Capitalism and its Colonies:
Nation-States, Third World
Nations, Development and Failing States
7th May 2010
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By 1914, 84.4 % of the world's terrestrial
area had been colonized by the Europeans. With colonization there came a new
paradigm of development. Cecil Rhodes expressed this paradigm eloquently:
We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw
materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available
from the natives of the colonies…
(UNESCO (2002) International
Symposium on Post-Development)
They were overpowered by force of arms.
Thereafter, each tribe was faced with a choice of one of two roads leading to
subjection: defeat or surrender…
There are various national or ethnical groups in the country
[Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1)
Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or
Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.… 'there are also a great number of other
small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'
It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a
nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between
them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The
fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental
All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the
country militate against unification…. It is evident from the experiences of
other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers
which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp.
We define weak states as countries that
lack the essential capacity and/or will to fulfil four sets of critical
- fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable
- establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and
accountable political institutions;
- securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling
- and meeting the basic human needs of their population…
We term countries in the bottom quintile “critically weak states”
and deem the 3 weakest states in the world “failed states.” Failed states
perform markedly worse than all others — even those in their critically weak
Somalia; Congo, Dem. Rep.; Burundi; Sudan;
Central African Rep.; Zimbabwe; Liberia; Cote D’Ivoire; Angola; Haiti; Sierra
Leone; Eritrea; North Korea; Chad; Burma; Guinea-Bissau; Ethiopia; Congo, Rep.;
Niger; Nepal; Guinea; Rwanda; Equatorial Guinea; Togo; Uganda; Nigeria
(Rice and Patrick 2008, pp. 3, 9-11)
Given the wide range of tensions, contradictory demands and
confrontations to which Third world nations have been subjected by Western
capitalist nations over the past 60 years, it is a testament to human resilience
that there are any which still escape being classified "critically weak
Western people have, over the past three centuries, confidently
applied their own understandings and forms of organisation to the rest of the
world. They have done this in the sure knowledge that these represent the most
advanced, developed and sophisticated of all forms of understanding and
organisation available to human beings.
To introduce those forms to non-Western people has been to start
them on the road to capitalist development. It has been assumed that this
enables them to by-pass the historically long and thorny route taken by Western
Europeans in achieving their advanced state of organisation and
understanding.1 Chief amongst
the forms of organisation, thought to be most important in moving into the
modern world, have been the political and economic forms of the industrialised
To understand the problems encountered in Third World nations
over the past sixty years, we need, first, to examine a few of the presumptions
underpinning Western political organisation and activity as they have been
shaped in concert with capitalism over the past four centuries.
From the 16th to the early 20th century, Western Europe experienced widespread, drastic
economic reorganisation. Capitalism became the ideological frame of life for the
middle-classes of Western Europe. From the 17th century this
capitalist reorganisation coincided with a revolutionary, middle-class driven,
political reorganisation of the region 2.
The nation-state was presumed to be comprised of citizens who,
individually, first and foremost, identified with the nation rather than with
regions within the nation. They saw the nation's achievements as their own; the
nation's problems as personal problems; and they so committed themselves to the
nation that when it became threatened, if necessary, they were prepared to die
for it. Thomas Hobbes set out the requirements of such a 'Commonwealth' in his
Leviathan (1651 Chapter 17, 'Of The Causes, Generation, And Definition Of A Commonwealth')
Capitalism is based on individual independence, not on
interdependence 4. Its political frame has echoed the
motivations of the middle ranking individuals who were at the heart of the
revolutionary changes of the period. It requires 'democracy'. But this was,
always, a 'democracy' of 'responsible' people — a democracy of the
middle-classes. The history of voting rights in Western democracies reflects the
changing fortunes of sub-populations as they have become accepted by the
middle-class base which still largely controls Western democracies.
The new political entities, nation-states, represented the
interests of the middle-classes. In almost every ethnic community in Western
Europe, one could find these people — 'middle sorts' — who socialised and
identified with each other across community boundaries and shared common
interests both through the state territory in which they were living, and
throughout Western Europe. These people, in the communities incorporated into
each nation-state, were presumed to be not only able, but willing to subordinate
their ethnic and regional interests and commitments to the interests and
requirements of the larger political whole within which they were placed.
So, what was it that bound middle ranking people together in
Nations as enclaves of common-interest migrants
An important feature of Western European nationhood has been the
'nationalism' of its people, their apparent identification with the nation-state
and its political and bureaucratic organisations, and acceptance of the state's
directive legitimacy. Because most Third World national governments have great
difficulty in gaining and maintaining acceptance from their populations, we need
to understand how European nation-states 5 attained and maintain legitimacy.
‘Nation’ was a term which originally referred to administrative
regions of the medieval Western-Orthodox Church. These western European Orthodox
Church regions were governed through bureaucratic organisations controlled by
regional ecclesiastical administrators. The representatives of those regions in
Rome lived in a set of enclaves known as ‘nations’. As Thomas Dandelet (1997)
it was in medieval Rome that the numerous local identities of
Europe were commonly grouped under the five major "nations" of France, England,
Spain, Italy, and Germany.
A rag-bag of regions not included in those named was referred to
as the ‘Netherlands’ (the lands beyond the recognised regions).
People who lived in these regions not only thought of themselves
as members of their local communities but also knew the names of the
administrative regions of the Church within which they lived. Their rulers, on
their accession to power, were annointed to their positions by the regional
ecclesiastical administrators 6. So, almost inevitably, over a thousand
years, political aspirations became identified with the regions and with the
names they bore.
The medieval use of the term 'nation', following the western
European Orthodox Church's usage of the term in Rome, referred to enclaves of
middle-ranking people, migrants from the same region, who shared some common
interest or focus in life. These were the nascent middle-classes of Western
Europe, those who, by the 19th century, would espouse 'democratic
During this discussion, we need to remember that the term
'nation' was applied to two quite distinct ideas. The first was to
administrative regions of the medieval Church; the second was to enclaves of
people living outside their own administrative regions, who banded together,
formed cooperative relationships and friendships and were referred to by the
name of the administrative region from which they came.
More emphasis was given to 'region of origin' than to 'ethnic
identity' in gaining entry and acceptance into a nation (an enclave of
migrants), so that nations could consist of people who spoke different dialects
or languages (the lingua franca was, of course, Latin), were of
different ethnic ancestry, and possibly of very different skin shadings. This
would prove important in the intermeshing of middle-class interests across
culturally diverse regions of interconnected territories 7 as 'nation-states' emerged
in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Nations (as enclaves) were medieval common-interest, fraternal
groups 8. Members accepted responsibility for each
other and assumed support and co-operation from anyone who was identified as a
group member. They developed friendships which over time expanded into extensive
networks of support and acquaintanceship. The families of people connected in
these ways entertained and accommodated visitors from other areas and regions,
and assumed similar support if they travelled outside of their home area. The
principle of mutual support and acceptance was of central importance in claiming
membership of a nation (Hobsbawm 1990, p. 16).
'Nations' of scholars existed at university centres. Each nation
was comprised of people from a particular geographical/ecclesiastical area who
supported one another and provided hospitality and security to visitors and new
arrivals. The members of such nations maintained their links after graduating
and moving to other places. One could move from a 'nation' at one university
centre, to its counterpart at another university centre and be accepted because
others in the new centre already had connections in the centre from which one
Similar nations of merchants and traders existed, which shared
identity with scholars and others identified as belonging to the same region as
themselves. Networks of such groups developed throughout western Europe. A
feeling of affinity emerged between those who identified with each other through
membership in common networks of nations (as enclaves). It was these networked
people from particular regions who would become the future electorates of
Not until the 18th and 19th centuries did the term come to include both the inter-linked
people of a particular territory, and the political and bureaucratic state
organisation of that territory. When it did, this usually resulted from
concerted political and/ or revolutionary action involving those who already saw
themselves as interconnected and as belonging to the same nation.9
By the 18th century everyone in western Europe knew
the name of the region within which they lived and identified themselves in some
way as belonging to the region that bore that name. The regions which were
metamorphosing into nation-states were, largely, nascent capitalist regions
which had been involved in the Reformation. Most of them had renounced or
greatly loosened their ties with Rome.
People living in the old medieval Western-Orthodox
ecclesiastical districts seem to have had little difficulty in transferring
their recognition of those districts to the emerging states and their
bureaucratic structures. So, national identity (that is, nationalism) preceded
the establishment of nation-states 10.
By the late nineteenth century, as a consequence of the
historical connection between membership of 'nations' and education, trade and
other productive and 'cultured' activities, middle-class Western Europeans had
become convinced that
As the individual chiefly obtains by means of the nation and in
the nation mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity, so is
the civilisation of the human race only conceivable and possible by means of the
civilisation and development of the individual nations.
(List (1885, Ch.15))
Not only was membership of a nation a prerequisite for each
individual human being's 'civilisation', 'mental culture' and 'power of
production', the aggregation of small ethnic groupings into large nation-states
was assumed to be an evolutionary inevitability 11. As List (1885) explained:
Between each individual and entire humanity, however, stands THE
NATION, with its special language and literature, with its peculiar origin and
history, with its special manners and customs, laws and institutions, with the
claims of all these for existence, independence, perfection, and continuance for
the future, and with its separate territory; a society which, united by a
thousand ties of mind and of interests, combines itself into one independent
whole, which recognises the law of right for and within itself, and in its
united character is still opposed to other societies of a similar kind in their
national liberty, and consequently can only under the existing conditions of the
world maintain self-existence and independence by its own power and resources.
A large population, and an extensive territory endowed with
manifold national resources, are essential requirements of the normal
nationality; they are the fundamental conditions of mental cultivation as well
as of material development and political power. A nation restricted in the
number of its population and in territory, especially if it has a separate
language, can only possess a crippled literature, crippled institutions for
promoting art and science. A small State can never bring to complete perfection
within its territory the various branches of production. In it all protection
becomes mere private monopoly. Only through alliances with more powerful
nations, by partly sacrificing the advantages of nationality, and by excessive
energy, can it maintain with difficulty its independence.
Eric Hobsbawm put it well. For Western Europeans,
nations were therefore, as it were, in tune with historical
evolution only insofar as they extended the scale of human society, other things
(1990, p. 33)
To quote the British philosopher, economist, employee of the
British East India Company and, subsequently, member of parliament, J. S. Mill
The most united country in Europe, France, is far from being
homogeneous: independently of the fragments of foreign nationalities at its
remote extremities, it consists, as language and history prove, of two portions,
one occupied almost exclusively by a Gallo-Roman population, while in the other
the Frankish, Burgundian, and other Teutonic races form a considerable
When proper allowance has been made for geographical exigencies,
another more purely moral and social consideration offers itself. Experience
proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and be absorbed in
another: and when it was originally an inferior and more backward portion of the
human race the absorption is greatly to its advantage.
Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial to a Breton, or
a Basque of French Navarre, to be brought into the current of the ideas and
feelings of a highly civilised and cultivated people — to be a member of the
French nationality, admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French
citizenship, sharing the advantages of French protection, and the dignity and
prestige of French power — than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage relic
of past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without participation
or interest in the general movement of the world. The same remark applies to the
Welshman or the Scottish Highlander as members of the British nation.
(Mill (1861) 1862 Ch. 16)
Hobsbawm has suggested that the minorities incorporated into the
expanding nation-states of Western Europe accepted their incorporation as both
positive and inevitable (one needs to remember that we are speaking of the
interconnected middle ranking people, not of all those inhabitants in
these regions who were excluded from middle-class networks):
… small nationalities or even nation-states which accepted their
integration into the larger nation as something positive — or, if one prefers,
which accepted the laws of progress — did not recognise any irreconcilable
differences between micro-culture and macro-culture either, or were even
reconciled to the loss of what could not be adapted to the modern age.
It was the Scots and not the English who invented the concept of
the 'North Briton' after the Union of 1707. It was the speakers and champions of
Welsh in nineteenth-century Wales who doubted whether their own language, so
powerful a medium for religion and poetry, could serve as an all-purpose
language of culture in the nineteenth-century world — i.e. who assumed the
necessity and advantages of bilingualism.
(1990, p. 35)
Middle-class Western Europeans, convinced that the social,
economic, and political world was evolving towards ever increasing size and
that small ethnic communities must, inevitably, be absorbed into larger
political structures, into nation-states.
Those states, it was believed, should be of sufficient
territory, population and resources to enable involvement in the emerging
international forms of trade and diplomacy developing amongst Western European
nation-states and between them and the United States of America. Bigger was
better! And, as ethnic and regional communities became incorporated, they
inherited the rights of 'citizens' within the nation-state. So, the government
could legitimately claim to represent them, as it did all other people who lived
within its territory.
In speaking of nations we are speaking of the coalescence of the
old medieval common-interest groups which came from a particular territory.
People only identified themselves as members of 'nations' because they were
distinguishing themselves from people of other regions of western Europe who
shared similar interests and with whom they regularly interacted. The
middle-classes of Western Europe were co-operatively interconnected with each
other not only within their own national regions, but also across national
boundaries. There was a great deal of intellectual, business and social movement
between the various 'national' territories 13.
In most Western European territories, the sense of national
identity, of mutual support and co-operation among the middle-classes, long
preceded the recognition of the 'nation-state' as a political and bureaucratic
organisation which represented the interests of people who belonged to the
It was not that a government was established which claimed
authority within a territory, and that people who did not already identify
themselves as belonging to a common nation were required to swear allegiance to
it. Rather, nationalism preceded the nation-state, which received its
legitimation from the already interconnected people of the territory.
Representative government came from national revolution and the establishment of
political and bureaucratic systems which represented the middle-class interests
of those involved in the revolution.14
The nations of Western Europe included a range of middle-class
people from ethnic and regional communities which saw their interests as
coinciding with, or complementing those of other middle-class people with whom
they identified in national government. National government could act in the
interests of the whole territory, assuming support from the 'responsible' people
in its various regions.
The focuses of government, its bureaucratic institutions and
concerns, inevitably reflected the various interests and concerns of middle
ranking people. They had become identified with the interests of the enclaves in
which the sense of national identity had been forged. As nation-states emerged,
middle ranking people could see their interests and concerns mirrored in
government organisation and policy making.
Since those people saw the government as representing their
interests, they saw, in a truly Hobbesian sense, their interests as coinciding
with the interests of the government. They could feel a sense of personal
fulfilment in its achievements, and a sense of personal difficulty in its
They took these understandings and commitments with them as they
determinedly set out to reorganise the rest of the world in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Colonies as the Globalisation of the Nation-State
European nation-states during the nineteenth century expanded
into the rest of the world 15. Wherever they went they extended their
political authority through the establishment of protectorates and colonies. As
they did in Europe, so they did in the rest of the world. They focused on
territory, and assumed the integration of 'responsible' people within
the boundaries of the territories they controlled.
Initially, Western European governments did not see their
colonial territories as independently evolving nascent nation-states. They saw
them as extensions of their own nation-state 16. The
'colonies' were a part of the evolution of the Western European nation-state,
its geographical extension into the world.
Like the Bretons, Basques, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and countless
other minorities in Western Europe, so with the peoples of Western Europe's
colonies. They would soon realise, as List (1885) had explained, the wonderful
advantages of 'mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity'
which would be their inheritance. After all, it was obvious that 'the
civilisation of the human race' is 'only conceivable and possible by means of
the civilisation and development of the individual nations' 17.
Colonial populations were identified with 'The Poor' of Western
Europe and designated 'natives'. A few, usually considered to be 'aristocratic'
in some way, were identified as nascently middle-class and sent to the Home Land
to be educated and incorporated into the ranks of the nation-state's
middle-classes: "by special favour and grudgingly made, citizens" (Houènou (1924)). It was this select Western educated elite which
would be handed control as the colonies gained independence in the post 2nd World War era.
The 'responsible' people (middle-classes) in colonial
territories, whether of local or European origin, were small in number and could
access political processes through the institutions at the centre of empire.
There seemed no reason to replicate political processes in the colonies.
Colonies merely required a subset of the bureaucratic administrative structures
of the 'home land' which would ensure their smooth functioning and integration
into the political and bureaucratic systems of the colonising nation-state 18.
Most colonial authorities established administrative machinery
throughout their territories and assumed its acceptance by the people who
inhabited the governed regions 19. The colonial administrations became the
governments of colonial territories. The head of government in the colony was,
in British colonies, the 'Governor', representative of the monarch, and
ceremonial head of the administration. Beneath him a hierarchy of administrative
officials existed, which preserved and accentuated the social order of the Home
Land. Similar authority structures were developed in most Western European
Houènou (1924), speaking of the administrators he had dealings with
in Dahomey (Benin), described:
… the daily abuses of the Colonial Policy, and in particular, of
the Policy called Native Policy. This Policy is a source of perpetual vexations.
