The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung (Ban-doong)

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The battle against colonialism has been a long one, and do you know that today is a famous anniversary in that battle? On the eighteenth day of April, one thousand seven hundred and seventy five, just one hundred and eighty years ago, Paul Revere rode at midnight through the New England countryside, warning of the approach of British troops and of the opening of the American War of Independence, the first successful anti-colonial war in history. About this midnight ride the poet Longfellow wrote:

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo for evermore!1

Two conferences were held at Bandung in April 1955. One was the real conference, about which not very much is known, about which people care even less, and which has faded away like a bad dream. The other was a quite different conference, a crystallization of what people wanted to believe had happened which, as a myth, took on reality in the Bandung Principles and, later, in the Bandung Spirit. The real conference aroused interest mainly because it contributed towards the solution of a crisis then much in the news but which history scarcely troubles to record.2

Myths or the identity stories a group tells about itself are found not just in grade-school primers or nationalist tracts but also in advanced scholarship, in professional journals, and in conference papers. Consider the case of the Asian-African Conference at Bandung, Indonesia. It turns out that Bandung is the imagined birthplace of not one but two global “solidarities” that some scholars continue to confuse with (for lack of a better term) the historical process, and that in many cases they elide into one. The first is routinely referred to as “non-alignment” or the non-aligned movement. The second is a bit more unwieldy, an emerging “global racial consciousness” or a movement of the “darker nations.” This essay challenges both these ways of thinking about the politics of Bandung and its aftermath. The problem is that these myths are no more firmly rooted in reality than the belief—reproduced by two generations of journalists, bloggers, and scholars—that Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia were there.3

They continue to exist not least because so little scholarship has sought to explore them. No historians have published studies based on research in the archives of the actually existing international organization, the Non-Aligned Movement (or NAM), founded in Belgrade in 1961 at the First Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, not at Bandung in 1955.4 It is headquartered in New York with a rotating chairmanship held at this writing by the Egyptian foreign minister Amr Mohammad Kamal, who took over following the overthrow of the country’s president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011. The major scholarship on the NAM is now a few decades old, produced mostly by journalists and political scientists specializing in international relations, and is still worth reading—not least for the routine warnings to avoid what the political scientist Peter Willetts in 1978 called the “distortions of history” that solidarities produce. He was referring to speeches by the Nigerian and Sri Lankan ambassadors at a 1976 Howard University conference marking the fifteenth anniversary of the NAM. Both diplomats recalled that the road to Belgrade had passed through Bandung. The Cuban and Yugoslavian ambassadors, from key states in the NAM’s founding that were neither Asian nor African, disagreed, on grounds broader than those of identity or their own leaderships’ legitimization strategies. As Willetts put it, and this is a key point, “Bandung in its composition and its decisions was the antithesis of non-alignment.”5Willetts was updating an already existing, well-documented and argued interpretation, one which the political scientist Itty Abraham sustains in his 2009 account of Indian foreign policy change.6 Through the mid-1960s the rival Asian-African and non-aligned frameworks reflected ongoing divisions and competing hegemonic ambitions of, to take just one example I explore here, Nasser in Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. The Bandung-to-Belgrade story that many tell now is best understood as part of that multifront war of position as states and their organic intellectuals began to recast events to fit the line of the day.

Willetts could have said much more about “distortions” at a conference where the Howard University political scientist James Garrett called on African Americans to join the other non-aligned “nations” at the upcoming sixth summit in Havana in 1979.7 According to Garrett, Malcolm X had clarified why it was important to do so in the landmark 1963 speech at the Northern Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference.8 Malcolm reads it in terms of the binary through which Americans saw the world and that continues to shape the histories being produced today. It was the “first unity meeting in centuries of black people,” who had transcended their differences primarily through their recognition of the white man as the number-one enemy.9 Going to Havana might not have seemed so strange a proposal to a Howard audience in 1976, had two stalwart internationalists, W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, found a way around the State Department travel ban twenty years earlier, since Garrett believed that both had been “invited to participate in the Bandung Conference.”10 My colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, Adolph Reed Jr., who was then teaching political science at Howard, responded by condemning the turn to “Black Third Worldism” in an essay that ought to be on reading lists now.11

The historical scholarship that began to appear on these same matters ten years after Howard’s anniversary volume on the Belgrade summit and thirty years after the Asian-African Conference has sought to write African American internationalism “into” (and thus revise) Cold War historiography. Not least, this scholarship reminds us of the continuities in racial identification among leaders in Washington and London who had still not quite got the hang of substituting “North Atlantic community” for “Anglo-Saxon people.” While successful, convincing, and innovative in many respects, when it comes to Bandung the new “international” or “transnational” social and cultural historians have done little more than report what white and black Americans, reporters, and fellow travelers, mostly on the sidelines of these events, imagined and wrote about the darker nations, and so they missed a tremendous opportunity to advance our knowledge about Bandung and its rivals.12 These projects were unfolding not just as part of the global Cold War but also of a complex, postindependence politics across three continents, or what one of the remarkable tacticians of that moment, George Padmore, called the transfer of power.13

The idea that the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung in 1955, in which the majority of twenty-nine states were outspokenly aligned (the number of “neutralists” varies from three to ten according to how one counts fellow travelers and communists) was a conference of the non-aligned states, or that the non-aligned movement began there, is the Paul Revere’s ride of our postcolonial age.14 Many if not most of the men representing those same dependent states would likely have responded to claims of a unity or alliance of color with blank or uncomprehending stares or would have smiled politely and moved on. Getting at race—or, better, racialization—at Bandung requires analysis of the discourse of and identification in terms of “civilizations” different from those of the West, as the speeches and resolutions repeatedly asserted, which Itty Abraham and Kyle Haddad-Fonda have explored most recently.15 This essay attempts to get the politics (not least the line-ups) right.

I begin by sampling the range of recent solidarity journalism, diplomats’ self-fashioning, and claims by diplomatic and postcolonial historians and theorists about Bandung, all of which are grounded not in scholarship but in popular memory. We might have expected to see more of a difference between the professors and the bloggers. A technical literature exists, but its arguments have never been confronted and wrestled with. One defensible thesis about why so many continue to believe that Bandung gave rise to Belgrade is that most confuse the two in terms of who was there and what was argued. Any effort to finally write a plausible, scholarly version of the Bandung origins of non-alignment will need to start with the counterfactual: if no Bandung, then no Belgrade?

The turn to writing about those for whom Bandung represented the hope (or threat) of color’s emergence as a “global identity” only adds additional layers of confusion about the identifications, affiliations, and choices of those in the committees and plenary sessions.16 I consider some key dimensions of the politics (and ideas) of Bandung versus Belgrade and Pan-African versus Afro-Asian solidarity organizing as part of the process of state-building and intervention. Presuming on good grounds that those who write about the NAM today don’t actually know how its members “joined” (they didn’t—they were chosen), I review Nasser’s efforts to dominate this institution, Nehru’s efforts to stop him, and the beginning of the latter’s withdrawal from a movement that was cresting before it ever had a chance to gather. Nasser also struggled with Nkrumah for domination over the newly independent countries of Africa. Not surprisingly, therefore, even if not part of the solidarity accounts, Nkrumah turned to a key Asian state that the Middle Eastern states kept out of Bandung, that is, Israel. I conclude the essay with some implications of the turn from solidarity to scholarship.


Q: Which of the Following Leaders Met at Bandung?

(a) Tito

(b) Nkrumah

(c) Castro

(d) None of the Above

The political scientist George McTurnan Kahin (1918–2000) is best known as an early critic of the Vietnam War; as a new assistant professor he served as executive director of Cornell’s Southeast Asia program and founded its Modern Indonesia Project in 1954. He happened to be in Indonesia on a research leave when the five Colombo Powers—Indonesia, India, Burma, Ceylon, and Pakistan—hosted the Asian-African Conference in Bandung in April 1955.17Indonesia’s Sukarno, a gifted public speaker, opened the meeting with a speech that included the lines quoted above from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” a surprising oratorical turn that American diplomats said they had inspired.18 Kahin is one of the never-mentioned two dozen or so American men and women who wandered the halls and hotels that week alongside Richard Wright, Carl Rowan, Max Yergan, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. And Kahin knew a lot more than most did about Asia.19

Kahin decided to write a book on the conference, as did Richard Wright. Unlike Wright, Kahin traveled to Cairo, Delhi, Karachi, and Rangoon to follow up with key delegates, including Nehru’s main advisor, Krishna Menon, and a thirty-seven-year-old Egyptian colonel, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the new prime minister who made his debut on the international stage at Bandung, his second trip abroad in his life following his pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year earlier. Back in Ithaca a few months later with a bundle of press clippings and other source materials, Kahin produced the first and still essential scholarly work on Bandung.20 Asian-African Conference: Bandung, Indonesia, April 1955 appeared around the same time as Wright’s Color Curtain and a month or two after pamphlets written by Angadipuram Appadorai, a conference administrator and head of the Indian Institute for World Affairs, and by Homer Jack, a Unitarian minister from Evanston, Illinois and board member of the American Committee on Africa. A few months later, the conference’s crusading Filipino anticommunist, Carlos Romulo, came out with The Meaning of Bandung.21 It would take another fifty years before another book on Bandung itself appeared.

