what's left

The far right has a ready answer. Does the left?

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By Stephen Gowans

“The search for scapegoats has started,” observes German magazine editor Michael Naumann, alluding to growing anti-immigrant sentiment throughout Europe. The Swedes “elected an anti-immigrant party to Parliament for the first time, and the French are busy repatriating Roma” while “Germans continue to debate a best-selling book blaming Muslim immigrants for ‘dumbing down society’.” (1) Complaints are heard in England that England is no longer for the English, while a paroxysm of Islamophobia marks a US campaign to block a Ground Zero mosque, which is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. Naumann’s point is taken, but he misses the reality. The search hasn’t just begun, it’s complete.

These days, the paradigm for scapegoating is provided by the Nazis’ blaming Jews for the ills of the inter-war years, a period of intense capitalist crisis. The parallel is the latest crisis, with its mass unemployment, insecurity, stagnant and shrinking incomes, and in some places, fiscal austerity. The real blame lies with capitalism–a system whose internal dynamics regularly produce wrenching downturns, making life uncertain, challenging and sometimes cold, bleak and humiliating for countless millions. How many people 50 years of age and older live, either without hope of ever again finding work, or in fear they’ll lose their jobs and never work again? How many young people have failed to land a first job, or are forced to navigate an uncertain world of low-paying, part-time, contract or temporary positions? How many are working harder, for less? In times of crisis the desperate, the humiliated, the frightened, look for an explanation for their situation.

They don’t have to look far. The far right has a ready answer—that immigrants are stealing our jobs and freeloading on social services. The first part has a ring of truth to it. Governments, after all, do use immigration policy to manage labor market flexibility, a euphemism for a pool of employees large enough to meet capital’s current demand for labor with a reserve army of job seekers left over. The reserve army–eager to take the place of those who already have work– maintains downward pressure on wages and keeps those with jobs in line. Without keen competition for employment, the price of labor would rise, eating into profits, possibly so much that capitalists would no longer invest, and the system would come to a halt. Labor market flexibility, then, is necessary to the smooth functioning of the system. But because people compete for jobs, any measure which increases the intensity of competition is hostile to their interests. It limits their bargaining power and increases the chances someone else will get the job they hold or want.

In the competition of all against all, those who bear the greatest burden are the workers who fill the ranks of the reserve army, or go from one low-paying job to another, denied any form of economic security. It’s easy for them to blame their plight on the immigrants they see working in jobs they want (though regularly in jobs they would disdain to hold), because it is often with them they compete. It’s true, they also compete against people of the same ethnicity, color and national origin, but don’t hold them to blame. But differences in skin color, accents, cultural practices and religion facilitate the creation of in-group-out-group divisions, making it easy to mark out the competition.

At the same time, the non-immigrant working poor often live side by side with newly arrived immigrants, some of whom have no work, and get by on welfare payments and sometimes criminal activity. Their presence is a source of confusion and resentment to the working poor, who question the wisdom of their governments’ accepting new immigrants–whose upkeep can be subsidized in part by the working poors’ taxes–at a time of economic downturn.

II

Crises, you would think, would provide opportunities to transcend the capitalist system. At these times the system’s problems are encountered the most acutely and therefore the motivation to overcome them ought to be greatest, but crises paradoxically have often led to the rise of far right parties and anti-immigrant sentiment. The reason why is two-fold: The far right’s seemingly plausible explanation for the insecurity many people are forced to bear; and the left. When the left provides a compelling alternative explanation and mobilizes mass energy around it and thereby threatens to take power, charismatic far right leaders are provided with money to rally public support for a nationalist cause and vie with the left for power. When the left fails to offer a compelling alternative explanation, the far right movement remains limited, poorly organized, and largely spontaneous; it’s not needed to protect the system from challenge, and so is left in its inchoate state. The far right isn’t pressed into service and built up as a major force unless the left is strong.

The dominant left response to the recent rise of xenophobic sentiment has been moral suasion and anti-racism demonstrations, a strategy that possibly owes more to satisfying the psychological needs of the practitioners than concern over efficacy. It fails to attack the root cause of the disease, trying to suppress the symptoms instead. Campaigns of anti-racism offer their practitioners cathartic opportunities to express moral indignation (which may be the underlying motivation for carrying them out), but their effectiveness is questionable unless accompanied by an assault on the root causes. The recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment didn’t arise in a vacuum. Its momentum comes from economic crisis, and if one wants to mobilize the energy that far right explanations attract, a credible solution must be offered to the critical underlying problem: economic insecurity. Against the far right’s explanation that immigration is the cause of joblessness, the left could point out that insecurity is caused by the failure –indeed refusal–of capitalism to offer secure employment to all; that the solution is to transcend the capitalist system; and that where it has been transcended in the past, secure employment has been made available to all, along with guaranteed healthcare, security in old age, subsidized housing, free education, and a raft of other mass-oriented reforms. There is no freeloading in a socialist society. Work is an obligation. But at the same time, employment is guaranteed. Against the pseudo-explanation: immigration is the cause of your problems, must be counterpoised an accurate explanation: capitalism is the cause of your problems; it can’t—won’t—guarantee a secure life for all; socialism can.

