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Socialist Voice (Canada)

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Notes on Political Economy], a collection of Che's writings from the years 1962 to 1965, many of them previously unpublished.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.

Global food crisis: Capitalism, agribusiness and the food sovereignty alternative

By Ian Angus

[Second of two articles. Click here for part one.]

“Nowhere in the world, in no act of genocide, in no war, are so many people killed per minute, per hour and per day as those who are killed by hunger and poverty on our planet.” —Fidel Castro, 1998

May 11, 2008 -- When food riots broke out in Haiti last month, the first country to respond was Venezuela. Within days, planes were on their way from Caracas, carrying 364 tons of badly needed food.

The people of Haiti are “suffering from the attacks of the empire’s global capitalism,” Venezuela's President Hugo Chàvez said. “This calls for genuine and profound solidarity from all of us. It is the least we can do for Haiti.”

Venezuela’s action is in the finest tradition of human solidarity. When people are hungry, we should do our best to feed them. Venezuela’s example should be applauded and emulated.

But aid, however necessary, is only a stopgap. To truly address the problem of world hunger, we must understand and then change the system that causes it.

No shortage of food

The starting point for our analysis must be this: there is no shortage of food in the world today.

Global food crisis: ‘The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model’

By Ian Angus

[First of two articles. Click here for part two.] 

“If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave. If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that's OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we’ll die of hunger.” — A demonstrator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

April 28, 2008 -- In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating “mud biscuits” made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.[1]

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is currently paying $225 for each pig killed in a mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Hog farmers, squeezed by low hog prices and high feed costs, have responded so enthusiastically that the kill will likely use up all the allocated funds before the program ends in September. Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to Haiti.

This is the brutal world of capitalist agriculture — a world where some people destroy food because prices are too low, and others literally eat dirt because food prices are too high.

Video: Boris Kagarlitsky on the left and labour in Russia under Putin

With Boris Kagarlitsky, Institute For Globalization and Social Movements, Moscow.

Since the collapse of the old Soviet Union in the 1990s and the end of the politically bankrupt regime of Boris Yeltsin in 2000, Vladimir Putin has consolidated power in Russia. He has ruled over an economy growing at about 7% per year, and, in Kagarlitsky's view, establishing Russia as an 'empire of the periphery'. The left and workers have faced enormous challenges in the new (and not so new) Russia in the face of massive economic restructuring and major political obstacles. This discussion will address how the left, workers and unions are attempting to re-group and respond to these challenges.

Video: A new European socialist movement? The rise of the the Left party in Germany

The emergence of the Left party (Linkspartei) in Germany is the most significant development of a new political party to the left of social democracy in decades in Europe. The formation of the Left party coincided with the anti-G8 mobilisation in Germany a year ago. It was followed by a startling rise in the opinion polls, and political break-throughs in West Germany, building on its political base in East Germany and the old Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

A forum sponsored by Socialist Project (www.socialistproject.ca) and Socialist Voice (www.socialistvoice.ca).


Part 1: Introduction by Greg Albo.

Book review: Cuban Communist makes case for international revolution

By John Riddell

Latin America at the Crossroads. By Roberto Regalado. Translation by Peter Gellert. Ocean Press (www.oceanbooks.com.au), 2007, US$17.95; America latina entre siglos. Ocean Press, 2007, US$17.95.

This compact book by Roberto Regalado, a veteran member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, strongly reaffirms the need for revolution in Latin America and beyond.

Regalado, a section chief in the Cuban CP's Department of International Relations, is anything but dogmatic. He is attentive to recent new trends in Latin American economics and politics, and respectful toward the diverse currents of socialist opinion. He stresses the importance of the new features of Latin American social struggles: the role of peasants, the landless, indigenous peoples, women, environmentalists and others.

But his careful and unpretentious analysis leads toward a striking conclusion: only a revolutionary seizure of political power by the masses can open the road to social progress south of the Rio Bravo and even within the imperialist countries.

Advent of neoliberalism

In just 232 pages Regalado provides a handbook of Marxist politics, outlining Marxism's basic anti-capitalist premise and examining closely the evolution of revolutionary and reformist schools of thought through the 20th century.

New pamphlet: Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time

[The following is the introduction to a new pamphlet, Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time, produced by the Canadian Socialist Voice collective. The full text is available at http://www.socialistvoice.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/comintern-riddell.pdf]

The Russian Revolution and national freedom

By John Riddell

When Bolivian President Evo Morales formally opened his country's constituent assembly on August 6, 2006, he highlighted the aspirations of Bolivia's indigenous majority as the central challenge before the gathering. The convening of the assembly, he said, represented a ``historic moment to refound our dearly beloved homeland Bolivia''. When Bolivia was created, in 1825-26, ``the originary indigenous movements'' who had fought for independence ``were excluded'' and subsequently discriminated against and looked down upon. But the ``great day has arrived today ... for the originary indigenous peoples''.[1]

During the preceding weeks, indigenous organisations had proposed sweeping measures to assure their rights, including guarantees for their languages, autonomy for indigenous regions and respect for indigenous culture and political traditions.

This movement extends far beyond Bolivia. Massive struggles based on indigenous peoples have shaken Ecuador and Peru, and the reverberations are felt across the western hemisphere. Measures to empower indigenous minorities are among the most prestigious achievements of the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela.

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