JUSTICE INITIATIVE acquaints us with a little known but important slice of history in this post. While not mentioned in this article, both South and North Vietnam were represented this important conference held in Indonesia in April 1955.

Bandung Conference

65th Anniversary

January 1, 2020
Jack O’Dell, speaking March 2013, University of the Fraser Valley, is a Canadian public university with campuses in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Hope, British Columbia., credit: The Cascade (Portside)

While I have sent out information in the past about the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia, I thought on this first day of the 2020 decade I would once again provide information about this renowned and exceptionally important conference regarding the world’s liberation struggles against colonialism, racial oppression and for advancements in human relationships and independence. This is also in honor of the late Jack O’Dell who recognized, importantly, the significance of the Bandung Conference. In fact, O’Dell referred to the Bandung Conference in his writings and strategies as an important guide in the development of plans for a Democracy Charter for America that he developed.

As noted by author Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo, One of the core values of the Bandung Conference was self-determination,” that was incorporated, as referred to in the article below, in the ‘declared resolutions’ from the 1955 conference.
In his writings, O’Dell also wisely made reference to the Bandung Conference along with other seminal events that took place throughout the world in 1955, that were the following:
  1. The Bandung Conference, held in Indonesia in 1955, “which established the prospect that the struggle to abolish colonialism would be victorious”;
  2. “The Congress of the People, held in Kliptown, South Africa (in 1955), which adopted a Freedom Charter to guide the movement to abolish apartheid at a time when the apartheid system was being tightened by repressive measures”;
  3. The Montgomery bus boycott (in 1955), “which shifted the center of grassroots mass action to the Southern heartland of segregation and set into motion an example that would inspire the freedom movement across the country in our struggle to abolish institutional racism.” (THE O’DELL FILE)
It is likely that the Bandung Conference in Indonesia is the least known of the three events and yet its significance is immense.
Thanks to my lengthy conversations with O’Dell and his recommendations, I began to do research on the Bandung Conference. The conference was controversial and most certainly not appreciated by western countries. As you might have ascertained, the African and Asian demands for independence and democracy were not on the capitalist controlled west’s agenda for international development after WWII.
Some Americans did take part in the conference, but the U.S. did not allow leading activists such as W.E.B DuBois and Paul Robeson to attend – their passports for travel to Indonesia were denied. Here’s some information about the US vis-a-vis the Bandung Conference:
The United States, at the urging of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, shunned the conference and was not officially represented. However, the administration issued a series of statements during the lead-up to the Conference. These suggested that the US would provide economic aid, and attempted to reframe the issue of colonialism as a threat by China and the Eastern Bloc.
Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (D-N.Y.) attended the conference, sponsored by Ebony and Jet magazines instead of the U.S. government. Powell spoke at some length in favor of American foreign policy there which assisted the United States’s standing with the Non-Aligned. When Powell returned to the United States, he urged President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Congress to oppose colonialism and pay attention to the priorities of emerging Third World nations.
African American author Richard Wright attended the conference with funding from the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Wright spent about three weeks in Indonesia, devoting a week to attending the conference and the rest of his time to interacting with Indonesian artists and intellectuals in preparation to write several articles and a book on his trip to Indonesia and attendance at the conference. Wright’s essays on the trip appeared in several Congress for Cultural Freedom magazines, and his book on the trip was published as The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. Several of the artists and intellectuals with whom Wright interacted (including   Mochtar LubisAsrul SaniSitor Situmorang, and Beb Vuyk) continued discussing Wright’s visit after he left Indonesia. (Wikipedia)
Regarding international attendance at the Bandung Conference:
Of the twenty-nine nations that were represented in the Bandung Conference, six were from Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), Liberia, Libya, and Sudan.  The leading contributors to the Bandung Conference were the nations of Burma, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.  The primary organizer was Ruslan Abdulgani, former Prime Minister of Indonesia. (Black Past Remembered & Reclaimed)

This conference was a historic meeting in which political leaders and foreign minis- ters of 29 Asian and African countries gathered on the initiative of the leaders of the Third World at that time, including Premier Chou En-lai (China), President Achmed Sukarno (Indonesia), Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Prime Minister Mohammed Ali of Pakistan, Prime Minister U nu of Myanmar, and Sir John Kotelawala of Sri Lanka. (Journal of the Global South)

In fact, interestingly, it was from this conference that the concept of the non-aligned movement or “Third World” evolved, meaning essentially that there was a “third” way for countries to consider rather than choosing between stark capitalist and communist positions. Also a “third way” to challenge the “unipolarity” of the west controlled “top-down” international capitalist economy.

