[url=http://www.granma.cu]http://www.granma.cu[/url] | BY FELIX CAPOTE | Granma International staff writer
SEEN from half a century later, the principal events in the world of 1953 – in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa – constitute episodes in a period of upheaval that began when World War II was barely over.
While anti-communist extremism or McCarthyism ruled in the United States and took Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair under false charges of espionage, a military man assumed the presidency of the country.
General Dwight Eisenhower, wreathed in the glory of the relatively recent victory over Hitler’s Germany and Hiroito’s Japan, advocated world leadership on the part of the United States and his country becoming the guarantor of freedom and peace in the world, phrases that 50 years later have an astonishing topicality.
In Europe, the Spain of Franco, a new ally of Washington, managed to join UNESCO, founded seven years previously, while Josip Broz Tito, the legendary guerrilla marshal, assumed in Belgrade the presidency of the recently created state of Yugoslavia.
The exploding of the first H-bomb by the Soviet Union added a further element of tension in a planet divided into two large groups of countries hostile among themselves.
Africa, still under the domination of the European colonial powers, was embarking on its independence struggle. Sudan secured its independence through an Anglo-Egyptian agreement, and Egypt changed its status as a kingdom into that of a Republic, while the Mau Mau rebel movement in Kenya, founded by Jomo Kenyatta, had recourse to armed actions in order to gain national independence.
Peace, if a tense one, returned that year to the Korean peninsula, after three years of war between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, an ally of China and the Soviet Union; a war that led to the death of more than one million Koreans and Chinese and 24,000 U.S. troops. The signing of the Panmunjon armistice was testimony to Washington’s first military failure in Asia.
That was not the case in South East Asia. The Vietnamese forces led by Ho Chi Minh were preparing for the decisive battle of Dien Bien Phu, which ended French colonial domination. In Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk proclaimed his kingdom’s total independence.
China, which ended foreign interference and its subjection to the colonial powers in 1949 with its triumphant revolution headed by Mao Tsedong, was making great efforts to achieve international recognition within the United Nations, in the face of maneuvers by a United States hostile to that acceptance.
That 1953, recalled in Cuba 50 years later as the year in which it launched the final stage of its struggle for national liberation, is recalled in other parts of the world due to events that, in hindsight, proved decisive for the independence of the Third World nations and the elimination of colonialism.
1953 was also the year in which Ernest Hemingway, the U.S. writer resident in Cuba, received the Pullitzer Prize for his novel The Old Man and the Sea, in which New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary climbed to the peak of Everest, and scientists managed to decipher the helical structure of the DNA, obtaining furthermore the first results in electronics that made it possible to reach today’s information highway and computer world.