Socialism

17
Jun

 

September 26, 2011 — First posted at Cuba’s Socialist Renewal, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission — Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban Perspective is a new Cuban book, published in Spanish earlier this year. This important and timely compilation is edited by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker (pictured above). Avid readers of Cuba’s Socialist Renewal will recall that I translated and posted a commentary by Camila, titled "Cuba Needs Changes" [also available at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal], back in January. Camila lives in Cuba and has a degree in sustainable development from the University of Berkeley, California. She is a professor at the Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy at Havana University, and her works have been published both in Cuba and outside the island.

Camila hopes her book may be published in English soon. In the meantime, she has kindly agreed to allow me to translate and publish this extract from her preface to Cooperatives and Socialism with permission from a prospective publisher. I hope that sharing this extract with readers will make you want to read the whole book. If it does become available in English I’ll post the details here. If you read Spanish you can download the 420-page book as a PDF here or here.

At the end of the text you’ll find the footnotes and table of contents, translated from the Spanish — Marce Cameron, editor Cuba’s Socialist Renewal

Preface to Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban perspective (extract)

By Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, translated by Marce Cameron

 

This book arises from the urgent need for us to make a modest contribution to the healthy “birth” of the new Cuban cooperativism and its subsequent spread. Given that cooperatives are foreshadowed as one of the organisational forms of labour in the non-state sector in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Centre approached me to compile this book. The Centre has made an outstanding contribution to popular education aimed at nurturing and strengthening the emancipatory ethical values, critical thinking, political skills and organisational abilities indispensable for the conscious and effective participation of social subjects. The Centre considers it timely and necessary to support efforts to raise awareness about a type of self-managed economic entity whose principles, basic characteristics and potentialities are unknown in Cuba. There is every indication that such self-managed entities could play a significant role in our new economic model.

For this to happen we must grapple with the question at the heart of this compilation: Is the production cooperative an appropriate form of the organisation of labour for a society committed to building socialism? There is no doubt that this question cannot be answered in a simplistic or absolute fashion. Our aim here is to take only a first step towards answering this question from a Cuban perspective in these times of change and rethinking, guided by the anxieties and hopes that many Cubans have about our future.

When it is proposed that the production cooperative be one – though not the only – form of enterprise in Cuba, three concerns above all are frequently encountered: some consider it too “utopian” and therefore inefficient; others, on the basis of the cooperatives that have existed in Cuba, suspect that they will not have sufficient autonomy[1] or that they will be “too much like state enterprises”; while others still, accustomed to the control over enterprise activities exercised by a state that intervenes directly and excessively in enterprise management, reject cooperativism as too autonomous and therefore a “seed of capitalism”. This book tries to take account of all these concerns, though there is no doubt that more space would be required to address them adequately.

The first concern is addressed to some extent with the data provided in the first part of the book regarding the existence and economic activity of cooperatives worldwide today. This shows that the cooperative is not an unachievable fantasy that disregards the objective and subjective requirements of viable economic activity. Thus, the experiences of cooperatives in the Basque Country, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela that are summarised in the third part of the book demonstrate that cooperatives can be more efficient than capitalist enterprises, even on the basis of the hegemonic capitalist conception of efficiency that ignores externalities, i.e. the impact of any enterprise activity on third parties.

The efficiency of cooperatives is greater still if we take into consideration all of the positive outcomes inherent in their management model, which can be summarised as the full human development[2] of its members and, potentially, of local communities. The democratic abilities and attitudes that cooperative members develop through their participation in its management can be utilised in other social spaces and organisations. Moreover, genuine cooperatives free us from some of the worst of the negative externalities (dismissals, environmental contamination, loss of ethical values) generated by enterprises oriented towards profit maximisation rather than the satisfaction of the needs of their workers.

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Category : Cooperatives | Cuba | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
8
Apr

On the Transition to Socialism in Venezuela

By John Bellamy Foster
Monthly Review – April 2015

On October 20, 2012, less than two weeks after being reelected to his fourth term as Venezuelan president and only months before his death, Hugo Chávez delivered his crucial El Golpe de Timón (“Strike at the Helm”) speech to the first meeting of his ministers in the new revolutionary cycle.1 Chávez surprised even some of his strongest supporters by his insistence on the need for changes at the top in order to promote an immediate leap forward in the creation of what is referred to as “the communal state.” This was to accelerate the shift of power to the population that had begun with the formation of the communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, 200–400 families; in rural areas, 50–100 families). The main aim in the new revolutionary cycle, he insisted, was to speed up the registration of communes, the key structure of the communal state. In the communes, residents in geographical areas smaller than a city unite in a number of community councils with the object of self-governance through a communal parliament, constructed on participatory principles. The communes are political-economic-cultural structures engaged in such areas as food production, food security, housing, communications, culture, communal exchange, community banking, and justice systems. All of this had been legally constituted by the passage of the Organic Laws of Popular Power in 2010, including, most notably, the Organic Law of the Communes and the Organic Law of the Communal Economic System.

