April 22, 2005

Bandung: Making history

One day, when history shall be written at last by those who make it -- the teeming billions of the oppressed and exploited -- the Bandung Afro-Asian Summit 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 Bandung Summit shines as a historical precedent of small and weak nations uniting against colonialism and all its vestiges and post WWII reincarnations. It brought together leaders of 29 Asian and African countries, representing more than half the 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 (Mao), Indonesia (Sukarno) and Egypt (Nasser).

It convened at the start of a period of relative stability and rapid growth of capitalism when the Western powers 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 Cold War US geopolitical and military strategy of containment of the USSR, as well as consolidation of neocolonial domination, what with the US economic bonanza after the war and its monopoly of nuclear weapons.

The conference was called with a view to eradicating war and oppression. It became an opportunity for Asian and African peoples to build unity and cooperation while charting their own path towards development, on the basis of mutual interest and respect for each other’s national sovereignty. The participants refused to be dragged one way or another into exacerbating international tensions and provoking another world war, likely nuclear and therefore devastating to humankind.

The Bandung Summit was preceded in a substantive way by the formulation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in 1954 by China and India as a guide to state-to-state relations and to international relations in general. The principles are mutual respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

These five principles were subsequently integrated into and elaborated in the Declaration of Ten Principles by which nations could develop friendly cooperation and live together in peace.

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.

According to the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) that co-sponsored a parrallel people’s conference in Bandung last week, the summit resulted in several positive consequences: “It inspired the peoples and countries of Asia and Africa to struggle for real national independence, development, social justice and independent foreign policy against imperialism and colonialism. It led to the organization of the Afro-Asian peoples’ solidarity and Afro-Asian associations of youth, journalists, writers and the like. It pushed the UN general assembly to proclaim the decades of decolonization and development in the 960s and 1970s. It encouraged the spread of armed struggles for national liberation in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It gave impetus to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement of states. It paved the way for the demands for a new international economic order and a new international information order in the UN general assembly in the 1970s.”

The spirit of Bandung – its precepts and principles and even its proposed forms of anti-imperialist solidarity -- remains valid to this day. It provides not just an alternative viewpoint to the problems of development and international security, specially for the Third World, but a model, historically tested and proven viable, versus the “there is no alternative” triumphalist claim of the ideologues of capitalism.

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 what we are witnessing 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 perpetrated by imperialist countries led by the US, in the guise of the “war vs terror”.

As the ILPS concluded, “More than ever the peoples, nations and countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the retrogressive countries in the former Soviet bloc need … to assert, realize and exercise the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the Ten Principles of the Bandung Conference… The crisis of the world capitalist system inflicts terrible suffering on the … people. At the same time it is a favorable condition for people’s resistance. The noble and intelligent course of action for the people is to fight and defeat imperialism for the purpose of bringing about a new and better world of national freedom, democracy, social justice, development and enduring peace.”

April 22-23, 2005


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