The problem is that much of the left, even that part of it that traces its origins to revolutionary Marxism, has given up on both revolution and socialism, defined here as production for use (not profits), governed by a plan (not markets), and carried out in publicly owned (not private) enterprises. Socialism in contemporary usage has come to refer to a mixed economy presided over by an elected government that calls itself socialist. Production is governed by markets, much of the economy remains in private hands, the commanding heights of the economy are brought gradually under public control, and the exploitation of man by man is accepted as necessary, desirable, and the key to efficiency. But markets—which almost everyone now thinks are an unavoidable necessity–inescapably mean recurrent economic crises, unemployment, and inequality. In other words, socialism, as it is defined by 21st century socialists, offers no solution to the economic insecurity that regularly flares up and drives the insecure into the arms of far right campaigns to scapegoat immigrants and foment xenophobia. Sweden, often celebrated as a social democratic paragon and held out as an attractive alternative to Marxist-Leninist-style socialism, has proved no less vulnerable to outbreaks of recession-induced xenophobia than bastions of neo-liberalism have. And that’s because 20th century social democracy and its equivalent, 21st century socialism, don’t transcend capitalism, but embrace it, and therefore accept its destructiveness (in crops, products, factories, and gainful employment eliminated during regular downturns), inefficiencies (capitalism regularly operates below capacity and well below during downturns), wars (to pry open closed markets and secure new investment opportunities) and blighted lives.

No one in Germany “is predicting the rise of a successful right-wing party,” remarks New York Times reporter Michael Slackman, “but that is because the main ingredient is missing: a charismatic leader to rally the public. With such a leader, and some financial support, the prospect could take on a life…” (2) Perhaps. But there is also one other ingredient missing: a compelling left alternative explanation of people’s distress. Without one, there’s no need to find, and provide financing to, a charismatic right-wing leader to transform a spontaneously arising, minority, anti-immigrant movement into a mass movement capable of vying for power to do what far right mass movements have been historically mobilized to do: block the rise of a revolutionary left movement. That the rise of a far right demagogue is unlikely can perhaps be looked at as a good thing (and in one sense it is), but in another sense it is far from good, for it means capitalism is safe, despite what one might think about capitalism’s current tribulations creating an opportunity for change. The opportunity may exist, but who is there to seize it?

It used to be that the role of a revolutionary Marxist party was to set forth an alternative explanation to the dominant ideology, one that would supply an essential ingredient to the project of transcending capitalism at a time of crisis. People’s troubles with unemployment, under-employment and poverty, it would be explained, are systemic, not personal or immigrant-related; they are remediable, not inevitable. Freedom from the ills of capitalism, it would be shown, is possible and realistically achievable through collective action. Nationalism, xenophobia and social democracy would be revealed to be pseudo-solutions, offering the illusion of change but no real redress of capitalism’s ills. No longer. Nowadays, everyone has shifted to the right. Liberals are conservatives, social democrats are liberals, and communists are social democrats, if not liberals in practice with a vaguely radical rhetoric.

With a void having opened up in the space once filled by alternative left explanations, the current capitalist crisis is proving to be a fertile ground for the growth of far right pseudo-explanations of what are properly systemic problems. With the left having embraced markets, and thereby all that markets imply (regular crises, unemployment and inequality), it no longer has a solution to offer for market-induced plights. Having capitulated, it has reduced itself to the role of uttering pious expressions of benevolence.

III

Many people who were once communists drew strength from the knowledge that communism represented a mass movement. Perhaps it remained marginal (or more aptly, suppressed) in their own country, but it had been embraced by a substantial fraction of the world’s people and seemed to be getting stronger. With the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and China’s journey down the capitalist road, all that changed. Now, really-existing socialism had all but disappeared, hanging on, sort of, in a few outposts: Cuba, where parts of the socialist model had to be dismantled to survive, and North Korea, where the Juche philosophy supplanted formal adherence to Marxism-Leninism. Communism now seemed largely discredited, and to cling to it, was to mark oneself as peripheral and locked in the past.

Desperate to reconnect to a mass movement, many embraced the only mass working class movement they could find, which in many Western countries, was social democracy. But the corruption that had led the Bolsheviks to break away from social democracy to form the communist movement in 1917 had intensified, and by the time the Soviet Union was dismantled, social democracy had nothing anymore to do with socialism; it had become capitalism with a friendly face, and at times, not so friendly.

In Marx’s and Engel’s day, there were periods when a meeting of every socialist in Europe could have been easily held in a mid-sized hall. Until 1917, the Bolsheviks—whose ideas and organizational forms would eventually guide the economic and political organization of a majority of the world’s population–remained a political party of limited significance without a mass following. The need to be connected to a popular movement—and the practice of linking up with a cause on the basis of its popularity and not the ideas and aims that inspire it– would have led many latter day communists to shun Marx, Engels and the Bolsheviks had they been contemporaries.

