Sunday, March 10, 2024

3561. The Law of Value in Relation to Self-Management and Investment in the Economy of the Workers’ States

By Ernest Mandel, World Outlook, 1963

The Cuban magazine Nueva Industria – Revista Economica, organ of the Ministry of Industry, published two polemical articles in issue No.? (October 1963) of great interest, one written by Ernesto Che Guevara and the other by Commandante Alberto Mora, Minister of Foreign Trade. This polemic testifies to the vitality of the Cuban Revolution in the field of Marxist theory, too. It deals with a number of questions of the utmost importance in the construction of a socialist economy: role of the law of value in the economy during the epoch of transition; autonomy of enterprises and self-management; investments through the budget or by means of self-investment, etc. Involved in these issues is the problem of the ideal model for the economy in the epoch of transition from an underdeveloped country, a problem of absorbing interest to the Bolsheviks during the 1923-1928 period and which arose again, even if on a rather low theoretical level, in Yugoslavia, Poland and even in the Soviet Union in recent years.

The Law of Value in the Economy During the Epoch of Transition

The question of the “application” of the theory of value in the planned and socialized economy of the epoch of transition has been subjected to the worst confusion, mainly because Stalin, in his last work, posed it in a both gross and simplistic way: “Does the law of value exist (sic) and does it apply in our country? … Yes, it exists there and it applies there.” This is an evident truism. To the extent that exchange occurs, commodity production survives, and exchange is thereby objectively governed by the law of value. The latter cannot disappear until commodity production withers away; that is, with the production of an abundance of goods and services.

But this does not answer the concrete question around which turns the fundamental discussion begun in 1924-25 between Preobrazhensky and Bukharin which has continued to develop, with ups and downs, among Marxist economists and theoreticians up to now: to what exact degree and in what sphere does the law of value apply in the economy during the epoch of transition?

Stalin himself, while muddying the problem, had to admit a fact which the Khrushchevist economists are nevertheless beginning to draw into question; namely, that in the “socialist” economy, the law of labour-value cannot be the regulator of production, that is, cannot determine investments.

In developed capitalist economy, the law of value determines production through the play of the rate of profit. Capital flows toward the sectors where the rate of profit is above the average and production increases there. Capital recedes from the sectors where the rate of profit is below the average, and production decreases there (at least relatively). When the means of production are nationalized, so that there is neither a market for capital nor its free entry and withdrawal, nor even the formation of an average rate of profit with which the rate of each particular branch can be compared, clearly there is no longer a possibility for the “law of value” to be directly the “regulator of production.”

If, in an underdeveloped country which has carried out its socialist revolution, the “law of value” were to regulate investments, there would flow preferentially toward the sectors where profitability is the highest in relation to prices on the world market. But it is precisely because these prices determine a concentration of investments in the production of raw materials that these countries are underdeveloped. To escape from underdevelopment, to industrialize the country, means to deliberately orient investments toward the sectors that are least “profitable” for the time-being according to the criterion of the long-term economic and social development of the country as a whole. When it is said that the monopoly of foreign trade is indispensable for industrializing the under-developed countries, this means precisely that it cannot be accomplished until these countries are able to “pull the teeth” of the law of value.

But perhaps this qualification applies only to the “law of value on the world market”? Cannot the law of value at least alter investments on the national scale, once world prices are left aside? This is wrong again. The industrialization of an underdeveloped country cannot be carried out rapidly and harmoniously except by deliberately violating the law of value. [1]

In an underdeveloped country, and precisely because of its underdevelopment, agriculture tends from the beginning to be more “profitable” than industry, handicrafts and small industry more “profitable” than big industry, light industry more “profitable” than heavy industry, the private sector more “profitable” than the nationalized sector. To channel investments according to the “law of value,” that is, according to the law of supply and demand of commodities produced by different branches of the economy, would imply developing monoculture for the export trade by priority; it would imply preferential construction of small shops for the local market rather than steel plants for the national market. The construction of comfortable lodgings for the petty-bourgeois or bureaucratic layers (an investment corresponding to “effective demand”) would have priority over the construction of low-cost homes for the people which clearly must be subsidized. In short, all the economic and social evils of underdevelopment would be reproduced despite the victory of the revolution.

In reality, the decisive meaning of this victory, of the nationalization of the means of industrial production, of credit, of the transportation system and foreign trade (together with the monopoly of the latter), is precisely to create the conditions for a process of industrialization that escapes from the logic of the law of value. Economic, social and political priorities, consciously and democratically chosen, take the lead over the law of value in order to lay out the successive stages of industrialization. Priority is placed not on immediate maximum returns, but on the suppression of rural unemployment, the reduction of technological backwardness, the suppression of the foreign grip on the national economy, the guarantee of the rapid social and cultural rise of the masses of workers and poor peasants, the rapid suppression of epidemics and endemic diseases, etc., etc.

That is why the industrialization of the workers states follows a different road from that of the capitalist countries where industries are built beginning with the sectors that will most easily satisfy “effective demand.”

To violate the law of value is one thing; to disregard it is something else again. The economy of a workers state can disregard the law of value only at the price of losses to the economy which could be avoided, of useless sacrifices imposed on the masses, as we shall later demonstrate.

What does this mean? In the first place, that the whole economy must be carried on within the framework of a strict calculation of the real costs of production. These costs will not determine investments; these will not automatically go toward “the least costly” projects. But to know the costs means to know the exact amount of subsidies which the collectivity grants the sectors which it has decided to develop by priority. In the second place, that it is necessary to have a stable yardstick for these calculations; without stable money, no rigorous planning. In the third place, that all sectors where economic or social priorities do not dictate any preference are to be actually guided by the “law of value,” (for example, different crops aiming at the domestic market). In the fourth place, so longs as the means of consumption remain commodities, and aside from the commodities and services deliberately subsidized or distributed free by the state (pharmaceutical products, school and training materials, books, etc.), the preferences of the consumers will freely operate on the market the law of supply and demand will affect prices, and the plan will adapt its projected investments to these oscillations (within the limits of what is available in finances, equipment, raw materials, etc.).

In the light of these initial remarks, we can consider the importance of the two problems raised in the Guevara-Mora polemic: What is value? Are means of production commodities in the transitional epoch? Mora affirms that value is not essentially abstract human labour; that it is “a relation existing between the limited disposable resources and the growing needs of man” (p.15). Still better: he holds that value is a “category created by man under certain conditions and for certain (!) ends” (p.15).

It is clear that we are faced here with a subjective deformation of the Marxist concept of labour-value, of which Marx specified the essence to be abstract human labour. It is not by chance that Mora refers to the “neo-Marxist” Soviet economists [2], who have been attacked, in the USSR itself, and rightly so, as wanting to introduce surreptitiously the marginal theory of value. His conception, according to which the “law of value is the economic criterion for regulating production” in the epoch of transition (p.17) – while he affirms that it is not the only regulator – necessarily involves the notion according to which “exchange of the means of production” occurs even when these are completely nationalized, that “sale of commodities” occurs even when these means of production pass from one nationalized enterprise to another, and that the “contradictions” between the state enterprises justify the assertion that a “change in ownership” occurs at the time of these exchanges (p.19). All these affirmations are contrary to the reality and to Marxist theory. On all these questions, Che Guevara is entirely right against Mora.

Mora states that if in investments, one leaves aside the law of value, one must “pay the price”; in doing this, you automatically limit the social resources available to satisfy other needs. This is true, and we, likewise, underline the necessity for strict calculation of production costs in all fields. But in limiting oneself to this economic truth, the social content of the epoch of transition is done away with; that is, in abstracting from the class struggle, Mora leaves out a whole important side of the problem.