Chávez’s “Strike at the Helm” speech, which insisted on the rapid construction of communes, was to be one of the most important and memorable speeches of his career. It offers the key to the past, present, and future of the Venezuelan revolution. More than that, it presents us with new insights into the whole question of the transition to socialism in the twenty-first century.2

In March 2011, when I was the sole U.S. participant in a small group of socialist intellectuals from the Americas and Europe invited to Caracas to confer with the country’s top ministers on the future of the Bolivarian Revolution, it was already apparent that the full implementation of Venezuela’s 2010 “Organic Law of the Commons,” the most crucial enactment of the revolution, faced major obstacles.3 Although there were thousands of communal councils there were as yet no registered communes—the larger territorial organizations of which communal councils were to form a part, and which would represent the real basis for popular power. Nor at that point, during a presidential election cycle that was to determine the future of the Bolivarian Revolution, was it easy to move forward in this respect. Indeed, there was clearly considerable confusion at the ministerial level around the question of how the establishment of the communes, the most important element in the revolutionary process, would be accomplished, if at all.4

Hence, it was a historic moment when Chávez in his October 2012 speech crossed this Rubicon. He insisted on a full-scale socialist political transformation, with the intention of decisively shifting political power to the people, and by that means making the revolution irreversible. In addressing the communes in his “Strike at the Helm” speech, Chávez commenced by referring to István Mészáros’s Beyond Capital, not only in order to lay down certain basic principles, but also with the aim of once again urging those engaged in the Bolivarian Revolution to study Mészáros’s analysis, as the most developed and strategic theory of socialist transition:

Here I have a [book written by] István Mészáros, chapter XIX called “The Communal System and the Law of Value.” There is a sentence that I underlined a while ago, I am going to read it to you, ministers and vice president, speaking of the economy, of economic development, speaking of the social impulses of the revolution: “The yardstick,” says Mészáros, “of socialist achievements is the extent to which the adopted measures and policies actively contribute to the constitution and deep-rooted consolidation of a substantively democratic…mode of overall social control and self-management.”

Therefore we arrive at the issue of democracy. Socialism is in its essence truly democratic, while, on the other hand, there is capitalism: quintessentially anti-democratic and exclusive, the imposition of capital by the capitalist elite. But socialism is none of these things, socialism liberates; socialism is democracy and democracy is socialism, in politics, the social sphere, and in economics.5

Presenting an age-old principle of revolutionary theory, associated most famously with Marx, Chávez argued: “It must always be this way: first the political revolution, political liberation and then economic revolution. We must maintain political liberation and from that point the political battle is a permanent one, the cultural battle, the social battle.”6 The problem of a transition to socialism was then, first of all, a political one: creating an alternative popular, participatory, protagonist base. Only then could changes in economics, production, and property take place. This new popular base of power had to have equivalent power in the organization of what Mészáros called the necessary “social metabolic reproduction” to that of capital itself, displacing the latter. It needed, in Chávez’s words, to “form part of a systematic plan, of something new, like a network…a network that works like a gigantic spider’s web covering the new territory.” Indeed, “if it didn’t work this way,” he insisted, “it would all be doomed to fail; it would be absorbed by the old system, which would swallow it up, because capitalism is an enormous amoeba, it is a monster.” (Continued)

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Category : Capitalism | Socialism | Venezuela | Blog
4
Mar

By Zhang Yu
Chinese Social Sciences Today

March 3, 2015 – Since reform and opening-up, China has succeeded in taking the new path of socialist economic development with Chinese characteristics. The vigor and vitality of the Chinese economy has attracted the attention of the world. However, there are various opinions about how to summarize the experience and significance of China’s economic reform and development.

In recent years, a new dogmatic thought has been in vogue in economics. It claims that there is only one type of economics all over the world: Western mainstream economics. This model, it is held, is a universal science without borders, like natural science, and is a general principle that China’s economic reform and development must follow.

Dominated by such a logic, a version of the mainstream economics on the Chinese experience has been formed: the Chinese experience, at best, is “transition economics,” which is a form of transition to capitalist standard market economy and has no universal significance of economics. Achievements of the Chinese economy are owed to the effective application of these “general principles,” such as developing the private economy, free markets and the opening-up to the outside world.

Problems with the Chinese economy are attributed to deviation from these “general principles,” such as retaining the state economy, government intervention and independence, which will bring about the collapse of the Chinese economy sooner or later if they are not completely resolved. Suffice to say all elements that don’t conform to the standard patterns of mainstream economics are considered to have deviated from and distorted “general principles.” However, this idea is quite wrong and harmful.

We may learn from modern Western economics, which is universal since it reflects the motion law of the market economy to some extent. Meanwhile, it is specific. There are different schools of Western economics as well as different mainstream theories in different eras and countries.
Take neoclassical economics currently viewed as the Western mainstream, for example. It has been widely criticized by other schools of economics. It is thought to emphasize logic and neglect history, deny differences between people’s behaviors in different social systems and historical conditions, and exclude the influence of complex factors, such as technology, politics and culture.