One reason Marxism-Leninism commands little authority nowadays is that it seems to have been rejected by its practitioners. Glasnost and Perestroika and the eventual dismantling of communism in the Soviet Union, followed by communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe, and the turn to capitalism in China and Vietnam, appear to be admissions that Marxism-Leninism doesn’t work and that capitalism is both inevitable and the end of history. Cuba’s recent decision to expand its private sector by cutting loose 500,000 state employees—and Fidel Castro’s remark to Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more” (3)—seems to underscore the point. All this, however, misses a few significant points.

First, communism arose under inauspicious circumstances. It took root where capitalism was weak, and therefore without the strength to smother the infant in its cradle. In 1917, Russia’s Tsarist ruling class was demoralized by war and the capitalist class too small, weak and disorganized to put down revolutions in March and October. But capitalism being too weak to block the rise of revolution meant that the revolution would have to take hold in a country where the working class was small and the industrial base–necessary to progress toward a communist society of plenty–was rudimentary at best. Lenin believed his revolution would spark working class revolutions in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe, and that the working class in those countries would come to the Bolshevik’s aid, providing the necessary capital Russia would need to build its own socialist society. He judged wrong. While the Kaiser’s rule was overthrown in Germany, the Social Democrats–who disagreed with Bolshevik’s revolutionary methods and refused to break decisively with capitalism and its rulers –came to power. Revolutions elsewhere were stillborn or not in the cards. After a period of waiting, the Bolsheviks realized that if socialism were to come to Russia, they would either have to first shepherd the country through a long period of capitalist development, actively intervene in Western Europe to foment revolutions there, or undergo a program of rapid industrialization and forced agricultural collectivization at home. After a period of conflict about which path to pursue, the Bolsheviks decided to build socialism in one country. This decision was reinforced by the expectation that the capitalist powers would attack the Soviet Union within a decade, and that an industrial base was urgently needed to build a modern military for self-defense.

Second, communism had not a moment’s rest from attempts by the capitalist countries to destroy it. Blockades, sanctions, trade embargoes, sabotage, subversion, diplomatic isolation, military intervention, war (both hot and cold) and ideological warfare were pressed into service with the aim rolling back—and ultimately destroying– communism. The chances of communism surviving the onslaught were far from sanguine. Attributing the demise of really-existing socialism to internal failings, and ignoring seven decades of efforts to exterminate the communist challenge—a practice of both the right and left–is a peculiar form of blindness. As William Blum observes: “It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon these catastrophes, nodded their heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humankind shall never fly.” (4)

Third, it wasn’t because communist countries rejected markets that they failed. It was because they backed off of Marxist-Leninist principles, and conciliated with capitalism, that they collapsed. Poland, for example, ran into trouble because it failed to collectivize agriculture and provided implacable enemies of socialism, including the Catholic Church, space to operate. Rather than using agricultural surpluses to pay for industrialization, Polish communists subsidized food prices and emphasized light industry and the production of consumer goods and foot the bill by borrowing heavily from Western banks. Burdened with debt, the government was eventually forced to allow Western banks to dictate economic policy. The banks demanded the government remove its food subsidies to pay interest on its debt. This led to spikes in food prices, sparking strikes and ultimately the development of a working class strike movement. The strike movement was hijacked by anti-socialist ideologues linked to the Catholic Church and the CIA who eventually managed to force the government to step down when it became clear that the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, would not intervene.

Gorbachev was dismantling the Marxist-Leninist basis of the Soviet state and experimenting with market mechanisms in response to a slow-down in the Soviet economy. The slow-down had a number of causes. The Soviets had been forced to adopt a policy of self-sufficiency to protect the country from the possibility of imperialist countries manoeuvring to strangle it economically by cutting off its access to vital raw materials. This led to a situation where the Soviets paid more to extract some raw materials internally than they would have paid had they imported them. Another factor was an increase in raw materials costs. As easy to reach mines were depleted, deeper mine shafts had to be dug, and longer distances had to be travelled to reach new mines.

Planning had its own problems. Enterprises hung on to employees to ensure they had sufficient staff to meet planned production targets. This led to over-staffing, and to the less than efficient deployment of manpower. The Soviet commitment to full employment also meant that retrofitting factories—in order that they could continue in operation with layoffs avoided—was favored over building new factories based on new technology. As a result, the industrial base became a patchwork of new grafted onto old.

At the same time, the need to keep pace with NATO put a severe strain on the Soviet economy. Despite its rapid growth, the Soviet economy was still much smaller than that of the United States. To come anywhere close to matching NATO expenditures, the Soviets had to allocate a crushingly large percentage of their GDP to the military. Although necessary for self-defense, this was wasteful, since it diverted resources away from the productive investments that were needed to raise living standards. US cold warriors figured that if they could stall the growth of the Soviet economy by locking the Soviet Union into an arms race, they could weaken attachment to Marxism-Leninism, both among the Soviet citizenry and in the Kremlin. With living standards failing to converge on those of the advanced capitalist countries, Eastern Bloc populations might sour on the socialist model and look longingly to the West. At the same time, it might occur to Soviet leaders that their only hope was to compromise on Marxism-Leninism and open up the Soviet economy to market mechanisms and the world capitalist economy.