Kahin’s conclusions hold up well against what has since been revealed in declassified records from the 1950s. Nehru in particular was reluctant to hold such a meeting. What ultimately led the five leaders of Asia to agree to proceed was the fear that increasing U.S.-China tensions might lead to a new major war in the region, which inspired the decision to invite the People’s Republic, a state that the United States had prevented from taking its seat at the United Nations.22 Kahin judged the event a success, “modest, it is true, but more than most statesmen had expected.” On the one hand, Zhou Enlai’s performance had allayed the suspicions of many delegates, who were meeting for the first time with the communist leader from a country tied to the USSR by treaty. On the other hand, a kind of “moral restraint against Chinese aggression” had emerged (they hoped). Other accounts, including Richard Wright’s and Doak Barnett’s, back Kahin up on the masterful diplomacy of the Chinese premier, who used the conference to call for a negotiated solution to the Formosa crisis. In other words, Bandung played a “significant . . . if relatively minor” role in the first, brief post-Stalin “détente between the Communist and non-Communist worlds,” as Kahin envisioned it.23

Because not all delegations were necessarily aware of, let alone compelled by, the motives of the organizers, there is a second (in Kahin’s view secondary) way in which to gauge the success of the conference, namely, in terms of “areas of agreement” among the conferees.24Judging from the final resolutions, what united the twenty-nine delegations, as opposed to the five organizers only, was an opposition to colonialism and white supremacy, or what was referred to as “racialism.” Throughout that week, delegates had condemned apartheid in South Africa on these grounds.25 Attendees also agreed that those among them still excluded from the UN—Cambodia, Ceylon, Japan, Jordan, Libya, Nepal, and a “unified Vietnam”—were entitled to membership. While they also affirmed the legitimacy of the UN, they wanted a greater voice in the Security Council. They collectively endorsed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pressed for general disarmament, and called for greater economic cooperation and cultural exchanges among their countries and regions.

We might add that they also reaffirmed the right, specified in Article 51 of the UN Charter, of a state to defend itself, “singly or collectively.” The original draft articles of the United Nations had said nothing about “collective self-defense,” but South American delegates at the founding San Francisco conference proposed the new article to resolve the crisis over the status of the Inter-American System, an alliance-in-formation with the United States. Some at the time had thought regional defense arrangements would contravene the “universality of the jurisdiction” of the proposed UN Security Council. Egypt’s representative argued for the legitimacy of the new six-member Arab League under the same Article 51, adding that Egypt was against the kinds of alliance agreements that had been forced on his own country by Great Britain.26 The Atlantic Pact or Treaty signed in 1949 would soon follow, and Nehru argued in closed session at Bandung that there had been good grounds for founding NATO, but he objected to the extension of such arrangements to colonial territories.27 Nehru would also do much backtracking in later years in trying to square what was agreed to at Bandung with his opposition to regional defense pacts. The ambiguities reflected the unanimity rule adopted for the conference and the more enduring rule (or reality) that small states feared nearby state-building projects more than faraway Cold War politics.

Reviewing Kahin’s book in the Institute of Pacific Relations’s journal Pacific Affairs, together with what he called the slighter contribution by Appadorai (which the IPR published), the Dutch anthropologist W. F. Wertheim opened with the prediction that the recently concluded conference would appear in future history textbooks as “one of the major events” of the mid-twentieth century, although Westerners were slow to recognize its importance.28 Howard University’s Merze Tate led with the same claim in her review of Wright’s Color Curtain, which she also tore apart for its exaggerated color consciousness.29 But Wertheim and Tate got it wrong. For decades, historians have mostly ignored the Asian-African Conference; were this not the case, we would not find scholars echoing the solidarity movements’ origin stories quite so faithfully.30 Kahin’s study sits undisturbed in the stacks and off-site storage facilities and can be bought for next to nothing online, while Wright’s was reprinted in 1994, giving new life to the romance of Bandung as a gathering of all the darker and non-aligned nations and peoples that has come to substitute for knowledge of the event and the complex political conflicts and alignments that it reflected. The mythmaking was a phenomenon first noted and brilliantly dissected decades ago by G. H. Jansen in his still unsurpassed 1966 postmortem on the two distinct and ultimately competing frameworks of Afro-Asia and non-alignment.31 Most of what continues to be written about the conference by public intellectuals, would-be revivers of the “Spirit of Bandung,” and professors of postcolonial studies, is myth, as was what was written about Paul Revere, drawing on Longfellow’s romance as a source. In both cases, “facts matter little when a good story is at stake.”32

In an hour’s search I came up with a dozen examples. In 1994, the New York Times foreign correspondent Barbara Crossette remembered the “summit” wistfully, even as she erroneously called it “the Afro-Asian Conference.” Nehru had made a specific decision to call it the Asian-African Conference because, as he explained at a press conference in December 1954 in Jakarta, “it is a finer way of describing it. We put Asia first because it is a smaller word, not because Asia is more important or less.” In private he objected that Afro-Asian “sounded like aphrodisiac.”33 Crossette also named the Gold Coast prime minister Kwame Nkrumah as one of the summiteers.34 In 2002, Philippine foreign secretary Blas Ople called for a second Bandung Conference to follow on the first, the one that brought together, among others, Castro, Tito, and Nkrumah.35 Ward Churchill singled out Mao Zedung’s contribution to the event the very next year.36 But the hazy recollections of what transpired at Bandung picked up steam as post–Third World states actually fulfilled Ople’s dream, meeting at a new Non-Aligned Summit in Havana in October 2006. The one-time editor of Muhammad Speaks, Askia Muhammad, filed a report from Cuba, where Kofi Annan had evoked Nkrumah as a founding figure of the movement at Bandung. Muhammad includes Annan together with Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, and Nasser, the five stalwarts he imagines to be referenced in what he calls “the Initiative of Five.”37 The Egyptian journalist Galal Nasser, in a January 2007 column recalling the ideals that drove an earlier Egyptian generation, has his hero, Gamal Abd al-Nasser, leading a campaign that culminates in Bandung, where equally idealistic leaders such as Tito, Nkrumah, and Jomo Kenyatta “joined . . . in a call for liberation and independence that turned the Third World into a counterbalance of both East and West.”38The London School of Economics and fraternal organizations sponsored a conference in Serbia on the fiftieth anniversary of the conference, inviting participants to reflect anew on a meeting that had Nkrumah meeting other Third World leaders.39 Most recently, Rob Burton, an English professor at California State University, Chico, includes Nkrumah in his list of “high profile delegations” but calls him the leader of Sudan, which country Burton says “had been recently freed of colonial domination,” although Sudan was then still a joint condominium of the Egyptians and the British.40

Nasser, fearing for his fate at home, was a late-deciding attendee who received his main briefing on the upcoming conference from the CIA.41 None of the hosts knew much about him. Nehru, who was suspicious of Nasser’s close ties to the Americans and who had read hisPhilosophy of the Revolution (“a pamphlet”), did not think much of his intellect.42 Nasser was, needless to say, not one of the conference’s organizers, let alone a neutralist visionary.43When quizzed by journalists in New Delhi about his views on Nehru’s five famous principles of coexistence, he responded, “What are they?”44 As noted above, Nehru, who was a neutralist, had initially objected to the holding of the meeting. None of the other men named above had set foot in Bandung that April. Nkrumah, leader of the Gold Coast, not Sudan, and anxious not to do anything to upset the timetable for independence, sent his friend Kojo Botsio as an “observer” rather than a full-fledged delegate, with instructions to keep his head down.45 Kenyatta wasn’t invited. Nor was Tito. Ho’s close comrade and prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, led the North’s delegation. Neither was Cuba an Asian-African state, nor was it one governed by Castro, the guerilla, interned at the Isle of Pines Prison at the time of the Bandung meeting.

A reader might object that the deck has been stacked with writers, journalists, and literature professors, yet historians of remarkably diverse orientations also get this one wrong or, worse, don’t question what has become a matter of common sense. We can trace the false sightings of Kwame Nkrumah at least as far back as Fouad Ajami’s “Fate of Non-Alignment” inForeign Affairs in 1980.46 Partha Chaterjee’s effort twenty-five years later to revisit the idea of empire imagines a Bandung conference where Nkrumah and Ho took part.47 The prolific Australian Asian studies scholar Mark T. Berger wrote the entry on Bandung for theEncyclopedia of the Developing World, which also includes Nkrumah and Tito among the attendees.48 The University of Colorado professor of modern Egyptian history James Jankowski and the Clark University historian of the Cold War in the Middle East Doug Little both write that Nasser was with Tito in Bandung.49 So does Ajami’s heir as reigning critic of Pan-Arabism, Adeed Dawisha.50 And Robert J. C. Young includes—well, you can guess by now—Nkrumah and “odd-man-out geographically, though not geopolitically, Tito.”51Compounding the nicely executed standard error with a wholly original one, Young says that the conferees “set up the institutional basis of what would become the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.” While an institution means different things to different people, Nehru and others acted instead to prevent the creation of any kind of permanent structure or organization, and various would-be conveners of a follow-up meeting—Nasser, Sukarno, Pakistan’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Algeria’s Ben Bella—failed repeatedly over the next ten years to bring Asian and African states together once more, the Egyptians perhaps going so far as to bomb a conference site in Algiers to prevent organizers from meeting.52

Little wonder that those who hold up the banner of Bandung today prefer to imagine that these sometimes rival, sometimes simply orthogonal convocations track the evolution of a “movement”: the meeting of Afro-Asian, including Russian, peoples, not states, at Cairo in 1957, which led to the creation of the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization with backing by the Soviets; the meeting of Independent African States in 1958 and of Pan-Africanists in Accra in 1959; of Non-Aligned Heads of States or Governments in 1961, the one that is routinely confused with Bandung in most of the above examples. Future scholars might want to do more to recognize, distance themselves from, and test the assumptions of the solidarity groups (and no doubt Indian and Egyptian school books) by answering the following questions: if Bandung is understood most fundamentally as a launching point for the NAM, then why, once launched, did the original conveners of Bandung continue efforts to reassemble? Minimally, it means that the concerns of the two groupings or leaderships did not completely overlap, another point carefully, clearly, and repeatedly made by virtually all scholars at the time. What has happened in the meantime?53


Color Curtain

The most recent problem is that the new social and cultural historians chose to leave the political science of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s behind (or never thought to look for it) while turning to the Chicago DefenderPittsburgh CourierBaltimore Afro-American, and theColor Curtain to revive the accounts invariably found there of Bandung as a meeting of the darker races.54 Knowing what the reporters wrote and what inspired African American internationalism in a dismal time in the United States is important, but those accounts at times confuse the world views of North Americans with views of the world as a whole. They can also get carried away. Thus Paul Gordon Lauren believes, much as Malcolm X did, that the organizers “deliberately refused to invite any white power,” which is not true, as Wright himself documents.55 Lauren also describes Nehru and Nasser, among others, speaking “movingly about their shared experience due to the black, brown, and yellow color of their skins.”56 Nehru declined the opportunity to address the conference in open session, but in his summing-up on the last day not a word about race appears. Nasser gave three addresses. None of them uses the word “race” or “color” let alone speaks of race’s effect on him or on Egyptians or on Middle Eastern peoples. There is virtually nothing in any of the addresses at Bandung, including those by Yilma Deressa of Ethiopia, in Botsio’s short remarks, or by Ismail al-Azhahri of Sudan, that remotely resembles Lauren’s account about what went on in the conference hall.57 The one serious exception is the long address by Romulo, who indeed spoke passionately about the effect of race on him, other Filipinos, and other victims of colonialism and, just as important, warned of new forms of racialism threatening to erupt in many of the newly independent countries.