In fact, it is impossible to operate in the economy of the epoch of transition – any more than in any other economy containing different social classes – with aggregates like “social revenue,” “social costs,” “social price of investments,” without at the same time posing the question: “Who is to pay this price to whom?

The society of the epoch of the transition to capitalism to socialism is not homogeneous. In conducting an appropriate policy of investments, of prices, wages, foreign trade, etc., the workers state can act in such a way that the social benefits of priority investments (numerical reinforcement of the working class; elevation of its standard of living, skill, culture and consciousness; reinforcement of its leading role in the state and economy; accentuation of its participation in political life, etc., etc.) are paid economically by other social classes; the residue of the former owning classes; imperialism; the small commercial entrepreneurs and independent peasants. In an expanding economy, this economic price, paid particularly by the merchants, artisans and independent peasants can moreover be accompanied by a rise in their standard of living, on condition that this rise is less than it would have been in the framework of the “free play of the law of value” (thanks, for example, to a progressive income tax). [3]

The Law of Value and Foreign Trade

All the preceding evidently constitutes only a general framework for replying to the specific problems which the question of economic calculation and the orientation of investments raises in each particular workers state. Here, Mora is right when he stresses (p.18) that in a small country like Cuba, which depends strictly on foreign trade for the current functioning of its industry (spare parts and raw materials) and for the equipment of its new enterprises, the necessity for rigorous economic calculation is imposed with all the more reason than in a big, largely autarchic country like the Soviet Union.

Exports are made according to prices on the world market. So that these exports will not constitute a constant drain on the national economy (they must be met in any case in order to keep industry and industrialization going through imports), it is necessary that the production costs of exported goods should as a whole be below the prices obtained on the world market. It is necessary to fix the objective on progressively suppressing all exports at a loss, so that exports are not only a means supplying the national economy but, in addition, an important source of accumulation, a means of defraying part of the expense of industrialization – a part of the costs of not observing the law of value on the national market! – from abroad. The tendency for current prices of sugar to rise on the world market creates, moreover, a favorable framework for the success of such a policy. The progressive diversification of exports, to render the Cuban economy independent of future fluctuations of current sugar prices on the world market, must point to the selection of other export, products where production costs remain below the prices obtained abroad (that is, average prices on the world market).

But Mora mixes up the need to carry out all these calculations in the most strict way with the extension of the field of application of the law of value in the Cuban economy. The two phenomena are not identical; they can even be directly contradictory.

The law of value determines the exchange value of commodities according to the quantity of labour socially necessary to produce them. The concept of “socially necessary” labour is determined in turn by the average level of the productivity of labour in a country, and by the concept of the effective demand of society – which must never be confounded with human needs or social needs from an objective point of view. In an underdeveloped country like Cuba, all production of many industrial branches can correspond to an “effective demand,” that is, all labour in these branches can appear as “socially necessary,” despite a very low level of productivity. The reference to the law of value, far from thereby resolving the problem of rapid improvement in the productivity of labour, of the technological transformations which these industries must undergo, can only obscure it. Because the law of value will have a tendency to keep alive archaic enterprises, as long as the state of scarcity exists, from the moment there ceases to be free movement of capital and free imports of commodities which could stimulate competition with these enterprises.

Far from being a field of application of the law of value, the dependence of Cuba on foreign trade thus implies the necessity of economic calculation of comparative international costs, which could provide a choice of economic criteria, independently of any rigid “law.” The necessity to assure the country’s supply of spare parts and raw materials imposes a certain volume of exports, even if these are carried out at a loss. The necessity to maintain and develop the existing level of industries dependent on foreign supplies imposes searching, as quickly as possible, for profitable exports in relation to prices on the world market – even if this means switching investments toward branches that are already profitable in relation to the national market (branches that already sell their commodities at their exchange value). The possibility of exporting at a profit, of gaining supplementary resources from exports, of transforming trade into a constant source of socialist accumulation, will moreover permit just the liberation of the economy from the tyranny of the “law of value,” that is, will permit the development of new industries despite the fact that their production costs at the beginning will be higher than the prices of imported products, without lowering the standard of living or the rate of accumulation in the country. This is an aspect of the real dialectics of the dependence on foreign trade and the play of the law of value that is decidedly more complex than Comrade Mora thought!

The Law of Value and Autonomy of Decision at the Enterprise Level

In the debate which has raged in some of the workers states, the problem of the area of application of the law of value is intimately linked with the problem of autonomy of decision at the enterprise level in the field of investment. The Yugoslav authors have even formulated with regard to this a veritable new dogma which requires critical analysis: “Without the right of the self-management collectives to dispose of a considerable part of the social surplus product, no genuine self-management.” [4] This analysis must examine the problem from two aspects: economic efficiency (criteria for choosing one investment project rather than another), social and political efficiency (success in the struggle against the bureaucracy and bureaucratization).

The more backward a country is, the more conditions of almost universal scarcity rule not only in the means of production sector but also for much of the industrial means of consumption (at least for the great majority of the population), and the more detrimental the practice of self-investment is, the more detrimental is it to permit the self-management collectives to determine for themselves the projects for priority of productive investments.

It is evident in fact that under conditions of almost general scarcity of industrial commodities, almost all the investment projects can be economically profitable, no matter how gross the economic errors that are committed. Almost every profitable industrial or agricultural enterprise (providing funds for investment) is like an island in a sea of unsatisfied needs. The natural tendency of self-investment is therefore to attend to what is most pressing, both locally and in each sector.

In other words: if the self-management enterprises hold large funds for self-investment, they will have a tendency to orient their investments either toward the commodities which they lack the most (certain equipment goods; raw materials; auxiliary products; emergency sources of energy), or toward the commodities which their workers or the inhabitants of the area lack the most. Thus, criteria of local or sector interest are placed above national interests, not because the law of value is “denied,” but precisely because it is applied! This means, once more, to orient industrialization toward the “traditional road” which it followed in the historic framework of capitalism, in place of reorienting it according to the requirements of a nationally planned economy.

An attempt can be made to reconcile national planning requirements and allocating self-managed enterprises considerable funds for self-investment. The means chosen for this aim can be a levy-tax in behalf of national development funds and equalization funds for regional development. This is evidently a step in the right direction, but it does not at all resolve the problem.

Since an underdeveloped economy is characterized precisely by the fact that the enterprises of high productivity are still the exception and not the rule, it is sufficient to leave them a part of their net surplus product and the inequality of development between the industrialized localities and the non-industrialized localities, the inequality of development and of revenue between the archaic enterprises which enjoy only an average level of productivity and the enterprises technologically “up to date” will increase instead of diminishing. It is necessary, moreover, to insist on this fundamental idea of Marxism: any economic freedom, any “autonomy of decision” and any “spontaneity” increases the inequality so long as there exist side by side strong and feeble enterprises or individuals, rich and poor, favored and unfavored from the point of view of location, etc. This is the reason why, it should be noted in passing, that according to Marx the mechanism of the law of value leads to its own negation; competition inevitably ends in monopoly.

The economic logic of a planned economy therefore speaks completely in favor of productive investment by budgetary means at least for all the big enterprises. What must be left to the enterprises is an amortization fund sufficiently large to permit modernization of equipment with each renewal of fixed equipment (gross investment). But all net investments should be made in accordance with the plan, in the branches and places chosen according to preferential criteria selected for the society and its economy as a whole. In this respect, too, the thesis of Comrade Guevara is correct.

The problem has been obscured, above all in the USSR, through associating it with the problem of heightening the material incentives in enterprises. Numerous Soviet economists have criticized the stimulants still employed today in the economy of the USSR to incite the enterprises (?) to carry out the plans. This criticism is in general pertinent. It has but to repeat what anti-Stalinist Marxists have said critically for many years. Yet, it is only necessary to examine closely the arguments of these economists to see that what is involved in reality is heightening of material incentives for the bureaucracy for whom the growth of revenues must in some way be the essential stimulus for the expansion of production in the enterprises.

This is where certain partisans of self-management, particularly in Yugoslavia, maintain that decentralization of the decisions on investment would be a powerful guarantee against bureaucratization. This thesis is based on a fallacy. The Yugoslavs are right in stressing that the power of the bureaucracy grows in relation to its freedom in disposing of the social surplus product. But the technicians and economists of the planning commission “dispose” of the surplus product only in the form of figures on paper; the real power of disposal is situated at the level of the enterprise[5] The more that means other than consumption funds (distributed revenues and social investments) are left at the free disposal of the enterprises, the more is precisely bureaucratization stimulated, at least in a climate of generalized scarcity and poverty; also the greater the temptation becomes for corruption, theft, abuse of confidence, false entries – temptations that do not exist at the level of the planning commission, if only because of multiple checks. The concrete experience of Yugoslav “decentralization” has shown, moreover, that it is an enormous source of inequality and bureaucratization at the level of the enterprises.

But doesn’t the possibility of complete centralization of the means of investment at the state level create the danger of the economic policy as a whole favoring the bureaucracy, as was the case in Stalinist Russia? Obviously. But then the cause does not reside in the centralization itself; it lies in the absence of workers democracy on the national political level[6] This means that a genuine guarantee against bureaucratization depends on workers management at the enterprise level and workers democracy at the state level. Without this combination, even the autonomy of the enterprises will eliminate none of the authoritarian, bureaucratic and (often) erroneous character of economic decisions made at the government level of the plan. With this combination, the centralization of investments – priorities being democratically established, for example through a national congress of workers councils – would not encourage bureaucratization, but, on the contrary, suppress one of its principle sources.

The Law of Value and Self-Management

“Heightening material incentives” in the enterprises cannot be a “stimulant” in the question of investments. But “heightening material incentives” in the self-management collectives can actually stimulate continual growth of production and productivity among the enterprises.

Certainly, under a regime of genuine socialist democracy, creative enthusiasm, the free development of all the capacities of invention and organization of the proletariat, constitute a powerful motor for the growth of production. But it would be a grave idealist and voluntarist error to suppose that in a in a climate of poverty – inevitable in an underdeveloped country immediately following the victory of the socialist revolution – this enthusiasm could last long without a sufficient material substructure.

The example of the Soviet Union, where the proletariat gave proof of an enthusiasm and spirit of self-sacrifice without parallel in the first years after the October Revolution, is instructive in this respect: a long period of deprivation ended inevitably in mounting passivity of the workers, daily material concerns taking precedence over attentiveness to meetings.

It is therefore imperative to link self-management to the possibility for the workers to immediately judge the success of each effort at increasing production by the elevation of their standard of living. The simplest and most transparent technique is that of distributing a part of the net revenue of the enterprise among the workers in the form of one or more months of bonus wages, the amount increasing or diminishing automatically with the level of revenue. The increasing collective material interest of the workers in the management of the enterprises moreover is superior to piece wages, inasmuch as it does not introduce division and conflicts in the workers’ collectivity, inasmuch as it corresponds better to contemporary technique, which place less and less importance on individual output and more and more importance on the rational organization of labour.

Self-management (and not mere workers control) seems to be the ideal model for organizing socialist enterprises. But it by no means hinders more or less unlimited competition among the enterprises, which flows from their autonomy in the domain of prices and investments. This autonomy cannot but reproduce a series of evils inherent to the capitalist regime: monopoly positions exploited in the formation of prices and revenues; efforts to defend these monopolies by “hiding” discoveries and technical improvements; waste and duplication in the field of investments; high cost or errors in decision, revealed a posteriori on the market (including the shutting down of enterprises); reappearance of unemployment, etc., etc. Useless and detrimental from the economic point of view, it by no means constitutes a sufficient guarantee against bureaucratization, as we have indicated above.

In this connection, the polemic of Lenin and Trotsky against the theses of the “Workers Opposition” is still completely valid. Marxism is not to be confused with the doctrine of anarcho-syndicalism. The genuine guarantee of workers power lies on the political level; it is on the state level that it must be established; any other solution is utopian; that is, unworkable in the long run and a source for the reappearance of a powerful bureaucracy.

For all these reasons, self-management does not at all imply wider recourse to the “law of value” in relation to centralized planning. [7] The fundamental data of the problem remain the same. It is necessary to carry out strict calculations of production costs to show in the case of each commodity whether its production has been subsidized or not. But nothing calls for the conclusion that prices must be “determined by the law of value,” that is, by the law of supply and demand. If such a conclusion still has some meaning with regard to the means of consumption, it is senseless for the means of production which, we repeat, are not commodities, at least in the great majority of cases. And even means of production which are still commodities – those produced by the private or co-operative sector for the delivery to the state, and which the state furnishes to private enterprises or co-operatives – cannot be “sold at their value” without encouraging under certain conditions private primitive accumulation at the expense of socialist accumulation. But, if the means of production are not sold “at their value,” the “value” of the means of consumption is itself profoundly modified.

Prices are, then, instruments of socialist planning and cannot be anything else in the epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism. If you say instrument of planning you likewise say instrument for determining the distribution of the national revenue between consumption and investment, an instrument for determining the distribution of revenues among the different classes and layers of the nation. To leave the determination of this distribution to the “law of value,” is to leave it in the final analysis to the “laws of the market,” to the “law of supply and demand,” that is, to economic automatism. And economic automatism would rapidly take us back to an economy of the semi-colonial type.

But to say that prices cannot be determined by the law of value does not at all signify that they can be independent of the latter. Society can never distribute more values than it has created without progressively destroying its accumulated wealth and impoverishing itself increasingly in the absolute sense of the term. The total sum of prices must therefore be equal to the total sum of value of the commodities produced (granting that there has been no monetary depreciation). The distribution of certain products – in goods or vouchers – below their value (subsidies!) automatically signifies a distribution of other products above their value. Without strict calculation of production costs; without book-keeping aided by an objective criterion; without a kind of double entry system that faithfully registers, for each product, alongside the price fixed by the state, the real cost and the subsidy (or the tax) there is not only no possibility for genuine scientific planning, there is above all no stimulus for the fundamental economic dynamic of the epoch of transition – the dynamic that progressively elevates one new branch of industry after another to the point of rendering it “competitive” in relation to prices on the world market, up to the time socialism announces its next triumph when socialist industry as a whole operates with a productivity superior to that of the most advanced capitalist industry.

At the moment, the “law of value” could theoretically govern the dynamic of the workers state (or more exactly: the workers states as an international whole; because it appears excluded that this situation could be first obtained “in a single country”). But at the precise moment when it is on the point of triumphing, its reason for being disappears. The highest level of productivity attained under capitalism in all its branches cannot be surpassed without approaching such a level of abundance that commodity production withers away. In the workers state “law of value” cannot channel investments except to the precise degree that it withers away and to the degree that along with it all the economic categories, products of a relative scarcity of material resources, likewise wither away.