There were other strains. In order to win allies and expand socialism to other countries, the Soviets shipped aid to countries and movements struggling to free themselves from colonialism. Most of these countries were desperately poor, and profited from transfers and subsidies from the Soviet Union, while returning little in exchange. For example, the Soviets bought Cuban sugar and nickel at above world prices, getting little in return from Cuba. Cuban military intervention in southern Africa on behalf of the liberation movements there–ultimately paid for by the Soviet Union–and the intervention in Afghanistan on behalf of a modernizing and secular revolutionary government, put further strain on the Soviet economy. In the end, Gorbachev decided to pull troops out of Afghanistan, cut Cuba loose, and not intervene to protect Warsaw Pact allies from counter-revolutionary movements. He also moved the Soviet Union toward a Scandinavian-style social democracy. Far from invigorating the Soviet economy, the attempt to make over the USSR pushed the economy into collapse. As the economy imploded, the economies linked to it through the socialist community fell like dominos. By embracing capitalist methods, Gorbachev had turned a set of manageable problems into a catastrophe. Communism’s collapse was not due to public ownership, central planning, and production for use, but the abandonment of socialist practices in favour of markets and capitalist methods. The problem wasn’t that there was too much socialism; there was too little.

IV

The capitalist class in imperialist countries is a formidable enemy. Except for the period of the Great Depression and the chaotic aftermath of the two world wars, it has not been weakened, demoralized and disorganized—a condition that would need to prevail if revolutions were to come about. What’s more, both world wars led to a stronger, more confident, and assertive class rule based in US finance and industry. The opportunities for Marxist-Leninists to lead new revolutions were, therefore, limited. At the same time, the space for socialist countries to develop was systematically impeded by a United States immeasurably strengthened by WWII, whose rulers committed themselves to wiping the communist foe from the face of the earth, a campaign that carries on today in efforts to bring down the Cuban and North Korean systems. (By comparison, the Soviet Union was immeasurably weakened by the same war.) That the communist movement should be bloodied, bruised and knocked to the mat should come as no surprise. The opponent was formidable. But does that mean the towel must be thrown in? It would appear that for communists who were accustomed to being linked to mass movements, the answer is yes. But the movement of revolutionary socialists has been tiny and peripheral before. Had there not been a core of revolutionaries who remained dedicated to Marxist-Leninist principles and refused to sacrifice fundamental principles for immediate gains and popularity, the first attempt at building socialism would never have come off. Capitalist crises and war are inevitable and recurrent. Opportunities for transcending capitalism and liberating mankind from its scourges are therefore, inevitable and recurrent as well. When they arrive, a Marxist party capable of offering an explanation of people’s unhappiness, showing that another way is realistically achievable, and revealing the pseudo-solutions of nationalism, religion and social democracy to be dead-ends, can lead a renewed attempt to move humanity forward.

1. Michael Slackman, “Rightwing sentiment, ready to burst its dam”, The New York Times, September 21, 2010.
2. Ibid.
3. Jeffrey Goldberg, “Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’” theatlantic.com, September 8, 2010. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-cuban-model-doesnt-even-work-for-us-anymore/62602/
4. William Blum, “The Anti-Empire Report,” September 2, 2009. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/aer73.html

REFERENCES

Robert C. Allen, Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, Princeton University Press, 2003.

Bahman Azad, Heroic Struggle, Bitter Defeat: Factors Contributing to the Dismantling of the Socialist State in the USSR, International Publishers, New York, 2000.

Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, International Publishers, New York, 2004.

Melvyn P. Leffler, The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953, Hill and Wang, New York, 1994.

Irwin Silber, Socialism: What Went Wrong? An Inquiry into the Theoretical and Historical Sources of the Socialist Crisis, Pluto Press, 1994.

Albert Szymanski, Class Struggle in Socialist Poland With Comparisons to Yugoslavia, Praeger, 1984.

Albert Szymanski, “Crisis and Vitalization: An interpretive essay on Marxist theory,” in Rhona F. Levine and Jerry Lembcke (Eds.), Recapturing Marxism: An Appraisal of Recent Trends in Sociological Theory, Praeger, 1987.

Written by what's left

September 25, 2010 at 10:33 pm

22 Responses

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  1. Castro later said that his remarks were misunderstood and that he meant the exact opposite about the Cuban system. The situation in China and Vietnam are complicateed, but from what I’ve read, they are both still Socialists states.

    Sean Mulligan

    September 26, 2010 at 12:40 am

    • Well, unless you explain how China and Vietnam are socialist, despite private ownership, production for profit, wage labor and markets being dominant aspects of their economies, your comments are not particularly illuminating.

      Your point might be that both countries are socialist states (with capitalist economies) and that what makes them so is that communist parties are in charge. If so, then “socialism”, by your definition, has nothing to do with economics, and means: a political system dominated by any party that calls itself socialist and which presides over any system of property relations. The nature of the economic system it presides over, whether planned or market-driven, privately- or publicly-owned, based on production for use or production for profits, is irrelevant. All that matters is that the party in power calls itself “socialist” or “communist” and professes to represent the working class.

      According to this definition, one could simply say, that in China and Vietnam, parties called communist preside over predominantly capitalist economies in the name of the working class. If that makes them socialist, fine, but this is a significant departure from what socialism was once understood to mean.

