Freedom as a doctrine was enacted by both Marxist-Leninist philosophy and Liberal Democracy. In the 19th congress of Soviet communist party, Stalin emphasised the freedom from exploitation by imperial powers and imperial wars. Also, Truman doctrine enuciated in 1974 march, emphasised on countries’ right to choose their own form of government and assert their national autonomy from external powers. However, such doctrines were enuciated by the first and second world leadership and when applied to the socio-political and economic perspectives of the third world, they prove to be serving the external power’s own national interests at the expense of the third world nations’ own interests. The complex political history of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America prove this.
The end of 2nd world war, led to a tide of decolonisation as the imperial powers were weakened by the war. The newly independent countries attempted to be neutral in the super power rivalry of cold war era and with the 1955 April Bandung conference began the nonalignment movement. However, as the trends before and after 1955 showed, third world was dependent on the Super powers as they competed to gain important strategic, economic and political advantages from establishing their control over the third world.
The following happenings marked down in history of 1945 to 1972, clearly indicates the situation to which the third world countries were pushed and the consequences faced by them.
China was the first country to become independent through revolution, though in this case, independence meant, communists winning the civil war against the nationalist Kuomintang under chiang-kai-shek. Under Mao Tse Tung, china became a communist republic in 1949 October. Soviet union was swift to exploit the opportunity of East becoming Red. Nevertheless, the communist victory was not owing to Soviet connivance. Rather the USSR viewed, the Chinese communists (CCP) to be incompetent and the 1945 August Stalin-Soong agreement recognised Kuomintang ( KMT) instead of CCP as China’s legitimate regime. Thus, the people’s republic of china was far from being a Soviet satellite.
However, in other parts of Asia, most notably in the Korean peninsula and indo-china, both Super powers installed their puppet regimes. South Korea, under Synghman Rhee, Taiwan under Chiang-Kai-Shek (since 1949) and Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime in south Vietnam(1954 – 1963) were American client states. US military and economic aid supported and consolidated these corrupt, authoritarian regimes. On the otherhand, Kim Il Sung’s regime of North Korea was a Soviet client. It is interesting to note that the Korean war, which began with North Korea’s invasion of the south in June 1950, was a proxy war that symbolised the dependent status of the Third World on Super powers. The aggressor, apparently had the support of Moscow and Beijing. When the UN forces under US commander MacArthur, crossed the 38th parallel, China entered the war. The 1953 armistice ended the war, which saw the Korean peninsula divided forever at the cost of 3 million human lives.
1954 Dien Bien Phu victory of communist guerillas called Vietminh, under the charismatic leadership of Ho Chin Minh, ended the French colonial presence. Yet, it didn’t lead to independence of Vietnam, despite the 1954 Geneva Agreement. Instead, the war escalated with US involvement in war, in order to contain the communist threat in South East Asia. The war raged until 1975 and entangled the fate of innocent millions. Despite the 1961 agreement over the Laos’ neutrality, North Vietnamese troops infiltrated the country to provide supplies to Vietcong (South Vietnamese Communists) through the Ho Chi Minh trail. The USA on the other hand, bombarded the country targeting the Laotian communist called Pathet Lao. The independence of the neutral neighbour Cambodia, was also threatened, when in 1970 US president Nixon ordered US invasion of Cambodia. Further, in 1971 a CIA backed military coup by General Lon Nol, overthrew Prince Sihanouk.
If we draw our attention to Indonesia, the question of Third World independence becomes more elusive. Indonesia became independent in 1949 from the Dutch. The non alignment policies of Achmed Sukarno became pro-Beijing when he perceived the establishment of Malayan Federation in 1963 by Britain as a neo-colonial threat to Indonesia’s Sovereignty. The Malayan Emergency uprising (1963 – 1965) by ethnic Chinese was supported by Sukarno. However, his out-spoken nationalism couldn’t ensure Indonesia acting freely in the world stage as he became increasingly dependent on Soviet military and economic aid to sustain his ambitious campaign. The 1965 pro – western rightist military coup ended his rule. Indonesia under Suharto’s New Order regime joined SEATO and toed the US line of anti-Soviet regional encirclement policies. Given the repressive nature of the Suharto government, the question of genuine freedom was doomed.