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Category : Capitalism | China | Socialism | Blog
13
Feb

By Yang Chungui

Translated by Jiang Yajuan and Zhang Hongyan, from Zhongguo shehui kexue, 2000, no. 1 Revised by Yu Sheng and Su Xuetao

January 9 2012

Tremendous changes have taken place in the history of mankind during the twentieth century. In the first half of the century socialism shocked the world with its great successes over large areas of the earth. However, in the final years of the century its setbacks also astounded the world, especially its failure in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. These great changes raised the question of the future and destiny of socialism.

In view of the ecstatic response of Western hostile forces to the "grand failure of communism," and the pessimism of those who once believed in socialism, Deng Xiaoping said categorically, "After a long time, socialism will necessarily supersede capitalism. This is an irreversible general trend of historical development…..Some countries have suffered major setbacks, and socialism appears to have been weakened. But the people have been tempered by the setbacks and have drawn lessons from them, and that will make socialism develop in a healthier direction."[i] This conclusion has been borne out by the successful practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics in China and will be further borne out in the coming century by socialist practice throughout the world, including that in China.

I. Socialism Is a Historical Process With Twist and Turns in Its Development

Dialectical materialism tells us that things develop with a combination of progress and reverses. The general trend in towards progress and development, but the road is full of twists and turns. This is the case in the natural world and also in social life. Every new social system undergoes numerous difficulties during its birth and development. Capitalism was finally substituted for feudalism after 48 years of struggle against the restoration of feudalism in Britain, and 86 years of repeated trails of strength in France. It took two to three hundred years for capitalism as a whole to grow from its infancy to a mature stage amidst continuous economic and political crises. This was the case in the development of capitalism, in which a new form of exploitation replaced the old, let alone the socialist movement that will destroy all systems of exploitation. It is entirely impractical to expect socialism to enjoy a favorable wind all the way and encounter no resistance.

Socialism has experience many setbacks and low ebbs, but the general trend towards socialism replacing capitalism has never changed. During the more than 150 years since the appearance of the theory of scientific socialism, it has developed from the conception of revolutionary teachers into the guiding principle of the workers’ movement all over the world, from theory into practice, and from the practice in one country into that in many countries, presenting a constantly growing dynamic movement. It is inevitable that there will be local reverses and temporary low tides or even reverses during this process. Marxists who keep a clear head with regard to the development law of human society do not feel puzzled by these outward phenomena, but unswervingly believe in the final victory of socialism and communism, and face the harsh realities with high morale, calmly taking up the gauntlet.

In 1987 during the Paris Commune uprising, Karl Marx scientifically predicted that, "whatever therefore its fate in Paris, it will make le tour du monde."[ii] More than forty years later, the victory of the October Revolution in Russia confirmed Marx’s brilliant foresight. When the first socialist country in the world faced grave crises due to armed intervention from fourteen imperialist states, in addition to domestic rebellion, Lenin firmly pointed out that, "Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the impasse which imperialism and imperialist wars have created. Whatever difficulties the revolution may have to encounter, whatever possible temporary setbacks or waves of counter-revolution it may have to contend with, the final victory of the proletariat is inevitable."[iii] The revolutionary road followed by the Chinese people was even more difficult and convoluted. In the 28 years before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese democratic revolution suffered repeated setbacks and failures. On 12 April 1927, Jiang Jieshi staged a bloody coup d’etat against the revolution and threw the Chinese people into bloodshed. But the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese people were neither cowed, conquered nor exterminated. They picked themselves up, wiped off the blood, buried their fallen comrades and went into battle again. Furthermore, they learned to use armed revolution against armed counterrevolution and went to the countryside to build rural base areas. In the beginning, in the face of a very powerful enemy, some people asked: "How long will the red flag fly?" With foresight comrade Mao Zedong pointed out that, "A single spark can start a prairie fire." But the prairie fire also experienced many ups and downs and, particularly the last days of the land revolution, Wang Ming’s "Left error led to the loss of 90 per cent of the Party and revolutionary forcers in the base areas and an almost complete loss in the Guomindang-controlled areas. However, after the Red Army arrived in northern Shaanxi, the CPC summed up its experiences and lessons learned and went on to defeat all its enemies and win the final victory of the democratic revolution.

The road to socialist construction was equally uneven. In addition to minor upheavals, there were two events of major significance; the three-years Great Leap Forward beginning in 1958, and the ten-year "cultural revolution" beginning in 1966. These errors caused enormous losses and led to grave crises in China. However, after the Third Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the CPC we became more mature and initiated a new phase of constructing socialism with Chinese characteristics. History is a mirror and tells us that no matter how difficult the situation, and whatever setbacks the revolution may experience, it will win in the end because it follows the law and direction of historical development.

