Conferences and Meetings

Conferences and Meetings

Vision of Bandung After 50 Years-Facing New Challenges (The Bandung of the fifties as reflected in the mirror of the new age)

The Bandung of the fifties as reflected in the mirror of the new age

Today, after fifty years of great changes, we remember the historic Bandung Conference. 

Despite the nostalgia of the memory, both the remembrance and the nostalgia are certainly not aimed at bringing back to life this great event, for this would be outside of and against the march of history. Yet the spirit of Bandung is what makes us remember the event today with interest, exactly as we remember the spirit of the socialist October revolution that took place almost ninety years ago, also as a great historic event, which left its mark on an entire century.

What do we mean by the spirit of Bandung? 

The first thing that comes to mind at the mere mention of the Bandung Conference, is the movement that stemmed from it, the non-aligned movement, the movement that played more than one important role during the long cold war in the wake of the Second World War. The great diversity and number of positions and stands of the ruling regimes in the countries that formed the movements did not reduce the importance of that role. The weight of states like India, China, Indonesia, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Burma and Ceylon was, in itself, determining in making non-alignment to the two contradicting and conflicting large world camps, the Socialist and the Imperialist, a positive non-alignment, in the sense of a political non-alignment and not an ideological one; one that struggled for peace and in defense of the peoples’ right to self determination. In more cases than one, it was an alignment against the imperialist camp intersecting with the other camp in an almost objective alliance. It was not possible for the non-aligned movement, especially at its beginnings, not to adopt this historic stand, otherwise, it would have lost both the significance and substance which gave birth to it and which makes us remember it today with nostalgia because of the role it played, because of the stand it adopted and because of the positive effect it had on the issues of that age, as well as the resolutions it was able to impose on the UN General Assembly with regard to those issues, particularly the ones related to third world countries. 

In the first ten years of the movement that resulted from the Bandung Conference and its resolutions, several names loomed in the foreground, such as: Nehru, Chu Wen Lei, Sukarno, Tito, Nasser, Wen E Won and Banderanaika. They were all great names in the world of politics during that era. A great rift, however, began to take place in that movement and its role when some of the pillars on which it was based at its beginning began to collapse. In this context, we must mention the imbalance caused basically by the Sino-Soviet conflict as well as the Sino-Indian conflict of the early sixties. Mention must also be made of Sukarno’s disappearance from the political scene after the military coup d’etat in Indonesia in the second half of the sixties. There was also the failure of Abdel Nasser’s project after the collapse of the Egyptian-Syrian unity in 1961 and following the defeat of June 1967. They were all tremendous events that took place at a time when the non-aligned movement was endeavoring, with difficulty, to make headway and to influence international politics. In fact that influence had begun to gradually recede as a result of the continuing global changes. 

During those particular ten years, between 1955 and 1965, great transformations were taking place in the African continent in particular, since most of the countries of the black continent had broken away from direct colonial domination and achieved their independence. New great names appeared such as N’Kruma, Boumedien, Sekoutoure, Sengore, Nereire, Kenyata and Mudeibukeita. 

This took place parallel to social revolutions in the three continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The liberation movement of the clergy in Latin America was the most outstanding and the one with the clearer political vision and objective, whereas the social revolutions in Asia and Africa suffered from a lot of confusion both in the way of thinking and in the politics behind them despite the radical nature of several of them. Moreover, those revolutions were also affected, in particular, by the conflicts and rifts within the communist and national leftist currents. Some of the confusion was partly due to the vast complex debate regarding the means of development that the countries of those continents had to resort to in order to achieve the necessary progress following independence. 

Some ideological topics also became part of the debates, topics raised by Soviet intellectuals under the influence of the changes expressed by the Bandung Conference. Foremost amongst them were the two following topics: One embodied by what was referred to as non-capitalist revolution. A concept underscoring the role of  “ the revolutionary democrats”, some of whom came to power as a result of military coups, while others had been historical leaders in their countries during their struggle for independence and had played a role in the process of great changes in those countries. This concentration on “ the revolutionary democrats” took place at the expense of the opposing popular movements and at the expense of the leftist, communist and national parties which were growing and seeking their way by trial and error under the repression perpetrated by some of those “ revolutionary democrats” in various degrees and in their respective countries, against the revolutionary movements and against their peoples in the name of social unity against colonialism, in the process of development, or in opposition to imported ideas and ideologies!

The second topic was embodied in the over estimation of the role of the military in the countries of the third world, their role in bringing about political and social change. The over estimation was due to an over estimation of the role of some of the leaders of certain military revolutionary coups against imperialism, leaders who were bearers of different ideas for economic and social change, as well as development programs, some of which were dubbed as socialist orientation. 

Those two Western topics caused much debate within the national democratic movement as well as great rifts among the parties involved therein. The Sino-Soviet conflict with regard to peaceful co-existence and the concept of each of them regarding the relation between the struggle for world peace and the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle also contributed to the conflicts and rifts within the national democratic movements. 

