OPINION: How to outwit developed countries


The 21st century will be characterised by two main features: People’s struggles in underdeveloped countries and conflicts between of alliances of developed countries.

First let us discuss people’s struggles in underdeveloped countries. These struggles are for making their countries developed ones, so that they may enjoy decent lives and a high standard of living.

Before the Industrial Revolution, which started in England around the beginning of the 18th century, and then spread to France, Germany, and many other parts of the world, there were feudal agricultural societies in most parts of the world.

In feudal societies the methods and tools of economic production were so backward and primitive that very little wealth could be generated by them. In much of Asia the bullock or buffalo, and in Europe the horse, was used for tilling the land. Consequently so little wealth was generated by the feudal method of production that only a handful of people (kings, aristocrats, etc) could be rich, while the remaining vast majority (mostly peasants) had to live in abject poverty and ignorance. When the cake is small very few people can eat it.

(The above statement must, however, be qualified with a caveat that during the Mughal and Chinese empires, handicraft industry had grown enormously in many parts in the feudal era, so that a considerable number of people, mainly artisans, had risen above abject poverty.)

This situation drastically changed after the Industrial Revolution. Now a unique situation has developed in world history: no one in the world need be poor. This is because modern industry is so big and so powerful that enough wealth can be created to give everyone in the world a decent life. If society is organised on scientific lines, everyone can get jobs, healthcare, education, housing, etc. No one need be poor.

Sensing this, people all over the world are demanding that they, too, be given decent lives. The sad fact, however, is that the overwhelming majority of the people of the world, particularly in underdeveloped countries, are still poor, many extremely poor, and their numbers are increasing.

Why is this so? After all, almost 300 years have expired since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. By now poverty, unemployment, hunger, etc., should have been abolished everywhere in the world. Why has that not happened?

The reason is that soon after the Industrial Revolution, a handful of countries in western Europe quickly industrialised and grew relatively prosperous, but did not let others follow suit, thinking the latter would become economic rivals. In fact, their industrialisation was aided by plunder and loot of their colonies, as England did in India, leaving the latter far poorer.

There are, in fact, now two worlds in the globe: the developed world of North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and China and the underdeveloped world of Asia (except China and Japan), Africa and Latin America.

The developed countries have a secret, unwritten rule not to allow underdeveloped countries to become developed, as that would adversely affect them. To understand this one must go into economics, for politics is concentrated economics.

Cost of labour is a big chunk of the total cost of production, and so if labour is cheap, the cost of production is less, and then one can sell one’s goods at a cheaper price. There is competition in the market, and one businessman eliminates another not by guns or bombs but by underselling him - selling the same high-quality goods at a cheaper price.

Thus, China, which built up a massive industry after its Revolution of 1949, captured much of the markets in the world because it has much cheaper labour than in western countries. Western supermarkets are packed with Chinese goods, because they often sell at half the price at which western manufacturers can sell them (because of the expensive western labour).

If underdeveloped countries like India set up a massive industry, with their cheap labour they will undersell the products of western industries, which will then collapse, throwing millions out of employment. Will the developed countries easily permit that? Will they let their industries collapse, throwing millions out of employment? No, they will oppose it tooth and nail.

And how do they oppose it? They oppose it by making people in underdeveloped countries, like India, fight each other on the basis of religion, race, language, caste, etc., instead of waging a united people's struggle for emancipation from their socio-economic plight. This they do through the local politicians, of all parties, who are all objectively their loyal agents.

Thus there is a direct conflict between the interests of the developed countries, which do not want underdeveloped countries to become developed ones, and the interests of the underdeveloped countries whose enlightened sections realise that unless their country becomes developed it can never escape from abject poverty and massive unemployment.

So people of underdeveloped countries have to launch a historic united struggle, under patriotic, selfless, modern minded leaders. This struggle will be long drawn, and tremendous sacrifices will have to be made, to create a political and social order under which all our people enjoy a high standard of living and lead decent lives.

The other feature of the 21st century is the hostility between alliances of powerful nations: between the alliance of the USA and European countries on the one hand, and the alliance of China and Russia on the other. This hostility is unlikely to grow into nuclear war, as that would destroy all, but it will lead to proxy wars between them, using their local agents.

If utilised skilfully by the patriotic leaders of the underdeveloped countries, this hostility between the two alliances of powerful nations can be turned to the advantage of underdeveloped countries, as the Chinese leaders who later came to power did during the conflict between western nations and Japan in the Far East.

Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.

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