Soviet Union Table of Contents
Until Stalin's death in 1953, Soviet activity in the Third World was limited. Khrushchev recognized that the number of independent Third World states was increasing because of post-World War II decolonialization, and he pictured these states as moving onto the noncapitalist path of development and progressing quickly toward the achievement of Soviet-style socialism. Khrushchev divided the Third World states into three categories. The first category, capitalist-oriented states, mainly consisted of newly independent states that had not yet chosen the noncapitalist path. In the second category were the so-called national democracies, anti-Western states that were implementing some economic centralization and nationalization programs and hence had embarked on the path of noncapitalist development. In the third category were "revolutionary democracies," which professed Marxism-Leninism as their ideology and had set up ruling communist-style parties (termed "Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties" by the Soviet Union). Since the late 1960s, the term "socialist orientation" has been increasingly used in the Soviet Union to describe Third World states on the noncapitalist path of development, although the states with ruling vanguard parties still have been termed revolutionary democracies.
Since the late 1970s, Soviet analysts have tended to regard the nature and future of the Third World either conservatively or pragmatically. On the one hand, conservative Soviet analysts have seen the Third World as making a choice between two paths-- capitalism and socialism--and have maintained that only the latter path leads to political, social, and economic development. Pragmatic analysts, on the other hand, have seen the maintenance of some elements of capitalism as essential for the economic and political development of Third World countries. Among the pragmatic analysts, though, there have been different views about the pace of the transition to socialism in the Third World, with the more pessimistic theorists even suggesting the indefinite existence of mixed economies in Third World states.
The conservative theorists have tended to advocate the establishment of Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties in Third World states, whereas the pragmatists have advocated a united front strategy in which the local communist and leftist parties ally with other "progressive" parties and groups and work to achieve change peacefully through elections and propaganda. Internal Soviet debates aside, the Soviet Union began to favor a dual policy toward the Third World in the 1970s, stressing the establishment of vanguard parties in some states and the united front policy in others. Rhetorically, and to some degree in action, though, Soviet leaders have placed greater emphasis on the united front policy in the late 1980s.
In the CPSU party program and in the political report delivered by Gorbachev in February 1986, there was a discernible de-emphasis on Soviet concern with socialist-oriented Third World states. The party program emphasized that "the practice of the Soviet Union's relations with the liberated countries has shown that there are also real grounds for cooperation with the young states that are traveling the capitalist road." According to some Western analysts, Gorbachev indicated the nature of this reorientation during his visit to India in November 1986. At that time, Gorbachev referred to Soviet relations with India as the model of the "new thinking" toward Third World states having a "capitalist orientation."
Reasons for this possible Soviet reorientation may have included desires to use technologies available in some of the "newly industrialized countries" for Soviet economic development, desires to foster positive trade flows and earn hard currency or access to desirable commodities, and attempts to encourage antiWestern foreign policies and closer alignment with the Soviet Union. As of the late 1980s, this possible reorientation did not include political-military abandonment of Asian communist states (Laos and Vietnam) or of "revolutionary democratic" or "progressive" regimes (such as Angola, Libya, Mozambique, or Nicaragua). The reorientation, rather, may have represented an attempt to widen the scope of Soviet interests in the Third World. As of 1989, the only case of possible Soviet "abandonment" of a socalled revolutionary democracy would be the withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan, although the Soviet leaders hoped that they would be able to maintain some presence and influence in Kabul and in areas bordering the Soviet Union and in other enclaves.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents