Monday, October 31, 2011

Chinese Constitutionalism, Text and Meta-Text: Part 3

It is possible on a long walk to draw out complexity and juxtapositions. In some spots, the architecture and organization of a physical space—in the form of city, roads, buildings, people flows and the like—cam serve as a concrete expression of the social, cultural and political organization of the inhabitants. 
(From  Kenneth Tse, Shanghai Mapping - What is this map about?, Mapping Urban Infrastructure, Feb. 17, 2008 ("I found this ‘mapping’ of Shanghai without detailed description and legend. What do you think about the content of this satellite photo with different colour coding? I can hardly related it to anything, is it density? have no idea at all. But it seems interesting to have a guess."))

This is, of course, well known, from the symbolic expression in religious and funerary architecture in China and Europe to the social and political assumptions in the laying out of cities, from open cities in early Imperial Rome organized by function in a world that did not fear invasion, to the in ward looking and protective mazes that characterized medieval town in Europe designed to discourage the stranger. Such is the journey through Shanghai that took me from People’s Square on the Nanjing Road to the Bund and the statue of Chen Yi, then down to the old town and the Yu Gardens, Huxinting Teahouse and the rockery gardens, and from there to the Pudong and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower with its museum of the history of Shanghai to draw.

This walk provided concrete, if symbolic, markers of the realities and boundaries within which China develops both physically and intangibly. These complexities and juxtapositions could be summed up in two expressions that provide the parallel conceptual foundations between political/cultural and physical realities that are Shanghai, and the shape of the path to which the country is now committed in both senses. These markers are nicely mapped in two currently popular expressions:

The first:
To fight against corruption will kill the Party
Not to fight against corruption will kill the country.

At first glance, this expression suggests a fatal tension between the state and the Party in a State-Party system. An easy read would understand the Party as inherently corrupt, and the need to fight against corruption is really a means of fighting against the Party and the State-Party system. It also suggests that the interests of the Party are in opposition to those of the people. And the second part of the phrase looks to the effects of corruption as a cancer that will eventually destroy the prosperity and growth that has marked the opening up of China since the late 1970s. This idea, of corruption as a cancer that if uncontrolled can kill the country is echoed in other Asian states, for example Thailand:
“’I agree with many people who say that fighting corruption is not easy and could possibly end up being a waste of time,’ said Mr Dusit at the forum entitled "Against Corruption: Thailand's Turning Point", which was co-hosted by the TCC. ‘But we have to get started instead of doing nothing and letting corruption grow like a cancer that will eventually kill the country,’ he said.” Businesses demand war against graft: It's a cancer that will kill the nation, they say, Bangkok Post, 2-6-2011. Available at
So at the simplest level, the expression suggests sentiments and fears common to Asia—corruption will destroy prosperity and the legitimacy of the governance system. The legitimacy of the Party as a vanguard force is dependent on its ability to protect the state but it suffers from the same disease—corruption will kill both State and Party. Taken at face value this suggests something that can be understood as quite subversive; not merely critique but warning.

But there is ambiguity here as well, and also something substantially less subversive that is worth exploring. “To fight against corruption is to kill the Party” suggests an odd perspective. It implies that the fight against corruption comes from outside; it is not written from the perspective of the people and suggests destruction if the Party fails to police itself. If the Party is incapable of fighting corruption, and if others will have to do it, then the Party dies. The criticism is thus now quite different—the Party has an obligation to retain its role as a vanguard organ. That is impossible if it is not capable of disciplining itself. Now we have a very different meaning—a vanguard Party is obliged to serve both as example and to undertake a vanguard role especially in matters of Party discipline. To fail to do so is to betray the fundamental legitimizing role that the Party has been vested both by its revolutionary position and the terms of the state Constitution. “To fight against corruption is to kill the Party” now becomes “To fail to fight against corruption will kill the Party.” That reading now casts the second line in new light. The betrayal of the Party’s leadership role, as applied to corruption, will constitute a fundamental betrayal of the people and lead to the ruin of the country. Yet at the level of the administrative apparatus, the failure to fight corruption becomes matter for both Party and state officials. When the Party fails in its vanguard role, the State will come to ruin. Now the expression assumes a far less threatening meaning, but retains its powerful and warning critique. The Party that fails to uphold its own principles is a danger to itself and the State.