1. “Planned economy in the transitional period, while founded on the law of value, violates it nevertheless at every step and establishes relations among the different economic branches, and between industry and agriculture in the first place, on the basis of equal exchange. The state budget plays the role of a lever for forced accumulation and planned distribution. This role must be increased in accordance with the latest economic progress. Credit financing dominates relations between the coercive accumulation of the budget and the fluctuations of the market, insofar as the latter enter in… If the domestic Soviet market is ‘freed’ and the monopoly of foreign trade suppressed – exchange between the city and countryside will become much more equal, the accumulation of the village (I refer to the capitalist accumulation of the farmer, the ‘kulak’) will follow its course, and it will soon be seen that Marx’s formulas likewise apply to agriculture. Once on this road, Russia would rapidly become a colony that would serve as the base for the industrial development of other countries.” (Leon Trotsky: Stalin Theoretician. Available in French in Ecrits 1928-40, Tome I, p.106) [Available in English in different translations as Stalin as a Theoretician in Militant, 15 September-11 December 1930 and Stalin as a Theoretician in International Socialist Review, Fall 1956 & Winter 1957.]

2. Among others, Novochilov, Kantorovitch and Menchinov. This question underlies the famous debate on the possible use of profit as the sole criterion in carrying out the plan. In reality, these economists are the spokesmen of the economic bureaucracy, who demand increased rights for the directors of enterprises – particularly the right to freely dispose of a part of the “invisible funds” (fixed equipment).

3. From 1924 to 1927, the Stalinist faction violently accused the Left Opposition – Preobrazhensky in particular – with wanting “to increase the prices of industrial products.” Preobrazhensky had simply proposed that industrial products could be sold “above their value” to the village, which could have been tied in perfectly with a progressive lowering of the sales price in view of the rapid growth of the productivity of labour. But when the Stalinist faction made the turn to accelerated industrialization, it increased the prices of industrial consumers goods through extremely high indirect taxes. While in 1928, the tax on turnover was not above 17.9% of the real turnover of retail trade, it rose to 78.1% in 1932, and in 1936, the nominal turnover of this trade was 107 billion rubles, of which taxes accounted for 66 billion rubles and the real turnover only 41 billion! (L.H. Hubbard: Trade and Distribution in the Soviet Union)

4. Thus Milentiji Popovic, in an article entitled Self-management and Planning: “On the other hand, in the sector of expanded social reproduction, in perfecting the system of investment on the basis of the new relations, our results are less conclusive, although the first steps have been taken in this direction. The establishment of non-administrative relations, of economic relations, in this sphere, reverts quite simply to the establishment of credit-interest (!) relations, and to taking them as the basis ...

“One must first of all counteract the contradiction which arises from the fact that the resources servicing social reproduction are deducted exclusively through administrative measures (taxes, duties, contributions) thus leaving free the organization of labour without the latter on the other hand becoming the ‘proprietor;’ the organization of labour evolves, in fact, into a unique system of credit in which these resources are at one and the same time ‘theirs’ and ‘common’ (article 11) …

It is possible to avoid, on the other hand, having subjective and political considerations as the only ones to be taken into consideration at the time of the adoption of the decisions concerning investments. It goes without saying that this method cannot and must not ever be pushed to its final conclusion. But a system can be constructed in which the political decisions will bear on the general orientation of the political economy while the distribution of the means destined for investment is carried out in accordance with the credit mechanism, according to financial and material (!) criteria fixed with more or less precision. In operating in this way the process of expanded reproduction is likewise ‘depoliticalised.’ This ‘depoliticalization’ is not absolute. It must be carried out to the degree that bureaucratism must be deprived of its base in this sphere as in the others.” (My emphasis – E.M.). – Current Questions of Socialism, No.70, July-Sept. 1963, pp.67-68.

5. This obviously does not apply to cases where raw materials, equipment, goods and sometimes even means of consumption are centrally distributed, becoming veritable hotbeds for germinating corrupted bureaucrats.

6. “Only the co-ordination of three elements, state planning, the market and Soviet democracy, can assure correct guidance of the economy of the epoch of transition and assure, not the removal of the imbalances in a few years (this is utopian), but their diminution and by that the simplification of the bases of the dictatorship the proletariat until the time when new victories of the revolution will widen the arena of socialist planning and reconstruct its system.” (Leon Trotsky: The Soviet Economy in Danger. Available in French in Tome I of Ecrits 1928-1940, p.127). [In English, in a different translation, see The Soviet Economy in Danger in Militant, 12 November 1932-7 January 1933.]

7. Certain Yugoslav authors take quite correct positions in this respect. See, for example, Dr. Radivoj Uvalic: “While the open market can be widely utilized, it cannot be the sole or even the principle regulator of the socio-economic relations of a socialist country.” And again: “The importance of the planned guidance of economic development under the conditions of socialism lies first of all in the possibility that is offered of considering profitability from the point of view of the economy as a whole and not from the point of view of each particular unit of the economy… This is the case in all branches of high concentration of capital (?), such as the production of the means of production and raw materials, which could be never developed sufficiently on the basis of the accidental play of the market, with the rate of profit as the sole stimulate.” (In: Socialist Thought and Practice, No.6, pp.47 and 55) 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

3560. Ernest Mandel on the Cuban Revolution

 By Jan Willem Stutje, Cuba News, No date. 

Ernest Mandel and Ernesto Che Guevara

Editor's note: This following has been reposted from Cuba News, edited by Walter Lippmann. There are a chunk of notes missing in Cuba News that are also missing here as a result. Still, it is an important piece for consideration of the political character of the Cuban leadership as well as the Great Debate about socialism and how to get there in Cuba 1962-65. KN

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Chapter 8 of Ernest Mandel, A Rebel’s Dream Deferred by Jan Willem Stutje, pp.147-164

“It is more pleasant and useful to go through the ‘experience of the revolution’ than to write about it.”
     — V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution 1

The progressive revival of the 1960s, which in Belgium began with the general strike of 1960-61, brought with it a renewal of the connection between struggle and theoretical debate, a connection that had been lost during the interwar ‘darkness at noon’ of Stalinism.

Although Marxist critical thought had not been entirely silenced, as shown by the works of Cornelius Castoriadis and Paul Sweeny, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and Karl Korsch’s later work, in academia it had been marginalized, confined to the domains of aesthetics and philosophy.2 In the 1960s such publishers as Maspero in France and Feltrinelli in Italy rediscovered the heterodox political literature that had long been on Stalin’s index. Creative Marxist thought emerged from the shadow of the universities and stimulated — in addition to the debates about neo-capitalism and the role of the proletariat — thinking about decolonization, revolution and post-capitalist society, the Soviet Union and China, Algeria and Cuba.

In Marxist Economic Theory Mandel had examined the economics of transitional societies.3 The sociologist Pierre Naville encouraged him to pursue the subject further. Naville was preparing to republish New Economics (first published in 1923), an analysis of the Soviet economy by Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, who had been killed by Stalin in 1937.4 He asked Mandel to write a foreword. 5 Central to the book was the question of what dynamic would arise in an agricultural society in transition from capitalism to socialism and what sources of socialist accumulation would be available. Mandel wrote that Preobrazhensky had made possible an economic policy free of pragmatism and empiricism.6 This book’s publication contributed to the economic debate in Cuba.