Violent changes took place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 90s. The communist parties lost their ruling position, socialism was abandoned, and the world socialist movement suffered its greatest setback this century. Hostile forces in the West were excited and asserted categorically that Marxism and socialism were bankrupt. The future and destiny were pregnant with grim possibilities and some people became pessimistic. Confronted by local failure and temporary setbacks, Comrade Deng Xiaoping solemnly stated with the foresight of a great statesman, "Don’t panic, don’t think that Marxism has disappeared, that it’s not useful any more and that it has been defeated. Nothing of the sort!"[iv] When socialism was at a low ebb across the world it radiated vigor and dynamism in China. China’s economy has been developing rapidly and in a healthy manner, the living conditions of the people have been improving and the overall capacity of the country has been strengthened. All these indisputable achievements have been highly appreciated by all those who harbor no prejudice against China. The great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping theory is not only a pioneering undertaking in. China but also of world significance. Deng Xiaoping pointed out that if we can achieve the strategic goal of reaching the level of moderately developed countries by the middle of the next century, "we shall not only have blazed a new path for the peoples of the Third World, who represent three quarters of world’s population, but also – and is even more important – we shall have demonstrated to mankind that socialism is the only path and that it is superior to capitalism."[v]

Complex objective and subjective reasons account for the twist and turns in the development of socialism. First, the long-term existence of class struggle both at home and abroad. "The tree desires stillness but the wind will not cease." Class struggle exists independent of man’s will. Where there is a struggle there will inevitably be fluctuations, and high and low tides, victory and defeat, and progress and setbacks are just normal phenomena and are not unexpected. Second, the socialist system is a completely new social system in the history of mankind and its development has to undergo a long historical process from inexperience to experience, from imperfect to perfect, from immature to mature. It is hard to completely avoid mistakes, twists and reverses during this process. We can try to arrive at a correct understanding by following the patter, "practice, knowledge, and then back to practice, knowledge," constantly summing up our experiences and moving step by step from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. Third, if the party and government leadership of a socialist country cannot earnestly correct their political errors or effectively combat corruption within their ranks, the situation will become complex and grave, and major reverses or even great historical retrogression will follow. The first two are objective in nature, while the third is subjective. If no major problems occur with regard to the leadership, the wheel of history will not be turned back even though it is impossible to avoid minor setbacks. However, from a long-term perspective, no matter what twists and turns may take place, these only constitute a link in the whole chain of historical development, they do not, and cannot, after the general trend of historical development. This is just like the, Yellow River: it has many turns and meanderings, but it nevertheless continues to flow into the eastern seas. In this regard we must pay attention to the following points: 1. Do not take the temporary setbacks as the end of point of historical development. On the contrary, we should observe things from the perspective of historical development and take the setbacks for what they reality are, a temporary phenomenon and a link in the chain in human history. We must be firm in our faith and conviction in the face of any difficulties and grasp the general trend of historical development. 2. We should earnestly summarize our experience and the lessons learned and try by every means to avoid losses that could be avoided. The pivotal point in this connection is to strengthen the building of the Party and maintain the correctness of leadership. 3. We are convinced that even in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in which there have been great historical reverses, the broad masses and the true communists will re-select the socialist road after conscientious reflection – this process may be and painful, but undoubtedly things will develop in this direction – this is a historical law independent of man’s will.

II. Summarizing the Historical Experience of Socialism in a Scientific Way

Engels pointed out that, "There is no better road to theoretical clearness of comprehension than to learn by one’s mistakes, durch Schaden klug werden."[vi] Deng Xiaoping said, "In building socialism we have had both positive and negative experience, and they are equally useful to us."[vii] "The experience of successes is valuable, and so is the experience of mistakes and defeats. Formulating principles and policies in this way enables us to unify the thinking of the whole Party so as to achieve a new unity: unity formed on this basis is most reliable."[viii]

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Category : Capitalism | China | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
17
Jan

Bus/Taxi Coop in Cuba

Cuba is poised to be the first country in the world to have cooperatives make up a major portion of its economy. It is a laboratory for a new society.

By Cliff DuRand

Cuba is engaged in a fundamental reshaping of its society. Calling it a renovation of socialism or a renewal of socialism, the country is re-forming the economic system away from the state socialist model adopted in the 1970s toward something quite new. This is not the first time Cuba has undertaken significant changes, but this promises to be deeper than previous efforts, moving away from that statist model. Fidel confessed in 2005 that “among the many errors that we committed, the most serious error was believing that someone knew how to build socialism.” That someone, of course, was the Soviet Union. So, Cuba is still trying to figure out for itself how to build socialism.

To understand the current renovation it is important to distinguish between ownership and possession of property. The productive resources of society are to remain under state ownership in the name of all the people. Reforms do not change the ownership system. Reforms are changing the management system, bringing managerial control closer to those who actually possess property. So while the state will continue to own, greater autonomy will be given to those who possess that property. In effect, Cuba is embracing the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions should be made at the lowest level feasible and higher levels should give support to the local. This means more enterprise autonomy in state enterprises and it means cooperatives outside of the state.

It is expected that in the next couple years the non-state sector is expected to provide 35% of the employment. Along with foreign and joint ventures, the non-state sector as a whole will contribute an estimated 45% of the gross domestic product (PIB). Hopefully coops will become a dominant part of that non-state sector.

