1975 International Conference: “The Revolutionary Path of the Mongolian People’s Republic to Socialism: Problems of Circumventing the Capitalist Stage of Development”

In 1975, scho­lars and cadres from seven socia­list states conve­ned in Berlin for a confe­rence on Mongolia’s path from feuda­lism to socia­lism and how this histo­ri­cal expe­ri­ence could inform non-capi­ta­list deve­lo­p­ment stra­te­gies throug­hout Africa and Asia.


The confe­rence – entit­led “The Revo­lu­tio­nary Path of the Mongo­lian People’s Repu­blic to Socia­lism: Problems of circum­ven­ting the capi­ta­list stage of deve­lo­p­ment” – was jointly hosted by Berlin’s Humboldt Univer­sity, Leipzig’s Karl Marx Univer­sity, and the DDR’s Central Coun­cil for Asian, Afri­can, and Latin Ameri­can Scien­ces. Over 40 parti­ci­pants came from the USSR, the Mongo­lian PR, the PR Bulga­ria, the DR Viet­nam, the PR Poland, the ČSSR, and the DDR.

In the first keynote address, the presi­dent of Mongolia’s Academy of the Scien­ces outlined the trajec­tory and central problems of non-capi­ta­list deve­lo­p­ment in the Mongo­lian context:

Prior to the “anti-impe­ria­list, anti-feudal popu­lar revo­lu­tion” in 1921, Mongolia’s socioe­co­no­mic rela­ti­ons had been charac­te­ri­zed by feuda­lism and serf­dom. To advance towards socia­lism out of this state requi­red two stages: a demo­cra­tic stage (1921–1940) and a socia­list stage (1940–1961). The demo­cra­tic stage was anti-impe­ria­list, anti-feudal, and anti-capi­ta­list in charac­ter: it entailed the natio­na­liza­tion of the land, the deve­lo­p­ment of private live­stock farming along non-capi­ta­list lines, and the cons­truc­tion of state- and coope­ra­tive-owned industry.


By the 1940s, the class of the feudal lords had been over­come and foreign capi­tal had been driven out of the coun­try. The total produc­tion of the dome­stic indus­try increased 22-fold from 1933 to 1940. By 1961, the Mongo­lian PR had become an “Agri­cul­tu­ral indus­trial state”.


While many of the insights gained from Mongolia’s prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence could be very infor­ma­tive for revo­lu­tio­nary govts in the newly libe­ra­ted states across Africa and Asia, the confe­rence parti­ci­pants high­ligh­ted seve­ral key diffe­ren­ces between Mongo­lia and these countries:

  1. Mongo­lia had not been inte­gra­ted into the capi­ta­list world market to the same extent that many former colo­nies in Asia and parti­cu­larly Africa were. This rela­tion of depen­dency made the chall­enge of driving out foreign capi­tal far more difficult.
  2. Mongo­lia shared a border with the USSR. The latter provi­ded signi­fi­cant econo­mic, poli­ti­cal, & mili­tary support to Mongo­lia. The former colo­nies embar­king on non-capi­ta­list paths of deve­lo­p­ment were often isola­ted & surroun­ded by foes (e.g., Mali, Congo, Tanzania).
  3. The 1921 Mongo­lian popu­lar revo­lu­tion had been led by a party with very close ties to the inter­na­tio­nal commu­nist move­ment. They star­ted with a firm theo­re­ti­cal groun­ding in scien­ti­fic socia­lism and appre­cia­ted the law-gover­ned nature of socie­tal change. This was some­thing that most of the plura­list natio­nal libe­ra­tion move­ments did not start with, although many began to adopt scien­ti­fic socia­lism as the diffe­ren­tia­tion process within the natio­nal libe­ra­tion struggle inten­si­fied (e.g., in PR Congo, Angola, Mozam­bi­que, etc.).

This confe­rence was just a brief episode in a deca­des-long debate in the socia­list world and former colo­nies around the ques­tion of non-capi­ta­list deve­lo­p­ment. Through the “Friend­ship!” rese­arch plat­form, we have begun to inves­ti­gate these discus­sions and their endu­ring rele­vance. Later this year, we will publish an article on the socia­list-orien­ted PR Congo and its struggle against impe­ria­list dependency.