Indonesia, where the conference was held, is the largest island country in the world with some 14,000 islands and with estimates of 255 million people it is also considered the fourth “most populous country” in the world along with having “the most populous Muslim-majority country.” (Wikipedia)  Indonesia is also rich with resources including oil and rubber that the west, including the United States, wanted to control.

By 1965, 10 years after the conference, Indonesia’s President Sukarno, who hosted the event, was overturned by the violent coup orchestrated, for one, by U.S. trained Indonesian military generals (JSTOR).
In Indonesia in October 1965, Suharto, a powerful Indonesian military leader,   accused the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) of organizing a brutal coup attempt, following the kidnapping and murder of six high-ranking army officers. Over the months that followed, he oversaw the systematic extermination of up to a million Indonesians for affiliation with the party, or simply for being accused of harboring leftist sympathies. He then took power and ruled as dictator, with U.S. support, until 1998. (The Atlantic)
In the early 1970s, I lived in Singapore and from my apartment I could look across the Singapore Strait to the coastline of one of the Indonesian islands and became well aware of the Suharto ‘undemocratically’ controlled government.
But in spite of the aftermath of the violent ousting of Sukarno in 1965, the important concepts and rationale from the 1955 Bandung Conference continue to resonate.
The Bandung Conference – 1955
Excerpts from the  “Bandung + 60″ website &
scholar Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo from the Journal of the Global South 
Here is a brief summary of the rationale for holding the conference:
The Conference: Birth of the “Third World”
The 1955 Bandung conference was one of the most important conferences held in the twentieth century. It’s also one of the least well known. Leaders of the major independent Asian and African countries gathered at this Indonesian city from April 18-22, 1955. There, they first set in motion the concept of South-South solidarity – newly-independent countries of Africa and Asia gathering to seek common ground. It was a French writer who dubbed this group “the Third World.” It was at the United Nations where the new independent governments began to found common ground. But it was in Bandung where it began. (Bandung + 60
Below are excerpts from an article in the Journal of the Global South (2015) by Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo entitled “Rethinking the Bandung conference in an Era of ‘unipolar liberal globalization’ and movements toward a ‘multipolar politics'”. Importantly, Lumumba-Kasongo mentions that One of the core values of the Bandung Conference was self-determination” as was the third principle in the Atlantic Charter developed by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1941. Churchill had denied that the principle of self-determination was meant for the British colonial world but Asia and Africa thankfully consistently denied his assertions and made it a central value anyway.
Excerpts from Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo’s
“Rethinking the Bandung conference in an
Era of ‘unipolar liberal globalization’
and movements toward a ‘multipolar politics’
“Final declared resolutions” developed at the 1955 Bandung Conference
Despite cultural, ideological, historical and political differences among the delegates, a ten-point “declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation” was adopted, which included the following principles:
  1. Respect for fundamental human rights and principles of the charter of the United Nations;
  2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrate of all nations;
  3. Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations large and small;
  4. Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country;
  5. Respect of the Right of each nation to defend itself, singly or collectively, in conformity with the charter of the United Nations;
  6. (a) Abstention from the use of arrangements of collective defense to serve any particular interests of big power; (b) Abstention by any country from exerting pressures on other countries;
  7. Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country;
  8. Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of the parties’ own choice, in conformity with the charter of the United Nations;
  9. Promotion of mutual interests and cooperation;
  10. Respect for justice and international obligation.
Other points of the final resolutions include: economic cooperation (trade affairs and nuclear energy), cultural cooperation, human rights and self-determination, problems of dependent people, other problems such as the existing tension in the Middle East, and the promotion of a world of peace and cooperation.
Leaders at Bandung in 1955.
Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser, Sukarno, Tito
 (Bandung Spirit)
To actualize these resolutions into the policy arena, the state system was firmly valorized, regional cooperation was encouraged and supported, and the principles articulating human dignity were promoted. On the one hand, statism was going to maintain many dimensions of status quo in the world of the states, and on the other hand, the concepts of cooperation and solidarity, and the values of human rights were intended to advance political and economic reforms.
Nationalism, self-determination, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, and the spirit of cooperation were emphasized in this talk. The position of Japan in the new projected international and regional relations was difficult to very clearly read. Japan was still strongly aligned to the United States politics (Japan became the closest ally of the United States after 1952), foreign relations and their international relations. It did not adhere to the ideas of non-alignment. In fact, it was antagonistic to this movement. But at the same time, Japan was obliged to work with countries, which have adopted the non-alignment as their policy guidelines in international relations.
To conclude in this section, it is necessary to recapture the most important elements that are related to the claims and ideas of the Bandung Conference. These points are reflected in the grand ideas of the political leaders in Asia and Africa. The leaders of China, led by Zhou Enlai, articulated socialism not à la Moscow and peaceful relations, those of India led by Prime Minister Nehru expressed liberalism, nationalism and non-violence, those of Indonesia led by President Sukarno articulated nationalism and decolonization, and the emerging leaders in many African countries were pushing for political decolonization agenda with different strategies among which later nationalism, panAfricanism, or accommodationism became the most prominent. The opposition against colonialism, neocolonialism or any imperialistic based kind of policies was probably the most important single consensual position that unified various interests, mobilized human spirit in envisioning a new and better world system. One of the most important questions is: Could this opposition be forcefully managed and actualized without any concrete and well-defined ideology?
Bandung Conference (Richard Wright)

