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The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World

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A landmark study that offers an alternative history of the Cold War from the point of view of the world’s poor

Here, from a brilliant young writer, is a paradigm-shifting history of both a utopian concept and global movement—the idea of the Third World. The Darker Nations traces the intellectual origins and the political history of the twentieth century attempt to knit together the world’s impoverished countries in opposition to the United States and Soviet spheres of influence in the decades following World War II.

Spanning every continent of the global South, Vijay Prashad’s fascinating narrative takes us from the birth of postcolonial nations after World War II to the downfall and corruption of nationalist regimes. A breakthrough book of cutting-edge scholarship, it includes vivid portraits of Third World giants like India’s Nehru, Egypt’s Nasser, and Indonesia’s Sukarno—as well as scores of extraordinary but now–forgotten intellectuals, artists, and freedom fighters. The Darker Nations restores to memory the vibrant though flawed idea of the Third World, whose demise, Prashad ultimately argues, has produced a much impoverished international political arena.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published February 19, 2007

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About the author

Vijay Prashad

84 books616 followers
Vijay Prashad is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Darker Nations: A Biography of the Short-Lived Third World and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. His most recent book is Red Star Over the Third World. He writes regularly for Frontline, The Hindu, Alternet and BirGun.

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Profile Image for Kevin.
289 reviews919 followers
October 12, 2022
An absolute favorite dive into censored history to reemerge with the present conditions, so I have to give a worthy review...

Preamble on Vijay:
--As in his lectures (highly recommended, see below), Vijay Prashad has such mastery of articulating overarching social issues, drilling down to give detailed examples before resurfacing to tie the ideas together. So well-read, articulate, and with so much humanity... an inspiration.
--Prashad brings to life the side of history that is censored, the decolonization movements that shook 20th century power structures against all odds, their triumphs and their setbacks.
--Main concept = class analysis of anti-colonial independence movements, revealing their short-term compromises that escalated into long-term crises.

Fair Warning:
--This is an in-depth, radical analysis into the roots of global inequities.
1) For Western audiences trapped in their domestic liberal vs. conservative “debates” with little world history: I’m impressed you stumbled across this book, but a “gentler” introduction may be advisable to review the history/economics of imperialism (from the bloody military interventions to the opaque power politics of debt and “free trade”): The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions

2) Vijay Prashad’s recent books have focused on accessibility, and his energy shines through in his lectures:
-Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism
-Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations
-global South playlist (feat. Prashad and others): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...
-On ideological censorship of imperialism: https://youtu.be/6jKcsHv3c74
-On capitalism as abstract social domination, turmoil from automation, and reactionary backlash: https://youtu.be/z11ohWnuwa0
-On labels of "capitalism", "socialism" (ex. China): https://youtu.be/3X7U2W6ryjE
-On US empire, wars, and capital accumulation: https://youtu.be/hTb2uVIWG5Q?t=44
-With more details on Global South examples: https://youtu.be/DiHtfeof15s
-Conversation on today’s capitalism: https://youtu.be/HXhogt3Zq9c
-What is the meaning of the Left?: https://youtu.be/M-frUMXKcEw?t=344

3) Once you’re ready to dive in, I recommend taking hierarchical notes, keeping in mind to highlight the general ideas and use the historical details as case studies; so much information to organize. Below is my attempt to distill the lessons...

Censored Successes
1) Universal Human Rights:
--Wait, from the Global South? Surprised? Didn’t read this in your history books?
--Power requires a level of consent, so it appropriates social innovations originating from the bottom. The framing then becomes Enlightened superiors handing down progress to their backward underlings. The logic is rather perverse; which side has the incentives/grievances to push for social change in the first place?
--Consider “Liberalism”, which is now associated with its political rhetoric of tolerance (multiculturalism, feminism, human rights). In reality, the world has experienced Liberalism (from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Enclosures to the Age of Imperialism to today’s global division of labour) by the following definition (going back to Locke): those who developed the land deserve to own the land. Even if we set aside genocidal displacement and accept “development”, the ownership was highly inequitable with most labourers owning little.
--In the case of the Third World, sensitive Liberals may put a spotlight on Eleanor Roosevelt’s “human rights” agenda at the UN, ignoring the various Latin American representatives efforts to expand human rights (education, work, healthcare, social security).
--Meanwhile, Western Liberals saw the Global South as a treasure-trove of valuable resources and cheap/free labour during colonialism. After resistance mounted on these liberal business practices, the view on the Global South switched to “overpopulation” fear-mongering. Ah, Liberalism… first you commit genocide (ex. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World), and then you entertain quasi-genocide (Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis).

2) Internationalist Nationalism united against Imperialism:
--The first 1/3 of this book highlights the solidarity of global anti-imperialism; with a shared history of enduring the teeth of colonialism and the overwhelming imbalance in arms, the Global South/"Third World” became the voice of reason on the global stage, using the United Nations (despite its limitations) as a platform. Disarmament has been a key demand, from the 1955 Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung to the 60s Non-Aligned Movement focusing on nuclear disarmament (which is after all an existential threat to humanity).
--Thus, this nationalist (sovereignty) internationalism (united against imperialism) provided space to experiment with cultural development outside of Europe's conceptions of nationalism. Instead of nativism, there were experiments in multiplicity: a secular state to acknowledge multiple religions, anti-racism to mend colonialism's divide-and-conquer scars, and multilingualism.
--A key outcome from experiments in social development is economic justice and Global South contributions to Development Economics. For example, UNCTAD's New International Economic Order (NIEO) provided alternative visions to the imperialist GATT (and convenient Liberal smokescreens like “Modernization Theory” which focuses on blaming poverty on “traditional” culture, covering up imperialism forcing dependency through “free trade” and usurious debt).
--Economic justice focuses on redistribution of world’s resources + more dignified rate-of-return for labour (including more high-productivity sectors i.e. manufactured goods, instead of relying on exporting raw materials) + shared acknowledgement of the heritage of science/technology/culture.
--The 1966 Tricontinental Conference (Africa + Asia + Latin America) during Vietnam’s resistance to American bombardment epitomizes the hope of solidarity (and global diplomacy), which is why Prashad has started the Tricontinental Institute of Social Research.
--“[…] who would have thought that by the mid-twentieth century the darker nations would gather in Cuba, once the playground of the plutocracy, to celebrate their will to struggle and their will to win? What an audacious thought: that those who had been fated to labour without want, now wanted to labour in their own image!”

Contradictions to Crises
1) Domestic Elites, Class Contradiction, and Cruel Cultural Nationalism:
--The central contradiction at the heart of the Third World project was uniting with hostile domestic classes (i.e. landlords, emerging industrial/financial capitalists) in order to prioritize the abolition of colonialism.
--While this may have been pragmatic at the start, domestic hierarchies were protected and the contradictions grew. Radical Left groups led anti-colonialism and programs for social development, but domestic elites used them to their benefit and purged them at their discretion.
--Using nationalism to fight colonialism thus became perverted, as solidarity increasingly gave way to crude nationalism.
--For example, the Sino-Indian border conflicts led to prioritizing militarization; this derailed the Global South’s demands for global disarmament and moved various members into the nets of Cold War spheres.
--More generally, independence required systemic transformations and great sacrifices to attend to the scares of colonialism and challenge the neocolonialism of global economics. This was not in the class interest of domestic elites, who pivoted to apolitical (safer) market-oriented liberal-globalization “development” (see below). The failures here (rampant inequity, losing economic sovereignty) combined with capitalism's abstraction (And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future) opened the doors to cruel cultural nationalism, which diverted blame onto visible minorities instead of the abstractions of global division of labour/debt financing etc (reactionary politics 101, as seen in Nazism/Fascism/Global Trumpism):

