Ernesto “Che” Guevara 1928-67 (III)

DEL III : Den afsluttende del af artiklen om Che Guevaras økonomiske tænkning og socialismens politiske økonomi er kun delvis bearbejdet og oversat til de skandinaviske sprog. Det vil ske gradvist løbet af den kommende tid.

* * * * Mange er blevet forledt til at tro at oprettelsen af socialiseret kollektiv planlægning i  bestemte områder i den statsejede sektor i overgangens økonomien er en farlig utopi. Overgangen til NEP i det krigshærgede Sovjet er sædvanligvis brugt som historisk eksempel, som angiveligt illustrerer at socialiserede og kollektive organisationsformer ikke passer til de økonomiske betingelser og forhold i et tilbagestående landbrugsland. Faktisk var indførelsen af den markedslignende økonomiske selvforvaltning(kalkulering) i den statslige industri –   lige modsat –  et relativt kortlivet fænomen i Sovjetunionens  økonomiske historie fordi man tidligt blev klar over at  NEP-politikken kunne få katastrofale konsekvenser hvis den markedslignende økonomiske selvforvaltning – finansiel  kalkulering –   skulle blive pålagt alle statssektorenes områder. * * *

Efter de første stadier af overgangen fra den såkaldte “Krigskommunismes” økonomi til liberaliseringen af den sovjetiske økonomi, udtrykte den sovjetiske ledelse bekymringer for at Lenins plan om industrialiseringen  af landet ville blive sat på spil hvis markeds-forhold skulle få lov at virke i hele den statsejede sektor.

Allerede i 1923, bliver der på Ruslands Kommunistiske Partis(Bolsjeviker=Flertallet)) 12. Kongres udtrykt omfattende bekymringer:

“På den anden side, sværindustrien, som knapt har fået kontakt med markedet og som er fuldstændig afhængigt at statskontrakter, behøver for dens genopbygning anseelige og vel beregnede financielle midler fra staten. Det indbefatter også i høj grad jernbanen og søtransporter«    

(* 10;s.380.)

Til trods for hvad højre-opportunisterne har forsøgt at bilde folk ind, fastsætter Sovjetregeringen efter NEP´s tidlige stadier, en grænselinje mellem økonomiens sektor I og II. ( Letindustri og sværindustri eller forbrugsvareproduktion og produktionsmiddelsproduktion, INPS.anm.).

Mens letindustrien fremviste betydelige vækst under de første stadier af liberaliseringen af økonomien, , hovedsaglig beroende på genoplivelsen af markedsforhold, fremviste sværindustrien små eller ingen tegn på at blomstre op under forholdene med en markedslignende økonomisk kalkulering (selvforvaltning).

Hvis den markeds-lignende økonomiske selvforvaltning skulle blive påtvunget sværindustrien, hvis Sovjet-planen  –  uden hensyn til produktionskræfternes udviklingsniveau og det indbyrdes styrke-forhold i økonomiens forskellige sektorer og tyngden af ikke socialistiske produktionsformer gensidighedsforhold – skulle benægte den tunge industris anseelige langsigtet finansiel hjælp til en bæredygtig reproduktionsproces vil denne sektor blive tvunget ind i en recession)(produktionnedgang): (Dermed vil) Planerne om en hurtig industrialisering af et stort og tilbagestående (både teknisk og kulturelt)  land være  dødsdømt og med den, kollektiviseringen og den socialistiske opbygning.   

“Det gensidige forhold  mellem let- og svær industrien kan ikke blive bestemt ved hjælp af markedet, fordi det vil TRUE med at likvidere sværindustrien i de næste få år; sværindustrien kan komme sig (genvinde sin styrke), denne gang som et resultat af markedets anarkistiske udvikling og på grundlag af den private ejendom” (*10, s.382)  

Den socialistiske udviklingslov – hvor det fremgår at produktionsmiddel-industrien (sværindustrien) udvikles hurtigere end letindustrien og landbruget –  vil nødvendigvis føre til en mere eller mindre betydningsfuld del af produktionskræfterne ejet af den socialistiske stat vil gøre det muligt at styre anderledes ifølge lovene om arbejdets fordeling og organisation end de som er arvet fra den kapitalistiske produktionsmåde. Mens markedsforhold i betragtelig grad var tilladt, midlertidigt af selve NEP (under -politiken) til at regulere produktionen og arbejdets fordeling mellem mere eller mindre udspredte og uafhængige økonomiske enheder i den statslige industri, var den sovjetiske stat fra begyndelsen tvungen til at definere konkretiseringen af denne lov om socialistisk produktion ved på en måde at bryde med selve NEP. Etableringen af socialistisk planlægning på grundlag af den socialistiske produktionsmåde i bestemte sektorer holder absolut karakter. Princippet holder som helhed uanset produktivkræfternes udviklingsniveau i landet som overgår til socialismen. Stats-sektorens socialisering afhænger stærkt af de konkrete historiske betingelser i det land som overgår (til det nye samfund). Dog er staten fra den første begyndelse bunden til at indføre det socialistiske planprincip  sådan at det virker på en direkte, socialisered måde (ikke ved hjælp af markedet) i bestemte sektorer af økonomien, først og fremmest i sektor I (sværindustrien).
Det er det grundlæggende  princip for overgangs-økonomien som Guevara gjorde sit bedste for at støtte gennem at  forsvare det statsfinansielle plan-system, som et system overfor det markedslignende “økonomiske selvforvaltning”´s system foreslået af den sovjetiske revisionismes tilhængere på øen. Som vi vil berøre mere detaljeret , er  Guevara’s økonomiskie tanker ,det statsfinansielle plan- system – som han forsvarede – fuldstændig i modsætning til Trotskijs skjulte højre-orienterede økonomiske teorier. Trotskij modsatte sig fra NEP´s tidlige stadier til enden af hans politiske karrierre indførelsen af et ægte planøkonomisk princip i bestemte sektorer af stats-sektoren, gennem at forsvare NEP som en absolut og universelt princip : Det udtrykkes han på denne måde:

‘Men den Nye Økonomiske Politik (NEP)  kommer ikke (does not flow) alene fra det indbyrdes forhold mellem byen og landsbyen. Denne politik er et nødvendigt stadium i udviklingen af statsejet industri. Mellem kapitalismen, hvorunder produktionsmidlerne er ejet af private individer og alle økonomiske forhold reguleres af markedet ; —Jeg siger , mellem kapitalismen og fuldstændig socialisme, med dens samfundsmæssige planhusholdning, er der en række overgangs stadier ; og NEP-politikken er hovedsaglig et af disse stadier. Lad os analysere dette spørgsmål, med jernbanen som eksempel. Netop jernbane-transporter som er et områder der i allerhøjeste grad er forberedt for socialistisk økonomi. Jernbanerne, ikke kun de privat-ejede, men også de statsejede baner, gør regningen op med alle de andre økonomiske virksomheder med hjælp af markedet . Under the particular system var det økonomisk uundgåeligt og nødvendigt fordi udrustningen og udviklingen af en en speciel bane er afhængigt af hvor vidt den kan betale sig økonomisk. Om en særlig jernbane linje er nyttig for økonomien økonomien kan kun afgøres gennem markedet. 11)  

Guevara’s statsfinansielle plansystem er vejen og midlet til til Cuba´s industrialisering. En af de grundlæggende principper for den socialistiske økonomi er baseret på udviklingen af industriel produktion, hovedsaglig sværindustrien, som krumtappen og motoren for udviklingen af den socialistiske økonomi.
Imperialistisk domination is based upon the concentration if industry and technology in the hands of imperialist corporations. Exploited countries are deprived of the means and necessary knowledge to secure the development of labour productivity, a key element to sustained development of the forces of production.In order to overcome economic backwardness and the relations of dependence on the imperialist countries, i.e. the ultimate goal of a genuine process of national-liberation, it is imperative to turn around the character of economic relations with the outside world. This implies a deep re-structuring of the economies, which for long years have been geared towards fitting the economic needs of the imperialist countries, and to turn these countries into self-sufficient and prosperous socialist industrial ones. Genuine independence, true anti-imperialism is no more than rhetoric statements without massive policies of socialist industrialisation, which is the material basis for long-term and sustained independence. Over a hundred years of national-liberation movements have taught us that the socialisation of the means of production, as opposed to half-measures disguised by pseudo-socialist phraseology, is the only way towards national independence. Here lies the essence of the internationalist policies of the Soviet State during the post-war period. * * *

The economies of dependent countries, such as Cuba back in the 50’s, is based upon the extraction and the early stages of manufacturing of raw materials. The main source of revenue of Batista’s Cuba was the export of sugar, which price in the international market was out of the control of the country and, as repeatedly pointed out by the leaders of the Cuban revolution, undershot the actual value.The only possible way that economically and culturally backward countries can attain economic and sustained political independence, lies on the development of heavy industry, which is the only possible way to lay the foundations for sustained economic growth. This fundamental point of the socialist construction lies at the centre of attention of Guevara’s economic thought and to it he devoted most of his practical and theoretical efforts while remaining in office.