It is as if the new historians never read beyond the line in the official transcript where Sukarno welcomes “the first intercontinental conference of colored peoples in the history of mankind,” a statement that led to objections from many of the delegates. Nasser, Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz, and the other Arabs hardly identified as such. Nonetheless, Melani McAlister, in her Epic Encounters, holds up Nasser in particular at Bandung, both for leading the misidentified twenty-nine-state non-aligned movement but also for representing (for whom back then, other than those in Harlem?) a new “global racial consciousness.”58 The Lebanese ally of the United States Charles Malik, in a debriefing with Dulles, expressed his real fears that the colored races could very well be coming together in a way that threatened the West’s interests, of which he and his people were a part.59 The Turkish delegates complained about the repeated references by the North Americans to Bandung as a meeting of colored races, which by (self-)definition left Turkey out.60 Finally, consider the book published by the Institute of Asian-African Relations on the first anniversary of the Bandung Conference, which explains that India, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East are peopled by “branches of the White Man,” just different from the branch that subjugated the Black and Yellow Man.61Brenda Plummer explains the origins of Bandung as the response of “a group of African, Middle Eastern, and Asian neutralists” to bullying by the U.S. and USSR, calling for a “May [sic] 1955 conference of non-aligned states.” The result was, she says, a rejection of Cold War–Era treaty making.62 Penny Von Eschen relies in turn on Lauren in her account of the conference as the “most important and influential of several attempts” to organize around non-alignment, and she adopts the reading of the run-up to the event then popular in Harlem, Washington, London, and Canberra but far removed from accounts in Cairo, Beijing, Colombo, or Delhi.63 Meanwhile, Kevin Gaines relies on Plummer, writing that Bandung launched non-alignment “as a global political formation.”64

The point is to solve the problem that these errors appear to pose, driven generally by the project itself of emphasizing and at times adopting the particular perspective of what came to be called African American or black internationalism. Justin Hart is another scholar who emphasizes the same particularistic point of view of much of this literature.65 There are also some other key works by diplomatic historians that advance arguments, syntheses, and revisions that have little in common with the Bandung-as-birth-of the-non-aligned-movement school, while the evidence they uncover offers scant support for the idea. Nicholas Tarling of the University of Aukland led the way in 1992 with an illuminating account of British policy, and three new U.S.-focused studies followed by Cary Fraser in 2003, Matthew Jones in 2005, and Jason Parker in 2006.66 Fraser, Jones, and Parker nonetheless also all locate themselves within the new “race in the making of U.S. foreign policy” current.67


“The Atlantic Charter: It Means Dark Races Too68

There are two steps we can take toward a better understanding of the politics of the Asian-African Conference and its connection to the proliferating set of meetings, conferences, and summits that grew in parallel with the increase in newly independent countries, most in Africa, after 1960. The first step is the easy one, and that is to recognize that the versions found in the books referred to above are all mirror images of the ones conjured up by the U.S. State Department and British Foreign Office. The darker races had gathered at Bandung under the umbrella of non-alignment, but that is something to be celebrated rather than condemned—for the positive rather than the negative effects, vague as these might be, on world order. In the six months or so before the Colombo powers agreed to hold the Asian-African Conference, and as they negotiated the list of invitees, the functionaries of the Eisenhower administration let their fears run wild. They were haunted by what H. W. Brands describes as, but never critically dissects nor distances himself from, “the specter of neutralism.”69 They were also haunted by the specter of race, but Brands is, like many others, predictably silent about the coarse and dismissive treatments of various leaders and peoples that fill the declassified dispatches, telegrams, and memoranda of conversations, which is just one reason to be thankful for all the great work on racism and foreign policy discussed above.

A few at the conference—Sukarno, Nehru, and Sihanouk—presented variants of Dulles’s dreaded doctrine, but it was only one of a number of orientations on offer, and it would be a year or two before Egypt’s leaders declared themselves full followers of positive neutralism and non-alignment too, in what Leonard Binder soon called a Bismarkian or Prussian expansionist project.70 By then, however, China had reaffirmed its commitment to the unity of the communist bloc and launched a sustained ideological attack on Tito, following with a more deadly kind of war with the erstwhile peacefully coexisting India in 1962. Nehru would secure emergency arms from the United States and its allies, as his comrades in the so-called non-aligned movement opted instead not to alienate their own backers: China, the USSR, or both.71 Matters only grew more treacherous year by year for anyone trying to keep various peace or disarmament, non-alignment, and solidarity projects going, and the truth is that a few years after the world’s first conference of a peculiar subset of non-aligned countries at Belgrade, where the alleged founding Asian-African Conference at Bandung was hardly talked about, scholars had turned seriously to the writing of postmortems.

Both of these obsessions have histories that predate Bandung by decades. Dulles and other trans-Atlanticists combated neutralism first in the United States in the run-up to World War II before taking on one or another imagined “Third Force” rising in Europe in the 1940s and Asia in the 1950s. Dulles at one point guessed that both Greece and Turkey would succumb.72The fear of a revolt of the colored races, the rising tide of color, and the prospect of race war ran even deeper, invoked routinely each decade in Washington and elsewhere since 1905, when a white power was defeated by a colored one in the Russo-Japanese war.73 The Royal Institute of International Affairs, which was London’s equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations, opened its pitch to the Rockefeller Foundation for fresh analysis of the threat likely to replace the struggle against communism in the not too distant future by beginning with 1905 and ending with the Bandung Conference.74 And in his September 29, 1963, New York Times think piece “Is a Race War Shaping Up?” the distinguished historian Arnold Toynbee assessed the chances that whites would have to confront a world alliance of colored races—they would not, he forecast—in the course of China’s bid for world domination no later than the year 2000.

Nothing speaks to the fantastical nature of the accounts leading up to Bandung more than the fact that none of them proved true. No delegate ever argued on the grounds that what united the otherwise disparate religions, regions, and commitments represented at the conference was something called race or color. Color was a fact for some, not for others, but for no one was it what united them. To the contrary, many rejected the idea that color mattered. They called it racialism and warned against appealing to it as a dangerous and retrograde step. Nehru, for one, detested such talk. Meanwhile, Nehru’s efforts to exclude discussion of what many at Bandung saw as the highest stage of imperialism in the guise of the Communist Information Bureau (or Cominform) had failed. State after state refused his entreaties to denounce NATO, SEATO, and the like. His rivals would gloat over the first would-be leader of the Third World’s failure to dominate the conference.

The British and the American policymakers celebrated their victory at the meeting’s end. But they credited it to their successful behind-the-scenes support for their “friends” rather than to their own original and wild exaggerations of the forces at play. They would continue to conjure the same increasingly intertwined twin phantoms—of a third force of colored peoples suffering psychological inferiority complexes—many more times in the years ahead. For instance, when his Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed the use of military force to “break” the renegade ex-client Nasser one year later as the Suez War approached, Eisenhower said no, fearing that it would recoil against the United States. Why? Nasser “personified the emotional demands” of Egyptians and others peoples who sought not only independence but “to slap the white man down.”75 There is little gain in the fact that now, decades later, as the postcolonial theorists return to the images that Eisenhower, Eden, Dulles, Godfrey Huggins of Rhodesia, and others first used shortly before Bandung, they cast these in what to them appears a more positive or hopeful light.


The Many Roads Leading into and out of Belgrade

The second step is a harder one, because it requires, in place of the exaggerated accounts of metropolitan power and the indistinguishable portraits of Nasser, Nehru, and Nkrumah at the head of a global formation, that we recognize the competing national state-building projects and regional state-systemic logics as primary analytical terrain. To give one pertinent example, the explanation for why the Asian-African Conference took place when and where it did begins not with a plan to launch the world anti–Cold War movement but to bolster Sukarno’s chances in forthcoming elections. The line-up of states itself is best explained by the increasing contacts and coordination among the sixteen-state voting bloc at the United Nations that had emerged over the preceding four or five years to frustrate the dominance of the United States and its hemispheric allies and to force increased attention to the issues of decolonization and racism. It was the performance of Egypt’s ancien régime at the UN circa 1950 that led Tito to reconsider the orthodox communist views of Western political dependencies years before Nasser emerged.76 That bloc had grown to twenty-eight states by 1958, the largest single alignment, although Kwame Nkrumah announced that a newly independent Ghana would not actually join any group organized along interregional lines.77

Let’s not fool ourselves about the work that is required to learn what we don’t know about each of the relevant pre- or post-Bandung meetings. There is, for example, the remarkable and now all but forgotten eight-day-long Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947 with a larger list of invitees than Bandung, including Tibet, Armenia, Georgia, Turkmenistan—Nehru was then still an admirer of Russian modernization strategies—a delegation of Zionists from Palestine, and the Arab League.78 An additional problem is that, as Clive Christie notes, for decades scholars have done little work on “the ideas and debates that engaged the main political actors and thinkers of Southeast Asia during the nationalist and anti-colonial era.”79 It may be that the varieties of non-alignment then on offer—with each leader propagating a unique hybrid, “dynamic neutrality,” “positive neutralism,” “uncommitted,” “non-engagement,” and so forth—don’t warrant reconsideration, with the possible exceptions of Nehru’s and Tito’s brands. Nkrumah is another matter. He wrote prolifically, before but especially after his overthrow and exile in 1966. This body of work is better understood as a species of neocolonialism theory, similar to the turn taken in Sukarno’s writings and speeches in the 1960s. The only problem is that a writer provided by Israel’s ambassador to Ghana wrote most of one of them, Africa Must Unite, which raises questions about the authorship of the rest.80 Nasser, mired in his own Vietnam-style war in Yemen during those years, replete with use of napalm and possibly mustard gas, brought out no new ghostwritten tract of his own after the 1955 Egypt’s Liberation: Philosophy of the Revolution.