2) Imperialism’s Dollars:
--Country-by-country comparisons of “advanced” vs. “developing” conveniently assume national economies, obscuring the dependencies/violence of global trade/finance/militarism (i.e. “imperialism”).
--Liberal economics is built on cheap raw materials and labour, which requires the divide. Forced (often by violent means) into dependency on the loser end of the global division of labour, liberal free trade laws forces open “free markets” in weaker countries (weaker states) while the stronger countries maintain non-market protection (stronger states). Open markets prevent domestic planning to build higher-productivity sectors, which requires nurturing before it is ready for global competition (“Infant Industry argument”); this is how the advanced West developed (along with violently smashing competition), in particular Britain and America.
-Crucial in-depth economic theory to supplement Prashad: Capital and Imperialism: Theory, History, and the Present
-The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions
-Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
--A key example is agriculture. The Global South, without protection to build other sectors and forced to swim in the open seas of the global market (free trade), competes in the global agriculture market with the US. The US creates enormous agricultural surpluses, with its immense technological scale and (perhaps more importantly) strong state protectionism. Thus, global market price shocks disproportionally ravage the Global South. Would like to read more on the Green Revolution in this context…
--Liberal finance (IMF, World Bank), like all private capitalist banking, profits from interest payments (usury). Post-colonial countries are of course in desperate need of capital for their social development projects, but Liberal finance targets the ill-planned projects of Global South elites. Falling into debt traps, productivity gains end up going to debt services (interest payments). A discussion on this "Super Imperialism": https://youtu.be/paUgY6SGlgY
--"The mecca of IMF-driven globalization is therefore in the ability to open one's economy to stateless, soulless corporations while blaming the failure of well-being on religious, ethnic, sexual, and other minorities."
--The 1970s-80s Nixon Shock, Oil Shocks, and Volcker Shock are popular turning point events in Western-centric narratives on the collapse of Keynesianism/Welfare State, but what is unmentioned is the overwhelming costs to the Global South’s social development/industrialization projects and subsequent Third World Debt Crisis:
-more accessible: The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy
-dive: Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance
--For structural solutions, see:
-Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present
-Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
-A People’s Green New Deal

3) Imperialism’s Bombs:
--Not only was the radical Left hunted down at home; imperialism (built on divide-and-rule) provided military/financial/political support for such purges. Strategies for social development became limited and easily perverted by the looming aggression of imperialism. The Eisenhower Doctrine supported monarchs (Saudi, Shah of Iran, Jordan, Iraq) against Nasser Arab socialism and those further Left. The Truman Doctrine ensured the "concept of socialism had to pay the penalty for Soviet limitations.” The Carter/Reagan Doctrine brought proxy terrorism to new heights. Plenty of resources here:
-Prashad's Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations
-The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World
-Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II
-The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump

In his words:
Quoting the beginning of "The Darker Nations":

Among the darker nations, Paris is famous for two betrayals.

The first came in 1801, when Napoleon Bonaparte sent General Victor Leclerc to crush the Haitian Revolution, itself inspired by the French Revolution. The French regime could not allow its lucrative Santo Domingo to go free, and would not allow the Haitian people to live within the realm of the Enlightenment's "Rights of Man." The Haitians nonetheless triumphed, and Haiti became the first modern colony to win its independence.

The second betrayal came shortly after 1945, when a battered France, newly liberated by the Allies, sent its forces to suppress the Vietnamese, West Indians, and Africans who had once been its colonial subjects. Many of these regions had sent troops to fight for the liberation of France and indeed Europe, but they returned home empty-handed. As a sleight of hand, the French government tried to maintain sovereignty over its colonies by repackaging them as "overseas territories." A people hungry for liberation did not want such measly hors d'oeuvres.
Profile Image for Vartika.
400 reviews633 followers
May 14, 2021
Emerging from the throes of colonialism in a postwar world, the countries that constituted the so-called Third World came together—first as the League against Imperialism and later under the aegis of Bandung and beyond—to resist bipolar influence and maintain their independence from the cultural influence of the First and Second worlds. Much more than its stance of 'non-alignment,' the Third World was bound together with a commitment to anti-colonialism and egalitarianism.

In The Darker Nations, Vijay Prashad puts together a brilliant political history of the Third World as a cultural project rather than a place (hat tip to Frantz Fanon here). Prashad's cogent analysis is made in three parts: "Quests" for national liberation; the "Pitfalls" of the rule of the domestic elite and its dalliances with policy without analysis or mass mobilisation; and finally, the "Assassinations" of an egalitarian dream due to 'dollar imperialism' and the cultural chauvinism and fundamentalism set off by the IMF-led neoliberal regime.

While not quite a "People's History" as the subtitle of some editions call it (perhaps to draw methodological parallels with Howard Zinn's book on the United States), A Darker Nations presents an important challenge to narratives about the 'global south' written from without by taking a closer look at the intellectual history of the Third World nations and the manner in which decisionmaking therein shaped, and was shaped by, global events over the years.

Most striking is Prashad's reading of the abandonment of the social transformation agenda which had led to the formation of a 'Third' world in the first place. A post-independence vision of stability led to the demobilisation of the masses and rule in the interests of the domestic elites, which weakened the resolve of these nations for economic and cultural cooperation and prevented it from happening. The obsession with borders created by the colonial powers led to militarisation gaining over the nation-building project.

Even more importantly, however, the sham of 'development economics' hit the darker nations, who were asked to modernise instead of being provided with reparations, and the eventual 'structural adjustment' was accompanied, as we know, by a loss of political sovereignty while the (uneven) productivity gains made went into the repayment of debts and attempting to cover the gaps widened, and often created, by the free-market.

In many places Prashad's analysis reads rather dryly (and requires at least a basic understanding and/ or familiarity with the history of the darker nations). However, his explanation on the economics front; from the theoretical aspects of Prebisch and import-substitution to the history of projects like OPEC and of the rise and fall of East Asia; cannot be recommended enough for its accessibility and the way it has been substantiated. This book also presents a commendable explanation of the failures of the Second World vis-a-vis the Third, which is a rather rare find in scholarship across the ideological spectrum.

There is, of course, also the weight of the concluding observation:
"Indeed, cultural nationalism is the Trojan horse of IMF-driven globalization. The mecca of IMF-driven globalization is therefore in the ability to open one's economy to stateless, soulless corporations while blaming the failure of well-being on religious, ethnic, sexual, and other minorities."
This is a heavy text that requires much context, but is entirely worth the effort. I would recommend a close reading.
Profile Image for Kaśyap.
271 reviews123 followers
October 21, 2014
A brilliant dialectical analysis of the political phenomenon of third world and the global political economy. This is an analysis and not a narrative and assumes some rudimentary knowledge of the world history of the 20th century on part of the reader.

The main thesis of Parishad is that the third world is a project among the formerly colonised states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for political, economic and cultural sovereignty and mainly for dignity. It thoroughly examines the major leaders of the third world, their ideologies and the institutions they formed and their struggles for economic and cultural sovereignty.

I liked the way the book is structured. The first part titled quest deals with the beginnings of the third world, from the League against imperialism conceived in the Brussels conference and the Bandung conference that happened after many of the third world nations have become politically independent. The second part titled pitfalls deals with the failures of the third world nations through authoritarianism, failures in land reforms, corrupt bureaucracy, failures in socialising production, local opposition from the dominant classes of the old and trying to implement policies without any proper analysis and mass mobilisation. The third part deals with the death of the third world through IMF-led liberalisation of economies and the rise of cultural nationalism in the form of chauvinism, religious intolerance and racism. In each chapter, he also provides a historical analysis of race, class and gender in the specific case.

One flaw however is that Vijay Parishad didn’t provide much attention to the people’s struggles apart from just a small mention, especially as this is titled “people’s history”. But I guess this can still be called a people’s history as it offers a view from the global south instead of being Eurocentric.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of international relations, neoliberalism and the global capital.