      What advantages flow to working class Chinese and Vietnamese from their countries being governed by communist parties? Would there be any difference for the working class if the political arrangement in these countries was based on a bourgeois republic? One argument is that the communist parties are bulwarks against neo-colonization. If so, then it might be argued that the communist governments aren’t socialist but governments of national liberation.

      One could also debate whether socialism (in the economic sense) is achievable in China and Vietnam at this time, but that wouldn’t gainsay in any way that the dominant system of property relations in either country is not now socialist.

      Castro also said that he hadn’t been misquoted and that the words Goldberg attributed to him were the words he had spoken. I’m not sure how one reconciles that with his later claim that he was misinterpreted. That the Cuban government is about to cut 500,000 state employees loose to expand the private sector appears to be consistent with a belief that the “Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more.” Castro may say he was misinterpreted, but the actions of the Cuban government are entirely consistent with his words.

      gowans

      September 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      • The sentiments attributed to Castro contradict all his previous sayings and writings. Supposedly, Cuba had to make cutbacks because of the shocks to its economy caused by the decline in tourism revenue, and remitances from Cubans living in the United States. Some of the state employees will be transferred to other state enterprises and state enterpises will become worker run cooperatives.

        Sean Mulligan

        September 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      • Actually countries like China remain Socialist, not because they say so, but because the means of production is still, of the majority, owned between the workers & the State. You’ve got to realize that the economy is still operated of the majority under the State-sector, in which the link below will show where China stands on its enterprises:

        http://www.stats.gov.cn/english/statisticaldata/yearlydata/

        This is the Chinese statistical yearbook. Though, to warn you, if you’re using anything other than Internet Explorer, you won’t be able to access this site for some weird reason. So before you click this, make sure it’s through Internet Explorer. What this shows is where the Chinese people work. As you can clearly see, the biggest single category is the township and village enterprises, which are definitely socialist enterprises.

        There’s also these:

        http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/66102/6290205.html

        http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-03/16/c_13212790.htm

        This shows in great length the continued role in planning the Chinese economy.

        —————-

        Now, when it comes to Cuba, Sean is correct. Fidel did state that “the Cuban model no longer works for us,” but not as to saying that Cuban socialism isn’t working, rather how it’s being developed isn’t working any longer due to the international economic crisis.

        Raul Castro recently did a speech to his fellow Cubans, in which he’s stated that there’ll be an expansion to the self-employment sector, which right now is around 17% of the economy. Now, originally, the self-employment sector was largely regulated where those self-employed could not hire any other workers except for himself & those of his own family, to ensure no exploitation of man on man was to take place. Now, with this expansion in the self-employment sector, those self-employed will be allowed to hire workers that are outside of the family – meaning there will now be a real capitalist sector in the economy, while Socialism remains as the predominant economic factor in Cuba.

        Though, we must point out how little of the economy this’ll effect. Let’s put in the facts here:

        – Cuba’s population is close to around 11 million;
        – Cuba’s reported that around 500,000 will be transferred from the State-sector to the new self-employed sector.

        If we add all these facts up, we’re looking at merely 10% of Cuba’s economy, & more than likely a lot less due to the fact that most of those won’t be employees or employers, but self-employed, especially in farming.

        Excuse me if I assert wrong on your position, but you seem to be claiming that Cuba wanted this to happen, that these new economic polices is not out the acts of need, but out of want. If this is true, then you’re sadly mistaken. This was obviously forced on them as a result to the economic crisis. In Cuba, the foreign debt has vastly increased as a result from nickel prices falling & their tourist sector going down. And so, these new rulings more than likely be used to try & encourage fellow Cubans who have money from remittances to invest it domestically.

        Obviously, as we can see clearly, the State-owned sector is the predominant force, where workers are managing the means of production. Hell, even the main sectors of the economy – nickel, tourism, & medical technology – will remain in State hands.

        So, although there’ll be a real capitalist sector now, this does not mean that Socialism is being betrayed whatsoever. Again, this Cuban NEP is a result due to the crisis, & so to keep the Socialist economy alive in Cuba, these rulings are an absolute must. I truly do think Raul has a handle on this & knows what he’s doing. As Marxist-Leninists, we must also realize that Russia was going through a similar fate when Lenin had to implement the first NEP. This is what we’re witnessing here in Cuba.

        Of course, this 10% (or less) will be added on to the 17% (non-exploitative sector on self-employment). So, this’ll make Cuba’s economy be privately owned by 27%, at most. Though, we must take in the facts here, that 10% is an estimate as being the most in percentage. It’ll more than likely be a lot less than 10% like I’ve already shown. And with 17% of that 27% will be non-exploitative. So, again, there’ll only be 10% or less on exploitation. With the State-own sector being at least 73%, if not more. Making Cuba’s means of production vastly owned by the working class still.

