[Marxism] Che Guevara: material incentives do not work

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 13 08:15:20 MDT 2008

Che Guevara's comments were written over four DECADES ago, in a very
different world-historical context, one prior to Vietnam's victory
over Washington's occupation, prior to the fall of the Soviet Union,
prior to China, Brazil and India rising to become world economic

Living in the real world as it actually is functioning today, one 
in which the former Soviet Union's many problems do not currently
confront the Marxists of today as practical matters, seems a bit out
of historical context, to my way of reading it. The USSR is not a
factor in today's world. What does what Che wrote in 1965 have to
tell us about what Cuba should do in 2008? The commentators, the
linkers and the re-poster don't commentate about that, nor do they 
say why they don't, leaving the reader to ponder the meaning and 
the timing of such reflections. Each one can read into these things
whatever they want to. I prefer a more cautious, more conservative
approach to these developments myself.

>From John Lee Anderson to the various and all-too-numerous perfection-
minded on the political left, a confusing, and historically invalid,
counterposition of Fidel to Che has long been made, so today one must
wonder just why there's been another wave of interest in Che - a good
thing in and of itself - at this particular moment when the bourgeois
media also is trying to say that Cuba is throwing out Communism? 

We really ought to try to avoid allowing the capitalist media and its
agenda setting the agenda for how Marxists try to understand what's
going on in Cuba. They have an agenda which isn't, or at least which
shouldn't be the same as that of the Marxists. 

Walter Lippmann
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Two examples of this kind of perfectistic prognosticating:

What Raul Castro promises and what is expected of him

Since Raul Castro took on more political responsibility in the
running of the country as a result of Fidel Castro's illness, he has
portrayed an image of himself as being a "pragmatist", more concerned
with economic efficiency than politics. This is the first thing that
an average Cuban will tell you, particularly taxi drivers and people
in a position to rent rooms to foreigners. They tell you that Fidel
is more of an "idealist", that he is more concerned with "politics"
and "international affairs", while Raul is more sensitive to the
"everyday concrete problems of the people".

It is highly significant than in his first speech as President of the
country, on February 24, he did not make one single reference to the
Venezuelan revolution, whose fate is without a doubt decisive for the
Cuban people and their revolution. In this same speech Raul
highlighted a number of important political and economic measures. 
He linked "any changes related to the currency" to the aim that
"everyone's living standard corresponds directly to their legally
earned incomes, that is, with the importance and quantity of one's
labour contribution to society."


Then we have the Spartacists, who openly call for the overthrow of
the government which organized, led and continues to lead the
Cuban Revolution. Here's a short comment and a link to their full

WORKERS VANGUARD: Defend the Cuban Revolution!

The Spartacist League is a prominent Trotskyist group in the
United States and on the international left. They have always
been fiercely opposed to the Cuban Revolution's leadership,
which they insist must be overthrown in what they refer to
as a "political revolution". This is a revolution which they
believe should be led by "the workers", of course. They are
FIGHTING, not just "advocating", that the leadership which
organized and led this Revolution, and which remains at its
helm today, be overthrown. This article, and the linked one
about the Cuban Five, comprise fully FIVE PAGES of the
current issue of their newspaper, WORKERS VANGUARD. It's my
sense that Cuba's international standing as a force which
inspires revolutionary-minded people everywhere is what's
got the Spartacists so upset, and why they take such a
forceful position demanding the overthrow of the government
of revolutionary Cuba. There's often a good deal of analysis
worth looking at and thinking about, but at the same time,
the Spartacists are often wrong about some simple factual
matters, such as the date the revolutionary army marched
into Havana, which they get wrong here, by an entire week.

They simply cannot understand how it is that a revolution
like the Cuban, which inspires fighters like the Cuban
Five to devote their entire lives to its defense, should
now be overthrown. It's truly pitiful that they can devote
so much energy to so man political mistakes. It's important,
however, to pay attention to the Spartacists since they
sometimes present what appear to be serious analytical
articles which do raise some important points.


     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

More information about the Marxism mailing list