Saturday, August 06, 2016

The USSR as part of Afro-Asia

I have been doing some research on the Afro-Asian Writers' Association (AAWA) and its journal Lotus recently. A group of people at American University of Beirut have been doing some good work on the history of the organization and journal in the last few years. The AAWA was founded in Tashkent in 1958. Its journal Lotus ran from 1968 to 1993. One thing that is apparent is that the line between the Second (Soviet bloc) and Third (post-colonial Africa and Asia) worlds was fuzzy at best. The AAWA like AAPSO (Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization) included the USSR as a member from its very beginning. The founding conference of the AAWA took place in the USSR in 1958 as did its 1973 conference and the vast majority of funding for Lotus came from the Soviet Union and East Germany. Part of this merger of the Second and Third Worlds was geographic. The Central Asian republics made the USSR an Asian state in many ways and thus AAWA conferences were held in Uzbekistan (1958) and Kazakhstan (1973). A perhaps larger part was political. The geopolitical issues that gripped African and Asian writers in the 1960s and 1970s were US military intervention in Indochina, Portuguese colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau, white rule in Rhodesia, apartheid in South Africa, South Africa's occupation of Namibia, and the issue of Zionism and Palestine. On all of these issues the Second and Third worlds were united in support of national liberation and opposition to imperialism, colonialism, and racism.

For the two decades between 1958 and 1978 the Soviet state and its Eastern European allies stood on the same side of these issues as most of the prominent writers and political figures of Asia and Africa. By the mid 1970s a number of these issues had been resolved in their view. In 1975 the Portuguese Empire collapsed and Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau gained independence. In the same year the North Vietnamese Army rolled into Saigon and liquidated the Republic of Vietnam. Only Rhodesia, Namibia, South Africa, and Palestine remained as unresolved issues. By 1994 all of the unsolved issues of colonialism, apartheid, and white minority rule in Southern Africa had been resolved leaving only Palestine as the last unresolved issue common to Africa and Asia. Before 1994, however, both the Third World and later the Second World had ceased to exist as political blocs.

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