Sunday, 24 April, 2011
56 YEARS AFTER . . . - THE AFRO-ASIAN SPIRIT IS STILL ALIVE
Today, 24 April, 56 years ago, at Bandung, Indonesia, a HISTORICAL GATHERING OF AFRO-ASIAN NATIONS FOR FREEDOM, INDEPENDENCE, for Solidarity in the Common Struggle Against Colonialism and Imperialissm for Peace, was closed with great success! The Afro-Asian nations and countries of today are still confronted with the task of consolidating their independence, building an independent national economy, and continue with develoment and progress along the path of independence and self-reliance.
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The first *Asian--African* or *Afro--Asian Conference*
The conference's declared aims were to promote Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism, or neo-colonialism. The conference was an important step toward the devellopment of of the NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT , which still exist today.
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Notes published below may give the readers a bird's-eye-view on the idea and aspirations behind the Afro-Asian Conferenc 66 years ago.
Sixty-six years ago, a significant hitorical/political event took place at Bandung, Indonesia. The First Afro-Asian Conference -- f i r s t of its kind in the history of the two continents -- was held from 18 -- 24 April 1955.
A significant and historical document was unaninously adopted: THE TEN BANDUNG PRINCIPLES OF PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE.
The meeting constituted a great impetus to the national independence struggle of the Afro-Asian peoples and countries. Asserting themselves as an independentt force, they are neither allied to or a substitute of the Western Bloc, nor the Eastern Bloc countries. This Afro-Asian independent political movement that started at Bandung (1955) developed 6 years later, into a formal political movement called THE NON ALIGNED MOVEMENT (Belgrade, 1961).
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The conference reflected what they regarded as a reluctance by the Western powers to consult with them on decisions affecting Asia in a setting of Cold War tensions; their concern over tension between the People's Republic of China and the United States; their desire to lay firmer foundations for China's peace relations with themselves and the West; their opposition to colonialism, especially French influence in North Africa and French colonial rule in Algeria; and Indonesia's desire to promote its case in the dispute with the Netherlands over western New Guinea (Irian Barat)
SOEKARNO,the first president of the Republic of INDONESIA, portrayed himself as the leader of this group of nations, naming it NEFOS (Newly Emerging Forces).
CHINA played an important role in the conference and strengthened its relations with other Asian nations. Having survived an asassination attempt by foreign intelligence services on the way to the conference, the Chinese premier,ZHOU EN LAI, displayed a moderate and conciliatory attitude that tended to quiet fears of some anticommunist delegates concerning China's intentions.
Later in the conference, Zhou Enlai signed on to the article in the concluding declaration stating that overseas Chinese owed primary loyalty to their home nation, rather than to China -- a highly sensitive issue for both his Indonesian hosts and for several other participating countries.
A 10-point "Declaration on Promotion of World Peace and Cooperation," incorporating the principles of the UNO was adopted unanimously:
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 any particular interests 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.
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The Final Communique of the Conference 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.
The United States of America, through its Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, shunned the conference and was not officially represented. However, Representative Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) attended the conference and spoke at some length in favor of American foreign policy there which assisted the United States's standing with the Non-Aligned. When Powell returned to the United States to report on the conference, the House of Representatives honored him for his contributions.
The conference of Bandung was preceded by the Bogo Conference (1954) and was followed by the Belgrade Conference (1961), which led to the establishment of the Non Aligned Movement. In later years, conflicts between the nonaligned nations eroded the solidarity expressed at Bandung.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Conference, Heads of State and Government of Asian-African countries attended a new Asian-African Summit from 20-24 April 2005 in Bandung and Jakarta . Some sessions of the new conference took place in Gedung Merdeka (Independence Building), the venue of the original conference. The conference concluded by establishing the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).
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Origins of the Non Aligned Movement:
Independent countries, who chose not to join any of the Cold War blocs, were also known as non aligned nations.
