IV-4. Entangled Cooperation. Communist Countries and the Cold War in Africa

Convener: Przemysław Gasztold-Seń (Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw, Poland); e-mail: przemyslaw.gasztold-sen@ipn.gov.pl

Eastern Bloc countries tend to be described as a cohesive force, whereby each has overtly followed the path designated by Moscow and acted on its command. Internal differences within the “socialist community” are noticeable but often overlooked by the paradigm of Communist “unity”, where all the Moscow’s satellites used to play a precisely defined role on the international arena. This approach is commonly seen when researching Africa in the context of the Cold War – a place where two superpowers used to compete through their “proxies” in this fascinating, and sometimes, veiled struggle for power. However, during our panel we would like to challenge this widely adopted myth not only by reconstructing the behind-the-scenes motivations which propelled communist involvement in Africa, showing sometimes their two-pronged approach, but also by analyzing the Chinese role on this continent. Beijing’s Africa policy, if ever existed, needs proper consideration for its rationale and impacts on both the US and Soviet decision-making process. Our panel is intended to bring together scholars who work on archival documents and research still widely unknown events from African Cold War history. We would like to discuss the circumstances, results and effectiveness of Communist involvement in Africa focusing on particular countries, as well as by presenting comparative studies. We would like to reconsider ideological motivations and economic factors which paved the way for establishing mutual and multilateral relations between Communist countries and newly established African states in the 1960s. Contrary to predominant understanding of a monolithic Communist presence in Africa, we are going to look at behind-the-scenes factors as cost-effectiveness, profitability of the investments, and the focus particularly on safeguarding own interests – values which laid the groundwork for economic, scientific and cultural collaboration. We would like to gather scholars researching the Hungarian, Czechoslovak, Polish, Soviet, Romanian, Bulgarian, East-German, Cuban, North-Korean and Chinese ties with Cold War Africa and try to explore the complexities and even contradictions in the Communist camp.