Now consider the second, and parallel expression:
To reform is to seek death
Not to reform is to expect death

The insights of the second also suggest both ambiguity and risk. The straightforward reading suggest conundrum—failure is the outcome of either reform or the status quo. The fundamental ordering is fatally afflicted; one could wait for failure or one could busy oneself with alternatives that also lead in the same direction. Frenetic energy and the appearance of activity hides systemic failure. This isn’t merely a case of “too little too late” but a more fundamental “never enough.” The yang principle here suggests both the destructive and constructive potential of the active principle.

Yet this simple reading, especially appealing to those who would see the system overthrown and replaced with something different, also hides the more positive message contained inside its walls. “To seek reform is to seek death” suggests failure, but not the inevitability of failure. One can seek death and find something else. To seek death is not to find it; and in the seeking something else might be possible. Hope is small but visible through the cracks. On the other hand, a determination to do nothing is to expect death. There is no other outcome possible.

Consider the recent debate about extent to which the state ought to open the Internet to a greater range of expression in the light of this insight. Reform is dangerous—it can lead to the sport of speech that supports action, which, if directed against the state, poses a great risk to order and stability. Death. But informal reform can also have another effect: First, it can provide a powerful method for monitoring and intelligence gathering on the activities and complaints against local officials (and thus in tandem with Shuangui provide a means of combatting corruption and disciplining cadres). Second, it provides State and Party officials with a window on popular sentiment to which both can respond. Third, it provides a way to manage the expression of popular sentiment in an way that contains such sentiment to the abstract plain of the Internet rather than to the concrete plain of the streets. Letting people blow off steam is useful when managed correctly.

Loosening control informally effectively creates reform without formal pronouncement. Informal reform provides a way to avoid death. But that avoidance, in turn, is only temporary. When people begin to believe that this approach is not enough, then the process begins anew, and the choice is presented again. In a political culture where the state claims a current perfection of governance, such a cycle can be fatal to the legitimacy of the state apparatus and its political leaders. But where the state pulls back and suggests an architecture for perfection—not the perfect space but the road to that space, it might be possible to avoid death again. States, and vanguard elements that understand this can be more likely to avoid death, and they certainly can more consciously manage the process of choice.

Together these provide a great window into the foundations of, and the constraints within which, much of some important strains of the intellectual discourse in China is now developing. Read together, these provide similar but distinct visions of the same issue—fear that the great forward moving enterprise that is China will falter. But they also suggest the close connection between Party, State and the welfare of the people that remains at the core of the Chinese approach to governance. Legitimacy, leadership and the welfare of the people then serve as the grounding lens through which the specific construction of the administrative and political components of the nation are understood and judged. This does not suggest the view that the State Party system must give way to something else, perhaps something more to Western tastes. But it does suggest the close tie between the vanguard role fo political leadership in the Party and the basis of the legitimacy of that position in relation to the state administrative (governmental) apparatus and the principal function of leadership focused not on the state apparatus itself but on the welfare of the people. This is the sort of basic constitutionalism that can be understood everywhere.
 (From Satellite Monitoring of Urbanization in China for Sustainable Development: The Dragon ‘Urbanization’ Project, Earthzine, Sept 27, 2011 ("Figure 8: Left: HJ-1B multi-spectralSVM Classification Results in Shanghai; Right: LST in Shanghai.")

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chinese Constitutionalism, Text and Meta-Text: Part 2

First impressions are usually both important for setting foundations, but also ultimately wrong. Shanghai has the feel of the New York of three generation’s ago, with the atmosphere of Los Angeles a generation ago, the lights of contemporary Tokyo, drivers who appear to learn their craft in Buenos Aires, and a skyline that reminds one of New York in the 1970s. 
 (Nanjing Lu, a famous and much visited commercial street, Shanghai, from China Your Way)
These comparisons and disjunctions, of a city that is itself and yet is made so in reflection of other places and times, sets the intellectual tone.  

