Beyond Continents, Colours, and the Cold War: Yugoslavia, Algeria, and the struggle for Non-Alignment J. Byrne

Background Knowledge:

Bandung Conference - 1955:

The conference's stated aims were to promote Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism or neocolonialism by any nation. The conference was an important step toward the Non-Alignment Movement.

Non-Alignment Movement:

A group of states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc during the Cold War. The Organization was founded in Belgrade in 1961. It still exists nowadays, but since the end of the Cold War, its relevance has exponentially declined. The article refers to it as "positive neutralism"

Belgrade Conference - 1961:

Held in Yugoslavia on Sept. 1–6, 1961, the Belgrade Conference was organized by the leaders of Yugoslavia, Egypt and India and was attended by representatives of 29 states. The delegates conducted a broad discussion of questions related to the ultimate abolition of colonialism, to universal and total disarmament, to the peaceful coexistence of states with different social and political systems, and to the role and structure of the UN. They adopted a Declaration on the Threat of War and an Appeal for Peace, as well as a Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the Nonaligned States. These documents formulated the principles of the policy of nonalignment.

The funding of the Non-Aligned movement in 1961 represented a victory for smaller actors who took a more provocative approach towards International Relations.

Aim of the article

  • Explore the evolution of Non-Alignment (or positive neutralism) in the decade following the Bandung Conference.
  • Show that Non-Alignment was, for these smaller actors, a way to fight the Cold War, rather than a way to abstain from it.

Relations between Algeria and Yugoslavia

During the war of independence of Algeria, the Yugoslavs offered to provide food, medicine and military supplies to the Algerian liberation movement if necessary. Yugoslavia de facto recognized their liberation movement as the representative of the Algerian nation. The Algerians believed that Non-Alignment and Third-Worldism was essential to their national interests.

Discrepancies in Non-Allignment

  • The Indians resufed to risk a full rupture with Paris and hence with the Western bloc, and did not recognize the FLN.
  • In the Suez Crisis (1956), the intervention of the two super powers allowed India to seize its greatest triumph from an imminent catastrophe.
  • Yugoslavia enjoyed a unique and awkward position in Europe, the odd-one-out of the communist countries which had no choice but to pursue active relations with both blocs.
  • France continued to supply Algeria economically.
  • The majority of the potential participants of the Second Summit of Afro-Asian Heads of State scheduled to take place in ALgiers in 1965 were favourable in including the USSR in the meeting.

Evolution of Non-Alignment:

  • Member countries started disagreeing regarding the nature and purpose of the Third World concept, as China, the USSR and Yugoslavia started fearing that it could become an ideological opponent of Communism and started pushing for an Afro-Asian identity instead
  • Afro-Asianism and Non-Alignment became two distinct and competing views on Third World solidarity. Afro-Asianism collapsed pretty soon, with the failure to hold another summit in Algiers.
  • The Algerians believed that Non-Alignment and Third-Worldism was essential to their national interests. Therefore they helped Cuba, Latin America, African countries and Palestine with guerrilla forces.
  • Race difference and skin color were progressively seen as an obstacle to Sub-Saharian Africa by Algeria and Yugoslavia. There was this sense that the Arab Africa felt superior to the "black Africa"
  • China started seeing Non-Alignment as a race war against the West imperialism, but there was no consistent pattern between racial dynamics and political ones.
"We are white like you, maybe a bit more brown" -Ben Bella to Tito


  • The focus on economic, rather than political or racial issues during the Cold War facilitated the expansion of Non-Alignment. Most developing countries used it as way to protect their economic nationalism from the integrated, liberal economic order created by the US and Western Europe.
  • Many of these smaller countries and their liberation movement adopted Non-Alignment as a policy of engaging and exploiting the Cold War tensions to their own ends.
  • NAM was used as the cornerstone of post-colonial approach to international affairs.
  • NAM was a way to stand in opposition to the West's long History of conflicts.
  • For Asian countries, it was a way to manage Communist China's growing involvement in Asian and world affairs.
  • For China, it was a way to minimize the superpower's control over Asia through a "racial" argument.


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