        Socialism is not being betrayed as you make it out to be. In fact, I would like for you to read a great Marxist-Leninist critique that’s recently been done on Cuba’s latest economic rulings:

        http://www.pslweb.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=14493&news_iv_ctrl=1261

        BJ Murphy

        September 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm

  2. Very persuasive! Thank you.

    bobo

    September 26, 2010 at 2:37 am

  3. Victor Grossman has written some good articles connecting the economic troubles to the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment. http://www.peoplesworld.org/germans-fight-nuclear-plants-railroad-stations-nazis/

    Sean Mulligan

    September 26, 2010 at 3:22 am

  4. I meant some state enterprises.

    Sean Mulligan

    September 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  5. Heres an article by Marxist economist, Thomas Kenny on his visit to China. http://www.peoplesworld.org/notes-on-a-short-trip-to-china/

    Sean Mulligan

    September 27, 2010 at 4:24 am

    • Kenny’s thesis, put forward in the 2004 book he wrote with Roger Keeran, Socialism Betrayed, is that the Soviet leadership’s failure to crack down on the black market allowed a stratum of the population which depended on the market—and whose members had an interest in extending and legalizing markets—to flourish. The stratum’s growing influence, they contend, led to experimentation with market mechanisms to deal with the slow down in the Soviet economy, which, in turn, contributed to the USSR’s eventual collapse. In Kenny and Keeran’s view, the Soviets should have strengthened planning and cracked down on the black market, not tolerated and indulged market proponents. It’s interesting to think through the implications of their argument for the direction the CPC has taken.

      The last sentence of the Kenny article offers good advice. He writes:”…the best solidarity we can give to the working people in China is to take an honest look at their country and call it as we see it.”

      I wonder whether those who label China a socialist state have taken an honest look.

      gowans

      September 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      • I’ve already presented you the facts on why China is still today a Socialist state, yet I get no replies. I’ve been supporting your views & articles for a while now, but the statements that Cuba is betraying Socialism & that China is not a Socialist state anymore are clearly wrong.

        BJ Murphy

        September 29, 2010 at 5:44 am

      • Let’s be clear on what I wrote.

        On China. I wrote that China has traveled the capitalist road. No one, least of all the Chinese, would deny that China has introduced–indeed encouraged–markets, wage labor, private enterprise and production for profit, i.e., capitalism. The question of whether this is the right strategy is another matter altogether, and not one I took up in my article. Had I, I might have advanced this view: If the state in a slave society is an instrument of slave-owners, in a feudal society an instrument of the feudal lords, and in a capitalist society an instrument of the bourgeoisie, then in a society that has traveled a considerable way down the capitalist road it must–at the very least–operate in the interests of the bourgeoisie. Indeed, this is almost a tautology, for if Chinese capitalist development is to flourish, the Chinese state must support, protect, encourage and advance bourgeois interests, i.e., it must facilitate the exploitation of the proletariat. That there remains a large state owned sector does not gainsay this. Other bourgeois states have state-owned sectors, as well, whose existences have more to do with providing the infrastructure, services, raw materials and so on, necessary for the smooth and successful operation of private enterprise, than with socialism.

        Rather than calling the Chinese state socialist, it would be more apt to describe it as a bourgeois state under the control of a communist party which hopes, after an extend period of capitalist development of perhaps a century or more, to guide the country along a transition to communism. Whether this will happen—and whether a transition to communism will be led by the CPC or another agency or will happen at all—remains to be seen.

        On Cuba. I wrote that Cuba is about to cut 500,000 state employees loose to expand the private sector. This is a matter of public record and not a matter of dispute, least of all by the Cubans. I know too little about the pressures that the led to the decision and cannot at this point judge the outcome, to either defend or condemn it. I did neither in the article. The conclusion that the revolution has been betrayed is not one I made, but one you have misattributed to me. You have read far more into what I have written than was ever intended.

        gowans

        September 29, 2010 at 11:55 am

  6. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, originally being drawn here for your truthful articles on Zimbabwe, I must say, very impressed with this one, and I was thinkign the same as one of the commenters of Cuba. I am not denying one claim or the other, but I find this turn of events, Raul being hailed in the United States as one which will turn the island towards capitalism and how Fidel really did say that. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Aurelian

    October 7, 2010 at 3:58 am

  7. I haven’t read the commentaries in the U.S. that claim that Raul is turning Cuba towards capitalism, but from what I’ve read despite the economic changes, Cuba is still as devoted to socialist principles as ever and the government has no intention of restoring capitalism. The cutbacks were needed because of the decline in tourist revenue and the price of nickel as well as the continuing blockade. Also, from what I’ve read, the government and the unions are making arrangements, to prevent any of the transferred workers from becoming unemployed.

