Will the Circle be Unbroken? Reviving the Spirit of Bandung and Panchsheel

EDITORIAL, 13 Mar 2023

#787 | Marilyn Langlois – TRANSCEND Media Service

“I hate the US empire, and I love the US republic.” — Johan Galtung

Circles evoke mutual acceptance, self-respect, and constructive collaboration.  Straight lines can divide.  Consider the popular social game “tug-of-war”, whereby two teams each hold opposite ends of a long rope centered on a marking on the ground.  They then pull until the stronger team causes the weaker team to cross that center point.  The triumphant winners cheer, while the disappointed losers hang their heads, and laugh it off.  It’s only a game after all.

There’s another version of this game, virtually unknown:  The ends of the long rope are tied together to form a circle on the ground.   People sit on the ground around the rope circle and grasp it tightly with both hands.  The challenge is for everyone to stand up at the same time without letting go of the rope.  We are so conditioned to seek win-lose competitions that some might say, where’s the fun in that?  But try it, and you’ll see it’s not so easy, yet when successful, everyone can rejoice with a sense of accomplishment!

What if one team in the competitive version doesn’t play fair, using a hidden machine to amplify the strength of its members?  We see this today with the military-monetary apparatus of the Anglo-American empire aiming to pull any nation that defies its hegemony off balance.

Cynthia Chung contends the British have reconquered its former rebellious offspring, using the US/UK “special relationship” to establish a renewed empire. Economic colonization continues, backed up by financial networks, covert CIA/MI6 operations and hundreds of US military bases[i] that dot the globe in over 85 countries.  The sun still never sets on the modern Anglo-American empire.

The United States republic, established with a robust constitution to ensure fairness and sovereignty, has seen its founding principles repeatedly subverted.  After killing public banking advocate Alexander Hamilton in 1804, British agent Aaron Burr set up the private Bank of Manhattan, birthing Wall Street as a US tentacle of the City of London, the one square mile opaquely governed entity within the UK capital, whose financial empire spans the globe, including numerous secretive tax havens[ii].

Following Franklin Roosevelt’s 1945 death under questionable circumstances (there was never an autopsy), his vision of peaceful co-existence and providing low-interest loans without conditionalities to countries for building their own resilience was hijacked, resulting in a neo-colonial resource grab via the IMF and World Bank that has left many nations deeply indebted and impoverished.  Churchill and Truman declared the Cold War in 1946, transforming the Soviet Union overnight from ally to enemy.

The US today bears the face of the empire while welcoming collusion of its progenitor in countless nefarious deeds.   UK’s MI6 helped create the notorious White Helmets, posing as “civil defense” but in fact aligned with US backed terror groups in Syria, and lately being callously used to sabotage Syria under cover of “earthquake relief”.  One year ago, when Russia and Ukraine were on the verge of finalizing a peace agreement, UK’s then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Kiev to scuttle the deal and insist Ukraine keep on fighting.  Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev replied to an accusatory question about press freedom posed by a BBC reporter by laying bare the hypocrisy of UK subjecting Julian Assange to imprisonment and torture for his journalistic activities (that exposed US war crimes).

Its perceived exceptionalism has justified US efforts to exert control over numerous other countries via coup d’état, assassination, military invasion, covert subversion, election tampering or attempts thereof.  Some examples within my lifetime are Angola, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Italy, Korea, Libya, Nicaragua, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Syria, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and no doubt more. What other country has such a track record?

Other nations have found ways to resist US/UK hegemonic impulses.  One antidote to imperialism appeared in the often forgotten 1955 Bandung Conference, precursor to the non-aligned movement of the Cold War, held in Indonesia, where more than half the world’s population was represented in their call for the right to self-determination.  Participants included Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, South and North Vietnam, and Yemen.

It aimed to promote Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism or neo-colonialism by any nation, inspired by the spirit of Panchsheel, or Five Principles of Co-existence:  mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.

The US has tried to paint Russia as the sole evil-doer in Ukraine, but the Global South is not buying it.  They are increasingly fed up with the Anglo-American empire throwing its weight around.  Multiple General Assembly resolutions to condemn Russia’s actions received only minority support of the world’s population.  Uganda’s foreign minister Jeje Odongo observed,

We were colonized and forgave those who colonized us. Now the colonizers are asking us to be enemies of Russia, who never colonized us. Is that fair? Not for us.”

China’s position on a resolution for Ukraine recalls the principles of the Bandung Conference and reflects points raised by Global South leaders who are resisting US bullying.

Even a major humanitarian disaster like the recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey couldn’t soften the ice-cold heart of the West.  As of early March, who sent aid to Damascus (for all of Syria, not just the corner of Syria that the US occupies and from where steals its oil)?: Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Tunisia and Venezuela.

And who didn’t?  The US, EU and all US allies including Canada sent nothing for the severely damaged zones of Latakia and Aleppo.

