cuba: the island of happiness ?

“Even Communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut  the budget deficit and actually get spending under control. We’ve got comrade Castro on the same page as the the rest of us.  We’ve just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions on to that planet at the same time.” – David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions, September 15th

This week the state-run Cuban trade union confederation announced government plans to lay off 1 million public sector employees, some 20% of the working population. Half of the cuts will be over the next six months alone, in what marks a stunning retreat for the Communist Party and a sharp attack on working-class living standards. President Raúl Castro has targeted workers’ “dependency” on the public sector: by which he means, the same bureaucratic and management apparatus which closely monitors many aspects of everyday life in the country.

In this article Eduardo Semtei, a former Venezuelan government bureaucrat, describes his impressions of ordinary Cuban citizens’ lives. Although The Commune does not share Semtei’s politics – for instance, he harshly criticises the Venezuelan government for subsidising Cuba – his comments do offer an insight into existing social relations and the warped model of “socialism” on the island. Continue reading “cuba: the island of happiness ?”

the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union

The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th April at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss the nature of the Soviet Union and the crushing of workers’ self-emancipation. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Continue reading “the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union”

the capitalist state and the debate over cuts

by David Broder

The Labour Party’s pre-election budget has focussed attention on ‘the recovery’. In his speech to the House of Commons last Wednesday Chancellor Alistair Darling outlined a plan of government action to restore economic growth and reduce the British state’s borrowing.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have somewhat different plans to Labour about the best means of achieving these objectives. However, what is rarely challenged, or even discussed, is the underlying consensus which structures the whole debate: the very idea of ‘the economy’ and a collective national interest. So how should communists relate to this debate? Continue reading “the capitalist state and the debate over cuts”

the social fabric of stalinism

Second in a series ‘Laurat in wonderland’ by João Bernardo: see here for part 1

When free expression and open organisation was allowed – before February 1922 when Lenin authorised the political police to operate within the Communist Party itself – the leftist opposition never ceased to criticise the economic system then being established. In 1920 and 1921 the Workers’ Opposition attacked the power the old management had won back in the Soviet economy and the control political organs exercised on workplace union organisation: yet this tendency was closer to the union bureaucracy than it was to the rank-and-file workers.

Within the Communist Party the rank-and-file perspective was expressed above all by the Democratic Centralist group, formed in 1919. Contrary to what one might imagine, the name of this group was not at all a reference to the Leninist form of internal party regime, bur rather the means of economic organisation. Members of this faction admitted the necessity of central planning but considered that this must be premised on democratic bases, characterised by the management of enterprises by workers’ committees: and not Lenin and Trotsky’s system of management by a technocracy of specialists, including former administrators and even the old factory owners. Continue reading “the social fabric of stalinism”

the early russian revolution: laurat in wonderland

by João Bernardo
Passa Palavra

After the fall of the Berlin Wall – which did not ‘fall’, but rather was cut to bits and sold at graffiti and souvenir auctions – journalists and even many historians promoted the illusion that  the only critiques of the Soviet system were elaborated by the social-democratic left and the anti-communist right. Continue reading “the early russian revolution: laurat in wonderland”

alternatives to capitalism: what happens after the revolution?

by Andrew Kliman
Marxist-Humanist Initiative

I.  Concretizing the Vision of a New Human Society

We live at a moment in which it is harder than ever to articulate a liberatory alternative to capitalism.  As we all know, the collapse of state-capitalist regimes that called themselves “Communist,” as well as the widespread failures of social democracy to remake society, have given rise to a widespread acceptance of Margaret Thatcher’s TINA – the belief that “there is no alternative.” Continue reading “alternatives to capitalism: what happens after the revolution?”

new pamphlet: the collapse of the eastern bloc and after

The latest pamphlet produced by The Commune looks at the regimes which existed in the Eastern Bloc and the state of the working class in those countries today.

The pamphlet features a symposium of critical Marxists from Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and Bosnia on the twentieth anniversary of the historic events of 1989-91 and the lessons for communists today. Click here for PDF. Continue reading “new pamphlet: the collapse of the eastern bloc and after”