Profile Image for Craig Werner.
Author 13 books166 followers
May 3, 2015
A classic case of where even smart Marxist history can go off the tracks. Prashad's one of he best writers about Asian American experience and he can be a fiery speaker whose anger about the state of the world, especially white supremacy and economic injustice, is usually on target. I was hoping that The Darker Nations would be the kind of overview that could serve as a foundation for readers wanting to orient themselves to the dizzying range of experiences subsumed under the "Third World" terminology. Unfortunately, Prashad assumes that his readers are a. familiar with the frequently turgid vocabulary of Marxist class analysis; and b. in agreement with how he's worked through all the issues. All too often he winds up sounding like a delegate to a hallucinatory contemporary version of the Bandung Conference which he correctly identifies as a key moment in the development of "pan-Third-World" thinking. Problem is that a lot's happened in the interim (much of which Prashad touches on), so anyone who wants to make an impact on the way people outside the very small choirboy think about these issues had better come up with a new approach. In addition to passages that descend into not-particularly-engaging political theory, Prashad has a tendency to elide the differences between various Third World countries in the support of generalizations that simply don't hold up if you know the local histories in any detail at all. It's too bad because he sprinkles in enough real insight, especially into the decay and collapse of the promising post-colonial states into dictatorship and corruption. He makes particularly good use of Fanon.

Ultimately, though, the only people who I recommend this book to are those with a solid background in Third World histories and an interest in finding a rhetoric to communicate issues of injustice for whom Prashad will mostly be a cautionary tale of how not to craft a voice.
Profile Image for Robert Maisey.
151 reviews58 followers
February 9, 2021
Brilliant political history of the Third World project, but the prospective reader will need to brush up on their prior knowledge of events. This book won’t explain Suez, or Vietnam, but it will help the reader make sense of the political universe these events produced. The aspects on development economics are well explained and very enlightening.
Profile Image for David.
215 reviews45 followers
June 11, 2023
If a lizard murmured an anti-imperialist thought under a rock in the desert, you will probably find it mentioned here. Sweeping in scope, crystal-clear in structure and argument, characteristically charming in presentation, Prashad wrote the bedrock survey on the rise and decline of the formerly colonized world, on its trek through the Non-Aligned Movement, navigating power blocs and grappling with a global economic structure stacked against it. Prashad possesses the rare combination of erudition, passion for struggle and moral clarity, and in this book these all come together. The reader really gets a feeling for the pioneering trajectory of the third world, the intoxicating high hopes of the first decades and the difficult decisions for which no ideological blueprint provided a framework. Libraries' worth of information, condensed in a story brilliantly hooked in a geographical narration, jumping from city to city as Prashad joins historical junctures to the places their protagonists acted in. A joy to read.

My gripe with it is theoretical. Within the anti-imperialist-developmentalist nexus, success and failure depend on the balance of power: globally between empire and third world, internally between reactionary landholders and the people at large. When progressive projects falter, the implication is often that they didn't break the back of feudal power, or made compromises with it, or betrayed the third world completely and acceded to the imperialist bloc, or enacted anti-democratic legislation curbing the power of poor farmers. If they'd been consistent in their revolution, they could have swept these obstacles away and done genuinely socialist development. The réal gauntlet has never been taken up, hiding behind an ever receding horizon.

The problem is: it has been. In places like Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia and Cambodia, there were no reactionary internal foes to vanquish anymore (symptomatically, these are little discussed, or not at all). Here the struggle wasn't horizontal, one power asserting itself against another, but lateral: a power attempting to harness the state machine vis a vis an economic algebra bigger than any of the agents participating in it. When these fail, the reflexive diagnosis is "betrayal", but that's an analytical dead end. It all comes down to hating the player, leaving the game out of view.

To Prashad's credit, he discusses the Asian Tigers who managed to climb the global economic ladder, but only to underline their exceptional nature, which could never be transplanted elsewhere. The following decades would show, however, that development, socialist or otherwise, requires an integration with global economic forces, dominated by the North as they may be — think China, Vietnam, but also Uganda, Mozambique, Rwanda, Bangladesh. The narrative told by the non-aligned movement made grasping this Faustian bargain impossible to understand, unless in terms of betrayal. In The Poorer Nations, Prashad would mention China's neoliberalism of the early 2000s; he wouldn't use that word anymore today, or at least not with the connotation of capitulation.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
1,767 reviews433 followers
July 26, 2017
The title unsettled me a bit – but this had received good reviews and the series it is in (The New Press's People's History series edited by Howard Zinn) is really quite good. I am so pleased I read this: it is a cogent, politically charged and engaged analysis of the 'Third World' as a political project. Prashad sees the Third World as a potentially a powerful challenge to but also product of the two worlds of the Cold War, and a movement and concept with enormous promise. He argues that the concept was weakened by the Third World's oppositionalism – it was defined by what it wasn't – and a fundamental problem of a focus on 'the people' as a largely undifferentiated anti-colonial mass at the expense of class. His concluding case, then, that the Third World as a political project was destroyed by resurgent class and imperialist power using three weapons – IMF related structural adjustment policies, an abandoned social transformation agenda leading to neo-liberal policies at home, and atavistic forms of cultural nationalism and religious anti-nationalism – is powerful and hard to refute. It adds together then to be a major contribution to contemporary history and to analyses of the current global political economy, as well as pointing to many of the weaknesses in the current wave of people's movements. The case that neo-liberal globalisation and cultural nationalism are bedfellows is essential to understanding the current shape of global politics, and one that needs more extensive analysis and exploration. Extremely good, highly recommended (one of my must-reads for the year), the kind of history we need more of.
Author 1 book500 followers
December 11, 2018
a radical history of the third world. similar in spirit to howard zinn’s people’s history of the us. very thorough and packed full of names, events, facts and figures.
162 reviews10 followers
November 7, 2009
Prashad’s book is important, though I wouldn’t call it a “people’s history” as it focuses largely on the actions of the leaders of the U.S., U.S.S.R., and “Third World.” He does a good job of accessibly covering the general themes that played out during decolonization, independence and neoliberalism, as well as conceptualizing the Third World as an intentional project. But no book can really get at the dynamics at play over the course of 80 years and three continents. And of course, as anyone in 2009 can tell (except Thomas Friedman), it’s not going to be an uplifting story. I’ll just throw in part of my response paper for class:

It got me thinking about the ideas of transition and power and how those played out in the Third World. Two consistent themes seemed to be the transition of ideas into action and the transition from armed resistance to national leadership. Prashad lays out example after example of how, sadly, these transitions almost always failed. In particular, I appreciated his analysis of how the FLN in Algeria worked to demobilize the population, failed to take advantage of its knowledge and desire to participate in the development of a new state, alienated them, then tried to appease them, and then Ben Bella was overthrown. Being of a certain political persuasion, I enjoyed his emphasis on the potential (and occasionally tangible) successes of participation and autogestion. It strikes me as both misguided and tragic that the party or forces that inherited the reigns after decolonization believed that a state could be built without popular participation and popular investment. One of my favorite quotes from Battle of Algiers sums this up: “Starting a revolution is hard, and it's even harder to continue it. Winning is hardest of all. But only afterward, when we have won, will the real hardships begin.” If you can’t win liberation without the people, how in the world can you run a state (in a nominally socially just form) without the people?