Nehru certainly had tried hardest to root his version, Panscheel, or “Five Principles” of international relations (mutual respect for a state’s territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, mutual noninterference, equality and mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence), which he unveiled before Bandung and promoted during the meeting, in some allegedly ancient and Indian “way of life . . . as old as our thought and culture.”81 Ten years earlier Sukarno had unveiled his own Five Principles (Pancasila) as the ideological basis of the not yet independent state. One of these, internationalism (or “humanism” in some older translations, together with nationalism, democracy, social justice, and belief in God)—which he originally offered as an alternative to both “vapid cosmopolitanism” and the “inward-looking, race-oriented nationalism of Europe”—served to ground his own later advocacy at the UN and other venues for transformation of the European state system into a revolutionary postcolonial world order. Before his overthrow in 1965, he had also more or less jettisoned the idea of non-alignment and its view of a world made by the Cold War in order to promote the Third World war against neocolonialism.82

The real gains to a revived study of ideas may well be to recover the “indigenous” critiques of non-alignment emerging in the 1950s and 1960s.83 Consider just two of the figures that Christie includes in an increasingly self-confident (if unfortunately specified) “post-anti-colonial” current. Soetan Sjahrir (1909–66), founder of the Indonesian socialist party and Sukarno’s first prime minister, hated the “self-glorifying and egocentric tone of anti-colonial nationalism,” together with the misguided search for intrinsic Asian values to be posed against those of “the West.” It was an “outdated mindset.”84 Sjahrir would ultimately face arrest, jail, and death in exile. The “clearest cut case” of this trend, Christie says, is Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990. Early in his tenure, Lee Kuan Yew was arguing that “the anti-colonial mentality and its offshoot, the non-aligned world view” was itself the chief obstacle preventing countries of the region from meeting their various internal and external challenges, “shorn of alibis and ideological illusions.”85

What we do know is that none of the main Middle Eastern and Asian proponents of positive neutralism, non-alignment, and the like at the time of the Asian-African Conference understood the idea as simply as the political scientist Hans Morgenthau put it a few years later in the New York Times Magazine: “the desire not to be allied with either side in the cold war.”86 Rather, the various strains all combined ideas about alliance formation with hard-to-ground claims to cross-regional solidarity, which would eventually go by the wayside; support for anticolonial movements; and, a bit later, opposition to “neocolonialism,” the promotion of general disarmament, and the tenets of coexistence, which, despite the claims to non-Western and ancient-rootedness, were mostly already part of the Charter of the United Nations.

G. H. Jansen, who wanted to salvage the non-alignment idea, peeled it back to what he viewed as its common-sense core, a preference for exercising “an independent judgment on questions of foreign policy.” Unfortunately, he lamented, it came to be “viewed incorrectly” as a product of the Cold War and in opposition to it and was saddled with various additional commitments, including an unconvincing claim about non-alignment’s superior moral power.87 This defense may be the one most unconvincing claim in his treasure of a book, since which state’s preference isn’t for pursuit of an independent judgment on its foreign policy, and which state isn’t constrained at the same time by a hierarchical international order?

In June 1961, delegations from nineteen countries—eight from Africa and nine from Asia, together with a team of post-Bay of Pigs Cubans, the Yugoslavians, and some Brazilian observers—met in Cairo to plan the world’s first non-aligned summit.88 All invitees represented the choices of Tito and Nasser. One of the main goals was to head off Sukarno’s proposal for another Asian-African Conference. A second Bandung would have reproduced the splits of 1955, and it would have been hard to involve Nasser’s new, staunch European ally. Simultaneously, any conference organized on a regional basis, one of which suddenly included more than thirty independent states, would have increased the odds against Nasser’s dominance, given, just to mention one factor, the dissension he had sowed across Africa in the course of his intervention in the Congo crisis of the previous years.

Nasser led a set of allies that wanted a strict test of admission, what Jansen calls an exclusivist position. Nehru reluctantly agreed to come, and by the end of the meeting participants viewed him as an enemy of non-alignment, when really what he opposed was the continued obsession with colonialism. With virtually all of Africa either winning its independence or on the verge of doing so, colonialism was quickly fading into insignificance, and so the Cold War and some alternative to nuclear annihilation were the most important issues to be confronted in the future. Nehru pushed for and won, he thought, a more inclusive approach to participation. The delegates agreed to appoint a subcommittee to define non-alignment and to draw up a list of acceptable countries on that basis, which took two sessions and eleven hours of discussion to arrive at the following tautological definition. To qualify as non-aligned,

1. A country should follow an independent policy based on peaceful co-existence and non-alignment, or should be showing a trend in favor of such a policy.

2. It should consistently have supported movements for national independence.

3. It should not be a member of multilateral alliances concluded in the context of great power conflicts.

4. If it had conceded military bases these concessions should not have been made in the context of great power conflicts.

5. If it were a member of a bi-lateral or regional defense arrangement, this should not be in the context of great power conflicts.89

The regional rivalries, clientelism, and log-rolling that determined the final line-up at Belgrade deserves highlighting, lest one still imagine the moment as a time when a better, more principled form of world order might have come into being. All of the countries present at the Cairo preparatory conference would attend Belgrade, although according to the terms worked out in committee, four countries—Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Yugoslavia—should have been excluded, given the Western military bases in the first three and Yugoslavia’s defense treaties with NATO countries Greece and Turkey. The tiny island of Cyprus was one of only two lucky survivors among the fifteen proposed for consideration, although it was still home to the base from which the British launched their invasion of Egypt in 1956. The second was Lebanon, though Egypt fought hard to exclude it on the grounds that it had opposed China’s admission to the UN, thus not independent enough to do Nasser’s bidding. Neighboring Jordan didn’t fare as well. The organizers voted against it with the claim that it hosted U.S. military installations, which wasn’t true.

Nehru’s efforts to extend invitations to additional European countries to support his more Cold War–focused, less colonialism-focused approach foundered on the choice of Belgrade as a venue. Sweden, Finland, and Ireland each sent quiet word that it would have to decline an invitation in order to preserve its neutrality. The Cubans were of course allied with the Soviets, but the recent thwarted U.S. invasion gained them a pass, and they in turn exercised a veto against a few nonfavored neighbors, for instance Costa Rica. Other Latin American states—Argentina, Chile, and Mexico—also let organizers know that invitations would be unwelcome on the grounds that the Cubans would be there. Ultimately, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador constituted the three additional not-quite-full partners in the twenty-nine-country meeting in Belgrade, although all of them should have been excluded, given that they were bound to the United States in the first Cold War defense alliance, the Rio Pact.

The really important work to be done in the future will concern the position of the African states and liberation movements in the real, as opposed to mythical, Bandung and Belgrade meetings—as the latter, despite the global reimagining of it, was still mostly an Asian-African affair. At Bandung, as Colin Legum put it, “the African voice was mainly Arab.”90 The Liberian delegates complained bitterly of the failure to include them in the committee work on colonialism. Both Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and the American Committee on Africa took note of the obviously less than full partnership with Asia. The Colombo powers had dropped Nigeria from the list of invitees because they hadn’t a clue as to the direction and pace of decolonization there. Six years later, Nigeria still wasn’t present. Despite or because of the remarkable continental transformation, only one additional state, the Congo, was added to the three at Cairo—Somalia, Guinea, and Mali—out of the twenty-five self-declared non-aligned countries that had gained independence after Ghana. States were one thing, liberation movements another. Nasser and Tito extended invitations to nineteen of the latter.


Spreading Enlightenment and Civilization to the Remotest Depths of the Jungle

Transnational popular memory presents just one more obstacle in the way of a full or at least less romantic account of what transpired in and around Bandung, Accra, Cairo, and Belgrade in the late 1950s and early 1960s:

As an Egyptian born political scientist raised in the 1950s, I am a member of a generation that was taught to believe the contention of the first Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, that Egyptian identity was the product of 3 concentric circles: one Arab, the second was Islamic and the third was African. This was reinforced by the memory of the frequent visits by African leaders, like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Modibu Keita of Mali who along with Nasser were advocates of African unity and the non-aligned movement.91

The memory above evokes an argument in Nasser’s little book that is no longer read, but which convinced many at the time that he was launching a plan of expansion echoing Hitler’s, not least due to the unfortunate reference to Egypt’s boundaries on the one hand and its “living space” on the other. African nationalists paid particular attention to Nasser’s paternalist (or worse) approach to its position astride the “Dark Continent,” where the people naturally looked to Egypt, and Nasser in return would support, with all his might, “the spread of enlightenment and civilization to the remotest depths of the jungle.”92 What of course wasn’t taught then or now is that Nkrumah and his remarkable advisor on African Affairs, the exiled Trinidadian socialist and Pan-Africanist George Padmore, viewed Nasser as one of the chief obstacles in the way of African unity plans, steeling themselves against the Egyptian push deeper into the so-called third circle as he found his bid for hegemony in the Arab arena thwarted.93 Nasser represented a problem, both in terms of his turn to the Soviets for arms, thus providing them entry into the non-aligned zone, and for his anything but peaceful coexistence with a key Ghanaian ally in the Bandung years, Israel. Ties with the latter country went back to pre-independence days, via another close Nkrumah ally, James Markham, a Ghanaian resident in Rangoon who worked at the Anti-Colonial Bureau of the Asian Socialist Conference. Markham, distrusted by both British and U.S. intelligence agencies, was the Gold Coast’s second delegate to Bandung.

