[Marxism] Che Guevara: material incentives do not work

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Jun 13 12:22:03 MDT 2008

Louis writes:

> Walter Lippmann wrote:
>> 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
>> powerhouses.
Posing the question in this way doesn't provide the answer, as I think Louis

Theoretically, there is an alternative: a socialist revolution in the US,
which would transform the global balance of power between the capitalist
states and those forces hostile to capitalism.

Practically, that appears nowhere on the horizon. Meanwhile, the lure of the
US market, it's living standards, and it's military power place intolerable
pressures on states which attempt to develop independently outside of the
capitalist world economy which the US still dominates, its current
weaknesses and rising challenges to its dominion notwithstanding.

The Russian Revolution was predicated on a similar appreciation of the
global context. The Bolsheviks took power fully expecting that their
revolution would spread to the more advanced West or it would be doomed. It
was why they rejected the theory of "socialism in one country". The
subsequent history of the USSR, China, and the smaller states which
abolished and then restored capitalism unfortunately vindicated these
assumptions, except that these startling restorations were accomplished
peacefully rather than against the violent resistance of the organized
working class which Trotsky and his supporters anticipated.

It's questionable, to say the least, that moral incentives and workers'
control of production would have been enough to compensate for the lower
level of productivity in these societies, the need to divert resources to
defence from consumption, and the attraction of the masses to the higher
living standards of the capitalist West to which they became exposed. As
Walter notes, it's also very much an open question whether Che would have
clung to these conceptions in the wake of the subsequent rout of the
international labour and socialist movement which he never lived to see.

I'm not expecting an organized left to develop and acquire a mass following
in Cuba in opposition to the introduction of these material incentives. I'd
be surprised if the Venezuelans and their other close Latin American allies
are less than understanding of these and future Cuban concessions to
domestic and international market forces. I'd gladly consider alternatives
to the left if events prove otherwise. But criticism setting textual
authority against historical experience is hardly convincing evidence that
such alternatives are viable in the present global circumstances.

I do think Louis and others, though, have a point when they complain about
the apparent reluctance of the leadership and its supporters to acknowledge
these moves as a retreat. My impression also. Reminds me a little bit of the
labour movement.

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