatives of nationalist and independence movements, and black organizations such as the League of Coloured Peoples in 1947. Offices were set up in Paris and London and in 1948 the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism was established.

With the outbreak of wars against French rule in North Africa the Paris office was closed. By now India, Ceylon and Burma had their independence. In Africa however independence organizations, such as the Mau Mau led by Kenyatta were established and solidarity was called for.

The Movement for Colonial Freedom was founded in 1954. The Labour Party’s official position was not to support independence leaders. This however was not universally accepted and 70 MPs, including Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle, supported the Movement for Colonial Freedom. It had support also amongst celebrities such as Benjamin Britten and in the universities. Fenner Brockway was the chairman, Douglas Rogers the secretary and Tony Benn the treasurer. It had a lot of support amongst the rank and file of the Labour Party and trades union movement and waged a very high profile campaign. It drafted over 1500 parliamentary questions. Press cuttings from Kenya proved that prisoners in the independence movement had been beaten to death at Hola Camp and Barbara Castle succeeded in getting this confimed in the House of Commons. In 1963 Kenyatta declared an independent republic.

One demonstration organised by the Movement was in Trafalgar Square in the early 1960s, against the UK Colour Bar Immigration Bill which restricted the right of Commonwealth citizens to remain in Britain. notable attendees included by Mr Qureshi, secretary of the Pakistani Welfare Association, Ratta Singh, president of the Indian Workers Association, and Claudia Jones, editor of the West Indian Gazette. [2][3]

Other activities were organized by the MCF around the Suez crisis in 1956. A Suez Emergency Committee was set up. In the end however the Labour Party itself took over the organization of the demonstration on 4th November 1956 against the British invasion of Egypt. The Movement campaigned for freedom for the Portuguese colonies in Africa, for peace in Vietnam, support for Castro in the Cuban revolution and opposition to the seizure of power by the Ba’ath regime in Iraq and the reign of terror against its opponents. But it was divided on the question of Israel. On the homefront it fought racism and mobilized opposition to Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech in 1968. The MCF continued to campaign against neo-colonialism after independence, and opposed military take-overs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, such as the Pinochet coup in 1973.

In 1970 the Movement was renamed Liberation[4] .




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