Nasser and Nkrumah waged what amounted to a “soft power” war in 1957–59 by way of rival conferences and claims to defense of the “Bandung Spirit.” In March 1957, Kwame Nkrumah announced that Accra would soon host the first Pan-African Nationalist Conference. Nkrumah’s papers reveal that Padmore had begun promoting the idea of a “conference to match Bandung on an African scale with Asians as observers” back in August 1955.94 The newly African-identified Egyptian responded with a plan of his own to host the first Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Conference. U.S. intelligence sources considered it a communist front organization.95 Padmore saw it as an effort to subvert Nkrumah’s bid for leadership on the continent. His reaction was roughly the same as Nehru’s back in 1955, when the same front organizations, operating then as the Asian Solidarity Committee, rushed to hold their own Bandung in New Delhi a week before the Asian-African Conference.96

Nkrumah and Padmore upped the ante, rushing to hold the rival 1958 Conference of Independent African States in Accra on April 15, “in order to keep for Black Africa priority over the Afro-Asian movement in Cairo.”97 The prime minister of Ghana also entered a marriage of diplomatic convenience—as even the son admits—with Fatiha Rizk, a young Egyptian Copt whom he had never met and with whom he shared no common language.98By the end of the year Ghana had also created its own rival All-African People’s Organization, which held a founding conference in late December organized chiefly by Padmore.99 In contrast to Cairo, Nkrumah opened the meeting up to Americans, who attended in force: Shirley Graham Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Detroit congressman Charles Diggs, Maida Springer, the political scientist Richard Sklar, then a Ford Foundation fellow, and Alphaeus Hunton, among many others. George M. Houser, director of the American Committee on Africa, wrote a long report that included a section titled “Accra vs. Cairo.” He took note of the intense competition between Nasser and Nkrumah, the widespread suspicion of Egypt within many of the sub-Saharan African delegations, and the belief that when Nkrumah spoke of the fact that imperialism “may come to us yet in different guise—not necessarily from Europe,” it was Nasser in particular that he had in his sights.100 The maverick Howard historian and one-time Pan-Africanist Rayford Logan argued much the same at the time, reporting the testimony of black African students in Cairo who suffered discrimination because of their “race and color” and describing “Nasserism” as one of the forces—along with white supremacy, black supremacy, and communism—that were propelling Africa toward a crisis.101

Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir was Ghana’s guest on a state visit at the time of the conference. Padmore arranged what turned out to be a rancorous meeting for her with Algerians and others.102 Other leading figures in the Labor Party government traveled to Accra as well, including Moshe Dayan, who advised in the building of the Ghanaian armed forces after Nkrumah turned down Nasser’s offer of aid. Nothing captures the essence of the moment better than the launching of Ghana’s Black Star Line, using the name of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association’s failed flagship venture of 1919. Back then Garvey had pointed to Zionism as a model for Pan-Africanists to emulate, and while Padmore saw post-1945 Pan-Africanism as distinct from “Black Zionism,” he also counseled African nationalists to learn from the way the Jews had built their state.103 Zim Navigation, Israel’s national shipping company, owned 40 percent of the new Black Star Line, and for years Nasser blocked Ghanaian ships from using the Suez Canal.

Nkrumah’s strategy of balancing against Nasser (“little non-alignment”) did not survive the sudden death of Padmore in September 1959, the eclipse of Kojo Botsio and others among its supporters, Nasser’s greater influence in the circles Nkrumah would need to win to bring his dream of continental unity to fruition, and Israel’s own success replicating its Ghana strategy with a dozen new African leaders, including Tom Mboya, Julius Neyere, Kenneth Kaunda, and most of the Brazzaville group. Even as Nkrumah tried bandwagoning (“big non-alignment”) for a while at, and following, the Cairo and Belgrade meetings of 1961, he continued to rely on the Israeli embassy for intelligence on Egyptian operations across Africa. Israel’s leaders engaged with their new secret weapon against Egypt, as we might expect, and responded in time-honored fashion when their client proved, as clients usually do, hard to co-opt. An early message from David Ben Gurion to Nkrumah assured him that “though we belong to the white race we Jews have suffered . . . at the hands of the white peoples.” Yet when Nkrumah proposed to mediate the conflict with the Arabs, Ben Gurion laughed at his “pretensions.” What did the Lion of Israel’s agent in Ghana report back as Nkrumah continued to ask for aid, even as he questioned aspects of Israeli foreign policy? That he had come “unhinged.” What we don’t know and will likely never know is what Nasser and his clique were saying about their own would-be client, who nonetheless worked hard for a time to keep the Arab-Israeli dispute off of the Pan-African agenda.


“The Glorious Era of Nasser and Nkrumah Is Sadly Over”104

Students of the both Cold War and of ideas have their work cut out for them, because what actually went on in dozens of hurriedly built new national capitals, in the ex-palaces and hotels-turned-people’s-conference-halls, has been so distorted that what we see today at times resembles a funhouse-mirror version of the past. The 1955 Asian-African Conference did not launch a movement of states, let alone peoples, in support of “decolonization,” a term that Padmore denounced for its origins in communist doctrine, preferring instead “transfer of power.” It is true, however, that if anything even loosely united the twenty-nine mostly self-identified Arab and Asian delegations, it was the belief that the colonial powers should go out of business sooner rather than later. The 1961 meeting of Non-Aligned States and Heads of Governments was not a follow-up to Bandung or its extension. It was its rival.

The tendency to imagine that neutralism morphed into non-alignment starts in Asia and then gradually makes its way west to the Mediterranean via Belgrade ought to be rethought. The first scholarly work on neutralism in the early years of the Cold War is a case study of mid-1940s France, when Le Monde was a recognized exponent of neutralist thought.105 Other scholars of neutralism worked on England’s “Labor Left.”106 Daniel Lerner dissected British and French neutralist trends and communications networks in 1952.107 Tito’s links to Asian like-thinking states go back to the early 1950s as well. Milovan Djilas led the Yugoslavian delegation to the first Asian Socialist Conference in Rangoon in 1953 as part of Tito’s strategy to gain allies in the UN and pursue prospects for a “third bloc,” all talk of which was banned by Nehru at Bandung two years later! The Israelis, who also identified as neutralist, pursued more or less the same strategy as Yugoslavia in Rangoon.108 It is not clear why we think the circuits of an idea that matters, however easy or hard it is to pin down, should track the obsessions and foreign policy crises of John Foster Dulles, which is what the story does today, not least because of a need to believe in the Bandung Spirit.

Finally, the main story arc needs adjusting because Bandung comes toward the end of the first phase of the Cold War, although it had little if anything to do with its end. The death of Stalin led to a new round of theorizing and prediction about change in the tight bipolar system (or, if you prefer, the limits of the capacity of either or both of the rival powers to expand the size of their respective empires). Padmore offered one slightly overzealous version in his running correspondence on tactics and strategy with his protégé:

Now that the Iron Curtain is down and the honeymoon season has started between the Eastern and the Western white folk, the Government must send a mission to see and get ideas from Jugoslavia, where Tito has copied some of the Russian tricks and beaten them at the game. After all, he is the American “darling,” so going there is not going “red.”109

That a détente had emerged in the wake of the Berlin and Bay of Pigs crises is undeniable; witness international relations scholars launching the first of their now regular, overblown debates about the prospects for a multipolar system coming into being, while communist theoreticians spoke about polycentrism.110 Yugoslavia’s own analysis of international affairs took note of the divisions inside various camps that reflected this change. The problem, as Jansen observed, is that it grew increasingly difficult to argue that nonalignment was the only way forward to coexistence and disarmament. Tito seems to have grown increasingly mystical about these matters.111 India bailed out of the coalition a year or two after Belgrade. So did China, which tested its first nuclear weapon in October 1964.

Scholars today conflate the moment in the 1960s at which movements and thinkers began to promote various versions of we now confront the newest and most insidious form of Western intervention yet, or “neocolonialism,” with both the Asian-African Conference in 1955—where no one was making any arguments remotely like it—and with Belgrade. Rather, the economic plans of most of these countries hinged on attracting Western investment.112 At Bandung the focus had been on liberating the colonial dependencies and protectorates. “By 1962 African expressions of anti-colonialism were generally much stronger than Asian because there were so many more `vestiges’ of (Western) `colonialism’ in Africa.”113 There were those who tried to organize a successor to the 1955 Asian-African Conference, but it never happened, not least because the divisions at the first had been real, and no grounds for sustaining that coalition existed on the basis of color, coexistence, or neocolonialism. Instead, Nkrumah and others pushed forward with their idea of a continent-wide Organization of African Unity, while at the UN African states emerged as a self-contained bloc. The erection of the larger Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1967 on the foundations provided by the 1961 three-country Association of Southeast Asia (Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand) can be seen as a rejection of the radical turn in thought and disastrous economic programs that men like Sukarno, Nkrumah in Ghana, Nasser in Egypt, and others adopted in the 1960s.

Those concerned with theorizing the role of race in the contemporary international order might return to Romulo’s speech at Bandung with profit, because he warned there of the dangers of racialism in their own countries. In the lead-up to the meeting, the British Foreign Office argued that there were no natural grounds for its African dependencies to attend, and so one should discourage “Asian countries in the idea cherished by many of them that they are the natural saviors and champions of the Africans against the white man.”114 Nehru was singled out for his meddling where India had no real interests, forgetting the existence of diaspora communities not only in South Africa but also in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. More than a decade earlier, in a remarkable address to the National Peace Conference in June 1943, titled “Race, Colonies, and Imperialism,” Howard’s Rayford Logan also pushed beyond the familiar hierarchy of white overlords and colonial subjects to argue that all forms of “inter-minority oppression” needed to be opposed in the future. His examples included the conflicts between Serbs and Croats, Indians and Blacks in South Africa and Kenya, Chinese in Java, and the Mulatto aristocracy in Haiti.115 The waves of violence, expropriation, and expulsion witnessed across Asia and Africa in the 1960s and 1970s against Lebanese, Indians, Greeks, Chinese, and so on (the so-called comprador bourgeoisie) were licensed by the degenerate turn in “progressive” thought.116 Theories of neocolonialism associated with Sukarno, Nkrumah, and others purported to identify various “anti-nations” within the nation advancing the interests of Western imperialism after independence.117 It may be the one stark binary of the Cold War still in place today.118



I wrote the first draft of this essay for the February 2009 Columbia University workshop “Contending with the Superpowers: The Non-Aligned Movement in the Mediterranean,” the first research for which and writing of which I did following my father’s death the previous summer. I am grateful to Victoria de Grazia for giving me a reason to head back to the archives and to the amazing historian of Yugoslavian foreign policy Rinna Kullaa, who worked overtime getting me up to speed. Itty Abraham, Jeff Byrne, Ron Granieri, Guy Laron, Roger Owen, Jason Parker, Vijay Prashad, Adolph Reed, and Brad Simpson have offered help as I wrestled with the challenges of two sharp, reliable critics and friends, Hisham Aidi and Zachary Lockman. I may still not have gotten it right.