Commodity-Money Relations and the Law of Value/ Vare-Penge Forholdet og Værdi-loven


I denne del vil vi kort afdækkke Guevara’s forståelse af vare-penge forholdet (i marxistisk forstand) og værdiloven i den socialistiske industri. Vi mangler stadig skrevet materiale til at kaste ordentlig lys på hans holdning til land-reformen performed during the early stages of the Cuban revolution. His understanding of the collectivisation of the large mass of petty producers is also unknown to us, although we hope that in the near future archival materials may be made available to the public in Cuba. As illustrated in the previous section, at the centre of Guevara’s economic thought stands the modellen for det statsfinsielle plansystem. This system is intimately related to Guevara’s understanding of the role of plan, which, as discussed, fundamentally differs from that envisioned by right-wing revisionism in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe. Much on the contrary, it bears close resemblance to the conception of economic planning, which prevailed in the Soviet Union before Stalin’s death and stands in line with the economic policies that had become ‘standard’ in the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe in the period of 1948-1953.
Guevara’s attitude to the role of market categories and relations are consistent with his understanding of plan and are very close to Stalin’s formulations in Economic Problems. Guevara explicitly denies the need for commodity exchange between socialist enterprises and categorically denies the commodity character of the means of production. He supports the correct view that commodity exchange involves change of ownership. Commodity exchange between state enterprises is viewed by the Argentinean by a contradiction per se, since in the budgetary system the socialist enterprise is an organic element of a bigger enterprise, the State. Within this system the labour among enterprises does not adopt the form of commodity exchange. Means of production, financial resources are not owned by the socialist enterprise, as the latter lacks its own account and revenue is automatically deposited in a socialised account. In this system, the means of production are allocated to a given production unit according to the needs and future perspective of economic development and dictated by a centralised plan. Guevara does not deny the existence of commodity production and the coexistence of different production modes. He supports Stalin’s views that commodity relations are not inherent to the socialist sector but that the existence of the latter is due to the presence of different forms of property within the Cuban economy. As opposed to the Soviet Economy in Stalin’s time, the Cuban country side had not undergone the process of collectivisation of the petty producer. In the concrete-historical situation of Cuba, the incipient socialist industrial sector had to coexist with a large mass of independent producers. However, this concrete-historical circumstance does not prevent the socialist sector, however small and poorly organized, to operate under a different regulator of production than that operating in the country side. Guevara writes:

‘We believe that the partial existence of law of value is due to the remnants of the market economy, which is also manifests itself in the type of exchange between the State and the private consumer’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. i ‘Om det statsfinansielle system’, s..95. Oversat fra spansk.)

This statement is very close to Stalin’s well-known statement given in “Economic Problems”:

‘But the collective farms are unwilling to alienate their products except in the form of commodities, in exchange for which they desire to receive the commodities they need… Because of this, commodity production and trade are as much a necessity with us today as they were thirty years ago…’ (J.V. Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1952, p.19-20).

In addition, as pointed out by Guevara, there remains the need for commodity-money bonds between the State and the private producer, as the worker in socialism still received a significant fraction of the social fund for the satisfaction of individual needs in money terms. The exchange between the state and the individual producer is performed under the form of a commodity exchange, as

‘…this transfer occurs when the product leaves the state sector and it becomes property of an individual consumer’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 46. Oversat fra spansk.)

With the socialisation of all the means of production and the liquidation of individual and collective forms of production, there would be no need for commodity-money exchange in socialism. As a matter of fact, the realisation of the socialist principle of distribution does not necessarily imply the existence of commodity-money relations, as a category of production. These views were ‘exposed’ and refuted by Soviet economists, who after a series of discussions re-wrote chapters in the Manual of Political Economy regarding the political economy of socialism.Naturally, these views were also not shared by many economists in Cuba, as manifested in a more or less full-fledged controversial discussion during 1963-1964.

For instance, Alberto Mora (Minister of Foreign Trade during that time) in 1963 openly attacked Guevara’s views, by comparing them with Stalin’s, which were published in Economic Problems. He rejected Guevara’s theses on the grounds that the most serious ‘scientific’ discussions held in the Soviet during the second half of the 1950’s and early sixties indicated that Stalin’s views were wrong, that the law of value operates in socialism as a regulator of production, as the product in the socialist economy remains and will remain commodities all the way till communism:

‘When some comrades deny that the law of value operates in the relations among enterprises within the State sector, they argue that the entire State sector is under single ownership, that the enterprises are the property of the society. This, of course, is true. But as an economic criterion it is inaccurate. State property is not yet fully developed social property that will be achieved only under communism.’ (A. Mora, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, trykt i “Man and Socialism in Cuba”, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 227)

The well-known Trotskyite economist, Ernest Mandel, who was very active during what he called the ‘Great Debate’ in Cuba, enters into a long-standing controversy with Charles Bettelheim, a French right-wing revisionist scholar. The latter also became active during the economic debate, this time as a fervent supporter of the ‘socialist-market’ conception advocated by the pro-Soviet economists in the island. Despite Mandel’s views that means of production in the socialist economy do not circulate as commodities, he is very keen on exposing Stalin’s views advocated by Guevara with regards to the causes of the law of value in the socialist sector. In the section of the ‘Historical conditions leading to the extinction of mercantile categories’ of a well publicised article in Cuba he states:

‘Although we have criticized several of comrade Bettelheim’s positions, we agree with him completely in rejecting Stalin’s theory that the basic reason for the mercantile categories in the Soviet economy is the existence of two forms of socialist property: ownership by the people (that is, the State) and ownership by more limited social groups (essentially the Kolkhozy)’. (E. Mandel, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, trykt
i Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 70)

Mandel has an opinion of his own and does not need to refer to the Soviet pseudo-science to ‘expose’ Guevara’s ‘primitivism’. The author advocates that only the abundance of consumer goods, which are closely linked to the development of forces of production, will create the objective conditions for the abolition of commodity-money relations in the sphere of private consumption. Moreover, he seems to be proud that

‘The new program of the CPSU, approved by the XXII congress, incorporated this idea as set forth in our Traite d’Economie Marxiste’ (E. Mandel, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 71).

Guevara advocated the correct view that the law of value does not operate within the socialist sector as a regulator of production. He is able to grasp, unlike his detractors, a crucial element in the political economy of socialism:

‘We insist on the analysis of the cost, since part of our conception refers to the fact that it is not strictly necessary that cost of production and price coincide in the socialist sector’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p.47. Oversat fra spansk ).

Guevara forstod at pris-sætningen i the socialist sector, as a quantifier of the flow of labour circulating among different subjects of the state industry, does not necessarily have to coincide with the cost of production. If the labour exchange between different sectors of the socialist economy were to be governed by the exchange according to equal value, less profitable or even not profitable enterprises would not be able to survive and the process of extended reproduction of the socialist economy would be brought to its knees. If the law of value is forced to operate as a regulator of the proportions of labour exchanged between enterprises in the socialist sector it would not be possible to overcome the disproportions between sectors of the economy, which are inherited from capitalism, let alone colonialism and neo-colonialism. This consequently leads to a more complex concept of profitability of the socialist economy, which was touched upon in the previous section, which Stalin formulated in Economic Problems and which Guevara embraces wholeheartedly.