Conversations over a long day produced three insights that will be worth exploring further. The first touches on the one child policy. Here there is something like three frames of mind that are related but not necessarily consistent. First, the one child policy highlights the powerful effect of corruption as an important element in efforts for the government to retain legitimacy. Stories of money substituting for policy limits tends to make people focus on the unfairness, not necessarily of the corrupt officials, but of the system that permits these officials to continue to act without sanction. Second, and related, is the notion of arbitrariness in the system. People understand that young couples who journey to graduate school outside China can have as many children as they like while abroad without sanction. People also believe that high state functionaries tend to take advantage of these rules, leaving poor folks to bear the burden. The third is that, while the policy might have been beneficial in controlling population and triggering growth and prosperity, the policy, unless managed differently, is unsustainable. A state with a demographically inverted population—more old than young people—is not one that can either produce greater wealth or sustain income transfers to the old in the form of care. Fourth, there is a political and social concern—population is destiny and shapes national identity. With shrinking population of younger people then necessary jobs will have to be undertaken by available youth, generally from regions unburdened by a one child policy. They have seen that, when merged with the core principle of mass democracy at the foundation of legitimate political systems, it suggests that one child policies in the face of greater need is a formula for cultural and ethnic suicide, shifting the ethnic and national character of the population.

The second proceeds form the first. Parents, and especially parents of one child households are far less willing to give their children up for military service, me specially for military service in wars of intervention. The policy efforts to instill a sense that every child is precious have succeeded all too well. If all children are precious, and if male children might be even more precious, then it might be that families will be less willing to tolerate military activities that may imperil their children. For a state like China may require more rather than less military personnel, this poses the sort of opposition which, in an extreme case, can bring a government down. The Soviet Union’s adventures in Afghanistan stand as a reminder (in a case where there was no government policy of reducing fertility). And yet the American solution also looms large—like them, the Chinese might be tempted to expand the use of technology in place of people (drones and targeted killings, unmanned weaponry and the like) and the bringing in of mercenaries and surrogates.

The third involves the future character of the Communist Party. What emerged in a host of conversations was a gentle questioning of the relevance of the Communist Party in an increasingly market driven China. First, Party member ship is not seen any more as an important choice for advancement outside the state sector (business and administration). Though the state sector remains quite large, it is no longer overwhelming. Second, there are questions about the ability of the CPC to become more internally relevant or to permit a greater level of democracy in the state sector. In that context, Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” (Sange Daibiao) theories have not had widespread effect. It is viewed as either far too opaque (that is no one can easily extract its meaning) and far too broad. That may be regrettable at least on the level of theory.  See, Larry Catá Backer, Chinese Constitutionalism, Sange Daibiao (the “Three Represents”), and the Rule of Law, Law at the End of the Day, May 16, 2006.  There is interest in the recent induction of one of China’s richest people into the Party, but one billionaire Communist Party member does not make a solid a diffuse and institutionalized membership make. Moreover, Hu Jintao’s move from Sange Daibiao to scientific development, though derived from the later works of Deng, have tended to take attention from any effort to solidify Sange Daibiao. Yet the recent Yet at the same time, there is a sense of the importance of the CPC as a stabilizing institution, and a willingness to concede political space to CPC members in return for greater internal democracy within the Party and better management of factors important to stability—principally corruption.

From "Is China's One Child Policy Environmentally Ethical?",  Sustainable China Dec. 5, 2008

Fourth, a “specialist’s” insight, but one with great relevance for Chinese constitutionalism: the constitutional effect of the Preamble to the Chinese State Constitution. While there is some consensus among those with whom I spoke that the last paragraph of the preamble has constitutional effect, it is far less clear whether the rest of the Preamble has any effect. This is critically important to Chinese constitutionalism. The earlier paragraphs of the Preamble include the critical references to the leadership role of the Chinese Communist Party and to the fundamental ordering role of Marxist-Leninist and Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping theory, and the important thought of Three Represents. To reduce the constitutional effect of these earlier paragraphs suggests a means of reducing the influence of Party and Ideology as well—especially within the structures of the administrative apparatus created through the State Council and NCP architectures. Or, according to some, it means that the constitutional significance of both Party and ideology ought not to be found in the State Constitution but is to be found elsewhere. That is a subject to be taken up later.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chinese Constitutionalism: A Journey Through Text and Metatext, Part i

Over the next several postings I will distill the essence of insights I have drawn from extended conversations with Chinese scholars, and officials--from both the state and Party sides of the Chinese political universe.  

