The Third World project of national and social liberation is a comprehensive project that embraces universal human values, including respect for the sovereignty and equality of nations, the social and economic rights of all persons, and the rights of nature. It continues to present itself to the colonized and neocolonized peoples of the world as an alternative to accommodation to the West, to traditionalism, and to terrorism. And it continues to present itself to the global powers as the best hope for the future of humanity. It seeks, through popular democratic political processes, to take control of states, and from this position of political power, to reduce global political and economic inequalities and to conserve ecological stability.
Since the Third World emerged with a definable global project in the 1950s, the West has consistently tried to destroy it. The global powers have supported and cultivated politicians who are oriented to accommodation to the West, including many who were brutal dictators; they have assassinated charismatic leaders who could not be bought; and they have utilized all kinds of military, economic and ideological attacks against Third World nations that persisted in an autonomous road.
The attack on the Third World project, which stands without moral and reasonable defense, must be understood by the leaders and intellectuals of the Left in the North, and it must be central to the narratives that they are formulating for presentation to their peoples. Alternative narratives of the Left in the North must be moral indictments of the global powers, for their irresponsibility in rejecting the proposals of the Third World project and in leading humanity to a condition of deep and sustained global crisis. In the United States, such a narrative would enable the Left to mobilize the people in opposition to the neoliberal policies of Reagan-Bush I-Clinton-Bush II-Obama as well as the neofascist project of Trump and his team. It would delegitimate both neoliberalism and neofascism for their false “war or terrorism.” It would discredit the former for failing to respond to the sources of uncontrolled international migration, and the latter for attacking the human rights of immigrants.
The Left narrative ought to include a number of key points. (1) It ought to include an alternative narrative on Islamic history. It ought to defend and explain the project of Nasser as form of Islamic modernism, which took a middle position between accommodation to the West and Islam traditionalism, and which envisioned modern, independent and republican nation-states in the Arab world. It ought to make clear the strategy of Western governments to block the project of Nasser, whose crime was a desire to be truly independent and not subject to the neocolonial domination of the West. And it ought to expose the support of the United States and its accommodationist allies for Islamic traditionalism and Islamic extremism, in its efforts to destroy Nasserism (see Ansary 2009:261-68, 324-26; Prashad 2007:31-34, 51-52, 96-99, 148; Schulze 2000:148-52, 174-75).
(2) A narrative of the Left ought to explain the formation of OPEC in 1960 as an example of the general Third World strategy of creating public commodity cartels that united raw materials exporting nations. It ought to defend this Third World strategy as justified, for it had hoped to curb the power of the private cartels that had been formed by the manufacturers and distributers of the West, with the belief that public primary product cartels would enable exporting nations to set prices for their raw materials, thus generating more income for investment in national industry and social development (Prashad 2007:69-70, 180-86; 2012:16-21). The narrative of the Left ought to support all Third World efforts to promote the economic and social development of the Third World, declaring that the development of the poor nations is necessary, if humanity is to attain a world-system that is not only just, but also politically stable and economically and ecologically sustainable.
(3) A narrative of the Left ought to expose the strategy of the U.S. government in the 1970s to pressure Arab governments to invest oil surplus money in the banks of the North and to purchase arms manufactured in the West, thus severing the oil surplus revenues from the Third World project of national and social liberation. The goal of the strategy, in addition to obtaining funds for the banks and arms manufacturers of the North, was to stimulate a limited form of development in the Arab world that was consistent with the interests of the West. This successful strategy led to an accommodation between the Arab elite and the West, an accommodation that included support for an Islamic version of religious fundamentalism (Ansary 2009: 335-42; Prashad 2012:21-24). As we have seen (see “Trump and the war on terrorism, Part Two” 2/21/2017), Islamic literalism grew significantly with U.S. and Saudi support as the Nasserist project was unable to attain its hopes for social and economic development.
(4) A narrative of the Left ought to make clear that the United States turned to direct support for Islamic insurgency, rather than indirectly through Saudi Arabia, in Afghanistan in the 1980s. As we have seen (see “Trump and the war on terrorism, Part Two” 2/21/2017), the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan led to the establishment of the country as a base of operations for jihadists who were undertaking a war against the West, including the adoption of a new form of terrorism, consisting of a strategy of indiscriminate killing of civilians.
(5) A narrative of the Left ought to present an alternative approach to the war on terrorism. It ought to make clear that by blocking the reasonable and just changes sought in theory and practice by Nasserism and other Third World projects of national and social liberation, the West created a political and social environment favorable to terrorism. Although the capture and criminal prosecution of terrorists is necessary in the short-term, the most effective way to eliminate the scourge of terrorism in the long term would be for the global powers to support and cooperate with movements and governments of the Third World. This would require that the global powers cease their efforts to preserve the basic structures of the neocolonial world-system, which would require an alternative political will.
The Left must be present with a politically effective narrative, explaining that a more just, democratic and sustainable world-system is necessary for the survival of humanity and for the continued development of human societies and human civilization. The Left should present to the people a well-formulated alternative to the neoliberalism that reigned from Reagan to Obama and the neofascism of Trump.
Ansary 2009:, Tamim. 2009. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes. New York: Public Affairs.
Prashad, Vijay. 2007. The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World. New York: The New Press.
__________. 2012. The Poorer Nations: A possible history of the Global South. London: Verso.
Schulze 2000:, Reinhard. 2000. A Modern History of the Islamic World. New York: New York University Press.