In Cuba with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who with Fidel Castro was the face of the Cuban revolution, took a leading role in this debate. In 1958-59 guerillas had ended the oppressive, US-backed Batista regime. In doing so they broke with the prevailing, understanding of revolution that had held sway since 1935. The dominant conception dated back to the stages theory held by Stalin’s Comintern, which had limited revolutionary ambitions to formation of a national democratic government with the task of achieving agricultural reform, industrialization and democratic renewal. The struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would only take place in a more-or-less distant future phase of socialist revolution. The Cuban revolutionaries discovered that in practice such a revolution was impossible and looked for a model that would put a definitive end to capitalism in Cuba. In the process they risked an American invasion, a threat made clear during the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) incident and the October 1961 missile crisis. They also earned anathemas from Moscow, which saw Cuba’s, support for revolutionary movements -in Latin America, Asia and Africa as undermining a foreign policy aimed at peaceful coexistence with the West.

From 1962 to 1964 Che Guevara headed the Cuban ministry of industry. He opposed the growing influence of Moscow-oriented Communists and the state’s increasing bureaucratic tendencies. His ideas about the economy were formed in the debates of 1963-4. which were not only about economic development but also about the essence of socialism: a central budget structure versus, financial independence of companies, moral versus material incentives, thee law of value versus planning, and the role of consciousness.

Che considered an economy without a humanistic perspective, without communist ethics, unthinkable.7 ‘We fight against poverty but also against alienation…If Communism were to bypass consciousness…then the spirit of the revolution would die.’8 In a famous 1965 essay, ‘Socialism and Man in Cuba’, Che warned against ‘the pipe dream that socialism can be achieved with the help of the dull instruments left to us by capitalism’, like making value and profitability the absolute economic’ measure or using, material incentives. Che held that fully realized communism would require changing not only the economic structure but also human beings. 9

Impressed by the wave of nationalizations there, Mandel concluded in the fall of 1960 that Cuba had developed into a post-capitalist state.10 ‘Reality has shown that to consolidate power the revolutionary leaders have unconsciously resorted to Trotskyism.’11 Shortly after the publication of Marxist Economic Theory Mandel had a copy sent to Che and Castro via their embassy in Brussels.12 He had informal contacts, with the Cuban regime through Nelson Zayas Pazos,13 a Cuban Trotskyist and French teacher working in the foreign ministry, and Hilde Gadea, Che’s ex-wife a Peruvian economist of Indian and Chinese descent who lived in Havana.14 Gadea was sympathetic to Trotskyist ideas, and through her and Zayas documents of the Fourth International were regularly forwarded to Che. 15

In October 1963 Zayas told Mandel about the debate raging between what he called the Stalino-Khrushchevists and the circle around Che.16 While the former were arguing for financial independence for companies and for material incentives to increase productivity,17 Che called for centralizing finances and strengthening moral incentives.18 Zayas encour­aged Mandel to intervene in the debate: ‘It seems to me that the entire Castro leadership would welcome such a contribution … Fidel, Che, Aragonés. Hart, Faure Chomón and many others are favourably disposed to us.’19. A month later Zayas distributed a stencilled contribution from Mandel to those taking part in the debate. 20 Mandel supported Che’s resistance to financial autonomy, not because he was opposed to decentralization but because centralized financing for small-scale industry seemed at that time the optimal solution.  He shared Che’s fears of the growth of bureaucracy, all the more so because Clue’s opponents wanted to make decentralized financial administration efficient by using material incentives. Mandel was not against material incentives as such, on two conditions: that they were not individual but collective incentives in order to ensure solidarity, and that their use was restrained in order to curb the selfishness that a system of enrichment produces.

To combat bureaucratization Mandel argued for democratic and centralized self-management, ‘a management by the workers at the workplace, subject to strict discipline on the part of a central authority that is directly chosen by workers’ councils’.21  Mandel and Che differed on this last point. Che did support management of the enterprises by the trade unions, but only if they were representative and not controlled by Communists, who, he said, were very unpopular. The results of decen­tralized self-management in Yugoslavia, where companies acted like slaves of the market, had also made Che cautious. Mandel warned him against throwing the baby out with the bath water. Self-management by workers was entirely compatible with a central plan democratically decided by the direct producers.22

In early 1964 Mandel was invited to visit Havana. There were prospects of meetings with Che and Castro.23 Che had read Marxist Economic Theory enthusiastically and had large parts of it translated.24 Mandel confided to Livio Maitan: ‘I think that I can raise many issues openly and frankly’,25 and wrote again a few days later, `And in any case I can resolve the question of banning our Bolivian friends.’26

Maitan had visited South America for the first time in 1962. He had made contact with insurrectionary movements in Bolivia, Chili, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina and had urged them to work with the Cubans.27 In Buenos Aires he met such left-wing Peronistas as the poet Alicia Eguren and her partner John William Cooke, who had been in contact with Che since 1959.28 In Peru Maitan’s contacts were with the United Left and its present leader Hugo Blanco. In Bolivia he met with the mine workers in Huanuni, Catavi and Siglo XX.  Trotskyists had strong influence there and hoped to be trained in Cuba for armed struggle.

Mandel stayed in Havana for almost seven weeks. It was a visit without official duties, an occasion for exchanging ideas, and these exchanges convinced him completely that Cuba ‘constitutes . . the most advanced bastion in the liberation of labour and of humanity’.29 The Marxist classics were widely studied in cadre schools, in ministries and beyond. Mandel wrote a friend, ‘The class I took part in had just finished volume one of Capital, with a minister and three deputy ministers present . . . And it was serious study, even Talmudic, studying page by page…’30  Mandel’s own works, including Marxist Economic Theory, were discussed; translated, stenciled excerpts circulated among the leadership.31 Mandel wrote to his French publisher, ‘The president of the Republic [Osvaldo Dorticos] himself is interested in the work and would like to publish it in Spanish in 2 Cuba.’ E. Mandel to C. Bourgois, 28 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278.] He addressed hundreds of auditors at the University of Havana, speaking in Spanish — with a sprinkling of Italian when a words escaped him. There was even an announcement of his visit in Hoy, the paper, of the Communist Blas Roca. Revolutión, the largest and most influential daily paper, published an interview.

‘I was literally kidnapped by the finance ministry and the ministry of industry [Che’s ministry] to write a long article about the problem of the law of value in the economy of a transitional society.’32 Speaking French, Mandel met for four hours with Che, who received him dressed in olive green fatigues, his famous black beret with its red star within reach. Totally enchanted, Mandel wrote a friend, ‘Confidentially, he is extremely close to your friend Germain [the pseudonym Mandel used most], whom, you know well.’33

Mandel and Che worked together on a response to the French economist Charles Bettelheim. In April 1964 Bettelheim had published an article in the monthly Cuba Socialista34 that held that the central planning that Che advocated was unwise policy, considering the limited development of the forces of production. The Marxist Bettelheim had become Che’s most profound critic.  Other opponents included Alberto Mora, the minister of foreign trade, and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, the minister of agriculture.  Years later Bettelheim commented,

Cuba’s level of development meant that the various units of production needed a sufficient measure of autonomy, that they be integrated into the market so that they could buy and sell their products at prices reflecting the costs of production. I also found that the low level of productive forces required the principle: to each according to his work. The more one worked, the higher the pay. This was the core of our divergence, because Che found differences acceptable only when they arose from what each contributed to the best of his ability.35

The research director of the Paris Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales still did not agree with Che’s thinking.

