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The Relevance of the 1955 Afro-Asian Summit in Bandung on the Struggle for National Independence against Imperialist Globalization and War
By Dr. Carolina Pagaduan-Araullo, Vice Chairperson for External Affairs, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
April 14-16, 2005
One day, when history shall be written at last by those who make it -- the teeming billions of oppressed and exploited world’s peoples -- the Bandung Asian-African Conference held in April 1955 shall be remembered as one of those glorious moments when the weak and small gathered together in solidarity to speak as one against the big and mighty.
The current international situation is a picture of intensified exploitation and oppression of the world’s peoples especially those living in the Third World, a great majority in Asia and Africa. In fact it constitutes no less than imperialist plunder and war trampling on the independence and sovereignty of countries and peoples, unleashing fascism and state terrorism, flouting all precepts of international law and relations among sovereign nations and violating universally accepted standards of human rights that is perpetrated by imperialist countries led by the US, in the guise of "war vs terror".
The Bandung Conference shines as a historical precedent of small and weak nations uniting against colonialism and all its vestiges and reincarnations post WWII, asserting their unity and cooperation in charting their own way towards development, on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty, and refusing to be boxed in by the black-and-white worldview of the Cold War and rejecting to be dragged one way or another into exacerbating international tensions and provoking another world war, likely nuclear and therefore devastating to humankind.
Any serious effort at reviving the Spirit of Bandung, invoking its bold and visionary stance, asserting its principles and reviving its concrete proposals including the reinvigoration of the non-aligned movement, must tackle two major questions.
First, what was the Bandung Conference all about and what did it achieve given the international situation at that time?
Second, what is the relevance of the Bandung Conference in the light of current conditions and how can we harness its legacy to advance anti-imperialist unity and cooperation?
What was achieved at Bandung?
The 1955 Afro-Asian Summit in Bandung was a gathering of 29 Asian and African countries, representing more than half of world’s population, most of them newly independent nations that went through a bloody struggle for national liberation from their colonizers. It included national liberation movements (NLMs) still in the throes of revolutionary struggle to achieve freedom. Included were countries led by nationalist and socialist governments such as India (Nehru), China (MZD), Indonesia (Soekarno) and Egypt (Nasser).
The Bandung Conference convened at the start of a period of relative stability and rapid growth of capitalism when imperialist countries welcomed the lead of US imperialism in dealing with the communist specter and the rise of NLMs and newly independent states assertive of their national sovereignty. It was held in the midst of the post US Cold War geopolmil strategy of containment of the USSR, as well as consolidation of neocolonial domination, with the US post war economic bonanza and its monopoly of nuclear weapons.
It was a gathering under the shadow of the developing Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation through an atomic world war.
The Bandung Conference was convened with a view to eradicating war and oppression. It became an opportunity for Asian and African people to openly denounce colonial and neo-colonial rule and to enter the international political arena on their own right.
The spirit of Bandung was able to bring together all the great Asian and African leaders of that time and to unite them in the defense of political freedom and national independence. The participating governments were one in saying that "Asia and Africa urgently require social programs and better standards of life in larger freedom."
In its Conference Communiqué, the participating countries affirmed the following:
- "…the urgency of promoting economic cooperation in Afro-Asian region …on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty"
The Bandung summit underscored the need for developing countries to loosen their economic dependence on the leading industrialized nations by providing technical assistance to one another through the exchange of experts and technical assistance for developmental projects, as well as the exchange of technological know-how and the establishment of regional training and research institutes.
Specifically, the participants called for the establishment of a Special UN Fund for Economic Development; the allocation by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development of a greater part of its resources to Afro-Asian countries; the promotion of joint ventures among Afro-Asian countries in so far as this will promote their common interest; recommended collective action for stabilizing commodity trade; recommended Afro-Asian countries to diversify their export trade by processing their raw materials and by encouraging intra-regional trade; encouraged the establishment of national and regional banks and insurance companies; encouraged exchange of information on matters relating to oil towards formulation of common policies; emphasized the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; batted for adequate representation of Afro-Asian countries in the executive authority of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and recommended prior consultation of participating countries in international forums with a view to furthering mutual economic interest.
