President Qahtan al-Shaabi resigned on June 22, 1969. It is noteworthy to consider that while communist parties exist in almost all countries, including those in the Middle East; outside South Yemen they have little success.[32] President Salim Robea Ali was installed as the first Communist President of South Yemen. In November 1970, the state was renamed the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY).[33]

South Yemen immediately cut off diplomatic ties with the US. All foreign companies were nationalized. The USSR and China generously gave aid and support to South Yemen, which became the first pro-Communist Arab republic.[34] The National Liberation Front, which was a Marxist-Leninist party, became its sole legal political body during the Communist takeover. Many Southern Yemeni dissidents were repressed, forcing opposition groups into exile.

Although communism became dominant in South Yemen, it was not widely accepted by other Middle East countries.[35] South Yemen became the only country in the Middle East to accept Communism in the 1970s. Nationalism and Arab Socialism have also been strong competitors for leftists’ affections in the Middle East, and as elsewhere communists have been divided into pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions, furthering the splits and weaknesses of Middle Eastern communism.[36]

II. The Spread of Communism in Africa in the 1970s: The Threat of Domino Effect in the Asia Pacific Region

Communism became prominent in Russia way back in 1917 when the Romanov dynasty was ousted by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. Mongolia, East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and finally China became communist. Spreading like wildfire, it did not spare Africa in the 1970s. The enormous continent of Africa is situated in the northern and southern hemisphere, stretching over 11,685,000 square miles. The continent, which accounts for 20% of the world’s land area and is home to 11.1% of its people, is made up of 54 nations.[37] Thus, this vast continent is also a fertile ground for communist indoctrination that could lead into a domino effect in the entire continent.

Referring to the threat of communism in the world, including Africa, President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “domino effect” in 1954. He said:

Finally you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you know over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences. [38]

The spread of communism has been magnified only in Vietnam of Southeast Asia and Cuba of Central America. But apparently, Africa has been the most lucrative place for communist insurgency since the 1970s. The African population has increased from 142 million in 1920 to 200 million in the 1950s and 600 million in the 1990s. Increased urbanization and improved transportation seem to have facilitated the spread of communist ideas.[39]

European colonial masters like the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Portugal did not provide ample preparation for stable political structures, so that many of the countries in the African continent fell prey to the communist onslaught. Africa has been successfully infiltrated by communist ideology in Algeria, Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Guinea, Mali, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania. The success can be attributed to the ideology’s making its gains in a comparatively short period of time, and to the fact that, in contrast to the communist “revolution” in Europe, nationalism has been a powerful political force in the “revolutions” in Africa.[40]  The Soviet Union focused its ideological attention on Africa immediately after World War II. Soviet influence was confined mainly in North Africa. The People’s Republic of China’s first step in the propagation of communism started in 1956. It was estimated that there were 50,000 communists in Africa around October 1961.[41]

Another left-wing wave was observed in the 1970s as the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Benin, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola and Somalia adopted Marxism-Leninism and pursued closer ties with the USSR.

The first African nation to accept Communism was the People’s Republic of Congo. When it became independent on August 15, 1960, the former French colony assumed the name Republic of Congo. In September of 1961, it was given membership in the United Nations. President Fulbert Youlou was the first leader of the Republic of Congo. As the political and trade union life of his country was dominated by Marxists, he introduced a one-party dictatorship that would give him full control of the country and effectively counter the communist elements.[42]

Youlou was ousted on August 14, 1963 by the Congolese military, and a provisional civilian government headed by Alphonse Massamba Debat was installed. President Debat was unable to unify the various institutional and ideological factions, and his regime ended abruptly at an August 1968 coup d’ etat.[43]

On December 31, 1968, Marien Ngouabi became the country’s president. Ngouabi then established the People’s Republic of Congo and created the Congolese Labor Party. Thus, the former Republic of Congo became the first African state to become communist. The People’s Republic of China became instrumental in installing a communist regime in Congo. The government recognized Communist China, the first French speaking country in Africa to do so; and soon after Peking sent R36,000,000 (US $14,634,146) worth of goods to Brazzaville, a staggering amount considering that the country had only 1,000,000 inhabitants.[44]

Benin was taken by communist forces in the 1970s. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kerekou overthrew the republic and placed the country under Marxism. The absolute military dictator brought considerable change to the political and economic character of his country. It was in 1975 when the Republic of Dahomey became the People’s Republic of Benin. Communism became the state-approved ideology, and all foreign enterprises were nationalized. As a result, most foreign investors, particularly the Europeans and Lebanese, left the country.[45]

On November 30, 1974, Kerekou proclaimed the formal accession of his government to Marxism-Leninism before an assembly of stunned notables.[46] Benin thus became the second African state to fall into the hands of the communists in 1972.

On June 25, 1975, the People’s Republic of Mozambique was established by Samora Moises Machel. The new administration of President Machel created a single-party state based on Marxist principles. The new government received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the Soviet Union and proceeded to crack down on opposition.[47] The People’s Republic of Mozambique established close ties with Angola and became a satellite state of the USSR in the African continent. It would be easy enough to see the first 15 years of Frelimo government as typical of the sort of Marxist dictatorship that has characterized post-independence Africa.[48]

Angola soon followed suit. When the government of Portugal was overthrown in 1974, Angola was immediately granted independence on November 11, 1975. Agostinho Neto proclaimed the People’s Republic of Angola. Soon after, Angola was drawn into a civil war among the ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola).

Under the leadership of the MPLA, Angola became a communist state. The new nation was granted immediate diplomatic recognition by Cuba, the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact nations, Brazil, and about half of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).[49]

Somalia became communist in the mid-1970s. The Supreme Military Council under Major General Mohammad Siad Barre took control of the country and renamed it the Somali Democratic Republic. General Barre created the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party in July 1976.

Since then, Somalia has been building up an impressive army with Russian support, which under an agreement provides a huge military aid of R22,000,000 (US $ 8,943,089) as well as tanks, M16 jet fighters, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft, field artillery, large quantities of infantry and heavy weapons.[50] The People’s Republic of China immediately sent aid in 1976. communist China, also gave Somalia a R15,000,000 (US $ 6,097,261) interest-free loan and a R20,000,000 (US $ 8,130,081) budget subsidy when Britain withdrew its financial aid.[51]

Ethiopia was not spared from the onslaught of communist takeover in Africa. In 1977, Mengistu Haile Mariam became the leading officer of the communist military junta. He later became President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991.

By then, Mengistu and his men were building a people’s militia trained by North Korea and supplied by the Soviet Union, which the DERG had courted from the outset of its rule.    Ethiopia was placed under a communist dictatorship guided by President Mengitsu Haile Mariam. All major industrial, financial and commercial institutions, encompassing some two hundred companies, were nationalized without compensation in January and February 1975, and the very limited role of private capital in the economy was defined in the document entitled Government Ownership and Control of the Means of Production Proclamation of March 1975.