Together with the European languages they learned, colonial subjects encountered the ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood, which in Europe were slowly but surely leading to the democratization of society – and to criticism of colonialism. Marx was among the first who tried to substantiate this view theoretically (167). In the Netherlands Multatuli published his social critique in a literary format.

The first anti-colonial movements arose in colonies with many European immigrants, especially in the Americas. While military forces resisted the European presence elsewhere – for example Tipu Sultan in South India and Diepo Negoro on Java – movements based on egalitarian ideals emerged later on, starting in India. The victory of an Asian over a European country in the Russian-Japanese war (1905) and the Chinese Revolution of 1911-1912 served as inspiration to colonized peoples. After the First World War these movements established increasing ties, promoted by communist and other international conferences and organizations (168). Internally, the independence movement was often as divided as the political movements in the metropolis. In the Dutch East Indies, for example, Marxists such as Tan Malaka (169-171) seriously disagreed with nationalists such as Mohammed Hatta (172-174).

Although the labour movement certainly did not always oppose colonialism, some Europeans in and outside the colonies of course wholeheartedly supported the desire of the colonial subjects for independence. In the Netherlands, for example, this was the case among the communists (175-177). Conscientious objectors refused to participate in the Dutch military campaigns to suppress the Indonesian struggle for independence; they thought this struggle was perfectly justified (178-180). In other colonies the course of events was similar, for example in British Malacca (181), French Indochina (182-183), Portuguese Timor (184), and – yet another Dutch example – Suriname (185-187).