Letters to Socialist Viewpoint
June 14, 2002
Just received the May 15th issue. I got many reports, articles, etc., about [the antiwar protests in San Francisco and Washington D.C.]. Socialist Viewpoints was the deepest the fullestthe best. As was stated in the excellent and important editorial [on the French presidential election], this is a period of deepening radicalization of mass consciousness .
I remember studying Trotskys writings on fascism in Canadawhere I lived in the early 50s. A large number of workers had come from Europe to Canada and the bosses used them as cheap labor while developing prejudice against them. Armed with Trotskys understanding, we fought with the New Colonials against the bosses. I can still hear 10,000 Italian workers singing the Red Flag at a big strike in Toronto.
Marx said that the development of capitalism would result in the near elimination of all classes except the working class and the capitalist class. At the time, this was rejected as foolish for there was a number of sizeable and powerful classesthe peasantry (U.S. small farmers), the aristocracy, the merchants, the small bourgeoisie, etc. The big bosses and the working class were relatively small. But history proved Marx correct.
When Trotsky wrote his great analysis of fascism, it was in the 1920s and 30ssome 70 to 80 years ago. In Canada and the United States, at the time, there was a sizeable class of small farmers, as well as small family businesses. Their numbers and social strength was considerable. There was even an aristocracy in Canada in the French areas. These classes were the perfect groups for the capitalist class to use for fascism when it becomes necessary.
The Socialist Workers Party in its latest pamphlet on the Farmers Struggle in the United States calls for a workers and small farmers government. I had a long correspondence with the writer of that pamphlet and he proved to me he did not know what has happened on the farms in the last 25 years. To call for saving the family farmer, is like calling for saving the family grocery store. The family grocery is dead, finished. Calling for saving it is at best utopian.
There are in the U.S. today only basically two classes; workers and capitalists. The capitalists know this and we need to know it too.
In the developing of fascism in the U.S., today, the capitalists cannot use what is not. They need to use the working class against itself. The petty proprietor and the small farmer will play no role in the development of fascism. A section of the working class will be and is now used against itself.
The Socialist Workers Organization needs to develop a program for fighting the use of the working class against itself.
With Warmest Comradely Greetings,
Free market water? Its a double steal!
Ric Davidge, president of Alaska Water Exports, a division of Arctic Ice and Water Exports, Inc., an international corporation, submitted applications to the State of California in June 2001. This company wants bladder bagging rights to our North Coast Rivers.
This outfit wants to go upstream of the estuary, a quarter mile above the brackish water line and sink a cistern in the riverbed, along with a buried 2-foot pipeline extending out to the ocean. At an offshore mooring, the captured water will be pumped into 250 feet-wide by 1,000 foot-long rubber bladder bags. Amounts up to 250 acre-feet per day are being applied for. A description of the project in their application papers read as follows:
The purpose of this application for water rights in the Gualala River is to capture, pump, and convey river water to offshore loading buoys for export to west coast municipalities and water utilities. That is to say they are applying to our state governments for rights to steal our water! Steal number one!
Delving deeper into this subject, one learns that Arctic Ice and Water Exports has profited greatly from sales of bottled water! Profits now propelling them into bladder bagging more fresh water from our environment. That is to say, the fresh river water that they want to steal from us, they will be selling back to us as bottled water! Steal number two!
Let this be a wake-up call, people. Water is life! No water, no life! Do we really want corporations privatizing water? Should a corporate bottom line dictate who gets water?
(Much of this was taken from the spring 2002 issue of the Eel River Reporter, from an article by Nadananda, their Executive director.)
I enjoyed reading the article, Cuba, Democracy and the Need for World Socialism, by Nat Weinstein in the June issue of Socialist Viewpoint. I wrote a resolution for Socialist Action, which updated Joe Hansens analysis of Cuba in the context of the threat to the Cuban Revolution due to the ending of trade with the Soviet Block countries. That document was approved by Socialist Action in 1992 and confirms what I wrote then.
In the document I explained: The continued non-Stalinist character of the Cuban leadership and of the revolution has been evidenced in the egalitarian and democratic thrust of the revolution from the beginning to today. The revolution has relied on the mobilization of the masses for implementing its major achievements and for its defense.
In the 1980s, I was a little pessimistic about the chances for the Cuban revolution to survive. At that time, Castro was a minority in the Cuban Communist Party (CCP). Yet he took his position to the streets and mobilized the population to defend the gains of the Cuban revolution.