Let me illustrate: A European passing along the highways can
arrest a native and condemn him to 15 days imprisonment for the sole reason that
he did not take off his hat to a white man. You will say to me that these are
insignificant matters; but the arbitrariness goes much farther.
The power of the Administrator is enormous. Contrary to that
which happens in Europe, it is the accumulation of all powers; it is the
accumulation of legislative and executive powers; it is the accumulation of
judicial and administrative powers, — it is despotic power without control.
As the writer Somerset Maugham described them, colonial
administrators, taken out of their European milieu, often appeared almost
ludicrously self-important caricatures of their counterparts at the centres of
In establishing administrative bureaucracies in colonies,
colonial authorities believed they were involved in the historical evolution of
those territories by linking them, through the colonising state, into world-wide
political and economic networks. It was believed that, given the evolutionary
process of constantly increasing size and complexity, colonised populations
could only benefit from (and should be grateful for) the establishment of
colonial administration and reorganisation of their communities.
As J. S. Mill, erstwhile resident in India and employee of the
British East India Company, had put it,
Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to
merge and be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and
more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to its
(1861, Ch. 16)
To understand the political problems faced by Third World
nations in the second-half of the twentieth century, we need to realise how
unanticipated was their emancipation from Western European colonial status. It
was simply not presumed that they were in the process of moving toward
'independence' of any kind. As Winston Churchill said in a speech before the British
House of Commons on 18th June 1940,
If we can stand up to [Hitler] all Europe may be free and the
life of the world may move forward into broad and sunlit uplands.
If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States,
and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark
age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the light of a perverted
Let us therefore, do our duty and so bear ourselves that if the
British Commonwealth and the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, “This
was their finest hour”.
The idea of grooming colonies for independence was an
afterthought (in most cases post-2nd World War) of a dawning
realisation that, like it or not, most colonial territories were going to gain
independence from their European schoolmasters. Most European governments were
reluctant to relinquish control of their colonial territories but found
themselves with few options.
The 2nd World War proved a watershed for
colonial empires. The European powers were unable, during the war, to closely
maintain supervision of their colonies and many colonial administrations had
unravelled through neglect. The costs of re-establishing control in the face of
increasingly organised resistance from colonial populations were prohibitive.
Colonial peoples had been co-opted into fighting for their European masters and
had received both military training and counter-insurgency training which would
serve them well as they returned home and asserted their right to
Most European states found themselves with huge debts to the
United States, which had bankrolled the war effort and then presented European
governments with the bill. For the USA, war had proved good business. The US
would use the leverage it gained to reshape the world in the ways which best
suited its own interests.
The United States became banker to the world, holding the
mortgages of all those states which had gone into debt to fight 'The War'. It
became leader of, and a major supplier of armaments of all kinds to the 'Free
World' — i.e. the world which accepted and followed its ideological
understandings and leadership. For the next fifty years it would live on income
generated by those mortgages and new mortgages negotiated with all those Third
World countries which came into its orbit as European empires crumbled 20.
The internal infrastructures of Western European colonial powers
had all but collapsed through the war years and they simply did not have the
financial means to reassert control of their colonies. The real winners in the
aftermath of the war proved to be the two emergent superpowers: the USA and the
There were new kids on the block, and they were going to take
over the world. Neither had been involved in the 19th
Century acquisition of colonial empires. They saw no reason why the weakened
European states should retain the advantages which privileged access to their
colonial empires gave them.
Through the post-war years, the USSR would champion the 'right'
of colonial people to independence and back this up with military training and
weapons support. The USA, realising that it was in their interest to ensure they
had unfettered access to the colonies, very strongly pressured Western European
governments into granting independence to colonial territories.
Western European colonial powers faced the joint pressures of a
'Cold War' between the two superpowers (as they arm-wrestled for international
dominance) and US insistence on free access to their colonies. With the combined
problems of national indebtedness, costs of taking sides in the developing
superpower confrontation, and re-establishing their own faltering
infrastructures and economies, their empires became a mill-stone which most
Colonial powers could do without.
Much as they might have wanted to retain them, and however
strongly they attempted to assert the right to control, one after another,
colonial territories gained independence. European colonial empires crumbled
over about forty years between 1945 and the 1980s.
I was involved in research aimed at grooming a British colony —
The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony — for independence as late as the early
1970s. As a preliminary to my research I investigated the administrative
structures of the colony and found that trainee ministers from the indigenous
population had been appointed to each of the colonial administrative departments
by the British administration. I was told that the aim was that they should
learn how everything worked before taking over (some 3-4 years later).
Assuming that they would have departmental information at their
disposal, and interested in their views of where things were going, I
interviewed relevant ministers (there were, of course, no British counterparts
in the colony since it was an administrative outpost of the British governmental
They seemed genuinely surprised that I should want to talk with
them. Once I began questioning them they quickly explained that they had no
access to any ongoing activity or policy making in their departments. Their
opinions were simply not sought by the administrative staff who generally
thought them something of a nuisance. They had been given offices and titles but
there was little or no 'grooming' going on!
Given the British Westminster system of parliamentary democracy,
this was not surprising. In the Westminster System, there is a clearly
established and carefully maintained separation between the political and
administrative arms of government. Few administrative personnel knew how to
'train' future politicians — or felt that it was important to do so!
There was little long-term education or planning engaged in by
any of the Western European powers as they handed governmental reins over to
indigenous leaders 21. Territories which went from colonial to
post-colonial status, simply inherited the colonial bureaucratic machinery and
had political processes and institutions appended to them, often less than two
years prior to gaining independence.
Taking over alien political and administrative structures
Colonies moved from being bureaucratic dictatorships to
'parliamentary democracies' with almost no education of the population in
democratic ideas or procedures, and often with only a single election of
political leaders prior to independence.
It could be claimed that this was because their European masters
had simply lost interest, or were genuinely aggrieved at losing control.
However, while those might have been considerations, it was also rather naïvely
believed that democracy of the Western European kind was 'natural' to human
beings. Freed from the dictatorial and capricious control of 'chiefs' and
'warlords', it was believed that people would revel in the new found freedom
which Western forms of governmental organisation gave them 22.
Many of the problems of Third World countries seem to centre on
attempts to recreate, in alien environments, Western-style 'nations' and
Western-style 'nationalism' amongst their peoples. In attempting to emulate
Western nations, they have introduced expectations and understandings which
appear to fit very poorly into the cultural understandings and expectations
indigenous to the peoples of post-colonial territories.
To understand the presumptions and expectations of those
responsible for establishing new nations in the post-War period, we need to
understand why they assumed the viability of such nation-states, and why they
presumed that strong national sentiments amongst the people incorporated in such
states would automatically follow the establishment of new nations. We also need
to understand the nature of the political expectations and presumptions of the
populations which have, in large measure, shaped the post-War experience of
Third World nations.
A growing chorus of Third World writers has insisted on the
inappropriateness of such presumptions for the government of post-colonial
countries. Julius Ihonvbere is among the clearer of such voices, claiming that:
… the masses in Africa, relate to the state as an exploitative,
coercive and alien structure [whose] custodians lack credibility and legitimacy
and are thus incapable of mobilising or leading the people.
More recently, Kamilu Fage has claimed of Nigeria 23
… Nigerian experience leaves much to be desired. After several
attempts at democratization (involving constitutional reforms, elections etc),
the country is yet to evolve a viable, virile and stable democracy that will
elicit popular support and or even have direct bearing on the lives of the
generality of the ordinary people.
… the subtle re-emergence of the ugly signs of the past
(violence, bickering and fracas in the state and national assemblies, feuds
between the executive and legislative arms of the government, electoral
malpractices, corruption, oppression etc) raise the fear that Nigerian democracy
is still on shaky grounds.
Richard Joseph of the Brookings Institute has given a sombre
description of Nigeria in 2010:
In 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Council predicted the
“outright collapse of Nigeria as a nation-state within the next 15 years.” Five
years later, Nigerians themselves often refer to their country as a “failed
state”. What most characterizes life for its citizens is insecurity. Armed
robbery has recently become more terrifying with kidnapping conducted to extract
ransoms. On the eve of Nigeria’s 50th anniversary in October 2010, basic needs
in electricity, water, and public health are unmet. Even fuel for cars is often
scarce in this major petroleum exporter.
Nigeria is today a bruised and disoriented nation.
After the Colonies
Following the Second World War, Western imperial powers, with
varying degrees of reluctance, moved out of their colonies. As they did so, they
created 'new nations', with responsibility for government usually inherited by
Western-educated elites. Their training, based on Western European
understandings of the world, led them to believe that Western forms of political
and administrative organisation were essential to the ongoing well-being of
Most European commentators simply assumed that where there was a
nation-state one would soon find an emerging sense of nationalism. The viability
of the nation-state was assumed and political failure could only result from
political and economic ineptitude and/ or from a failure to provide properly
representative government. The subsequent histories of post-colonial states, in
large part, reflect attempts to adapt Western nation-state organisation to their
territorial and ethnic realities.
Obafemi Awolowo's (1947) description/explanation of Nigerian
realities was indeed prescient (and applicable to many other post-colonial
There are various national or ethnical groups in the country. Ten
main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo,
(3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9)
Nupe, and (10) Ijaw. According to Nigeria Handbook, eleventh edition, 'there are
also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'
It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a
nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between
them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The
fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental
All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the
country militate against unification…. It is evident from the experiences of
other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers
which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 48-9)
Amongst the important influences on governments and people in
Third World countries have been the reification of 'the state' and 'the people'
in most discussion of Third World nations and peoples and the formulation of
governmental policies based on that reification. Instead of squarely facing and
taking into account the ethnic diversities of post-colonial nation-states, there
has been a belief in their inherent unity and ability to be treated as unified
Their post-colonial reorganisation has usually been undertaken
as an exercise in 'modernising' inherently homogeneous nation-states. The
modernisation thesis,24 espoused in various forms and with various emphases by most
development specialists over the past fifty years, has been an optimistic one.
It has assumed that, for those nations which genuinely and consistently
implement the necessary social, political and economic changes, transformation
into modern industrialised nation-states is inevitable.
A Few Assumptions underpinning Post-Colonial 'Development'
The state has been assumed to be a self-existent entity,
separate from the communities which it controls, and able to impose necessary
changes, however radical, on its populace 25. Important responsibilities placed on
new nation-states by these specialists have included establishing those
institutions necessary to economic development, and providing the social and
political climate necessary to stimulate self-interested, competitive material
accumulation, leading, it is assumed, to an inevitable 'take-off into
self-sustained economic growth' (cf Rostow 1956, 1961).
Because most political and economic theorists and practitioners
believe that 'traditional' societies are being transformed into modern
societies, with traditional features destined for oblivion, Third World
communities have been regarded as transient. Problems encountered by
'traditionally orientated' individuals and communities are assumed to be, in
large measure, consequences of this shift to modernity. So, rather than focusing
on the social problems of such communities, one needs to step up the pace of
Third World governments, it has been believed 26 should, therefore, in the face of the
breakdown of law and order and social cohesion in traditional communities, more
rigorously implement those measures which will transform them into
industrialised nation-states, with all the advantages of such a transformation.
The dissolution of the old is a necessary precursor and
concomitant of modernisation and the state should keep its eyes firmly fixed on
that goal, not deviating to attend to problems which are inevitable, but
transient consequences of moving toward it. As Sangmpam put it:
… modernisation theory assumes an imaginary society because the
real society in the Third World is perceived as 'transient'
… Various solutions have been proposed to combat
underdevelopment. Central to these solutions is the role assigned to the state
as the 'engine of development'. Until recently, it was thought that an
authoritarian state could better perform 'developmentalist' tasks.
In recent years, the state has been invested with the capacity to
move toward democracy, which presumably will lead to socioeconomic development.
The belief in the state is reinforced by the call to 'bring-the-state-back-in',
according to which the state and its policies reflect almost autonomous
institutions and the actions of those occupying these institutions.
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 1)
This assumes a 'government' separate from the people it governs,
with political leaders somehow separate from and able to impose their policies
on the populace (echoing colonial administrative practice). All this is based,
of course, on a reification of 'government' and the separation of a 'political
environment' from other 'environments' such as the 'economic' and the 'social'.
It also assumes the depersonalization of government and a clear separation
between its political and administrative arms, that is institutional, routinised
Western-style government (see Max Weber (1968)).
Politicians are identified with their parties and platforms. The
people they represent assume that they will support their party in parliament
and only secondarily focus on the local needs and interests of the electorate.
Members of parliament are insulated from the impersonal institutional
bureaucracies through which government policies are carried out.
In the Third World, these presumptions are usually difficult to
sustain. Political activity is commonly not separate from other forms of
activity, and those with political power exercise it personally. Political
parties often find it difficult to pursue a coherent set of policies since
members of parliament are focused on their own electorates' concerns. That is,
government, both in formulating policy and in the delivery of services is
For people who live in communities where it is both natural and
proper for leaders to be personally connected with their followers, this
personalisation is unexceptional. Government is not separate from the people,
and politicians access the administrative departments of government through
networks of patron-client relationships which link not only the administrative
bureaucracy and politicians, but also politicians and their constituents.
From 1945 to 1990, post-colonial nations were subjected to a
forty-five year period of 'cold war' between the two 'superpowers' which emerged
from the Second World War. Both superpowers held contradictory, but nonetheless
equally Western ideologies, which they each attempted to impose on the rest of
This, in turn, split the world into three camps:
- those who supported capitalism and saw in Marxism, communism
and socialism the anti-Christ which denied individual human rights and enslaved
subjects to the state (The First World);
- those who saw in capitalism the rapacious greed of a few,
subjecting the many to work for their individual and private gain (The Second
- and a third, 'non-aligned' group, with many shadings, which
sought to remain neutral, claiming to hold neither ideology, but some other
political rationale suitable to their particular circumstances. It was in
reference to this 'non-aligned' movement that the term 'Third World' first
Development Agencies, Human Rights and Structural Adjustment Programs
As new Third World nations emerged from the late 1940s onwards,
confronted by enormous political and economic problems, the industrialised world
became increasingly aware of the need to 'develop' 'undeveloped', 'under
developed' and 'less developed' regions. It was strongly believed in 'Third
World Development' circles, that, unless Third World communities were
'developed', they would fall prey to Soviet propaganda.
Over the next forty years, a wide range of national,
international and voluntary 'development' organisations were established. Chief
amongst these have been international organisations with charters which require
them to fund and organise Third World development programs and plans.28
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have
had responsibility for advising governments on economic, welfare and development
matters, for funding major projects, and for overseeing economic development in
the new nations. In the process, they have widely been accused of imposing their
own Western priorities and ideological interests on those governments most in
need of assistance.
Fantu Cheru discussed this:
In the words of former President Nyerere of Tanzania, the IMF has
become 'the International Ministry of Finance', with enormous leverage to
dictate the national policies of Third World governments …
As in the case of IMF loans, the [World] Bank grants credit only
after a borrower-government signs a letter of intent in which it undertakes to
comply with certain conditions. These conditions, however, go beyond the
traditional IMF recipe and require major institutional reforms …
The critics of the IMF and the World Bank charge that these
institutions represent the interests of Western countries and that their
orthodox prescriptions are not appropriate to the circumstances of African
countries as they fail to address the root causes of underdevelopment and
(Cheru 1989, pp. 35-6, 38-9)
The United Nations has provided a forum for interchanges between
developed and developing countries. It has also often been accused of being a
vehicle for the imposition of First World demands on Third World governments,
including the imposition of sets of 'universal principles' relating to the
rights of individuals and the responsibilities of governments.
Following the Second World War, with the ideological
confrontation of capitalism and communism, Western nations became increasingly
concerned with 'human rights', particularly with the right of individuals to
freedom of movement and self-expression. No government should have the right to
control movement. The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (1966) spelt this out clearly.
Of course, only 30 years earlier, Western European colonial
powers had no difficulty in imposing severe restrictions on the movement of
indigenous peoples within and from their colonies 29.
Western nations, claiming such freedom of movement to be a
crucial distinction between themselves and those aligned with the Eastern Bloc,
put pressure on Third World governments to comply with the United Nations
covenants. These, over the years, have consistently addressed current social,
political and economic concerns of First World countries.
