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Related to Developing Countries: Underdeveloped countries
the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania that enjoy political sovereignty but, being within the orbit of the world capitalist economy, remain in varying degrees unequal “partners” of the highly developed capitalist countries. Formerly, most of these countries were colonies or semicolonies of the imperialist powers or were dependent on them. All the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania are developing countries with the exception of the socialist countries, the countries that have not yet rid themselves of the political domination of imperialism, the African countries with racist regimes (the Republic of South Africa and Rhodesia), Japan, New Zealand, and Israel. The expression “developing countries” has replaced the formerly widely used term “underdeveloped countries,” which had, however, a broader meaning because it also included the colonies. The term “Third World” is often used in the same sense as developing countries.
The developing countries include countries that have been sovereign nations for more than 150 years (Latin America) as well as countries that gained their political independence after World War II with the collapse of imperialism’s colonial system. The great diversity in the social and economic relations of the Third World countries, the differences in historical development, and specific characteristics of the production relations that are evolving in these countries make it impossible to group them on the basis of the social and economic criteria (formational) that objectively classify each of the other two groups of countries: the socialist and the capitalist countries. From this it is apparent that the term “developing countries” is arbitrary and limited. It enables us to group together many countries on the basis of a “negative feature,” the criteria of backwardness and dependence.
Among the developing countries four main groups may be distinguished according to the level of social and economic development. The first group comprises the most backward countries of tropical Africa, which have a traditional economic structure based largely on precapitalist production relations and a very low per capita income. The second group is made up of the more developed countries of tropical Africa and a number of Southeast Asian countries. In these countries the transformation of traditional economic systems has begun and backward social structures are gradually disappearing. The third group includes a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries, as well as Malaysia and Sri Lanka. These countries continue to specialize in the production of raw material for export, but they are also establishing processing industries. The countries in the fourth group—the Latin American countries and the Philippines—have the most highly developed economy. Some of these countries, notably Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Venezuela, might be called countries of medium-developed capitalism. A special case is India, which includes features of the second, third, and fourth groups.
After the attainment of political independence, the struggle of peoples against imperialism does not end but shifts to the sphere of social and economic relations. It remains a political struggle, aimed at complete liberation from the oppression of the imperialist monopolies. Social and economic liberation becomes the chief goal of the continuing anti-imperialist national liberation movement in the developing countries. In their struggle for economic independence the developing countries must overcome major difficulties and obstacles. Although the growth rate of industrial production in these countries has increased noticeably since independence, the gulf between their economic development and that of the imperialist powers is not narrowing, while the difference in per capita production is steadily growing. In the developed capitalist countries, the per capita gross domestic product rose from $1,570 in 1950 to $2,970 in 1970, according to statistics published in the journal Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia (World Economics and International Relations, 1972, no. 3, p. 150). In the developing countries of Africa the corresponding figures were $110 and $170, and in Asia they were $105 and $175 (excluding certain oil-producing countries whose gross national product increased sharply in the early 1970’s because of numerous increases in the price of petroleum during the so-called energy crisis).
The economic and social development of many developing countries is being held back by a backward economy and social system, in which peasants and intermediate urban strata predominate. Virtually all the developing countries suffer from a large-scale hidden and partial unemployment, exacerbated by the “population explosion,” the sharp growth in population resulting from the decrease in infant mortality and simultaneous high birth rate. The food problem is extremely serious. Although the agrarian reforms being carried out in the developing countries have accelerated the capitalist transformation of agriculture and class differentiation in the countryside in some of the countries, they have also resulted in oppressive rents and have activated merchant and usury capital. Productive capital investment in farming in the developing countries is still very limited. The appearance of large-scale capitalist agriculture has not fundamentally changed the agricultural production base, which continues to be small peasant farms.
On the whole, the formation of capitalist relations through the breakdown of traditional relations is proceeding comparatively slowly. In the developing countries capitalism is developing as a dependent and subordinate component of the world capitalist economy. Relying on their economic superiority and on the monopoly associations in the developing countries and taking advantage of the growing indebtedness of the developing countries and their increasing scientific and technical dependence in the context of the scientific and technical revolution, the advanced capitalist countries are trying to keep the developing countries in an unequal position by strengthening the system of neocolonialism.
Owing to the weakness of indigenous capitalism and its inability to solve the problems of national rebirth, the state is playing an ever-larger role in the developing countries as the manager of economic development. Concurrently, the state sector, which under certain political conditions is capable of becoming the nucleus of future socialist relations, is expanding. More and more people in the developing countries are coming to understand that capitalism will not enable them to overcome their backwardness and dependence in the near future. The attraction toward noncapitalist methods of transforming a backward economic and social system is becoming more evident. The proletariat, some of the peasantry, and part of the semi-proletarian strata (urban poor) are increasingly calling for progressive development outside the capitalist framework.
The struggle for the noncapitalist path of development is led by the communist parties in the developing countries. In a number of them the struggle is led by revolutionary democratic parties, many of which have proclaimed socialism to be their goal. In the countries whose development is proceeding along the noncapitalist path, social and economic transformations are being carried out to create the necessary material preconditions for a future transition to building socialism.
The forces advocating noncapitalist development are meeting with resistance from classes and groups hostile to socialism. Large landowners have an interest in preserving the old social relations, but their numbers and importance are diminishing, and they are basically trying to adapt to a capitalist transformation of the economy. The urban and rural bourgeoisie is attempting to consolidate capitalist relations, with the big bourgeoisie in many countries resorting to compromise with neocolonialism. As class differentiation intensifies, part of the petite bourgeoisie tries to find itself a place in the evolving capitalist system, while another part joins the search for new paths of development.
The formation of the world socialist economic system brought about a significant change in the developing countries’ position in the system of world economic ties. The degree and scale of imperialism’s influence on economic processes in the developing countries ceased to be all-encompassing. In this situation, conditions are evolving for a successful struggle by the developing countries to achieve a radical change in their position within the world economic system.
The foreign policy of the developing countries is generally based on the principles of nonalignment and positive neutrality. Many of these countries are active in the struggle for peace.
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G. I. MIRSKII