All tangled up in this is of course power - based in the state, the gun, the idea, the masses, the economy, the international scene. Can popular power ever be successfully transferred to state power (and remain popular, just, etc.)? Can the power of an idea ever be transferred into the power of actions that even come close to resembling that original idea? And even if the answer is yes to both - how do you do it after being colonized for one hundred plus years with two superpowers breathing down your neck?
17 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2018
Ok...so this is a really good book. It gives a great account of the Third World as a utopian concept. ("The Third World was not a place. It was a project." Prasad writes.) It gives the reader an excellent, encyclopedic knowledge of people, places, groups and and events that are important to the Third World's history. And it gives a decent analysis of the reasons the utopian project that was the Third World failed. I had several major complaints with this book, though. One, despite its title ("A People's History of the Third World"), the history it tells is very much a top-down history. It is told overwhelmingly though the eyes of the leaders of the Third World (Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Sukarno, Tito, Castro, Nyerere, Michael Manley, Indira Gandhi, Amilcar Cabral, Ho Chi Minh, Chou Enlai, et al.) And while all these leaders should be celebrated and remembered, the fact that it is told through them means it's not really a "people's history". Two, the author places two much of the blame for the failure of the Third World on its own shortcomings. He blames most of the failure of the Third World on its own leaders, even though at least a great deal of the blame should lie with the former colonizers. For instance, in his chapter focusing on Jamaica, he places almost all the blame for the collapse of Michael Manley's experiment in democratic socialism on Manley himself, and his failure to break with the IMF, even though Manley with the target of a CIA-led destabilization campaign that ultimately cost him his office. Three, and this is tied into the second complaint, he fails to give enough credit to the successes of the Third World. His chapter on Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and ujaama paints it entirely as a stupendous failure even though there were major advances in health care and education under this system of "benign village socialism," to quote Howard Zinn. His dismissal of the achievements of Mexico under Lazaro Cardenas and Bolivia Paz Esstensoro fails to give them their due as well. Four, in the first chapter he flat out denies overpopulation is a problem, and dismisses birth control and family planning as Western neocolonial inventions, despite the fact that lower fertility rates almost always lead to a higher standard of living and are indicative of more women's rights-to say nothing of the environmental impact of too many humans. Five, the book is incomplete, though to Prasad's credit, he anticipates and admits my beef that "This story of the production of the Third World is not going to take us to antiquity or the devastation of the regions that become central to the concept." I happen to feel that a discussion of those things is essential to telling the history of the Third World as Vijay Prasad does. Lastly (and these two reasons are largely intertwined), Prasad dismisses the traditional classes of the Third World completely and insists that Communism/Marxism are the only way forward for the Third World. First of all, he fails to acknowledge the role religion and royalty/nobility, among other traditional groups, played in fighting Western imperialism, both violently and nonviolently. The examples of this that come to my mind (and this is only a microscopic fragment of 1%) include the Rani of Jhansi in India, Emperor Menelik II and Empress Tayta Beytul in Ethiopia, Cetewayo of the Zulus, Yaa Ansaantewa of the Ashanti, Agaja Trudo of Dahomey, Pope of the Pueblo Indians, Queen Lilioukalani of Hawaii and Queen Nzinga in Angola, just to name a few. Also, Prasad's insistence that orthodox Marxism and Marxist dogma are the only way for the Third World dream to be achieved are deeply problematic, to say the absolute least. What about such examples as the democratic Christian socialism of Costa Rica, where abolishing the military led to massive advances in health care, education, and the environment, that would put the first world to shame? What about Botswana? What about Bhutan, shrugging off globalization to embrace Buddhism and "Gross National Happiness"? What about Mongolia, embracing its rich nomadic culture and the history of its hordes, celebrating the legendary conquerer Genghis Khan while preserving the health and educational progress of the Communist era? What about the Jamahiyira system of Libya-while Gaddafi was brutal, who would not want to preserve the gains in material standards of living under him? I am not saying that Marxism is not viable-look at Cuba and Kerala-but Prasad is wrong to insist on it being the only way forward. This leads him to take deeply questionable positions. For one example, he praises the seizure of power in Ethiopia by the brutal Dergue and its psychotic leader Mengistu (he of the "wasted bullet tax") as a great good. For another, he describes Iran's brilliant, enlightened, progressive leader Mohammed Mossedegh as revealing "the shallowness of his class" by undermining the Communist Tudeh Party. It's not a bad book-it's a good book, but it suffers from flawed logic and an incomplete story. You're a very fine historian Vijay Prasad! Better luck next time!
53 reviews5 followers
June 13, 2020
I learned so much. Probably my favorite book I've read in years. Every leftist in the US should read this book.... I never learned basically anything about the stuff in here, the Third World project, the different people who led it, the debates within it, the meetings that shaped it, etc. Vijay Prashad's writing is absolutely incredible. And he really takes seriously the attempts to build socialist / Third World societies, and analyzes the pitfalls and mistakes made... he does a super good job of not at all ignoring US/Western imperialism but also not erasing the agency of the people of the darker nations to shape their own destiny.
Profile Image for Ramil Kazımov.
318 reviews8 followers
November 23, 2020
Vijay Prashad İkinci Dünya Savaşı sonrası ortaya çıkmış "Üçüncü Dünya"nı kapsamlı bir çalışma olarak ele almış. Kitabın önsözünde yazar "Üçüncü Dünya bir yer değildi. Bir projeydi.." diyerek başlar yazmaya. İlk önce Parise, daha sonra Brüksele ve sırasıyla bir çok başka kente geçiş yapar ve sömürge sonrası toplumların tarihini daha sömürgeyken anlatmaya başlar. Nehru, Tito ve Nasır gibi titanların nasıl batı yönümlü tarih yazımı tarafından çarpıtıldığını gösterir, tarihi Üçüncü Dünya halklarının gözünden anlatır bizlere. Üçüncü Dünyanın doğuşunu, gelişimini, gerilemesini ve çöküşünü anlatan bu kitabı bana göre aykırı bir ruha sahip her birey mutlaka okumalı..
Profile Image for Hamza Sarfraz.
90 reviews67 followers
September 21, 2022
This book is one of a kind. A comprehensive historical survey of the Cold War era from the perspective of the wretched of the earth. And it does so within 300 pages. It is worth a read.
Profile Image for JC.
523 reviews41 followers
July 18, 2022
I really appreciated this book. It gave a really helpful overview of Third World history, and the etymological history of Albert Sauvy’s coinage of the term ‘Third World’ after the ‘Third Estate’ of the French Revolution was particularly useful for framing the general perspective of the book’s history of the Non-Aligned Movement unfolding under the terrifying shadow of nuclear extinction that Cold War decades threatened:

“In the ancien regime prior to 1789, the monarchy divided its counselors into the First Estate (clergy) and the Second Estate (aristocracy), with a Third Estate being for the bourgeoisie. During the tumult of the French Revolution, the Third Estate fashioned itself as the National Assembly, and invited the to­tality of the population to be sovereign over it. In the same way, the Third World would speak its mind, find the ground for unity, and take posses­sion of the dynamic of world affairs. This was the enlightened promise of the Third World.”

Considering the reputation Prashad has garnered for being in the most unserious of terms a so-called ‘tankie’, it may be surprising how critical in fact Prashad was of Third World socialist leaders, such as Ben Bella and the FLN (who Martin Luther King Jr. met with and spoke of positively) and of Julius Nyerere in Tanzania. Prashad on Ben Bella:

“Ben Bella central­ized power. The 1963 Constitution of Algeria abolished all political par­ties except the FLN, and elevated the president of the FLN to the sole formulator of state policy. The energy of the Algerian Revolution would now be concentrated in the body of the president, who for the moment was Ben Bella. The 1964 Charter of Algiers defended the abol­ishment of parties other than the FLN. "The multiparty system allows all particular interests to organize into different pressure groups. It frustrates the general interest, that is, the workers' interest," and therefore, in the workers' name, there should only be one party, the "vanguard party." In November 1962, the regime cracked down on the Commu­nist Party of Algeria, which was otherwise in line with the socialist agenda of the FLN, and it soon went after the Parti de la Revolution Socialiste, headed by the former FLN leader Mohammed Boudiaf; the leadership of both parties languished in jail.”

Prashad on Nyerere:

“When the government's "improvement" scheme faltered, it tried a more radical approach called "transformation." The regime encouraged peasants to move to experimental farms called "village settlements" where they worked cooperatively to increase, theoretically, the value of their efforts. On these farms, mechanical implements and fertilizers re­ placed manual labor (mainly the hand hoe). The people, in Nyerere's terms, had to learn to live in "proper villages." Of the millions who lived in rural Tanzania, only 3,500 families moved to set up these village settlements, which had cost the government upward of two million pounds. The famous French agronomist… Rene Dumont wrote a report in 1969 that came close to the government's own view of the creation of vil­lages: the scheme had produced appalling results…”

I was surprised at how closely Prashad’s reading of this period of decolonization aligned with James Scott’s writing on Nyerere. Prashad writes in a more generalized conclusion:

“Tanzanian ujamaa is quite of a piece with a vast number of examples of Third World development or Third World socialism in a hurry. Most of the Third World states hurriedly built industrial factories and dams, cleared forests, and moved populations… Yet its modernist dream-to administer nature and society, and build vast industrial monuments without either a democratic governance structure or a mobilized population-led to the worst ex­cesses of commandism and bureaucratism.”

