New Cooperative Policy Big for Socialism

April 9, 2012 |

Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES, April 9 — Cuban reform czar Marino Murillo has just presented “a policy that has been adopted for the experimental creation of non-agricultural cooperatives,” reported Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party.

Speaking to the Council of Ministers, he added, “The basic principles governing the operation of each experiment have been designed such that, in all cases, the regulatory role of the state and government will be preserved.”

Above all else, we must recognize that the party/government has finally decided to advance in the “principal strategic direction” — in terms understood by the military — to further the development of socialism in Cuba.

My first reaction is to celebrate this step.

This is initiating one of the two main drivers of the socialization of the economy: cooperatives. Still forthcoming are the specifics on the participation of labor and social groups in the management, administration and distribution of profits of state enterprises.

This is a partial success but a strategic one for socialism, particularly for those of us who have advocated cooperative/self-managerial relations as ones generic to socialism itself, though not the sole ones course.

Another issue is that the article in Granma is very brief and consequently creates confusion; therefore it is best not to make a judgment about what is happening, but wait and see what the “policy” and the eventual law state in print.
We will have to monitor these “experiments” to help them unfold the right way and not get delayed in the hands of Methuselah, since economic efficiency and the social implications of this mode of production have been more than demonstrated around the world and in Cuba.

The other aspect to note is the meaning of the “regulatory role of the state and government,” which should be restricted to only what’s essential for the proper functioning of cooperatives.

Rank-and-file workers, revolutionaries and communists, who ultimately proved themselves to be the main promoters of the movement to break the deadlock and to make modifications to the bureaucratic statist model, must not lower their guard.

We must continue raising our demands for greater socialization of ownership and especially make this new cooperative policy work and be extended, without bureaucratic delays.

For cooperativism to be effective it must be accompanied by a body of laws that legalize and ensure its internal and external functioning, with the support of soft loans and lenient tax policies that ensure that it doesn’t die in the crib.

In any case, it’s not pointless to reiterate the basic principles of cooperativism, which if violated — as has so often occurred with agriculture cooperatives here — can turn into just another bureaucratic caricature. For all revolutionary socialists, from before Marx himself, the implementation of this approach represents the type of production relations that should prevail in the new society.

Among these principles are voluntary participation, collective ownership of the means of production by the workers, democratic participation in management and administration of the business enterprise, and the equitable (equitable is a synonym for just, not egalitarianism) distribution of a part of the profits, (what is remaining after the application of some of the earnings for extended reproduction [reinvestment] back into the cooperative and others for general social and community benefits).

Another basic principle is the freedom of action of the cooperative to define its own targets and objectives, make its own purchase and sales agreements, enter into loan agreements, and to contract or subcontract services and carry out other market operations required to meet its needs.

The collectivist, libertarian, democratic and equitable/justice-serving character of the relations that are established between cooperative workers not only transforms the social behaviors of the members of the cooperative internally, but also projects to the communities where they are located and generally to the overall forms of social consciousness.

The dominant ideology is always that of the dominant class. When the dominant class in society is that of freely associated workers in cooperatives and in self-managed and co-managed companies, their objective conditions will have been created for their forms of social consciousness to become prevalent throughout society.

This is the principal way to change the human behavior generated by the prevailing mentality – that which is capitalistic, profit-seeking, individualistic, selfish, corrupt, thieving, domineering, contemptuous towards differences, and unequal.  This outlook is what drives the wage labor (modern slavery), whether by private owners or by the state.

This form of production divides society into two main classes: the owners who subjugate and exploit; and the dispossessed, who are alienated from the means of production, subordinated and exploited. On one hand we find the bourgeois or the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (be they capitalist individuals or the capitalist state) as those who control capital and its benefits, and on the other we find the wage-workers.

Photo: Caridad

I hope that the new Cuban policy on cooperatives, the law that must be approved in this regard, and the free development of this form of socialist production contribute to consolidating the achievements of the Cuban people in their half-a-century-long struggle against capitalism.

I also hope this creates the foundations for the new future society, one that is free, democratic, just and socialist – “with all and for the good of all” as Cuban National Hero Jose Marti dreamed.

At this time, let’s remember all of those Cubans who in all various epochs fought for the development of different types of cooperatives.

So let’s toast for widespread cooperativism in Cuba.

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  • Oh, I am so proud of comrade Pedro Campos. He seems, finally, to be emerging as what we in the US would call a “socialist cooperative republican,” that is, as a person who understands real socialism to be a republic in which working people own the instruments of production directly, as cooperative enterprise associates, rather than indirectly through the agency of the socialist state.

    In effect, this means discarding the 1848 stipulation that the socialist state should concentrate “all” the instruments of production in its hands. (That stipulation has never worked, and it never will.)

    Pedro’s transit from the idea that socialist property can only be state-owned property, but with the gift of self-management handed down as a gift from the state bureaucracy, could mean big things for Cuba, but also for those of us struggling to revitalize the socialist movement in the US.

    The major thing keeping the US people from embracing the socialist republican transformation is the economic constipation demonstrated in the real world by the state monopoly ownership form of socialism. A forward-looking Cuban theoretician like Pedro, speaking consistently from this programmatic point of view, could help change the world.