Mandel thought that Bettelheim was making the mistake of looking for pure forms in historical reality. For example, according to the French economist, there could be no collective ownership of the means of production as long as legally there was no completely collective ownership. Mandel found Bettelheim’s insistence on such complete ownership- ‘to the last nail’ – a bit technocratic. Complete ownership was not necessary as long as their was possession sufficient to suspend capital’s laws of motion and initiate planned development.36 Mandel pointed out that the withering away of the commodity form was determined not only by the development of the forces of production but also by changes in human behaviour. It was a commonplace to say that the law of value also played a role in a post­-capitalist economy without saying what part of the economy it would govern. The key question was whether or not the law of value determined investment in the socialist sector. If that was necessarily the case, Mandel said,then all underdeveloped countries – including all of the post-capitalist countries except Czechoslovakia and East Germany – were doomed to eternal underdevelopment.  He pointed out that  these counties agri­culture was more profitable than industry, light and small-scale industry more profitable than heavy and large-scale industry, and above all obtaining industrial products on the world market more profitable than domestic manufacturing. ‘To permit investment to be governed by the law of value would actually be to preserve the imbalance of the economic structure handed down from capitalism.’37 With his criticism Mandel was not denying the law of value but opposing what he termed Bettelheim’s fatalism, which denied that a long and hard struggle was necessary ‘between the principle of conscious planning and the blind operation of the law of value’.38

Luis Alvarez Rom, Cuba’s finance minister, spent ten hours correcting the Spanish translation of Mandel’s article. It appeared in June 1964 under the title ‘Las categorías mercantiles en el periodo de transición’ (Mercantile Categories in the Period of Transition); 20,000 copies were published in periodicals of the ministries of industry and of finance.39  It included a flattering biography of the author.40 Mandel wondered if this was ‘to neutralize in advance certain ill-intentioned criticisms of my spiritual family [the Fourth Intemational]?’41 He treasured in his wallet a banknote per­sonally signed by Che: more than a currency note, it was a proof of trust. Mandel admired Che’s courage in inviting him to Cuba for a debate that the Soviets and orthodox Communists had to accept, however grudgingly. He praised Che as a theoretician, a leader in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.42

Looking back in 1977, Mandel considered Cuba’s open debate on the economy ‘the big turning point’ in the Cuban revolution.43 Behind that debate had raged another, not held in public. This debate concerned the revolution’s sociopolitical orientation, the role of the workers and the issue of power. That is, along with the question of the law of value came the issue of how much freedom the proletariat would have to make its own decisions.  As Mandel saw it, though Che triumphed in the public debate, he was defeated in the hidden one. Guaranteeing freedom was a political problem: it required the creation of workers’ councils and popular assemblies. Such organs were never developed.

When Che left Cuba in 1965, he was the most popular leader on the island. If the voice of the people had been heard, Che would have won the political as well as the economic round. But, as Mandel said, ‘Che did not want to appeal to the people. He did not want to split the party openly. This is why he left after his defeat.44 In his 1964 correspondence Mandel had acknowledged that he did not dare put some of his impressions on paper.45 Did he already suspect that the debate would have a tragic outcome?

On Mandel’s departure Luis Alvarez Rom assured him that he was always welcome; a request would be sufficient to assure an invitation.46 There was a rumour that within a few months Castro would officially invite him `so I can deal a bit with his affairs’.47 He returned to Brussels in a hopeful mood:

The influence of the Stalinist ‘sectarians’ (that’s what they’re called there) continues to decline . ..  Slowly a new vanguard is forming, one that is close to our ideas . . . The revolution is still bursting with life, and on that basis democracy [can] bloom.48

He had also been assured that ‘the group around Che was noticeably stronger’ and that ‘workers’ assemblies would soon be started’.49  Was this the beginning-of workers’ self-management, however modest? The promise did not amount to much, but Mandel dosed his eyes to its limits. He reacted negatively to Nelson Zayas’s advice to pressure Che and to convince him that he’ll lose the battle if it’s only fought in the government and bureaucratic arena’.50 The people’s support for the government must not be underestimated.51 The die was not yet cast: ‘Nothing was definitely decided yet in the economic discussion.’52 Mandel did not want to hamper Che and Fidel in their conflicts with the pro-Soviet currents. This would not have been appreciated, either, by the swelling multitude of radical youth in France and elsewhere for whom Che was nearing the status of hero. Mandel’s reaction disappointed Zayas and hastened his decision to turn his back on Cuba and complete his study of French in Paris. He asked Mandel to use his influence with Che to secure the necessary exit visa.53

Mandel’s thoughts about Cuba changed only slowly. The Latin American revolution came to a halt: Salvador Allende lost the Chilean election in September 1964, there were military coups in Brazil and Bolivia, and leftist guerrillas in Peru and Venezuela were defeated. Cuba paid for these failures with its growing dependence on the Soviet Union.  This was an arid climate in which social democracy could not thrive. As Mandel frankly admitted to ex-Trotskyist Jesus Vazquez Mendez,

I subscribe to your opinion that participation by the people is essential … . I had heard that management of the enterprise would come into the hands of the trade unions after their leadership was replaced; but the latest news is that nothing has happened. I’m sorry about it, and like you I’m afraid that if things are left to take their course, the result will be an economic impasse. Maybe I’ll go to Cuba again in l965 and can give the debate new impetus.54

But he didn’t visit in 1965, and he never saw Che again, not even when Che was in Algiers to address an Afro-Asian conference at the end of a trip through Africa in February that year. Never before had Che come out so strongly against the Soviet Union. He declared that ‘the socialist countries are, in a way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation’. Before all else oppressed peoples had to be helped with weapons. ‘without any charge at all,  and in quantities determined by the need’.55 Che’s words took root in the fertile soil of Latin American campuses and the radical milieu in Paris, where his speech was duplicated and distributed,56 and the Union of Communist Students (UEC) invited Che to Paris for a debate on Stalinism.57 The initiative came from the EUC left wing, in which Mandel’s fellow-thinkers played a prominent role. Six months earlier they had been received by a deputy minister of industry, a dose colleague of Che’s.58 One of the group’s spokespeople, twenty-seven-­year-old Janette Pienkny (Janette Habel after 1966) traveled regularly between Paris and Havana. She contacted the Cuban ambassador, who relayed the invitation to Che by phone. Meanwhile Mandel was attempting to get a visa for Algeria. After Che’s speech,  Mandel had phoned him his congratulations. Che had immediately agreed to a meeting but it had to he the following day, a Monday,  because he was about to leave.59 But that Sunday Mandel sought vainly to make contact – at home and at the embassy- ­with the ambassador and the consul.  Without a visa, ‘they wouldn’t have even let me telephone from the airport . . . I finally decided, heartbroken, to miss the meeting that had meant so much to me.’60

The debate in Paris never took place. The Communists Party put a stop to it.61  Che was now viewed as a heretic, not only in Moscow but also within the Communist parties. Algiers was his last public appearance.  He went to the Congo and Bolivia to help break the isolation of their revolutions, a solidarity that he summed up in his testamentary message with the call -Make two, three, many Vietnams!’62  That slogan became the catchphrase for the generation of ’68.