More recently reading some of Fanon’s writings as well as some of Ho Chi Minh’s, this perspective is actually quite consistent with the orientations of Third World revolutionary literature, which again is not wholly consistent with the way this discourse is painted in broad strokes by some segments of the Western left.

Prashad was also surprisingly very critical of the Soviet Union at some points, writing in the context of nuclearism: “…both Moscow and Washington made empty promises in return provides a measure of the limited value of moral pleas in a nuclear age.”

Prashad was particularly critical of Soviet accommodation to Nimeiri’s brutalities and intervention in Afghanistan:

“In Sudan, Nimeiri came to power on a Nasserite agenda… The Nimeiri regime arrested the party leadership, exe­cuted most of them (including Abdel al-Khaliq Mahjub, Joseph Garang, and Ahmed El Sheikh), and urged their followers to "destroy anyone who claims there is a Sudanese Communist Party. Destroy this alleged Party." When news of the events in Sudan reached the Soviet leader­ ship, it tried to negotiate with the Nimeiri government, as well as with the Egyptians and the Libyans, for asylum to the Scp's leaders. Once rebuffed, it did not pursue the matter. It is not that Moscow felt nothing for its comrades in the tropics, but that the fortunes of the Communist parties in the Third World came second to the strategy mapped out by the USSR and the People's Republic of China.”

“That the Marxists in­vited the Soviets into the country in 1979 showed their weakness and proved to their detractors that they were epigones of the USSR. As such, the CIA-WML-backed conservatives within Afghanistan and Pakistan had threatened the government, which was the reason they turned to the Soviet Union. All this was irrelevant as the Soviets entered an unwinnable situation, further alienated the people from their govern­ment, and gave legitimacy to the jihadists who now repackaged them­ selves as freedom fighters. It did not help the Marxist cause that the Soviet army engaged in a rash of brutal campaigns in the countryside that sent millions of people toward Iran and Pakistan as refugees.”

And I wasn’t actually aware how biting some of the commentary of Third World socialists were concerning the Soviet Union at the time, though this is consistent with Maoist interpretations of Soviet history today:

“Militants and national liberation organizations in this period flooded the meetings of the Third World and demanded armed action against imperialism. They challenged the Soviet delegates and brushed aside any consideration of the limitations of popular anti-imperialist sentiment in the countries to be liberated by the gun. Some of the mili­tants adopted the critique of the two-camps theory to suggest that both the United States and the USSR were imperialists, and the only force able to stand up to them was armed national liberation.”

My favourite chapter however, was the one on Singapore, the postcolonial nation-state which became a beacon for the Third World bourgeoisie and capitalist development. Prashad’s was one of the best brief histories I’ve encountered of the island. Some excerpts:

“Seized by the British as commercial bases for their China trade, Singapore (1819) and Hong Kong (1841) inherited few of history's problems. There was little agriculture, and what there was soon van­ished before the hunger for buildings (Hong Kong not only urbanized its landscape but also reclaimed land from the sea for its airport and res­idential areas). Both Singapore and Hong Kong thrived as duty-free ports for opium and other commodities. These were paradises of capi­tal, where the problem of production (and hence workers) was shipped elsewhere. These were almost purely entrepots.”

“World War II devastated the Pacific Rim. It left Singapore in sham­bles. The growth of the Communist movement in Malaysia and Singa­pore threatened the British hold on the region. A brutal war between the British and the Communist Party ran from 1948 until Malaysia's inde­pendence in 1957. In Singapore, the Communist movement developed mass support among the Chinese working class. Aware of the growing strength of the Left, an England-educated group led by Lee Kuan Yew created the People's Action Party (PAP). PAP made an alliance with the Communist trade unions to throw out the British. For the first elections of 1959, PAP developed a manifesto that reflected its eclectic ideology­ a mix of socialism, pragmatism, multiculturalism, and nationalism. In 1961 , as PA P gained confidence, it ejected its left wing (which re-formed as the Barisan Sosialis, the Socialist Front). In 1963, the PAP state engi­neered Operation Cold Store to "obliterate the BS's [Barisan Sosialis's] top level leadership." 17 PAP's lead economist and first finance minister of Singapore, Goh Keng Swee, warned the cabinet not to be swayed by either the lures of the free market or socialism. What Singapore needed, he argued, was the guided development of its free enterprise.
Lee Kuan Yew, the leader of PAP, came from an established, mon­eyed Chinese Singaporean family. He attended the best of the English­ medium schools (Raffles Institution and Raffles College) and took his degree at Fitzwilliam College (Cambridge).”

Singapore is also mentioned in many other chapters, and it was fascinating to hear that it was the main antagonist against Castro within Non-Aligned Movement gatherings:

“Castro's main antagonist in New Delhi was the Singaporean deputy prime minister Sinnathamby Rajaratnam. A founder of the People's Ac­tion Party with Singapore's strongman Lee Kuan Yew, Rajaratnam brought the island nation into NAM in 1970 and helped create the Asso­ciation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1977.

In Delhi, Rajarat­ nam circulated a speech that offered a resolutely anti-Soviet, pro-U.S. position. "We are witnesses to our own slow-motion hi-jacking," wrote this former columnist of the Straits Times, "and if we do not wake up to this fact and do something to abort it then the ship of non-alignment and all those who sail in it may wake up one day to find that they have docked in a Soviet port.””

Anyway, a very excellent book. I learned a lot.
Profile Image for Sami Eerola.
806 reviews81 followers
December 30, 2021
This was way better than i expected. The book is pretty balanced in its recounting of the history of the world throw the perspective of the global south. Its gains, success and failures. No ideology here is presented as better than any one else. For example the failures and contradictions of the communist system and countries is presented as the same way as capitalistics.

The amount of detail and theoretization of different strains of anti-imperialism and counter strategies are well researched and written in a clear way. I enjoined reading this book

The only flaw that i perceived in this book was at the end describing the 1980-Afghan war as a fight between "progressive" communist dictatorship and US-backed Islamists. This description is not exactly wrong, but it lacks nuance
Profile Image for J. Moufawad-Paul.
Author 12 books255 followers
December 11, 2014
I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it failed to live up to the subtitle. This is not to say that there weren't good parts in this book, only that Prashad failed to really give a People's History of the Third World. This is most probably because, as I later learned, Prashad isn't really on the side of the people when it comes to places like India where he does not support, unlike Arundhati Roy, the Naxal uprisings (which have a long history––yes a people's history) and instead endorses a very anti-people discourse about them. Sigh.
Profile Image for Jon Morgan.
51 reviews4 followers
October 3, 2015
An excellent overview of the Third World as a conscious project, one that started giddily in the newly liberated states but deflated in the face of neoliberalism. Although the book has a broad outlook, it avoids cliche and jargon. The use of chapters that focus on subthemes of how the Third World created itself (e.g. cultural projects, development strategies) allows the book to move quickly while packing in detail and comparative analysis of national and regional situations. A great introduction to the history of decolonization and a dramatic narrative to boot.
Profile Image for Katherine.
458 reviews11 followers
March 12, 2009
This is an amazing book that tracks the history of the Third World Movement and its foundation of the Nonaligned Movement and how the efforts existed and the story of how it failed.

It's such a great read and it would be a great text book for International Relations degrees to get a much more Global South perspective than what you get in the mainstream academia.

Anyone in the field should read this book at some point!
Profile Image for Kersplebedeb.
147 reviews87 followers
May 2, 2010
A history of the idea of the Third World, and how it played out in the 20th century, from a socialist perspective. Snapshots, examples and anecdotes, used to illustrate the trajectory of a dream - not a comprehensive history.
Profile Image for Avani.
152 reviews6 followers
December 14, 2018
Well written, but surprisingly dry for a book by Vijay Prashad. I was a bit disappointed, honestly.
Profile Image for Claire.
619 reviews6 followers
December 20, 2021
As happens with other People's Histories, this one tells of a promising moment and its end. The third world colonies became countries with united vision for a time, a vision of independence and ability to serve their own people. Their nationalism was an anticolonialism and that goal united folks with varied other goals. Nationalism deteriorated to issues of similar race and culture, pushing to a tradition that may or may not have ever existed, and this one one factor of weakening the venture.