The final speeches and the declarations made cannot escape the evaluation from an ideological canon of geo-political location of the participants. Broadly, non-alignment was de facto an “ideological alignment” of the countries, which were structurally facing similar problems within a bigger framework, oppressed by similar forces and subjected to the same global rules of the games.

It should be noted that the Bandung Conference projected, for the first time, the consciousness of Third Worldism. The term third world was first used as a political category at this conference. The conference’s main figures – Nehru (India), Nasser (Egypt), Zhou Enlai (China) – were already in power. This consciousness led to the movement of global solidarity among the countries located in the Global South. This was a big achievement then. However, within the current global economy, is this movement still relevant in the 21st century?….
Rethinking the Bandung conference: where to go from here?
The Bandung Conference provided an avenue to discuss structural problems of the world and project how their impact in Africa and Asia would be. It gave hope through cooperation and struggle against all forms of oppressive colonial forces. However, it failed to address the question of the structures of the African and Asian states and their relations to the international political economy. Nor did it deal adequately with the issue of the nature of the ideologies of the states in Africa and Asia. Thus, although the symptoms of the problems were well defined, it did not sufficiently clarify what kinds of political societies to be created, based on what kinds of national ideologies, as a result of the declarations and final resolutions of the conference.
Even during the Cold War era, all the new the financial and economic institutions created after World War II preached the message of unipolarity. The U.S. is the champion of this unipolarity but at the same time it talks about free trade, the respect for human rights, and liberal democratic values, and international security, which also are the attributes of multipolar world. Unipolarity was applied through the building of the global capitalism under the supervision and the control of the United States. All the post-World War II global financial and economic institutions supported the centrality of the United States in world affairs. The U.S. is the biggest supporter of most of these organizations. This situation created a strong political clientelism and economic dependence that led to the weakening of the states in the global south. The U.S. viewed and interacted with the rest of the actors in the world from power and control perspectives.
American novelist Richard Wright in Bandung 1955. Wright was contracted to report on the famous Asia-Africa conference organized by Sukarno. Seen here visiting the home of writer Takir Alisjahbana in Tugu. While visiting Java, Wright met a number of prominent Indonesian writers at Takir’s home. (Instagram Posts)
One of the core values of the Bandung Conference was self-determination. It could not be consolidated in a new era without changing the existing power relations between African and Asian countries on the one hand, and between them and the industrialized countries in new Europe and the United States on the other hand. But it should be noted that European-United States together represent about 40 percent of the world commercial relations and about 50 percent of the world growth national product. African-Asian relations must challenge these trends and the tendencies of political monopoly, especially when it comes to the issues of international security, and economic and financial megapoly of the global capitalism.
The major questions here are: What kind of power system should the rethinking produce? What kinds of societies, states, and the economies, the rethinking should be able to project for African and Asian societies? What should be the ideological foundation of the new solidarity? And who should do the rethinking?
The role of the organic intellectuals and their relations with social movements and the societies at large is particularly important. No major societal structural changes have occurred in any part of the contemporary nation-states without the engagement of a conscious social class. These intellectuals should challenge the top down approach that has dominated the contemporary political thinking. They are defined as socially engaged individuals. They can engage societies through the acquisition and the circulation of critical knowledge, or through dialogical relations of Paulo Freire (1978) with other social classes or by national struggles à la Fanon (1963). They should combine the process of knowledge production and political activism in civil societies, grassroot organizations, and professional organizations. They do not only intellectualize about their societies and others but they also participate in the process of changing those societies in associating themselves with organic institutions and social movements. They should form a vanguard group.
In order to imagine and invent relevant and effective strategies, which African and Asian nation-states and their institutions can use as instruments through which they can challenge the trends of megapoly of global capitalism, first of all, they have to transform solidarity to an effective ideological foundation of their actions. The appropriate question is solidarity for what? The short answer is for building a peaceful and developmental region where poverty eradication is the main objective. Thus, this becomes an ideological construct. Second of all, they have to do the inventory of what they have as natural and social assets, and as skills. Third of all, they have to know one another through educational systems and other training programs. Fourth of all, they have to set up their policy priorities based on their people’s living standards. Fifth of all, they have to establish strong regional institutions through which decisions can be made collectively. And sixth of all, they have to deepen their own democracies. Furthermore, their concept of security has to be re-defined. It should go beyond militarism. It should include human security, which means the protection of social, political and economic rights, the protection of the eco-systems, and formulation and implementation of policies intended for the elimination of poverty.
I characterize multipolarity to be a ‘contestation’ paradigm that should challenge both unipolarity and the old déclassé bipolarity. The old bipolarity was the major feature of the Cold War politics. The world was divided on the basis of the ideological struggles between the United States and its allies, and their neo-liberalism and the Soviet Union and its allies and their international socialism. This ideological bipolarity shaped the world diplomacy and all economic relations and military alliances during the Cold War period.
However, in the post-Cold War (since the early 1990s), it should be noted that while the call for multipolarity has been intensifying through the rise of indigenous, labor, social, women, youth and popular organizations and movements, its ideological basis is at the best hybrid. It is so because multipolarity as we are using it has not been able to interrogate sufficiently the nature of states and their actions. It has also challenged ethno-culturalism or culturalism of the state through civil societies but not the structures of the power system. In general, multipolarity movements call for political and economic decentralization of the world resources, a better management of world resources and a fair distribution of these resources. They call for more people’s participation in the reconstruction of their economies. In international system, it should call for the reconceptualization and establishment of new international partnership/cooperation based on the win-win theory.
Regions and nation-states that are doing well or better economically are those who have also capacities to negotiate. Here African-Asian solidarity has to produce those capacities based on their new political vision. This solidarity has to produce institutions and people with knowledge and specializations about, and/or on, the region.