(From Fake Tiananmen Square outside Beijing?!, Am I Mean? Sept. 15, 2011)

What these essays suggest are the extent of the interest in China over the nature and purpose of their constitution.  More deeply, perhaps, it suggests the quite lively debate that Chinese from distinct social and political circles over the political future of the state.  These are not big picture discussions, but more importantly, involve concerns about the organization of the state at the ground level.  The greatest insight, is the one most obvious to the Chinese but least so to outsiders--that these conversations are neither dominated by outsiders (academics, NGOs and others) nor do they involve a supermarket of ideas approach to reform in China (where Chinese intellectuals pull constitutional reform models off the Western shelf).  Our Chinese friends are adept at telling well meaning outsiders what they think these outsiders want to hear.  The conversations held elsewhere are far more interesting.  This is not a tale of revolution, but one that suggests that Chinese intellectuals, like their counterparts in the West, are focused on issue of progress and development within the logic of the system whose parameters they embrace (sometimes more and sometimes less) willingly.  Ultimately,  the object is to suggest that rather than continue a conversation in which outsiders talk among themselves about China and its problems, it might be useful to hear what the Chinese themselves have to say.

The Essays:

Chinese Constitutionalism, Text and Meta-Text: Part 2 (Oct. 30, 2011).

Chinese Constitutionalism, Text and Meta-Text: Part 3 (October 31, 2011).

Saturday, October 08, 2011

We are What We Measure: Constructing and Managing Institutions, Law and Law Schools

We are becoming only what we measure.

(From You are what you measure, Sam, May 26, 2010 ("I came across this great article from Harvard Business Review. It was short thought provoking and to the point. “If we want to change what they care about, we should change what we measure.” “What you measure is what you will get. Period”"))

That is not mere sloganeering, but an indication of the substantial changes in the methodologies of behavior management that is rapidly replacing statutes and regulations as the most effective method of asserting public power.  But it is more than that.  It suggests the power of technologies to make it possible to embody abstractions, that is to make abstract concepts real, and also the basis for governance of these "persons." Dan Ariely provided an example in the context of managing markets for executive compensation:
 Any number of things can motivate CEOs—peer recognition, for example, and even a desire to change the world. In fact, CEOs usually have all the money they need. Why then does it seem that they care more about stock value and the compensation it produces than those other forms of motivation?
The answer is almost uncomfortably simple: CEOs care about stock value because that’s how we measure them. If we want to change what they care about, we should change what we measure.
It can’t be that simple, you might argue— but psychologists and economists will tell you it is. Human beings adjust behavior based on the metrics they’re held against. Anything you measure will impel a person to optimize his score on that metric. What you measure is what you’ll get. Period.
This phenomenon plays out time and again in research studies. Give someone frequent flyer miles, and he’ll fly in absurd ways to optimize his miles. (From Dan Ariely, Column: You Are What You Measure, Harvard Business Review, June 2010)

The technologies are those that make it possible to measure and assess.  The incarnated abstractions are anything subject to measure.  Lawyers, the masters of the use of law as a management technique, are becoming the masters of the use of the new techniques of governance.   Backer, Larry Catá, Global Panopticism: States, Corporations and the Governance Effects of Monitoring Regimes. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 15, 2007.


A recent article suggests the extent to which measurement has replaced law and regulation as both  command and instrument of managing behavior, and the role of lawyers in their development.   Debra Cassens Weiss, Law Firms Announce Plans to Sue 15 More Law Schools over Job Stats, ABA, Oct 5, 2011 11:37 AM CDT

Updated: The litigation against law schools over employment statistics may be expanding.

Two law firms announced Wednesday that they plan to sue 15 more law schools in seven different states, according to Law School Transparency, which posted the press release. The suits will challenge the schools’ reported employment rates for law graduates.

Prior suits against Cooley Law School, New York Law School and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in California have claimed law students were misled by job statistics that didn't specify whether jobs obtained by grads were in the legal field.

In a conference call with reporters, lawyer Jesse Strauss of Strauss Law said the 15 new schools were targeted either because alumni approached the law firms, the schools were in markets saturated with lawyers, or the schools released implausible statistics. According to the press release, the average debt for 2009 graduates of the 15 schools is more than $108,000.

“We are ready, willing and able to sue these schools,” Strauss said, but the law firms need alumni to come forward to join in the lawsuits. The Law Offices of David Anziska, which will be filing the suits with Strauss Law, lists the schools on its website and asks graduates to contact his firm. The firms won't file suit against any particular school until they find at least three plaintiffs.

“With these lawsuits,” Law School Transparency says, “nearly 10 percent of all ABA-approved law schools across eight states will be accused of tortiously misrepresenting job placement statistics and violating state consumer protection laws.”