The Death of Che Guevara

Though a trip to Cuba had proved impossible in 1965-6, Mandel’s thinking about the Latin American revolution continued to develop. He praised the young philosopher Régis Debray, a student of Althusser’s. In a January 1965 essay in Les Temps Modernes Debray had characterized Castroism as the Latin American version of Leninism. Mandel described it as “an excellent piece’, though he dismissed out of hand Debray’s idea about spontaneous party formation.102 Mandel expressed himself more cautiously About Cuba’s relationship with Moscow: ‘politically they continue to have their own line. . . What is bad, however, is that [Castro] made a series of moves to satisfy the Russians (like his attacks against the Chinese and against the “counter-revolutionary trotskyists”).’103 Ac the final sitting of the Tricontinental Conference in Havana’s Chaplin Theatre, Castro had spoken of ‘the stupidities, the discredit, and the repugnant thing which Trotskyism today is in the field of politics’.104

Mandel thought that must be a genuflection towards Moscow, .camouflage for the call to armed struggle that Moscow might interpret as a concession to Trotskyism. In it confidential meeting with Victor Rico Galan. Castro’s representative in Mexico, Mandel later learned that Castro regretted his statement. Galan had pointed out to Castro that the attack ou Trotskyism was unfounded. Admitting his mistake, Castro had asked Galan to give him `A month or two to make public corrections of this at the proper time’.105 At the end of May Mandel unexpectedly got an invitation to visit Havana. The Cuban ambassador spoke of a personal invitation from Castro and promised a meeting with President Osvaldo Dorticós.106

In June 1967 Ernest aud Gisela arrived at the former Havana Hilton, re‑christened the Free Havana but with its former splendor carefully preserved. At the hotel’s bar, replacing the Americans of earlier times, were Russians and few East German technicians. Politics was never far away, even at the hairdresser’s, as Gisela discovered: ‘The girl sitting beside me was reading Lenin, and on the other side a woman was reading Mills’s The Marxists.’107

A beautiful English-speaking guide took care of all the formalities, including credit cards and a shabby Cadillac with chauffeur. Gisela im­mediately fell in love with the impoverished country. She sent Meschkat enthusiastic reports about their wanderings and the encounters in tobacco and sugar factories, on plantations and in prisons and schools. ‘Everything is exquisite and for us so encouraging and hopeful.108

Their programme was overloaded. Ernest often returned only at l:00 or 2:00 in the morning from a debate or lecture at the university or a party school. The atmosphere was frank and candid. as were the meetings with the host of Latin Americans attending the first conference of the Organization in Solidarity with Latin America (OLAS), held in Havana at the beginning of August.109 Ernest and Gisela were furious when the Czechoslovakian paper Rudé Právo published three pages slandering Che on the day that Soviet premier Kosygin arrived. Gisela wrote, ‘You should just hear how they talk about the Russians in all circles here, from the highest to the lowest, I’ve never heard such talk, from socialists yet.’110 Typically, Castro charged the Venezuelan Communists with falling the guerrilla movement.111 Though Cuba was dependent on the Russians, Castro continued to provoke them.112

Mandel spoke with functionaries high and low, but Castro and Dorticós avoided him. Every time he announced his departure. he received overnight request to stay ‘because the President and the Prime Minister both wanted to see me’.113 Fed up with waiting, he finally left, three weeks later than planned and without meeting them. Perhaps a meeting would have seemed too clear a provocation to the Russians. Castro had nothing to gain, as he had demonstrated his independence sufficiently at the OLAS conference.

On 9 October 1967, the world learned of the murder of Ernesto Che Guevara. Convinced that guerrilla warfare was the only way to victory, he had gone to join the Bolivian struggle. His body was found mutilated in a remote village. This was the death of a revolutionary, a modern-day warrior chief. The left was in mourning; poets wrote elegies, laments that ended with calls to rebellion. In an interview with Gerhard Horst (pseudonym Andre’ Gorz), an editor of Les Temps Moderns, Mandel spoke of ‘a severe shock, all the more as I regarded him as a personal friend’.114 In La Gauche he mourned ‘a great friend, an exemplary comrade, a heroic militant’.115 On the Boulevard St-Michel in Paris and Berlin’s Kurfurstendamn, in London and Milan people shouted: `Che, Che, Gue-va-ra!’ The chopped syllables formed a battle cry against the established order. Neither Moscow nor Beijing had expressed even the most grudging sympathy.116 In openly showing their regret the Italian and French Communist parties proved they still possessed a little autonomy.

Mandel’s sympathizers in the French Revolurionmy Communist Youth (JCR), a radical group founded in 1966 in a split from the Union of Communist Students, refused to accept his death. ‘Che was our best antidote to the Maoist mystique’, Daniel Bensaid recalled.117 In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Mutualité temple of the French workers’ movement, was full to overflowing. Mandel spoke alongside Maurice Nadeau, just back from Havana, and Janette ‘The Cuban’ Habel. He portrayed Che as he had come to know him in 1964.118 Emotion crested as those present softly hummed ‘The Song of the Martyrs’, the mourning march from the 1905 Russian Revolution, before launching into, ‘You have fallen for all those who hunger’ and belting out the chorus, ‘But the hour will sound, and the people conquer…’119

In Berlin too people were deeply moved. The SDS called for intensifying actions. Che had been Dutschke’s inspiration. With Gaston Salvatore, a Chilean comrade and friend in the SDS,120 Dutschke had translated Che’s last public statement, with it’s famous appeal for ‘two, three, many Vietnams’, from Spanish into German. Like Che, Dutschke lived the conviction that there “is no life outside the revolution’.121 He named his recently born son Hosea Chea. Latin America would not let Dutschke go. In 1968 he wrote a foreword to The Long March; The Course of the Revolution in Latin America, a collection of articles by such figures as Régis Debray, Castro and K.S. Karol.122. Meshkat was surprised to see letters from Gisela, which she had sent him from Havana in the summer of 1967, printed in the book. As far as he had known, Dutschke had asked only for permission to read them. 123.


1. Collected Works, vol. 25, Moscow, 1977, p. 497. 

2. P. Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, London, 1983. P. Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism, London, 1977. 

3. E. Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory, vol. 2, London 1968, pp. 605-53. 

4.E. Mandel, ‘Introduction’ in E. Préobrazenskij, La Nouvelle économie (Novaia Ekonomika), Paris, 1966. P. Naville to E. Mandel, 20 May 1962, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278. A. Erlich analyzed Preobrazhensky’s work in The Soviet Industrialization Debate, 1924-1928, Cambridge, MA, 1960. C. Samary, Plan, Market, Democracy, Amsterdam, 1988.

 5. P. Naville to E. Mandel, 17 September 1960, E. Mandel Archives, folder 318. 

6.E. Mandel, ‘Introduction’, La Nouvelle économie , E. Préobrazenskij, p. 35. 

7.M. Löwy, The Marxism of Che Guevara: Philosophy, Economics, and Revolutionary Warfare, New York, 1973. 

8. ‘Interview with Che Guevara’, L’Express, 25 July 1963, cited in: E. Guevera, Ecrits d’un révolutionaire, Paris, 1987, p. 9. 

9. E. Guevara, Socialism and Man in Cuba, Sydney, 1988, p. 5. 

10. Jack [E. Mandel] to ‘Chers amis’, 18 October 1960, E. Mandel Archives, folder 70. E. Germain [E. Mandel] to ‘Cher camarade’, 1 July 1961, E. Mandel Archives, folder 483. 

11. Ibid. 

12. G. Arcos Bergnes [Cuban ambassador] to E. Mandel, 12 Sepbember 1962, E. Mandel Archives, folder 16. 

13. Using the pseudonym David Alexander, Zayas Pazos published a book about Cuba in 1967: Cuba: la via rivoluzionaria al socialismo, Rome. He also wrote letters signed with the pseudonym Emile. 

14. H. Gadea, Che Guevara: Años decisivos, Mexico, 1972- P Kalfon, Che, Ernesto Guevara: Une légende du siècle, Paris, 1997. 

15. N. Zayas to P. Frank, 20 October 1963, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 

16. N. Zayas to ‘Cher camarade’, 25 October 1963, E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 

17. A. Mora, ‘En torno a Ja cuestión del funcionamiento de la ley del valor en la economia cubana en los actuales momentes’, Comercio Exterior, June 1963. Translated as: A. Mora, ‘Zur Frage des Funktionierens des Wertgesetzes in der cubanischen Wirtschaft zum gegenwärtigen Zeitpunkt’ in C. Bettelheim et al., Wertgesetz: Planung und Bewusstsein: die Planungsdebatte in Cuba, Frankfurt on Main, 1969. Alberto Mora was the Cuban minister of foreign trade. 

