Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order

Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order

Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order

Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order

Synopsis

Amid the burgeoning literature on the connections between the global north and the global south, Mecca of Revolution is a pure example of post-colonial, or "south-south," international history. Through an examination of Algeria's interactions with the wider world, from the beginning of its war of independence to the fall of its first post-colonial regime, the Third Worldist perspective on the twentieth century comes into view. Hitherto dominant historical paradigms such as the Cold War are situated in the larger context of decolonization and the re-inclusion of the large majority of humanity in international affairs. At the same time, groundbreaking research in the archives of Algeria and a half-dozen other countries enable Mecca of Revolution to advance beyond the focus on discourse analysis that has typified previous studies of Third World internationalism. It demystifies terms like Non-Alignment, Afro-Asianism, and Bandung, and sheds new light on the relationships between the emergent elites of Africa, the Middle East, Asian, and Latin America. As one of the most prominent sites of post-colonial socialist experimentation and an epicenter of transnational guerrilla activity, Algeria was at the heart of efforts to transform global political and economic structures. Yet, the book also shows how Third Worldism evolved from a subversive transnational phenomenon into a mode of elite cooperation that reinforced the authority of the post-colonial state. In so doing, the Third World movement played a key role in the construction of the totalizing international order of the late-twentieth century. Ultimately, Mecca of Revolution shows the "post-colonial world" is all of our world.

Excerpt

It was an exemplary coup d’état. Trusted military units, prepositioned near the capital, moved into the city in the dead of night. Confused locals awoke to find tanks and soldiers of their own nation’s army occupying major intersections and vital locations, such as the government buildings, the state radio and television broadcaster, and the airport. By then, the president had already been spirited away to an unknown fate. the plotters had captured him in his bed, the depth of his defeat demonstrated by the fact that the group that came for him included the very man he had been counting on to prevent this turn of events. Presented with a fait accompli, perhaps not so attached to their president as he had hoped, few members of the public offered overt criticism or protest. Indeed, the foreign minister, who was one of the coup’s primary orchestrators, bragged that they would have killed their former leader if they had known how little resistance they would face. It was false bravado. As he well knew, in June 1965 Algeria was subject to intense international scrutiny.

In fact, the coup initially provoked greater consternation abroad. Charismatic and dynamic, President Ahmed Ben Bella managed in his brief tenure, beginning at Algeria’s independence three years earlier, to establish himself as one of the most prominent statesmen in the Southern Hemisphere. His erstwhile colleagues and usurpers, chief among them the minister of defense, Houari Boumedienne, therefore now faced a crisis of legitimacy in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the most powerful man in the Arab world, demanded that his friend be released into his care. Several African heads of state, including Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, declared that Ben Bella’s fate was a matter of concern for the whole continent and insisted on an investigation. From the far side of the Atlantic Ocean, Cuba’s Fidel Castro thundered blistering denunciations with characteristic vigor. More contemplative was the response of Castro’s counterpart from British Guiana, Cheddi Jagan, who penned a mournful ode to the man he had so admired: “Where is he now / Ben Bella / What dark prison holds him / away from his people?” While neither poetry nor petitions sprang Ben Bella . . .

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