US attempts to cripple Russia economically are backfiring, as BRICS expands, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Economic Union bolster trade with Russia and work on developing a new global trading currency based on a combination of national currencies and commodity values: a multi-polar, cooperative finance model to phase out the unipolar petrodollar hegemony of the Anglo-American banking cartel. Africa is pivoting away from the US, and joins growing worldwide efforts to build unity against imperialism in the 21st century, redirecting resources to improving living conditions rather than building weapons, killing people and exacerbating hostilities.

Neither US nor UK rulers can seemingly bear the notion of existing on an equal footing with other countries, allowing them to determine their own policies and leaders, and offering to trade and collaborate in mutually beneficial ways.  Yet their populations, and those of their EU allies, who also pay the price for empire, would no doubt embrace this.  In recent months protests in the US and Europe against escalating warfare have proliferated.

Before long, the US may have no other choice than accept is role as one republic among many in the global family of nations.  And why not?  Look at the example of the Habsburg Empire that dominated and exploited much of Central and Eastern Europe for centuries, with forays into Mexico.  Following World War I, its power center in Vienna was reduced to capital city of the small republic of Austria, where life indeed goes on, and not too badly at that.  Austria should, however, consider re-asserting its neutrality, which it dropped last year in order to deepen its friendship with the US and NATO.

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.  US leadership has been drunk on power-grabbing for a long time.  Germany is being exposed as an impotent vassal state of the US, remaining silent when its Yankee “friend” stabbed it in the back by blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines,  co-owned by Germany and Russia, with help from another “friend”, Norway, as legendary journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed.

Leftist politicians Sahra Wagenknecht and Oskar Lafontaine, along with arms control advocate Scott Ritter, have called on Germany to have some self-respect, assert its sovereignty and promote peace rather than war-mongering.  Lafontaine advocates a revival of Willy Brandt’s constructive détente policies and the removal of all US military bases from German soil.

A month after Hersh’s exposé (ignored by mainstream corporate Western media), the New York Times, Washington Post, London Times and Germany’s Die Zeit published a nonsensical alternative explanation of the Nordstream sabotage involving a few “pro-Ukrainian” individuals, affirming US-German bonds and hinting they may soon abandon their “friend”, Ukraine, which appears increasingly to be losing against Russia.

The TRANSCEND Method of peaceful conflict transformation, as formulated by Johan Galtung, involves identifying the legitimate goals of each conflict party and then finding creative ways to meet all of those goals.  To be legitimate, a goal must be mutually applicable to all parties.  As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a major opportunity for applying this method was neglected, but it’s not too late to try again.

The Galtung/TRANSCEND Conflict Diagram

Ukrainian opposition politician, Viktor Medvedchuk views the genesis of the current conflict in differing goals of the US and Russia after the Cold War.  The US claimed victory and saw Moscow as the loser, laying claim

“to the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist block [as] legitimate spoils of war of the United States and NATO…. Hence Ukraine is to be seen as a domain of the US and NATO, and by no means of Russia.”

Russia, on the other hand, has sought equal status and sovereignty.  Russian and US legitimate goals of mutual security could have been achieved by abolishing NATO (which had become obsolete), bringing Russia into NATO (as Gorbachev and Yeltsin had sought) or at least abiding by the 1991 US pledge not to expand NATO one inch to the east.  None of these happened, due to the illegitimate US goal, affirmed in the Wolfowitz Doctrine, of maintaining

American supremacy at all costs in a post-Soviet world and stamping out rivals wherever they may emerge.”

The US seeks to weaken Russia and exploit the resources of Eurasia in a decidedly unequal relationship.

Sometimes the traditional tug-of-war game is played on either side of a big mud puddle, such that the defeated team ends up humiliated, mired in the muck.  What we’re seeing now is a global tug-of-war on either side of a deep chasm of doom.  The US/NATO machine is wearing down and Russia is flexing its muscle, determined not to be drawn into the abyss.  If the US would call on its team to simply stop pulling, and make an offer to tie both ends of the rope into a circle, some bridges could be built to close the divide.  Ukraine’s borders could be peacefully settled on principles of self-determination by residents of Donbas who have been battered for the last nine years.  Serious arms control negotiations could resume.

We are standing on a threshold.  Could the war in Ukraine be part of the labor pains of a multi-polar, multicentric world that will emerge?  While countries would continue to face many challenges within their borders, universal good-faith implementation of the Panchsheel principles would set the stage for peaceful coexistence in a nuclear weapons-free world.

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, lord, by and by
There’s a better world a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky
— Traditional Hymn


[1] David Vine, Base Nation, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2016

[ii] Nicholas Shaxson, Treasure Islands, Vintage, London, 2016 edition


Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California.  A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of Task Force on the Americas, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Mar 2023.

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