The reason why I dwell on those conflicting issues is because they went hand-in-hand with the non-aligned movement in the second stage of its development. This is to indicate that the movement was beginning to lose its impetus without, however, entirely losing its role, particularly during the period when the Soviet Union also began to lose its impetus, i.e. starting with the second half of the seventies of the last century. That is when the lack of harmony in the political and social nature of the ruling regimes in the countries of the non-aligned movements began to have negative effect on its positive nature and up to the stage when the movement lost much of its influence as a non-aligned movement and much of its impact consequently. This took place parallel to the beginnings of the rapid decline of the role of the Soviet Union, a decline that ended in its collapse in the early part of the last two decades of the twentieth century. It also took place at the time when the historic role of the United Nations began to decline, a role for which it had been created in the wake of the Second World War. 

This recollection of some of the events that took place along with the birth and development of the non-aligned movements is necessary now, at a time when we remember the conference of Bandung and the spirit of Bandung. It is necessary in present times of changes witnessed by the entire world and in view of the great transformations taking place in this twenty first century, be they negative or positive. 

Now, we need to reformulate the projects aimed at changing the world on the basis of new concepts, ideas, programs, alliances and objectives that take into account and proceed from all those great revolutions and transformations. Such an importance is also due to the fact that we are also witnessing today, particularly in the region of the Middle East, times of great changes, the directions of which are not yet clear. However, they are changes that put an end to an entire era and open the door to an entirely new era. It is indeed a paradox. One of the more obvious indicators of such changes comes to us from Iraq despite the American-British occupation that put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein. The other indicator comes from Palestine despite the savagery of Israeli aggression and from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from Sudan, from Egypt, from Iran and even from Afghanistan.

It is not surprising to witness much discussion and interpretation in different directions at present regarding the phenomenon of capitalist globalization, as if it were a new phenomenon.

In fact, this phenomenon was taking shape long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In our time globalization is given many a name and this is bound to continue in the future. Researchers will need much time before they can come up with clearer and more precise conclusions concerning the nature of the era the world is living in under such a capitalist globalization and in view of the unruly behavior of its most outstanding representative, the USA, in its endeavor to expand and extend its hegemony. They will need time because of the unruliness of the large groups of trans-national companies controlling the world’s latest technologies to accumulate riches relentlessly and savagely. Mention must also be made to organized crimes including traffic in human beings as a new form of slavery and of the blatant attacks against the interests of peoples, exploiting their riches, controlling their destiny as well as destroying the social games achieved by the working forces in their long and arduous struggle to bring about a world socialist regime which bore great ideas, promising a great future for humanity where peace, freedom, well-fare and social justice would prevail. 

The old model of non-alignment cannot be a model fit for a contemporary movement based on the spirit of Bandung. Nor can the Soviet model and its international proletariat be what we want to bring back in order to resurrect the socialist project. Yet both the spirit of Bandung and the ideas of the October revolution can play an important role in reformulating a new kind of movement, one composed of several and even conflicting forces, allied despite their contradictions in order to achieve a great task of long term objectives: the task of putting an end to the unruliness of the forces of capitalist globalization and to its attack against humanity, against nature, against the environment and against outer space, forces resorting to amazing scientific achievements in order to achieve their savage aims. We are in need of such a new world movement, a movement the political and social composition of which must indeed, be , just as the tasks it is called upon to accomplish must also be new.

In my opinion, it must be a historical world block composed of several blocks stemming from all countries, all aimed at achieving the great objective of a more harmonious and more just development in our contemporary world. Such a development must be more respectful of the choices of the different human groups, more protective of our planet and of its outer space. It would be a great error to fall into the trap of two illusions: the first being to imagine that such a vast alliance within the new block against the savage globalized capitalism can change the nature of the powers participating in the alliance, pushing them in one of two directions; transforming the capitalists into forces calling for social justice or bringing them closer to the labor force, nor can it transform the workers into docile hired hands at the service of capitalism! The second illusion is to consider that it is possible for such an alliance to achieve its purposes in a short period of time by transforming savage globalized capitalism into a toothless and harmless capitalism!

If I refer to these two illusions when speaking of the formation of this hoped for world movement it is because I note that the present anti globalization movement has begun to wane because of the illusions it held when it first started and because of the mechanism governing its activities. This movement is beginning to wane as a group of forces aimed at achieving its declared and undeclared objectives. Yet the experience of that movement is important as a basis for the new movement and the objectives for the coming stage. Calling to mind the spirit of Bandung today and speaking of reformulating the great projects for change connected to socialism are both indications of the necessity of endeavoring to create such a new movement. 

The issue as I see it is a public one, one that concerns all the forces suffering from the present word reality which, however the descriptions thereof may differ, remains one that is iniquitous at all levels and in all directions. In fact it is impossible not to endeavor to change it into the right direction.          


Karim Murrowa