Economic control was another factor. Though there was an attempt to gain internal control, factors of politics and trade kept the balance in favor of the first world. Neoliberal economics had rules stacked against the emerging nations. And as they lost their unity, they lost hope of having voice in global organizations.

There were nuances, differences in how various countries reacted to challenge and difficulty, and some deterioration was due to internal class factors as well, where profit as a goal outsrtipped community good.

The titles appear to be organized by place, in the first section the conference that happened at that place and the second the conference where there was a loss. However, each chapter also covers a topic, presumably the issue that dominated a conference. So each chapter is a survey of a history of an issue. Sometimes I wished I'd made a list of conference and date to refer back to, and might do so if I reread it.
Profile Image for Jason Friedlander.
127 reviews10 followers
February 22, 2023
This is a concise but comprehensive look at the development of the political concept of the “third world” from its inception as a non-aligned force between the U.S. and Soviet powers throughout the bulk of the 20th century to its ideological dissolution by the end of it. It traces a movement initially formed to work together to protect and help flourish those recovering from the socio-economic darkness of colonization as it struggled to weather various political problems both within (competing local powers) and without (U.S. and IMF interventions). We are left with a story that starts with the promotion of a “third world nationalism” tied to the collective economic upliftment of its nations in opposition to their historical colonizers, and ends with its devolution into forms of heightened cultural nationalism that lay blame instead on internal social factors such as race and religion as cover for the lavish enrichment of local economic and political elites who benefit from the neoliberal status quo upheld by the promotion of “globalization”.
Profile Image for Sue Chant.
802 reviews14 followers
April 17, 2023
A thought-provoking examination of the Third World's anti-colonial struggles in the C20th, from co-operating to try and make their agenda herd in the UN to organizing as a Non-Aligned Movement to distance thmselvs from both First and Second world interference. There are case studies of liberation movements which are often, to quote Franz Fanon, "better at the struggle for freedom or the creation of manifestos than governance", sometimes usurped by military coups (frequently sposored by the US) or by elites who speak "freedom" but are closely aligned with the First world capitalists who of course will only give financial assistance (at extortionate interest rates) in return for corporate concessions that don't benefit the local people. In the end it's an instructive but depressing book. Highly recommended.
86 reviews4 followers
June 29, 2020
This is a history of the political project of the third world, as it grew out of anti colonial struggles until its demise under neoliberal austerity and cultural nationalism. No new history here, but presented very well. Not sure why this is part of the People’s History series, considering it mainly focuses on the machinations of ruling elites and national liberation leaders.
Profile Image for Wim.
294 reviews33 followers
October 22, 2022
This is such a great book, connecting so many dots and revealing a hidden part of history, usually distorted by an imperialist, western worldview. Full of unexpected insights, this book helps me better understand the world and answers lots of questions.
117 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2022
A fantastic book about the history of the Third World countries during and after the Cold War. As they navigate a post-colonial world, they’re pressured to choose a side between the “First World” capitalist countries and the “Second World” socialist countries.

This book is really fantastic and I highly recomended it to anyone interested in learning about 20th century history that you probably didn’t know much about. Or if you’re a fellow traveler wanting to learn more about international solidarity, the need for an international jubilee, and the modern history of neo-colonialism.

This book lays bare the hypocrisy of the liberal nations’ call for liberty and equality as they subjugated and brutalized the underdeveloped world for centuries, finding new ways to do so as 20th-century de-colonialization made way for neoliberalism’s neocolonialist aims. Europe prides itself on the Enlightenment’s “Rights of Man” while treating the people of the underdeveloped countries like beasts of burden. The US’s Declaration of Independence is a beacon for those who wish to live a life free of authoritarianism, meanwhile the has spent ~150 years overthrowing countries and installing authoritarian dictators.

THIS BOOK REPORT IS TOO LONG. I AM SORRY. READ THIS BOOK. IT IS GOOD. Here are some of the quotes I found interesting…

The Failures of the Second World in effectively allying with the Third World

The Third World was a bastion of anti-imperial, anti-colonial fervor, which coincides with anti-capitalist fervor as these are the 3 heads of the same hydra. But this book explains how the Second World failed to leverage this energy, resulting in the First World coming in to dominate again. This is a shame and a betrayal of the call for solidarity with the workers of the world: “Certainly, Communism as an idea and the USSR as an inspiration held an important place in the imagination of the anticolonial movements from Indonesia to Cuba. Yet the Second World had an attitude toward the former colonies that in some ways mimicked that of the First World. For the founding conference of the Cominform held in Poland in 1947, the Soviets did not invite even one Communist Party from the former colonized world, and certainly not the Chinese Party.” The Second World failed to show the respect the Third World deserved.

“On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the heirs of [Stalin] saw promise in the movements of the Third World, and even while they offered assistance to them, they did so with every attempt to steer the ship of history, rather than to share the rudder. Direction was anathema to the darker nations, which had been told what to do for far too long.”
This is a shame, and further shows the lack of solidarity between these two anti-capitalist camps.

King Leopold’s Ghost

This book talks briefly about King Leopoldo the 2nd from Belgium, who oversaw the genocide of the Congolese: “To supply the emergent tire industry, Leopold II’s Free State, therefore, sucked the life out of the rubber vines and murdered half the Congo’s population in the process (between 1885 and 1908, the population declined from twenty million to ten million).” I plan on reading “King Leopold’s Ghost” this year. It’s on the short list.

Even the other European empires saw the atrocities brought forth by Belgium, their concerns were not taken seriously due to the overt hypocrisy: “The Foreign Office in London wrote a tepid note critical of the Belgians, and Leopold II’s reply rightly accused the British of hypocrisy: much of the policies followed by the Belgians in the Congo had been standard for the English elsewhere. Indeed, Casement found that British companies in the Putamayo region between Colombia and Peru followed the same kinds of barbarism, the U.S.-based United Fruit Company in Central America pillaged the dignity of the natives there, and in Portuguese Angola as well as French and German Cameroon, the companies used much the same kind of rubber plantation regime.” The whitewashing of history is ever present. Genocides are rebranded as “civilizing the savages.” Talk about projection. We’re not the good guys, folks.
Like imagine if a country who’s known for invading and overthrowing the governments of weaker nations for seemingly nonsensical reasons started criticizing another country doing the same thing………

“…the U.S. and British governments, and most of the actors who participated in the condemnation of the Belgians remained silent on the brutality elsewhere. In fact, their criticism of the Congo enabled them to obscure their own role in the barbarity. […] The imperial powers made Leopold II the issue, at the same time as they buried the broader problem in which they had a hand: imperialism. In 1908, Leopold turned over the management of the [Congo] to the Belgian government, and the barbarism continued until the Belgians completed their rail system in 1914 that rationalized the removal of the Congo’s minerals all the way to 1961 and beyond.” Remember this when you talk about “Social Democracies” in Europe. While universal basic services should be strived for, they should not be built on the backs of the exploited Third World. And that’s how most of these countries pay for everything.

Post-Colonial Nationalism

While I lambasted the notion of “nations” and “nationalism” during a previous book review, this book has revitalized my post-colonial nationalist support: “The formerly colonized people have at least one thing in common: they are colonized. […] For them, the nation had to be constructed out of two elements: the history of their struggles against colonialism, and their program for the creation of justice. […] they had an internationalist ethos, one that looked outward to other anticolonial nations as their fellows.” Post-colonial nationalism is an international effort to stand in solidarity with the people of all former colonialized states.

This book talks a lot about different organizations and conferences in the underdeveloped nations that strove to fight imperialism and bring solidarity with colonized countries:
• Pan-African Conference of 1900, and later The Pan-African Congress
• The African Association
• The first Conference of African States, and later The All-African People’s Conference.
And others I forgot to list.
These organizations stood against colonialism, capitalist exploitation, and imperialism to fight for an economic democracy, “We welcome economic democracy as the only real democracy.” This is part of the ideology know n as Pan-Africanism.

