Economic Competition Between the Two World Systems

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Economic Competition Between the Two World Systems


a major form of global class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, involving, on the one hand, those states ruled by the working class and, on the other, those states ruled by the imperialist bourgeoisie. Economic competition between the two world systems is based on peaceful coexistence among countries with different sociopolitical systems.

A radical change in the mutual relations of countries belonging to opposing systems in the world economy took place as a result of the ceaseless efforts of the CPSU and the Soviet government to implement the peace program put forward at the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU in 1971. Relations among countries of the two world systems, previously marked by open hostility and even military confrontation, now shifted to a truly peaceful coexistence based on purposeful and mutually advantageous long-term cooperation (seeINTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC COOPERATION).

The conditions for coexistence and cooperation on a broad front came about through the strengthening of the socialist economy, a fundamental realignment of world forces in favor of socialism, and the recognition by the leaders of several capitalist countries that stable trade and other mutually advantageous relations with socialist countries were both necessary and economically advisable.

Competition between the two opposing socioeconomic systems, which is objective and global, has economic, scientific, technological, political, ideological, and military aspects. While socialism was still weak and was struggling to establish itself, the ruling circles in imperialist countries sought to smother it by means of economic blockades and military intervention. In that period, competition between the two systems was primarily political and military in nature. As the balance of forces changed, as the socialist economy became stronger, as a developed socialist society was constructed in the USSR, and as the socialist countries became better able to defend themselves, competition between the two systems shifted to the areas of economics and of science and technology.

V. I. Lenin pointed out that socialism would decisively influence world developments through its economic successes and through the strengthening of its economy. “The struggle in this field,” he wrote, “has now become global. Once we solve this problem, we shall have certainly and finally won on an international scale” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 43, p. 341). The new social order conquers the old through its greater social productivity of labor: “those who have the greatest technical equipment, organisation and discipline, and the best machines,” Lenin stated, “will gain the upper hand” (ibid., vol. 36, p. 116).

Historically, economic competition can be divided into three stages. During the first stage, which lasted from the October Revolution of 1917 to the formation of the world socialist system, socialism was represented virtually by one country—the USSR. In the second stage, from the end of World War II to the end of the 1960’s, the advantages of the world socialist economic system developed and became apparent. In the present stage which began in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the world socialist economic system is becoming more integrated.

The results of economic competition between the USSR and the USA are of major importance in the economic competition between the two world systems: in the mid–1970’s the USSR accounted for approximately 50 percent of the industrial output of the socialist countries, and the USA accounted for nearly 40 percent of the industrial output of the capitalist countries. The USSR is responsible for approximately 20 percent of world industrial production. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the USSR achieved important successes in several areas of economic development, thereby reducing the gap between the levels of development of the USSR and USA.

In 1950 the USSR’s national income and industrial output were less than one-third the USA’s; in 1976 the USSR’s national income was greater than two-thirds, and industrial production was greater than four-fifths, the USA’s. In industry the USSR comes closest to the USA in the production of equipment and building materials—that is, in the branches that create the framework of industry. Taken as a whole, the output of industrial means of production in the USSR is approximately 90 percent of that in the USA, and the USSR’s output is more than 60 percent of the USA’s.

Economically, prerevolutionary Russia lagged 50–100 years behind some of the leading capitalist countries; as early as the 1930’s, however, the economy of the USSR, as measured by the volume of output, ranked first in Europe and second in the world. In the mid–1970’s the Soviet Union surpassed the USA in the production of coal, petroleum, iron, chromium, manganese ores, coke, steel, pig iron, steel pipes, metalcutting machine tools, main-line locomotives, logs, lumber, cement, prefabricated reinforced-concrete structures and structural members, woolens, butter, and a number of other important products.

