Bandung redux: Anti-Globalization Nationalisms in Southeast Asia

Gerard Greenfield


Fifty years after the Asia-Africa Conference was held in Bandung in April 1955 the 'Spirit of Bandung' continues to be redeployed and rediscovered, attributed to gatherings as diverse as the World Conference Against Racism, the World Social Forum (WSF), and the Asian-African Sub- Regional Organizations Conference (AASROC), whose preparations for the celebration of the 50th anniversary were seen as a coordinated response to globalization by marginalized states. Indeed, this 'Spirit of Bandung' is deemed more relevant than ever by Left nationalists, pan-Asianists and 'Third Worldists' seeking to restore or reinvigorate a unified front against US-led globalization and/or US imperialism. The powerful and very public condemnation of imperialism and racism by nationalist 'Third World' leaders at the Bandung Conference is, it seems, the kind of political response needed today. The perceived radicalism of Bandung--bolstered by the CIA's attempts to disrupt what it saw as 'an impending Communist Conference in 1955' through political assassination--has been written into the history of 'Third World' opposition to US imperialism. But in reviving the Spirit of Bandung in the fight against US imperialism it is important to ask whether such a unified voice of opposition really existed and--more importantly--whether it really challenged the US empire.

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