[Marxism] Che Guevara: material incentives do not work

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 13 07:40:21 MDT 2008

Che Guevara's Final Verdict on the Soviet Economy
by John Riddell

Economic management through material and profit-based incentives cannot 
bring the desired results, Che says, because in the Soviet context "the 
law of value does not have free play."  (The law of value is a principle 
of Marxist economics that holds, broadly speaking, that the prices of 
commodities are proportional to the amount of socially necessary labor 
time required to produce them.)

In the Soviet Union there is no competitive free market to reward the 
efficient producers and remove the inefficient, Che says.  Instead, in 
the Soviet economy, in the last analysis, social needs take priority 
over market forces.  The Soviet "must guarantee that the population 
receives a range of products at set prices," and these prices thus "lose 
their link with capitalist value."

Che offers no explanation of why Soviet authorities must subsidize the 
production of such consumer necessities.  Among Cuban Communist leaders 
of the time, this fact required no explanation.  They considered that, 
whatever the distortions of the Soviet state of the time, the working 
class remained in power, and had sufficient leverage to prevent the 
triumph of capitalist exploitation.

Soviet claims to be surging ahead of the United States economically, Che 
says, are based on references to higher Soviet production of steel and 
other basic industrial products.  But this is misleading.  "Steel is no 
longer a basic factor in measuring a country's efficiency, because we 
now have chemistry, automation, non-ferrous metals -- and besides, 
there's the question of the steel's quality.  The U.S. produces less 
steel, but a great deal of it is of superior quality."

full: http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/riddell120608.html

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