Ripe for Revolution: Building Socialism in the Third World
By Jeremy Friedman
Harvard University Press, 2022, 368 pp.
Many developing countries that had liberated themselves from Western, capitalist rulers in the twentieth century were naturally drawn to socialism. Friedman’s impressive study, which spans several decades and five countries—Angola, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, and Tanzania—is devoted to “the trial and error” of postcolonial socialist projects in these places. China, the Soviet Union, and other communist countries tried to guide these initiatives, but they found that promoting an ideology based on class was almost impossible in societies where social relations were often defined by race. Friedman points out that citizens in newly independent countries frequently saw the Soviets as “whites”—that is, the same as their former imperialist oppressors. And although militant atheism remained the cornerstone of communist ideology, the Soviets had to learn to regard Islam as a positive force in national liberation movements in countries such as Indonesia and Iran. The communist mentors also grappled with the independent ambitions of their protégés, such as Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, who firmly insisted that his country was building its own kind of socialism and would not become a client of either China or the Soviet Union, despite relying on their economic aid and expert assistance. Although the pursuit of socialism in the global South generally ended in failure, Friedman argues that it left lasting legacies across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.