    Its likely that Goldberg either deliberately or accidentally distorted the meaning of Castro’s remarks. Goldberg is a rightwing hack. He was one of the people who claimed that Iraq had WMD’s and accused Scott Ritter of being blackmailed by the Iraqi government. Here are two good articles about the changes in Cuba. http://mltoday.com/en/subject-areas/cuba/cuban-workers-federation-declares-its-support-for-reforms-949-2.html

    http://www.pslweb.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=14493&news_iv_ctrl=1261

    Sean Mulligan

    October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

  8. Re Cuba:
    1/ F.Castro has said it all right – his denunciation of what he has said is laughable.
    2/ Raul Castro and Co. and F.C. too have betrayed the revolution all right.
    I have in mind not only the developments you comment here but the whole chain of events and reactions of the Cuban leadership – the endless talks about hurricanes, rains etc. – all of the kind of a general complaint that water is wet – the passionate talks about the need of “reforms in the economy” – which F.C. remark has naturally crowned (notwithstanding that some of you most obstinately reject as impossible for him to utter – why impossible, by the way? It has seemed also impossible for such a powerful country like the Soviet Union to be kicked into nothingness. Where is the Soviet Union NOW? Answer: Where SOCIALIST Cuba will be after a couple of years!)
    Western so-called “left” are notorious for their shortsightedness and total inability to notice undercurrent tendencies and draw the corresponding conclusions for future developments. It is demonstrated again in the comments here.
    Besides you – Western “left” – have a very short memory – what’s the matter with you? Have you already forgotten gorbachev’s perestroika? Have you forgotten how our wonderful – secure life in ourTRULY Socialist countries and the Soviet Union has been killed – has been stolen from us – has been kicked out – gone with the winds? And all this happened both in front of our and your eyes!
    We from Eastern Europe and Soviet Union have learn our lesson – we are all on pins and needles for signs of another perestroika in the pitiable remnants of still Socialist countries.
    I have discerned the signs of the coming Cuban perestroika since the start of the regular publications of the so-called F.C.’s “reflections”. Have a backward look at them: if your brains are not totally washed out, you will understand what I mean.
    In a way I have expected the last developments.
    Still, they have been awfully hurting – even if not a surprise.

    • Its impossible, since it contradicts everything Castro has ever said about the Cuban economy. Comparing Fidel Castro to Gorbachev is ridiculous. It makes about as much sense as comparing Lenin or Stalin to Gorbachev. Its too soon to see whether the measures will be temporary and what effect they will have on Cuban Socialism. Here is an interesting article that I found.http://mltoday.com/en/subject-areas/cuba/all-peoples-who-resist-will-have-our-support-959-2.html

      Why are you taking the word of the capitalist media and Jonah Goldberg?

      Sean Mulligan

      November 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

      • In my eyes you and your “reflexions” both on China and Cuba are pitiable. “Castro said – Castro did!” Yes, he said (Past Tense) and did (Past Tense) but people CHANGE and an elderly man above 80 is easily MANIPULATED!!! If you read carefully with cool mind his “reflexions”, you will sense and see the signs of Castro of Today – and he has nothing to do with Castro of Yesterday! But you refuse to look at him NOW as you should. The debilitating elderly man is shamelessly used by the Cuban perestroika men and Cuban Gorbachov R.Castro.
        In order not to leave you with some doubts on my position re Cuba Today, I repeat:
        A Gorbachov-like PERESTROIKA (!!!!) is going on in Cuba under the leadership of Raul Castro and Co.! Elderly and totally changed Fidel Castro after several months of hospital stay (What for? Why? What have they done to him there? We know only the official version. Why don’t you ask yourself questions? Where is the healthy doubt? Wasn’t it a kind of coup d’etat?) is most shamelessly used as a well-working cover of their real aims by the Cuban perestroika men on the basis of the world-wide respect for him for what he DID (Past Tense) and said (Past Tense). You refuse to evaluate coolly what he keeps saying and how he behaves himself TODAY!
        In Venezuela they nationalize enterprises – in Cuba the PERESTROIKA men create artificially private owners, kicking deliberately the country back to capitalism and their people into the miasma of the capitalist misery!
        You definitely know NOTHING about what SOCIALISM stands for. You also know NOTHING about Gorbachev’s perestroika – how it has begun – how it deepened – and the end Disaster and what it meant both for the Russian and East European peoples!
        By the way, for your information, Gorbachev’s perestroika has begun with the R. Castro’s slogans TODAY about in what bad state the economy is (a lie!), how it needs “reforms” (a lie!) etc. For us, Russians and East Europeans, R.C. and Co. follow closely the steps of Gorbachev – and why not? The advisers are the same: the well known Western governments’ agencies, specialized in “velvet” – “orange” – “tulip” etc “revolutions”…
        “Knowledge is Power”
        “Ignorance is Power” too.
        If you look honestly at R.Castro and Co. doings in Cuba, you will see lots of worrying signs – in case you’re a true Marxist (which you are not).
        When at last you, Western so-called “left” agree with us, it will be too late both for Cuba and its people. (Which is the aim of the above-mentioned agencies.)
        By the way, are you really standing behind the stupid idea that Goldberg has sucked out Castro’s words quoted by him from the tips of his fingers? Think again – he has taped them and he has not been alone!

        Blagovesta Doncheva

        November 16, 2010 at 5:04 am

  9. Re China – from an E-mail

    1/ What about MARX, LENIN, STALIN?
    Are we on the way to ignore their teachings? STALIN’s life ACHIEVEMENTS?
    Should I ignore – forget – kick out any memory of my WONDERFUL LIFE in a Socialist country?
    Do you expect of me to embrace a CAPITALIST country with ALL – ALL – ALL!!!!!! – HORRORS of capitalism glaring at you from every corner and call it – if not directly “communist” – “a country on the road tot “true Socialism”?
    I am NOT going to do it – NEVER!
    China is a double ENEMY to me because it DARES to mar/defame Socialism and what it stands for…!