There were similar efforts in Asia, fighting for Pan-Asianism and against the US Empire’s growing neo-colonial efforts, rebranded as “dollar imperialism”.
• Asian Relations Conference of 1947
• Asian Conference of 1949

As well as in the Americas, where they were trying to get the US to stop invading them, overthrowing their governments, and draining their countries of wealth for the benefit of multi-national corporations.
• the First Inter-American Conference of 1889
• The Pan-American Union
• The Havana Conference of 1928
Though the Americas’ anti-imperialists didn’t cross paths with the Afro-Asian anti-imperialists because “Their target was not Old Europe, but the New Yankee.” But they finally came together, culminating into the “Non-Aligned Movement” (or NAM states), the Tricontinental, and the “League Against Imperialism”, which included a young patent clerk named Al Einstein you may have heard of. Weird that’s never talked about…

“The colonial powers quickly tainted the [League Against Imperialism’s] work by intimating that it was nothing but a Communist front. Certainly, the Communists played a major role in the league, but they did not exhaust its range and the claim made on it by peoples who had little experience with Communism.” …oh. That’s why.

What these conferences and organizations (many of which I did not list) show is that the fight for post-colonial nationalism must be an international movement; the formerly colonized peoples of the world must have solidarity to rid themselves of their oppressors. And, the fact that none of these organizations or conferences were ever mentioned in a high school history class, shows how imperialist propaganda is still rampant in the imperial core.

“[The Bandung Conference of 1927] allowed these leaders to meet together, celebrate the demise of formal colonialism, and pledge themselves to some measure of joint struggle against the forces of imperialism.”

Colonialism and imperialism has never ended, but it has been greatly reigned in from its peek in the early 1900s. This wasn’t accomplished thanks to the human decency of the colonizers. That has never happened. It was accomplished by the sword-wielding colonized people, coming together in national awakenings to fight their oppressors.

The call for post-colonial internationalism is still alive and well within the G-77 and the United Nations. Of course the good ole US of A doesn’t really give a damn about the UN because the idea of not having absolute autonomy on a global scale is simply heretical. We are the nation’s police force, and we don’t really do a good job at holding our own police accountable.

Tariffs, the IMF, the World Bank, and Usury

One of the most influential books I read was “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism“ (2007) by Ha-Joon Chang. In it, the author opened my eyes to the exploitative nature of modern neoliberal capitalism to the historically underdeveloped nations. “The Darker Nations” stands alongside and reinforces the assertions made in “Bad Samaritans” as well as in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” and “Open Veins of Latin America.”

Namely: The First World used tariffs to help grow their economies and now force the Third World to abolish tariffs and open up their unprocessed commodities to the global market. The Third World gets paid pittance for the raw material, which goes to industrialized nations for processing and is sold back for 100x the cost.

This is what we should do:
“Since Europe and the United States benefited from colonial rule, they must bear responsibility for it. To be responsible should mean that the First World needed to provide outright grants to the Third World (what would later be called ‘reparations’). To ask the people of the Third World to sacrifice more toward development would be morally inappropriate.“

Instead we do this:

“[T]he G-7 objected strongly when the [Non-Aligned Movement] states created tariff barriers to protect their economies, but by UNCTAD’s count, the G-7 states themselves had over seven hundred nontariff barriers (such as government subsidies, quantitative restrictions, and other technical standards to block the import of certain goods into their protected markets).” Do as I say, not as I do.

And we do this:

“In the 1970s, the IMF shifted its three-decades-old mission from the provision of short-term credit to countries with current account deficits (lender of the last resort) to the use of its crucial finances as a weapon to demand structural economic changes mainly in the bruised nations. In other words, the new IMF eroded the institutions of state sovereignty fought for by the global institutions of the Third World.”

The IMF is an evil, evil organization that is directly responsible for the continued underdevelopment of the Third World. They do not make things better. They make things worse. They drain the wealth of the Third World to enrich the First World. “The IMF, for the United States particularly, would be one more instrument to maintain a tariff-free capitalist system.”

You may think the rich nations subsidize the poor nations. This is false. The following is (in my opinion) the most important quote in this book:

“By 1983, capital flows reversed, as more money came from the indebted states to the G-7 than went out as loans and aid. In other words, the indebted countries subsidized and funded the wealthy nations. In the late 1980s, the indebted states sent an average of $40 billion more to the G-7 than the G-7 sent out as loans and aid; this became the annual tribute from the darker nations. By 1997, the total debt owed by the formerly colonized world amounted to about $2.17 trillion, with a daily debt-service payment of $717 million. The nations of sub-Saharan Africa spent four times more on debt service, on interest payments, than on health care. For most of the indebted states, between one-third and one-fifth of their gross national product was squandered in this debt-service tribute. The debt crisis had winners: the financial interests in the G-7.”

The IMF is colonialism by another name. This is what I mean when I say neoliberalism is synonymous with neocolonialism: “[W]hereas almost a hundred Third World states accounted for less than 37 percent of the IMF’s voting power, the five leading industrial powers controlled more than 40 percent, while the United States alone held 20 percent of the votes in the IMF. The fund was controlled by the United States and other advanced industrial states.“

The US controls the IMF and the World Bank. The IMF and The World Bank control the Third World. The third world sells their resources to the US corporations, which feeds the US empire, completing the cycle of global exploitation.

US Imperialism
“The United States had a poor track record with national liberation and anti-imperialist movements in Central America and the Caribbean. The armies and allies of the United States had been prone to oppose these movements, assassinate their leaders, and deliver arms to their monarchist or oligarchic opponents. Between 1900 and 1933, the U.S. military intervened to scuttle the national hopes of the people of Cuba (four times), the Dominican Republic (four times, including an eight-year occupation), Guatemala (once), Haiti (twice, including a nineteen-year occupation), Honduras (seven times), Nicaragua (twice), and Panama (six times).”

“[As of 1964,] The United States had intervened in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Latin America. […] Imperialist powers had an inherent tendency to fight wars of conquest and subjugation, and as they did so, they would confront people’s tenacious desire for liberty and independence.”

“The lack of a central authority in Bolivia, or else the effective devolution of power to the people’s organizations, led the U.S. State Department to note in 1957 that ‘the whole complex of lawlessness, combined with the government’s apparent unwillingness or inability to control it, added up to a considerable degree of anarchy in the country.’ The ‘anarchy’ for the United States was popular democracy for the Bolivians.”

The US Government doesn’t like democracy. It likes authoritarians because they prioritize the interest of corporations over the interest of the people. These corporations drain the wealth of the exploited countries and fill US government and US corporate coffers.

“The U.S.-engineered coup in Iran (1953) is an early example of this planetary role for Washington, DC. Whereas the evidence of U.S. involvement is unclear in most of the coups in the Third World, the footprint of the CIA and the U.S. military intelligence has been clearly documented in the coups in the Dominican Republic (1963), Ecuador (1963), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), Congo (1965), Greece (1967), Cambodia (1970), Bolivia again (1971), and most famously Chile (1973).”

The US subsidizes the Military Industrial Complex by donating conditional funds to Third World nations that immediately go toward purchasing military hardware from US corporations. This has the added benefit of creating professional militaries that speak for the authoritarian ruler (and thus the interests of capitol) rather than an armed proletariat militia.

“By 1982, the United Nations offered the stark choice that either the world can ‘pursue the arms race,’ or else it can ‘move consciously and with deliberate speed toward a more stable and balanced social and economic development.’ But, the United Nations cautioned, ‘it cannot do both.’” Guess what we chose. “Every attempt to stem the arms trade or cut back on the vast increase in the global military budget was met with disdain or incomprehension—security and defense had come to be reality, whereas social development became idealistic.”

What kind of world would we live in if we prioritized helping people over designing and stockpiling more sophisticated ways of killing them?

Cartels - Oil, Private, & Public

The “Seven Sisters: Seven Sisters: Exxon (or Esso), Shell, BP, Gulf, Texaco, Mobil, and So-cal (or Chevron)” controlled the vast majority of crude oil production and
“acted together as a cartel of private companies to ensure that they not only got the best prices for crude oil but also controlled the entire oil market.
The regimes that ruled over the oil lands could have used the rent paid by the oil companies to increase the social wage—to expand public education, health, transport, and other such important avenues for the overall advancement of the people. Instead, the oil rent went toward the expansion of luxury consumption for the bureaucratic-managerial or monarchal elite—the oligarchy in Venezuela or the Ibn Saud clan in Saudi Arabia—and to oil the military machine.”
Because that’s what the corporations wanted. Corporations have no interest in their profits going toward benefiting society. They will only share profits with those who help secure their interests. Authoritarian oligarchs are the best thing for a corporation.

