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Diary of a Decade

Oil-dependence has quickened the search for alternative energy sources. The building of nuclear power stations has speeded-up, bringing with it threats to the environment and to basic democratic freedoms. Opposition has risen to the challenge and the conflict is likely to be the West's biggest domestic issue of the 80s.


Death of Gamel Abdel Nasser, premier since 1954. Major Arab leader. Hastened the formal European decolonization of Third World through the Anglo-French debacle at Suez. Fierce proponent of non-alignment of Third World.

Election of Salvador Allende, the first Marxist to win a presidential election in a western democracy and rule by popular consent.

Palestinian camps wiped out by Jordanian army after heavy fighting, giving rise to the Palestinian Black September movement.

Prince Sihanouk, an adept neutralist, is ousted by pro-US army leaders. Nixon orders the saturation bombing of the Plain of Jars.


President Milton Obote overthrown in military coup by General Idi Amin. Elections promised within a year. Tribal killings begin.

West Pakistan army invades rebellious East Pakistan. India declares war, defeats Pakistan army and establishes independent state of Bangladesh. Ten million refugees and 1 1/2 million deaths from famine, disease and war.

Petroleum companies declare buyers market for oil is over as Gulf States demand and get substantial price increases, while President Gaddaffi of Libya obtains even more company concessions on price and ownership of national refineries.

The Shah celebrates the twentyfifth centenary of the founding of Persian Empire in orgy of conspicuous consumption.

Recognises mainland China.

Mao Tse Tung launches another cultural revolution five years after first. Army totally reorganised. Most senior ministers including Lin Piao deposed. 'Continual revolution' declared.

Dollar dramatically devalued, reducing national reserves of most countries. Helped pay for Vietnam war.


African tribal conflicts flare up as Huto rebellion is met with vicious reprisals from ruling Tutsi. 80,000 slaughtered.

Farming land held out of production. Soviet grain purchases of quarter of wheat crop brings high world prices and helps initiate world inflationary spiral.

Many years of drought combined with high world food prices and land-use for cash-crop exports brings famine to Sahelian people, Estimated 50,000-100,000 deaths.

Stockholm Conference on Environment recognises that over consumption by developed world brings waste and pollution while depriving poor world of basic needs.


Military coup against President Allende fomented and encouraged by CIA and US multinational company, ITT. Pinochet heads ruling military junta. Many believe radical change through ballot box no longer possible.

After the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt, Arabs Pressurize Israeli allies through raising oil prices. OPEC increases prices 450 per cent in a year, bringing extra $60 billion revenue.

Popular pressure leads to resigna tion of military government anc return of General Peron - tc overwhelming public acclaim.

Famine, greatly aggravated by official neglect and world fooc prices, affects four million, Estimated 100,000 died.


ETHIOPIA A creeping coup d'etat over six months ousts Emperor Hailie Selassie. Replaced by military committee - the Dergue which despite internal dissensions has redistributed power and land.

Costly wars in African colonies, particularly Mozambique, brings army revolt and installation of General Spinola. New government announces independence for Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau.

The Watergate cover up finally leads to resignation of President Nixon. Disillusionment with Washington paves way for Carter.

Budapest Population Conference recognizes that rapid population growth is more the result of poverty than the cause and that the best contraceptive is a more equitable distribution of income and social services.
Rome Food Conference reveals more than enough food in world despite spate of famines and bad weather. Fertilizer and food reserves established for Third World use.
Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly approved need for a New International Economic Order, rallying point for Third World pressure to establish fairer trading terms with industrialised countries.

Publication of 'Redistribution with Growth' provides damning evidence that high growth rates of some developing countries had brought no reduction in numbers of poor. The belief in wealth 'trickling down' could no longer be sustained, positive redistribution policies needed to end absolute poverty.


Successful resistance by people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos brings withdrawal by the USA after eleven years of military intervention.

Communal war that continued for rest of decade began with clash at Sidon between right-wing Christian Falangists and left-wing Palestinian Moslems.

In national elections half the representatives, including some ministers, lost seats. Vindication of one party democracy. President Julius Nyerere, Africa's foremost socialist thinker, voted into office for fourth and final term.

Invasion of this former Portuguese colony by Indonesian forces leads to guerilla war with tens of thousands of deaths.

Mrs. Gandhi declares State of Emergency, invoking Internal Security Acts to arrest opposition leaders without trial. Compulsory sterilisation campaign begins.

International Women's Year-one of the most under-funded and unknown of the U.N. years of the decade, despite the rise of a significant and articulate feminist movement in the Western World.


Cuban troops evict invading South African army. The first precedent for non-Western military intervention in Africa.

