Re: [OPE-L] Che's Economics

From: David Yaffe (david@DANYAF.PLUS.COM)
Date: Sat May 05 2007 - 11:31:28 EDT

Again over simplification - too much sloganising. I suggest you read the
Apuntos and Helen Yaffe's thesis to see how substantial the debates were
and what an important advance Che's contribution was in the very real
conditions of attempting to develop Cuban socialism.

David Yaffe

At 13:47 05/05/2007 +0200, you wrote:
>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.  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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