The PowerPoint may be accessed HERE.
The Conference Paper may be accessed HERE.
Friday, August 2
9:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Legal Issues (Concerto Ballroom A)
Chair: Stephen Kimmerling, Attorney, Consultant
Larry Catá Backer, W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law; Professor of International Affairs, The Dickinson School of Law , The Pennsylvania State University
“The Problem of Labor and the Construction of Socialism in Cuba: On Contradictions in the Reform of Cuba’s Regulations for Private Labor Cooperatives ”
Daniel Buigas, Attorney, Leiva Law P.A.
“The Electoral System in a Democratic Cuba”
Antonio Zamora, Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law
“The Legal Relations Between the U.S. and Cuba”
Laritza Diversent, Cuban Attorney and Blogger (invited)
“Aspectos legales y sociales de las reformas migratorias recientes”
Pedro Freyre, Shareholder; Chair, International Practice, Akerman Senterfitt LLP; Lecturer in Law,
Columbia University School of Law; and
Jorge Esquirol, Florida International University
"The Problem of Labor and the Construction of Socialism in Cuba: On Contradictions in the Reform of Cuba’s Regulations for Private Labor Cooperatives."
Abstract: One of the most difficult issues facing Cuba today is the problem of structuring aggregations of economic activities. In most states, individuals are understood to be able to aggregate capital in corporate or partnership form and to aggregate productive activity otherwise through cooperatives. But Cuba’s version of Marxist Leninism has complicated that structure, producing a political culture whose ideology views formal aggregations of individuals with some suspicion. Thus while it has become clear that aggregating productive activity is critical to expanding economic activity, and for aiding in Cuban economic growth, as an economic matter, the forms of permissible aggregation remains contested, as a political matter. This paper considers the form and effectiveness of recent Cuban efforts to develop a viable framework for labor cooperatives in a small private sector now being made available outside of the state sector. It first reviews the Communist Party developed framework within which cooperatives are embedded into the Marxist Leninist political economy of Cuba and its recent efforts at reform. It then critically examines the regulatory structures for labor cooperatives promulgated in December 2012. Lastly, it suggests structural issues and consequences of the new regulations within the context of the larger issues constraining Cuban economic reform.
On July 1, 2013, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party announced the approval of 124 cooperatives to operate in the non-agricultural sector. Grisel Tristá Arbesú, head of the Grupo de Perfeccionamiento Empresarial de la Comisión Permanente para la Implementación y Desarrollo was quoted as explaining that this push to open a small area for private economic activity focused on activities in which state enterprises had not been efficient and which were not critical to the national economy. The majority of the first batch of state approved cooperatives represents efforts to devolve operation of non-essential state enterprises; only twelve cooperatives were approved from the non-state sector. The emergence of the cooperative marks a multi-year effort to reform the Cuban economy while preserving the fundamental character of the Cuban political economy characterized by strong central planning and state control of productive capital. Indeed, the announcement was careful to remind readers that though the operating premise of the new regime was grounded in markets to determine demand and prices, the state retained unconstrained authority to intervene to set prices.
The road to this point has not been either easy or straightforward. Even this small change—the creation of a small, though tightly regulated space within which individuals may provide goods and services without direct state direction or control—required a substantial amount of debate within the Cuban Communist Party. That debate, in turn, exposed the contradictions of Cuban Marxist-Leninist political economy—one with the objective of creating an appropriate role for the control and exploitation of capital consistent with Marxist principles but which acknowledge that the Soviet experiment, turning the state into a monopoly capitalist and the Communist Party as its operator, has not produced the movement toward socialism intended after 1959. To complicate the debate, Cuban Communists have rejected the approach of Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Parties, which have moved to more indirect control of capital and markets as part of their development of Marxist economic principles since the 1970s. As a consequence, the range of flexibility left to the Cuban Communist Party is quite limited.
Central to the debates, and one of the most difficult issues facing Cuba today, is the problem of structuring aggregations of economic activities. In most states, individuals are understood to be able to aggregate capital in corporate or partnership form and to aggregate productive activity otherwise through cooperatives. But Cuba’s version of Marxist Leninism has complicated that structure, producing a political culture whose ideology views formal aggregations of individuals with some suspicion, as a challenge to the paramount role of the Cuban Communist Party. More importantly, the current economic system is based on the premise that only the state, under the leadership of the Communist Party, may own and direct the use of productive capital for economic production. These issues are bound up in recent efforts by the Cuban Communist Party to change the economic model that has been substantially unquestioned since the early 1960s, without changing, in any significant respect, the premises of that organizational model. Thus while it has become clear that aggregating productive activity is critical to expanding economic activity, and for aiding in Cuban economic growth, as an economic matter, the forms of permissible aggregation remains contested, as a political matter.
This paper first reviews the new conceptual and regulatory structures for cooperatives. This requires first understanding the Communist Party line expressed through the Lineamientos.  It then focuses on the form of economic aggregation that the Cuban state has tentatively opened to individuals—the economic cooperative, examining in some detail cooperative regulations promulgated in December 2012. Lastly, it suggests structural issues and consequences of the new regulations within the context of the larger issues constraining Cuban economic reform. It concludes that, like China before it in the 1970s, the issue for Cuban Marxism is not how to resolve the issue of capital, it is instead the question of labor under Marxism as something other than a commodified form of useful capital. Successful resolution of this issue will test the Cuban legitimacy of the current political economy of the state. Cuba has sought to nod in the direction of labor through its focus on labor cooperatives. But it remains very much committed to the primacy of capital. Until that contradiction of Cuban Marxism is solved, the best one will be able to hope for are small steps toward the amelioration of the subordination of labor in a system that remains very much grounded in the primacy of capital.
 Yaima Puig Meneses and Leticia Martínez Hernández, Comienzan a funcionar cooperativas en diversos sectores de la economía, Granma,
 Id. (“"Ellas están llamadas a ocupar un lugar importante en la economía del país, aunque el papel principal lo continuará teniendo la empresa estatal socialista", enfatizó. Las cooperativas no son resultado de un proceso de privatización —aclaró—, sino que administrarán la propiedad estatal que es, en definitiva, de todo el pueblo.” Id., quoting Rubén Toledo Díaz, jefe de grupo en la Comisión Permanente para la Implementación y Desarrollo)
 Id. (“Al respecto, Tristá Arbesú destacó que aun cuando los precios estarán determinados según la oferta y la demanda, se exceptúan de esta regla algunas actividades y productos”).
 See, Larry Catá Backer, "The Cooperative as a Proletarian Corporation: The Global Dimensions of Property Rights and the Organization of Economic Activity in Cuba," Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business 33:527-618 (2013).
 Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución [Guidelines on the Political and Social Economy of the Party and the Revolution], VI Congreso del Parido Comunista de Cuba [Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba] (adopted Apr. 18, 2011) (Cuba) [hereinafter Lineamientos], available at http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/secciones/6to-congreso-pcc/Folleto%20Lineamientos%20VI%20Cong.pdf (translation available at http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/documentos/2011/ing/l160711i.html).