Finally, the policies based on new solidarity have to be articulated on some specific sectorial priorities. This solidarity should focus on the pursuit of peace and development, as these two interrelated values should be in the center of re-organizing the state and the state-societal relations. Africa, for instance, has the highest density of poverty in the world (about 88 percent). The sectors that should be developed in order to eradicate poverty include: law, education, health, rural development, and infrastructures as part of the first steps to be taken that would allow the consolidation, understanding and appreciation of the new African-Asian solidarity at the national level. For this author, new rethinking has to produce first a political agenda. And secondly, this political agenda about development has to be able to challenge the Washington Consensus – the most important political expression of the claims of unipolarity par excellence, in mobilizing the people against the usage of the social dominant paradigm (DSP). In my view, given the level of the existing economic disparities among the people and the states in Africa and Asia, and different levels of development, the invisible hand of Adam Smith’s economic integration is not a sufficient tool for the consolidation of this solidarity. They have to develop first the state’s welfarism as the foundation of African-Asian solidarity. This is essentially a political issue.


About Professor Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo


Lumumba-Kasongo’s specific interests in political science are varied and timely. Comparative politics, international relations, political economy, education, philosophy, and classical studies are all intertwined in the classes he teaches. Political science provides theoretical tools and empirical knowledge about the origins, structures, and functioning of the institutions and systems of power and governance, including those of the nation-states, citizenry, political institutions, multinational and transnational agencies, and other political forces such as gender and social class. This understanding helps students comprehend why political actors behave the way they do, the values they represent, how they make certain types of decisions, and the impact of those decisions on the environment, households, and society at large.


1972 Diplôme d’Agrégation, Université Libre du Congo
1972 B.A. Université Libre du Congo
1975 M.A. Harvard University
1980 M.A. The University of Chicago
1981 Ph.D. The University of Chicago