No doubt, social problems cannot be fully understood by a mere comparison between any present situation and that prevailing in the past, say even sixty or seventy years ago. Nevertheless, there seems to be no little justification for the tendency, frequently seen in important research works on Africa, to make a parallel between the status and fight of the working classes in Europe at the end of the last century and those of the emancipating nations in general and in the African continent in particular.
It is pointed out in these works that in both cases the revendicatiohs made by the working classes in the first instance, and by whole nations in the second, were prompted by the desire for a fuller democratization of the society, an amelioration of their economic situation and legal status. Such changes were and are being achieved, amongst others, by the abolition or through reform of discriminatory legal, political, and socioeconomic systems which had previously been imposed by privileged ruling classes to the detriment of the other classes, on a national scale, where poor classes of the population were concerned in countries that now rank among the most developed ones, and on an international scale, where it is a question of peoples who have only recently passed from a state of slavehood to national independence.
Thanks to a political and social legislation containing elements of social compromise, most Western countries have become modern, democratic, affluent welfare states, with at least a minimum of social justice and no expropriation of the means of production. But in those countries where the ruling classes were uncompromising, refused to make concessions, and caused revolutions, they were completely chased from the political scene, as was the case in Eastern Europe, which gave birth to an altogether new regime (Roling 1960, p. 56).