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International Socialism, Summer 1980


Notes and Letters

First published in International Socialism 2 : 9, Summer 1980, p. 128.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg, with thanks to the Lipman-Miliband Trust.
Marked up Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Nigel Harris


Cuba, Castro and Socialism (IS 2 : 8, Spring 1980) contains the argument that:

‘if the working class is to carry out that function (viz. capital accumulation) because a dependent capitalism has failed to develop those resources, then it must do so in the context of a form of power that is proletarian, reconciling workers’ democracy with the demands of accumulation.’ (p. 34)

Leaving aside the nonsense concept of ‘dependency’, the statement proposes that sustained capital accumulation can take place without necessarily reproducing the social organisation appropriate to that process: classes. If this is true, then we must assume that an economically backward society (that is, one where material scarcity is much more extreme than in an advanced capitalist country) can choose freely to reshape its economy while its political and social institutions remain independent of accumulation. Presumably, consciousness, not material necessity, governs society. Stalin and Mao were right, Marx and historical materialism wrong.

The assumption embedded in the quotation is the heart of reformist nationalism, whether of the Stalinist or ‘liberal’ kind. It is quite clearly incompatible with the politics espoused by this journal, let alone those of Marx or the Bolsheviks.


Nigel Harris

Peter Binns & Mike Gonzales


Did Nigel Harris really read our Cuba article? If he had he surely would have seen that in the very next paragraph to the one he quotes, we continue:

‘Could it have been otherwise? ... For a time, the “optimism of the will” – the belief that ideas were enough – sustained a politics of sacrifice. Yet in the end, Cuba is once again the victim of the unequal international distribution of the productive forces. And yet it is, ultimately, only at that – international – level that Cuba’s problem can be solved. It remains as true now as it was for Lenin in 1917, that only the international revolution can effect the redistribution of the world’s resources that will release Cuba.’ (op. cit., p. 34)

In short, the accusation that our article contains an ‘assumption embedded’ in ‘the heart of reformist nationalism’, is completely unfounded.


Peter Binns & Mike Gonzalez

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