Strauss and Anziska are representing plaintiffs in the suits against Cooley and New York Law School. Strauss was previously a name partner at Kurzon Strauss, but it has since dissolved, Above the Law reports. Strauss told the blog his former partner, Jeff Kurzon, will be working on the law school cases "in an adjunct capacity."

A day after the announcement of future lawsuits, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sent a letter to the ABA pressing for quick collection and dissemination of more detailed job statistics. The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is adding several new questions to law school questionnaires about jobs held by 2011 graduates nine months after graduation. Boxer wanted the section to collect the information for 2010 grads as well.

Prior coverage: “Grads Sue New York Law School and Cooley Law, Saying They Inflated Job and Salary Stats” “Cooley Sues Law Firm and Bloggers, Says Law School Falsely Accused of Misstating Grads’ Success”

Michel Foucault explained nearly thirty years ago the profound consequences of the application of the then new technologies of measurement metrics made it possible to "see" population--the masses and mass society.  Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. Graham Burchell, trans. New York: Picador Palgrove Macmillan, 2007; pp. 87-110; 103-120.

But we can also say that it is thanks to thew perception of the specific problems of the population, and thanks to the isolation of the level of reality we call the economy, that it was possible to think, reflect, and calculate the problem of government outside the juridical framework of sovereignty.  And the same statistics, which, within the framework of mercantilism, had only ever been able to function within, and in a way, for the benefit of a monarchical administration that itself functioned according to the form of sovereignty, now become the main technical factor, or one of the main technical factors, in ublocking the art of government.
In fact, statistics, which had heretofore functioned within administrative frameworks, and so in terms of the functioning of sovereignty, now discovers and gradually reveals that the population possesses its own regularities: its death rate, its incidence of disease, its regularities of accidents.  Statistics also shows that the population also involves specific, aggregate effects, and that these phenomena are irreducible.  (Ibid., 104).

 (From Twenty Questions for Leaders to Ask: What Will We Measure, How Will We Measure It, and What Will We Consider a Success?, Slide 15, illustration by David Foster, Bloomburg Business Week, Sept, 2009))

The gradual emergence of the notion of population, from an abstract concept, to an aggregation that exhibits  its own characteristics that can be managed is made possible only by advances in the science of measurement. The same can be said for the incarnation of stakeholding in the business of corporations and other economic actors, also grounded in the institutionalization of measurement metrics and the connection between measurement (as a means of describing an abstraction) and metrics (as a means of enforcement of norms).  Backer, Larry Catá, From Moral Obligation to International Law: Disclosure Systems, Markets and the Regulation of Multinational Corporations. Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, 2008.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker on Cooperatives and Socialism in Cuba

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker "holds a degree in sustainable development from the University of Berkeley, California. She is a professor at the Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy at Havana University, and her works have been published both in Cuba and outside the island. She is also, incidently, the daughter of Chilean-Cuban journalist and author Marta Harnecker (who now lives in Venezuela) and her late husband, Manuel "Red Beard" Piñeiro, who headed revolutionary Cuba's state security and intelligence service for many years."  Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: ´Cuba needs changes, to take us forward rather than backwards', Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Jan. 15, 2011.

Piñeiro Harnecker has been interested in the organization of economic enterprises in forms other than western style corporations for some time.  In line with the fundamental thrust of the Lineamientos (Economic and Social Policy Guidelines) adopted by the Cuban Communist Party at its 6th Party Congress in 2011, that serve as the blueprint for the current toolbox of changes contemplated in Cuba's economic organization, one that prohibits recourse to the corporate form (and the aggregation of capital) by individuals for the purpose of engaging in collective economic activity), she has been exploring cooperatives as an alternative form of aggregate economic organization.  

(From Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: `Cuba needs changes, to take us forward rather than backwards', Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Jan. 15, 2011.)

I reiterate once again what is obvious to anyone who knows Cuban reality: that we must change innumerable structural aspects of the organisation of our society in all spheres of economic, political, juridical, communication, etc., life. We must break the inertia of so many years of not addressing the root causes of the grave problems that wear us down and degrade us and provoke a generalised and justified discontent.

However, it's important that we realise that something as simple as any change will not necessarily allow us to solve the problems and advance towards what we want. Since we are human beings with the capacity to think and be sensitive to the fact that the negative consequences of erroneous measures will fall on the most vulnerable people, and those who have sacrificed themselves the most for a better future for all of us, it seems to me important to try to do it as best we can. We must also avoid derailing what has been achieved to date, above all the humane outlook that characterises us.