It is true that the abstract formulation that prices in the socialist sector do not necessarily correspond to the cost of production contains within itself a strong potential and it represents a serious step forward in the evolution of the understanding of political economy of socialism. *
This statement represents a tremendous step forward with respect to the theories of right-wing revisionism, which does not conceive labour exchange outside the boundaries of commodity-money relations. However, this statement does solve right away the most intricate problem of the political economy of socialism, which is to concretise what are the actual proportions of labour that correspond to the historical-concrete situation and the development of the forces of production and forms of management of a given country.
This is a titanic task that needs to be resolved by the revolutionaries of a given country, which Guevara genuinely and with the best of his abilities tried to solve for the concrete conditions of Cuba. Guevara is an advocate of the strictest economic accounting, for the same reasons that Stalin criticised many of Soviet managers and plan making for neglecting the operation of the law of value as a strong instrument for economic accounting in socialism. Indeed, accounting in value terms proves a powerful tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the socialist enterprise, and this is most appreciated by Guevara:

‘The cost would yield an index of the management of the enterprise; it is irrelevant that these prices are higher or lower than the prices in the socialist sector, or even, in some isolated cases, than those prices used to sell the product to the people; what matters is the sustained analysis of the management of the enterprise…, which is determined by it’s success or failure to reduce costs’ (Che Guevara, citeret fra ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p.49. Oversat fra spansk )

At the end of the day, one of the fundamental goals of the enterprise in socialism as well as in communism

‘ …reduces to a common denominator…: the increase of labour productivity as the fundamental basis for the construction of socialism and indispensable premise for communism.’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p.51. Oversat fra spansk ).

I Guevara’s statsfinasielle plansystem, skal penge indenfor den socialistiske virksomhed først og fremmest anvendes som et middel til calculation, as a strong algebraic tool for determining the effectiveness of the enterprise, the correctness of the use of the resources granted by the State to the enterprise, a means to determine if the enterprise is doing enough to reduce costs, etc…
In his very important article, ‘About the Budgetary System’ exposes one of the most prominent differences between his conception and the role given to money by the pro-Soviet economists in Cuba within the so called ‘Economic Accounting’ system:

‘Another difference is the way money is used; in our system money operates as arithmetic money, as a reflection, in prices, of the management of the enterprise, which the central organs will analyze in order to control the functioning of the latter.’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘om det statsfinansielle plansystem’, s. 80 Oversat fra spansk

Guevara’s views are consistent with the well-known exposure of Notkin’s ‘marketists’ views by Stalin:

‘Why, in that case do we speak of the value of the means of production, their cost of production, their price, etc.?…Firstly, this is needed for purposes of calculation and settlement, for determining that the enterprises are paying or running at a loss, for checking and controlling the enterprises. …’ (J.V. Stalin, op.cit, p.58-59).

As the economic discussion in Cuba progresses and the contradictions between Guevara’s line and the pro-Soviet economists (including Charles Bettelheim), from the one hand, and the Trotskyite elements in Cuba (Cuban nationals as well as foreigners) Che has unavoidably to clash with the economic conception advocated by the Soviet revisionists.

Towards the end of this discussion, in 1964 Guevara expresses himself in a more and more explicit and eloquent way regarding the differences between his model and the ‘market-socialist’ type of development advocated by the revisionists. The exposition of the differences, which at first, in 1961 Guevara had put in rather mild, almost academic terms, turns controversial and bitter in 1964, leaving no doubt that the contradictions had become irreconcilable and that the Cuban leadership would have to take a stand more sooner than later.

Whether the Soviet revisionist leadership demanded Guevara’s removal from his posts in the economy of the island, as a pre-requisite to sustained economic aid, or whether his detractors in Cuba played a leading role in the events that followed the economic discussions, remains a matter of speculation. Regardless, it is clear to us that Guevara engages in an important theoretical debate till the very end and was never curbed by the overwhelming wave of criticism triggered by his writings, which he faced almost alone.

In addition, we can only imagine how upsetting to pro-Soviets and Trotskyite elements in the island would be to accept that the leading economist, a holder of a key command position in the Cuban economy, dares, not once, not twice, but at least three times that we are aware of, to cite and defend Stalin’s works as an authoritative reference against his opponents. Che openly and in print criticises the revisionist manual of political economy published in the Soviet Union in the early sixties, with regards to the insistence of the Soviet revisionists to develop commodity-money relations in socialism, let alone the transition to socialism.

After a series of gradual changes operated in the economic literature of the 1950’s followed by crucial economic discussions held towards the end of that decade, the Soviet economists published a new manual of political economy under the redaction of a leading economist, Ostrovitianov.

In this important document all the products in socialism are proclaimed to be commodities, including the means of production (with the utterly inconsistent exemption of labour force) and the law of value, which is used in a conscious way by the socialist plan, operates as the regulator of proportions of labour among enterprises, whether state owned or cooperatives.

As opposed to Stalin’s plans for the gradual shrinkage of the sphere of operation of the commodity-money relations and categories, the Soviet revisionists envisioned a plan to further enhance the role of these in the economy and to provide the enterprises with more independence.

The operation of the law of value will disappear only when the highest of communism is accomplished in a more or less distant future. Guevara rebels against the new theses advocated by the Soviet revisionist economists by rejecting altogether the plans for developing commodity-money relations in socialism, which are treated by us as a departure from the political economy of socialist developed by Lenin and Stalin. . . . . . . . > > > > > > > > > >

“Why develop? We understand that the capitalist categories are retained for a time and that the length of this period cannot be predetermined, but the characteristics of the period of transition are those of a society that is throwing off its old bonds in order to move quickly into the new stage.The tendency should be to, in our opinion, to eliminate as fast as possible the old categories, including the market, and, therefore, material interest – or better, to eliminate the conditions of their existence” (Che Guevara, in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 142).

. . . .

It is unfortunate, however, that Che’s reasoning is plagued with idealist assertions, according to which commodity-money relations allegedly embody within themselves the ideological burden of the capitalist society. As will be touched upon the next section, Guevara equates to a great extent commodity-money relations and categories with the concept of material incentive, which he understands as a mechanism aimed at motivating and enhancing labour productivity by the same means as used in capitalism. Material incentive and consciousness appear in Guevara’s thought as two poles of one of the main (if not the most relevant one) contradiction in the process of socialist construction.Guevara should not be accused of a left-wing attitude with regards to the role of commodity-money relations in socialism. Nowhere in Che’s writings can one find appeals to implement the policies of war communism in the Cuban economy. Much to the contrary, he is aware of the need to retain commodity-money relations for an undetermined period, as a result of the presence of a large mass of individual producers. Despite glaring idealist elements in Guevara’s thought we need to give him credit for identifying correctly the sphere of application of commodity money relations and the fundamental reasons leading to the inevitability of the latter in the socialist transition in general and in the Cuban revolutionary process, in particular. In summarising the increasing contradictions between the line of thought and the economic reforms accomplished under his office, and the push for market relations advocated by the ‘marketists’ in Cuba Guevara states:

‘We deny the possibility of consciously using the law of value, in the conditions that a free market does not exist, which expresses directly the contradiction between producers and consumers; we deny the existence of the commodity category in the relation among state enterprises and we regard them as part of one big enterprise, the State (although in practice it does not happen yet in our country).’ (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘On the Budgetary System’, p96. Oversat fra spansk).

When Guevara admits to the fact that the state sector in Cuba does not function as a ‘one big enterprise’ he is most likely referring to the coexistence of the Ministry of Industry, the INRA and the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the latter two lead by Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Alberto Mora, respectively, both rabid ‘market-socialists’. The latter had expressed their disagreement with Guevara’s plans for industrialisation of the island based on the argumentation that Cuba was not prepared for forms of economic relations consistent with develop stages of socialisation of the labour process. Rodriguez states as late as in 1988:

(det) ‘statsfinansielle plansystem står nærmere det fremtidige samfund … this system requires conditions that we will not be able to achieve in a long time’ (Carlos Rafael Rodriguez i Che Guevara Cuba y el camino al socialismo, New International, New York, 2000, p.42. Oversat fra Spansk).

By arguing that Cuba was never (not even after 30 years of revolution) for higher forms of exchange between state enterprises, Rodriguez openly polemicises in 1988, as he used to do 25 years before, with Che’s assertion that products exchanged between state enterprises do not adopt the form of commodities. Guevara sticks to the very end to his conception that the commodity-money relations are not inherent to the socialist economy, and especially to the socialised sector, which he tried so hard to build up since the very early stages of the Cuban revolution. Market relations come about as a result of the presence of important remnants of private producers and they are bound to disappear with them (both in form and content). Even though, Guevara refrains (to the best of our rather sketchy and fragmental knowledge of the evolution of Guevara’s thinking) from referring openly to his opinion with regards to the plans of collectivising the private producer, we believe that he would have advocated for a ‘Soviet-style’ type of bond between the socialised sector and the collective farms. As an advocate of retaining the main means of production outside the operation of commodity-money relations (i.e. mean means of production are not treated as commodities in content, regardless of the need to use value categories to assess the amount of labour involved in them) it seems natural that Guevara would have envisioned a concept pretty much like the machine tractor stations, as a main factor for the increase of labour productivity. We believe this statement is substantiated since the rational core of the economic Guevara’s economic thought, despite strong elements of idealism and mechanicism, remains very close to the economic forms adopted in the Soviet Union under Stalin, which had become standard and were successfully applied with whatever modifications between the end of the 40’s and Stalin’s death in the countries of People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe. We have every reason to believe that Guevara was to a certain extent acquainted with Stalin’s Economic Problems and the basic differences of principle between the so called Stalin’s model and the model of ‘market-socialism’ advocated by Rodriguez, Mora et al in Cuba. In probably his last article ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’ a letter addressed to Carlos Quijano, editor-publisher of the Uruguayan weekly Marcha, written early 1965, Guevara reiterates his position once more, leaving us no doubt that he stood for his principles till the very end.