Article 12 of the above Covenant reads:
- Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall,
within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to
choose his [sic] residence.
- Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his
- The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any
restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect
national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the
rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights
recognized in the present Covenant.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter
his own country. 30
Not only were Third World governments pressured to implement
such resolutions, the United Nations organisations formed to provide development
assistance provided means of leverage to donor countries.
Where First World governments disapproved of political processes
and developments within the new nations, they very often used these
international organisations as forums within which they could voice their
concerns and through which they could pressure Third World governments for
Accusations made against the activities of many of these
organisations have been that the priorities which have been set, and the
programs and projects which have been funded, have reflected First World rather
than Third World concerns; and that these programs and the activities of
international organisations have very often been motivated by 'human rights'
issues which reflect the political concerns of First World nations.
The Indonesian Government, in 1993, spelt out its attitude to
such First World pressures:
Human rights questions are essentially ethical and moral in
nature. Hence, any approach to human rights questions which is not motivated by
a sincere desire to protect these rights but by disguised political or, worse,
to serve as a pretext to wage a political campaign against another country,
cannot be justified 31.
Given the international tensions of the 'Cold War' period, it is
small wonder that the international political concerns of donor nations strongly
influenced their development priorities. This led them to use development
funding as a means of pressuring governments into endorsing their interests and
Much of the pressure exerted on post-colonial governments during
this period was concerned, not with the material well-being of Third World
peoples so much as with ensuring the commitment of governments and people to the
ideological biases of the donor nations.
With the demise of the Soviet Union, 'non-alignment' has become
anachronistic. Now there is only one highly successful and very dominant
ideology (with its variants) in the West, with socialism and communism in
disrepute. Those who, in the past, sought to remain nonaligned, now have little
option but to accept the ascendancy of capitalism and attempt to reorganise
their communities to participate in the rapidly expanding international
Many of them, in the 1980s and 1990s, at World Bank and
International Monetary Fund (IMF) instigation, implemented structural adjustment
programs (SAPs) to reorientate their political and economic organisation and
activity to neoliberal, free-market requirements. As Jason Oringer and Carol
Welch (1998) claimed,
SAPs share a common objective: to move countries away from
self-directed models of national development that focus on the domestic market
and toward outward-looking development models that stress the importance of
complete integration into the dominant global structures of trade, finance, and
In the new international climate, no nation could escape
involvement in the emerging global communications, financial, enterprise,
information and entertainment networks. Nor could they insulate themselves from
the deregulative forces which exposed populations to the vagaries of the
international marketplace. These gave transnational corporations and
organisations increasing influence within Third World national boundaries.
Confusing Third World intra-national tensions with international
As colonial territories gained independence, they entered a
world threatened by the confrontation of two world industrial powers, armed with
weapons of mass destruction. No country was immune from the resulting tensions
and from the demands made upon them to support or oppose the Western and Eastern
While there was no Third World War during this period, there
were innumerable 'brush fires' or small wars.
Third World countries, fraught with internal tensions and
challenges to central authority, became the target of Cold War rivalries. As
regional interests in Third world nations challenged central governments they
looked for external support and ways of obtaining weaponry and military
expertise. They soon learned the language of international Cold War
confrontation and used it very effectively in appealing for backing for their
First, convince a Cold War bloc that they were committed to its
ideological position. Second, convince them that their opponent was on the side
of the opposing bloc. Once done, this would quickly be followed by funding for
their activities by the major world players and their allies. This 'funding'
was, of course, not 'free'. The costs of the wars were borne by the Third World
countries, not by those international players who 'supported' them.
Inevitably, once one side in an internal Third World national
conflict received international support of this kind, the other side found
itself the recipient of 'military aid' from the opposing bloc. In this way,
superpower tensions spilt over into the rest of the world, reclassifying local
disputes in Cold War terms and financially crippling the Third world nations
involved in the disputes.
During the Cold War period, these reclassified wars were fought
in colonial and post-colonial countries, with opponents armed and supported by
the two superpowers or their allies. Each conflict was recast as an ideological
confrontation between capitalism and communism, proxies for direct conflict
between First and Second World players (the superpowers and their allies were
only directly involved in three of these wars). Only two of them (in Northern
Ireland and Turkey) were not fought on Third World soil.
Because they were insulated from the conflict, this period of
worldwide turmoil and bloodshed has often been described by people in Western
nations as a prolonged period of peace. That peace has usually been attributed
to the balanced build-up of nuclear weapons, which guaranteed the 'mutually
assured destruction' (with the appropriate acronym 'MAD') of the two superpowers
should they enter into war with each other.
In Third world nations, however, during this period millions of
people were killed in wars which were bankrolled and armed by the superpowers
and their allies in the name of the ideological confrontation of capitalism and
This was not a period when newly independent countries could
concentrate on their 'development' equitably aided by 'developed' nations and
development organisations whose interests in their affairs were wholly benign
and positive. This was a period when countries which wished to receive 'aid'
from the 'developed' 'First' (capitalist) or 'Second' (communist) worlds had to
demonstrate their ideological commitment to the bloc which provided the
It was a period in which the bloc which did
not provide the aid almost certainly attempted to develop and/or maintain
festering discontent and rebellion within the country. The aim of this
interference in the internal affairs of Third World countries was, through
successfully fuelling insurrection, to replace the leadership with people
committed to the ideology of the ideological bloc promoting the confrontation.
Throughout the Third World, governments, faced with the enormous
task (inherited from colonial powers) of developing the infrastructures of
'modern' 'industrialised' countries, found themselves fighting 'insurgents' or
'rebels' or 'guerrilla movements', spending a great deal of their time, energy
and resources on these conflicts.
Kick and Kiefer described the scene in the late 1980s:
In the last few years, developing countries have spent nearly
[US] $20 billion per annum on the importation of armaments …
Militarisation of the Third World coincides with a marked
post-war change in the global theatres of war from the developed to the
developing countries. In the first half of this century major wars involved
direct contention between the prevailing world powers, but since 1945 the
structure of international warfare has shifted.
Sivard (1982) identifies 65 major wars and 10,700,000 civilian
and battle deaths during 1960-1982, and with only two exceptions (Northern
Ireland and Turkey) these wars were entirely fought on the territory of
developing countries …
The rivalry between the capitalist and eastern socialist power
blocs has … been played out in the Third World by the provision of military
equipment to local combatants, and less often by direct intervention either by
the sponsors themselves or by their proxies.
(Kick & Kiefer 1987, pp. 34, 44)
As Michael Renner described, 'more than $1.2 trillion worth of
military equipment has been transferred [to Third World countries] during the
past three decades' (1994, p.23).35 It was small wonder that 'development' activities were less than
successful, and that Third World governments, by the 1980s, faced bankruptcy and
Dan Connell spelt out some of the consequences:
In 1991, of the 25 largest Third World debtors, 12 were at war,
and many were on a war footing …
From 1970 to 1989, according to UN reports, Third World debt
skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion, leaving several nations
owing more than they produce in annual income. Today, many countries have been
forced to restructure their economies to keep up interest payments, while living
standards plunge, urban squalor and rural poverty deepen, and infant and
maternal mortality rates climb toward pre-independence levels.
With the best land reserved for export crops and natural
resources sold off at discount rates, their ability to feed themselves declines
further while environmental degradation proceeds apace. And more money is
borrowed to stave off imminent catastrophe.
(Connell 1993, p. 1)
As James Speth, Administrator of the United Nations Development
Program, said of Africa in 1994:
We conveniently forget Africa's history. We forget that the
transatlantic slave trade robbed Africa of about 12 million of its able-bodied
men and women. We forget that colonialism which followed the slave trade
introduced a system of exploitation of Africa's natural resources to feed the
industries of the West.
We forget the 1884/1885 Colonial Conferences of Berlin which
crudely Balkanised and divided Africa into geographic areas of control by the
West, with scant regard for ethnic groupings. We even forget that during the
period of the cold war's geopolitical fight for spheres of influence, Africa
became a focal point for the ideology and the arms that today contribute to the
havoc we find in Rwanda and Burundi, in Zaire and Angola and Somalia
… Conflict and wars claim resources that would otherwise be spent
on education and health and housing and other areas of development.
… A large part of the blame for this trading in death rests with
the industrial countries who, while giving aid in the order of $60 billion a
year, earn much more in arms sales and otherwise from the estimated $125 billion
per year in military expenditures of the developing world.
At the very time when post-colonial governments were attempting
to establish viable political and administrative institutions in their
countries, legitimised by popular acceptance and participation, they were
required to develop sophisticated international policies and interactions. They
had to balance the geo-political demands of the superpowers with an increasing
range of 'development' requirements placed on them by an emerging set of
international institutions. The conflicting and contradictory demands to which
Third World governments were subjected made long-term, rational planning
Problems of nation-building
The 'nations' created by colonial powers usually directly
reflected the geographical territories which they had ruled. They usually
incorporated a variety of ethnic groupings, sometimes traditionally opposed to
one another, sometimes more closely tied to other communities not included
within the national boundaries, and sometimes opposed through the activities of
the colonial powers themselves 36.
In almost all colonial territories, a small Western educated
minority, very often representatives of a number of separate ethnic groupings in
the colony, had been groomed to consider themselves members of the
middle-classes of the colonising powers. As Houènou (1924) described of his own attachment to France:
To begin with, I must completely absolve France from the policies
of some of her children. We who have been reared in the Motherland—we know her,
we love her, and we have unshakeable confidence in her.
But, I regret to say, though I say it fearlessly, that the
representatives whom she sends to her colonies fail to perform their duties.
More than that, they betray the interests of France and compromise her future.
They betray the interests of Africa, and thereby compromise the future of a
people who has the right to exist.
My sympathy, my affection, my love for France cannot be doubted;
for in the critical hours of 1914, without compulsion of any sort, I assumed
spontaneously the duty of all citizens and exposed my life like all
As we've seen, the sense of inclusive, co-operative identity
between middle ranking people preceded the establishment of most
Western European nation-states. The small educated minority from the colonies
were educated to identify with those middle ranking people.
However, as Houènou claimed, they often felt they had been
tolerated rather than whole-heartedly included in middle class company, "by
special favour and grudgingly made, citizens" of the colonising power. In many
ways they were neither fully accepted as citizens of the 'Motherland', nor, any
longer, closely identified in their own minds with people in the colonies from
which they had been taken.
The nationalism of most Third World nations consisted in the
desire of these Western educated individuals to validate themselves by taking
over the reins of government from colonial administrators. This was coupled with
a strong desire on the part of the populace to be freed from foreign domination.
In most new nations, the post-colonial nation-state preceded the
emergence of nationalism amongst the vast majority of the population. Those who
inherited government, inherited a responsibility which few colonial
administrations had accepted — they would have to find ways in which to develop
and maintain a sense of nationalism amongst the diverse peoples of their
The unity of a colony was, to the colonial power, a consequence
of its administration, and did not require the active endorsement of the
indigenous populations. The post-colonial nation-state, however, as a result of
very strong international pressures and a presumption of the universal
applicability of Western democratic forms, needed to receive its legitimation
from the population.
Post-colonial governments, unlike the colonial administrations
which preceded them, needed to be ratified through the identification of their
populations with them as legitimate and unifying authorities within national
Colonial powers had provided administration, and administrative
representatives down to the local village and household levels in the form of
magistrates, police, wardens, and council officers. They had imposed these
structures and authorities on the colonial populations. They had assumed, but
had not felt any need to engender, the commitment of villagers to their
In contrast, post-colonial governments needed to engender in
their populations a sense of 'belonging' to the nation, rather than to a
particular region, ethnic group or clan. Governments, therefore, had to intrude
into the lives of their constituents in ways not contemplated by most colonial
Bice Maiguashca explained it well:
As for the Third World, during the 1950s and 1960s most of the
newly created states concentrated their attention on establishing political
centralisation and fostering national integration. As a consequence, most
indigenous peoples, who had enjoyed a relative degree of autonomy during the
colonial period, now found themselves under the authority of local elites who
were driven by the imperative of 'nation-building' and who sought to consolidate
their precarious hold on power through any means available to them …
(Maiguashca 1994, p. 361)
National governments, handed control by colonial authorities,
had to intrude into the identities and self-definitions of relatively insular
regions, ethnic groups and clans. They had to attempt to inculcate new
perceptions and understandings, through which people would primarily define
themselves as members of the nation, so as to weld them into a coherent whole.
They had to begin 'nation-building' in a way not confronted by
their colonial predecessors.
Those who inherited the reins of governmental power usually saw
their task as one of establishing a European-style 'nation-state' 37. The motives for support by the
majority of the population however, usually had less to do with the
establishment of a nation-state than with the displacement of those who had
imposed such ideas upon them.
This new, and often very intrusive, involvement of national
political and governmental activity in local and regional affairs created
mounting tension in many regions. In many countries the resentment generated by
such intrusion led to independence claims by regions and ethnic groups.
Decentralisation of Political and Governmental Organisation
Most colonial authorities, though claiming to be aware of the
strong divisive forces which existed within the territories they were handing
over to indigenous elites, counselled new governments to devolve political and
administrative authority to regions. This decentralisation of political and
governmental organisation and activity, it was hoped, would dampen demands for
secession from the new nation.
This emphasis on devolution echoed conventional wisdom in
political and economic development circles, which held that, in order to ensure
grassroots involvement in political and economic development, it was necessary
to involve people as directly as possible in the responsibilities of government
Premdas and Steeves (1984) spelt out the rationale clearly:
If decolonisation means anything, it would at least entail the
dismantling and re-orienting of the inherited bureaucracy rendering government
administrative behaviour subservient to community will. In essence,
decolonisation at the grassroots becomes more of a reality where decision making
and execution do not remain the monopoly or preserve of civil servants but
rather are controlled by elected local councils.
The overdeveloped centre must be deconcentrated to the periphery;
a meaningful measure of autonomy in political decision making should be devolved
to the vast majority of citizens who are rural dwellers …
(Premdas & Steeves 1984, p. 2)
However, the problems confronting new nations could not be so
easily overcome. In most countries, devolution of governmental responsibilities
to provincial and regional governments simply multiplied the problems associated
with governing through poorly legitimised political structures. A further level
of inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy and political office was added to a
structure which was quickly to come under real strain 39.
Further, once regions gained political voice of their own, it
became easier for regional interests to argue for secession, centred on the
existing political and bureaucratic structures. Many post-independence
separation movements focused their rebellions through taking control of
provincial and regional governments in their areas.
Post-colonial governments faced challenges to their autonomy
from several directions:
- international organisations and major international political
powers placed strong demands on them to accept and act on their priorities and
- the deregulation demanded by those involved in the emerging
international economic order made governments less and less able to control
economic and welfare activity within their territories;
- and regional forces challenged the legitimacy of the
Benjamin Barber and Regine Temam (1992) claimed that
internationalisation and tribalism in the 1990s were still, and perhaps even
more successfully, undermining the traditional political institutions of the
On the one hand, global economic and ecological forces were
requiring increasing integration and uniformity in the world, with deregulation
making national borders permeable. On the other hand, nations were being
threatened by 'resurgent, conflicting nationalities and tribal enmities' (Barber
& Temam 1992, p. 13).
The leadership and internal organisation of regional and ethnic
groups and clans incorporated within the new nations had very often been warped,
disrupted and weakened during the colonial period. Those (primarily Western
educated elites) who sought power in the new nations found in those groups
fertile soil for their own ambitions. They often attempted to subvert and/ or
displace 'traditional' leadership in order to establish personal support-bases
within their own ethnic and regional communities through which they could gain
control of the national government 40.
Ikejiani described the scene in Nigeria in 1964, three years
after gaining independence:
It is glaringly evident that the distinguishing mark in Nigerian
public life presently is not a man's political philosophy, or religion, or
party, or education, or wealth, or personal qualities, but in the last analysis
his tribe or origin. Nigerians carry these tribal thoughts into all aspects of
their daily life. They carry them into their friendships, into their
occupations, into their loyalties and into their prejudices. Politics in Nigeria
not only has a regional cleavage, subtle and most grossly evident, but also clan
connotation. There is a deep struggle for tribal superiority as well.
… It is certainly beyond dispute that in our factories and shops,
in government offices, in corporations and in our various institutions,
appointments and promotions are made, in many cases, on tribal and clan
(Ikejiani 1964, p. 122)
Rather than a shared 'nationalism' amongst the populace, the
leaders of new nations found that colonial administration had done little to
weaken ethnic and clan loyalties and identities. It had been just as ineffective
in establishing any sense of shared identity between the disparate communities
within national territorial boundaries.