1. President Sukarno at the Opening of the Asian-African Conference, April 18, 1955. Appendix to George Kahin, The Asian-African Conference: Bandung, Indonesia, April 1955(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1956), 44.

2. G. H. Jansen, Afro-Asia and Non-Alignment (London: Faber and Faber, 1966), 182.

3. Roland Burke develops a complementary analysis of scholars’ myths about Bandung, recovers the remarkable debate on and importance of human rights at Bandung, and (upwardly) revises our views of key “aligned” or Western-oriented thinkers such as the Philippines’ Carlos Romulo, Ceylon’s (now Sri Lanka’s) John Kotelawala, and especially Lebanon’s Charles Malik. See Burke, “`The Compelling Dialogue of Freedom’: Human Rights at the Bandung Conference,” Human Rights Quarterly 28, no. 4 (2006): 947–65; and “Afro-Asian Alignment: Charles Malik and the Cold War at Bandung,” in Bandung 1955: Little Histories, ed. Derek McDougall and Antonia Finnane (Melbourne: Monash University Press, 2010), 27–42. The latter volume includes an introduction by the editors that imagines Nkrumah attending the conference.

4. I base this claim on my participation in the Columbia-organized Conference Group on the Non-Aligned Mediterranean and exchanges with the Princeton workshop group-in-formation whose co-conveners are Jason Parker and Bradley Simpson. See as well Rinna Kullaa, Non-Alignment and Its Origins in Cold War Europe: Yugoslavia, Finland and the Soviet Challenge (London: Tauris, 2012). The one exception I know of is Vijay Prashad, who has consulted some primary materials for his Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (London: Verso, 2013).

5. Peter Willetts, review of Odette Jankowitsch and Karl Sauvant, eds., The Third World without Superpowers: The Collected Documents of the Non-Aligned Countries, 4 vols. (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1978); and A. W. Singham, ed., The Non-Aligned Movement in World Politics (Westport, Conn.: Hill, 1977); in International Affairs 55, no. 3 (1979): 439–41. He develops the point at much greater length and to devastating effect—at least if one believes in the value of rationally persuasive argument over folktales—in his ownThe Non-Aligned Movement: The Origins of a Third World Alliance (London: Pinter, 1978).

6. Itty Abraham, “From Bandung to NAM: Non-Alignment and Indian Foreign Policy, 1947–65,” Commonwealth and Comparative Studies 46, no. 2 (2009): 195–219.

7. See James Garrett, “Afro-Americans and American Foreign Policy,” in Singham, ed., Non-Aligned Movement, 217–21. Garrett appears not to understand how the summits were organized, or else he confuses them with solidarity organization meetings to which one might indeed send a delegation. The meetings of heads of states had categories of observers and guests, but these were also states; regional organizations of states such as the Arab League, the Islamic League, and the OUA; and would-be states in the form of liberation organizations, the PLO, SWAPO, and so forth.

8. The politics surrounding the competing leadership conferences that same weekend in Detroit is well known to historians of the civil rights movements and its radical critics. For one recent account, see Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Holt, 2006), 87–92. We might consider the lessons for writing better histories of the diverse tendencies and conflicts underpinning the states’ meeting at Bandung and elsewhere in the 1950s and 1960s (and beyond).

9. The federally funded partnership with Ashland University’s Ashbrook Center,, gets the title “Message to [the] Grassroots,” and date, November 10, 1963 (not October 10, 1963), wrong on its website for teachers! At least the text is reliable: (accessed February 4, 2010).

10. Columbo powers issued invitations only to states and their representatives. Nonetheless the strange and false claim about Du Bois’s invitation is kept alive in Kenneth Mostern, “Bandung Conference,” in W. E. B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia, ed. Gerald Horne and Mary Young (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001), 23–24.

11. Demonstrating a clearer understanding than the Third Worldists of what NAM was about in the 1970s, as well as how the answers Third Worldism supplied grew more esoteric “as actual opposition motion . . . atrophied,” Reed presses them: “What foreign trade and investment arrangements are critical matters within the U.S. Black community? What are our products which cause Afro-American political passion to rise over worsening terms of trade for goods from the undeveloped countries?” Not least, where was “the Afro-American state,” “provisional government or any institution which can claim or force a national unity”? Adolph Reed, Jr., “The Current Status of the Black Movement,” in Singham, ed., Non-Aligned Movement, 212–16. The essay as submitted was titled “The Erective Flea Doing a Backstroke beneath a Drawbridge, Shouting `Raise the Bridge!’: Non-Alignment as an Issue in Black American Politics.”

12. For all the professed differences with “traditional” political and diplomatic histories of the Cold War, the new “international” social and cultural history often fails in precisely the same way to get beyond the mono-dimensional treatments of actors and institutions elsewhere, say, in Cairo. If anything, the accounts of Nasser, Nehru, and others at Bandung are even less convincing than those by the diplomatic historians, even while the journalists, musicians, and novelists are made to come alive.

13. There is no way around the fact that political scientists and area studies have produced voluminous work on these matters, which go mostly uncited. Instead the domains or arenas of state-building—including, for lack of a better term, the imperial ambitions of one or another would-be regional hegemon—remain terra incognita, and analyses typically operate (mostly unconvincingly) at the level of Western neo-imperialism and the forces either resisting or assisting the new and unequal global order.

14. “It is important to recognize, then, that non-alignment as a stated principle shared by all in attendance was not an outcome of the Bandung meeting.” Christopher Lee, “Recovered Histories at the Rendezvous of Decolonization,” Interventions 11, no. 1 (2009): 87. Lee is correct, of course, although he invents a wholly unique (and unconvincing) origin story of the Bandung Conference, tracing its “precursors” back to earlier meetings “organized by intellectuals and activists of colour,” including the Universal Races Congress in 1911. Ibid., 83. He repeats the claim in the introduction to Christopher Lee, ed., Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (Athens : Ohio University Press, 2010), 10–11. The problem is that the URC was organized and headed by Western intellectuals, including founders of the Ethical Culture Movement, heads of the Save the Children Fund, and directors of the London School of Economics! See, for instance, the account by W. E. B. Du Bois, who attended the meeting, “The Races Congress,” Crisis(September 1911): 200–209.

15. Abraham, “From Bandung to NAM”; and Kyle Haddad-Fonda, “The Anti-Imperialist Tradition and the Development of Sino-Arab Relations, 1955–1958” (senior thesis, Harvard University, 2009). This unique study is based on research using Chinese and Arabic sources.

16. Cynthia Young discussing Du Bois’s reading of Bandung and by extension the “ideals animating a diverse group of U.S.-based intellectuals, artists, and activists mobilizing in the 1960s and 1970s.” Young, Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism, and the Making of a U.S. Third World Left (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006), 2.

17. See Kahin’s obituary in Cornell News, (accessed November 27, 2008). Kahin was arrested and expelled from the country by the Dutch colonial authorities while pursuing his Ph.D. research in 1948–49, which he published as Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1951). According to his student and friend Dan Lev, the U.S. government also blocked his passport for a while around this time.

18. “This touch came from a hint which I dropped to Abdulgcsi [presumably an error in decoding referring to Roeslan Abdulghani] several weeks ago. Secretary General greeted me this morning at opening session with enthusiastic remark to effect that `It’s included.'” Jakarta to State, 1869, April 18, 1955, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, 670.901/4–1555, U.S. National Archives, College Park, Maryland (hereafter cited as RG 59 with filing information). In addition, see the brief account by Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Legacies of Bandung,” in Lee, ed., World after Empire, 52–53.

19. The China scholar Arthur Doak Barnett, then based in Hong Kong, was another knowledgeable observer at the conference, and he wrote four detailed dispatches for the American Universities Field Staff, although to my knowledge these have not been cited before. The State Department’s Office of Intelligence Research compiled and circulated all four in the summer. See Report on Bandung by A. Doak Barnett, External Research Paper Number 124, August 31, 1955, folder 637, box 84, series—Washington, D.C., RG 4, Nelson A Rockefeller Papers (NAR Papers), Rockefeller Family Archives, Rockefeller Archive Center, Tarrytown, New York (hereafter RAC with filing information).

20. His wife Audrey allowed me to use Kahin’s research collection on Bandung in 2006 while she was still working through his career’s worth of papers.

21. Angadipuram Appadorai, The Bandung Conference (New Delhi: Indian Council of World Affairs, 1955); Homer Jack, Bandung: An On-the-Spot Description of the Asian-African Conference (Chicago: Toward Freedom, 1956); Carlos Romulo, The Meaning of Bandung (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); and Richard Wright, Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (New York: World Publishing, 1956).

22. The new literature on these matters in this period is enormous, but start with Thomas Christensen, Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947–1958 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996); Chen Jian,Mao’s China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); and Gong Li, “Tension across the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s: Chinese Strategy and Tactics,” in Re-Examining the Cold War: U.S.-China Diplomacy, 1954–1973, ed. Robert Ross and Jiang Changbin (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001).

23. Kahin, Asian-African Conference, 1–2, 4–5.

24. Ibid., 32.

25. See the account by Homer Jack for the significance of the conference from an African as opposed to an Asian perspective, which does not mention the questions of defense pacts and peaceful coexistence but does refer to Nehru’s paternalism in a conference where “Africa was very much a junior partner.” Thus it was “up to Asia to help Africa to the best of her ability.” Homer Jack, “Africa at Bandung,” Africa Today 2, no. 2 (1955): 12–13. He rehearses the point in his 1956 work while noting how ideas of a rising antiwhite racism at the conference failed to conform to reality. Jack, Bandung, 32–33, 36.

26. Joseph Kunz, “Individual and Collective Self-Defense in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations,” American Journal of International Law 41, no. 4 (1947): 872–79.