‘Pursuing the chimera of achieving socialism with the aid of blunted weapons left to us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, profitability, and individual material interests as levers, etc.) it is possible to come to a blind alley’ (Che Guevara, i ” Man and Socialism in Cuba” på Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 342).

Unfortunately, Guevara does not give up certain elements of idealism that makes his economic thought so distinct as well as vulnerable and inconsistent. This side of Guevara’s economic thought has been publicised the most both in Cuba by his detractors and outside Cuba by Trotskyism and neo-Trotskyism. The clear connection between a significant number of Guevara’s statements on political economy and the so called ‘Stalinist’ model of socialist construction is very much silenced. Che’s writing are twisted by picturing his economic thought as a continuation of his idealist and voluntarist stand in questions regarding the interrelation between the masses, the party and the guerrilla warfare, for which he is most commonly known.

On Guevara’s Alleged Trotskyism

Guevara soon entered into conflict with the Soviet revisionist leadership. As we have seen above, Che acknowledges differences of principle, as early as 1961, between the economic model established in what he used to call, socialist countries, and the plans for industrialisation he was advocating. Guevara’s economic reforms were bound to clash with the character of the agrarian reform and the plans suggested by the Soviet Union that Cuba was to remain a primarily a sugar cane producer for longer than anticipated by Che. As the character of the Cuban revolution consolidated and the Cuban leadership accommodated to the economic relations between the island and the Soviet Union, it was necessary that Cuban economists align with the new political economy created by the revisionists. Guevara’s plans soon met glaring resistance within Cuba. Due to the worsening of Guevara’s relations with the Soviet leadership, many in Cuba felt a big deal of embarrassment. According to several of Guevara’s biographers, the Soviets accused Che’s economic views of Trotskyism. It was just a matter of time that Che is to leave his post of Minister of Industry and his that plans for industrialisation of the island are to be revised in favor of a sugar cane industry based development. Trotskij is usually portrayed as a ‘radical left-wing’, as an advocate of extreme measures with regards to resolution of contradictions both in politics and economics. Trotskij’s alleged push for the militarisation of the economy has led many to believe that Trotskyite economic theories are opposed to the politics of the New Economic Policy (NEP) with regards not only to the relations between the individual producer and the state sector but also with regards to the liberalisation of the state sector. In this section we will try to substantiate the fact, that Trotsky’s economic theory cannot be classified as left-wing, much on the contrary, it does not deviate significantly from the right-wing revisionism in questions of socialist construction and the role of commodity-money relations during that period. The myth about Trotsky’s alleged leftist stand in resolving contradictions in the transitional period, conceals the truly essence of Trotskyism in economic questions. Guevara’s economic thought has nothing to with Trotsky’s attitude to commodity money relations and categories in the transitional period; their views are complete opposed to each other. Such allegations with regards to Guevara’s economic thought are unfounded and preposterous, to say the very least. As covered above, Guevara’s economic thought does suffer from serious elements of mechanicism, which does not make him a Trotskyite, as such mistakes were common to many economists in the Soviet Union during the Stalin period.It is very interesting to observe how the Russian bourgeoisie is willing to appreciate in Trotsky the ‘virtues’ of a ‘market-socialist’, which many in the left movement do not seem to be able to grasp. To commemorate the 125th anniversary of Trotsky’s birth, a leading economic journal, Voprosi ekonomiki (‘Questions of Economy’) published an article under the title ‘Economic views of L.D. Trotsky’. In this article the authors attribute Trotsky’s heavy-handedness during the revolution and the civil war to the historical circumstances of that time, that in fact Trotsky had become one of the first push for the liquidation of the policies of war communism and the liberalisation of the economy by allowing several forms of property to coexist for an indefinite period of time. The authors draw the bourgeois reader’s attention to the true and poorly publicised Trotsky’s merit as being one of the first to advocate a mixed economic model for the transition to socialism . . . . . :

“The transition to NEP significantly changed Trotsky’s economic views. In a number of his works during that time he agitates in favour of the development of market relations, material stimulation, the understanding of the plan, as rigorous management in the sense of foreseeing and synchronising various sectors of social production. During the period of NEP Trotsky formulated a number of very important, even original ideas, namely: about the incompatibility of the methods of war communism in the conditions of NEP, about the need for each enterprise to have its own accounting balance, about the objective limitations to transferring resources from the agrarian sector to industry…”

(M.Voeikov and S.Dzarasov, ‘Economic Views of L.D. Trotsky’ in Voprosi Ekonomiki No.11, 2004, p.152).

Trotskyite economic doctrine seriously overlaps with Bogdanovism/Bukharinism in the understanding of the essence of the plan. Trotsky, in his renowned work ‘The Soviet Economy in Danger’, written late 1932, starts off by equating one of the economic laws of the socialist economy and the transition to socialism, the planned principle with preconceived harmony of economic proportions:

‘However, light-minded assertions to the effect that the USSR has already entered into socialism are criminal. The achievements are great. But there still remains a very long and arduous road to actual victory over economic anarchy, to the surmounting of disproportions, to the guarantee of the harmonious character of economic life.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, in ’Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932’, Pathfinder Press, New York,1973, p.260. Underlined by us).

The famous and infamous principle of equilibrium and harmony of the proportions of labour in the socialist economy is advocated by Trotsky in a rather unambiguous way. Within the eclectic framework of Trotskyism, centralisation of the economic policy alters the abstract principle of harmony of the economic processes. Trotsky, in his attempt to oppose the transition of the Soviet economy towards higher forms of economic organisation, comes around as full fledged right wing revisionist, adding no more substance to the right wing opposition led by Bukharin/Rykov.

‘It is impossible to create a priori a complete system of economic harmony. The planning hypothesis could not but include old disproportions and the inevitability of the development of new ones. Centralized management implies not only great advantages but also the danger of centralizing mistakes, that is, of elevating them to an excessively high degree. Only continuous regulation of the plan in the process of its fulfillment, it’s reconstruction in part and as a whole, can guarantee its economic effectiveness.’ ( loc. cit.).

Trotskij’s ‘continuous regulation’ is the backdoor to substantiating his rebuffal of the party’s line to shrink the operation of the commodity-money relations in the economy, which lead to the liquidation of capitalist exploitation in the country and the consolidation of the socialist economic laws. Once opponents, Bukharin and Trotsky converged into Bogdanovism as the construction of socialism progressed in the Soviet Union.When Trotsky appeals to the impossibility ‘to create a priori a complete system of economic harmony’ it is implied that the central economic organs, are not in a position to undertake the tasks of centralised economic management, regardless of the development of the forces of production and the socialisation of the means of production. Deformations of the socialist economy inevitably take place as centralised decision-making overpowers workers’ democracy and a caste of administrators takes over as a ‘communist bureaucracy’. Once more, the objective character of the economic laws in general and the economic laws of socialism in particular, is overruled and loses its raison d’etre in the economic thinking of right-wing revisionism. Instead, Trotsky, as a poorly concealed right-wing revisionist, appeals on and on to the need for establishing harmony between the different branches of the socialist economy, which lies at the basis of his political economy.Trotsky’s bogdanovism is not a phenomenon of the 1930’s, much on the contrary, is inherent to his economic thinking from the very early stages of economic reforms in Soviet Russia. In summarising the developments in Soviet Russia since the victory of the October revolution, Trotsky states that the period of war communism had to end in order to restore equilibrium in labour exchange between the peasantry and the working class and between branches of the state sector, as:

‘Every economy can exist and grow only provided certain proportionality exists between its various sectors. Different branches of industry enter into specific quantitative and qualitative relations with one another. There must be a certain proportion between those branches which produce consumer goods and those which produce the means of production. Proper proportions must likewise be preserved within each of these branches. In other words, the material means and living labor power of a nation and of all mankind must be apportioned in accordance with a certain correlation of agriculture and industry and of the various branches of industry so as to enable mankind to exist and progress.’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’, Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953 , pp.228).