In the 1960s, China vigorously attacked the Peaceful Co-existence policy of Khrushchev and supported Albania against the Tito – Khrushchev reconciliation (1959). Beijing competed with Moscow for influence in the Third World, and both manipulated the non-alignment movement to establish their dominance. The off shore islands crisis (1958), Soviet nuclear missiles in Siberia targeting China all contributed to the 1960 Sino-Soviet split. Asserting its independence from Moscow and of the Brezhnev doctrine, which was enunciated in the Warsaw countries’ invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, China made a rapprochement with USA. This about turn was marked by Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1974. However, as the terrors of Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1970) proved, China itself was not free from internal turmoil and political instability as revealed by the factional conflicts between Liu Shaquists, the army under Lin Biao and the Maoists.
Since its independence in 1947 from Britain, India established strong credentials of non-alignment. However, a pro-Soviet tilt was reached by entering in to trade agreements in 1954 – 1955. India’s arch – enemy and neighbour Pakistan’s entry in to the pro-US Baghdad Pact in 1955 and SEATO in 1957, encouraged India to follow a more openly pro-USSR policy line as symbolised by its failure to condemn the Soviet repression of Hungary and upraising in 1956.
In return, USSR supported India’s position on Kashmir. In the 1962 Sino – Indian border war, and 1964 Indo – Pakistan war Soviet Union provided India with military aid which culminated in the 1971 friendship treaty between the two countries. Nixon administration took a strong pro-Pakistani stand in 1971 Bangladesh war. Hence, the narrowly averted confrontation between USSR’s Pacific Fleet and US’s cruiser enterprise in the Indian Ocean marked how the Third World regional crises were closely tied to Super power politics and the countries were far from being truly independent to follow their own course of action.
Similar to Asia, Africa also under went a transition period of decolonisation, which saw the development of nationalist movements all over the continent. Ghana ( Earlier Gold Coast), became independent under the moderate leadership of Kwame Nkrumah and Kenya in 1962 under Jomo Kenyatta. The radical path of Mau Mau upraising in Kenya (1951 – 1956) was emulated by the guerilla warfare of FLN in Algeria. The Algerian war led to fall of Fourth Republic in France and after the emergence of General deGaulle, Algeria became independent in 1962. However, the post – independent period saw these countries facing internal turmoil such as, the over throw of Ahmed Benpella in Algeria by General Boumedienne (In 1965) and Nkrumah’s fall in 1964. Similarly, in Uganda Milton Obote was overthrown in 1971 by General Idi Amin, who led a reign of terror until 1978, with the support of the west. The establishment of OAU ( Organisation of African Unity) promised the continent some freedom from such repressive regimes and neo-colonial economic dependency on the first world. However, as the establishment of pro-US Mobutu regime in Zaire by over throwing the nationalist government of Lumumba (1963) proved, the strong grip of the foreign hands over Africa continued.
Middle East, was an explosive region where the neo – colonial interests of the US,USSR and Britain competed. In Iran, Soviet demanded oil concessions in 1946 and blackmailed the Tehran by the presence of Red Army. When the nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadeq attempted to nationlise the oil industry, a CIA backed coup overthrew him and restored the Shah’s powers. USA sustained the the Shah’s authoritarian regime until 1979 Islamic revolution. Moscow on its part, exploited the Arab nationalism under Egypt’s Nasser ( since 1954) and courted Syria’s Asad (after 1961 coup) and Iraq’s Kassem ( after 1958 coup). After the 1956 Suez war, a regional arms race was built up by Moscow’s aid to its clients and US backing of Israel. This led to Arab – Israeli wars in 1967 and in 1973. USSR forced Egypt under Sadat to sign 1971 friendship treaty and US made a show of support to king Hussain of Jordan in 1970 over the PLO – Syrian crisis. Such trends show the virtual dependency of Middle East on Super powers, despite the nationalist rhetoric of Pan – Arabism.
Latin America was under the strong neo-colonial control of USA. Roosevelt announced US’s Good Neighbour policy in 1933. However, the establishment of Rio Pact in 1947 and OAS (Organisation of American States) in 1948 consolidated its military control. US backed the dictatorship of Batisa in Cuba (1934 to 1959) and Somoza in Nicaragua (1936 to 1979). CIA staged the overthrow of leftist Arbenz government of Guatemala in 1954 and Chile’s Allende government in 1973. Only Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba in 1959 developed a challenge to US’ hegemony. Not surprisingly Moscow exploited this opportunity and established nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962. The stalemate situation in 1962 showed how the Third World was manipulated by both US and USSR. Besides, Castro established an authoritarian regime which ended all possibilities of a free Cuba.
Thus, the era of 1945 to 1972 saw the Third World countries becoming independent from the colonial powers only to be entangled in neo – colonial relationships, authoritarian regimes and persisting political instability. Thus, the freedom of the third world, was only nominal and greatly undermined by the hegemonic competition between the Super powers over it.