socialist economy

Image: Brett Sayles


Presentation of the newly released book.

The collection of texts socialist economy it is the result of a far-reaching and ongoing research project. The aim of the book is to offer debates and alternative perspectives on the market economy and capitalism through a set of legacies and historical experiences. Recurring terms such as globalization, information society, sustainable and energy transition economies, new technologies applied to production have sought to offer in recent decades an illusory perspective of progress and superior realization of civilization offered by capitalism.

In the wake of these liberal matrix ideologies and in defense of capitalism, theses and theories about the end of the working class, about the end of trade unions and workers' parties, about new actors and new forms of struggle also thrive. It is a “neo-postmodern” wave in search of crowds and new movements, new struggle flags – many of them important – however, far from the daily desperate struggle for survival of the hundreds of millions who live the concrete reality of fight for life as it is. The glamorous technologies in the hands of the big capitalist monopolies make life for the working class a real hell; nowadays called “uberization of work” and other adjectives; in fact, a systematic regression of elementary rights, the end of employment contracts, of working hours, the fragmentation and individualization of each worker.

This situation feeds the accumulation of trillions of dollars of large corporations and banks in market values, feeds a growing and endless spiral of financial crises, speculation and destruction of productive forces through wars, destruction of the environment, drug trafficking and social repression. Capitalism used the enormous technical progress offered by the development of science – which could today solve the great problems of humanity – such as hunger and the misery of hundreds of millions of human beings – to deepen the destruction of living conditions, to close hospitals , destroying social protection networks, privatizing and looting public goods, charging for vaccines and medicines in the middle of a pandemic, to incessantly attack rights and guarantees hard won by the working class in all countries. Science is not exempt from these dilemmas and capitalism is not the only historical alternative for the future of humanity, which in fact would mean accepting its condemnation of growing barbarism.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the pandemic was the pretext for a gigantic offensive by capital around the world, to withdraw rights, destroy historical social achievements of the working class and put humanity as a whole on the brink of a precipice. It was in this context that most of the debates and questions in this book were framed. Since 2019 at least, there has been a situation marked by large mobilizations of international scope, the resistance of the working majorities has not ceased. In Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, France, the United States and in many other countries of this wide world, millions rose and built great social mobilizations, including with embryonic revolutionary elements in some cases. These mobilizations show the unbreakable will of the majority of the population to fight for dignified living conditions, which correspond to the material possibilities that the current productivity of work makes possible, but which under the capitalist logic become impossible.

Seeking to reflect from history, elaborate and rescue perspectives for the criticism and overcoming of capitalism, a group of professors from five Latin American and European public universities elaborated a research project around the reflection on some historical experiences that expressed initiatives aimed at the resistance to capitalist exploitation and what lessons could be drawn from them. This research was carried out with the support of a call from the Ibero-American Union of Universities (UIU), which brings together the Universitat de Barcelona (UB), the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the University of São Paulo (USP). LEPHE (Laboratory of Political Economy and Economic History) at USP, through its research group on economic planning and collectivism (GPPEC), invited researchers on the subject to join the project. Since 2019, several initiatives have been carried out, such as courses, events and debates articulating the five universities. This book is one of the partial results of these researches and activities.

The rise of the working class as the protagonist of history was able to build concrete alternatives to capitalism since the 1871th century and left marks and theoretical references and fundamental practices throughout the 1917th century. If the Paris commune of XNUMX experimented with workers' management of the economy with its workshops, we find in the continuity of the Russian revolution of XNUMX and later in the theoretical formulation of the Soviet economy and in the implementation of the first five-year plans a central reference, albeit marked by polemics, controversies and contradictions. Many fundamental experiences of economic transition to socialism, collectivization and workers' management, and social property planning took place throughout the XNUMXth century.

China after 1949, Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, then Cuba, Vietnam and even during the Allende government in Chile. Alongside these state experiences, we can find numerous partial and revolutionary attempts and initiatives of workers' production management experiences, some precursors and others only outlined or theorized. Among these, we can mention collectivizations in revolutionary Spain in the 1930s, kibbutzim in the Israeli desert, as well as the economic management carried out by Bolivian miners after the 1952 revolution and in the commune of La Paz in 1971.