The postulate about proportionality of portions of labour among branches of the economy was conceived as a general, non-historic law that would apply on all economic systems. Marx’s considerations about the need for the establishment of certain proportions in which labour is exchanged in every economic system, and revised in a mechanical fashion by Bogdanov/Bukharin had a simple consequence in practice: the application of the law of value as a regulator of production was to be perpetuated in the socialist economy under the abstract consideration about the need for proportionality. This abstract concept is shared by Bukharin and Trotsky:

‘The problem of the proportionality of the elements of production and the branches of the economy constitutes the very heart of socialist economy’. (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p.265).

The ultimate goal of right-wing revisionism in questions concerning the transition to socialism is to provide every possible ideological means to perpetuate the economic relations of capitalism and to undermine the process of socialisation of the relations of production. In doing so, right-wing revisionism creates eclectic forms, Trojan horses in political economy. The postulate about the need of proportionality proved a euphemistic attack against the party line to curtail the operation of the law of value in the socialist sector and capitalist exploitation in the Soviet economy. By appealing to an abstract concept of proportionality without, leaving its concretisation as a loose end in the economic thinking, naturally leads to the perpetuation of relations of production existing hitherto. Abstract formulations in general, and in political economy in particular, without a concretisation within the concrete-historical framework inevitably render hollow abstractions, double-edged swords in the hands of revisionism.Certainly, Trotsky casts out his disguise of left-wing revisionist by bluntly stating:

‘The innumerable living participants in the economy, state and private, collective and individual, must serve notice of their needs and of their relative strength not only through the statistical determinations of plan commissions but by the direct pressure of supply and demand. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realized through the market.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 275. Underlined by us).

Here, Trotsky makes an open appeal to the implementation of market relations as the ‘judge’ of the correctness or effectiveness of the economic policies developed by the plan makers. In other words, in the transitional economy the market is the beginning and the end of the economic system, the medium in which the struggle between the planned and market principles evolves into higher forms of development. It is within the market and according to the rules of the market that the superiority of the socialisation of the means of production is supposed to be put to the test. At some point in time the capitalist and petty bourgeois forms of productions will collapse under the inevitable overwhelming economic pressure of the socialised sector, which at that time it able to develop higher forms of labour productivity. Trotsky, as a vulgar right-wing economist, therefore stands against what had been usually referred by them as extra-economic measures to suppress the market principle in the economy, advocating instead a gradualist approach to the resolution of the contradictions between the socialist and the rest of the economic forms.Trotsky’s economic thought is plagued with metaphysics; the metaphysical division of the economic system of the transitional society into the planned system and the market system holds a prominent place in the economic works of Trotskyism. This anti-dialectical approach to the economic processes has been already exposed in the mid 1920’s in the Soviet Union by the majority of the party, including Bukharin/Rykov. But despite these differences, the left-wing and right-wing opposition agreed on the main proposition: let the market be the regulator of the labour exchange not only between industry and the country side, but within the economic subjects of the socialist sector.The idealist, metaphysical and non-historic postulate of proportionality of the elements of production lies on the basis of the right-wing theories of Trotsky/Bukharin and gives then a certain resemblance of self-consistency. The market represents the realm where the law of value, which is the concretisation of the postulate of proportionality, regulates the flow of labour among economic subjects, whether socialised or not. Needless to say, Trotsky is not the first concretise the postulate of proportionality, which he had recently embraced, nor he was the first to establish such a line of thought. The appeal to preserve the commodity-money relations in the form that existed during NEP clearly predates Trotsky’s assertions about the need for proportionality. While we have to give credit to Bogdanov/Bukharin for their pioneering work in the descending line of modern revisionism, Trotsky does not deserve such an honour, as his contribution does not go beyond popularising the vulgar political economy of right-wing revisionism.Apart from the metaphysical as well as mechanical idiosyncracy of Trotskyite thought, which does not deserve to be the main topic of the present discussion, it is useful to bring out quotations like the following:‘In this connection three systems must be subjected to a brief analysis: (1) special state departments, that is, the hierarchical system of plan commissions, in the center and locally; (2) trade, as a system of market regulation; (3) Soviet democracy, as a system for the living regulation by the masses of the structure of the economy.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 273. Underlined by us) Far from sticking to left-wing orthodoxy, Trotsky sounds more like Yugoslav Titoite, more like a pro-Western market liberal, rather than anything else.Trotsky takes a right-wing stand with regards to the role of NEP in the transition to socialism. Despite earlier attacks on the party to strength and develop further the economic and political link between the working class and the peasantry, Trotsky turns into a fervent advocate of the early forms of the transition to socialism adopted by the party. Moreover, he accuses the latter for liquidating the union between the working class and the peasantry. As a vulgar ‘market-socialist’, Trotsky considers the NEP as an inevitable step due to the significant weight of petty private production in the countryside, regardless of the concrete-historical conditions of revolutionary Russia:‘The need to introduce the NEP, to restore market relationships, was determined first of all by the existence of 25 million independent peasant proprietors. This does not mean, however, that collectivization even in its first stage leads to the liquidation of the market.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 275).The need to transition to market relations between industry and the peasantry holds absolute character. According to Trotsky, due to the backwardness of the Russian peasantry and the level of mechanisation of labour in the country side, the only possible form of peasant production with other producers is inevitably commodity-money relations. Trotsky’s mechanical and metaphysical thinking does not conceive of the socialist state and the individual peasant engaging in other forms of exchange, as well. Trotsky views the process of collectivisation as a forced administrative measure to unnaturally suppress the commodity-money bond between the city and the countryside. It is only through the evolution of the market, that certain conditions are created that the peasant feels it is more profitable to produce as a member of a larger production unity rather than remaining an individual producer. Hence it is believed that collectivisation should be performed by the forces of the market, that the market will suppress itself in a natural way.Trotsky’s inevitability of market relations as the dominating bond between production agents during the transition to socialism does not reduce to the interrelations between industry and the peasantry, much on the contrary: ‘This policy (NEP, our note) is a necessary stage in the growth of state-owned industry. Between capitalism, under which the means of production are owned by private individuals and all economic relations are regulated by the market—I say, between capitalism and complete socialism, with its socially planned economy, there are a number of transitional stages; and the NEP is essentially one of these stages’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’,Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953 , pp.233).

NEP involved far more than the realisation of peasants production in a free market and the establishment of economic ties between the countryside and industry based on supply-demand. Never mind the cohabitation of the socialist sector with state capitalism and petty capitalist exploitation in both the country side and the city, NEP introduced broad pro-market reforms within the socialist sector based on commercial accounting. It is true, however, that the expansion of commodity-money relations were seriously curtailed in the socialist sector in the second half of the twenties, which Trotsky viewed as a bureaucratic-administrative attack on the principles upon which Lenin allegedly conceived the path to socialist construction. It is here, where Guevara rebels against right-wing revisionism by advocating the right of the socialist state to determine the character of the relations of production and to regulate the proportions of labour exchange between branches of the state sector according to the global needs of the socialist state rather than the profitability of individual enterprises.Much against Guevara’s views, Trotsky during the very early stages of NEP, during the transition from ‘war communism’ advocated the de-centralisation of the state sector:‘The policy of a centralized bureaucratic management of industry excluded the possibility of a genuine centralized management, of fully utilizing technical equipment along with the available labor force.’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’,Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953 , pp.230).

As a result of the efforts to de-centralise state industry in 1921, specially light industry, so advocated by Trotsky, negative effects were felt soon, such as:‘…violation of plan discipline, separatism; some state officials tried to replace the state plan organisation – VSNKh – by some ‘social organization of industry’ (P.I. Lyashchenko, History of the People’s Economy of the USSR, Moscow 1956, Volume III, p. 153. Translated from Russian).

Guevara supported the correct view that economic calculation does not necessarily imply market relations as factors determining production in the state sector, that economic accounting is not necessarily tied to commodity-money relations, as advocated by the supporters of the Soviet-style model in Cuba.

