For the past fifteen years, I have been researching and teaching about the past and current realities of economic and political relations among the countries of the South. Viewed through the lens of South-South relations, the 1967 War was a crippling blow to Nasserism and Arab socialism. Given the centrality of Nasserism and the figure of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Non-Aligned Movement, it was also a big setback for Third Worldism. Third Worldism was contradictory and flawed, and its elites were often obsessed with modernization. Yet it also sought to create an alternative path for the global south.
Buoyed by anti-imperialist and anti-colonial social movements, Third Worldism demanded global political and economic justice as well as a critique of nuclear proliferation, Big Power politics, militarization, and imperialism. Nasser had emerged on a global stage at the 1955 Bandung summit and continued to play a key role in advancing the cause of Third World Nationalism along with Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, and Nkrumah. However just as the 1956 Suez Crisis increased Nasserism’s popularity in the Arab world and the global south, the 1967 War defeated and marginalized Egypt from this global south project.
The banner of the Third World Movement was carried by Algeria, who went on to advocate for the New International Economic Order (NIEO) at the 1973 Fourth Non-Aligned summit in Algiers. There were always multiple and competing notions of Arabism and Arab nationalism. And while Nasserism was not completely free of ethnic chauvinism, at its core it represented a struggle against imperialism and for collective economic rights for the working classes and peasantry. The downfall of Nasserism empowered other notions of Arabism, embraced by the reactionary Gulf monarchies, who, led by Saudi Arabia, created the World Muslim League in 1962 as a counterweight to Nasserism. Their notions of Arabism, which continue today, were far more ethnically chauvinist, elite driven, and devoid of any notion of economic justice.