Table 1. Average annual growth rates in the economies of selected socialist countries (percent)
 National incomeIndustrial outputLabor productivity in industry
USSR ...............
Bulgaria ...............7.710.46.8
Czechoslovakia ...............
German Democratic Republic ...............
Hungary ...............
Poland ...............
Rumania ...............9.412.97.3

The USSR nevertheless lags behind the USA in the production of several types of advanced output, including certain types of sophisticated equipment; in the production of automation devices and equipment, electronics equipment, plastics, synthetic fibers, and electric power; in the degree to which production is automated; and in the application of sophisticated production processes. This technological deficiency has caused the USSR to lag behind the USA in the overall technological level of production. The more rapid rates of economic development in the USSR, however, provide a basis for overcoming this lag: between 1961 and 1976 the average annual increase in industrial production in the USSR was almost two times greater than in the USA, 4.4 times greater than in Great Britain, and 1.8 times greater than in France and the Federal Republic of Germany. All countries in the socialist community have shown higher rates of economic growth than the capitalist countries (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 2. Average annual growth rates in the economies of selected capitalist countries (percent)
 National incomeIndustrial outputLabor productivity in industry
USA ...............
Federal Republic of Germany ...............
France ...............
Great Britain ...............241 82.8
Italy ...............465.54.6
Japan ...............889.78.2

The USSR is overtaking the USA with respect to absolute increase in national income and in industrial and agricultural output. Between 1951 and 1976, for example, the average absolute increase in steel production was 4.5 million tons annually in the USSR, compared with 1.2 million tons in the USA. The corresponding figures were 3.3 and 0.8 million tons for pig iron, 18.5 and 5.1 million tons for petroleum, and 4.4 and 1.2 million tons for cement.

The national income of the member nations of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) increased by a factor of seven between 1950 and 1976; in the developed capitalist countries national income increased by a factor of approximately 3.3. The corresponding increases in the volume of industrial output were 11.5 and 3.2. Industry in the COMECON countries grew in this period at an average annual rate of 9.8 percent, compared with 4.7 percent in the developed capitalist countries. Although high growth rates in the USSR and other socialist countries in the past often were based on the production of traditional output of a lower technological level than in the developed capitalist countries, the fulfillment of the ninth five-year plan (1971–75) brought the USSR to a higher level, marked by substantial increases in scale of production and by improved quality.

Growing international economic cooperation and the objective demands of the scientific and technological revolution have pushed production efficiency and the rate of scientific and technological progress to the fore in economic competition between the two world systems. Of crucial importance now are indexes that measure scientific and technological progress, the extent to which technology and output are modernized, the quality of goods and their relevance to changing demands, managerial efficiency, the ability of the economy to absorb progressive changes and innovations, the rate of structural changes in production, the rate of circulation, and the payoff periods for production resources.

The socialist countries are already surpassing the capitalist countries with respect to several indexes of efficiency. First and foremost is the superiority of socialism in the use of labor resources and in the absence of unemployment. The Soviet Union was a pioneer in the exploration of space, in the peaceful use of atomic power in electric power production and maritime transport, in the production of several types of hydroelectric power equipment, and in the long-distance transmission of electricity at extremely high voltages. The USSR and the other socialist countries lead in many technologically advanced branches and types of production, although there are still many hidden intraproduc-tion reserves and unresolved problems regarding production quality and the efficient use of all production resources.

The overall increase in production efficiency reflects the objective requirements of the present stage in the progress of productive forces, in which all economic processes are tending to intensify and in which a transition is taking place from extensive to intensive factors of economic development. World socialism, an established integrated economic system, has shown that it can attain not only higher production growth rates but that it can concentrate resources in the required direction on a scale unprecedented under capitalism. Countries of the world socialist system have demonstrated their superiority in the planned development of the national economy, in the equitable distribution of income according to labor contributed, in the consistent implementation of social programs on a national scale, and in the creation of a progressive mode of life and a new type of international economic integration that rests on a mutually advantageous foundation and genuinely fraternal cooperation (seeSOCIALIST ECONOMIC INTEGRATION).

An important part of economic competition between the two world systems lies in various aspects of mode of life and in the mode of life of the population as a whole (seeMODE OF LIFE). As the scale of production expands, developed socialism implements social programs designed to raise still further the standard of living of the working people and to improve their mode of life.


Lenin, V. I. “Groziashchaia katastrofa i kak s nei borot’sia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad na sobranii aktiva moskovskoi organizatsii (RKP(b) 6 dekabria 1920 g.” Ibid., vol. 42.
Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Ibid., vol. 36.
Mezhdunarodnoe Soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1969.
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Brezhnev, L. I. Ob osnovnykh voprosakh ekonomicheskoi politiki KPSS na sovremennom etape: Rechi i doklady, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1975.
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Kudrov, V. M. Ekonomicheskoe sorevnovanie dvukh sistem i ego otrazhenie v ideologicheskoi bor’be. Moscow, 1975.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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