The managers and workers will be really motivated when they are able to democratically manage their enterprises, and [when] one of the many managerial decisions they make is how to distribute the net earnings among themselves, after the payment of taxes and other financial commitments, as well as ensuring the availability of their working capital, investment funds and reserves. Only in such a situation will the workers really be motivated to make an optimum effort and ensure that their work colleagues do the same, because individual interest joins with the collective interest of the enterprise achieving the best possible results. That is to say, it's not necessary to choose between individual material and spiritual ["moral"] incentives, it is possible to do both simultaneously if we democratise the management of enterprises.

What I propose is that both [the hiring of labour and market exchange by small capitalist enterprises] are legalised and strictly regulated, but that we at the same time do promote, through credit and other state assistance, that both state and non-state (cooperatives and other forms of self-management of small and medium enterprises) are managed democratically and that they establish horizontal exchange relations that respond to social interests. If we understand the "market" or market relations as simply relations of horizontal exchange that are not necessarily guided by the logic of narrow individual benefit, then our differences are not so great. But I do think that it is important to recognise that for horizontal exchange relations to internalise the social interest, it is essential that first of all we identify these social interests through democratic planning mechanisms; for which it is evidently also indispensable to democratise our political system, in such a way that the local governments have the powers they need so that their public administration really is democratic and effective.
(From Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: `Cuba needs changes, to take us forward rather than backwards', Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Jan. 15, 2011.)

Piñeiro Harnecker has now published a collection of essays that she has edited in which the issues she has been exploring are developed in substantially more detail:  Cooperativas y socialismo: una mirada desde Cuba (Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, editor; La Habana: Editorial Caminos 2011)(ISBN 978-959-303-033-5).  The table of contents is reproduced below:


Prólogo/ 7
Camila Piñeiro Harnecker

Parte 1 ¿Qué es una cooperativa?

1 Una introducción a las cooperativas/ 31
Jesús Cruz Reyes y Camila Piñeiro Harnecker

2 La construcción de alternativas más allá del capital/ 55
Julio C. Gambina y Gabriela Roffinelli

Parte 2 Las cooperativas y los pensadores socialistas

3 Cooperativismo y autogestión en las visiones de Marx, Engels y Lenin / 71
Humberto Miranda Lorenzo

4 Cooperativismo socialista y emancipación humana. El legado de Lenin/ 103
Iñaki Gil de San Vicente

5 El Ché Guevara: las cooperativas y la economía política de la transición al socialismo/ 132
Helen Yaffe

6 Las bases del socialismo autogestionario: la contribución de István Mészáros/ 167
Henrique T. Novaes

Parte 3 Las cooperativas en otros países

7 Mondragón: los dilemas de un cooperativismo maduro/ 191
Larraitz Altuna Gabilondo, Aitzol Loyola Idiakez y Eneritz Pagalday Tricio

8 Cuarenta años de autogestión en vivienda popular en Uruguay. El “Modelo FUCVAM”/ 219
Benjamin Nahoum

9 Economía solidaria en Brasil: la actualidad de las cooperativas para la emancipación histórica de los trabajadores/ 245
Luiz Inácio Gaiger y Eliene Dos Anjos

10 Autogestión obrera en Argentina: problemas y potencialidades del trabajo autogestionado en el contexto de la poscrisis neoliberal/ 272
Andrés Ruggeri

11 De las cooperativas a las empresas de propiedad social directa en el proceso venezolano/ 301
Dario Azzellini

Parte 4 Las cooperativas y la construcción socialista en Cuba

12 Las cooperativas agropecuarias en Cuba: 1959-presente/ 321
Armando Nova González

13 La UBPC: forma de rediseñar la propiedad estatal con gestión cooperativa/ 337
Emilio Rodríguez Membrado y Alcides López Labrada

14 Notas características del marco legal del ambiente cooperativo cubano/ 366
Avelino Fernández Peiso

15 Retos del cooperativismo como alternativa de desarrollo ante la crisis global. Su papel en el modelo económico cubano/ 397
Claudio Alberto Rivera Rodríguez, Odalys Labrador Machín y Juan Luis Alfonso Alemán

The volume was made available courtesy of ASCE and Joaquin Pujol and was made available by Arch Ritter in his blog, The Cuban Economy: New Publication from Cuba: Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada Desde Cuba, Oct. 3, 2011.  The complete document is available hyperlinked here: Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada Desde Cuba, La Habana: Editorial Caminos, 2011.