Cooperatives

Already 83% of agricultural land is in coops. Much of that has been in the UBPCs (Basic Units of Cooperative Production) formed in the 1990s out of the former state farms. But these were not true cooperatives since they still came under the control of state entities. Now they are being given the autonomy to become true coops.

Even more significantly, new urban coops are being established in services and industry. 222 experimental urban coops are to be opened in 2013. As of 1st of July, 124 have been formed in agricultural markets, construction, and transportation. A big expansion in this number is expected in 2014.

In December 2012 the National Assembly passed an urban coop law that establishes the legal basis for these new coops. Here are some of its main provisions:

  • A coop must have at least 3 members, but can have as many as 60 or more. One vote per socio. As self-governing enterprises, coops are to set up their own internal democratic decision making structures.
  • –Coops are independent of the state. They are to respond to the market. This is to overcome the limits that hampered some agricultural coops in the past.
  • –Coops can do business with state and private enterprises. They will set their own prices in most cases, except where there are prices established by the state.
  • –Some coops will be conversions of state enterprises, e.g. restaurants. They can have 10 year renewable leases for use of the premises, paying no rent in the first year if improvements are made.
  • –Others will be start-up coops.
  • –There will be second degree coops which are associations of other coops.
  • –Capitalization will come from bank loans, a new Finance Ministry fund for coops and member contributions. Member contributions are treated as loans (not equity) and do not give additional votes. Loans are to be repaid from profits.
  • –Coops are to pay taxes on profits and social security for socios.
  • –Distribution of profits is to be decided by socios after setting aside a reserve fund.
  • –Coops may hire wage labor on a temporary basis (up to 90 days). After 90 days a temporary worker must be offered membership or let go. Total temporary worker time cannot exceed 10% of the total work days for the year. This gives coops flexibility to hire extra workers seasonally or in response to increased market demands, but prevents significant collective exploitation of wage labor.

This is a big step forward for Cuba. Since 1968 the state has sought to run everything from restaurants to barber shops and taxis. Some were done well, many were not. One problem was worker motivation. Decisions were made higher up and as state employees, workers enjoyed job security even with poor performance. However, their pay was low. Now as socios in cooperatives they will have incentives to make the business a success. The coop is on its own to either prosper or go under. Each member’s income and security depends on the collective. And each has the same voting right in the General Assembly where coop policy is to be made. Coops combine material and moral incentives, linking individual interest with a collective interest. Each socio prospers only if all prosper.

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Category : Cooperatives | Cuba | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Blog
23
Dec

clip_image002Based on experiences of Brazil, Venezuela and the state of Kerala, India

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes

[Paper presented at the International Scientific Academic Meeting on Methodology and Experiences in Socio-environmental Participatory processes, Cuenca University, November 13-15, 2014.*]

December 19, 2014 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — These words are aimed at those who want to build a humanist and solidarity-based society. A society based on the complete participation of all people. A society focused on a model of sustainable development that satisfies people’s genuine needs in a just manner, and not the artificial wants created by capitalism in its irrational drive to obtain more profits. A society that does all this while ensuring that humanity’s future in not put at risk. A society where the organized people are the ones who decide what and how to produce. A society we have referred to as Twenty-First Century Socialism, Good Living or Life in Plenitude.

The question is how can we achieve this complete participation? How can we guarantee as much as possible that all citizens, and not just activists or leftists, take an interest in participation? How can we achieve the participation of middle class sectors alongside popular sectors? How can we ensure that solidarian interests prevail over selfish ones? How can we attend to the concerns of the poorest and most forgotten and repay the social debt inherited by previous governments?

I am convinced that it is through what we have called “decentralized participatory planning” that we can achieve these objectives. We have reached this conclusion not on the basis of reading books and academic debates, but through the study of practical experiences of participatory budgets and participatory planning, primarily in Brazil, Venezuela and the Indian state of Kerala.

We were very attracted to the experience of participatory budgeting undertaken by the regional Workers’ Party government in Porto Alegre, Brazil, because we saw it as a new, transparent, rather than corrupt, way of governing, that delegated power to the people.

In Venezuela, we got a strong sense of how the popular subject was strengthened through the initiative taken by Chávez to promote the creation of communal councils and his decision to grant them resources for small projects. This was not done in a populist manner, with the state coming in to satisfy the community’s demand; rather it occurred after a process of participatory planning where the citizens of the community implemented what he called “the communal cycle”, which involved the following actions: diagnosis, elaboration of a plan and budget, execution of the project, and control over how it was carried out.[1]

Lastly, our work was been greatly enhanced by what we learnt from one of the first experiences in the world of “decentralized participatory planning” that occurred in the Indian state of Kerala. There, a communist government decided to carry out an important process of decentralization, not only of monetary resources, but also material and human resources, to aid with the implementation of local development plans that were based on the active participation of local residents. The end result of this has been a more egalitarian economic development when compared to the rest of India, and a growth in resident’s self-esteem and self-confidence. This type of decentralization allowed for greater local government autonomy when it came to planning their development, which facilitated the progress of a much more effective participatory planning.

