Announcing the April 1998 issue of Communist Voice:
Debating today's Cuba: Report on a recent trip to Cuba
and reply---a vain search for `shoots of socialism',
Preobrazhensky--ideologist of state capitalism,
East Asia crash, privatization in `Communist' China,
& more

The seventeenth issue of CV, vol. 4, #2 (April 20, 1998, 54 pages of text)
contains the following articles:

Briefly about these articles:


Meeting on the EAST ASIAN crash

. The crisis in East Asia is basically a capitalist overproduction crisis. Capitalism has overreached itself, creating an engine of production of goods that cannot be sold, at least not sold at a profit. Sales of exports from East Asia began slipping in 1996. And exports are an important part of the economies of all these countries. As exports stalled, uncertainty settled onto the equities markets--stocks and real estate. they went bust. This led to the currency crisis of last summer (continuing until now).

. The crash in Asia is proof once again that capitalism is characterized by anarchy of production. Through experience the capitalists have learned to expect a boom-and-bust cycles. But they never know when, exactly, the boom is going to end. And they don't know how deep the crisis is going to be. As long as the boom continues they want their capital involved, yielding maximum profit. So they keep pumping more air into the balloon until it finally bursts.

Privatization takes hold in CHINA--millions laid off

. The revisionist "Communist" Party of China announced plans to privatize industry at its 15th Congress in September. In the last few months, the plan has been picking up steam and turning into a juggernaut, smashing workers' living standards. Every day factories are shutting down or drastically cutting back their work force. Millions of workers are being laid off, their jobs permanently eliminated.

. This is taking place in a situation where China doesn't have a government-run social welfare system. In the past, workers' pensions, health care, housing, day care etc., were all provided through their employer, the local enterprise they worked for. But being permanently laid off cuts workers off from these benefits. The result is that many workers have been turned into street vendors selling bowls of rice, bean curd, etc. to pedestrians.

. Workers in China are not just lying down and accepting these attacks on their livelihood. But in trying to organize their movement the Chinese workers face severe repression from the ruling bureaucrats. Independent trade unions are strictly prohibited. And the revisionist tyrants maintain a system of discrimination that makes it very difficult for workers of different trades and different backgrounds to unite. Workers are legally banned from moving freely from one job or location to another. Rural migrants are not allowed, legally, to reside in cities. They can become legal city-dwellers only by paying exorbitant bribes to urban officials. So they are forced to take `unofficial' jobs at below-market wages, to live outside normal housing projects, and to suffer discrimination in all aspects of their lives. The governments tries to justify this system with talk about the need for `social stability', but obviously it's more concerned with keeping the working class split up than in providing stability to workers' lives.

CUBA in the 1960s:
Bureaucrats head to `communism' without the workers

. This is the last in a series of articles tracing the Cuban economy in the various decades since the revolution. These articles deal with the actual structure of the economy rather than excuses, double-talk, rhetorical flights of fancy, or the euphemistic reassurances issued by Cuban officials. They thus provide an valuable factual framework that must be taken account of by anyone seeking to evaluate the Castroist regime on a materialist basis.

. No doubt the 1959 overthrow of the brutal, U.S.-backed Batista regime was a great victory for the Cuban masses. In its wake, a series of social reforms benefiting the downtrodden were carried out by the new regime. Within a couple of year, the new government nationalized U.S. and other foreign capitalist companies as well as large Cuban businesses. Castro, who had come to power under the banner of merely reforming Cuban capitalism, suddenly announced he was taking Cuba on the road to communism.

. To do this, the Cuban leadership took up the theories and experience of Soviet state-capitalism and grafted it onto their own views. This article examines the result. It shows that not all the problems affecting the Cuban economy can be blamed on the savage U. S. blockade. It goes into the economic problems affecting the state sector, such as the dramatic decreases in labor productivity, the anarchy in the state sector, Castro's disastrous economic panaceas, etc. It shows that the workers were regarded as producers, but not as the rulers of the economy and the society as a whole.

. A particularly interesting section of the article deals with the debates in the mid-1960s between Che and other Cuban officials on whether to maintain Che's "budgetary-finance system" or move toward the "self-financing" system patterned after what was then being done in the Soviet Union. It shows that neither of these plans amounted to increasing workers' control over the economy. Moreover, Che's plans were based on assuming that the state sector was acting as a single, unified whole, while his own description of the state sector showed that it was not. Instead of dealing with unpleasant facts and showing how to overcome them, Che waved them aside. As a result, far from providing a revolutionary alternative to the more pro-Soviet officials, he ended up as the left-sounding wing of Cuban revisionism.

. This provides the background for the events described in articles in previous issues of Communist Voice on the evolution of the Cuban economy in the 70s, 80s and 90s. However comforting it may be to think that the flame of revolution still burns brightly in Cuba, such a view will not stand scrutiny.