There aren’t just cartels for oil, but every raw material: “Whether the crop is cocoa, sugar, rubber, or oil, the structure of the commodity cartel did not differ much.” Some governments tried to create their own international governmental cartel to challenge corporate cartels. Rather than corporate cartels draining the wealth of the exploited nations, these public commodity cartels would “achieve a stabilization of prices to benefit the raw materials’ producers.” Imagine that: the wealth of a nation being controlled by its government for the benefit of the nation itself, rather than it being controlled by multinational corporations who aim to drain it for the benefit of the imperial core. Wild.

The underdeveloped countries were single-commodity producers, booming or busting at the whims of the market, and if they got too upity, the oligarchy would cut them out and go to a neighboring country, devastating the economy. It’s not a “market,” it’s an global extortion racket. “By 1980, of the 115 ‘developing countries,’ according to UNCTAD, at least half remained dependent on one commodity for over 50 percent of their export revenues.” Mostly oil, but also sugar, cocoa, coffee, fish, copper, and alumina.

This is where OPEC comes in. “The five charter members nominally controlled or at least produced 82 percent of the world’s crude oil exports. […] the idea that the darker nations could produce a cartel for their precious commodities to ensure a decent price, impacted the Third World. Various Third World political forums now tried to move a similar agenda as OPEC, to create various public cartels for the otherwise-cheap raw materials bought in a market created by the private transnational cartels mostly located in the First World.”

Tragically, the OPEC countries didn’t help with the creation of similar price stabilization efforts for other raw materials. “Despite its political origins, OPEC became an economic cartel as it fought to defend oil prices and do little else.” This is a tragedy for the Third World.

There was a big long paragraph in here about Petro-Dollars and Nixon delinking the US dollar to the Gold Standard and the 1973 embargo. I didn’t really understand much, but I’ll say it all sucks.
Profile Image for James.
455 reviews23 followers
May 20, 2008
"The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World"

By Vijay Prashad

Review by James Generic

The Third World is a Cold War term, meaning mostly former nations that were ruled by Europeans and won their political independence in the decades after the second world war. That's how most people understand it anyway. It started off as a term of empowerment and hope by the leaders of the newly independent countries in the 1950s, after years of trying to bind the colonized into a single cause. These leaders saw that the First capitalist world and the Second Soviet-bloc world needed the Third world for its resources, people, and support in the global cold war, and they did not want to be pawns anymore.

The Third World Project started in the 1955 at the Bandung Asian-African Conference, when the Nonaligned Movement was founded (NAM) in opposition to the 1st and 2nd Worlds. From here, the Third World was split by internal divisions, attacks by the West and Eastern blocs, and finally outright destruction of the "Third World" by economic policies pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United States, as well as political and military attacks by the USA and its allies. In "The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World" by Vijay Prashad, the history of this push for unity, the contradictions of the class of leaders in trying to build this better Third world, the splits within the movement, and the final assassination of the Third World Project.

The book switches between different locations and different situations. Prashad points out that there was a strange contradiction in the work of building a Third World. The ruling class of the decolonized countries supported the new rulers, in many places, who wanted to stand up for themselves. But at the same time, as time went on, they also supported all-powerful dictators and neo-liberal economics that lead to the resources of the country being drained out like vampires (leading to continuation of places which have some of the richest resources of the world and some of the poorest people, like in Congo.) Projects like OPEC started as the "darker nations" tried to control their own politics, though it soon disintegrated into just rulers enriching themselves. In the end, they worked better with ruling classes of the 1st world than the people of their own countries.

Prashad goes to each place, from Singapore, to Indonesia and Suharto, to Baghdad, and explores the rise and fall of the Third World. Today, he ends, the Third World is dead. However, an international movement, free of imposed movements from above or directly by the elites of the government, has arisen and the world is changing to oppose the US. The book is an interesting look at an attempt by the leaders of former colonized places to fight back, though it can be a little disorienting traveling across so many places so fast (which is probably what trying to organize all those places to act together would have been like.) How the First World was able to destroy this movement is a pretty good lesson of history for any person to know.
Profile Image for Faaiz.
221 reviews2 followers
April 16, 2021
Quite impressive in its scope and breadth of analysis, covering a period roughly between the 40's and 90's. This book chronicles the rise and fall of the Third World, a dizzying and disorienting melting pot of nations with vastly differing political orientations and leanings but who are characterized by gaining their independence post the second world war, most through an anti-colonial struggle, and mostly with the aim of national liberation.

As someone without much prior knowledge of the histories and politics of most of the countries that come under the umbrella term of the Third World, this was an absolute fascinating read but at times was confusing and disorienting as well. Confusing and disorienting in that the author jumped from country to country, event to event, movement to movement, historical figure to historical figure and time period to time period in every new chapter which interrupted the flow and needed some getting used to. It is definitely a work meant for multiple readings, the events and the chronology are much easier to follow once an understanding of the author's thesis develops.

There are many things that were surprising to me. That the Third World played an active role in the formulation of many of the UN agencies, that it considered in earnest that the UN Agencies were avenues were it could not only participate in but also actively play a role in forming and molding it to serve the interests of the Third World. It is very difficult to imagine, looking from the current lens, these international agencies as nothing but stooges of capital propped up by the First World. Also surprising was the effort to prop up a non-aligned movement made up of countries with an eclectic mix of political ideologies and orientation but who nevertheless tried to survive and grow in a world vastly ambiguous to their struggles.

As someone who is a citizen of a country with a history of anti-colonial struggle, Prashad's treatment in the recounting of the history of the Third World - its aspirations, struggles, failures - resonated deeply. Prashad accords the Third World the respect it deserves even in light of all its vast contradictions, limitations and failures which in itself is empowering and inspiring. This book will give you a fresh new perspective on the nations that emerged after their independence and anti-colonial struggle, it will inspire, but it will also show you the bitter failures and outcomes as it tried to breathe and grow in a world characterized by the Cold war polarity, IMF/World Bank led globalization, unraveling by its own internal contradictions and class interests of the bourgeoisie and the eventual unipolar hegemony of the US.
January 13, 2023
I will disagree with a lot of people who considered this book fundamental. It is good in terms of showing a hidden part of the history. I link it to Manufacturing Consent in this area.
Having Chomsky’s masterpiece in mind, I tried to keep an open mind, however it is difficult to remain scientifically credible when you only present the good side of some dictators and totally hide their crimes.

It is true that some of the greatest criminals served imperialist interests, however things are way more complex.

I find Prashad too exalted, too engaged to remain credible and objective.
Profile Image for Nidhi Jakhar.
77 reviews12 followers
June 7, 2017
The book presents an erudite narrative on the Third World, which was created as a result of the cold war between the first two worlds. Post World War II, the world changed completely; not only politically but also economically. From the rubble of the war arose two worlds - First World comprising of USA and Western Europe and the Second World comprising of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The colonized nations across Asia, Europe and Latin America fought for independence and amassed as the Darker Nations or the Third World.

Thrown between the compulsions of being loyal to either of the two blocs, the Third World countries led by Nehru, Naseer, Marshal Tito, Nkrumah and Sukarno formed the Non-Aligned Movement at Belgrade in 1961. The book sheds light on how USA driven IMF’s structural adjustment policies completely destroyed the development agenda of the Third World countries as they became pawns in the hands of transnational companies which assassinated their economies, social welfare agenda, and communism ultimately falling into the deep quagmire of debt trap, as a result of neo-liberal policies.

Its astounding to know how selfish economics on part of USA and Europe (to lesser degree post WWII) have sought to alter geo-political situations in other parts of the world; turning one against the other for their own selfish interest. The new unipolar world led by hegemony of USA led to the demise of the Third World; which has resulted in a much impoverished international political scenario as all nations made to toe the line drawn by the United States of America.
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