    2/…. you have seen China as an organized tourist. You have seen the glaring façade.
    What about the ORDINARY PEOPLE? What about the life of the ORDINARY PEOPLE? What about the CRUEL exploitation – low wages – long working hours in the “foreign investors’” and Chinese SOCIALIST (?) PRIVATE (?!) Businessmen’s enterprises? Do you really believe that a “foreign investor” or a Chinese CAPITALIST will ever raise a salary of a single worker? Why is a “foreign investor” in China – why doesn’t he stay in US or his West European country? First of all because of the CHEAP labor – which translates – as you know very well – into P-R-O-F-I-T! In China it translates into HUGE PROFIT!
    What about the flourishing prostitution – as in every other capitalist country?
    What about the crime rates?
    What about the CAPITALIST paid health care – that excludes of any health care an enormous percent of the ORDINARY PEOPLE I am concerned with?

    What about the ABJECT misery an enormous percent of ORDINARY CHINESE PEOPLE do live in?
    And here I come to the most horrifying question to me: what about the Chinese so called “communist” party DEPOPULATION policy under the UN’s UNEPA, UNICEF etc. –USAID – WHO – WB – IMF – Club of Roma – CFR – Trilateral Commission – Bilderbergs and the others World Elite’s organizations high orders?
    What about the female babies’ corpses filling up the containers all through China? The explanation is frightening with its simplicity: parents want a boy. They give birth to a girl. The “communists” from the “communist” party of China subjugated to UN’s UNEPA, UNICEF etc. – USAID – WHO – WB – IMF – Club of Roma – CFR – Trilateral Commission – Bilderbergs and the others World Elite’s organizations order: “No more than ONE child in a family!”And the parents keep killing the female babies (to the joy of the World Elite, so-called!) – till at last they give birth to a boy! Look how simple it is! To say nothing about babies killed deliberately in the Chinese CAPITALIST specific Slaughter Houses called “HOSPITALS” sometimes under the supervision of so-called “communist” China policemen?! (And now young men surpass greatly in number young women, and cannot find a partner or create a family! What a Glorious achievement indeed! (The Global Elite is surely very pleased with the diligent ruling Chinese “communist” party!)
    Is that in harmony with the teachings of Socialism? Or Communism? Of MARX, LENIN, STALIN?
    What system is it in harmony with? With the pure FASCIST form of CAPITALISM!

    I HATE China of Today so very much –
    – for the way they are defaming – humiliating – spitting at EVERYTHING Socialism and Communism stand for!
    – for what they have done and are doing to the ORDINARY PEOPLE in China under the flag of Socialism!
    I’ll jump at everybody daring to call China of Today “socialist” or “communist”!
    What has it in common with Socialism and Communism”?
    Only a FALSE name of a FALSE party of greedy for power CAPITALIST Mamonites!

    Last questing:
    What do you think – will the attitude to Socialism of these humiliated – exploited – forced to kill their babies – to prostitute – to kill for a piece of bread – living in abject misery ORDINARY PEOPLE of China be in a future I dread to think of?

    • The One Child Policy is hardly Fascist. It applies to less then 40 percent of the population and ethnic minorities and other groups are exempt. Efforts to restrict population growth are not Fascist.

      Sean Mulligan

      November 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

      • If the state police kick a 8-month pregnant woman in the stomach, beat her and drag her to a hospital where her 8-month old baby gets forcibly killed by “doctors” under order – what will you call that? Doesn’t that kind of behavior remind Gestapo’s methods?
        But if you are all for Earth depopulation – what is the end aim of the World Elite – it explains your attitude. If you support – as it is clear from your mail – Global Elite aim of clearing away 6+ billions of people on Earth leaving only 500 millions (!!) – one could wonder only why you’re here: what could be your interest in that site?
        Something else in my support: what about forcibly destructed villages to build plants and roads on them – what about the people kicked out from their land and homes into the towns/cities to live in the streets, prostitute and feed themselves from the rubbish containers? Paid health care to which poor trampled on ex-peasants and cruelly exploited workers both by the local and foreign capitalists (called “investors”!), highly paid BAD quality education – just as in the Western capitalist countries world wide: how could people with their brains intact call that Socialism? Is that what SOCIALISM stands for? Where is the social state? Where is the care for the Man?
        Is beating workers – both in the local capitalist enterprises and the foreign capitalists’ ones – socialist-like or maybe it bears signs of extreme capitalism which some call fascism?

        Blagovesta Doncheva

        November 16, 2010 at 5:22 am

  10. The Earth’s population including China’s is growing so Earth’s population is not closer to going down to 500 million then it has ever been.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the other matters.

    Sean Mulligan

    November 18, 2010 at 7:27 am

  11. FYI, you mentioned Poland, but you failed to mention Stalin’s own collectivization failure. Accelerated sovkhozization would have yielded greater agricultural surpluses and significantly reduced rural death tolls. Instead, artel-based compromise ruled the day.

    Jacob Richter

    February 13, 2012 at 1:05 am


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