Transitioning to a new world
The Soviet pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal.

In 1967, as a newly-minted high school graduate, my family and I drove to Montreal to visit Expo ’67. With the theme “Man and His World,” 90 countries from around the globe built pavilions and presented their culture, history, and economic achievement to the rest of humanity. It was a huge success, attracting more than 50 million visitors over six months, a record for its time.

Among the pavilions I remember best was that of Soviet Union. Marking the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviets put on a dazzling display, with emphasis on its scientific (especially space) achievements), as well as cultural displays, social breakthroughs of the working people, as well as exhibits dedicated to the cause of peace and mutual understanding. The slogan of the Soviet pavilion was “In the name of man, for the good of man.”

In many ways, the Soviet presence at Expo ’67 demonstrated the Soviets’ optimism for the building of socialism and, in hindsight, represented the pinnacle of the USSR’s worldwide influence and prestige. For, as is well-known, the decades that followed increasingly became years of difficulty, especially by the late 1980s.

Not being an economist, nor able to speak or read Russian, I cannot give a detailed account of the difficulties that led in 1991 to the dissolution of the USSR. What is generally known is that the country experienced severe problems, some the result of mistakes, but also the successful machinations of Western imperialism, whose goal had always been the destruction of the Soviet Union. Its economy was largely isolated from the world mainstream, and it was saddled with exorbitant military expenditures caused by the Cold War.

The loss of the Soviet Union and its peace policy and dream of building a modern socialist society had profound effects on national liberation movements, the international Communist and workers movement, and the hopes for world peace.

But hope is not lost.

Fast forward to the present day. After 30 years, roughly 1991 to 2023 (the end of the COVID-19 pandemic), a new world is emerging that provides new opportunities for the re-shaping of the world order.

From a system largely organized by the United States after World War II, one where the imperialist powers dominated international discourse (helped by a generous helping of military power), humanity is now moving to a new arrangement where those who got the short end of the stick are rising up and saying, “No more, enough is enough.” The old order must be replaced, they say, by one built on peace, mutual respect, and equality.

Most of these demands come from what is today called the “Global South,” that is the developing countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Ocean.

To that end, they have developed numerous international organizations to give voice to their demands. These include: The Group of 77 and China, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, newly joined by Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates), the Gulf Cooperation Council, the African Union, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and many more.

The linchpin in many ways of this movement is China, a developing country that is building “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

China’s achievements in the last 45 years, since 1978 when it initiated an era of reform, opening-up, and modernization, are staggering. Over 800 million people have been moved out of poverty (numbers corroborated by the World Bank). China is the world’s leading trading nation, with a total of imports and exports of approximately $6 trillion, as well as the number one manufacturing country, with 28% of the world output; the United States is second at 16%. China has moved into the lead or is close in the production of such modern products as electric vehicles, solar panels, auto batteries, semiconductor chips, and artificial intelligence.

The growth of China and its new place in the modern world is built on a solid foundation of popular support and participation. By one estimate, 85% of the population supports their government’s policies.

Fundamental to this support is the fact that the Chinese people are an integral part of running the country. China’s President Xi Jinping calls this “Whole Process People’s Democracy,” a way in which there is popular input at every level of government. In the words of one commentator, “whole-process people’s democracy truly integrates law-based democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight through a series of laws and institutional arrangements.”

Far from being a one-party authoritarian state where all decisions are made by a few powerful men behind closed doors, there exists a vibrant thriving democratic political system based on the people.

The bottom line of all this information is that the old order is passing, that the days are long gone when the Soviet Union was unable to survive the vicissitudes of the capitalist-dominated world of the late 20th century. The cry “Communism is dead” has been relegated to the dustbin of history. Today, China is posing a challenge to the capitalist class, one that may be the most serious in history.

Andrew Murray and John Wojcik in a recent article in People’s World, summed up the situation very well when they wrote, “And now there is the economic and political rise of China, which the G7 elite really do not know what to do about at all.”

Today the world must adjust to the growing influence and economic power of the Global South and accept that socialism is very much alive and growing stronger every year.

So, who knows? Maybe when my grandson graduates from high school, he and his family will visit a future World Expo, one where he’ll be dazzled by the Chinese pavilion.

As with all op-eds and news-analytical articles published by People’s World, this article reflects the views of its author.

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David Cavendish
David Cavendish

David Cavendish is a retired teacher, active in the union movement, the peace movement (many years in an anti-Iraq/Afghanistan War vigil), and other progressive political activities. He is a longtime contributor to People’s World. David Cavendish es un maestro jubilado, activo en el movimiento sindical, el movimiento por la paz y otras actividades políticas progresistas. Colabora desde hace mucho tiempo en People’s World.