Most colonial people interacted with the colonial structures at
the local level and seldom needed to think in terms of an over arching
'national' bureaucracy. In consequence, for most people, pre-colonial political
allegiances, while distorted by colonial experience, were still potent.
Chukwudum Okolo put it well:
Perhaps the best description of the African reality is tribalism,
which is Africa's foremost social evil. Tribal wars have long been part of the
continent's chequered history, and a source of social, political, and economic
distress since independence. The identifiable cause of coups in Africa lies in
tribal struggles for power.
(Okolo 1989, p. 33)
Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination
During the 1990s, with Third World governments assumed to be
firmly in control of their national territories, an international emphasis
emerged on minorities, on 'the Fourth World' or 'Indigenous Nations' (see Hughes
1997). The International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous
Nations, presented to the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations in
1994, provided a clear statement of the focus:
The Charter of the United Nations, International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and resolutions and declarations of the World Council of
Indigenous Peoples, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the International Indian
Treaty Council and other international bodies related to these organs affirm the
fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by
virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue
their economic, social and cultural development.
Paradoxically, as emphasis was increasingly placed on the
globalisation of economies and the emergence of supra-national political, social
and economic integration, the rights of minority groups within national
boundaries were increasingly emphasised in international debate. Representatives
of such groups found receptive audiences in international forums and in First
World nations in pressing claims for the recognition of:
… the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights and
characteristics of Indigenous Nations, especially the right to lands,
territories and resources, which derive from each Nation's culture; aspects of
which include spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, as well as
political, economic and social customs and structures.
While continuing to treat the state as separate from and able to
direct the activities of 'its people', international organisations and First
World leaders 41 increasingly required Third World
governments to recognise the rights of minorities within their boundaries. As
the Covenant said:
Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination, in
accordance with international law, and by virtue of that right they freely
determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and
cultural development without external interference;
… Indigenous Nations may freely choose to participate fully in
the political, economic, social and cultural life of a State while maintaining
their distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, and not
relinquishing the inherent right of sovereignty.
By placing these demands in the context of Awolowo's description
of colonial Nigeria, it becomes apparent that post-colonial authorities were
going to face enormous problems if they accepted such demands and attempted to
act on them:
There are various national or ethnical groups in the country
[Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1)
Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or
Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.… 'there are also a great number of other
small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'
It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a
nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between
them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 48-9)
In part, these apparently contradictory emphases signalled the
decreasing importance being placed upon nation-states in the world of the late
1990s. In part, however, the emphasis on the rights of minorities also reflected
the realities of the ethnic conflict which has been present in Third World
nations since their inception, and which was becoming a major concern in the
As a 1995 Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)
More and more small states are emerging, requiring new forms of
extra-national arrangements and development assistance. Conflicts such as those
in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya are recent and dramatic manifestations of an
emergent nationalism that created new, and exacerbated old, political, economic,
religious, and ethnic problems. Violence and war have continued unabated in
various parts of the developing world.
Third World nations were being challenged by forces both inside
and outside state boundaries 42.
Since September 11th 2001, with the West re-oriented to seeking
out and destroying 'terrorists' wherever they might be found (or imagined!),
those minorities which have not already secured rights (and many who have) find
themselves categorised as 'terrorists' by central governments.
A new language has emerged to legitimise harsh reaction to
minority demands. Branding a minority movement a 'separatist terrorist
organisation' seems to mute condemnation of any action against them from most
Western governments. Adopting the policies and justificatory language of George
W. Bush's United States, central governments have readily asserted, in the words
of Henry Hyde, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on
International Relations (October 3 2001), that:
We must be prepared not only to protect ourselves from new
assaults, not only to intercept and frustrate them, but to eliminate new threats
at their source. This must be a permanent campaign, similar to the ancient one
humanity has waged against disease and its never-ending assault upon our
With Western governments committed to similar reaction to those
who oppose them around the world, it has become increasingly difficult for
disadvantaged minorities to gain support or even a hearing in international
forums. Movements which were supported during the 1990s are now cut adrift, to
fend for themselves.
The consequences can be seen in the increasing flows of
displaced persons, no longer welcome in Western countries which now see them —
whatever their age or gender — as a looming threat to national security.
The World is Awash in Weapon Systems
From the outset, most Third World governments have had to
contend with the competing interests of powerful ethnic and regional groups,
more intent on furthering their own interests than in ensuring workable national
government. This, in many countries, has led to long-term civil unrest,
insurrection, and civil war.
In the climate of the Cold War, such difficulties were
compounded by international powers confounding tribal, regional and clan
conflict with ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism. The
protagonists were, as we've seen, often armed and funded by competing
In the post-Cold War period, the flow of arms did not diminish.
With huge stockpiles of weapons no longer required by Western and Eastern bloc
countries, arms merchants were able to offer sophisticated weaponry at bargain
basement prices with little or no check on the credentials or intentions of
James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, in testimony to
the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee on 10 January 1995, claimed that:
… the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and
technology [is] a growing military threat as unprecedented numbers of
sophisticated weapons systems are offered for sale on the world market.
Especially troubling is the proliferation of technologies and
expertise in areas such as sensors, materials, and propulsion in supporting the
development and modernisation of weapons systems.
Apart from the capability of some advanced conventional weapons
to deliver weapons of mass destruction, such weapons have the potential to
significantly alter military balances, and disrupt U.S. military operations and
cause significant U.S. casualties.
And Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of the Defense
Intelligence Agency, before the same committee:
[W]hile we tend to focus on current and future high technology
big-ticket items, it's important to remember that the world is already awash in
weapon systems. These range from the relatively simple small arms and mines, to
more advanced hand held surface to air missiles, to increasingly advanced
anti-ship cruise missiles.
Any country with hard currency can and will get these systems.
And while they won't lead to military defeat of U.S. forces, they certainly hold
out the prospect of casualties. As we have seen in the past, this can have both
a major impact on force planning for peacekeeping operations and a significant
domestic political impact on their conduct.
Monitor February 1995, p. 3)
As Rachel Stohl has described, the 21st century has seen little
change in the flow of weaponry to Third World territories:
In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and
transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military
assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights,
democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have
pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.
Parliamentary democracy, one-party states, military coups
Destructive as the weapons build-up and regional and ethnic
challenges have been within Third World countries, there were other equally
disruptive forces involved in challenging the viability of new nation-states.
Where post-colonial governments were established through the electoral processes
of democracy, those who entered parliament were supposed to conform to Western
European parliamentary and governmental practices.
Parliamentary democracy, particularly of the Westminster form,
depends on those elected seeing themselves as representatives, not of people in
particular residential regions within the nation, but of particular 'parties'
which represent the interests of particular social 'classes' and pressure
groups, each with its distinctive ideology. Ethnic and clan differences are
assumed to have been overridden by economically-based class distinctions which
cut across group boundaries.
People are presumed to be committed to particular ideological
positions espoused by the parties for which they vote.
Parliamentary democracy of Western European varieties
philosophically presupposes a commitment by the majority of the population to
the nation, with individuals vicariously sharing in the achievements of the
nation as though they were their own achievements. Thomas Hobbes, in the
seventeenth century, provided the philosophical underpinnings for this form of
nationalism. The commitment of individuals to the nation creates:
… a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by
covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say
to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man,
or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up thy right to
him and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so
united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH.
(Hobbes 1909 , ch. 17)
The government becomes the individual writ large, and
individuals effectively enter into contract with the government to support it as
long as all other individuals in the nation do so, too. However, as we have
seen, this form of commitment presupposes an existing unity or nationalism
amongst the populace. Government is aimed at balancing the competing interests
of classes and pressure groups, fulfilling their aspirations at the national
Neither the 'classes'43
nor widely endorsed 'parties'44 and ideologies existed in most
newly independent countries.
The Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, speaking
to the Nigerian Constitution Drafting Committee in 1976, spelt out the problem:
Since the inception of this Administration, and particularly
since the announcement of your appointment as members of the Constitution
Drafting Committee, there has been a lively debate in the press urging the
introduction of one form of political ideology or another. Past events have,
however, shown that we cannot build a future for this country on a rigid
political ideology. Such an approach would be unrealistic.
The evolution of a doctrinal concept is usually predicated upon
the general acceptance by the people of a national political philosophy and,
consequently, until all our people, or a large majority of them, have
acknowledged a common ideological motivation, it would be fruitless to proclaim
any particular philosophy or ideology in our constitution.
(Murtala Mohammed 1976, pp. 12-15)
As Murtala Mohammed argued, variant political ideologies within
a nation detail alternative biases in organisation and activity, based on a
common underlying understanding of the world and commitment to national
government. Where that common understanding and commitment do not exist, it is
difficult, if not impossible, to gain widespread, long-term support for the
particular ideology of a political party. Rather, people define themselves in
terms of ethnic and regional identity.45
In Third World nations, those elected to office sometimes
publicly endorsed particular political ideologies 46 which spelt out alternative forms of centralised
government of the nation. However, most of them already knew, or soon found,
that their constituents were not committed to the articulated ideology and many
of them simply did not understand its rationale.
Instead, people presumed members of parliament to be committed
to the communities which they represented. The communities did not see central
government as an important institution through which the national economy might
be safeguarded and nurtured or through which the nation might achieve
'stability' or 'economic well-being' or 'greatness'. Rather, they saw it as the
source of jobs, wealth and goods which could flow to themselves if their
representative was astute.
Okwudiba Nnoli described this problem in post-colonial Nigeria:
Nigerianisation involved efforts by the ethnically based ruling
parties in the regions to secure the complete domination of the regional public
service positions by the relevant regional functionaries, or, in their absence,
to prevent rival ethnic groups from filling the relevant posts. This same
strategy was evident in the inter ethnic struggle for positions in the federal
(Nnoli 1980, p. 196)
Paula Brown spelt out a similar scene in her study of leadership
in the New Guinea Highlands:
… achievement of a high elective position has the greatest
prestige and rewards … The competition and ambitions of Simbu are demonstrated
in the large number of nominees, the lavish expenditure of candidates on their
campaigns, the significance of success and expectations of rewards by their
Support of a candidate is an important rural social activity.
Provincial and national political office are the counters in Simbu intergroup
and interpersonal competition of the 1980s.
(Brown 1987, p. 102)
This direct relationship between the politician and his or her
constituency is, of course, closer to the Athenian ideal of democracy than is
the party system of Western democracy. But, in the absence of a sense of unity
amongst all those whose representatives formed government, it resulted in
political and governmental chaos.
When parliamentarians are intent on ensuring that as much of the
national wealth as possible is siphoned off to themselves and to their regions,
government becomes a process of dividing up the spoils of office, not of focused
'national development'. As Brown said:
With the continued concentration of financial resources in
government, politics is the way to wealth …
Power and prestige in the province focus upon the town; a multi
ethnic elite runs the affairs of the province and has connections with the
national government, business, and sports activities. The rural communities are
its dependents and the source of votes, customers, clients, and parishioners.
… these leaders are not detached from their rural relatives for
First, the selected officials represent rural constituencies
where they must be nominated, campaign, receive votes, and serve rural
supporters. In their distribution of benefits they reward their supporters and
constituents with jobs and services.
Second, the upper and urban segment is not independent of a rural
base. Although they may live and work outside the rural area they contribute to
rural affairs of their kinsmen, clan, and constituents and participate in some
(Brown 1987, p. 103)
Nnoli described the situation as it developed in Nigeria:
Most Nigerians have come to believe that unless their 'own men'
are in government they are unable to secure those socio-economic amenities that
are disbursed by the government. Hence, governmental decisions about the siting
of industries, the building of roads, award of scholarships, and appointments to
positions in the public services, are closely examined in terms of their
benefits to the various ethnic groups in the country.
In fact, there has emerged a crop of 'ethnic watchers' who devote
much of their time and energy to assessing the differential benefits of the
various groups from any government project.
(Nnoli 1978, p. 176)
During the 1980s, while living on the island of Tabiteuea in the
Republic of Kiribati in the central Pacific during national elections, I
canvassed the views of people as to the right kind of parliamentarian for their
community. Every person with whom I spoke said that it was the responsibility of
the elected person to gain as much for their community as possible from the
People also focused on the cash income and other benefits
flowing to the holder of the office. It was felt that the position of member of
parliament was something of a sinecure, and the salary and 'perks' which went
with the job belonged not only to the member but also to the community to which
he or she belonged. It was, therefore, reasonable to 'share the job around', so
that a number of communities might benefit from this cash flow.
The candidates all similarly claimed that they would only be
elected if they could show that they could obtain more for the community than
others before them and that their own income would be more widely distributed.
Re-election depended on this perception of the performance of the member of
The man who was finally re-elected for a second term had
developed a strategy through which his income was shared beyond his own
community. In fact, he insisted, and it seemed correct, that he spent more of
his money in helping marginal groups than in helping those who strongly
supported him and considered him a member of their community.
Both the candidates and people in the electorate were able to
name those in the previous parliament who had been most successful. In all cases
their success was judged by what they had managed to obtain for their
When I asked people how they knew who were most successful, they
answered that they knew through listening to the parliamentary broadcasts.
People in the community who had radios (and many who lived nearby) often
listened to parliament. The aim was not to find out about the country's external
relations, or to judge the effectiveness with which the nation was being
governed. Rather, they wanted to hear who were most forceful and effective in
representing their electorates and which electorates were being favoured in any
'development' exercises or in infrastructure maintenance and upgrading.
If the community felt that their representative was inadequate,
that person was most unlikely to be re-elected. So, each new parliament
comprises large numbers of new members, with little or no experience of
parliamentary procedures, and far more commitment to their own electorates than
to centralised government.
Papua New Guinean parliamentary experience 47, during the
1980s and 1990s, demonstrated a similar problem. Some sixty per cent of those
elected in national elections were first timers, elected because they were
perceived to be capable of better representing the interests of their
communities and regions.
Not only are members of national and regional parties considered
to be conduits of wealth and goods to their electorates, local-level politics is
similarly competitive. Peter Weil (1971) explained this well for local council
activity in the Gambia:
Within any given electoral ward, various villages have particular
demands. Inevitably some villages do not get the well or other project they have
been demanding during their councillor's tenure, and the interests of these
villages will then probably be in opposition to those of other villages.
If a group of villages tends to unite around an issue, that group
tends to be opposed by another group of villages with another issue. Thus, a
type of opposition over specific issues operates at the local level in Area
(Weil 1971, p. 110)
This orientation, of course, makes it extremely difficult to
govern nationally, regionally or locally. Parliamentarians and councillors are
far more interested in gaining resources for themselves and their constituents
than they are in regional government and development planning.
It is more important to obtain these resources than to observe
the niceties of Western concepts of 'honesty' and 'integrity'. These are based
on a presumption of the separation of politics and administration, of political
activity and government spending. Third World governments, therefore, at
whatever level, seem, almost inevitably, to be riddled with 'corruption'.48
Politics becomes reduced to patron-clientism,
with those in power concentrating wealth and influence in their own hands,
maintaining their support bases through providing privileged access to the jobs,
wealth and influence they control. As Awazurike has claimed:
The evidence in the last decade continues to point to a dismal
outlook for third-world democracies … The twin forces of economic woes and the
opportunism of powerful oligarches ensure that from India and Pakistan to
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the fate of fledgling attempts at democratisation
continues to raise more questions than answers — not least of which is the
seeming ambivalence of the advanced industrial nations to the spread and
deepening of genuine democratic movements since the late 1950s.
(Awazurike 1990, p. 56)
In many post-colonial nations, leaders, in the face of such
pressures, did away with democratic multi-party politics, declaring 'one-party'
states with strong leaders who appointed the representatives from each region of
the country, or who ensured that the candidates in any election all accepted
The ways in which this shift to single-party rule were effected
varied from country to country.
The movement to one-party rule was, of course, often not
entirely internally determined. In the international climate of ideological
battle, the intelligence services of major Cold War countries attempted to
ensure that Third World governments remained ideologically committed to their
In Indonesia, the overthrow of President Sukarno and the
installation of Suharto as President of the country in 1967 seems to have been a
consequence of just such activity 49. This reorganisation of political activity
placed the ruling party (Golkar) in the powerful position of claiming the
allegiance of the armed forces and members of the civil service, scrutinising
and approving the constitutions and platforms of the other parties and of
controlling their electoral activities in rural areas. (See Kathy Kadane
The President was given the right to dissolve any political
party whose policies were not 'in the interests of the state' or whose
membership comprised less than one quarter of the population. Indonesia became,
and effectively remains a 'one-party' state, despite its apparent multi-party
Indonesia was not alone in reorganising its political landscape.