Trotskij takes sides with Soviet revisionism:After the administrative suppression of the NEP, the celebrated ‘six conditions of Stalin’—economic accounting, piecework wages, etc.—became transformed into an empty collection of words. Economic accounting is unthinkable without market relations.” (The Soviet Economy in Danger p.276. Underlined by us)

The history of the political economy of socialism has exposed the intimate link between the postulate of proportionality in the exchange of labour among different branches of the economy and the mechanical transportation of market relations to socialism. Metaphysics and mechanicism, common to the economic thought of right-wing revisionism, are closely interrelated with vulgar and superficial understanding of economic categories, which impels the ideologists of right-wing revisionism to equate exchange to commodity exchange and economic equilibrium to the operation of the law of value. The vulgar economic thought advocated by Trotsky and the right-wing opposition does not conceive another form of economic exchange other than commodity-money relations. It is not conceivable that the socialist state establishes a different content in the economic ties among objects of the socialist economy, which may violate the rigid principle of profitability of the individual enterprise. The ability of the planning bodies to establish labour exchange among socialist enterprises, which violates that principle, is viewed as a deformation, as a disproportion. Right-wing revisionism is unable to grasp and appreciate the great power in the hands of socialist planning to establish certain proportions of labour exchange that fit the needs and growth perspectives of the socialist economy, regardless of the overall level of socialisation of economy. In this sense, right-wing economists conceive the plan as a corollary of subjective (aprioristic, according to Trotsky) measures to organise, rationalise the labour exchange among profit-making individual enterprises. Guevara wholeheartedly rejects such a vulgar view of the plan, by advocating the right of the socialist planning to establish a different character of economic relations among the state enterprises, which does not necessarily follow the principle of profitability of the individual enterprise as the leading criterion for economic effectiveness.Guevara openly exposed the view advocated by Trotsky and the ideologists of modern revisionism that economic accounting ‘is unthinkable’ without commodity money relations. Much on the contrary, Che advocated strict accounting, based on centralised responsibility and accountability of the management of the socialist enterprise, as a key element of the budgetary finance system, which lies at the centre of this economic thought. In his economic system economic accounting in the socialist sector is dissociated from the essence carried by commodity money relations. Even though Guevara does not seem to grasp the dialectical evolution of market categories in socialism, his thought contains the basic elements to arrive at this understanding. Guevara’s accepts the correct view that the price, despite being a category inherited from the market economy, may be used within the socialist sector for calculation purposes. Hence, he does not reject the use of the form of market categories, which brings him closer to the Marxist-Leninist understanding developed by Lenin-Stalin. On the other hand, it is not clear to us that Guevara understood the evolution of the principle of economic accounting, which was introduced in 1921, through the NEP all the way to the massive collectivisation and the consolidation of the economic basis of socialism in the 1930’s, all the way to the publication of Stalin’s Economic Problems. An analysis of the category of economic accounting, shows that a deep change in the content had taken place, which, despite the fact that the term was in use in the 1930-50’s, it reflected a different type of management to which Guevara’s budgetary system bears strong resemblance.According to Tablada and Borrego, Che Guevara paid special attention to the analysis of the causes, which lead to the abolition of the war economy and the establishment of (NEP). This issue is covered on a multiple of occasions in their books and has been the topic of a big deal of speculation, including allegations that Guevara allegedly accused Lenin of going too far in the development of market relations during the early stages of the NEP. Regardless of speculations, Che makes a strong case out of Lenin’s statements, in which NEP is considered as a retreat in the practice of the revolutionary process is compared to the peace of Brest-Litovsk. It is evident, despite the wealth of confusion fostered by Guevara’s bourgeois, Trotskyite and neo-Trotskyite biographers, Guevara does not consider NEP as an inevitable step in the transition to socialism, as a general and universal statement, but rather, a product of the historical-concrete conditions of revolutionary Russia. After quoting Marx, Lenin and Stalin (this article was written in 1964, when anti-Stalinism was already solidly established in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe, with the exemption of Albania), Guevara concludes:

‘As we see, the retreat that Lenin mentioned was due to the economic and political situation of the Soviet Union. These policies may be characterised as a practice, which is closely linked to the historical situation of the country, and, therefore, they do not hold universal character.’ (Che Guevara, ‘Che y la Economia’, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Habana, Cuba 1993, p. 74. Oversat fra spansk).

The argumentation in favour of NEP-type of economic reforms as an unavoidable step in the transition process between socialism and capitalism renders a fundamental element of the economic theory of right-wing revisionism, including Trotskyism, which Guevara rejected altogether. A historical example, which refutes NEP, as a compulsory stage for new revolutionary states, is served by the first steps adopted by the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe between 1948 and 1953. The governments of the People’s Democracies set an economic course based on the priority of heavy industry over other sectors of the economy. The policies of what bourgeois ideologists called the Stalinist economic model resulted in a spectacular growth of the socialist industry, a conditio sine qua non for a massive process of socialisation of means of production both in the city and the countryside. Even vicious anti-communists publicists, such as F.Fejto, a Hungarian born journalist based for a long time in France, admits:‘Between 1949 and 1953, the industrial production of the six Comecon countries rose by 114 per cent, and in certain countries, like Hungary, where the ambitious planners knew no limits the results had been even more spectacular. Heavy industrial production increased fivefold; the engineering industry was seven times more productive in 1953 than in 1938. (F.Fejto, A History of the People’s Democracies, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 362).
Further, Fejto elaborates on the very interesting case of the transition to socialism in Hungary, specially the events that followed the abrupt change of ‘gears’ imposed by the Soviet leadership weeks after the death of Stalin. Hungary’s party, lead by Matyas Rakosi, one of the most fervent supporters of Stalin’s policies, launched in 1949 a campaign of collectivisation, which, although far from finalised, was well underway towards 1953. With Stalin’s death a swift change in the character of the Soviet leadership took place. The new Soviet leadership, at first initiated most likely by Beria, imposed on the leaders of the fraternal parties in Eastern Europe a line of forcible de-Stalinisation. The revisionist leadership ordered Eastern European leaders to slow down the tempo of industrialisation and to basically liquidate the process of ‘forcible’ collectivisation. In a number of countries, peasants were allowed to desert the collective farms (‘de-collectivisation’) if they wished to; private exploitation of land together with the restoration of the artisan class and private business. It was argued that the ‘Stalinist’ economic reforms had gone too far, that allegedly broad masses of the peasantry and the working class in those countries were frustrated to see that the unquestionable economic growth did not result into meaningful enhancement of the standards of living of the population, including that of the working class. There is no question that the ideological and organisational chaos induced by the policies of forcible de-Stalinisation’ encouraged anti-communist elements within the middle classes, petty bourgeoisie and workers aristocracy to demonstrate compulsively, while entire party organisations proved hopeless, in disarray. The Hungarian leader, Matyas Rakosi, did his best to stand up against Soviet revisionism and its supporters in the country; he succeeded in remaining in office till July 1956, when he basically was forced into exile by the Soviet leadership. Following orders from the Soviet revisionist leadership, Rakosi was forced in July 1953 to give up the post of Prime Minister, which passed to Imre Nagy, who even in the words of Fejto:‘…revived Bukharinist ideas that had gone underground in Stalin’s lifetime’
(F.Fejto, A History of the People’s Democracies, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 363).

