The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) extends its warmest greetings to the participants of the conference that carries the theme: “The Spirit of Bandung and a New World Order.”
From April 18-25, 1955, leaders of 29 African and Asian nations, many of them newly-independent, held a historic meeting in Bandung, Indonesia. This conference laid the basis for the formation seven years later in 1962 of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The most important points of consensus reached in that conference were: to strengthen the independence of the new states against western imperialism, and to develop close cooperation among themselves.
The five principles of non-aggression, respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, equality, and peaceful co-existence were adopted. This is a landmark contribution of that conference to the body of international rules concerning the conduct of relations between states.
Many of the new states were very much conscious of their economic backwardness, thanks to the plunder carried out by the western imperialists. Some of the more progressive newly-independent states were acutely aware of the fact that despite their formal political independence, the former colonizers still exercised a great degree of influence and control in the economic, cultural and political fields.
Sukarno summed it up very well: “We are often told ‘Colonialism is dead.’ Let us not be deceived or even be soothed by that. I say to you, colonialism is not yet dead. How can we say it is dead, so long as vast areas of Asia and Africa are unfree.
“And, I beg of you do not think of colonialism only in the classic form which we of Indonesia, and our brothers in different parts of Asia and Africa, knew. Colonialism has also its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control, actual physical control by a small but alien community within a nation.”
The situation of the countries whose sentiments were expressed in that conference has not changed much. Many of them remain backward and impoverished, and dominated and exploited by colonialism clad in modern dress — neocolonialism.
The five principles on the relations between states –- non-aggression, respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, equality and peaceful co-existence — are today summarily ignored or violated by the powerful imperialist countries of the West especially by the lone superpower, the United States of America. We have seen this in the blatant aggression carried out by the US against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
In the guise of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the US bombed and imposed economic blockade which have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. In the guise of carrying out humanitarian mission, the US bombed and devastated Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In the guise of its “war on terror”, the US invaded and ravaged Afghanistan. The US tramples upon the national sovereignty of supposedly independent states and violates at will international law and all the internationally accepted rules that govern relations between states.
The fate of nations is decided in the capitals of America, Europe and Japan. The rich countries throw their weight around through such exclusive clubs as G7 and WEF. They control such supposed multilateral agencies as the IMF, WB and WTO and the whole United Nations system. They arrogate unto themselves the role of policing the world through such military alliances as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and US-Japan Security Alliance.
Today’s world presents a dire picture. Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity. Due to poverty, more than 15 million adults aged 20 to 64 in the third world are dying every year from curable diseases.
Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. Yet only less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on weapons is enough to put every child into school.
The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world's countries) is less than the wealth of the world's three richest people combined. 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the worlds goods. The top fifth of the world's people in the richest countries enjoy 82% of the expanding export trade and 68% of foreign direct investment — the bottom fifth, barely more than 1%.
In 1997, poor countries paid $270 billion in debt service — $60 per person. This has risen from $160 billion in 1990. They now spend $13 on debt repayment for every $1 they receive in grants. 7 Million children die each year as a result of the debt crisis. Debt relief for the 20 largest 3rd world “debtor nations” would cost $5.5 to 7.7 billion, the cost of a couple of stealth bombers. The 16 billion Britain is spending on new Eurofighters would cancel the entire debt of south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
There is indeed a need for a new world order. It is important to acknowledge this fact. But to achieve this goal more radical steps than has already been taken are necessary.
There have been calls for a New International Economic Order (NIEC). There have been attempts by the oppressed countries to form a united front and a common agenda in trade negotiations vis-à-vis the rich and powerful countries.
But the mechanisms and venues for cooperation among the oppressed countries in confronting the developed capitalist countries have so far remained inadequate and weak. The main reason for this is that reactionary regimes that rule these countries often have close ties with the imperialists. Because of this, aggrupations such as the Non-Aligned Movement and G77 are vulnerable to the threats and divide-and-rule tactic of the US, Europe and Japan.
Change must start in the dominated countries themselves. Radical social change must be carried out to install genuine anti-imperialist and democratic regimes. For only then can genuine national independence and democracy be achieved for the people. Only then can these countries chart an independent and comprehensive economic development. Only then can the spirit of Bandung — independence from imperialism and fruitful cooperation between these countries –- be realized.