27. Kahin, Asian-African Conference, 30.

28. Untitled review, Pacific Affairs, 29, no. 3 (1956): 272–73. W. F. (“Pak”) Wertheim, who died in 1999, is described in one tribute as Holland’s counterpart to Kahin, a second supporter of the nationalist struggle, and the founder of Indonesian studies in Holland. See the obituary by Herb Feith, (accessed November 27, 2008).

29. Merze Tate, Journal of Negro History 41, no. 3 (1956): 263–65. Tate had recently returned from a Fulbright year in Asia, where she had lectured across India, traveled, and continued research on the imperial expansion in the Pacific.

30. As Antoinette Burton, Augusto Spiritu, and Fanon Che Wilkins write in an introductory piece, “The Fate of Nationalisms in the Age of Bandung,” when they submitted a panel proposal on Bandung on its fiftieth anniversary for the 2005 meeting of the American Historical Association, they were told that no one on the committee had heard of it. Radical History Review 95 (spring 2006): 145.

31. Jansen, Afro-Asia. Philip Holden returns to this critique of the mythmaking in his “Imagined Individuals: National Autobiography and Postcolonial Self-Fashioning” (working paper, Asia Research Institute, Working Paper Series No. 13, October 2003).

32. Ray Raphael, Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past (New York: New Press, 2004), 23.

33. See Jakarta to State, telegram 1590, March 24, 1955, RG 59, 670.901/3–2455.

34. Barbard Crossette, “The `Third World’ Is Dead, but Spirits Linger,” New York Times, November 13, 1994.

35. Holden, “Imagined Individuals,” 1.

36. Ward Churchill, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (Oakland: AK Press, 2003), 286. Sadly, so did the political scientist Don Peretz in The Middle East Today (New York: Praeger, 1994), 148.

37. “Non-Aligned Movement Summit Attended by U.S. Foes and Allies Alike,” News, October 13, 2006,–2983.shtml (accessed November 28, 2008). See as well the Chilean journalist Alejandro Kirk’s account of Tito, Nkrumah, and Ho Chi Minh meeting at Bandung in “Renovation in NAM: The Winding Road of the Non-Aligned,” Asia Media Forum, September 13, 2006, (accessed November 28, 2008).

38. “The Generation Gap,” Ahram Weekly, January 18–24, 2007, (accessed November 28, 2008). Not to be outdone, the deputy editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, Eliot Jager, misdates the conference to 1956, claiming that it was where Nkrumah “met and exchanged ideas with Third World luminaries,” including Ho Chi Minh. The ironically titled article is “Taking Ghana for Granted,” Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2007.

39. See (accessed December 15, 2008).

40. See Rob Burton, “The Enduring Legacies of Bandung, Non-Alignment, and Richard Wright” (paper presented at Multiculturalism, Conflict, and Belonging, Mansfield College, Oxford, September 2008). Burton also describes Nasser of Egypt as among the attendees on the CIA’s “most wanted list” at a time when the CIA had closer ties to Nasser than to any other Arab leader and was closer to him than the ambassador, as the quotation below suggests. See Robert Vitalis, When Capitalists Collide: Business Conflict and the End of Empire in Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

41. The U.S. ambassador reported back to Washington after seeing Nasser on the eve of his Asia tour that “extremely thorough coverage and briefing by another agency reaching him personally made it unnecessary that I do other than support what had been given him.” Cairo to State, 1483, April 5, 1955, RG 59, 670.901/4–555.

42. Drawing on correspondence between Nehru and the Indian ambassador in Cairo is Rami Ginat, Syria and the Doctrine of Arab Neutralism: From Independence to Dependence(Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2005), 94.

43. The diplomatic historian Christopher Lee misidentifies Egypt as a conference sponsor in the description of his research project while a fellow at Cambridge, “Between a Moment and an Era: The 1955 Bandung Conference in Perspective,”

topher-lee.htm (accessed July 6, 2010).

44. “Asia: A Place in the Sun,” Time, April 25, 1955.

45. Commonwealth Relations Office to Various High Commissioners, No. 89, March 28, 1955, DO 35/4665, National Archives of Great Britain, Kew (hereafter cited as TNA with filing information); Memorandum of Conversation, Report on Bandung, by Adam Clayton Powell Jr., May 9, 1955, RG 59, 670.901/5–955. Adekeye Adebajo offers no proof for his assertion that the British colonial government “prevented” Nkrumah from attending Bandung. See his “From Bandung to Durban: Whither the Afro-Asian Coalition,” in Bandung Revisited: The Legacy of the 1955 Asian-African Conference for International Order, ed. Seng Tan and Amtav Acharya (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008), 109.

46. Fouad Ajami, “The Fate of Non-Alignment,” Foreign Affairs 59, no. 2 (1980): 367. Ajami lists Nkrumah in a discussion of “the men who were dreamers” at Bandung.

47. Partha Chatterjee, “Empire and Nation Revisited: 50 Years after Bandung,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 6, no. 4 (2005): 487–96. The power of the myth’s hold over us is only made more clear when we consider that Chatterjee used and quoted from documents written at the time. Consider as well Brantly Womack, the professor of politics and specialist in Asian international relations who named China one of the five sponsoring countries [!] of Bandung in China and Vietnam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 169. The conservative historian Arthur Herman places Nkrumah at Bandung in The Idea of Decline in Western History (New York: Free Press, 1997), 218.

48. “Bandung Conference (1955),” in Encyclopedia of the Developing World, vol. 1, A-E, ed. Thomas M. Leonard (London: Routledge, 2005), 139–40.

49. James Jankowski, Nasser’s Egypt, Arab Nationalism and the United Arab Republic(Boulder, Colo.: Reinner, 2001), 65; Douglas Little, American Orientalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 168. We can also add the self-styled Middle East expert Trevor Mostyn, reviewing a biography of Nasser in the Times Literary Supplement,January 28, 2005.

50. Adeed Dawisha, Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 166.

51. He goes on to explain the logic motivating Tito to attend. More amazing still, he does so while citing all the 1955 and 1956 books on the conference! Robert J. C. Young,Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 191.

52. Nehru had made clear in a press conference before the meeting that he “did not foresee establishment any permanent body,” as the Djakarta embassy reported back to State, 1833, April 17, USRG 59, 670.901/14.1755, box 2669, USNA. As Jamie Mackie pointedly writes, “No organizational arrangements or mechanisms had been set up (Nehru regarded this as superfluous), and no action was taken to do so.” Mackie, Bandung 1955: Non-Alignment and Afro-Asian Solidarity (Singapore: Didier Millet, 2005), 109–10 and passim. Also see Colin Legum, Bandung, Cairo, and Accra: Report on the First Conference of Independent African States (London: Africa Bereau, 1958); Franklin Weinstein, “The Second Asian-African Conference: Preliminary Bouts,” Asian Survey 5, no. 7 (1965): 359–73; and Guy Pauker, “The Rise and Fall of Afro-Asian Solidarity,” Asian Survey 5, no. 9 (1965): 425–32.

53. Peter Lyon, writing in 1963, was another who got it right. Neutralism existed as one political tendency before and during the conference but was in no way “fully synonymous” with the states that met and the projects they pursued at Bandung. See his Neutralism(Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1963), 48.

54. Vijay Prashad’s Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York: New Press, 2007) is immune from the critique developed in this essay, although one might anticipate otherwise from a cursory look at his title. First, Prashad is a careful scholar as well as critic, and it is hard to fault his accounts of various moments and meeting grounds in the 1920s–70s. Second, Prashad’s use of the term “darker nations” is self-conscious about recognizing the ways in which some understood what he calls the “third world project.”

55. Wright, Color Curtain, 88.

56. Paul Gordon Lauren, Power and Prejudice: The Politics and Diplomacy of Racial Discrimination, 2nd ed. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996), 223–24. Jason Parker repeats the claim in Brother’s Keeper: The United States, Race, and Empire in the British Caribbean, 1937–1962 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 104.

57. Azhari would later write that one important consequence of the conference was “that those colored races which had long been living at the borderline turn today into a great force whose say comes out like thunder, and they have proved their ability to direct this formidable force towards good and right and not towards evil and aggression.” Ismail al-Azhari, “Sudanese Delegates’ Impressions and Views on Bandung Conference,” Sudan Weekly News, special supplement “Sudan in Bandung Conference, Khartoum,” n.d. [probably summer 1955], 32. The accounts by three other delegates, Mubarak Zaroug (minister of communications), Hassan Awadalla (minister of agriculture), and Khalifa Abbas (deputy undersecretary of external affairs) also do not invoke any notion of particular race consciousness or identity.

58. Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 90. McAlister goes on to misidentify the 1957 Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference as the “follow-up event to Bandung” and claims that it was there that Nasser, as host, replaced Nehru as leader of the movement (91). Nasser never stepped foot inside the meeting at any point that week. Legum calledhis nonappearance a mystery. The U.S. embassy read it as a function of the too-visible role of the communists there, by which they generally meant the fellow traveler Khaled Mohieddin, who headed the conference.

59. See Memorandum of Conversation, May 5, 1955, Report on Bandung, RG 59, 670.901/5–555.

60. Observation made in the report produced by an agent of the Standard Vacuum Oil Company assigned to cover Bandung, author omitted in the copy given to the State Department and dated May 10, 1955, enclosed in Tucker to Hodge, August 15, 1955, STANVAC Special report on Bandung Afro-Asian Conference, RG 59, 670.901/8–1555.

61. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, “Black Africa and the World,” Peaceful Coexistence (Calcutta: Institute of Asian-African Relations, 1956).

62. Brenda Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 247.

63. Penny Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997), 168–69.

64. Kevin Gaines, American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 71.

65. Justin Hart, “Making Democracy Safe for the World: Race, Propaganda, and the Transformation of United States Foreign Policy during World War II,” Pacific Historical Review 73, no. 1 (2004): 53 n. 4.