Certainly, Nagy was a fervent advocate of NEP-style treatment of the economic contradictions between the socialist sector, the peasantry and other petty producers. Soon after he gains office in July 1953, he launches a set of ‘liberalising’ measures, which became known as the ‘New Course’. In his last work, written in 1955, he states:‘In a socialist society, when determining the tempo of economic development and the ratio between the various economic branches, the proportion between production and consumption and between consumption and stockpiling must be in harmony with the requirements of the basic economic law of socialism, guaranteeing a gradual advance of society’ (I. Nagy, ‘On Communism’, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York, 1957, p. 98).
Nagy advocated ad nausea the need for harmonic balance between the resources spent on sector A and sector B of the economy. The well known concept of certain harmonic proportions invented by Bogdanov/Bukharin and plagiarised by Trotsky comes out again and again, as the backdoor to the development of commodity-money relations both in the socialist and non-socialist sectors, as a regulator of production. It is interesting, that unlike Bukharin/Trotsky, he uses Stalin’s citations of the mid twenties to substantiate the need to have NEP-style relations in the transitional economic system. In fact, by ‘basic economic law of socialism’ Nagy implies the well-known formulation given by Stalin in Economic Problems. This, however, does not prevent Nagy from remaining a vulgar right-wing economist, which Guevara’s economic thought has nothing to do with.According to Nagy, the only bond that the socialist sector and the private producer can have in the early stages of the transition from capitalism to socialism is the market. It is only through the market that the process of socialisation of production can prove its advantages over capitalist forms of management and production. Nagy is explicit: ‘The NEP policy must be carried out unconditionally, as it means the establishment of increasingly closer relations in the exchange of goods between the city and the village, between the socialist industry and the system of small holdings producing for the market, facilitating the switch to a socialist system of agricultural farms on a large scale.’ (I.Nagy, op. cit., p. 82. Underlined by us.)
Nagy on and on bitterly complains about the staggering disproportions and ‘distortions’ inflicted on the Hungarian economy by Rakosi’s clique, referring to the fast development of heavy industry with respect to light industry, and specially the countryside. Nagy’s attack on Rakosi’s ‘clique’ becomes even more acute when touching upon the treatment of individual peasants and the collectivisation. He initially refers to Rakosi’s ‘clique’ as adventurous, as later on as open left wing ‘fanatics’ and deviationists. Finally, while quoting Lenin and Stalin’s works in the 1920’s, putting their writings out of context, Nagy establishes a parallel between Rakosi’s struggle to uphold the principles of Marxism-Leninism, regardless of whatever mistakes in its implementation, and the Trotskyite left wing opposition in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s by appealing to‘The resolutions of the Bolshevik Party in the Fifteenth Congress, which were forged in the battle against the extreme ‘left-wing’ Trotskyist opposition…’ (I.Nagy, op. cit., p. 82. Underlined by us).

It is not the first time that right-wing opportunism portrays the struggle for the basic principle of centralisation of means of production in the construction of socialism as a left-wing, Trotskyite deviation. These allegations of Trotskyism that were thrown at Guevara are to be understood in the historical context, which corresponds to the time when right-wing revisionism, led by the revisionist leadership of in the Soviet Union, disbanded the ‘Stalinist’ plans for the socialisation of the means of production in industry and the countryside. Modern revisionism turned the state sector in the People’s Democracies into an aggregation of independently producing enterprises, which engage in labour exchange with other enterprises and the state via commodity-money relations; in the country side the process of collectivisation was halted and reversed, and in some countries farm cooperatives were turned into independently producing enterprises, following the model imposed by the revisionists in the Soviet Union.

It is in this context, that Guevara’s fight against followers of the Soviet economic model in Cuba, despite his mechanical and idealist mistakes, renders a substantiated critique against right-wing revisionist theories for the construction of socialism.Guevara’s plans for the industrialisation of the Caribbean island need to be understood within the historical-concrete situation corresponding to the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe. Despite elements of idealism and mechanicism, Guevara’s model of budgetary finance system and his refusal to implement commodity-money relations and the law of value as the regulator of proportions among state enterprises bears strong resemblances with the economic system existent in the Soviet Union during the 1930-50’s. Hence, it was natural that Guevara’s plans for industrialisation faced fierce resistance by Soviet revisionism and its followers in the island. It is evident to us, that allegations of Trotskyism or left-wing deviationism thrown by right-wing revisionists are utterly unfounded. Nevertheless, more investigation is needed to throw light on Guevara’s ideological evolution in the 1950’s and early 1960’s and on how he came to propose the budgetary finance system, as the fundamental pillar for the industrialisation in Cuba.

Idealism and Mechanicism in Che’s Economic Thought

Despite the progressive character of Guevara’s economic thought, and its invaluable positive impact on the economic discussion held in Cuba during the first half of the 1960’s, which represents a courageous struggle and more or less consistent and substantiated against modern revisionism, Che’s thinking needs to be considered critically. Notwithstanding the substantiated struggle against the right wing theories of socialist construction, which turns Guevara’s works as most relevant materials for the study of questions related to socialist transformation, is plagued with serious mistakes. Guevara’s eclecticism is inherent to his thought in general, and cannot be neglected when evaluating Guevara’s role in the Cuban revolution and the theory of socialist transformation.Guevara’s mistakes in political economy can be classified into two groups: idealism and mechanicism. Idealist mistakes were committed by Guevara when evaluating the role of consciousness in political economy. When we refer to mechanicism in Guevara’s economic thought we mainly imply his failure to grasp the dialectical evolution of economic categories involved in commodity-money relations during the transitional epoch. Needless to say, Guevara’s mistakes has been extensively used by the bourgeoisie and the representatives of revisionist tendencies, such as Trotskyism and neo-Trotskyism to mystify the revolutionary and rip off his contribution to the political science and political economy from its Marxist logical core and divorce it from a number of Marxist-Leninist principles, which Guevara tried to uphold in a more or less consistent manner.Guevara’s mistakes in political economy have been used inside and outside the island to consider Guevara’s contribution to the economic transformations in the early stages of the Cuban revolution in isolation from the principles of socialist transformation adopted by the People’s Democracies during the post-war period, so demonised by modern revisionism. Guevara’s thought is portrayed by many as a specific phenomenon of the Cuban revolution, thus, completely ignoring its strong links with the so called ‘Stalinist’ economic theories and modus operandi during the transitional period. Although we do not wish to portray Guevara’s economic thought as a faithful concretisation of the principles of Marxism-Leninism in the conditions of revolutionary Cuba in the 60’s, we feel it would be a serious mistake not to evaluate Guevara’s thought within the concrete-historical epoch corresponding to systematic violation of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which lead to the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the liquidation of socialist construction in Eastern Europe. While evaluating critically Guevara’s economic thought and identifying areas of inconsistency, we feel compelled to appreciate and value the positive and progressive that Che upheld under very difficult conditions of struggle against imperialism and revisionism.Idealism is present throughout Guevara’s works all the way till his last published work, ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’. It leads Guevara to proclaim consciousness and education as primary with respect to the study of relations of production in the transitional economy, including the construction of communism. Impressed by the early philosophical works of young Marx, Guevara states:‘The word conscious is emphasized because Marx considered it basic in stating the problem. He thought about man’s liberation and saw communism as the solution to the contradictions that brought alienation – but as a conscious act. That is to say, communism cannot be seen merely as the result of class contradictions in a highly developed society, contradiction that would be resolved during a transitional stage before reaching the crest. Man is a conscious actor in history. Without this consciousness, which embraces its awareness as a social being, there can be no communism [underlined by us]’ (Che Guevara, in ‘On the budgetary finance system’, trykt i Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 124).The role of consciousness and education is ubiquitously stressed by Guevara in his economic works as the leading factor the transition to higher forms of economic organisation. In Guevara’s system political economy ceases to be an independent discipline, the objective character of the economic laws of the transitional society hold secondary character with respect to the cultural formation of the new man. The economic laws of socialism, like those of capitalism, exist and evolve with the development of the forces of production and the historical conditions at times independently from level of consciousness of the masses. In fact, in certain historical situations, masses as a whole remain unaware of the essence of the economic essence of both revolution and counter-revolution.The role of consciousness and education, play undoubtedly a fundamental role in the construction of the new society. However, political economy remains an independent discipline and the study of the objective laws that govern it remains a titanic effort. Only scientific analysis and synthesis of the relations of production can make possible the sustained economic development necessary for the construction of the socialist and communist societies. As opposed to capitalism, during the course of the transition to socialism, objective and subjective conditions are given for the masses to participate consciously in the construction and scientific analysis and synthesis of the socialist construction. It is clear that the more conscious and active participation of the working class in the socialist construction, the more solid are the foundations of the socialist formation. It is clear too, that the more conscious the working class about the essence of the economic transformation, the more robust the economic development and the less influential the forces of counter-revolution.Economic development under socialism and the development of consciousness and socialist culture – two phenomena, which go hand by hand. Generalisation on the basis of the history of the Soviet Union indicates that consciousness and socialist culture require a material basis, without which further economic development and further development of consciousness. However, according to Guevara consciousness and socialist education are supposed render the primary engines of economic development in socialism:‘The hopes in our system [budgetary finance system, – note by us.] point to the future, towards a more rapid development of consciousness, and through consciousness, to the development of the productive forces’.(Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Socialist plan: its meaning’, p147. Translated from Spanish). *

In Guevara’s system, socialist economic development is not really the engine of consciousness, but all the way around, consciousness is the source of socialist economic development. Guevara’s idealism turns voluntarist. In this respect, Che’s idealism may be compared to Mao’s idealist views in political economy, despite the fact that Guevara displays a significantly more progressive stand with respect to commodity-money relations than the latter. Mao, in his critique of Stalin’s Economic Problems, bitterly complains about the fact that the latter does not include the study of the superstructure in the analysis of the socialist economy:

‘Stalin’s book from first to last says nothing about the superstructure. It is not concerned with people; it considers things not people…They speak only of the production relations, not the superstructure nor politics, nor the role of the people. Communism cannot be reached unless there is a communist movement’. (Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics, Monthly Review Press, New York and London,1977, pp.135-136).