Those who wish for a taste of Piñeiro Harnecker's ideas in English might review a translation of portions of the preface to the work, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: Cooperatives and socialism in Cuba, Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Sept. 26, 2011 (Preface to Cooperatives and socialism: A Cuban perspective (extract) By Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, translated by Marce Cameron):
We hope that those who, on the basis of the Cuban experience, doubt that it is possible for a cooperative to be truly autonomous and democratic will find this concern adequately addressed in the first part of the compilation. Here, when we explain what a cooperative is, we point to the basic differences between a cooperative and a socialist state enterprise. In a genuine cooperative, the participation of the cooperative members in management does not depend on the enterprise management council deciding to involve them more in decision-making; such participation is a founding principle, concretised in the rights of members established in the internal rules of functioning and exercised through bodies and decision-making procedures that are drawn up and approved by the cooperative members themselves. Although the degree of autonomy of the new Cuban cooperatives will depend, of course, on the content of the anticipated legislation on cooperatives and on the implementation of the regulations it establishes, the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines seem to indicate that they will be granted the powers of self-management that characterise cooperatives everywhere, and without which democratic self-management is impossible. We hope the legislation resolves the deficiencies of the current legal framework for Cuban agricultural cooperatives, which are analysed in the fourth part of this book.


What differentiates a production cooperative (referred to hereafter as “cooperative” since we emphasise this type[4]) from other forms of enterprise organisation is emphasised, based on an analysis of the cooperative principles[5] that have contributed to the success of these organisations since the emergence of the first modern cooperatives. These early modern cooperatives understood the imperative of achieving an effective enterprise management that would allow them to survive within the more savage and monopolistic capitalism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. To the degree to which cooperatives have observed these principles in their daily practice, they have benefited from the intrinsic advantages of this form of enterprise. These advantages ultimately derive from a democratic management model that permits the harmonisation of individual interests with those of the collective (i.e. of the common interests of cooperative members) and even, though in a less axiomatic way, with the social interests of the local communities with which they interact the most.

The observance of these principles is also what allows cooperatives to reduce the inevitable corrupting effects of the capitalist surroundings in which the majority of them have developed. The capitalist environment privileges individual over collective solutions; makes it difficult to achieve equality by generating and reproducing differences in abilities and social status among cooperative members; denies them the time needed for democratic decision-making; punishes genuine acts of solidarity; and promotes the super-exploitation of human beings and nature. While this undoubtedly limits the horizon of human emancipation – the overcoming of the barriers that stand in the way of us fulfilling our human potentialities – an emancipatory dynamic has always been latent in genuine cooperatives. The capitalist environment is not an absolute barrier to cooperatives becoming spaces in which these principles are put into practice, and in which the values that such practices instill may develop. The experiences of successful cooperatives presented in this book demonstrate the economic and ethical-political potential of these organisational principals, above all when cooperatives that embody these principles are able to link up with other self-managed entities, and when they promote the approval of laws and regulations that undermine the prejudices that exist regarding cooperatives in the legal framework and in the practices of capitalist enterprises and state institutions.

The rationality that drives a cooperative, as with all forms of genuine self-management, is the necessity for a group of people to satisfy common needs and interests. It is based on the recognition that they share collective interests that correspond to some degree with their own individual interests, and that it is collective action that allows them to pursue these interests most effectively. This, together with the recognition that all its members are human beings with the equal right to participate in decision-making, results in democratic management in which the cooperative members decide not only who the leaders are and how revenues should be allocated, but also how to organise the process of production: what is produced, how and for whom.

Piñeiro Harnecker's book is worth reading, especially for those who can read Spanish.  It provides a window on the conceptual difficulties of efforts to engage functionally in economic activity grounded in private interactions between market participants while avoiding the forms of market structures that would reduce the state to a mere market organizer and protector.  Piñeiro Harnecker made that clear at the start of her essay:

Cuando en Cuba se propone a la cooperativa de producción como una —no la única— forma de organización empresarial, es común encontrarse sobre todo con tres preocupaciones: unos la conside- ran demasiado “utópica” y por tanto ineficiente; otros, a partir de las formas que ha tomado en Cuba, sospechan que será insuficientemente autónoma o “demasiado parecida a la empresa estatal”; y otros, habituados a un control de la actividad empresarial por un Estado que interviene de manera directa y excesiva en la gestión, la rechazan como demasiado autónoma y por tanto un “germen del capitalismo”. Este libro intenta tener en cuenta todas estas inquie- tudes, aunque sin dudas se requiere de más espacio para tratarlas adecuadamente. (From Cooperativas y Socialismo, supra, at 7-8). ("When it is proposed that the production cooperative be one – though not the only – form of enterprise in Cuba, three concerns above all are frequently encountered: some consider it too “utopian” and therefore inefficient; others, on the basis of the cooperatives that have existed in Cuba, suspect that they will not have sufficient autonomy or that they will be “too much like state enterprises”; while others still, accustomed to the control over enterprise activities exercised by a state that intervenes directly and excessively in enterprise management, reject cooperativism as too autonomous and therefore a “seed of capitalism”. This book tries to take account of all these concerns, though there is no doubt that more space would be required to address them adequately." Translation by Marce Cameron)
Those difficulties continue to make the form of corporate organization particularly troublesome for regimes, like that of Cuba, which view juridical or legal persons that constitute the aggregation of popular power as threatening to the state unless the state owns or controls these organizations. See, Larry Catá Backer, Corporate Governance at the Crossroads: Cuban Marxism, Private Economic Collectives and Free Market Globalism, Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2005.

Cooperatives are viewed as a means of economic aggregation that avoids the problems of corporations in their relationship to the state and society--shareholder wealth maximization, avoidance of corporate social responsibility principles, and labor exploitation  (Piñeiro Harnecker, supra, at 28: "Asimismo, para evitar la concentración de riqueza que explica los altos impuestos aplicados a los cuentapropistas, debería sobre todo promoverse que el nuevo sector no estatal adopte preferentemente el modelo de gestión cooperativo, donde los beneficios son distribuidos de forma equitativa entre sus miembros y que favorezcan en alguna medida las comunidades aledañas." Ibid.).  Yet, like the corporate form that remains the sole province of the state, the problem of autonomy remains a key issue.  It is the issue that raises, for the Cuban political economy, the ideological question of the extent of the role of the state in the planning of economic decisions, that is whether the state will set the general goals and objectives of economic activity or whether the state will direct more precisely the economic choices of individuals and cooperatives at an operational level.

The managerial autonomy of the collective that makes up the cooperative – the ability of this group of people to make decisions independently – is the key reason why the historical experiences of socialist construction have rejected their relevance to the building of socialism and have relegated them to agriculture or marginal economic spaces. Some see in autonomy a disconnection from, or a wanting to have nothing to do with, social interests and the strategic objectives embodied in the socialist economic plan, and ask the following questions: Is it possible to “hitch” an autonomous enterprise to a planned economy? Can a cooperative respond not only to the interests of its members but also to wider social interests? When one thinks in terms of absolute autonomy and authoritarian (i.e. undemocratic) planning, if the interests of collectives (groups) are considered a priori to be indifferent to social interests, then the answer is obviously negative. The authors of this book are motivated by the certainty that the answer is affirmative. We argue the case here, though we are unable to respond to all of the questions about how this can be achieved in practice. (Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: Cooperatives and socialism in Cuba, Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Sept. 26, 2011 (Preface to Cooperatives and socialism: A Cuban perspective (extract) By Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, translated by Marce Cameron))
Piñeiro Harnecker highlights both the peculiarities of the Cuban discussion about economic reform and engagement in global economic movements, and its distance from the path followed by the Chinese Communist Party since the 1980s. Cuba is seeking to forge a third path between the market oriented economic model fo the West and the pattern of economic control developed by the great Asian Marxist Leninist states.  It remains committed to a significant degree of central planning, and suspicious of autonomous aggregations of capital or individuals not directly controlled or managed by the state.  It has sought to build these notions into its international and regional economic planning to the same extent it seeks to base it internal economic model on those principles.  Backer, Larry Catá and Molina, Augusto, Cuba and the Construction of Alternative Global Trade Systems: ALBA and Free Trade in the Americas (May 20, 2009), University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2010. Within that environment, cooperatives, so benign in China and Vietnam, assumes a more problematic place in the Cuban political economy. 

Whether the experiment will succeed remains to be seen, but the search for forms of economic organization that are not necessarily grounded in shareholder wealth maximization, and that serve social goals, even those controlled by the state apparatus, may provide insights and models of use elsewhere and for other purposes.