The term "non-alignment" itself was coined by Indian Prime Minister Nehru,, during his speech in 1954 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In this speech, Nehru described the five pillars to be used as a guide for Sino-Indian relations, which were first put forth b Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai called Pancha Sheel, these principles would later serve as the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement.The five principles were:
Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty
Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
Equality and mutual benefit
A significant milestone in the development of the Non-aligned movement was the 1955Bandung Conference, a conference of Asian and African states hosted by Indonesian president SUKARNO, has give a significant contribution to promote this movement. The attending nations declared their desire not to become involved in the Cold War and adopted a "declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation", which included Nehru's five principles. Six years after Bandung, an initiative of Yugoslav Presiden Tito led to the first official Non-Aligned Movement Summit, which was held in September 1961 in Belgrade.
At the Lusaka Conference in September 1970, the member nations added as aims of the movement the peaceful resolution of disputes and the abstention from the big power military alliances and pacts. Another added aim was opposition to stationing of military bases in foreign countries.
he founding fathers of the Non-aligned movement were:
SUKARNO OF INDONESIA,NEHRU OF INDIA and YOSEP BROZ TITO OF YUGOSLAVIA, GAMAL ABDEL NASSER OF EGYPT, KWAME NKRUMAH OF GHANA. Their actions were known as 'The Initiative of Five'.
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The Asian-African Conference at Bandung in 1955
The Asian-African conference held in April 1955 was an important milestone on the road to the formation of the non-aligned movement six years later
The Pre-Bandung Era
The new spirit of anti-colonialism and co-operation between newly emerging states received a boost at the Asian Relations Conference of 1947 held in India. The future prime minister of Ceylon Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike spoke of the conference being the "beginning of something much greater-a federation of free and equal Asiatic countries, working not merely for our own advantage but for the progress and peace of all mankind". This was the common aspiration of the main participants of this conference.
Ceylon played a vital role in organizing the conference of the Colombo Powers in 1954, where the holding of an Asian-African conference of emergent countries were discussed for the first time. Indonesian Prime Minister Dr. Sastromidjojo was the chief exponent of this idea. "Where do we stand now? We, the people of Asia, in this world of ours today?" was the question he posed at the gathering. At this time, the principals of mutual co-operation and non alignment with the two power blocs were popular policies in many newly emerged nations. But a more cohesive agreement between these states was envisioned by the exponents of these ideas.
On December 28-29, 1954, another conference was held at Bogor, Indonesia, as a prelude to the larger conference to be held the following year. This was to decide upon whom to invite for the Bandung conference and to agree on an agenda. The conference was to be held on April 18-24, 1955.
Participants of the Bandung Conference
Many independent nations in Asia-numbering 23-took part in the conference, including Indonesia, India, Ceylon, Burma, Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and Pakistan. Both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and State of Vietnam were represented but Republic of China (Taiwan) was not. The two Koreas were not represented either. Meanwhile, there were 6 African nations including Egypt, Sudan, Ghana and Ethiopia. These nations were not a cohesive group with similar agendas. They included allies of both power blocs and also nations advocating non alignment.
The participation of the PRC was vital because of several factors. She was hostile towards the West and clearly was an ally of the Soviet Union. But she was the most populous country in the world and had traditional ties with many Asian nations. Premier Zhou En-lai had survived an assassination attempt on his way to the conference by the sheer chance of changing his plans and visiting Burma at the last moment to meet Burmese, Indian and Egyptian leaders, thus missing the plane he intended to travel. Despite the fact that there were several pro-Western nations at Bandung, the Chinese were quite conciliatory in their attitude, may be intending to bolster their international image by being so. To a large extent they succeeded and it contributed to lessen the diplomatic isolation of the PRC over the next few years.
Main Points of Discussion
There were three committees appointed to discuss the political, economic and cultural affairs. The discussions focused on important matters such as economic and cultural cooperation, human rights and right to self-determination, promotion of world peace and international cooperation. The promotion of a foreign policy based on the Panchaseela Principles agreed upon by China and India was an important development in the conference.