66. Nicolas Tarling, “`Ah-Ah’: Britain and the Bandung Conference of 1955,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 23, no. 1 (1992): 74–111; Cary Fraser, “An American Dilemma: Race and Realpolitik in the American Response to the Bandung Conference, 1955,” in Window on Freedom: Race, Civil Rights, and Foreign Affairs, 1945–1988, ed. Brenda Plummer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 115–40; Matthew Jones, “A `Segregated’ Asia? Race, the Bandung Conference and Pan-Asianist Fears in American Thought and Policy, 1954–1955,” Diplomatic History 29, no. 5 (2005): 841–68; and Jason Parker, “Cold War II: The Eisenhower Administration, the Bandung Conference, and the Reperiodization of the Postwar Era,” Diplomatic History 30, no. 5 (2006): 1–26.

67. Again, they are better and richer on the American and British sides, from imperious secretaries of state to crusading Harlem congressmen, than they are on the states and their agents who officially participated in the conference. Fraser and Parker have written on the Caribbean. Jones does not specialize on any of the states attending the conference. The point is not that they need to do so, but that we are missing scholarship that does, and as a result the old stories go uncorrected and unrevised. Read these side-by-side with Kahin for a sense of what we are still missing in the newest histories, and consider two new and important accounts of the participation by the Japanese delegation and of Chinese policy as models for future work in the unlikely event that the authoritarian countries ever open up their archives. Kweku Ampiah, The Political and Moral Imperatives of the Bandung Conference of 1955: The Reactions of the U.S., UK and Japan (Kent: Global Oriental, 2007); and Shu Guang Zhang, “Constructing `Peaceful Coexistence’: China’s Diplomacy Toward the Geneva Conferences, 1954–55,” Cold War History 7, no. 4 (2007): 509–28.

68. Headline of the Labor Party’s newspaper after Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s appearance before the West African Students’ Union following the Allies’ August 1941 issuance of the Atlantic Charter, which promised self-determination to all peoples. Quoted in Kenneth Robert Janken, Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 168.

69. H. W. Brands, The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, 1947–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).

70. For Nasser’s use of the term, see Leonard Binder, “Egypt’s Positive Neutrality,” in The Revolution in World Politics, ed. Morton A. Kaplan (New York: Wiley, 1962), 180. This remains the best discussion in English on Nasser’s evolution as a neutralist. The mythmaking soon took off in earnest, with Nasser’s sycophants recalling that Nehru followed Nasser’s lead in Bandung. Ibid., 188.

71. A. M. Halpern, “The Chinese Communist Line on Neutralism,” China Quarterly 5 (January-March 1961): 90–115.

72. Lyon, Neutralism, 38.

73. Robert Vitalis, “The Graceful and Generous Liberal Gesture: Making Racism Invisible in American International Relations,” Millennium 29, no. 2 (2000): 331–56.

74. See enclosure setting out the rationale of the RIIA’s new Board of Studies on Race Relations (which would later become the independent Institute of Race Relations) and the appointment of its director, an ex-Indian hand, Philip Mason, in folder 565, box 65, series 4015, Rockefeller Foundation, RG 1.2, RAC.

75. See, for example, Michael Cohen, Strategy and Politics in the Middle East, 1954–1960: Defending the Northern Tier (London: Routledge, 2005), 164.

76. See my late colleague Alvin Z. Rubenstein’s valuable Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), 33. A useful summary of the early Egyptian policy positions that drew Tito’s attention is found in Ginat, Syria and the Doctrine of Arab Neutralism, 13–16.

77. Jan F. Triska and Howard E. Koch Jr., “Asian-African Coalition and International Organization: Third Force or Collective Impotence?” Review of Politics 21, no. 2 (1959): 418, 423–24; Harry Howard, “The Arab-Asian States in the United Nations,” Middle East Journal7, no. 3 (1953): 279–92. Howard made the prescient observation that a bloc this size or larger across such a vast geographic area was unlikely to evolve into a more formal kind of alliance akin to the Arab League.

78. For the Asian Relations Conference and its relationship to the decades-old Institute of Pacific Relations, which some indentified as an influence on Bandung, see Michael Richard Anderson, “Pacific Dreams: The Institute of Pacific Relations and the Struggle for the Mind of Asia” (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 2009).

79. Clive J. Christie, Ideology and Revolution in Southeast Asia, 1900–1980: Political Ideas of the Anti-Colonial Era (Richmond: Curzon, 2001), xi.

80. W. Scott Thompson, Ghana’s Foreign Policy, 1957–1956: Diplomacy, Ideology and the New State (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969), 48.

81. Jansen, Afro-Asia, 127, 129.

82. Christie, Ideology and Revolution, 105, 132–34.

83. See my “The End of Third Worldism in Egypt Studies,” Arab Studies Journal 4, no. 1 (1996): 13–33.

84. These are summary statements by Christie, Ideology and Revolution, 70–72, 186.

85. Ibid., 187–188.

86. Hans J. Morgenthau, “Critical Look at the New Neutralism,” New York Times, August 27, 1961.

87. Jansen, Afro-Asia, 14.

88. There were, in Jansen’s recounting, the two or possibly three “progressive neutralists,” Yugoslavia and Guinea, with Cuba posing a puzzle; “positive neutralists” Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Indonesia, and Algeria; “non-aligned” India, Burma, Ceylon, and Afghanistan; “uncommitted” Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Lebanon; and “disengaged” Cambodia and Laos. Ibid., 282.

89. Ibid., 285.

90. Legum, Bandung, Cairo and Accra, 5.

91. Mervat Hatem, “Africa on My Mind,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 41, no. 2 (2009): 189–92. Hatem is past president of the Middle East Studies Association and a longtime professor of political science at Howard. The quotation comes from the unpublished draft text that she graciously shared.

92. Gamal Abdul Nasser [as rendered in the text], Egypt’s Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1955), 86, 110–11.

93. For Padmore’s views, see James R. Hooker, Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (New York: Praeger, 1967), 135; and Zach Levey, “The Rise and Decline of a Special Relationship: Israel and Ghana, 1957–1966,” African Studies Review 46, no. 1 (2003): 158.

94. George Padmore to Kwame Nkrumah, August, 5, 1955, folder 14, George Padmore—Correspondence 1952–1957, box 154–41, June Milne’s Files, George Padmore, Kwame Nkdrumah Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

95. See Cairo to State, 1590, Dec 27, 1957, RG 59, 670.901/12–2757.

96. Department of State Instruction, CA-7151, March 6, 1957, 670.901/3–657, folder 1, box 2671, RG 59; Jansen, Afro-Asia, 251–52. The story begins with the World Peace Council, an organization founded in 1949 and funded by the Russian state. Jansen calls it a Trojan horse showing signs of wear by 1954 as it morphed into an Afro-Asian–focused project.

97. See the unpublished tribute, possibly by his wife Dorothy Padmore, written soon after his death in 1959: folder 15—George Padmore—”George Padmore: The Theoretician of Pan-Africanism, 1959,” Nkrumah Papers.

98. See the Nkrumah biography by Gamal Nkrumah, “Forward Ever,” Al-Ahram Weekly, no. 835 (2007): (accessed January 28, 2009). The strategy of a chief taking a bride from the other tribe was an embarrassment at the time, and Nkrumah had little to do with her. Thompson calls it “one of the more bizarre alliances caused by his foreign policy.” Thompson, Ghana’s Foreign Policy, 49.

99. Gaines, American Africans, 107; Hooker, Black Revolutionary, 135.

100. See George M. Houser, “A Report on the All African People’s Conference Held in Accra, Ghana, December 8–13, 1958,” n.d., available at (accessed November 23, 2012).

101. Rayford Logan, “The Impending Crisis in Africa,” speech given at All Soul’s Church, Schenectady, New York, November 21, 1958, folder 32, box 27, Speeches, Logan Papers.

102. Ehud Avriel, “Israel’s Beginnings in Africa, 1956–1973: Memoir,” in Israel in the Middle East, ed. Itamar Rabinovich and Jehuda Reinharz, 2nd ed. (Lebanon, N.H.: Brandeis University Press, 2008), 200–204; Zach Levey, “Israel’s Entry to Africa, 1956–61,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 12, no. 3 (2001): 87–114.

103. Hooker, Black Revolutionary, 121.

104. Gamal Nkrumah, “Forward Ever.”

105. John Marcus, Neutralism and Nationalism in France: A Case Study (New York: Bookman Associates, 1958); Lyon, Neutralism, 19.

106. Leon D. Epstein, “The British Labour Left and U.S. Foreign Policy,” American Political Science Review 45, no. 4 (1951): 974–95.

107. Daniel Lerner, “International Coalitions and Communications Content: The Case of Neutralism,” Public Opinion Quarterly 16, no. 4 (1952): 681–88.

108. Rubinstein, Yugoslavia, 40–49; Kyaw Zaw Win, “The Asian Socialist Conference in 1953 as Precursor to the Bandung Conference in 1955” (paper presented at the 15th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, June-July 2004). The Asian delegations came from Burma, Indonesia, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Malaya, Pakistan, and Egypt. There were representatives of African freedom movements from Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, and Uganda.

109. Padmore to Nkrumah, August 7, 1955, Nkrumah Papers.

110. William Wohlforth, “Unipolar Stability: The Rules of Power Analysis,” Harvard International Review 29, no. 1 (2007): 42–46.

111. Jansen, Afro-Asia, 367.

112. For Egypt, see Vitalis, When Capitalists Collide.

113. Lyon, Neutralism, 77.

114. Foreign Office to Middleton, New Delhi, February [undated] 1955, DO 35/6097, original file marking FE 106/287/1 [Far Eastern Dept].

115. Folder 42, box 166–26 Speeches, Logan Papers.

116. See Robert C. Good, “State-Building as a Determinant of Foreign Policy in the New States, in Neutralism and Non-Alignment: The New States in World Affairs, ed. Lawrence W. Martin (New York: Praeger, 1962), 3–12. Good’s essay predicts the eventual turn on the Indian communities of East Africa as a consequence of the spread of neocolonialism as an ideology.

117. See the woefully underappreciated Robert Packenham, The Dependency Movement: Scholarship and Politics in Development Studies (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1992), 45.

118. Itty Abrahim develops a parallel critique in his “Bandung and State Formation in Post-Colonial Asia,” in Tan and Acharya, eds., Bandung Revisited, 48–67.


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