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   Vol. 70/No. 46           December 4, 2006  
'Can't build socialism using capitalist methods'
(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from an October 8, 1987, speech by Cuban president Fidel Castro, titled “Che’s ideas are absolutely relevant today,” at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara. It is part of Socialism and Man in Cuba, a pamphlet featuring a 1965 article by Guevara by the same title. This pamphlet is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for November.

In the speech Castro describes the effort waged in the second half of the 1980s, known as the rectification process, in which the Cuban leadership mobilized working people to begin to reverse the mounting negative political consequences of economic planning and management policies Cuba had adopted in the early 1970s modeled on those of the bureaucratic Soviet regime. Copyright © 1989 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

If Che had ever been told that one day, under the Cuban revolution there would be enterprises prepared to steal to pretend they were profitable, Che would have been appalled….

Were he to have seen a group of enterprises teeming with two-bit capitalists—as we call them—playing at capitalism, beginning to think and act like capitalists, forgetting about the country, the people, and high standards (because high standards just didn’t matter; all they cared about was the money being earned thanks to the low norms), he would have been appalled….

Those paths I repeat—and Che knew it very well—would never lead us to building real socialism, as a first and transitional stage to communism.

But don’t think that Che was naïve, an idealist, or someone out of touch with reality. Che understood and took reality into consideration. But Che believed in man. And if we don’t believe in man, if we think that man is an incorrigible little animal, capable of advancing only if you feed him grass or tempt him with a carrot or whip him with a stick—anybody who believes this, anybody convinced of this will never be a socialist; anybody who believes this, anybody convinced of this will never be a communist….

Che had great faith in man. Che was a realist and did not reject material incentives. He deemed them necessary during the transitional stage, while building socialism. But Che attached more importance—more and more importance—to the conscious factor, to the moral factor….

In essence—in essence!—Che was radically opposed to using and developing capitalist economic laws and categories in building socialism. He advocated something that I have often insisted on: Building socialism and communism is not just a matter of producing and distributing wealth but is also a matter of education and consciousness. He was firmly opposed to using these categories, which have been transferred from capitalism to socialism, as instruments to build the new society.

At a given moment some of Che’s ideas were incorrectly interpreted and, what’s more, incorrectly applied. Certainly no serious attempt was ever made to put them into practice, and there came a time when ideas diametrically opposed to Che’s economic thought began to take over….

Now the [voluntary work] minibrigades have been reborn and there are more than 20,000 minibrigade members in the capital….

[They build] community projects such as special schools, polyclinics, day-care centers for the children of working women, for the family; in short, so many extremely useful things we are doing now and the state is building them without spending an additional cent in wages! That really is miraculous!

We could ask the two-bit capitalists and profiteers who have blind faith in the mechanisms and categories of capitalism: Could you achieve such a miracle? Could you manage to building 20,000 housing units in the capital without spending a cent more on wages? Could you build fifty day-care centers in a year without spending a cent more on wages, when only five had been included in the five-year plan and they weren’t even built, and 19,500 mothers were waiting to get their children a place, which never materialized.

At that rate it would take 100 years! By then they would be dead, and fortunately so would all the technocrats, two-bit capitalists, and bureaucrats who obstruct the building of socialism….

Capitalists are very happy when they hear people talk about rent, profit, interest, bonuses, superbonuses; when they hear about markets, supply and demand as elements that regulate production and promote quality, efficiency, and all those things. For they say, “That’s my kind of talk, that’s my philosophy, that’s my doctrine,” and the emphasis that socialism may place on them makes them happy, for they know that these are essential aspects of capitalist theory, laws, and categories….

That’s why on this, the twentieth anniversary, I’m making an appeal for our party members, our youth, our students, our economists to study and familiarize themselves with Che’s political and economic thought.
Related articles:
Capitalist methods accelerate resistance by toilers in China  
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