Anti-Communism across the Global South

AHA Session 136
Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton, Fifth Floor)
Robert J. McMahon, Ohio State University
The United States and the Counterrevolutionary Alliance in the 1960s
Mark Lawrence, University of Texas at Austin
The Long Afterlives of Cold War Violence
Colleen Woods, University of Maryland, College Park
Robert J. McMahon, Ohio State University

Session Abstract

Recent scholarship on the global Cold War has highlighted the ways in which revolutionary groups in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America linked their individual efforts into a transnational movement for the liberation of the global south. From the mid-1960s in particular, the reaction against revolutionary models of the post-colonial state came not only from the US and the former colonial powers, but also from within the global south. Counter-revolutionary and rightist actors in the Third World mirrored their antagonists in building regional and transnational alliances, and developed powerful anti-communist movements capable of overturning the revolutionary and socialist visions which had animated the early years of decolonization.

This panel aims to spur new conversations on anti-communism in the Third World. Scholars have recently produced insightful studies on the ideologies and mobilization of transnational anti-communist networks in the US and Europe, as well on anti-communism in South Korea, Taiwan, and South Vietnam. In contrast, Middle Eastern, Latin American, South East Asian, and African anti-communism often receives less critical inquiry, and is sometimes glossed over as either a pretext for authoritarian repression or a means of manipulating US policy. As Colleen Woods shows in her paper on the Philippines, Third World anti-communism was instead deeply embedded both in local social relations and in global alliances, with resonances that persist through the present. Through studies of anti-communist regimes and movements in the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, this panel offers a comparative exploration of the construction of anti-Communism across the Third World.

In particular, this panel draws new attention to the importance of south-south anti-communist networks for the strength of the global counter-revolution. Whether through Operation Condor in Latin America, ASEAN in Southeast Asia, or the transnational coalition behind the anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan, counter-revolutionary actors in the Third World depended on regional and global alliances, and not only on their ties to the US. By examining efforts by Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran to build regional anti-communist partnerships in the 1960s and 1970s, the panel raises new questions about the diplomacy of counter-revolution.

Finally, this panel investigates the initiative and agency of counter-revolutionary actors in the global south vis-à-vis the US. Scholarship has long emphasized the ways Third World regimes used anti-communist rhetoric to manipulate US policy. The means by which counter-revolutionary actors used south-south diplomacy to increase their leverage over the US is less studied. As Mark Lawrence shows in his paper, US policy explicitly encouraged regional anti-communist pacts. And yet, these alliances also came with a loss of US agency, as highlighted in Carl Forsberg’s study of the Carter Administration’s struggle with its Middle Eastern allies over Africa policy. At times, US administrations even worked to restrain or contain anti-communist alliances in the Third World.

By asking these questions, this panel aims to give actors and networks based in the global south a more central place in critical conversations on Cold War anti-communism and its afterlives in the present.

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