I. A decentralised participatory planning proposal

The type of planning we advocate is the antithesis of the centralized planning implemented under the Soviet Union. In the old USSR, it was thought that to coordinate all efforts towards building a new society, a central authority was required to decide objectives and means. It was a process in which decisions were always made from above, on many occasions without taking into consideration that down below was where people best knew the problems and possible solutions.

Similarly, often processes that claim to be participatory limit themselves to being processes of simple consultation. Rather than promoting a process of decision-making by citizens, local politicians limit themselves to consulting citizens. The people in the local area are called upon to participate in working groups where they are asked to point out their main priorities for public works and services for their respective communities. A technical team collects these and it is the technicians and not the people who decided upon which projects to implement. We don’t deny that a willingness to listen to people represents a step forward, but it is very limited.

We advocate a more integral process in which it is the people who genuinely discuss and decide upon their priorities, elaborate, where possible, their own projects and carry them out if they are in the condition to do so without having to depend on superior levels. We seek to fully involve citizens in the planning process, which is why we refer to it as participatory planning.

To achieve complete citizen’s participation we must take the plans of small localities as our starting point, where conditions are more favorable for peoples’ participation, and apply the principle that everything that can be done at a lower level should be decentralized to this level, and only keeping as competencies of higher up levels those tasks that cannot be carried out at a lower level. This principle is referred to as subsidiarity.

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Category : Democracy | India | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Venezuela | Blog
8
Nov

Photo: Interesting lineup. Stalin dropped, Chou En-Lai and Deng added

How Does Deng Xiaoping Create a New Historical Period?

By Li Hongfeng

Literature of Chinese Communist Party, Issue 4, 2014

Abstract:

Abstract: As the chief architect of China’s reform and opening up and socialist modernization drive, Deng Xiaoping created a new historical period of reform and opening up. During the historical process of advancing reform and opening up, Mr. Deng thoroughly demonstrated a strategist’s strategic thinking, judgment, design and decision. He created a new historical period, starting reaffirming and reinstating the Party’s ideological guideline of seeking truth from facts. After deeply studying the profound changes of domestic and foreign situations, Mr. Deng gave two important strategic judgments: China being and to be in the preliminary phase of socialism; and peace and development being two great issues of the contemporary world. On the basis of such two judgments, he made a series of far-reaching strategic decisions centering on his belief in socialist and communist causes. Mr. Deng suggested leadership should have principles, systematicness, foresight and creativity, which reflected Deng’s understanding of regularity in leadership and essential characteristics of his leading style.

In Deng’s life, he fell three times and rose up again. After Mr. Deng was reinstated at the third time, his career ushered in full swing and he created a new historical period of China’s reform and opening up. Looking back on the great historical process of Deng Xiaoping boosting reform and opening up and learning about his strategist’s wisdom in strategic thinking, judgment, design and decision can be beneficial to deepening reform comprehensively and carrying forward reform and opening up and socialist modernization drive.

I. Strategic starting point of defining ideological guidelines

The “cultural revolution” resulted in a ten-year-old turmoil and brought about severe calamities, incurring great costs to our Party, country and nation. The “left” wrongdoings can’t be continued and it is a must to correct those mistakes.

Deng Xiaoping undertook duties in a dangerous situation. As soon as taking office, Mr. Deng manifested a great strategist’s foresight. Facing the complex situation of many things waiting to be done, Deng Xiaoping grasped the most important link – starting from establishing the ideological guideline.

For Deng’s creation of a new historical period, it is a strategic starting point to reaffirm and reinstate the Party’s ideological guideline of seeking truth from facts.

Seeking truth from facts is our Party’s ideological guideline in both correctly understanding and changing the objective world. The China’s revolutionary process has fully proved: only on the basis of the guideline of seeking truth from facts, our Party could create the China’s revolutionary path of encircling the cities from the rural areas; our Party could find the three valuable approaches of the armed struggle, united front and party building; our Party could correctly resolve a series of basic problems on the nature, objective, driving force, goal and transformation of Chinese revolution; our Party could establish the correct political, military and organizing guidelines; our Party could build up a Marxist working-class vanguard in a semicolonial and semifeudal society with a large rural population and a small working-class population; our Party could successfully Sinicizing Marxism and create and develop Mao Zedong Though; our Party could surmount numerous hardships, overcome mistakes and frustrations in the progress, correctly sum up experience and lessons, unite all Party’s members and the whole Chinese nation and continuously accomplish new achievements. As the Party and Chinese people were armed with the ideological guideline of seeking truth from facts, the Chinese revolution embarked on the path to successes.

After become the ruling party, our Party had various mistakes and errors, especially the all-round wrongdoing of the “cultural revolution,” which was caused by various complex reasons but basically, resulted from the diversion from the ideological guideline of seeking truth from facts.

