The Third World

The Third World in Soviet Perspective.

edited by Thomas Perry Thornton
Princeton, 355 pp., $7.50

The Challenge of Modernization

by I.R. Sinai
Norton, 256 pp., $5.50

Rapid social and political change leaves most people bewildered. It forces a minority, however, to seek historical bearings, to relate the precarious present both to past and future. These two books reveal the extent of common preoccupation with such themes in the Soviet and the non-Soviet world. The collection of Soviet papers, carefully edited by Thomas Perry Thornton, reflects a deliberate, if not always consistent, attempt to place changes in the “third world” in what the editor calls “Soviet perspective”: in the carefully chosen words of the Communist summa, “Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism,” “one of the basic problems today is that of the paths and prospects of historical development of the countries liberated from the colonial yoke.” Mr. Sinai, who is less interested in choosing his words carefully than in shocking the tender-minded reader, argues powerfully that contemporary men of power, above all others, need to be guided by “a long-term historical perspective, by a tough-minded public philosophy endowed with the insight to understand the world’s turmoil and to see beyond the turbulence of the present to the possibilities of the future.”

Common to both books are a number of assumptions—first, that, in Mr. Sinai’s eloquent words, “at no other time has the earth’s social and political crust been as thin and brittle as it is today”; second, that it is possible to generalize about different countries and different societies in such a way that a common strategy of action can be evolved; third, that it is no use being sentimental about the “developing countries” and failing to subject their failures as well as their achievements to cool and critical appraisal; and fourth, that in all of them history needs to be prodded. “The Communists are not inclined to let history take its course but prefer to prod it,” Mr. Thornton writes. Mr. Sinai, not only for reasons of counter-attack, agrees. Indeed, he urges in somewhat general terms an active and far-ranging interventionism which will put Communist maneuvers in their proper place. “History is a field of action where possibilities are sometimes converted into actual realities. But these possibilities do not become realities of their own accord. It is only by labor and self-sacrifice, that realities are made of them.”

From this point onwards the differences between the two books proliferate. To the Soviet writers the break with “colonialism” opens up immense new possibilities, even though young independent states belong neither “to the system of imperialist states, nor to that of socialist states.” To Mr. Sinai the political changes of recent years constitute a kind of masquerade, “a sort of superior political orgy, superficially exciting but essentially undermining.” Because he is an independent writer, he feels that he has no need to concern himself about the psychological impact of what he says about particular countries. By contrast the Soviet writers reflect in varying degrees the diplomacy of the Soviet Union; they tend to judge the effectiveness of economic and political effort in new countries in terms of the diplomatic relations between…

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