18. E. Guevara, ‘On value’ (1963) in J. Gerassi, ed., Venceremos! The Speeches and Writings of Che Guevara, London, 1969, pp. 280-5. 

19. N. Zayas to ‘Cher camarade’, 25 October 1963 E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 

20. N. Zayas to E. Germain, 16 January 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 

21. E. Mandel, ‘Le grand débat économique à Cuba’, Partisans, no. 37, 1967. Reprinted in E. Guevara, Ecrits d’un révolutionnaire, Paris, 1987. 

22. E. Mandel, letter fragment, n.d. [1964], E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 

23. E. Mandel to R. Blackbum, 12 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 28. E. Mandel to N. Zayas, 12 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 

24. Nelson to Germain, 16 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 19. 

25. E. Mandel to ‘cher ami’ [L. Maitan], 3 March 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 

26. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 7 March 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 

27. L. Maitan, manuscript memoirs (unpublished), Paris, n.d., pp. 3, 19-20. 

28. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 10 June 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 24. “Che Guevara was Energetically Devoted to Anti-Imperialist Solidarity’, interview with M. Piñiero, The Militant, 24 November 1997. 

29.La Gauche, 9 May 1964. 30. E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 

31. Mandel anticipated that he would soon see Marxist Economic Theory published in Cuba, ‘obviously’ without the chapter on the Soviet economy (‘There is no need for  us to embarrass the Cubans.’). E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], 7 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. Mandel wrote to his French publisher, ‘The president of the Republic [Osvaldo Dorticos] himself is interested in the work and would like to publish it in Spanish in 2 Cuba.’ E. Mandel to C. Bourgois, 28 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278. 

32. E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 

33. Ibid. 

34. C. Bettelheim, ‘Forms and Methods of Socialist Planning and the Level of Development of the Productive Forces’, The Transition to a Socialist Economy, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1975, pp. 121-38. 

35. J. Connier (in collaboration with H. Guevara Gadea and A. Granado Jimenez), Che Guevara, Monaco, 1995, pp. 291-2. 

36. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, in B. Silverman ed., Man and Socialism in Cuba: The Great Debate, New York, 1971, pp. 63-6. S. de Santis, ‘Bewußtsein und Produktion: Eine Kontroverse zwischen Ernesto Che Guevara, Charles Bettelheim und Ernest Mandel über das ökonomische System in Kuba’, Kursbuch 18, October 1969. 

37. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, in B. Silverman ed., Man and Socialism in Cuba, p. 82. R. Massari, Che Guevara: Pensiero e politica dell’utopia, Rome, 1987. 

38. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, Man and Socialism in Cuba, p. 82 (italics in original). 

39. E. Mandel, ‘Las categorias mercantiles en ei periodo de transición’, Nuestra Industria, June 1964. 

40. J. Habel, ‘Le sens que nous donnons au combat du Che Guevara’ (1), Rouge, 13 October 1977. 41. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

42. F. Buyens, Een mens genaarnd Ernest Mandel, film, Brussels, 1972. 

43. E. Mandel, ‘Il -y a dix ans, l’assassinat du Che, Les positions du Che Guevara dans le grand débat éconoimque de 1963-1965’, Rouge, 11 October 1977. 


45. E. Mandel to ‘Paul [Clerbaut]’, 7 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 

46. E. Mandel to ‘Emile’ [N. Zayas], 26 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder24. 

47. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

48. E. Mandel to ‘Lieber Freund’ [G. Jungclas], 22 May 1964; E. Mandel to K. Coates, 10 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 

49. Emile to E. Mandel, 5 Juiy 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

50. Emile to E. Mandel, 13 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

51. E. Mandel to ‘Cher ami’ [N. Zayasl, 12 October 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

52. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 25 September 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

53. Emile to E. Mandel, 27 September 1964; E. Mandel to Emile, 11 November 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 

54. E. Mandel to J. Vazquez Mendez, 2 November 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 

55. E. Guevara, ‘At the Afro-Asian Conference’, Che Guevara Speaks, New York, 1967, pp. 108, 114. 56. P. Kalfon, Che, Emesto Guevara: Une légende du siècle, p. 402. 

57. Ibid. Also: P. Robrieux, Notre génération communiste 1953-1968, Paris, 1977, pp. 316-7. 

58. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 10 June 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 24. 

59. E. Mandel to ‘Dear friend’ 1, 19 May 1965, E. Mandel Archives, folder 31. 

60. E. Mandel to ‘Pierre’, 1 March 1965, E. Mandel Archives, folder 30. 

61. P. Robrieux, Notre génération communiste 1953-1968, p. 317. 

62. E. Guevara, ‘Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom’, Che Guevara Speaks, p. 159. 

63. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 

102. The idea that a revolutionary party would form ‘in die natural course of die liberation struggle’, as it had in Cuba, was an illusion. Mandel held that Cuba was an exception and that to hope for spontaneous party formation was to idealize empiricism and pragmatism. Perry Anderson, the editor of New Left Review, agreed with this criticism, though unlike Mandel he thought this difference of opinion with the twenty-four-year-old Debray was minor. E. Mandel to P. Anderson, 21 January 1966, E. Mandel Archives, folder 32. 

103. Ibid. 

104. University of Texas: Fidel Castro speech database. The conference took place 3-15 January 1966. Its official title was ‘First Afro-Äsian-.Latin American Peoples’ Solidarity Conference’, The Fourth International’s response appeared in Quatrième Internationale, February 1966. 

105. Miguel to ‘Dear Friends’, 1 March 1966, E. Mandel Archives, folder 32. 

106. E. Mandel to E. Federn, 1 July 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 37. 

107. G. Mandel to K. Meschkat, 12 June 1967, cited in R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch: Wege der Revolution in Lateinamerika, Munich, 1968, pp. 257-61. 

108. Ibid. 

109. E. Mandel, ‘Cuba 1967 et la première conférence de l’OLAS’, La Gauche, 9 September 1967. 

110. G. Scholtz to K. Meschkat, 29 June 1967, cited in R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch, pp. 261-9. 

111. T. Szulc, Fidel: A Critical Portrait, London, 1987, p. 497. 

112. M. Kenner and J. Petras, eds, Fidel Castro Speaks, New York, 1969, pp. 14563. 

113. E. Mandel to P. Refflinghaus, 17 July 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 38. 

114. E. Mandel to G. Horst, 26 October 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 38. 

115. ‘L’exemple de “Che” Guevara inspirera des millions de militants par le monde’, La Gauche, 21 October 1967. ‘ “Che” est mort’, La Gauche, 28 October 1967. 

116.Le Monde, 27 October 1967. 

117. D. Bensaid, Une Lente impatience, Paris, 2004, p. 75. 

118 .Ibid., p. 76. Also: H. Hamon and P. Rotman, Génération, vol. 1: Les années de rêve, Paris, 1987, p. 384. 

119. D. Bensaid, Une lente impatience, p. 76. 

120. E. Guevara, ‘Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom’, op. cit., p. 159. 

121. E. Guevara, ‘Notes on Man and Socialism in Cuba’, in Che Guevara Speaks, p. 136. J. Miermeister, Ernst Bloch, Rudi Dutschke, Hamburg, 1996, p. 144. 123. R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch124. Author’s interview with K. Meschkat, 10 September 2004.