After smashing Gang of Four in 1976, the whole Party and nation were inspired. However, the wrong proposition of “two whatevers” remained restricting people’s thinking. The discussion on the criteria of truth succeeded in breaking the barriers of “two whatevers.” To support and promote the discussion on criteria of truth, Deng Xiaping made 26 remarks and speeches in less than two years in order to repeatedly expound on the essential reasons of seeking truth from facts.

Mr. Deng definitely pointed out: the “two whatevers” are wrong and don’t comply with both Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought. Marx, Engles, Lenin, Stalin or Mao Zedong proposed any “whatever.” It is not allowed to impair the whole Mao Zedong Thought with several or partial words and sentences. To follow Mao Zedong Thought shouldn’t focus on citations of Chairman Mao’s remarks but highlight the exertion of Mao’s essential thought.

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Category : China | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
31
Oct

 

Xi Jinping’s Tiger Hunt and the Politics of Corruption

By Andrew Wedeman

ChinaCenter.net

The Communist Party of China has been grappling with corruption almost from its birth. Corruption was one of the major issues during the 1989 anti-government demonstrations.

The leadership, in fact, responded to public anger over corruption and what was then known as “official profiteering” by launching a major campaign, in the course of which the number of individuals charged with corruption jumped from 33,000 in 1988 to 77,000 in 1989, and 72,000 in 1990.

Since the 1989 campaign, the leadership has waged an ongoing “war” against corruption and routinely prosecutes substantial numbers of officials. Between 1997 and 2012 the Supreme People’s Procuratorate reported that it indicted 550,000 individuals on either corruption or dereliction of duty charges, including three members of the powerful Politburo (Chen Xitong in 1997, Chen Liangyu in 2006, and Bo Xilai in 2012).

These prior efforts notwithstanding, upon assuming the office of General Secretary of the party in November 2012, Xi Jinping announced yet another campaign, which was formally approved by the Third Plenum of the Eighteen Party Congress in early November 2013. At first, the campaign appeared to be a repeat of the same old song and dance. Many of the steely toned slogans about the necessity to fight a life-and-death struggle against corruption and the need to put an end to extravagant spending by officials and cadres had been raised many times before.

Announcements of new regulations mandating fewer dishes at official banquets, banning the purchase of luxury sedans and their use for unofficial business, and the construction of lavish government buildings all reiterated orders issued in past years. Eighteen months on, however, it appears that far from a smoke and mirrors attempt to create the impression of action, Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign may well be the most sustained and intensive drive against corruption since the start of the reform era.

By the Numbers

Measuring the intensity of an anti-corruption campaign is, admittedly, a tricky business given that we cannot even roughly estimate the true extent of corruption. Instead, we can at best guess at the extent by asking experts for their impressions of how bad things are or tracking changes in the number of officials who suddenly stop being corrupt because they get caught. Indices such as the popular Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International would have us believe that rather than getting worse, corruption in China has actually been on the decline for at least a decade, with its score falling from 7.6 (out of a maximum of 10, where 10 is the most corrupt and 1 the least corrupt) in 1995 to 6.0 in 2013, which would put China just below the 75th percentile and hence not among the worst of the worse.1

Data on prosecutions tell a different story. The number of criminal indictments was up 9.4 percent in 2013, with the total number of corruption and dereliction cases increasing from 34,326 in 2012 to 37,551 in 2013 (see Figure 1). The number of officials holding position at the county and departmental levels who were indicted rose from 2,390 to 2,618, a 9.5 percent increase. The number of officials the prefectural and bureau levels who were indicted shot up more dramatically, from 179 in 2012 to 253 in 2013, a 41.4 percent jump. Although nine percent increases in the total number of cases and in the number of county and department officials indicted may seem modest for a highly trumpeted campaign, these increases followed a decade in which the total number of indictments had been slowly decreasing. Increases in 2013, moreover, follow more modest increases in 2012. As a result, the total number of indictments in 2013 was 16.2 percent more than in 2011, and the number of country and department officials indicted was up 12.6 percent compared to 2011. More critically, the 41 percent increase in prefectural and bureau level officials indicted is the largest such increase since 2004, and represents a 27.8 percent rise over 2011. Finally, eight officials at the provincial and ministry levels were indicted, compared to five in 2012. The party’s Discipline Inspection Commission (DIC) also reported a 13.3 percent increase in the number of party members who faced disciplinary action.

Indices

Sources: Zhongguo Jiancha Nianjian [Procuratorial Yearbook of China], (Beijing: Zhongguo Jiancha Chubanshi, various years) and Zuigao Renmin Jiancha Yuan Gongzuo Baogao [Work report of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate], 3/18/2014, available at http://www.spp.gov.cn/tt/201403/t20140318_69216.shtml, accessed 6/12/2014.

Note: To provide a long-term perspective, I have transformed the raw data on cases filed into an index anchored on the years 1997-8. I do this because the 1997 revision of the criminal code decriminalized a large number of low-level offenses. The dramatic drop in cases filed thus creates the misleading impression that either corruption fell dramatically, which it did not, or that enforcement suddenly slacked off, which it did not either.

