Re: book promotion

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Wed Nov 26 2003 - 21:35:19 EST

At 17:33 26/11/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Let me ask a question you _must_ have been asked before:
>What is the relevance of your book to the Bolivaran
>revolution in Venezuela? ... and to the Cuban revolution?
>In solidarity, Jerry

Nice question, Jerry. Actually, no one has asked. In fact, I usually don't
give them a chance because I tell folks upfront--- at least in Cuba. (In
Venezuela, there aren't many people I've met who have an interest in Marx;
as the saying goes here, 'we invent'.) The connection (it's for them to
decide its relevance) is roughly as follows:
         In focusing on the side of workers in the book, one important
aspect of the book as it develops emphasizes the way workers produce
themselves through all their activities, how every act generates a joint
product--- the changing of circumstances and self-change (Marx's definition
of revolutionary practice). The emphasis here is upon the nature of workers
that capital produces and the way workers produce themselves in a different
way through struggle. Capital tends to produce workers who by 'education,
tradition and habit' look upon the requirements of capital 'as self-evident
natural laws'-- ie., capital tends to produce the workers it needs (cf. Vol
I, 899 Vintage). Only insofar as workers struggle do they alter themselves
and create the possibility of going beyond capital. The way I put it in
this edition at one point (p.189) is: 'Once we recognise that the subjects
of this process are human beings and that "revolutionary practice" is
essential for building human capacities, then a central question to pose
with respect to all struggles becomes--- does this help in the
self-development of the working class?'
         The relationship of this perspective to the building of a
socialist society is, I think, clear. It points to the necessity to develop
forms and relations of production (not narrowly conceived) which allow
producers to develop through their activities. Thus, it stresses the
importance of self-management in work places and communities rather than
the hierarchy and verticalism that characterised 'actually existing
socialism' (which I have written about as the 'vanguard mode of
production') and the importance of direct solidaristic links rather than
connection through market relations--- because a central question is what
kind of people are produced (produce themselves) under different relations.
         I've been presenting papers, lecturing, etc in Cuba since 1996 on
this theme, and it goes over very well. There is an instant acceptance of
these arguments by the 'muy revolutionario' among them as their own-- and,
specifically, as the position of Che. (Several of these papers have been
translated and published in Marx Ahora, the leading theoretical journal
there--- including the one I gave at the Marx Conference last May, 'People
and Property in the Building of Communism', which is available on the
conference website.) In particular, researchers working on community
developments have been very enthusiastic given their own focus on the
development of the Popular Councils in the last decade as a basis of
solving problems from below. In Venezuela, on the other hand, we are
talking about things at a quite different level of development. The
Bolivarian Constitution, however, is quite unique in its stress on
revolutionary practice (without using this term, of course), and the
development of the social economy that Chavez stresses is quite consistent
with this general thrust. But, to the best of my knowledge, it has not been
theoretically articulated sufficiently--- not at least by Marxists. (This
may reveal my own ignorance so far.) I'm hoping to write something quite
soon on this theme which can help the process here in Venezuela, and I
suspect that it will be the paper I present at next year's Marx conference
(if I don't feel too constrained by the 10 page limit).
         I hope I've answered your lob, jerry.
                 in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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