Finally, we highlight a third group of initiatives that partially contradict the logic of the free market economy and that were related to the active and explicit, conscious and planning intervention of the bourgeois state to preserve capitalism; initiatives in general to face competition from other bourgeoisies, but mainly in the face of pressures and struggles from the labor movement. If there are classic examples such as the post-war French indicative planning and the Swedish development pact, there were also central planning initiatives in Brazil during the same period, initially through ECLAC, which clashed with the limits of the Brazilian bourgeoisie itself.

This rich trajectory opens up a whole range of theoretical and political problems in the field of Marxism, but also of different currents and conceptions that sought to point out limits or alternatives for overcoming capitalism and bourgeois democracy. Do the experiences of centralized and bureaucratic planning, as occurred, among others, in the USSR and Cuba in certain periods, have contributions to the debate? Is collectivist self-management of factories and farms viable without some kind of centralization and articulation? Should the law of value continue to be used as a framework for articulating a transitional and even socialist economy? How to ensure the social property conquered by a revolution in a country, as a process of socialist transition, without the perspective of world revolution? The bureaucratic deformation of Soviet planning and the collapse of “socialism in one country” in the USSR and its satellites, which served as a cover for the tyranny of Stalinist bureaucracies, would have as an alternative the capitalist restoration under the cover of a supposed “market socialism” ?

In addition to the historical balance of the past, there are countless other issues to be debated that are current; such as the debate on the socialist transition and the systematic use of management technologies and economic planning. Beyond the jump in productivity – will they allow or facilitate a jump to socialist planning? There is a certain technological and media illusion or even a belief in the emancipatory power of science as a substitute for the production of value by the working class, which is widespread in many sectors that seek emancipatory paths. But can we say that technological advances under capitalism, by themselves, mean development of the productive forces if the main productive force – the human work that produces value – regresses in its social rights and life conditions? History has revealed in countless experiences of struggle that there are no shortcuts to the challenge of continuing to organize the oppressed around the working class, to organize resistance and the construction, based on their concrete experiences, of the democratic management of the socialist planned economy. This book builds reflections around these challenges.

Alberto Handfas analyzes in The New Economic Policy in the USSR: necessary transition, implementation pitfalls and bottlenecks in industrialization the role of economic planning in the transition to socialism and the New Economic Policy (NEP) proposals in Soviet Russia. To do so, its original objectives are contrasted, as suggested by Lenin and approved in the instances of Soviet power in early 1921, with the measures actually implemented later, at the end of the decade, by the government – ​​in the midst of large sectoral disproportions and bottlenecks industrial. In the light of macroeconomic data and historical facts, such contrasts are evaluated in the face of theoretical and political debates held in the period between the various positions that were formed within the Bolshevik (Communist) Party - from the initial elaborations (pre-1917) of Lenin , Trotsky and (the young) Bukharin, on the programmatic content of the Revolution in Russia, to the economic contributions developed later by the Left and United Oppositions, by Preobrazhensky, by Bukharin and his supporters (including Stalin) in the government.

the chapter Mário Pedrosa: socialist economic development and planning in Brazil, by Everaldo Andrade rescues from the famous art critic and socialist militant his theoretical and political elaborations on economic development, socialist planning and the impasses of capitalism, which were written at the beginning of the 1964 dictatorship. theoretical and political stand out in particular the books Imperialist Option e Brazilian option, both launched in 1966, in which he advanced a series of original proposals and analyzes and economic criticisms of the developmental theories in vogue at the time. Pedrosa analyzes the trends of US imperialism, the role played by the large capitalist monopolies and compares them with the alternative of the Soviet planned economy at the time. At the same time, it makes a refined critique and critical balance of the economic policies of economic planning led by Celso Furtado in pre-dictatorship Brazil, seeking to draw perspectives for the socialist struggle and the possibilities of a planned economy of transition to socialism in Brazil from the protagonism of the working classes.