Targeting

It is also possible to look at the type of corruption a campaign is targeting and who is getting caught to get a more nuanced sense of whether Xi’s roar is that of a paper or a real tiger.

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Category : China | Socialism | Blog
29
Oct

 

By Christopher Alessi

MarketWatch.com

Oct. 27, 2014 – AMBERG, Germany–The next front in Germany’s effort to keep up with the digital revolution lies in a factory in this sleepy industrial town.

At stake isn’t what the Siemens AG plant produces–in this case, automated machines to be used in other industrial factories–but how its 1,000 manufacturing units communicate through the Web.

As a result, most units in this 100,000-plus square-foot factory are able to fetch and assemble components without further human input.

The Amberg plant is an early-stage example of a concerted effort by the German government, companies, universities and research institutions to develop fully automated, Internet-based "smart" factories.

Such factories would make products fully customizable while on the shop floor: An incomplete product on the assembly line would tell "the machine itself what services it needs" and the final product would immediately be put together, said Wolfgang Wahlster, a co-chairman of Industrie 4.0, as the collective project is known.

The initiative seeks to help German industrial manufacturing–the backbone of Europe’s largest economy–keep its competitive edge against the labor-cost advantages of developing countries and a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing.

Underpinning the effort is the Internet of Things, where the Web meets real-world equipment. Google Inc. made a big push on the consumer front this year with its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs Inc., which makes thermostats that can be remotely controlled by smartphones and other connected devices.

Full-fledged smart manufacturing is still in the pilot phase. But the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence has worked with German industrial companies to engineer some of the most advanced demonstrations in the field.

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Category : Capitalism | Socialism | Technology | Blog
30
Sep

Part of the CCDS team at the conference: Kathy Sykes, Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Paul Krehbiel

By Paul Krehbiel
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

"The capitalist class is in a serious crisis without solution," said David Schweikart at the Moving Beyond Capitalism conference held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from July 30-August 5, 2014.  "But there is a solution," he said, "economic democracy, democratic socialism." Over 200 people from 15 countries discussed how to make this happen, organized by the Center for Global Justice.

Chronic high unemployment, depression of wages and benefits, cuts in social services, and growing inequality and repression, and social and political resistance are endemic to nearly all capitalist countries, said Schweikart, a Philosophy professor at Loyola University in Chicago, and author of After Capitalism. 

Schweikart’s model of democratic socialism calls for a regulated competitive market economy, socialized means of production and democratic workplaces (he advocates worker-run cooperatives as an example), non-profit public banks to finance projects, full employment, and a guarantee that human needs will be meet for everyone. 

Cliff DuRand, a conference organizer, said people are creating alternatives to capitalism today all over the world.  "If we’ve built these alternative institutions, the next time the capitalist system collapses…we will be able to survive without it."

Gustavo Esteva, a former Mexican government official, founder of the University of the Land in Oxaca, and an advisor to the Zapatistas in Chiapas in southern Mexico, gave a good account of how the indigenous people of this region are creating a new democratic and socialist-oriented society that they control, within the borders of a capitalist Mexico.  The Zapatistas launched an armed uprising in the mid-1990′s to stop NAFTA and the Mexican government from allowing multi-national corporations to come into Chiapas to extract minerals to enrich the corporations and destroy their lives and their local economy. 

Ana Maldonado of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communal Economy could not attend, so University of Utah Professor Al Campbell filled in for her.  Campbell has worked in Venezuelan with the Community Councils, a new form of grassroots democracy and socialism.  Created in 2006 by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez, there are 20,000 Community Councils today, each holding meetings in neighborhoods where all residents can attend, discuss, and vote on decisions for their community. 

Private, for-profit banks came under sharp attack for causing the 2008 Great Recession, and for ripping off billions of dollars from people world-wide, primarily through charging high interest rates.  Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute based in California, declared, "Without interest payments, there would be no national debt," which now stands at over $15 trillion.  Politicians use the debt as an excuse to cut funds for education, health care and other social programs.  An example of local bank rip-offs is a bank loan for the purchase of a house, where the homeowner pays the bank 2-3 times or more than the cost of the house due to interest payments. 

Brown said the solution is to set up not-for-profit public or state banks — like the Bank of North Dakota.  She describes how to do it in her book Democratizing Money: The Public Bank Solution.  Since the 2008 economic crash, 20 other states including California have introduced bills to study or establish publicly-owned state banks.

"The US controls third world countries," Brown explained, "by putting them in debt and then forcing repayment with high interest rates," which they can’t afford to pay.  Brown said the book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, explains how devastating this is. 

Coops in Cuba

Camila Pineiro Harnecker, a leader of the cooperative movement in socialist Cuba, explained that her country is giving much more attention to the development of worker-run cooperatives as a way to help workers create jobs for themselves, and learn how to become masters of their work and work lives. The state socialist sector dominates the economy, but coops now comprise 12% of the workforce and are expected to increase in number.

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Category : Capitalism | Education | Marxism | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Blog