At the end of the conference, despite the differences, all countries agreed upon a 10 point declaration
Even though some participants remained allied to the power blocs, the non-aligned policy in foreign affairs enjoyed widespread support among the newly emerging nations. This ultimately led to the birth of the non aligned movement (NAM) in 1961.
In 2005, a second Bandung conference was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first conference.
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*The illusion of Afro-Asian solidarity?: Situating the 1955 Bandung Conference*
And how could the Bandung Conference not be significant? Bandung convened only ten years after World War II ended and the United States emerged as the world's superpower. It was during this period that the goals of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference ---including the International Monetary Funds and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now known as the Worldl Bank---began to be institutionalized. And of course it was the beginning of the Cold War. A political period whose moniker was coined by financier and White House insider Bernard Baruch, the "Cold War" came to signify the struggle between the first world of the west (which included the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) and the second world of the east (comprised of communist Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies). As we know, the Cold War was anything but cold for the majority of humanity given that non-European countries were forced to carefully negotiate their relationships with both the west and the east and too often were treated as collateral damage. Many territories of course were engaged in fierce decolonization battles and others were faced with the challenge of trying to develop as autonomous nations in an era that was strategically transitioning to a global neo-colonial framework.
It was in this context that a third world emerged. While the term Third World was an analytical concept coined by the economist Alfred Sauvy in the August 14, 1952 edition of the French magazine /L'Observateur/, it meant much more to those who convened in Bandung with the hopes of creating what would later become the Non-Algined Movementr, which was initiated by India, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia in 1961. The Non-Aligned Movement was an effort to neither align with the first world or the second world. Its participants continue to meet today, even during an era of globalization that is certainly marked by alignment or at least a lack of neutrality. A great deal of attention has been given to what Martin Luther Kingg Jr.,.
Not surprisingly, the US did not take well to neutralism and saw it as similar to aligning with the enemy or being ready to do as much. As if to foreshadow a contemporary quip heard 'round the world, the US government believed that you're either for it or against it. And so it was within this context that twenty-nine African and Asian nations convened in Bandung, Indonesia in an effort to denounce colonialism and what they termed "racialism," maintain neutrality, promote economic and cultural cooperation, and critique nuclear weapons. In doing so, participants of Bandung were issuing a mighty challenge to the both the west and the east, a challenge that has great significance and meaning for the many of us who did not or could not attend Bandung but who can identify with its goals.
The significance and meaning of Bandung, then, makes it difficult to intervene in the conversation about the conference, to speak in a way that troubles the gathering, or at least explores it from a slightly different angle. I have often been accused of being at best, negative, and despite what some may think, I am not going out of my way to live up to this image. But I want to take on the challenge, as daunting as it may be, to reevaluate Bandung. After all, our forum today is less about celebrating Bandung but more about commemorating its memory by interrogating Black-Asian coalition, which has become a hegemonic and institutionalized impulse in the 21st century. And so I will try to engage in the dual task of both describing Bandung and evaluating it in the process.
In April 1955, twenty-nine African and Asian nations came together in Bandung, Indonesia for a gathering of non-aligned colored nations to discuss issues of economic and cultural cooperation as well as the threat of nuclear weapons and the need for world peace. Yet only six out of the twenty-nine countries formally represented at Bandung were African nations or regions: Egypt, Ethiopia, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, Libya, and Sudan. Out of these six African countries, a third was of the Arab world and the Gold Coast and Sudan were not yet independent. The Central African Federation, which was comprised of what is now present day Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, would have been the seventh African country but could not attend because it was still engaged in a struggle of decolonization. Thus, despite its emphasis on "Afro-Asian" solidarity, the majority of Sub-Saharan Africa was not present at Bandung.