In Africa, by 1969, ninety per cent of the post-colonial nations were governed
through single-party systems or by military regimes, many of which justified
their seizure of power by claiming that the elected governments had become
irredeemably corrupt (Young 1970, p.460). In former Asian colonies effective
one-party states quickly emerged in most countries, and military coups occurred
in many of the new nations. Sangmpam claimed that:
Third World countries are characterised by a specific form of
political competition marked by violent eruption of conflicts. From 1958 to
1965, about 70 percent of Third World countries experienced violent conflicts
ranging from secession to open warfare, and 68 military coups were successful.
From 1965 to 1985, about 130 coups occurred in Third World countries; of about
10 million violent, conflict-related deaths in the world, 99.94 percent were in
Third World countries …
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 4)
Where one-party government was imposed, or governments were
deposed by military leaders, this frequently seemed to provide strong central
government, though such governments have been widely condemned for their 'human
rights' records. Fred Riggs claimed that:
… data from a 1985 survey of Third World regimes reveal
correlations between breakdowns and regime type. The high survival level of
single-party regimes reflects the ability of ruling parties to control the
elected assembly (and hence to govern arbitrarily), and to dominate the
bureaucracy (and hence to prevent a coup). By contrast, since all
presidentialist regimes in the Third World have experienced catastrophic
breakdowns, it is concluded that the ability of divided government to control
its bureaucracy and to provide coherent policy direction is so flawed that coups
are virtually unavoidable.
(Riggs 1993, p. 199)
Throughout the Third World multi-party democracies have, as
Riggs suggested, 'experienced catastrophic breakdowns', usually followed by
military coups. Arthur Nwankwo spelt out his view of the situation in Nigeria in
1966 when a multi-party, democratically elected parliament was overthrown by a
On 15 January 1966 Nigeria's post-colonial experiment with
democracy ended when soldiers struck, killing some politicians, sacking the
civilian government, and imposing military rule. Several factors were
responsible for the collapse of Nigeria's First Republic, but among the most
crucial was Regionalism, with its attendant ethnic dominance of each of the
three regional governments.
The regions constituted the political base for the contenders of
power at the Federal level, and tribal or ethnic sentiments were used by these
politicians to whip up support for their equally regionally and ethnically-based
parties … In the struggle, the powerful regional governments overwhelmed and
incapacitated the Federal Government, regardless of the central government's
Thus, it was not the Constitution that failed, but the
politicians who operated it, for they were too narrow-minded, too reckless and
intellectually and emotionally unprepared for the functions the Constitution
placed on them. It was the violent rivalry for power among the politicians,
coupled with massive corruption, brazen injustice and political and religious
intolerance which brought about the demise of the First Republic.
(Nwankwo 1984, pp. 6-7)
Where military coups were avoided, multi-party democracy has
usually been displaced by single-party systems. Since countries which opted for
one-party rule or which were ruled by military juntas were often already
experiencing inter-group tension and confrontation, in many cases the imposition
of military or one-party rule masked continuing conflict within the nation. In
Nigeria, as in many other countries ruled militarily, military rule has been
punctuated by coups and counter-coups.
In both militarily ruled and one-party states, those holding
power have intruded ever more directly and forcefully into those areas of
activity which Western people are strongly convinced should be outside the realm
of politics. Sangmpam has argued that the state, in many Third World countries,
has become 'over politicised'. As he said:
By over politicisation I mean
- the use of overt compulsion by those holding power to organise
political representation, participation, and competition for … goods and
services … ;
- the fluidity of state power and constant insecurity
characterising holders of state power in their relations with other social
- political participation and competition outside established
- the lack of compromise over the outcome of political
- the general use of open violence and confrontation in such
participation and competition.
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 5)
Political, Eonomic and Social Integration: A
Rather than government providing a stable backdrop to the
self-interested activities of people competing within the marketplace, political
power holders have become direct players in the economic sphere, using their
positions and power to advantage themselves and their supporters.
This has effectively reorientated many Third World communities
toward patron-client forms of political, economic and social organisation. The
activities of political, business, traditional, military and other leaders
become interfused as networks of mutual support and promotion develop. In such
patron-client orientated systems, political and economic spheres are
intermeshed. To succeed economically, one needs a political patron.
Richard Robison (1990) provided an interesting description of a
variety of forms of this kind of political / economic activity in Indonesia. The
most important of these in Third World countries is undoubtedly what he called
'bureaucratic capitalism'. As he explained,
bureaucratic capitalism is a product of patrimonial bureaucratic
authority in which the demarcation between public service and private interest
is at best blurred.
(1990, p. 14)
Many of those involved in this kind of political activity
develop 'joint ventures' with overseas companies and transnational corporations.
The politician, or person who has strong links with political authority, obtains
licences, concessions, finance, and favourable terms of business for the
overseas partner and, in return, holds stock in the company formed within the
country or is rewarded in other ways. As Robison explained,
The central feature of the joint venture is the exchange of
politically controlled economic concessions for financial reward.
While Robison's study focused on such activity in Indonesia,
very similar arrangements can be found in almost every Third World country.
For businesses involved in this kind of activity it is very
important that the political leaders be secure and hold power over a long
period. Every political upheaval becomes a business upheaval as new political
patrons have to be secured.
For this reason, many multinational and transnational businesses
have been accused of supporting dictatorial, repressive regimes, securing their
own interests by ensuring the long-term survival of their patrons.51
Where this cannot be arranged, businesses have to hedge their
bets, securing the commitment not only of key political figures of the present,
but also likely future players. The game becomes much more complex and certainly
It is, therefore, less likely that foreign businesses will be
attracted to countries where the political leadership is likely to be displaced
in a short period, whether by electoral or any other means. Economic
'development', therefore, seems to favour stable regimes, as the East and
South-East Asian countries have demonstrated.
Political support is not only available to foreign companies
(though these are usually the most lucrative source of income). Similar
arrangements are made with business people within Third world countries. As
Sklar and Whitaker described of Nigeria two decades ago:
In every region, the party waxed fat in its house of patronage.
It had money, favours, jobs, and honours to distribute among those who would
support it. To a large extent, these regional patronage systems were based on
regional marketing boards …
Invariably, the vast majority of those who receive or hope to
receive loans from the boards or the banks are attracted by powerful inducements
to join or support the regional government party; insofar as they prosper, they
may be expected to support the party financially. The same may be said of
commercial contractors who work for the regional governments and their statutory
Who are the masters of the regional governments? High-ranking
politicians, senior administrators, major chiefs, lords of the economy,
distinguished members of the learned professions …
(Sklar & Whitaker 1991, p. 79)
As key economic, political, professional, military and
traditional leaders support one another, avenues to wealth are increasingly
controlled by them, to be made available, at their discretion, to those who
support them. The result is what is commonly seen in Third World countries: a
marked division between the 'haves' and 'have nots', with those who do not have
access to the wealth of the region increasingly dependent on those who have,
tied to them in bonds of clientage.
In the climate of ethnic and clan rivalry which exists in many
Third World countries, patrons and clients see their interests as separate from
those of opposing groups which are also competing for the spoils of political
and economic power. The consequences, as both Sangmpam (1994) and Weil (1971)
have suggested, are increasing tension and eruptions of violence which cannot
easily be countered.
In the worldwide political climate of the 1950s-1980s, this
usually meant that one or other of the internationally dominant ideological
blocs readily financed and armed opposing groups, leading to continued unrest
and rebellion. Opposing leaders, each intent on establishing their patronage and
power, soon learned to speak the language of international ideological tension,
and so ensured funding of military requirements in either resisting or
instigating rebellion and armed insurrection.
Over the last decade, the language employed to gain support has
changed, but the consequences have not. Now, support is given to bolster regimes
or favoured insurgents in combating 'international terror' rather than
'Communism', but the results are very similar 52. Third World politicians and their
economic counter-parts have learned a new language and are becoming increasingly
fluent in its use.
From 'Soldiers of Fortune' to 'International Security Companies'
In the 1990s, privatisation became the name of the game. It was
argued that the reason why Third world governments had failed to 'develop' their
countries was that they had incompetently interfered in economic activity. This
was much better left to the 'market-place'. The new emphasis was introduced to
Third world peoples through a variety of structural adjustment programs (SAPs)
imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.
Not only was private enterprise the new key to development, it
was also argued that if security was left in the hands of Third world
governments, politicians would use this as a means of leveraging international
businesses operating in the country. It became increasingly acceptable for
transnational companies to hire 'security firms' to ensure the safety of their
operations in areas of political instability and lawlessness. This was justified
by corporations as being very similar to their use of such private security
agencies in Western countries. If the scale of security operations was greater,
this was simply because security problems in many Third World countries are more
The use of mercenaries is, of course, not new. As Gilbert Murray
described of British practice in the late 19th century,
In military operations, again, we of the British Empire depend to
a quite enormous extent upon soldiers of alien race, more, possibly, than any
State since Carthage. Nearly all our African fighting before the present war,
and most of our Indian fighting, has been done for us by natives. The great
victories of Clive over the French, which we are accustomed to regard as proofs
of British strength or valour, were almost entirely victories of Sepoys over
The economic situation is really the same as in the other cases.
We cannot spare more of the ruling race to fight. We take instead some naturally
warlike savages, train them, officer them, and make them do the fighting for
(Gilbert Murray 1900 p. 144)
However, in the first decade of the 21st Century, the use of
private security firms has become very wide-spread, fuelled by the employment of
these organisations by the U. S. military and by major corporations and
organisations operating in danger zones in non-Western countries. Hundreds of
'privatised military firms' now exist, operating in over fifty countries, with
annual revenues well in excess of a hundred billion dollars 53.
The effect of these developments has been to reintroduce
mercenary soldiers into non-Western countries in the guise of security
personnel. The mercenaries which plagued African communities during the 1970s
were funded as expatriate soldiers who were supporting regimes fighting
'communist insurgency'. The new mercenaries, in the spirit of the times, are
seen to be fighting 'international terror', the enemies of democracy and
They are ensuring the stability of regimes (or the successful
insurgency of an opposing group if a regime proves unreliable) and the
profitability of transnational corporations. As such, they no longer come in the
crude guise of soldiers of fortune, now they come as 'security consultants',
providing security services and helping to 'privatise' yet another arm of
government activity, forming an even closer alliance between transnational
corporations and their political patrons.
In many countries, long-term 'civil-military' regimes have
emerged, in which the leadership, while 'civil' (that is, not holding military
rank or position), is closely allied with the military leadership. As Hassan
Gardezi described, there has emerged, in Pakistan, a 'strong
bureaucratic-military oligarchy at the helm of the state which uses its
regulatory powers to mediate the mutually competing and at times conflicting
interests' (1985, p. 1) of the country.
Arthur Nwankwo, writing of Nigeria, suggested that this form of
rule should be called 'cimilicy' and should be based on:
… civilianising the military and militarising the civilians in a
new arrangement for a new dispensation. Government being the authoritative
allocator of national resources in response to articulated and organised group
interests, it is necessary that people who participate in government articulate
and organise their views and work together, each being fully conscious of the
strength, weaknesses and rights of others in a new social compact where the
artificial lines of demarcation between the military and the civilians is
eradicated. For in theory and in deed, all civilians and all military persons of
Nigerian extraction are Nigerians and are entitled to equal rights, privileges
and dispensations and equally endowed for the onerous task of building a New
(Nwanko 1984, p. xii)
To date, Nigeria has not managed to establish a stable coalition
of such interests. Other post-colonial states, however, have been much more
successful in pursuing such policies. In nations as diverse as Egypt and
Indonesia, this kind of civilian-military alliance has been effectively pursued
over some thirty to forty years.
The degree to which such alliances have disenfranchised
communities and populations has been a matter of vigorous debate over the past
fifteen years. It has commonly been claimed that such 'dictatorships' ride
roughshod over individual human rights, as expressed in various United Nations
declarations. Some of the more stable of these regimes have replied, as
Indonesian authorities have, that:
It is now generally accepted that all categories of human rights
— civil, political, economic, social and cultural, the rights of the individual
and the rights of the community, the society and the nation — are interrelated
and indivisible. The promotion and protection of all these rights should
therefore be undertaken in an integrated and balanced manner. Inordinate
emphasis on one category of human rights over another should be eschewed.
Likewise, in assessing the human rights conditions of countries,
particularly developing countries, the international community should take into
account the situation in relation to all categories of human rights — following
the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article
29 of that Declaration addresses two aspects that balance each other: On the one
hand, there are principles that respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of
the individual; on the other, there are stipulations regarding the obligations
of the individual toward the society and the state.
United Nations emphasis on the rights of individuals, at the
expense of community and nation are considered unbalanced and in need of
correction. However, such statements have been vigorously rejected by
prodemocracy groups throughout the world. As Jeremy Hobbs of Community Aid
Abroad (CAA) claimed:
Australia's special relationship with Indonesia is viewed with
bitter cynicism by Indonesian non-government organisations. For them it is
supremely ironic that Australia, arguably the most democratic country in the
region, is not prepared to take a tougher line on free speech, human rights,
democracy and labour issues. Worse, we have been happy to fill the breach when
the [US] Clinton administration withdrew military support because of its
concerns over human rights.
(Hobbs 1995, p. 1)
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western powers have
increasingly insisted on a return by Third World governments to multiparty
political systems based on Western democratic ideals. As Andrew Purvis claimed:
As recently as five years ago, sub-Saharan Africa seemed poised
on the verge of a new democratic era. The end of the cold war and mounting
pressure from Western donors for political reform as a condition for ongoing aid
led to a flurry of multiparty elections, and millions of voters eager for a
change trekked to the polls … [However] Africa's veteran rulers know what they
are up to. Many of them have been denied foreign aid because of their autocratic
regimes. But once elections have been held, or in some cases merely promised,
Western aid dollars begin flowing again
… This is not the first time Africa has wrestled with multiparty
governance. Immediately after many countries gained independence in the 1960s,
political parties flourished, elections were called, and voters rejoiced. But
then many of independent Africa's founding fathers convinced their people that
the single-party state was the only way. The result was the lost years of the
'70s and the economic disarray of the '80s. The only hope is that Western
donors, together with Africa's more reform-minded leaders, will not stand for
such backsliding again.
Like Purvis, many Western commentators believe that most of the
Third World's woes can be traced to the forms of government which have emerged
over the past forty years. Autocratic governments, dominated by corrupt,
self-serving politicians, have mismanaged economies and increased their own
wealth and power at the expense of their electorates. In order to overcome these
problems, it is considered necessary to return to Western governmental
practices, to multi-party, democratic government.
However, it can be argued, as Nef (1991, pp. 16ff.) did for
Latin America, that, in part, the emergence and dominance of repressive regimes
has been a requirement and a consequence of the kinds of 'economic development'
pursued in those countries since the late 1960s. As Nef argued:
The 1970's was a period of drastic de-democratisation and
demobilisation. It was also an era when the old 'structuralist' policies of
import substitution industrialisation (with its corollary, the welfare state)
were replaced by the new monetarist policy of deindustrialisation,
denationalisation, shrinkage of government services, the early phase of
structural adjustments and a profound vertical expansion of the police function
of the state (and repression) throughout the hemisphere. The events are too oft
repeated to require discussion here.
What is important, however, is to highlight the decline of
developmentalism as a desired strategy and discourse for conflict-management by
both Latin American and U. S. elites. In fact, new 'reactionary coalitions' were
forged, leading to a new type of dependency resulting from a growing process of
transnationalisation of the Latin American state
… As time went by and the illusion of economic miracles became
ever more distant, development along orthodox Keynesian, liberal lines moved
ever further and further to the background. To make prices and wages
'competitive', in the context of neoliberal, free market strategies, labour was
repressed and purposely atomised, working class organisations were persecuted,
left wing parties disbanded … as the foreign-induced economic miracles failed to
materialise, all that was left was a repressive state keeping a very large
marginal sector at bay.
(Nef 1991, pp. 17-18)
The developmentalist models of Third World development experts,
which placed emphasis on the role of government in stimulating and guiding
economic development, came into disrepute during the 1970s. At about the same
time, the Keynesian economic models of the West came under siege from neoliberal
alternatives. In their place the neoliberal monetarist policies of Margaret
Thatcher in Britain and of conservative politics throughout most of the Western
world during the late 1970s and the 1980s and 1990s, became the stuff of
development specialist advice in the Third World through the 1970s and since
This shift coincided with a rapid increase in Third World
indebtedness following a sharp increase in oil prices in the early 1970s. From
the late 1970s, lenders became increasingly concerned at the mounting debt of
Third World countries. As Dan Connell has said, 'From 1970 to 1989, according to
UN reports, Third World debt skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion,
leaving several nations owing more than they produce in annual income' (1993, p.
This came to a head in the early 1980s, when international
creditors decided it was time to act to protect their investments. For most, the
central consideration in ensuring the economic viability of Third World nations
was the 'downsizing' of government and the deregulation of all economic,
financial and fiscal activity.
Effectively, this meant a complete reorganisation of government,
a determined swing away from 'left-wing' politics to the politics of the
marketplace. As Friedson spelt out for Latin America:
… for neo liberals developmentalism had hampered development, and
only a free-market economy guaranteed the road to prosperity. For them, the main
problem of Latin America was not dependency but the burden of an inefficient and
corrupt state that prevented growth and modernisation …
With the worsening of the economic situation in the early 1980s,
newly established civilian governments found themselves with few resources to
confront a powerful community of international creditors determined to collect
their debts. Thus, military governments as well as their civilian successors
endorsed versions of the IMF adjustment program, which stressed domestic
mismanagement as the cause of payment problems and domestic adjustment
(reduction of government expenditures, curtailment of public subsidies,
devaluations and trade liberalization) as a way out of the crisis …
Many of the IMF measures curtailed state power, which carried
obvious political costs. In the first half of the 1980s, many Latin American
governments found themselves signing agreements that were, for the most part,
not to their liking …
Instead of prosperity, Latin America witnessed further economic
decline and impoverishment as a result of the externally-enforced adjustment
programs implemented in the early 1980s …
This no doubt represented a major blow for the technocratic
approach to the debt crisis promoted by the IMF, which assumed that all it took
to overcome the economic crisis was the decisive action of governments to
liberalise their economies.
(Friedson 1983, pp. 33-5)
Cheru spelt out some of the demands of such programs:
a) liberalization of import controls;
b) devaluation of the country's exchange rate;
c) a domestic anti-inflationary program which will control bank
credits and [exercise] control over government deficit by curbing spending,
increased taxation, abolition of consumer subsidies;
d) a program of greater hospitality to multinational companies
… As President Kaunda of Zambia put it, 'The IMF does not care
whether you are suffering economic malaria, bilharzia or broken legs. They will
always give you quinine'. The policy prescriptions listed above reflect the
Fund's political and economic ideology rather than the interests of the
(Cheru 1989, p. 37)
In order to ensure that the necessary 'structural adjustments'
were made to Third World economies so that they might benefit from the increased
competitive advantages that it was assumed would accrue from an unfettered
'enterprise economy', governments needed to be firmly in control, able to apply
the 'pain' which would, necessarily, precede the economic 'gain' of this radical
shift from welfare economics to free market economics.
As Mark Moberg described for Chile, one of the first Latin
American countries to experience these changes:
After overthrowing the elected Allende government in 1973, the
Chilean military crushed leftist parties, unions, and peasant associations.
Then, in an unwelcome surprise to some elites that had initially invited the
coup, the military disbanded right wing and centrist parties as well …
Such measures were necessary, the military claimed, to enable it
to impose harsh deflationary policies 'in the national interest' without
(Moberg 1994, p. 216)
The need for this degree of control resulted, in many countries,
in an increased emphasis on 'law and order', and increased expenditures to
bolster both police and paramilitary strength to support government in its
determination to set in place the necessary changes to ensure long-term economic
growth. As Ihonvbere claimed:
The political tensions that have accompanied monetarism have
furthered repression, human rights abuses, riots and national disintegration …
The very high degree of human suffering, disillusionment, anger,
alienation, rural decay, urban dislocation, suicides, marital crises,
prostitution and crime which have accompanied monetarist responses to the
African economic crisis, hold major implications for the potency of ethnicity
and the subversion of the goals of nationhood.
(Ihonvbere 1994, p. 51)
The appearance of democracy
As tensions have mounted in many countries, governments have
felt compelled to increase their coercive authority. Most Third World
governments, in the past thirty years, have found themselves on the horns of a
dilemma. They are being pressured by First World governments and organisations
into both deregulation of economic activity, which requires increased coercive
authority, and the ratification and implementation of human rights programs and
As Purvis suggested, this has led to a rhetoric in favour of
multi-party democracy 55 and implementation of human rights programs, accompanied by further
politicisation of the directive agencies of government.
This increasing politicisation of both the police forces and
court systems has delegitimised both sets of institutions in the eyes of many
people in Third World countries, leading to increasing fear and tension within
Third World nations and to further political repression.
The politicisation of police forces and courts has been
accompanied by the politicisation of law, establishing statutes which can be
used to legitimise government repression and make it increasingly difficult for
individuals and groups to defend themselves against politically motivated
criminal charges. As Amnesty International spelt out for the African continent:
There is a developing pattern of human rights violations in parts
of Africa in which governments publicly committed to political pluralism adopt
methods of curbing domestic opposition and criticism which are designed to
minimise the likelihood of international disapproval and to keep their
democratic credentials intact. Certain types of legal charge are proving
increasingly attractive to governments seeking to criminalise peaceful political
activity or dissent in this new context. These charges include sedition,
contempt of court, subversion, defamation, possession of classified documents,
and holding meetings or demonstrations without an official permit.
(Amnesty International 1995)
The reality in many Third World nations since the mid 1990s is
that while governments are being pressured to reinstitute multi-party democratic
political processes, contradictory pressures coming from the First World, in
fact, produce multi-party democratic rhetoric, coupled with the entrenchment of
coercive, autocratic government. This has resulted in continuing unrest and
rebellion in many Third World countries.
A Time report spelt out the realities of the first decade of the
President Bush is fond of saying that "democracy is on the march"
around the world. That's been largely true for the last couple decades, but a
new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit says that over the last two
years the global trend toward democratization has been stopped in its tracks.
Even further, the report suggests the global financial crisis has the potential
to start the march moving in the opposite direction:
The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2008 confirm
that, following a decades-long global trend in democratisation, the spread of
democracy has come to a halt. Comparing the results for 2008 with those from the
first edition of the index, which covered 2006, shows that the dominant pattern
in the past two years has been stagnation. Although there is no recent trend of
outright regression, there are few instances of significant improvement.
However, the global financial crisis, resulting in a sharp and possibly
protracted recession, could threaten democracy in some parts of the world.
The report also classifies only 30 of the world's countries as
being "full democracies," with another 50 countries deemed "flawed democracies."
Only 14% of the world's population lives within those countries considered "full
(Real Clear Politics October 22nd 2008)
Of the last 30 years:
Inevitably, when personalised systems of government and
leadership, like those found in most Third world nations, are judged against the
standards assumed to be commonplace in Western systems of Government 56, they are found to be 'riddled with
corruption'. In order to conduct business on a 'level playing field', Western
governments and corporations consider it essential to police corrupt practices.
At the instigation of Western nations and agencies the United Nations Convention Against Corruption has been
negotiated, coming into force in 2005. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic
development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the
foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes,
perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason
for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted
because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the
country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required
because of corruption.
(UNODC 2010 — accessed 12 April 2010)
Unsurprisingly, corruption appears to be endemic in non-Western
nations, but remarkably infrequent in Western nations 57.
In order to appreciate the experiences of Third World nations in
the post-Second World War period, we need to remember that depersonalised
government of the Western kind is unusual and requires understandings of the
world which are distinctively Western.58 Where Western understandings don't exist, the forms of government
which they require are also unlikely to exist; and where people are required to
behave as though Western understandings do exist, there will be many
inconsistencies in governmental organisation and practice.
In the last twenty years there have been a number of important
changes in international and regional politics around the world. Most obviously,
the ideologically fuelled 'Cold War' has ended, with communism and socialism in
disarray and capitalism firmly established in the international arena. In the
world of the 1990s there was a marked increase in conflicts which were
pronounced to be 'ethnically' inspired, in contrast to those of earlier
post-Second World War years, which were usually considered to be driven by
commitment to First and Second World ideologies.
The 'ethnic' focus (which largely side-lined Western countries)
has, since 2001, been displaced by a diffuse concern with 'terror'. This has led
to the United States' promoted 'war on terror' around the world.
Non-Western governments, confronted with ethnic and other
challenges inside their territories, could once again trigger military aid from
Western countries. All they had to do was to label those with whom they were
having difficulty 'separatist terrorist organisations' or claim that they had
been 'infiltrated by terrorists' and accuse them of links with 'international
They have been quick to take advantage of Western paranoia,
receiving weaponry and military training from Western countries which have
largely seen them as the 'front line' in the 'war on terror' 59. As
Rachel Stohl has described,
… the United States has made the “global war on terror” its
priority in determining arms transfers and military assistance. In the last six
years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology
weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments
regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or
nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in
the global war on terrorism.
There has also been a technological revolution in worldwide
telecommunications networks, with transactions of all sorts now flowing through
those networks which governments are decreasingly able to effectively monitor
and/ or control. This has been accompanied by a victory for neoliberal economic
reformers 60 as
advisers to governments and international organisations.
These advisers have managed to convince governments everywhere
of the need for the privatisation of government assets and activities and
deregulation of financial markets and currencies, progressively moving control
of national fiscal and financial matters from national governments into the
As Rosario Espinal claimed of Latin America during the 1980s,
there was a dramatic shift away from developmentalism 61 and towards neoliberal economic and political policies:
… pro-market statements came from different quarters: agencies
like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), foreign governments, a growing
number of Latin American economists and intellectuals and some segments of the
business class …
In addition to pressure from international agencies to privatise
and liberalise the Latin American economies, think tanks and research groups
flourished throughout the region in an effort to publicise neoliberal views.
(Espinal 1992, p. 32)
This coincided with a change in the dominant way of 'making
money' in the world — through currency, bond and stock trading and financial
manipulations rather than through long-term investment in primary and secondary
production. This has resulted in primary production, the most important means of
income generation for new nations, becoming less and less attractive to
investors, since returns on primary production are usually lower and slower —
and often far more uncertain — than those resulting from financial
manipulations. So, Third World nations are finding it increasingly difficult to
attract and retain investment income, making their economies increasingly
The volatility of international capital investment, focused on
short-term gains, means that, in their efforts to retain investment capital,
governments must offer a range of financial inducements, competing with each
other to minimise capital flight. Thus, over time, the cost of investment
capital increases for those countries least able to afford such costs.
Far from there being true financial deregulation, governments
find themselves having constantly to interfere, to prop up their currencies and
induce capital to stay. As Gerald Meier presciently described of the financial
crises which assailed both Latin American and East and South-East Asian
countries in the late 1990s (and which, of course, have threatened the rest of
the world during the last years of the first decade of the 21st century):
The Mexican crisis was caused by the volatility of short term
capital flows, produced by the unfulfilled market expectations of investors.
Today capital flows are dominated by international markets, to the point that
domestic autonomy and sovereignty is subordinated to the markets …
The Mexican crisis or something similar will happen again because
it is impossible to keep exchange rates fixed.
(in Morles 1996)
Governments, as a result of these influences, are now faced both
by regional and ethnic challenges from within and by international challenges to
their authority, independence and economic viability. There is a strong demand
for internationalisation of economies, allowing the now dominant forces of
capitalism increasing entry into, and influence over internal economic
activities. This, if and as it is successful, reduces the ability of governments
to control economic activity and therefore to plan and implement economic,
infrastructural, service, and welfare programs.
On the one hand, governments are increasingly finding themselves
at the mercy of international financial and fiscal forces, and on the other, the
integrity of the nation-state is being challenged from within. During the first
half of 1996, an unremarkable year for ethnic conflicts, there were ethnically
or religiously inspired revolts in more than sixty countries around the world.
In 2009, though the focus of revolt is claimed to have changed, the frequency of
internal challenges to central government authority increased, with more and
more non-Western countries teetering on the brink of being declared 'fragile' or
'failed' states 62.
The tensions we have examined in this discussion have not
lessened in the first decade of the 21st century. In many cases they have become
stronger and more challenging to the viability of Third World national
Governments are being subjected to:
- international pressures from First World governments and
- demands of the international marketplace and of international
organisations and enterprises;
- the demands of electorates which see central, regional and local
government as resources to be mined;
- and the tensions associated with competing regional, ethnic and
clan-based patron-client networks.
- They are also being pressured by demands from First world
countries to control incipient terrorism within their borders and,
simultaneously, to prevent refugee flows to Western countries which, in the
minds of Western populations, might include individuals and groups seeking to
pursue terrorist agendas within First World countries.
These problems, compounded by a range of environmental and
economic problems of equal magnitude, make the future of many Third World
governments highly problematic. As Rice and Patrick have concluded:
On balance, poorer countries tend to be weaker ones. Poverty
fuels and perpetuates civil conflict, which swiftly and dramatically reduces
The vast majority of [failed and critically weak] states… have
experienced conflict within the past decade and a half. Their security deficits
are typically accompanied by weaknesses across the three other core areas of
state performance. This is logical, because conflict destroys both formal
economies and political institutions. It can also exacerbate poor health
conditions, including by facilitating the spread of infectious diseases.
Given a nearly 50 percent risk that postconflict countries will
return to war within 5 years, unsuccessful postconflict, peace-building and
peacekeeping/stabilization efforts risk condemning countries to renewed conflict
or nearly perpetual insecurity and poverty.
(Rice and Patrick 2008)
The world of the 21st century reminds one of Britain in the 5th
As we saw in the last post (The Decay of Western Influence) Britain, in the 5th century, experienced just such turmoil as rival 'kings' battled
for ascendancy and neighbouring groups, taking advantage of the chaos, invaded
Gildas, a century after the exodus of the Roman legions,
provided a graphic description of the chaos which ensued with the waning of
Roman influence in Britain,
…neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as
before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars
having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.
As the empires of Western Europe have crumbled, the institutions
in their post-colonial territories, established by them to ensure continuity
with the colonial past, have become decreasingly effective. The 21st century has
produced its own examples of post-colonial territories suffering turmoil and
chaos in the increasing numbers of 'fragile' and 'failed' states which are a
growing concern for Western people.
Many post-colonial territories are in various stages of change.
They are slowly, but inevitably, metamorphosing into communities which exhibit
similarities with the pre-colonial communities from which they came. Any
reassertion of pre-colonial principles of categorisation and classification will
inevitably be slow and difficult. Over time, forms of organisation and
interaction will emerge which echo those of the past though they will, of
course, not simply replicate past forms.
First, any form which emerges is simply one of a range of
possible forms, any or all of which might be generated from the same fundamental
categorical principles. So, even if the same principles were in operation one
would find different surface forms over time.
Secondly, the principles themselves are not static, they change
through time and the forms of interaction and organisation which emerge will
reflect such changes.
This has been demonstrated time and again in Third World
communities as Western influence has become less dominant.
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This developmental project is based on a millennial belief in the existence of
an evolutionary process in which all cultures and all peoples are involved.
Human beings have a common evolutionary direction.
(The assumed process inverts the biological model of
evolution: The biological model assumes increasing diversity; the social
evolutionary model assumes increasing convergence.)
The process has been explained in many ways and
takes many forms, as Blaut (1992, pp. 1-2) has described, his own explanation
being one of them:
… the date 1492 represents the breakpoint between two
fundamentally different evolutionary epochs. The conquest of America begins, and
explains, the rise of Europe
… Before 1492, cultural evolution in the Eastern Hemisphere was
proceeding evenly across the landscape; in Africa, Asia, and Europe a multitude
of centres were evolving out of (broadly) feudalism and toward (broadly)
This remarkably naïve belief in a universal
evolutionary direction is a feature of the particular historical experiences of
Western Europeans (see From the subversion of tradition to plotting the future).
Blaut's schema is no less Eurocentric than all those others which he condemns
for this 'evil'.
Social evolutionary models presume that all
cultural communities hold similar primary ideological models and presumptions
and live within fundamentally similar 'objective realities' (see Primary and Secondary Ideologies for more on this).
Capitalism, of course, is no more advanced or retrograde
than any other cultural form underpinning systems of status and ranking in
communities. It is required by the particular social templates which govern
behaviour in Western societies. And, it requires the historical antecedents of
It can no more successfully be grafted onto other cultural
communities than the Potlatch could successfully be grafted onto Western
communities. Hence the catalogue of failures amassed by those most deeply
involved in this enterprise. And hence, also, the disorientation and disruption
of communities, and cultural and material poverty of so many people in the world
affected by those intent on global modernisation.