2) "…the development of cultural cooperation, especially among Afro-Asian countries…(that) would enrich their own culture and would also help in the promotion of world peace and understanding…"
3) "…full support of the fundamental principles of Human Rights as set forth in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard for achievement of all peoples and all nations"…full support of the principle of self-determination of peoples and nations…a prerequisite of the full enjoyment of all fundamental human rights" and deplored racial segregation and discrimination
4) "…colonialism in all its manifestations is an evil which should be speedily brought to a end"; that the "subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the UN Charter and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation"
5) "…support of the rights of the Arab people of Palestine and called for the implementation of UN resolutions on Palestine and achievement of a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question;
6) "…recognized the dangerous situation of international tension existing and the risks confronting the whole human race from outbreak of global war in which the destructive power of all types of armaments, including nuclear and thermonuclear weapons would be employed"; therefore called for "disarmament and the prohibition of the production, experimentation and use of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons of war as an absolute necessity for the preservation of peace and called on the UN to establish effective international controls to this end;"
7) "Freedom and peace are interdependent." "…(T)he right of self-determination must be enjoyed by all peoples". "(A)ll nations should have the right to freely choose their own political and economic systems and their own way f life, in conformity with purposes and principles of UN". "(N)ations should practice tolerance and live together in peace…and develop friendly cooperation on the basis of the 10 Principles of Bandung, to wit:
1. Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
3. Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations large and small.
4. Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
5. Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
6. (a) Abstention from the use of arrangements of collective defence to serve the particular interests of any of the big powers.
(b) Abstention by any country from exerting pressures on other countries.
7. Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
8. Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of the parties' own choice, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
9. Promotion of mutual interests and cooperation.
10. Respect for justice and international obligations.
The Bandung Summit ultimately led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. The term "non-alignment" itself was coined by Jewaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. Nehru founded the five principles which formed the basis of all international relations.
- Respect for territorial integrity
- Mutual non-aggression
- Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
- Equality and mutual benefit
- Peaceful Coexistence.
The world's "non-aligned" nations declared their desire not to become involved in the East-West ideological confrontation of the Cold War. Rather, they would focus on national struggles for independence, eradication of poverty, and economic development. Bandung marked a significant milestone for the development of NAM as a political movement. It adopted the Ten Principles of Bandung, which further extended and entrenched the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
What is the relevance of Bandung to the continuing struggle for independence against imperialist globalization and war?
"Globalization" was touted as an inevitable stage in the development of the world economy, primarily brought about by astounding progress in science and technology, when national barriers and boundaries – such as protectionist tariffs and subsidies -- were being torn down so that trade in goods, services as well as capital -- could flow freely in a truly global market economy. Subsequently benefits would automatically accrue to backward and developing countries from the modern economies of the advanced capitalist countries such as allowing these countries to develop their "niche" in the global economy according to their particular conditions and reaping the benefits for consumers in these countries in terms of accessible and affordable goods. Global trade and investment would be unhampered thus stimulating the entire world economy and helping to keep stagflation in check. It was said that removing protective barriers to national economies would remove "inefficiencies" and bring national industries and other enterprises to world-class competitiveness
Thus in the realm of economics, politics and culture, "globalization" slowly rendered irrelevant, anachronistic and passé -- nationalism -- that had come about as a powerful idea and a material weapon of the bourgeois revolution against feudalism, and then of independent nation states against neocolonialism and imperialist domination in all spheres of a newly independent nation’s and a decolonized people’s life.
Neoliberal economic policy had its heyday. The export of labor became institutionalized as a substitute for jobs generation from an industrializing economy, its negative impact papered over. "Globalists" reigned supreme over nationalists so that government officials with responsibility for looking after the national interest in the areas of trade, investment and other aspects of international relations thought and acted no differently from bureaucrats of the IMF/WB and WTO. Governments sworn to uphold national sovereignty compromise and surrender it in the name of "development" and facing up to the "realities" of globalization.
In the academe and popular media, "globalization" meant a gradual erosion and even frontal attacks against the study of national history and its application to the shaping of a nation’s present and future. There was an even stronger impetus for the educational system to churn out skilled manpower for TNCs and job openings abroad.
It was claimed that the concept and even the reality of the "nation-state" was on the way out if not yet completely overtaken by world developments. This was extended to the notion that imperialist states had been overtaken by TNCs as global "governments".
In culture, it became fashionable to entertain the illusion of being a "citizen of the world" or aspiring to be one while maintaining the quaint and quirky cultural characteristics of one’s slowly evaporating nationality.
But the reality of imperialist globalization disproves the notion of the erosion of "nation states". Imperialism foists "neoliberal globalization" through the domination by imperialist states in international multilateral agencies. Governments, not TNCs, enter into international agreements and zealously guard their implementation.
