Without getting too deep into the what-ifs of History, I'm trying to figure out how world politics might be different if the socialist bloc had directed more of their foreign/military aid to regimes in Africa as opposed to the Middle East, and Latin America. I mean, any Soviet aid to Latin America apart from Cuba was not going to be successful, yet in Africa it was seemingly easier to support a coup, take for example ...
I'm not sure what the figures are, but if aid had been diverted from Latin America/middle east,
Looking at spheres of interest, perhaps we can say, Tito traditionally had a strong rapport with Milton Obote in Uganda, Julius Nyere in Tanzania, and obviously Gaddafi. China had Mugabe in Zimbabe, and Barre in Somalia. The Soviets were deeply involved in Benin, Congo, Zaire, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, Mozambique, not sure if forays into Guinea-Bissau need to be considered here. Cabral offers some good insights into prospects of intervention in Africa. Good article weighing the influence of Lenin on both revolutionaries, Cabral and Fanon: http://www.jstor.org/pss/159719
Contemporary revisionist history tends to paint the Soviet Union as imperialist in its endeavors in Africa, but looking at the amount of aid they poured into countries other than the ones they had friendly governments in I would surmise it was a net loss. There was a book in my library on East German foreign aid, and it is quite interesting seeing the material connections which they had with South Africa.
Now, I do know the charge that these governments were only superficially marxist. On the other hand, from studying Zimbabwe more in-depth it does appear there was at least a veneer of social democracy, according to even the most right-wing of sources. Its unfashionable discuss Zimbabwe from a Marxist perspective, so it is difficult to get a balanced idea on what was going on, however Zimbabwe did invest heavily in education, does have some industrial capability, and from all accounts a great deal was lost in the Structural Adjustment packages. In Ethiopia there were massive housing campaigns and I've seen pictures of the neighborhoods:
Basically the critique in western literature goes along the lines of "omnibalancing," so moving against internal threats and simply taking the best deal from a foreign government. There is some truth in this, but I do think to some level these governments were committed to revolutionary change.
The Middle east at this point is somewhat of a distraction as far as I'm concerned. We are really expected to believe the center of world history rests on a conflict between Palestine and Israel? The U.S. has been diversifying its oil supplies over the past what say 20 years, much of it has been with Angola, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea to name a few sub-Saharan countries. Angola, was a soviet ally, but I think potentially either of those countries with sufficient support could have been pushed in that direction, fundamentally alterring geo-political balance in favour of SU. Many African countries joined the non-aligned movement, but if the socialist camp had expanded in Africa membership alliances would likely have tilted.
Seems like a massive topic, and it is, but I firmly believe that American and West European control over Africa is part of a critical advantage they have enjoyed both during and after the Cold War, and that it was certainly within the realm of feasibility that many of these countries could have been a part of the socialist bloc. Looking at the massive loss in Afghanistan, and Somalia, I can't help but wonder what would have happened had policy been reoriented.
"The present is a time of struggle; the future is ours."
The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin is a good read on the USSR's relations with third world countries. It was one of the flaws in the Soviet leadership (or perhaps Marxism in the early 20th century) that ignored colonized and unindustrialized nations. The USSR realized the important role of the Third World (as revolutionary socialist not merely anti-imperialist such as the NAM) more or less because of the Cuban Revolution.
"Don't hate on me bro" - Loz
Well that's a big part of the problem. Coups were often so easy in Africa that the USSR could spend the time and effort encouraging and supporting them, and then helping the new leadership, only to see it all washed away in a matter of months or years. Among its Sub-Saharan African allies, Guinea, Somalia, Ghana, Sudan, Uganda, Benin all got and then lost pro-Soviet socialist regimes between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s.
Not really worth mentioning China's successes during that time. Their activity was in large measure focused more toward upsetting the Soviets and their allies than advancing socialism in Africa. It's despicable from a socialist standpoint remembering some of the people and groups they supported.
Well in many ways that's not much different to Soviet aid and development policy globally. Long-term low interest loans, preferential trade arrangements, grants, subsidies, debt forgiveness -Soviet programs had all of that. Importantly, their aid usually went toward infrastructure, industry and the mechanization of agriculture, meant to genuinely get the country off its feet and able to export value-added finished goods and to substitute expensive foreign manufactures with their own. Often times, the USSR allowed loan repayment to come in the form of the goods produced in the new enterprises. Hence, for instance, the USSR would provide credits, engineers, machine tools and other materials to build a pantyhose factory, and then allow the host country to pay back the costs via its output for a certain period of time. It was difficult to find a Western country doing the same at that time and now is virtually impossible, but the Soviets had no financial stake to lose and only an ally to gain.
This would be interesting, if disappointing, to see. So far as I'm aware, the Eastern Bloc states were pretty much the only real white European proponents of the destruction of the Apartheid regime.
I don't think so, but it was important for the USSR to let the Arab world know that they were on their side against Israeli imperialism. The alliance with South Yemen also provided the USSR an important geostrategic position in the Arabian and Red seas (important for their heavily used naval sealanes), just as Libyan and Syrian ports did in the Mediterranean.