2 It has, subsequently, imposed similar
reorganisation on the rest of the world.
3 The historical context of the book was the
English Civil War, the beheading of the English monarch and the subsequent
Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell (1642-1658).
…the agreement of… men is by covenant only, which is artificial:
and therefore it is no wonder if there be somewhat else required, besides
covenant, to make their agreement constant and lasting; which is a common power
to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the common benefit.
The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to
defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another,
and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the
fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to
confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men,
that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will: which is
as much as to say, to appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person;
and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that
so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which
concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every
one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement.
This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of
them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every
man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and
give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on
this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his
actions in like manner.
This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a
COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN,
or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under
the immortal God, our peace and defence.
For by this authority, given him by every particular man in the
Commonwealth, he hath the use of so much power and strength conferred on him
that, by terror thereof, he is enabled to form the wills of them all, to peace
at home, and mutual aid against their enemies abroad.
And in him consisteth the essence of the Commonwealth; which, to
define it, is: one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants
one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may
use the strength and means of them all as he shall think expedient for their
peace and common defence.
And he that carryeth this person is called sovereign, and said
to have sovereign power; and every one besides, his subject.
The attaining to this sovereign power is by two ways.
One, by natural force: as when a man maketh his children to
submit themselves, and their children, to his government, as being able to
destroy them if they refuse; or by war subdueth his enemies to his will, giving
them their lives on that condition.
The other, is when men agree amongst themselves to submit to
some man, or assembly of men, voluntarily, on confidence to be protected by him
against all others. This latter may be called a political Commonwealth, or
Commonwealth by Institution; and the former, a Commonwealth by acquisition. And
first, I shall speak of a Commonwealth by institution.
(Hobbes 1651, Chapter xvii, 'Of The Causes, Generation, And Definition Of A
4 See From Interdependence to Independence for more on this.
5 A brief
selection of texts on the nature and emergence of Western nations and nationhood
includes: Gellner (1994); Goddard, Llobera & Shore (1994); Hobsbawm (1990);
Kedourie (1993); and Norbu (1992).
6 Kings were established in their kingdoms through
the Church's administration of the ritual of Unction. It was, therefore, assumed
that religious authority was superior to secular authority. As Ullman (1965, p.
86) says, 'It was that act alone which made the king'.
7 such as shires, counties, principalities and
similar sub-divisions within the borders of recognised regions associated with
nations (as administrative regions of the medieval Church)
8 See Medieval Common-Interest Groups for more on this.
England experienced its revolution in the second half of the seventeenth
century; France in the late-eighteenth century; Germany in the mid-nineteenth
century; and other Western European nation-states experienced similar
revolutions during the same period.
10 In stark contrast, the names and identities
of Third World nations were, in large measure, inventions of 100 years (or less)
of colonial rule, through which colonial powers identified regions they
controlled. The colonised peoples identified the names and the administrative
organisations through which they were controlled as ‘foreign’ colonial
impositions. Yet, over the past sixty years, Western nations have insisted that
people living in those artificially contrived nation-states would, with little
difficulty, identify themselves with, and commit themselves to the nations
within which they lived.
11 At the risk of belabouring the point,
it needs to be remembered that, through the medieval period, 'successful'
members of small ethnic groups, included within the Church's administrative
regions, became connected to similar individuals in other groups in the
territory through either travelling beyond their own group's area or through
social interaction with others who did travel.
One became recognised as 'cultured' through
acceptance into these wider networks of 'cultured' people. One was also
interlinked with the influence, wealth and information held and generated by
members of such networks.
See Herbert Spencer (1857, p. 153 'Progress: Its Law And Cause') for a succinct
nineteenth-century 'theoretical' statement of this principle for the social
… the series of changes gone through during the development of a
seed into a tree, or an ovum into an animal, constitute an advance from
homogeneity of structure to heterogeneity of structure.
In its primary stage, every germ consists of a substance that is
uniform throughout, both in texture and chemical composition. The first step is
the appearance of a difference between two parts of this substance; or, as the
phenomenon is called in physiological language, a differentiation.
Each of these differentiated divisions presently begins itself
to exhibit some contrast of parts: and by and by these secondary
differentiations become as definite as the original one. This process is
continuously repeated — is simultaneously going on in all parts of the growing
embryo; and by endless such differentiations there is finally produced that
complex combination of tissues and organs constituting the adult animal or
This is the history of all organisms whatever. It is settled
beyond dispute that organic progress consists in a change from the homogeneous
to the heterogeneous.
Now, we propose in the first place to show, that this law of
organic progress is the law of all progress. Whether it be in the development of
the Earth, in the development of Life upon its surface, in the development of
Society, of Government, of Manufactures, of Commerce, of Language, Literature,
Science, Art, this same evolution of the simple into the complex, through
successive differentiations, holds throughout.
From the earliest traceable cosmical changes down to the latest
results of civilization, we shall find that the transformation of the
homogeneous into the heterogeneous, is that in which progress essentially
(Spencer 1857, p.10)
This belief, of course, still holds in many
'evolutionary' theoretical constructs of the present.
13 For examples of this kind of
interconnection one need look no further than the many novels of the period
which simply assume networks and friendships between middle-class people not
only within national territories but internationally.
14 Those who identified with each other as belonging to
the same nation were usually those who had reason to travel or to associate with
others who travelled. In Western Europe there was a strong sense of unity
amongst merchants, traders, landed gentry, and educated people which resulted,
in Britain as elsewhere, in a revolution of these 'middle sorts' (Manning 1976)
against feudally-based aristocracies and governments.
While political revolution usually required the
overthrow of feudal leaders, there was much less need for revolution within the
administrative bureaucracies of western Europe. These were, very largely,
already staffed by educated, middle ranking people who supported political
Through such revolution, in which, very usually,
these 'middle sorts' managed to obtain the commitment of peasant and labouring
people, they established new forms of government which reflected and enhanced
their particular interests (see From Subversion of Tradition to Plotting the Future).
15 See The White Man's Burden for more on this.
16 France has perpetuated this version of the
nation-state in its incorporation of 'overseas departments' — previously
colonial territories — which have been given the status of metropolitan
departments and are argued to be integral to France as a nation. As the French
Embassy in the U.S.A. (and most other French Embassy web-sites) explains:
Thanks to her overseas departments and territories, France
extends far beyond the boundaries of Europe and into the four corners of the
earth. Outside the borders of metropolitan France, she has coasts washed by the
Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and land borders from the icy wastes of
Antarctica to the great Amazonian rainforest.
17 Western Europeans have, over several centuries,
demonstrated a remarkable nescience in dealing with the rest of the world. Their
perspective is the universal perspective; the only valid understandings,
18 The middle-classes of Western Europe were
thoroughly schooled in 'classical studies' and saw those 'civilisations' as
providing models for their own empires and civilisations. The 18th and 19th century political institutions and
practices of Western European nation-states borrowed a great deal from the
'classical civilisations' and empires of Rome and Greece.
The integration of colonies into the identities of
Western European nation-states and designation of inhabitants as 'citizens'
echoed Roman practice. Rome had employed similar strategies throughout its
empire. Regions which Roman officials considered merited the 'honour' were
declared 'Provinces' of Rome and the responsible people of those regions were
declared to be 'Roman Citizens'.
19 see Crick (1997) for discussion of colonial practices and
20 In the post 2nd World War
period it used the existence of those debts as leverage in influencing foreign
policy in nations around the world.
Over the past 50 years the US has been able to live
well beyond the income generated by its own productive activities through
drawing on debts owed to it by both Western European and Third World countries.
Like so many 'Credit Card' holders, it seems to have unwittingly gone on
spending after its credit had been dissipated. Only recently has there been a
dawning realisation that it has created huge debts of its own.
It seems likely that, in the 21st century, it will find itself (if it has not already) in
long-term debt to places which have financed its consequent over-consumption. It
would scarcely be surprising if such countries used their financial muscle to
influence US allegiances/behaviour — in the same way as the US did to its
debtors during the latter half of the 20th century.
21 See Preparing for Independence for Nigeria's experiences in moving
toward independence from Britain. As Paul Beckett (1987, p. 87) put it,
Nigeria's Westminster-like parliamentary system was developed
hurriedly, seemingly with little consideration given to possible alternative
22 See The Breakdown of Communities for more on this.
23 See Political experiences in Nigeria for a brief sketch of
post-colonial political experiences in Nigeria.
For discussion see Banuri (1990); Levy (1988); Leys (1992); Peet (1990); Philip
(1990); Seligson & Passe-Smith (1993); So (1989); Sutton et al. (1989),
25 An odd belief in the continuing existence of
the colonial administrative apparatus and powers persisted well into the
post-colonial period. It was largely taken for granted by 'development
specialists' that administrations could simply decree and implement changes in
And still is believed by many of those most directly involved in advising Third
27 See Personalised Relationships and Politics and Indigenous Leadership in Papua New Guinea for
more on this.
28 Including: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF);
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR); World Health Organisation (WHO); United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); International Civil Aviation
Organisation (ICAO); United Nations Development Program (UNDP); United Nations
Environment Program (UNEP); United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR);
World Food Program (WFP); International Labour Organisation (ILO); International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); International Maritime Organisation (IMO);
International Telecommunications Union (ITU); International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (The World Bank); International Monetary Fund
(IMF); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United
Nations Population Fund (UNPFA); and United Nations Economic Commission for
29 See Teaching 'The Natives' to Work for more on this.
30 Such pressures have not lessened in the post-Cold
War years. The following is a brief excerpt from a much longer and more detailed
commitment by all the nations of the world to 'human rights' and 'social
development' on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (UN
We heads of State and Government are committed to a political,
economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development that is based on
human dignity, human rights, equality, respect, peace, democracy, mutual
responsibility and co-operation, and full respect for the various religious and
ethical values and cultural backgrounds of people. Accordingly, we will give the
highest priority in national, regional and international policies and actions to
the promotion of social progress, justice and the betterment of the human
condition, based on full participation by all.
The resolutions of the World Summit for Social
Development list, in detail, the concerns of First World governments during the
1990s, transferred onto the rest of the world as the concerns of all nations.
31 In a statement before the Second World
Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 14 June 1993, Ali Alatas, Indonesia's
foreign minister, explained:
Human rights questions are essentially ethical and moral in
nature. Hence, any approach to human rights questions which is not motivated by
a sincere desire to protect these rights but by disguised political or, worse,
to serve as a pretext to wage a political campaign against another country,
cannot be justified.
Human rights are vital and important by and for themselves. So
are efforts at accelerated national development, especially of the developing
countries. Both should be vigorously pursued and promoted.
Indonesia, therefore cannot accept linking questions of human
rights to economic and development cooperation, by attaching human rights
implementation as political conditionalities to such cooperation. Such a linkage
will only detract from the value of both.
On such conditionalities, the Leaders of the Non-aligned
Movement, during their Tenth Summit in Jakarta last year, emphasized that:
…any attempt to use human rights as a condition for
social-economical assistance, thus sidelining the relevance of economic, social
and cultural human rights must be rejected. No country should use its power to
dictate its concept on human rights or to impose conditionalities on others.
It is now generally accepted that all categories of human rights
— civil, political, economic, social and cultural, the rights of the individual
and the rights of the community, the society and the nation — are interrelated
This implies that the promotion and protection of all these
rights should be undertaken in an integral and balanced manner and that
inordinate emphasis on one category of human rights over another cannot be
justified. Likewise, in assessing the human rights conditions of countries, and
of developing countries in particular, the international community should take
into account the situation in relation to aft categories of human rights.
32 Jason Oringer and Carol Welch (1998), in a well written
critique, have claimed that the key points are:
- The U.S. leverages its dominant role in the global economy and
in the IFIs to impose SAPs on developing countries and open their markets to
competition from U.S. companies.
- SAPs are based on a short-term, profit-maximization model that
perpetuates poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
- Social safety nets and good governance reforms do not
compensate for the serious flaws that SAPs introduce by deregulating laws and
diminishing the state’s capacity to protect the welfare of its
33 With the demise of the Soviet Union, the wars and
rebellions of the Third World continued. However, they were no longer cast in
the ideological frames of capitalism and communism, so the perception was that
in the 1990s the world became increasingly Balkanised and 'ethnicised'. In fact,
of course, this process began with the breakdown of empires — it was simply
mis-diagnosed, warped and enthusiastically promoted to reflect international
interests in the era of Cold War politics.
In 1996, serious internal fighting continued within
more than thirty post-colonial countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria,
Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Guatemala, Iraq, Kashmir, Lebanon,
Liberia, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan
and many others.
In 2009, with the same tensions and confrontations
now claimed to be part of the 'war on terror' by Western countries, serious
conflict continued in many non-Western countries including Algeria, Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia,
Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan,
Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Colombia,
Sudan, Afghanistan, and many other countries around the world.
34 As Nef says (1991, p. 13):
… development — along neo-Keynesian and social democratic lines
— was perceived as an explicit antidote to Soviet-type regimes. This fundamental
'orthodoxy' which conceived development as an alternative to revolution affected
most of the subsequent development aid schemes, whether multilateral or
bilateral. The Colombo Plan, President Truman's Point Four, or later the UN
First Development Decade, were imbued with a reformist, missionary zeal.
35 In comparison with the literature on 'Third World
development', writings on the involvement of the 'superpowers' in fomenting and
sustaining Third World conflict in the post-Second World War period are sparse.
A selection of them includes: Renner (1994); Chubin (1991); Economist (1994);
Elguea (1990); Gareau (1994); Kick & Kiefer (1987); Makhijani (1992); Neuman
(1994); Penny (1992); De Roux & Chelala (1993); and Nelson, Taylor &
36 As the Encyclopedia Britannica describes:
By the turn of the 20th century, the map of Africa looked like a
huge jigsaw puzzle, with most of the boundary lines having been drawn in a sort
of game of give-and-take played in the foreign offices of the leading European
powers. The division of Africa, the last continent to be so carved up, was
essentially a product of the new imperialism, vividly highlighting its essential
In this respect, the timing and the pace of the scramble for
Africa are especially noteworthy. Before 1880 colonial possessions in Africa
were relatively few and limited to coastal areas, with large sections of the
coastline and almost all the interior still independent.
By 1900 Africa was almost entirely divided into separate
territories that were under the administration of European nations.
The only exceptions were Liberia, generally regarded as being
under the special protection of the United States; Morocco, conquered by France
a few years later; Libya, later taken over by Italy; and
(colonialism, Western. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
Retrieved April 30, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/126237/colonialism)
As Anene (1970) explained it:
In the successive phases of the European partitioning of Africa,
the lines demarcating spheres of interest were often haphazard and precipitately
arranged. The European agents and diplomats were primarily interested in
grabbing as much African territory as possible, and were not unduly concerned
about the consequences of disrupting ethnic groups and undermining the
indigenous political order…
The manner in which these boundaries were made was often a
subject for after-dinner jokes among European statesmen.
(Anene 1970, p.
37 A brief selection of texts which address these
issues is: Anderson (1991); Arnason (1990); Brass (1991); Cohen (1991); Cole,
Clay & Hill (1990); Eriksen (1993); Featherstone (1990); Feinberg (1990);
Gellner (1983); Hassall (1991); Held & McGrew (1993); Ihonvbere (1994);
James (1994); Lee (1990); Olwig (1993); Parker, Russo, Sommer & Yaeger
(1992); Schiller, Basch & Szanton (1992); and Wijeyewardene (1990).
38 Only a naïve belief in the pre-existing identity of
people with the nation-state in which they found themselves could have allowed
them to suggest this kind of empowering of local communities and regions.
39 See Parliamentary Democracy in PNG for a description of the
problems associated with the devolution of authority in a Third world
40 See Nnoli 1980, p. 218ff for a discussion
of such activities within Nigeria; also Political Experiences in Nigeria for a discussion of these
41 Particularly First World leaders of the 'New
World' who were coming to grips with the demands of indigenous minorities within
their own borders
42 Yet, most governments were as committed as ever to
implementing the modernisation agenda of the previous forty years. From the
1980s, Western nations increasingly required them to modify their focuses and
activities to fit a growing emphasis on neoliberal governmental 'downsizing' and
reliance on 'market forces'. Western nations, themselves, abandoned the
developmental focuses of the post-war period and increasingly insisted on the
deregulation of economic activity and privatisation of governmental
43 Many researchers have consciously set out to
identify 'classes' in Third World nations, and a variety of studies have sought
the emergence of the kinds of classes identified in Western nations. Many more
have simply assumed the relevance of 'class' to the examination of Third World
communities. However, classes in Western nations are a consequence of particular
historical experiences which have not been repeated in these non-Western
countries. One needs to be very cautious in applying the concept of 'class' to
44 Where such parties existed they usually symbolised
the struggle for independence and received their legitimacy from that
recognition, not from their representation of the interests of particular
'classes' or espousal of a particular ideology.