Moreover, the location of Bandung, Indonesia was not incidental to the gathering given that Indonesia was one of the five countries that organized and ran the Bandung Conference. Actually, all of the organizing nations that also played key roles at the conference were of Asia: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Burma (now Myanmar), and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1953, the Indonesian Prime Minister delivered a statement to the Indonesian Parliament encouraging cooperation between Africa and Asia. In 1954, the Prime Minister of Ceylon invited the heads of the other Asian nations who would eventually become the Bandung organizers to a meeting in Colombo, Ceylon to discuss an Afro-Asian Conference. Based on the proceedings of the Columbo meeting, the five Asian nations began to discuss the possibility of a gathering with other African and Asian nations. The Columbo Powers, as they were dubbed, met in Bogor, Indonesia at the end of 1954 to plan what would eventually be the Bandung Conference, a process that involved determining who would be invited. At the time, the majority of Africa was still colonized and therefore, not "inevitable," so to speak, given that the emphasis was on independent nation status.
One of the most controversial decisions from the organizers was to not invite either the United States or the USSR. Also not invited were South Africa, North Korea, South Korea, and Israel. No European countries formally participated, with the exception of Turkey, whose racial identity was not yet European in a pre-European Union era.
The decision to not invite the United States of course rankled the US government, especially Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Publicly the White House attempted to appear ambivalent about and even disinterested in Bandung. But behind the scenes, the US government was concerned about the possibility that Bandung would make it difficult for the US to maintain control over, or contain the spread of communism through Africa and Asia. If countries were to become self-determined and become a non-aligned bloc, it might mean that they will either be at best uncooperative with the US government's efforts to contain communism or at worst might align themselves with the Soviet Union.
Indeed, despite today's tendency to describe the coming together of "people of color" as inherently revolutionary, it does not appear that the US government was convinced that Africans and Asians were steadfastly united in some primordial sense of brotherhood. Rather, research suggests that the White House was more concerned with what they anticipated to be certain Asian countries' efforts to make participants look to the east and away from the west. In other words, it appears that the White House was not too concerned with a real possibility of solidarity between Africans and Asians. Rather, evidence suggests that the US really feared that certain Asian countries were using the platform of solidarity in order to achieve Asian self-determination. This of course would undermine US and Western interests in controlling the Asian region and its people. Further, the specter of Asian nationalism and regional cooperation was driven by the specter of cooperation between Asia and the USSR. Ostensibly, the US worried that the platform of Afro-Asian solidarity was really a ruse to turn the Black and Asian worlds into what can crudely be labeled "communist dupes" vis-à-vis a strategic discourse of self-determination and anti-colonialism.
To be sure, its fear of a communist takeover at Bandung revealed the White House's racist arrogance and white western superiority towards both Africans and Asians. But this racism must be understood in relation to the context of the Cold War and particular racial ideologies associated with Africa and Asia. The US was mainly concerned about losing the non-western world to a developing pan-Asian nationalism and what appeared to be a growing cooperation among emerging independent Asian nations with each other and the USSR, as apparent in its particular anxiety over the newly formed Peoples' Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Conversely, White House discussions of Bandung do not reveal a great deal of anxiety over the possibility of a self-determined Africa and its role at Bandung, although future research may unearth more important insight into this area. But overall, most research suggests that the US was not too concerned about losing Africa and Asia to Africans but rather was afraid of losing both regions to Asia and the USSR.
While the possibility of widespread African decolonization and independence of course threatened the sensibilities of the US---particularly its pro-segregationists---it was one that reflected its racist belief that Africans and African Americans were incapable of self-actualization and self-determination. Hence the White House's concern that Asian countries would dupe other participants at Bandung to go red and therefore initiate a worldwide communist struggle in which Black Africans would be controlled by Asia or the USSR. In other words, the US was threatened by the specter of Asian nationalism and Asian-USSR control over Africa.
The US government's preoccupation with Asian nationalism is congruent with their vehement denial of white supremacy in general because it suggested that Blacks had no legitimate reason to rebel or to side with Asians and that Asians were getting Blacks "riled up" about racism in order to win them over to an Asian version of communism. As Thomas Noer
Yet despite its reservations about Black agency, as well as its hostility to Asian self-determination and Asian communism (which far exceeded its hostility to Russian communism), the US government saw Asian nationalism as an actual threat to the stabilization of the US' growing dominance and thus a major factor in the direction of world affairs. In other words, the US begrudgingly considered Asians as capable of self-determination and therefore competed with them for control of Asia. This may explain why most of the books I acquired from a university library regarding the Bandung Conference were found in the Asian nationalism section.