The death of Mao Tse Tung, leader since the revolution in 1948. Slow reversal of many of his policies through attacks on 'The Gang of Four'. The worst earthquake of the decade, at Tangshan, kills more than half a million people.

Re-election of Michael Manley, eloquent Third World spokesman, despite CIA funded opposition and internal economic crisis.

Military junta finally ousts Isobel Peron, and President Videla moves to crush all opposition.

Death of General Velasco, the architect of unique Andean experiment in left-wing military reformism. Government dismantles progressive measures.

Soweto riots by black youth leave, 400-500 dead. Rise of young black opposition movement.

Geneva Conference on World Employment embraces 'redistribution with growth' principle of development and sets the meeting of basic needs - nutrition, health, housing, education and employment - as the aim and measure of development.

Jimmy Carter becomes President. Policy of no military intervention in Third World. Concern with human rights means less U.S. support for repressive regimes in Latin America.


Mrs. Gandhi's rule ends with a Western-style election. Alienated by arbitary birth control measures, largely illiterate electorate show political awareness by voting against her.

Russian involvement in supplying arms, advisors and Cuban troops to help Ethiopia against neighbouring Somalia and secessionist province of Eritrea.

Murder of black leader, Steve Biko, by police signals end of black attempts at peaceful reforms.

Talks between Egypt and Israel lead to drastic cutbacks in military expenditure by two protagonists, and Israeli withdrawal from part of occupied Egypt.


Coup d'etat brings military leadership - heavily reliant on Russian military aid for continued existence in power.

World Health Organisation annouces last cases of smallpox in Somalia ended. World now clear of the disease.

Conference of Latin American Bishops at Puebla, Mexico, listen to an ambivalent Pope John Paul II. Whilst strong on human rights, he argues against Church involvement in politics. All things to all men.

Alma Ata Primary Health Care Conference establishes priority for preventative health care in underdeveloped countries rather than expensive curative medical facilities.

The supplying of oil by British petroleum companies to the illegal regime since UDI, was exposed. U.K. government fully aware of these supplies, took no action.

Riots over withdrawal of subsidies on food - demanded by USA - leads to retraction. Successful action by the poor and hungry.


The Shah leaves the country after prolonged public demonstrations against his regime. Khomeini returns from exile to lead Islamic revolution.

Bitter internal fighting finaIly forces the military defeat of President Samoza's forces by the Sandinista.

Invading Tanzanian forces depose Idi Amin to popular acclaim.

Accident at nuclear power plant Harrisburg, USA, exposed thousands to low level radiation and fuels anti-nuclear movement.

Vietnamese army deposes Pol Pot regime. Between one and two million Cambodians said to have been murdered or died from famine.


The big development story of the decade was the massive transfer of wealth and power to the OPEC countries - Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ecuador and Gabon. Some of the effects on world development:-

Oil price hikes, combined with spiralling food prices and massive US spending on the Vietnam War, fuelled world-wide inflation.

Monetarist polices - cutting back on the money supply in order to damp down inflation - spread to country after country - causing unemployment and cuts in social spending. Peru, Zaire, Jamaica, the UK and others forced to adopt such policies in return for IMF loans.

Increased oil bills doubled the balance of payments deficits of the 'NOPEC' underdeveloped countries. So imports from the industrialised world, already more expensive because of inflation in the West, had to be cut back - deepening recession in both rich and poor worlds.

Huge balance of payments surpluses in the OPEC nations have been recycled through the international monetary system. In 1978 alone, over $40 billion in 'petro-dollar' bans was pumped through private banks and into developing countries - more than all the other foreign aid and investment that year.

Repatriated earnings from Pakistani and Indian workers with jobs in the Middle East now provided their home countries with an important new source of foreign exchange.

Dependence on Arab oil has altered the balance of power in the Middle East - undermining Western support for Israel and increasing American concern for peace in the area.

Arabic has become a major world language and the new found affluence of the Arab world has brought with it both 'Coca-Cola culture' and an Islamic reaction - Pakistan and Iran in particular began to re-assert Islamic cultural identity.

Oil has widened the economic gaps between the different groups of Third World countries. At one extreme, the least developed countries like Upper Volta, Haiti and Zaire now have incomes of about $250 per head per year. Then there are the fast industrialising export-led growth countries like Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan where incomes are about $1000 to $2000 per head. Meanwhile, per capita incomes in OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya have topped $6000 a year.

Oil-dependence has quickened the search for alternative energy sources. The building of nuclear power stations has speeded-up, bringing with it threats to the environment and to basic democratic freedoms. Opposition has risen to the challenge and the conflict is likely to be the West's biggest domestic issue of the 80s.

New Internationalist issue 083 magazine cover This article is from the January 1980 issue of New Internationalist.
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