Guevara supports the wrong idealistic view that commodity-money relations per se and in general are a manifestation of the alienation of the human being in the process of production. Guevara interprets mechanistically and metaphysically the role and place of economic forms inherited from capitalism in the socialist economy:‘The alienated human individual is bound to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. It acts upon all facets of his life, shaping his road and his destiny. (Che Guevara in ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 340).

One of the major and profound mistakes displayed by Guevara’s economic thought, a mistake common to many others who have genuinely claimed allegiance to Marxism-Leninism, is his failing to grasp Lenin’s and Stalin’s teachings with regards to the dying off of economic categories inherited from capitalism. These teachings may be succinctly expressed in the well-known Stalin’s assertion in Economic Problems. In his answer to A.Notkin, Stalin stresses:

‘The fact of the matter is that in our socialist conditions economic development proceeds not by way of upheavals, but by way of gradual changes, the old not simply being abolished out of hand, but changing its nature in adaptation to the new, and retaining only its form; while the new does not only destroy the old, but infiltrates into it, changes its nature and its functions, without smashing its form, but utilizing them for the development of the new. This, in our economic circulation, is true not only of commodities, but also of money, as well as banks, which, while they lose their old functions and acquire new ones, preserve their old form, which is utilized in the socialist system.’ (J.V. Stalin ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, p.59).

Guevara commits the colossal mistake, which has been more or less successfully exploited by neo-Trotskyism and other bourgeois ideologies, to mechanically and metaphysically extrapolate the character of the economic categories implemented during the NEP to later stages of the socialist construction in the Soviet Union. Guevara, de facto blames the adoption of such economic forms like economic accounting, profit, credit, etc… implemented in the 1920’s for the right wing deviationist economic theories that he was fighting in the 1960’s, without appreciating the profound changes operated in the content of those categories during the 1930-50’s:‘In the Soviet Union, the first country to build socialism, and those who followed its example, determined to develop a planning process that could measure broad economic results by financial means. Relations among enterprises were left in a state of more or less free play. This is the origin of what is now called economic calculus (a poor translation of the Russian term, that might better be expressed as auto-financing, or, more precisely, financial self-management) –

Roughly speaking, then, financial self-management is based on establishing broad financial control over the enterprise activities, banks being the principal agencies of control. Suitably designed and regimented material incentives are used to promote independent initiative toward maximum utilization of productive capacity, which translates into greater benefits for the individual worker or the factory collective. Under this system, loans granted to socialist enterprises are repaid with interests in order to accelerate product turnover’. (Che Guevara, in ‘On Production Costs and the Budgetary System’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p 114). –

It is clear that, the transition to socialism in the Soviet Union, which followed the implementation of market-type economic relations in most of the economy, had to carry within itself certain economic forms, which are inevitably inherited from capitalism. However, Guevara apparently fails to grasp that the concept of economic accounting evolves dramatically over the years, as the character of the economic relations evolved. The concept of economic accounting never disappears from the Soviet economic literature, however, its content evolved in time in order to be accommodate the planned principle of the economy on the basis of socialised property and the liquidation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forms of production. The economic accounting of the more or less disseminated production subjects confined to the Soviet artels in the 1920’s bears little resemblance with the economic accounting of highly concentrated Soviet industry in 1930-50’s. The character of the labour exchange among the different production subjects during the 1930-50’s bear close resemblance to that of the budgetary finance system advocated by Guevara in the 1960’s.It is not clear to us, to what extent Guevara is able to appreciate the qualitative changes operated in the interpretation of the content of economic categories over the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union. It is unclear whether Guevara sees in the preservation in the Soviet Union of economic forms such us, economic accounting, profit, credit, banks, etc… as a sign of economic backwardness, or rather as a sign of the concrete historical conditions under which the transition to socialism took place in the Soviet Union. For instance, Guevara advocated for the liquidation of the concept of credit in socialism, even though the form of credit was never liquidated in the Soviet Union:‘In our system [the budgetary system. Our note.] the Bank supplies certain amount of resources to the enterprises according to the budget; here the interest rate is not present’. (Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, pp.45-46. Translated from Spanish). –

The same applies to the economic category of profit, which was never liquidated in the Soviet Union but was categorically denied by Guevara within the context of the budgetary finance system in Cuba. Guevara seems to understand mechanically the economic relation of the State with socialised production subjects:

‘…Because the State Enterprise in the conditions of Cuba, is just a centre for production. It has a budget, a budget for production; it should meet the goals of production and deliver its product to the Ministry of Domestic Commerce, or to other state industries. Thus, the enterprise does not have profit, does not have money; all the profit, all the difference between what was sold and the cost belongs to the Cuban state. The enterprise is reduced to production.’ (Che Guevara på Konferensen ‘Økonomi og Plan’ ved Universidad del pueblo i 1961. Oversat fra spansk.

As a matter of fact, the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union has demonstrated that the principle of socialist planning on the basis of socialised forms of production does not contradict the implementation of such economic forms as profit, as long as the latter do not express the relationship between independent producers, but on the contrary is used as one of the indexes of economic effectiveness, etc… To state that profit is not the leading economic criterion in socialist industry is generally speaking correct. However to interpret sole presence of the concept of profit, regardless of its relative weight in the definition of economic effectiveness, as a sign of economic backwardness is strictly speaking incorrect. I artiklen ‘Bank, Credit and Socialism’ afslører Guevara glimrende the vulgar and fetishist economic views of those in Cuba who did not understand the need to re-define the role of banks in a socialist economy and that the economic functions of the banks in capitalism cannot be mechanically transported to socialism. His conclusions are generally speaking correct, correct in the sense of abstract formulations. Det er hans følgeslutninger med hensyn til Vare-Penge forholdet (commodity-money relations) og Værdilovens rolle i overgangsøkonomien. However, they are correct in the abstract and may turn dangerous is applied mechanically to concrete-historical conditions.Unfortunately, the evaluation of Guevara’s economic thought renders confusing and inconclusive since the budgetary finance system is conceived as a result of the struggle with right-wing economic theories, which absolutise the role of commodity-money relations. Det statsfinansielle plansystem er uden tvivl et modtræk og en reaktion mod de højreorienterede revisionistiske økonomiske teorier og fortjener at blive påskønnet som sådan. Further investigations, possibly on the basis of archival materials, will hopefully throw valuable light on the role of mechanicism and metaphysics in Guevara’s economic thought.


Kilder:   

11) L.D. Trotskij * ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’ * Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953 , pp.233-4. –

Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘On the Budgetary System’, p.95. Oversat fra spansk.

J.V. Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1952, p.19-20

Che Guevara, op.cit. i ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 46. Oversat fra spansk.

A. Mora, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 227.

E. Mandel, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, trykt i Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 70.

Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p.47. Oversat fra spansk

Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘About the Budgetary System’, p.80 Oversat fra spansk

Che Guevara, in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 142.

Carlos Rafael Rodriguez i “Che Guevara Cuba y el camino al socialismo”, New International, New York, 2000, p.42. Oversat fra spansk.

M.Voeikov and S.Dzarasov, ‘Economic Views of L.D. Trotsky’ in Voprosi Ekonomiki No.11, 2004, p.152.

The Soviet Economy in Danger, in ’Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932’, Pathfinder Press, New York,1973, p.260. Underlined by us.

P.I. Lyashchenko, History of the People’s Economy of the USSR, Moscow 1956, Volume III, p. 153. Oversat fra russisk.

Che Guevara, ‘Che y la Economia’, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Habana, Cuba 1993, p. 74. Oversat fra spansk.

F.Fejto, A History of the People’s Democracies, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 362).
(I. Nagy, ‘On Communism’, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York, 1957, p. 98.

Che Guevara, op.cit. in ‘Socialist plan: its meaning’, p147.Oversat fra spansk.

Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics, Monthly Review Press, New York and London,1977, pp.135-136.

Che Guevara, i ‘On Production Costs and the Budgetary System’, trykt i “Man and Socialism in Cuba”, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p 114.

Che Guevara, på konference n ‘Økonomi og Plan’ på Universidad del pueblo – 1961. Oversat fra spansk.

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