Report on a recent trip to CUBA

. Barb, from the Chicago Workers' Voice, visited Cuba last November. Her report, which appeared originally in the Chicago Workers' Voice Theoretical Journal, is here reprinted in full.She makes a flattering assessment of the Castro regime, but many of her concrete observations tell a different story; she repeatedly finds it necessary to explain away or apologize for what she has seen. Finally, in the postscript to her report, she admits "the obvious fact that the Cuban workers do not control the society", but she thinks that this isn't necessary in order to have "shoots of socialism". She is thus aware that she is painting a policy of benevolent despotism as the practical socialism of the moment, and she goes to the extent of declaring that it is `irresponsible' at this time in history to even discuss what genuine socialism really is or isn't. Her report is critiqued in Mark's article "A desperate search for `shoots of socialism'".

On Barb's report: a desperate search for "shoots of socialism"

. This article points out that Barb's report has no need of coherent analysis because its only serious point is that whatever sort of system Castro has built, it's good and should be supported. This article shows in detail that Barb's own observations about private capitalism in Cuba, about the lack of political freedoms in Cuba, about the spread of prostitution, etc. contradict Barb's support for the Castroist system.

. Moreover, just try and figure out what type of system she thinks exists in Cuba. She condemns those who point out the gulf between socialist society and the state-capitalist system set up by Castro. But then she says that when billboards in Cuba proclaim socialism there, "obviously, that is not the case. "

. In her view, it seems, Cuba isn't socialist but on the way towards socialism. But what good does it do to split hairs over exactly how far down the road of socialism Cuba has gone when Barb admits that the workers don't control society anyway? Barb attempts to deal with this by arguing that the workers in the Soviet Union did not control society "under the Bolsheviks. " How or why she reached this conclusion, she never says. It's just presented as an obvious fact. Does she feel that Lenin was unconcerned about whether the workers controlled society and hence it's legitimate for her not to worry about it? Or does she mean that later, under Stalin, a society was erected that had abandoned workers' rule? Who knows. In any case, the issue of principle is this--can we talk about building socialism without the workers' controlling society?

Castro embraces the Pope

. In January this year, Pope John Paul II was warmly greeted in Cuba by Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. Castro didn't just repeat diplomatic niceties to the Pope, but talked of their common views on world events: "we feel the same way that you do about many important issues of today's world and we are pleased it is so". He presented the Pope as "one of the great headaches of imperialism today" and the Cuban government as one of his allies: "Another country will not be found better disposed to understand your felicitous ideas. . . that the equitable distribution of wealth and solidarity among men and peoples should be globalized. " The Cuban government has chosen to use religion as the opium of the people, like any other oppressive government.

Does the existence of nationalized industry prove that a country is socialist?

. Evgeny Preobrazhensky's celebrated book "The New Economics" appeared in 1926, yet its influence is still felt today. It aimed at presenting a theoretical picture of what the transition to socialism looks like, and dealt with subjects such as planning, the role of the state sector, and "primitive socialist accumulation". Although Preobrazhensky was murdered by Stalin's regime in 1937, his ideas on the state sector and industrialization (and those of the Trotskyist movement in general) have much in common with those of Stalin. Preobrazhensky held that, given that the old bourgeoisie had been overthrown, the nationalized industry and state sector of a regime were inherently socialist, no matter how the state sector and the government were run. He could not see that a new bourgeoisie could arise from within the state sector and, basing its power on the state sector, become a new ruling class, a state-capitalist ruling class.

. "The New Economics" presents a series of arguments to prove that the degree of socialism in the Soviet Union could be measured simply by the size and power of the state sector. As a result, Preobrazhensky could not understand the growing solidification of state-capitalism in the Soviet Union, and sought to reconcile with Stalin when Stalin turned to repaid industrialization and forced collectivization. His disagreements with the Five Year Plans, as presented in his article "On the Methodology of Construction of the General Plan and the Second Five Year Plan", were technocratic.

. Many of Preobrazhensky's views and even methods of arguing echo today in the debates over whether the supposed "communist" regimes in China, North Korea and Cuba today, and the late Soviet Union and Eastern Europe yesterday, actually were socialist. The Marxist view that progress to socialism is measured by the extent that the workers themselves run the economy and the entire country, and that the state sector itself has to be judged as to whether the working masses control it, have been discarded by the apologists of these regimes. Dependency theorists, most Trotskyists, and many reformists have denied, and still deny, that these were state-capitalist regimes.

. Part One of this article deals with his claim that the categories of commodity production no longer applied to the internal workings of the state sector in NEP Russia. He sought to explain away money, rent, stock, profit, interest etc. as only apparently existing. He glossed over the significance of contradictions in the state sector by arguing that "the working class can't exploit itself". The law of value and "primitive socialist accumulation" will be dealt with in subsequent parts of this article.


. The Feb. 23 issue of Detroit Workers' Voice on the Persian Gulf war crisis is reprinted in this issue of CV. It demands that U. S. imperialism get out of the Persian Gulf, and condemns both Clinton and Saddam Hussein for the ongoing devastation of the Iraqi people.


. The correspondence column deals with further issues on Cuba, the Trotskyist concept of the "deformed workers' state", and other issues.

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