the chapter The Brazilian experience of economic planning – achievements and limitations, by Roberto Vital Anav, focus on problematizing, from a historical synthesis of the Import Substitution Process (PSI) induced by the State, the strategies and limits of the Brazilian bourgeoisie in relation to economic policies. This nascent bourgeoisie, already of some importance (although removed from power) in 1930, began to strengthen and benefit from the deliberate policy of industrialization, followed for half a century. What is the relationship of this bourgeoisie with the State that drives these policies and with the working class? What was your role in the expansion and industrial diversification of the period? It is noted that even after the 1964 coup, although there was a profound institutional break, in fact many of the previous economic policies remained. The groups that came to power together with the military, despite having defeated the political, technical and intellectual segments associated with national-developmentalism, maintained and even reinforced many of its policies and instruments. Planning became a regular, practically permanent activity of the Brazilian State, especially at the national (federal) level, which is exemplified by three economic plans applied during the military dictatorship and which are analyzed in the text.

Edgar Suzuki's text Kibbutz and the “religion” of collective work: a brief and uncertain economic history in the desert traverses the genesis of the kibbutz community in Palestine and Israel and the development of the organizing principles of communal egalitarianism; seeking to dialogue with concepts embedded in ancient and modern texts. The origin, structure and functioning of these organizations are studied in the context of the Zionist colonization movement and the impact of British rule (Mandate) on interwar geopolitics. The weight of religious conceptions holds significant weight in the analyzed economic and organizational practices.

Em Hypotheses of Economic Planning and Worker Management in Bolivia (1952-1971) and Peru (1968-1975), Everaldo Andrade analyzes two historical experiences or theoretical alternatives of planning, management or socialist economic development that took place in Latin America between the 1960s and 1970s. the beginning of Cuban economic planning after 1961, economic initiatives in Chile during the Allende government (1970-1973), co-management and the majority management project of Bolivian mining during the 1952 revolution and later in 1971, and finally, the little-known Peruvian economic experience in the military government of General Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975) of formation of the Work Communities and SINAMOS (National System of Social Mobilization) that allowed an experiment of workers' co-management of companies and farms in the countryside. Here we seek to present and briefly analyze the last two experiences that took place in Bolivia and Peru and the possibilities that they have become processes of transition and rupture with the market economy and capitalism.

Luiz Bernardo Pericás analyzes in his text the important changes that occurred in the Cuban economic planning system between the 1970s and 1980s. at Comecon. This new conception incorporated market criteria and conceptions into planning and would have already been criticized by Che Guevara at the beginning of Cuban socialist planning in the 1960s. changed, such as sugar exports and the deficit trade balance. The crisis of this model in the late 1980s coincided with the end of the USSR and the socially owned economies of Eastern Europe. The continuity of socialist planning by the Cuban government sought to criticize this period as part of a broad process of economic reforms from the 1990s onwards.

The continuation of this debate follows in the chapter “From the initial period to the Lineamientos: an overview of the updating of the Cuban model, 1990-2019 by Vitor Schincariol. Since the end of the Soviet Union and the former socialist bloc (Comecon – Committee for Mutual Economic Assistance), the Cuban economy has been gradually reformed ('updated', according to the leaders) in a series of important aspects with regard to the functioning of its socialist planning system. This translated particularly into greater autonomy given to state companies, the acceptance and regulation of self-employment ('accountancy'), the reformulation of important aspects of public services and the emphasis on tourism as a source of income and foreign exchange. The text summarizes the evolution of aspects of socialist planning in Cuba, focusing particularly on the phase after the so-called special period (1990 onwards).

Specialized literature on Cuba, official documents of the Cuban government and official statistical data are used as a basis. The text states that if we take into account the economic difficulties posed by the disappearance of the socialist world market, the resurgence of the US embargo throughout the period and the need to quickly restructure its economic model, the economic reforms introduced during the so-called special period (1990 onwards) can be regarded as relatively successful.

*Everaldo de Oliveira Andrade is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Bolivia: democracy and revolution. The Commune of La Paz, 1971 (Avenue).


Everaldo de Oliveira Andrade (org.). Socialist economy: historical experiences of economic planning and current debates on the transition. São Paulo, LEPHE and Maria Antônia editions, 2022.


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