Given these concerns about the rise of Asian nationalism, the growing energy of what would result in the Civil Rights Movement, and violent decolonization battles being waged worldwide, the US government debated privately how to handle the Bandung gathering. When asked about his opinion on the upcoming Bandung Conference at a press conference on February 2, 1955, President Eisenhower feigned ignorance stating that his administration was not too familiar with the event. The White House was of course lying but did not want to take a public stand against Bandung. Doing so would suggest that Bandung was important and on the White House's radar. And they did not want to publicly dismiss Bandung for fear of being accused of racism. Such a critique would hurt the US' efforts to push its agenda worldwide in the face of growing global criticism of US racism that was gaining momentum and also being strategically exploited by the USSR.
One way the US enforced its "encouragement, not discouragement" strategy was to push African and Asian countries they identified as cooperative or allies to attend. The US especially encouraged the attendance of Japan, who emerged out of the bitter ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be a junior partner of the US. The White House also pushed for members of the now defunct Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) to go. SEATO was an alliance established in 1954 that included Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States. It is important to point out that despite the inclination to see Bandung as a gathering driven by feelings of kinship, some suggest that the Columbo powers who organized Bandung (which included SEATO member Pakistan) actually hoped Bandung would prove an important counterpart to SEATO.
Basically, the US was, on the surface, either keeping its critiques of Bandung to themselves or feigning support for the all colored gathering while conducting power plays behind the scenes to insure its dominance. As Fraser puts it, "The United States was thus participating in the Afro-Asian conference although it had not been invited."
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The lack of African American representation at Bandung can be easily attributed to the repression of the US government towards African American mobility and politics. But we must also consider the paucity of African Americans to be indicative of a lack of insight on behalf of the Columbo Powers to adequately grapple with the African American experience and how it relates to the very issues of colonialism and racialism addressed at Bandung. While African Americans were welcomed to attend Bandung, and as the testimony of those who went reveals, treated quite well when they were there, African Americans were never invited to the conference as a class of people despite their intimate knowledge of colonialism and racialism or sustained albeit varied critiques of white supremacy and western imperialism. Indeed, the parameters of the Bandung Conference, which emphasized nation building and movement towards independent nation status, could not adequately address the African American situation. In many ways, Bandung did not even really address or seek to radically include Africans despite its public commitment to Afro-Asian solidarity. Perhaps this is why Richard Wright would remark in /The Color Curtain/ that "Africa was barely represented."
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Overall, then, Bandung may be an event that was largely a gathering of good intentions on the surface and a developing albeit highly fractured pan-Asian nationalism or more---as revealed in the recent APEC conference---a growing pan-national Asianism behind the scenes. Asian nations controlled the planning and the proceedings and dominated in both numbers and importance. Africa was hardly present. And the African American presence was limited to observers and journalists.
While the US government was indeed threatened by the rise of Asian self-determination and racially opposed to it, there was recognition from the White House that Asian nations may actually be capable of self-rule and that this possibility could change the tides of history or at least seriously challenge the status of the west. As such, white supremacists begrudgingly negotiated with Asia as a partner of sorts---albeit in a hierarchical relationship---in a larger movement towards modernity and actualization of Enlightenment ideology. The same can not be said for Africa or African America.
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Thus, I look at Bandung neither to memorialize or destroy it but rather to /situate it/ within a larger history and trajectory of what it means to be Black and Asian in the modern world. The story about Bandung and the conclusions we draw from it regarding Black-Asian coalition still requires much reflection. But reevaluating such events and figuring out what such efforts mean to our understanding of the world today is, to me, an integral step in determining whether coalition is truly viable between our communities.
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