To the dismay and horror of the U.S. ruling capitalist class, the strength and the power of humanity when it acts socially in its own interests, Cuba has survived and is stronger today than it has ever been. In testimony to the egalitarian and democratic thrust of the revolution, Castro and his fellow revolutionaries are no longer a minority in the CCP.
It is my opinion based on the information now available about the municipal and national assemblies with the right to recall of elected officials, that the Cuban Government is the most democratic government in the history of the world with the exception of the brief period in the Soviet Union when the soviets had the power and there was the right to form tendencies in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky.
A good example of the democratic thrust of the Cuban Revolution is the democratic distribution of what is produced in Cuba. While social services are being cut in the capitalist democracies, Cuba continues to improve its world-class education, medical, and social services. One other aspect that is not given its proper due, is the democratic distribution of arms in Cuba.
In a Jan. 4, 1990 speech, Castro challenged the rest of the world to follow Cubas example where the workers, the peasants, and the students have the weapons.
He said: To some of the Western countries that question democracy in Cuba, we can say: There can be no democracy superior to that where the workers, the peasants, and the students have the weapons. They have the weapons. To all those from countries that question democracy in Cuba we can say: Give weapons to the workers, give weapons to the peasants, give weapons to the students, and well see whether tear gas will be hurled against workers on strike, against any organization that struggles for peace, against the students. . . .
I believe that the supreme test of democracy is arming the people! When defense becomes the task of the entire people and weapons become the prerogative of the entire people, then they can talk about democracy. Until then, [U.S. imperialism unleashes] specialized police forces and armies to crush the people whenever the people protest against the abuses and injustices of the bourgeois system, whether in a Third World capitalist country or in a developed capitalist country.
To the editors of Socialist Viewpoint:
I agree with much of Nat Weinsteins article Cuba, Democracy and the Need for World Socialism in the July 15th issue of Socialist Viewpoint. However, I think the depiction of socialism in both Nats article and Fidel Castros speeches, are incomplete and misleading.
Fidel Castro seems to believe that Cuba is already a socialist country, an idea that Socialist Viewpoint does not dispute. Nat Weinstein offers contradictory descriptions. On the first page of text, for example, the phrases Cuban version of socialism, Cuba provides a prime example of socialism without the negative features associated with Soviet Stalinism and Cubas socialist mode of production. Then, on the next page, Nat, more accurately, in my opinion, says Cuba is a workers state but may be called socialist only because of the force of possibilities inherent in a nationalized, planned economy based on production for use, not profit. For such a society to be characterized as socialist in its full sense, it must first reach a level of productivity capable of providing the necessities of life in such abundance that it is no longer necessary to measure what each member of society contributes and takes from its total product.
This definition, in my opinion, is not only confusing, but inaccurate. What Nat has described is a futuristic goal of socialism, not a definition of what socialism is. Marxian socialism is a society in which the working class, through its own democratic institutions, owns and operates the means of production and abolishes the political state.
Unless Nat (and Socialist Viewpoint) disagrees with my definition I would challenge him to demonstrate to me that Cuba, in any sense, is a socialist society. According to my understanding the Cuban unions compete with the political government (the state) and the Communist Party (Castro) for power, but have only limited influence.
I think this point is very important in the sense that we must educate the working class as to what socialism is and what it isnt. Despite the many contributions that Fidel Castro has made to the Cuban people and the real difficulties the capitalist world has placed in Cubas path, it is, I believe, a disservice to our cause to add further confusion to our class as to the real meaning of socialism. There is enough misinformation already.
The author of the June article on Cuba replies:
What are the proper criteria for characterizing a country as having achieved socialism? I dont think we really have a major disagreement in that regard. One purpose of my article was to counter the widespread belief among those who consider themselves revolutionary Marxists that the Cuban leadership is Stalinist, and that at best, Cuba is in essence, a deformed workers state that could reach socialism only by first overthrowing Cubas Castroist leadership and its government.
The editors of this magazine do not share that view. We saw the differences between the Cuban leadership and the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorships in Eastern Europe and Asia from the outset. And the history of the development of Cubas revolutionary leadership since their socialist revolution offers much further confirmation of our evaluation of its revolutionary character.