45 This has proved a problem for many new nations.
Indonesia, attempting to do what Murtala Mohammed (1976, pp. 12-15) claimed was
not possible, has tried to deal with the problem by spelling out a single
ideology to which all political parties must adhere. The Government's aim is to
have all Indonesians commit themselves to these ideals and accept them as
fundamental to all public and political life. It has described its philosophy in
the following way:
Pancasila Democracy is a system of life for the state and
society on the basis of people's sovereignty. It is inspired by the noble values
of the Indonesian nation. Pancasila itself, which means the five principles, is
the name given to the foundation of the Indonesian Republic. The five principles
of Pancasila are
- Belief in the One and Only God;
- A Just and civilised humanity;
- the Unity of Indonesia;
- Democracy guided by the inner wisdom of deliberations of
- and Social Justice for all the Indonesian people.
usually came from First or Second World sources, based on those, not indigenous,
conceptualisations of the world (see History of the Emergence of Capitalism).
47 See Politics and indigenous leaders in PNG for more on this.
48 The issue of corruption relates, of course, not only
to pressures placed on government departments and personnel to favour particular
regions and politicians, but also to the personalisation of government. Western
democratic government emphasises impersonal and impartial bureaucratic delivery
of government services and administration of expenditure. In most patron-client
orientated communities such impartial and impersonal administration is
considered distinctly odd. Government is inevitably personalised and Western
commentators inevitably view that personalisation as corruption.
49 As a Baobab Press article described of
Indonesia's move to this form of government:
By the early 1960s, tensions between Washington and Jakarta were
at an all time high, in large part because of Sukarno's 'growing resistance to
foreign aid from Western countries,' explains a States News Service report that
appeared in the Washington Post on May 21, 1990 [Kathy Kadane, US
OFFICIALS' LISTS AIDED INDONESIAN BLOODBATH IN '60S, Washington
Post, Monday, May 21st, 1990, p.A5, State News Service].
It was then that U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials
decided to consummate the results of years of painstaking espionage. Over a
period of several months beginning in October of 1965, high-ranking officials of
the State Department turned over the names of more than 5,000 key members of the
Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to Sukarno's opponent, Gen. T. N. J. Suharto,
says the States News Service report.
The story adds that the Indonesian communist group was at the
time the largest in the world after the U.S.S.R. and China, and that American
diplomats, after supplying the list of names, 'later checked off the names of
those who had been killed or captured.'
The report describes the list of names turned over to the
Indonesian general as 'a detailed who's who of the leadership of PKI,' that
identified committee members and organisers of labour and youth groups at the
national, provincial and municipal levels
… It is unknown how many people were killed in the bloodbath
… The CIA estimated in 1968 that at least 250,000 people were
rounded up and slaughtered, and called the incident 'one of the worst mass
murders of the 20th century.' A 1966 Washington Post report estimated deaths at
closer to half a million. But all accounts agreed that the Indonesian communist
movement had been wiped out.
The disclosure of the names and the subsequent massacre were not
isolated events. They took place against a backdrop of psychological warfare
which helped set the stage for Sukarno's eventual removal from office.
A 1975 Congressional investigation into CIA covert activities
uncovered evidence, for example, of a clandestine U.S.-sponsored propaganda
campaign designed to discredit Sukarno by circulating accusations of sexual
improprieties to news media throughout the world. By the time of the bloody
anticommunist purge, Sukarno was on his way out. Gen. Suharto was installed in
March of 1967 as interim president.
(Baobab Press 1993)
The following was the official Suharto Indonesian Government
explanation of the precursors to, and rationale for, its political
reorganisation of the country from 1967, following the period of political
turmoil described above (see Cribb 1990 for a detailed examination of the
The Government Manifesto of November 3, 1945, opened the way to
a rapid growth of political parties. Soon a multi-party system emerged with
parties of different ideologies, ranging from nationalism to socialism, religion
and even Marxism/Leninism. Hence, the political structure developed into a
liberal democracy that was a complete departure from the type of democracy
envisaged by Pancasila.
With sharply conflicting ideologies, political rivalry was the
order of the day and a stable Government was out of the question. With a total
of 23 political parties and their factions, cabinets could only be formed on the
basis of a shaky compromise between the strongest parties. In point of fact,
coalition cabinets were formed and dissolved very often. The administration was
a complete shambles and development was a far cry.
The first and only general election ever held during the rule of
the Old Order took place in 1955. Even that election did not produce a strong
cabinet with a solid back-up in Parliament. On the contrary, because political
conditions continued to deteriorate, the President ordered the formation of a
Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. However, as mentioned earlier,
this only ended up in a total deadlock which led the President to take all the
power of the state into his own hands under the pretext of guided democracy.
Having learned from the experience of the unlimited multiparty
system of the past, the New Order Government, which came into office in 1967,
decided to Simplify the political system along the following lines:
1. In order to minimise ideological conflicts between political
organisations, all political organisations shall adopt Pancasila as their sole
2. To simplify the political system, particularly for the
purpose of choosing a political organisation by the people in general elections
it was felt that the number of these organisations should be reduced.
3. In the past, villages were made the bases of political
activities and manoeuvres, most notably in the heyday of the Indonesian
Communist Party. This adversely affected the social and economic life of the
village populations. Hence, it would be desirable to free villages from the
activities of political organisations.
Furthermore, the large number of organisations has been reduced
by the fusion of parties and their affiliated organisations into two political
parties — Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (The United Development Party or Partai
Persatuan) and Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (the Indonesian Democracy Party or
PDI), and one Functional Group or Golongan Karya (Golkar).
Partai Persatuan is a fusion of Nahdlatul Ulama (the Moslem
Scholars Party), Parmusi (the Moslem Party), PSII (the Islamic Confederation)
and PERIl (the Islamic Union).
PDI is a fusion of the former PNI (the Nationalist Party), the
Catholic Party, the Christian (Protestant) Party, the Indonesian Independence
Party, and Partai Murba (the People's Party).
Golkar accommodates the aspirations and political rights and
duties of functional groups that are not affiliated with either party, namely
civil servants, retired members of the Armed Forces, women's organisations,
professional groups, farmers, students, etc.
By virtue of the 1983 Guidelines of State Policy and on the
basis of Act No.3 of 1985, Pancasila has finally been adopted as the one and
only ideological principle upon which all political organisations base their
50 The following snippets from discussions reported by
the on-line service of Kompas (Kompas 1996), one the largest circulation
newspapers in Indonesia, provides some insight into the actual relationships
between the armed forces, Golkar (the ruling party) and the other two parties
under Suharto's rule. Key terms and acronyms to understand the following
- ABRI: Indonesian armed forces
- Golkar: ruling party in Indonesia
- KIPP: The Independent Election Monitoring Committee (suggested
by PDI and PPP as a replacement for Panwaslak)
- OPP: The three General Elections Participants Organisation (PPP,
- Panwaslak: The Election Monitoring Committee
- PDI: The Indonesian Democratic Party
- PPP: The United Development Party.
Chief of Staff of the Army General Hartono said it was clear
that each member of the armed forces (ABRI) was a Golkar cadre and therefore
persistent questions broaching the issue, themselves need to be queried. Hartono
conveyed his sentiments at the Sabilil Muttaqien Pesantren (Islamic school) in
Magetan, East Java on Thursday (14/3 ) …
In a meeting with Golkar officials in the Matesih Square,
Central Java, Hartono said ABRI exists behind Golkar. Historically ABRI has
never been separate from Golkar. Every ABRI member is a Golkar cadre and
therefore there is no need for them to be dubious about stating their allegiance
to Golkar (Kompas, 14/3 ) …
Hassan explained, it is not true that the existence of KIPP is
the expression of all Indonesians. Golkar with 35 million card-holding members
and its 1.5 million cadres can actually be called as the voice of the majority.
'So the refusal of KIPP is actually the majority desire. But Golkar does not
claim that the people refuses KIPP, Golkar alone is enough to refuse KIPP,' he
said. Regarding to the Initiative Rights Bill on the Amendment of the General
Elections Law proposed by United Development Party Faction in the House of
Representatives, Hassan said, Golkar refused it not because the present Election
Law brings benefit to Golkar. 'No, the Election Law brings benefit to all OPP.
The law has been approved by the three General Elections Participants
Organisation (OPP), so if there should be any changes in the law, it must be on
the approval from the three OPP,' he said …
The theme for the working meeting which will be held March
26-28, 1996 is: 'Strengthening the Security Stability of Regions to ensure the
Success of the 1997 General Elections'. The meeting is aimed at uniting
perceptions in the effort to increase development and preparations for the
upcoming elections. Besides all the governors, this meeting will be attended by
the Chairpersons of the Regional House of Representatives, the First Assistant
Secretaries of the Regional Government, the Heads of the Regional Social
Politics Directorate, and the Heads of Regional Bureau of Governmental Affairs.
Soebrata who is also the Secretary of the General Election Commission said that
although governors are the Chairpersons of the Consultative Board of Golkar and
the bureaucratic officials in the regions are Golkar functionaries, it does not
mean that the meeting will discuss efforts to win Golkar, rather it is an effort
by the governors as the Heads of the Regional Election Committee to execute the
General Election successfully, safely, and orderly.
Asked why the governors' perceptions have to be unified, the
Secretary General said that at present, there are many disturbing reports that
disrupt the preparations of the General Election, for example, the matter of an
independent election monitor al').d other matters related to the preparation of
the General Election. 'Therefore the unifying of perception among government
officials as the administrator of the General Election concerning the problems
that arose,' he said … Soebrata also reminded the governors as the officials in
charge of the administration of the General Election in their respective region
to implement their functions well while on duty, meaning that they should not
mix up between their functions as the administrator of the General Election and
their role as a Golkar functionary. 'I think this has been stressed enough, do
not mix between the duties of an administrator of the election and Golkar
functionary. While on duty as the election administrator, he should not
campaign. Aside of that, please campaign,' he said. Soebrata said, until now
there are no policies that forbid the governors to become campaign managers, as
it was done in the 1992 General Election since the period of Minister of Home
51 The 1972 American Telephone & Telegraph
(AT&T)/CIA conspiracy in Chile, resulting in the overthrow of an elected but
antagonistic government and the emplacement of a friendly dictatorship is one
instance of such activity (see Moberg 1992). However, similar support for
autocratic governments can be found throughout Central and South America, East
and South-East Asia and Africa since the post-Second World War era.
52 As Rachel Stohl (2008) describes,
there have been important changes since the September 11
attacks, with the United States finessing its arms export policies to support
its war on terrorism. The most significant changes have involved the lifting of
sanctions, the increase of arms and military training provided to perceived
anti-terrorist allies, and the development of new programs focused and based on
the global anti-terrorist crusade.
To understand and document this trend, the Center for Defense
Information has analyzed military assistance data (using U.S. government data
solely) for 25 countries that have been identified by the United States as
having a strategic role in the war on terrorism. These countries include those
that reflect the counterterrorism priorities of the United States — 17 are
“frontline” states identified by the Bush administration as “countries that
cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism or face terrorist
threats themselves” — and others strategically located near Afghanistan and
Iraq.. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia,
India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger,
Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and
53 See Singer (2003) for an exploration of the issue.
As James Hider described of the situation in Iraq in 2004,
The US military has created much of the demand for security
guards. It has outsourced many formerly military functions to private
contractors, who, in turn, need protection.
"The military doesn't have the means to look after hundreds of
government workers and contractors. What they're looking for is an intelligent
solution," said James Blount, whose Control Risk Group guards British officials
That solution is expensive -an estimated 10 per cent of the vast
reconstruction contracts are going towards security, with companies charging up
to Pounds 5,000 a day for a four-man armed escort with two armoured vehicles to
make sure that investors arrive at meetings alive.
For some, the costs are too high: cheaper solutions can mean
travelling in vulnerable "soft-skin" vehicles, such as the one in which Colour
Sergeant McDonald was riding when gunmen killed him and a Canadian colleague on
Monday. Last week two Finnish businessmen were shot dead in their car in
Baghdad, apparently travelling without an armed escort.
Some British companies operate on a small scale with elite
British forces. Others, such as the newly founded Erinys, have built up a vast
force of 14,000 British-trained Iraqi guards to protect Iraq's oil
Many of the 5,000 or so private security contractors estimated
to be operating in Iraq use former soldiers from the Third World, in particular
retired Gurkhas, to stand for long hours in front of coalition bases or
contractors' hotels in blazing temperatures. The London-based Global Risk
Strategy brought in an entire battalion of Fijian soldiers to provide security
for the distribution of Iraq's new currency last year
Like the coalition troops who regularly fight insurgents, the
Western security contractors are largely above the law. It is unlikely that a
guard would face legal proceedings if he accidentally shot an Iraqi civilian,
one contractor said.
(Iraq: Soldiers of Fortune Rush to Cash in on Unrest,
Times (London) April 1st, 2004)
54 See Ahene & Katz (1992); Bienen & Waterbury
(1989); Gamble (1994); Jessop (1988); and Letwin (1993).
55 Many commentators seem to have accepted the rhetoric
at face value, characterising the last thirty years as a remarkable period in
which many formerly authoritarian Third World governments have turned to
Superficially, the change from authoritarian to
democratic government has been very marked over the past twenty years. As an FAO
report summarised: 'The United Nations reports that in 1993, elections were held
in 45 countries and nearly three quarters of the world's population now live in
countries with democratic and relatively pluralistic regimes' (UN 1996).
56 "More honour'd in the breach than the
observance" (to misquote Shakespeare's Hamlet.)
57 The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index
provides graphic illustration of the blatantly ethnocentric judgements made,
assuming that Western forms of governmental organisation and practice are the
standards against which all the world should be judged.
Of course corruption exists everywhere and where
communities are unravelling and law and order are less effective one will find
practices which, in the eyes of inhabitants, are corrupt (see The Breakdown and Revitalisation of Communities; Living within the Environmental Means). However, what
constitutes corruption must always be judged against the forms and processes of
leadership and communal organisation found in a community and country.
To do otherwise is to engage in social-engineering,
re-fashioning non-Western systems of government and leadership to mimic Western
forms. This produces the very conditions that 'development' enthusiasts and
Western moralists are attempting to reform (see Imposition of Western Secondary Models: The Breakdown and
Revitalisation of Communities).
58 See History of the Emergence of Capitalism for a discussion of the
historical underpinnings of Western forms.
59 See Rachel Stohl (2008) for a discussion of changed US military
The internet is replete with examples of the ways
in which funding follows 'anti-terror' rhetoric:
Philippine Marines on Front Line in War on Terror
Reconstruction Team Serves on Front Line of War on
The Front Line in the War on Terror: It's Israel now, not
There seems to have been little challenge to the expertise and focuses of these
advisors, despite the recent (2007 — ) financial crises.
Neoliberalism places the market at the centre of
'development'. The presumption is that if the state privatises as much of its
activity as possible, making it directly answerable to 'market forces', and
deregulates fiscal and financial activity, market forces will ensure rational,
efficient economic organisation and activity which will, in the long-run, result
in a more rational organisation of society, to the benefit of its members.
A fundamental presumption underpinning
neoliberalism is that all cultural and social forms are derivatives of
individual, competitive, acquisitive behaviour, which is fundamental to human
nature. So, social change is driven by competitive individual exchange.
Uninhibited market exchange most directly expresses
that human nature. Therefore, by subjecting communities to 'market forces', one
introduces rational social change (see Social Exchange Theory for more on this).
Of course, these presumptions are highly
questionable and open to challenge. However, even accepting the premises, the
presumption that uninhibited individualistic competitive activity as expressed
in the marketplace will result in social good requires a remarkable leap of
faith. There seems to be no evidence from history that this is so (see The Working Poor).
This placed the state at the centre of development planning and implementation,
usually mapped out in five-year development plans.
62 see Mair, Stefan, 2008, 'The Need to Focus on Failing States' in
States, Vol. 29 (4) — Winter Issue for a balanced discussion of the nature
of failed states and reality of their threat to 'international security'.