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Taking stock of the Bolivarian Revolution: Changing Venezuela by Taking Power

Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, by Gregory Wilpert (Verso, 2007)

June 26, 2008 -- Gregory Wilpert has pulled off a triumph on two fronts with his new book on the Bolivarian Revolution, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power. Most obviously, Wilpert's book — in both its scope and (sometimes almost maddening) objectivity — is the most detailed and credible analysis yet published of the Venezuelan revolution, which itself represents, arguably, the single most significant challenge today to the hegemony of global capitalism.

Che Guevara's final verdict on the Soviet economy

By John Riddell

June 8, 2008 -- One of the most important developments in Cuban Marxism in recent years has been increased attention to the writings of Ernesto Che Guevara on the economics and politics of the transition to socialism.

A milestone in this process was the publication in 2006 by Ocean Press and Cuba's Centro de Estudios Che Guevara of Apuntes criticos a la economía política [Critical Notes on Political Economy], a collection of Che's writings from the years 1962 to 1965, many of them previously unpublished. The book includes a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Fidel Castro, entitled ``Some Thoughts on the Transition to Socialism''. In it, in extremely condensed comments, Che presented his views on economic development in the Soviet Union.[1]

In 1965, the Soviet economy stood at the end of a period of rapid growth that had brought improvements to the still very low living standards of working people. Soviet prestige had been enhanced by engineering successes in defence production and space exploration. Most Western observers then considered that it showed more dynamism than its US counterpart.

At that time, almost the entire Soviet productive economy was owned by the state. It was managed by a privileged bureaucracy that consolidated its control in the 1920s under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Managers were rewarded on the basis of fulfilling production norms laid down from above; workers were commonly paid by the piece.

The Soviet Union: a no-party state?

Review by Alex Miller

The Soviet Century
By Moshe Lewin
Verso 2005
416 pages

Myths answered: How the workers and peasants made the Cuban revolution

Review by Graham Matthews

Cuba: How the Workers & Peasants Made the Revolution

By Chris Slee

Resistance Books, 2008

55 pages, $6 (pb)

Available from <http://www.resistancebooks.com>

May 10, 2008 -- There is a myth perpetrated by some on the left, that there never really was a revolution in Cuba. The Cuban “revolution”, they claim, was just the result of the collapse of the brutal, US-backed Batista regime, followed by the filling of the political vacuum by the few hundred guerrillas that made up the July 26 Movement (J26M). These fighters simply marched down from the mountains to take power in Havana, installing the Castro brothers as virtual dictators.

Our history: John Reed’s `Ten days that shook the world’

Ten Days That Shook The World
By John Reed
Penguin Books 351 pages
Paperback

Review by Alex Miller

The transformation of South Africa's communists

12 February 1997

Raising the Red Flag: The International Socialist League and the Communist Party of South Africa 1914-1932
By Sheridan Johns
Mayibuye Books, Bellville, South Africa
1995, 309pp.

Review by Norm Dixon

Mayibuye Books specialise in publishing works relating to South Africa's liberation struggle, most by participants in the movement. Under apartheid many valuable works were suppressed. Now free to publish anything, it may seem strange that Mayibuye would decide to publish a book that began as an unpublished thesis by an obscure US academic 30 years ago. Strange or not, it is a decision to be welcomed.

Three books on the life and thought of the `red terror doctor’

Reviews by Alex Miller

Karl Marx: A Biography
By David McLellan, Palgrave Macmillan
4th Edition 2006
487 pages, paperback

Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four: Critiques of Stalinism `from the left’?

Review by Alex Miller

This essay is the result of a re-reading of George Orwell’s two most famous novels. Both Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four have acquired the status of textbooks, and are routinely used in schools to demonstrate to children the inherent dangers of social revolution. It is time for a reappraisal.

The ``Centenary Edition’’ of George Orwell’s Animal Farm contains a preface written by Orwell for the first edition (Secker and Warburg, 1945) but never published, together with a preface that he wrote specially for a translation for displaced Ukrainians living under British and US administration after World War II.

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Marxism or Bauerite nationalism?

By Doug Lorimer

Fatherland or Mother Earth? Essays on the National Question is a collection of essays written over the last 24 years by Michael Löwy, director of research in sociology at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. The book was published under the auspices of the Amsterdam-based International Institute for Research and Education, founded by Ernest Mandel and other leaders of the Trotskyist Fourth International.

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