Freedom parties.

THE role of political parties in winning freedom is well known. But how many of them, on attaining the goal of freedom, put their nations on the path of progress? Freedom parties are initial mother institutions that largely craft all new state institutions. Their traits hugely influence the fate of new states. Here, I look at the link between post-freedom progress and key party traits like social roots, ideology, mode of freedom drive, etc for 10 such parties each from Asia and Africa.

I cover 10 states that have seen high or moderate progress: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka in Asia and Mauritius, South Africa and Botswana in Africa. I also include 10 moderately or very stagnant ones: Timor, Myanmar and Pakistan in Asia and Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Ghana in Africa.

There are 13 cases of freedom from colonialism and four from larger states (Bangladesh, Eritrea, South Sudan and Timor), two unique cases of both together plus a split later (Pakistan and Sudan) and one eviction case (Singapore). I exclude revolutionary parties that toppled their own autocratic regimes, as in Russia, China, etc, as their issues are distinct.

The freedom parties of successful states were older at freedom than the others. The Indian and South African Congresses were 60-plus years old. Such parties had more time to develop organisationally with strong mass roots. Among stagnant states, the oldest party was ours, having existed for 40 years by 1947 but for the most part without strong mass roots. Except for Bostwana, all others had a middle-class leadership. Almost two-thirds had a lower-middle-class leadership: 80pc among stagnant states and 50pc among successful ones. Six in the successful group were socialist, even if the two most successful ones, Singapore and Malaysia, had right-wing leaderships led by upper-middle classes. But even among the less successful states, the leadership of only two (Pakistan and Sudan) were right wing.

The mode of freedom mattered as much as ideology.

So, the critical fact was not only ideology but also the mode of freedom. Six stagnant states had militant parties that won freedom after decades of war. Among the successful ones, only Vietnam and Bangladesh did. The others got freedom via talks or civic agitation. Thus, the freedom leaders of less successful states were more militant and autocratic who ruled ruinously for decades, as in Zimbabwe and Eritrea.


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