There are both strengths and weaknesses of the Cuban leaders. But the main point I made was that the full flowering of the revolutionary kernel that is the Cuban Communist Party is possible. And for that reason, those interested in advancing the cause of world socialism should pay the closest attention to Cuba and put its survival and progress toward socialism high on our agenda.
Ralph is certainly correct in concluding that to simply call Cuba socialist without important qualifications is wrong. But I did nothing of the sort. The logic of Marxism whose fundamental thesis is the cognition of the one and its division into its antagonistic parts provprovides the means to understand this question.
The statements Ralph cites in criticism are indeed real contradictions, not terminological contradictions. It is analogous to the United States political system as a democracy, in one context, but a dictatorship in another. The first characterization is based on the fact that the American political system is one of a number of different forms of democracy. And the second is based on the role that great wealth plays in the distortion of Americas bourgeois democratic system which, even many capitalists today argue, negates the formal democratic right inherent in the principle of one person, one vote.
But while I wrote about the contradictory sides of Cuban socialism, where it was socialist and where it wasnt, I also put the two sides of the Cuba contradiction in the same paragraph: That is, that Cuba may be called socialist only because of the force of possibilities inherent in a nationalized, planned economy based on production for use, not profit. For such a society to be characterized as socialist in its full sense, it must first reach a level of productivity capable of providing the necessities of life in such abundance that it is no longer necessary to measure what each member of society contributes and takes from its total product.
I can only conclude that Ralphs criticism is about my description of the fundamental criteria of a truly socialist society. He argues: What Nat has described is a futuristic goal of socialism, not a definition of what socialism is. Marxian socialism is a society in which the working class, through its own democratic institutions, owns and operates the means of production and abolishes the political state.
But only the anarchists, who reject Marxism, believe that the state can be abolished; Marxists have always explained that with the very first successful socialist revolution, the state begins to whither away once the socialist mode of production has replaced the capitalist mode of production for profitthat is, with the establishment of a planned and nationalized economy. Providing, of course, that its leadership remains democratic and committed to the defense of working class interests, which are in its most important respects consistent with the interests of the entire human race.
In fact the socialist mode of distribution, which is the criterion for designating a society as socialist, can begin growing at the very outset of a victorious socialist revolutioneven under the most intensive economic and political assaults by world capitalism. Even the Stalinized Soviet Union, whose leadership was anything but democratic, was able to make enormous leaps forward in productivity. However the absolute exclusion of workers and consumers from the planning and managing of the socialized productive forces ultimately eroded and negated the development of the Soviet economy.
The Cuban state, and all other workers states start from the beginning to also violate little by little the capitalist mode of distribution which is based on the capitalist law of value. Thus the very basic life-supporting commodities are supplied to the entire population at a price below their cost of production. Thus rents in Cuba are either absent or well below what their cost would be if the law of value was allowed free reign in setting prices. That principle guides all prices in Cuba. The richer the workers state becomes, a proper revolutionary socialist leadership would gradually extend this principle of socialist distribution to the furthest extent possible. Thus the flip side of the state withering away in post-capitalist societies is that the socialist mode of distribution begins flowering as the state withers away.
As Lenin put it in his study of this very question in his pamphlet, State and Revolution, the state completely withers away only when such a level of productivity has been achieved that democracy itself has also withered away. At that point, when all class divisions have evaporated and there is no longer any material factors that pit one human being against another; the need for the subordination of the minority to a majority also disappears!
To be sure, I have not said the last word on this question of the proper criteria for a socialist society. I will only say in no uncertain terms that I dont think Cuba is socialist, but is moving as fast as it can toward making life better for the Cuban people and placing the strictest controls on the growth of a privileged caste of bureaucrats such as exists in all other states.
However, Cuba by itself cannot possibly achieve the kind of abundance necessary for the institution of the socialist mode of distribution. That can only be achieved by the extension of the socialist revolutionor at least its extension to the United States of America. A socialist revolution in the United States, and the advent of a U.S.-Cuban socialist union would open the door to a level of abundance that would make socialism a reality in both countries and far beyond in a relatively very short period of time.
But most important, the Cuban Communist Party has shown that it has an extraordinary ability to learn from experience and shows its capacity to play a very significant and positive role in the coming global explosion of class struggle. The defense of the Cuban revolution, therefore, should be high on the agenda of revolutionary Marxists wherever they are and whatever differences may exist among them.