"Free market globalization" failed to deliver its promises of a bonanza in international trade especially when the terms of trade clearly were skewed in favor of the developed countries. The latter dumped their overproduced goods, services and capital into the developing world and profiteered from cheap raw materials, labor and speculative and some new investments in erstwhile protected areas of the economy while continuing to protect its own national markets, the exports of big business and lucrative fields of investment from foreign competition.
Thus, there resulted a global net flow of capital towards a few imperialist countries and reign of fewer and fewer monopoly firms in international trade and finance.
No NIChood took place. No substantial generation of new jobs as a result of inflow of FDIs to develop sectors of the national economy previously untapped or underdeveloped for one reason or another.
Neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization only brought about the faster pace of denationalization of major sectors of the economy; de-industrialization as such policies further entrenched and deepened the colonial pattern of trade; reinforced the bias for comprador-type businesses; opened up vital areas of economy such as natural resources, public utilities and government mega-projects funded by "development aid" monies to TNC plunder; pushed indebted countries of the TW to further debt bondage to the international usurers of finance capital leading to heavier burdens in terms of regressive taxation, cutbacks in public funding for essential social services and economic activities and greater pliability in terms of dictates on macro economic policies detrimental to the general population especially mass of producers such as toiling people as well as middle forces.
In a word "globalization" wrought further widespread immiseration to the vast majority of the world’s peoples and deepened poverty and backwardness most especially in the Third World.
This international state-of-affairs engendered the anti-globalization backlash on a global scale and the revitalization of nationalist/anti-imperialist movements as well as armed and unarmed struggles in specific countries both advanced capitalist and backward, neocolonial, dependent ones.
In the meantime, 9/11 took place justifying the unleashing of the borderless "war vs terror" against revolutionary movements, NLMs, nationalist regimes, recalcitrant former client states which were branded as "terrorists". Wars of aggression and military intervention were unleashed by the imperialists led by the neoconservative regime of US Pres. Bush in order to rev up the military-industrial complex ("military Keynsianism") as a means of solving the acutely worsening recession in the foremost imperialist country and other imperialist countries and the contraction of the market for global capitalism as a whole. All the jingoism was devised as a means to tactically and strategically extend the reach of imperialism, especially US imperialism’s hegemony over the entire globe in terms of control over vital energy sources, domination of markets and fields of investment, spheres of influence through the use of USI’s overwhelming military supremacy in high-tech weaponry and global military infrastructure: bases, access agreements, war games/training exercises, permanent and semi-permanent troops deployment.
The "war on terror" is being unmasked as an affront on national independence, territorial integrity and right to self-determination of sovereign nations.
The point is brought home pointedly by the brazenness of imperialist aggression and colonial occupation, military intervention and political interference, disregard and contravention of international law and universal standards of human rights and international humanitarian law.
It becomes starkly clear that the erosion of nation’s economic independence and sovereignty by imperialist globalization through unrelenting impositions by imperialist dominated instruments such as multilateral financial institutions, WTO, MNCs/MNBs and imperialist governments (precisely, the impositions are being executed through the national governments in which the MNCs are based) has its counterpart in the politico-military realm.
Imperialist-owned and controlled international mass media outlets are critical in beaming the imperialist line on globalization, war vs terror, etc.
Resistance to imperialist globalization must be concretized in countries and by peoples experiencing the brunt of imperialist plunder and war. That is why democratic mass movements that are anti-globalization, anti-war, anti-imperialist and nationalist, anti-fascist, anti-state terrorism as well as armed struggles along the same line for genuine national independence, democracy and socialism – needs to be waged in specific countries by their oppressed peoples. This means targeting imperialism and imperialists’ client states and collaborative ruling classes. It means waging the struggles for genuine independence, sovereignty and self-determination.
Such national anti-imperialist struggles and movements are the building blocks to a formidable anti-imperialist front that will defeat imperialism in every oppressed country and will thus contribute to weakening its hold internationally and in the home countries of imperialism themselves.
THAT’S WHY SPIRIT OF BANDUNG – its precepts and principles and even its proposed forms of anti-colonial, anti-imperialist solidarity --remains valid to this day. And provides not just an alternative viewpoint to the problems of development and international security, specially of the Third World but a model, historically tested and proven viable versus the "there is no alternative" claim of monopoly capitalism/imperialism.
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