I believe that the Socialist Bloc's political, economic and military role in southern Africa was already pushing the situation toward that direction, hence the fierce, bloody and outright genocidal warfare being carried out by the SADF and its rebel allies in Angola and Namibia. Together South Africa and the USSR produced upwards of 90% of some of the world's rare minerals, and an ANC victory if South Africa would do much to alter the global power balance, to say the least. As for Nigeria, I think that a successful socialist coup would have been difficult to pull off, given that the country was long vetted for independence by its former colonial masters. Having the time to entrench themselves, Nigerian oligarchs would fight tooth and nail to maintain their power. In Angola's case, the Portuguese actually supported the MPLA in 1975 by giving them weapons and moral support, and pulled out in a hurry, giving radicals a real chance at seizing power.
Finally, you mention control and access to non-Middle Eastern oil supply as a method of altering the geopolitical balance. Interestingly enough, that too was already going on in Europe in the 1970s, when the USSR became a major supplier of Western European oil and gas. It could be argued that a measure of dependence on the USSR might have forced Western Europe to soften its stance toward the Soviets and to distance themselves to some degree from Washington.
Red Rebel wrote:
Yes, definitely. Cuba did more to increase the Soviet Union's influence in the third world than any other nation, providing moral support in the NAM, and taking the dominant military role in the African revolutionary wars of the 1970s. It's a terrible shame that their contribution to the spread of socialism was paid back only with insults and betrayal by the traitorous leadership in the Kremlin in the late 1980s.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
True. On the other hand, had it not been for chinese aid to Zimbabwe they probably could not have carried out their land reform which to date is the most extensive accomplished by any state in Southern Africa. Although the Ethiopia v. Somalia affair you're absolutely right. They gave up on Zaire, but it was the weakest state in the continent. The other thing that we need to consider is borders, many of those countries would have feasibly amalgamated as Senegambia and Mali Confederation tried. British preconditions for independence were really focused on a threat of Egypt and Sudan uniting, but thats what it really comes down to. So many small states in Africa because they are forced to keep their pre-colonial borders where it probably does them no service. The China wedge issue becomes then more problematic in the light of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia. But that'ts just the thing, with Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia all in the south and pro-Soviet the other two key regimes to the US right now are Equatorial Guinea (oil reserves) and DR Congo (minerals), the CMEA could expand as a stronger alternative to the IMF.
According to Wiki, East Germany was involved with Idi Amin, and of course China was involved with Siad Barre, but I'm not really sure anyone would have forseen what was going to happen in either of those cases. Amin is a difficult case, harder to understand as many claim he was on the side of the British, yet in many other ways he was a revolutionary in the context of Uganda. But the point is both China and USSR supported questionable leaders.
Yes, it is interesting to revisit why the African marxist regimes developed the way they did after the end of the Cold War. Kerekou and Kaunda stepped down, but Nguesso came back in a civil war. Countries like Korea and Cuba probably have a lot more success in their geopolitical location and time to develop a revolution than Congo or Benin though, especially not a landlocked nation. Am buying Nguesso's book Talking Straight, but it is interesting to note African marxist states which carried on after the end of the Cold War and how they all gave in to structural adjustment programs. I'm not sure I believe the western academic line that the states never believed in throughout their history, there is a huge history of Marxism in Africa, particularly in literature, art, cinema, but then too in political movements and academics.
I'm not saying it is not important, just disproportionately represented as the most important region of the world. SU was a small player in the Middle East and sure you're right having Yemen was good, but being embroiled in Middle Eastern affairs seemed to be less successful in the end, they would never have been able to expand any further and their chances of backing a revolution that would have moved to integrate into socialist bloc was extremely low. Ethiopia is a really good example of a country that had it continued in that vein would have begun to develop strong domestic industrial capacity I think, and as you rightly say the Soviet system of aid was much better here.
The reason the Portuguese gave weapons is more demonstrated by the way they ALL left almost overnight by most accounts, they wanted instability and bloodshed so by giving weapons it was more of a means of encouraging violence for the sake of violence. They would have been motivated for less racist reasons than South Africa, after all we are discussing this post-Fascism Portugal, but still I think the larger issue here was playing games of divide-and-rule and keeping the country weak. As an oil-rich country that has reached a certain level of stability, Angola is gaining weight on the foreign stage, rejecting IMF loans, which perhaps they will be an African creditor nation in the future. The end of the civil war just shows the constant pushing of weapons particularly from former colonial powers, selling to both sides, is just part of a means of continuing economic domination.
Nigeria is a longer-term process, but Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso would have all fallen easy, and indeed Burkina Faso did with Thomas Sankara in the late 1980s. The British are firmly entrenched in Nigeria, but if we consider the likelihood the imperialist powers will intervene militarily or just sponsor opposition groups like the MDC in Zimbabwe, then it appears the costs of launching a regime change in Africa were less and it was more likely to succeed. Pro-soviet regimes in the middle east were not particularly long-lasting either. I think you bring up an interesting point on the shifting attitude of Soviet leaders in the 80s. It is increasingly problematic because had revolutions like Thomas Sankara's extended in the late 1980s it would have provided a great vindication to socialism, and possibly helped the economic problems being faced elsewhere.
@ Red Rebel, thanks will check out that book!
"The present is a time of struggle; the future is ours."
Alternative Display:Mobile view