[Marxism] Walter and overposting

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Apr 9 17:33:24 MDT 2006

The process we are witnessing in Venezuela today is one in
which, as seven years of experience should demonstrate,
that the nationalization of property and the institution of a
planned economy are not the sine qua non which is is often
thought to be. 

Focusing on the formal abolition of private capitalist property
relations, which the Cuban Revolution did in 1960, was one
step possible when there was a Soviet Union around which
could come to the assistance of Cuba's Revolution, and it in
fact did so. Trotskyists were very fond of, and remain fond
of the Second Declaration of Havana, because it used that
formulation about "a socialist revolution or a charicature of
a revolution". The SWP printed an entire pamphlet about 
that, and still does. Their pamphalet is entitled "The Second
Declaration of Havana - making it primary - "with the 
Declaration of Havana", so their priority is very clear. That 
was in 1961. Fidel doesn't use that formulation any longer, 
but those who wish to "Trotskyize" Fidel Castro and Cuba's
Revolution continue returning to this theme.

Relations between the two countries were complicated and
history has shown there was substantial friction between the
two states. Cubans urged the Nicaraguans not to follow their
own path (the Cuban way - nationalizing the capitalist class)
because the USSR wasn't about to assist the Nicaraguans as
they had assisted the Cubans. The Nicaraguans, as much as
I understand it, made plenty of their own mistakes, with the
English-speaking Atlantic Coast for one thing, but it's my
sense they were simply worn down by the contra wars and
the Nicaraguan people voted the Sandinistas out because
they felt there was no other way to end the war.

Sixteen years have now passed and life for the ordinary
people of Nicaragua hasn't got better, at least as far as I've
seen it. For this reason, the FSLN might be voted back into
office, despite the sex and corruption scandals. I've no idea
what chance Herty Lewites has, or much of an idea of what
kind of campaign he's running. The Cuban media doesn't
report on him at all, and I have only seen one article in
the Wall Street Journal. O'Grady tried to make it sound like
he was pro-U.S., but I didn't take her word for it. 

When I read that "national sovereignty, democracy and true
economic development are not compativle with capitalism",
I'm reminded that Marx said the same thing in 1848, and a
bit of economic development has taken place since then.

Some countries have achieved national independence, at
least in in a political since, since then. This is why the black
majority of South Africa continues to support the African
National Congress, despite the criticisms made by leftists
It seems that South African blacks prefer life under the
ANC to the non-existent alternatives for which leftists so
stridently argue in some forums. These leftists never seem
to ask why it is no other alternative has come up to give a
challenge to the ANC. There are, after all, other parties in
South Africa.

On a world historic scale I'm sure national independence,
economic development and political democracy cannot grow
under capitalism. Those who argue that China has become
capitalism then have some difficulty explaining the radical
economic progress which has occurred in China if it's now
a capitalist country. The fact is, China has experienced a
great deal of economic development under the system 
which is called capitalist by some individuals. If they are
right, and if China IS capitalist, then perhaps they will 
feel compelled to explain how so much economic growth
could take place under capitalism?

Fidel Castro didn't call for the abolition of capitalism when
he wrote HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME. Hugo Chavez today
doesn't call for the nationalization of private property in
Venezuela, though the state already has control over the
most important lever of economic development, petroleum.

The most important task in Venezuela today, it seems to me,
is the organization, education and deepening of the ability of
the masses of people to have confidence in their own ability
to run the country. How long it will take is anyone's guess.
This involves trade union development, the development of
a political party to institutionalized the leadership of their
revolutionary process, and the advance of various organs
of political self-government in the country. I'm afraid I've
no idea how that's going to come about, no strategy and
no broad path to propose. I leave that to those who think
they can do that, especially in forums like Marxmail where
abstract generalizations are passed off as political wisdom
by some authors.

The objections which some have expressed against Morales
and the others, not to speak of Nestor Kirchner, who never
made any claim to being a socialist, are based on prioritizing
nationalization of private property, as if that formal step is
the key to everything. It isn't. Cuba's had a system of both
nationalized property and a planned economy for well over
forty years. But it has plenty of economic difficulties, some
of which are its own responsibility, some has deeper and
broader sources. 

Those who write here freely denouncing Evo Morales or
other left-wing leaders would be deeply unhappy in Cuba.
There is no place at all in Cuba's official public life where 
they would be able to say about Fidel Castro and the Cuban
Communist Party what is being said about others in such a
forum as Marxmail. NONE. There are no computer bulletin
boards. No internet forums. No print newspapers where 
what passes for debate on a forum like Marxmail would be
possible. Somehow those who so sharply criticize Cuba's
friends and allies, are oddly silent about the limitations on
free-wheeling discussion and debate which exist in Cuba.

I never pretend that Cuba is some kind of model of what
socialism should look like. After all, I reject the very idea
of "models". That's what made such a mess of socialism in
the United States - making the Russian Revolution of 1917
some sort of model. Cuba is only a model in the sense that
it shows what can be accomplished under conditions of very
grave adversity.  But it's by no means a model in a general
abstract sense of how socialism should be. The more time
I spend in Cuba, the more I know how little I know about it.
that country. 

Cuba is actually a very rich, complex and diverse society
with its own problems and contradictions. Not one of my
Cuban friends and colleagues ever ask me how their own
country could be better run. It never happens. They may
say this or that about one or another aspect of Cuban life,
but they never discuss the broad politics of the country as
is done here on Marxmail. Until the wings of the eagle are
clipped, and until the people in the United States learn to
live in the world without thinking they have the right to
run the world, no one anywhere will be truly safe. In this
sense, of course, I understand that socialism can't be 
built in a single country. It has to be be an international
cooperative process. 

Walter Lippmann
p.s., it's never clear who the "we" in such references as
are given below actually refers to. In the day, in the
Socialist Workers Party, "we" tended to refer to ideas
which were organizationally defined as acceptable. 
People who had other ideas were described as being
"confused" or "unclear". If they were "clear", of course,
they would agree with what "we" were saying...

Since I don't belong to any party, league, tendency,
faction or group, I represent only my own thinking,
nothing broader than that.

we are really obligated to state with the utmost clarity that 
national sovereignty, democracy and true economic develop-
ment are not compatible with capitalism. If that makes me 
sound like a member of the Spartacist League, so be it.

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