The dispute about the law of value in transition economies is central to the question about the feasibility of constructing socialism in a country without a fully developed capitalist mode of production. The result is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Guevara but also to debates on the Left. Her doctorate was on the least known aspect of one of the 20th centuries best-known icons: Ernesto Che Guevara. But as a reminder of the concrete commitment to revolutionary change that Guevara has been immortalised for in such idealistic terms, amid renewed debate about the form taken by global capitalism and the revival of state ownership and redistribution across Latin America, this book makes essential reading. In this sense, it is safe to suggest that Helen Yaffe's book is to date the most complete account of the economic thought of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. Critique on the Soviet Manual of Political Economy In April 1965, Guevara left Cuba to lead a Cuban military mission in the Congo.
She has an article in the March 2009 issue of the journal Latin American Perspectives - a special issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Guevara was right to recognise the technological advances of the capitalist corporations and aspire to their high productivity and efficiency. He dedicated his work to Cuban students who go through the painful process of learning 'eternal truths' in eastern European manuals. I can't think of enough superlatives to describe it. Over the previous ten years, British Telecoms, the British water industry, British Rail, British Gas and British Coal had been packaged up and sold off to corporations and share holders. She has also worked in human geography and development studies, giving her multidisciplinary expertise. Based on fascinating new archival research and interviews with his contemporaries and colleagues, this book records Guevara's contribution to industrial organisation, economic management and socialist political economy debates as a member of the Cuban government.
Satu hal yang saya hargai betul dari Che adalah, dalam memberi ganjaran bagi pekerjaan yang dilakukan oleh para pegawai dan buruh, ia selalu mengutamakan insentif moral dibanding insentif material. This is also a period of acute crisis for the global capitalist system. I set out to Cuba to find out. Guevara was head of the Department of Industrialisation and President of the National Bank in 1960 when all financial institutions and 84% of industry in Cuba were nationalised. However, the disagreements were about the conditions explaining the law's survival, its sphere of operation, the extent to which it regulated production, how it related to the 'plan' and whether the law of value should be utilised or undermined, and if so, how. This was my first glimpse of the important relationship between consciousness and production, which lies at the heart of the economics of revolution. Between 1963 and 1965 these questions were examined in Cuba during the Great Debate on socialist transition.
Cubans dug deep to find what they needed to survive, as individuals and as a socialist society. Many faced bankruptcy while others were highly profitable. Che had created a system of economic management which was unique to socialism — the budgetary finance system; but what did that involve and how was it different? The Soviet solution was to rely on the operation of the law of value to hasten the development of the productive forces, applying the profit motive, interest, credit, individual material incentives and elements of competition to promote efficiency and innovations. For Guevara, the challenge was to replace the individuals' alienation from the productive process, and the antagonism generated by class relations, with integration and solidarity, developing a collective attitude to production and the concept of work as a social duty. I suspect that few 'bourgeois' economists would be even slightly persuaded by Yaffe's arguments, much less Guevara's, but considered as a monograph, Yaffe's book is exhaustively researched, interesting, coherent, well-organized and written, novel, and, frankly, quite provocative in places.
Amidst this neoliberal onslaught, Cuba stood almost alone. It provides a mass of detail in areas from science to workers' participation, from investment to psychology, without ever losing track of the main threads or becoming bogged down. Guevara's solution was twofold: first, to group entities of similar lines of production into centralised administrative bodies called Consolidated Enterprises. He believed that advances achieved by humanity should be adopted without fear of ideological contamination. Using fascinating new sources, Yaffe gives us a detailed and knowledgeable picture of a different Che - the minister and economic manager, grappling with the real as opposed to theoretical challenges and practicalities of creating a revolutionary economy in an underdeveloped society, but doing so without losing sight of his genuinely innovative challenge to socialist orthodoxy. Rather, he complained about the contradiction between the high level of research and development in military technology and low investment applied to civilian production. The socialist thought of 'Che' Ernesto Guevara on top of his heroic guerrilla and internationalist role has special relevance for the current global economic crisis and the strong resurgence of socialist-inspired 'alternatives' in Latin America.
In six tumultuous years, Che made an indelible contribution to Cuban development. The book is an exciting, well written and well-documented narrative and analysis of Che's economic thought, based on years of research with primary interviews and unpublished files and secondary sources What is unique about Yaffe's book is her impressive use of new, until now unexplored, Cuban sources: archival material including manuals, annual reports, factory inspection reports, transcripts of the internal meetings at the Ministry of Industry, led by Guevara, and last but not least, interviews with nearly 50 of Che's closest collaborators. He stressed central planning and state regulation as substitutes to such mechanisms. Che faced the challenge of demonstrating that there was an alternative approach — the possibility of carrying out the transition to socialism in an underdeveloped country, without relying on capitalist mechanisms the law of value, the profit motive, competition, material incentives, and all those A-Level principles. The law of value and planning are two terms linked by a contradiction and its resolution. Selain itu, ia juga mencoba membangun kesadaran bahwa kerja yang kita lakukan dilakukan untuk produksi-sosial, bukan produksi-laba, artinya kerja kita dilakukan sebagai proses untuk memperbaiki kondisi masyarakat di mana kita menjadi bagiannya, sehingga kerja menjadi sebuah tanggung jawab sosial, bukan sebagai laku individual untuk mencari nafkah dan memperkaya diri atau untuk memaksimalkan laba produksi.
The result is a book that cannot be ignored, a book that should be translated into Spanish and other languages as soon as possible. Yaffe's book makes an unparalleled stride to fill a gaping hole in the literature: Guevara as an economic theorist and practitioner. In London, at the G20 in April, Obama and Prime Minister Brown recognised the end of the Washington Consensus. For Guevara, efforts to change consciousness must be incorporated into socialist transition at the earliest stage. Even a much longer review could not give an adequate idea of the scope of this work, based upon hundreds of books, documents, reports and interviews. He himself warned that some would misinterpret his proposed work as rabid anti-communism disguised as theoretical argument, but asserted that the inability of bourgeois economics to criticise itself, pointed out by Marx at the beginning of Capital, was seen in contemporary Marxism. He made an important contribution to both the theory and practice of constructing socialism.
Rational economic man, it was said, would ensure efficiency through privatisation and competition, even while, in the following years, prices rose and accidents increased in these fundamental services of the economy. The result is a book that cannot be ignored, a book that should be translated into Spanish and other languages as soon as possible. On the basis of 60 interviews with Che's former colleagues and extensive archival research, including consultation of Guevara's crucial notes for a critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy, Yaffe gives us unprecedented insight into his vital contribution to the Cuban Revolution and to Marxist theory. Guevara argued that these were not the only levers for fostering development. It is integral to problems of accumulation, production, distribution and social relations.
Fifty years since the Cuban Revolution and over four decades after his death, Che Guevara is still both admired and derided, testimony to the fascination his persona continues to hold. The socialist thought of 'Che' Ernesto Guevara on top of his heroic guerrilla and internationalist role has special relevance for the current global economic crisis and the strong resurgence of socialist-inspired 'alternatives' in Latin America. Marx characterised the psychological or philosophical manifestation of capitalist social-relations as alienation and antagonism; the result of the commodification of labour and the operation of the law of value. They were comments responding to specific paragraphs of the Manual; notes to himself, including indications of areas for further study. Workers, skilled and manual, are being made redundant. Having seized state power, however, the Cuban revolutionary leaders moved beyond the critique to the task of transformation.