[OPE-L] Che's Economics

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat May 05 2007 - 07:47:53 EDT

I remember reading Carlos Tablada's book on Che's budgetary system and
thinking it wasn't very good or informative - a lot of unctious, eulogising
Marxist-Leninist ideology rather than good, hard content that makes sense.

Che himself was a very astute Marxist thinker who understood the theoretical
tradition and what the general problems were, but his socialist economics
was still very distorted by the Russian Marxist-Leninist doctrines formed in
the course of war, and Che did not yet understand well the relationship
between politics and economics, i.e. the forcefield of power as mediated by
organisation. He under-theorised power.

The Soviet Marxists had been educated to be hostile against markets, without
understanding what markets were, and they operated with grotesquely
doctrinaire ideas about organisational theory and about property rights. The
Marxist-Leninist tradition therefore did not contain much sensible
discussion about socialist economics, and the bureaucratic dictatorship
prevented anybody from calling a spade a spade in Soviet economic science,
unless it was politically convenient.

See e.g. www.ehs.org.uk/ehs/conference2007/Assets/YaffeNRIIE.doc  for a
brief online summary of Che's economics.

Che's writings in English translation are usefully collected in John
Gerassi, Venceremos: the Speeches and Writings of Che Guevara (New York,

The "great debate" on socialist economics and the law of value is collected
in English translation by Bertram Silverman (ed), Man and Socialism in Cuba;
The Great Debate. New York: Atheneum, 1971. (This was with Bettelheim,
Mandel, Che etc.)

Michael Lowy's "The Marxism of Che Guevara" also has a section on Che's

The general consensus as far as I know is that while Che was very bright,
dedicated organiser and an innovator, he was an idealist and his budgetary
finance system in the end did not really work in practice. Che often
thought, like many Marxists do, that general abstract theory can be a
direct, immediate ("ideological") guide to solving highly specific problems
of production and trade, and he thought that Marxism contained a
comprehensive and consistent universal moral theory. He was obviously wrong
on both counts, and consequently when he succeeded in his policy it had
little directly to do with his Marxism.

Nevertheless he's an important thinker, insofar as he theoretically
formulated some of the problems in organising production and distribution
when you abolish monetised markets, or when market economy is impossible
because of trade boycotts - i.e. what do people stand to gain from
cooperating in production when there are no markets, and consequently what
would motivate them to produce quality goods and services for others. These
issues will remain pertinent irrespective of the type of social relations
that prevail in an economy.


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