    A major theoretical task now for Pedro (as well as for the Left internationally) is to see the workable, real socialist republic as a political entity in which the vanguard party-led state “silently co-owns” adequate shares of significant industry and commerce, gets its main revenues quarterly in the form of dividends rather than from taxes, and regulates both enterprise and the socialist market on the basis of democracy and science.

    This would apply the cooperative corporation model perfected by the Mondragon, Spain workers to the socialist state developed by the Cuban people and its vanguard party in 1961.

    All of this, of course, might be too optimistic. Only time will tell. Things are looking good however, and the end of monopoly capitalism might now be dimly in sight. Let’s hope for the best. Thank you, Cuba and Pedro Campos.

    Addendum: I left out an important point in my comments above. Now, perhaps, comrade Pedro will see that the small bourgeoisie–peasants, restaurateurs, shop keepers, small entrepreneurs of all types–are, and must be an integral part of the socialist project.

    In our cooperative republican theory, the long-term abolition of classes would proceed through a gradual cultural and economic merging of cooperative proletarian associates and the small business community. The socialist abolition of classes over time therefore would be a natural merging process of the workers, independent owners and the intelligentsia. This concept changes everything.

    • Moses

      Grady, you realize we are talking about Cubans and not Swedes. This “cooperative” Socialist model is antithetical to Cuban culture. In order to be fully implemented, first you must kill the individual. Everything must be dedicated for the good of the group. Is there a culture on earth more focused on attracting individual attention? No one gives a speech for four hours (Fidel) unless they truly believe that they are the center of universe. Secondly, this model does not support innovation. Society can not and will not advance unless there are incentives to innovate. The intent is noble, but true Socialism has not worked and likely will not work as long as a society craves iPads and vacation beach bungalows.

      • John Goodrich

        Moses,
        The fault in state socialism is the lack of democracy.

        Grady and Pedro’s system wherein the individual asserts his and her individuality as an important part of a cooperative effort provides what we all want.

        A coop is a small enough organization to be able to maintain the importance of the individual and the individual can get the feeling and the reality of his or her own worth and be remunerated for his or her good work.

        Individualism is a myth perpetuated by capitalists to divide the workers and prevent any actions against the dictatorship of money; the oligarchy .

        The correctness of individualism flies in the face of human history .

        • John is absolutely correct, Moses, although you may not be able to appreciate it.

          What is needed for the success, the functionality of modern cooperative socialism is the “cooperative entrepreneur” as an institution. If the exceptional leadership individual cannot be appreciated and allowed to pursue enterprise success, the economic cooperative movement cannot succeed, either under capitalism or under a socialist cooperative republic.

          What this means in practice is that the leadership individual should and must be compensated above other cooperative associates in the same enterprise. This does not mean one person gets millions while others get a bare living. This “above” would be meaningful but reasonable, and monitored by associates. Socialism must understand that material and moral incentives go hand in hand, and are necessary for socialist functionality.

          The cooperative entrepreneur, who may very well be a party member, must replace the state economic bureaucrat. For this replacement to occur, material and moral incentives must function naturally and benefit both the entrepreneur and his/her cooperative associates.

    • Wilson Ramos

      I literally get nauseous when I read anything Grady posts on this site! He repeats, repeats and repeats himself. The same stupid little narrative. I love the way Grady is proud of Pedro, a lifelong Cuban revolutionary!

      He outdoes himself with “what we in the US would call a “socialist cooperative republican.” Um, in the US I know a socialist is pejorative and Republican is a right winger. Grady lives in a dream world.

      • Well, Wilson Ramos, you’re correct in saying that I repeat myself. I apologize for annoying you, or anyone other HT reader. The reason I repeat the same idea, perhaps ad nauseam, is to try and break through to the Left with a central idea: that authentic, workable socialism–whether in Cuba of the US–would discard the Marxian, state monopoly program and build a socialist cooperative republic with a state co-ownership program.

        And yes, in the US a “Republican,” with a capital “R,” is a right winger; but a “Democrat,” with a capital “D,” is also a right winger. Those two parties are merely two wings of the same vulture.

        I’m proud to be a socialist cooperative republican, whether you can appreciate the title. We have finally figured what is holding back the US and world socialist transformation, and are eager to win comrades to the corrected perspective.

        We hope to regroup the transformationary Left around a corrected, truly socialist program, and win state power in time to save human civilization from ecological or nuclear self-destruction. If this strategic idea nauseates you, then again, I apologize for the annoyance.

        By the way, you should know that you’ve misused the word “nauseous.” By saying you “get nauseous,” you are actually saying that you make other people sick. The correct usage would be to say, “I get nauseated . . .” Best wishes.

  • Freud

    The question in Cuba’s case is not if cooperatives works or not but will regime allow them to work or not??……… cooperatives has been a proven way to solve some human necessities in some branches of economy (not all) and some countries (not all neither) but castro regime is a proven limit to development of any kind richness production….. taking as example the so called “agricultural cooperatives movements” in castro’s Cuba we can see this successful way of production has been transformed in total fiasco. 84% of Cuba’s productive land is in cooperatives hand while only 16% of productive land is in private hands…….. well, private producers supplies 60% of national food production and are one of Cuba’s new millionaires while cooperative producers are tied by regime’s several and absurd regulations that made them unproductive…….