Monday, November 19, 2018

10-Introducing "Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era" ("The Role of Labor Cooperatives in Cuban Reform")


I reported the publication of Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era (Little Sir Press 2018; ISBN: 978-1-949943-00-9 (pbk); I SBN: 978-1-949943-01-6 (ebk)) (here). Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism is the first offering through Little Sir Press, a self-publishing collective that is a new project in broader knowledge dissemination of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics (more about that project here). Join us!’s Caribbean Marxism eBook may be accessed through these sites:    

Paperback ordering information to follow. Individual Chapters also may be ordered in pdf format.

I promised that over the course of future posts I would be introducing readers to the book. This post continues with an introduction to Chapter 8 (" The Role of Labor Cooperatives in Cuban Reform"),  which follows below.   Here for access to other posts in this series.  HERE for the video recording of the launch event for Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era, which took place 12 November 2018 at Penn State

The Role of Labor Cooperatives in Cuban Reform
      In the West, notions of property are at the center of economic and political organization.  The law-state is focused on systems for the taxonomy and systemic protection of property (what is property and legal rules for its management). Individuals can aggregate property for the production of private wealth; organized as          corporations, this property assumes a double character.  Corporations are understood as property, represented, for example, by shares, which are property in the hands of shareholders giving each certain rights to control, income and assets of the entity.  But the corporation is also understood as an autonomous entity, as a holder of property in its own right.  In this sense it resembles other corporate bodies—even the state—in its character (though of course with a more limited scope). 
A very different picture emerges in Marxist-Leninist states. Traditionally all capital belongs to the revolutionary elements organized within a conceptual         structure of democratic dictatorship awaiting the transition from socialism to pure            Marxism. There is a deep embedding of the idea of separation between property ownership and use: productive property as inherently political, as an instrument for the satisfaction of the needs of the people. In contrast, individual ownership in the absence of state control or direction could be understood as a challenge to the unity of the people and a political threat. The relationship of property to the individual, the proletariat and the state has been at the center of revolutions in Marxist-Leninist theory for the last generation.
Today, there is a split within the Marxist-Leninist community of states.  Lead by changes in China that accelerated after the late 1970s, China has abandoned the traditional notion of state monopoly on productive property and along with it, the necessity of aggregating to the apparatus of the state all power to manage productive assets (and the people through which productivity is extracted). Strict central planning has been abandoned in favor of oversight and the exercise of economic authority through state owned enterprises with some autonomy. Central planning has become entertained with centralized regulatory governance and objectives based regulation conforming generally to Marxist-Leninist principles as continuously developed within the Chinese Communist Party. In effect, China has been moving from micro to macro management, although with significant exceptions.
Cuba presents a substantial variant of Chinese Marxism-Leninism. Cuba is still deeply committed to the central planning model, and still adheres strongly to anti-markets principles of governance. It follows that Cuba has retained both the state apparatus and a vanguard party ideology that support the principles that substantially all control of significant economic activity must be directed, as a political matter, by vanguard party members in fidelity to the vanguard party’s ideological line. This direction, in turn is to be administered through a large state bureaucracy, most of whose members are also members of the vanguard party. Productive property, for all intents and purposes, retains its direct connection to the state along with a strong commitment to the direct ownership and management role of the       state in economic activity.  In this respect Cuba retains strong loyalty to the Soviet model that all but disappeared after the dissolution of the Soviet Union nearly half a generation ago. Cuba remains very much closer to orbit of Soviet ideology in a contemporary iteration, even decades after it disappeared elsewhere. 
However, modern realities continue to produce a strong pull against this form of economic organization.  Globalization has substantially changed the rules through which global production is organized.  Cuba’s economic performance, its ability to provide for its people, has been greatly stressed for many years in the face of a Party and administrative apparatus that seemed oblivious. Cuba has both recognized and resisted these realities. On the one hand, over the past decade Cuba has sought to internationalize a counter-model to that offered by conventional globalization, forming for that purpose the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) (Backer 2010). On the other hand, Cuba has also embarked on what was a potentially far-reaching project of internal self-reflection and change within the parameters of the current political structure (Shreve 2012, 378-81). This project produced a potentially far ranging set of economic reforms (Forero-Niño 2011), a new ideological line for the Partido Comunista Cubano (Cuban Communist Party (PCC)) approved at the 2011 6th Party Congress, first memorialized in a set of Guidelines to be implemented by the state apparatus, Lineamientos de la Política económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución (the “Lineamientos”) (Communist Party of Cuba 2011) and then embedded formally in the political theory of the PCC and the principles of economic planning in the Conceptualización del modelo económico y social Cubano de desarrollo socialista: Plan nacional de desarrollo económico y social hasta 2030: Propuesta de visión de la nación, ejes y sectores estratégico (Communist Party of Cuba 2016).
The Lineamientos strictly limited the availability of the corporate form to state owned enterprises, or enterprises involving the state and foreigners, the formal prohibition of which carried over to the Conceptualización. The Lineamientos were refined in 2017 (Communist Party of Cuba 2017) to emphasize the Conceptualización’s emphasis of the principle of state ownership of productive forces as well as the principle that individuals should not be permitted to amass wealth (Ibid. Lineamientos ¶¶ 3-4). The rationale is that the Marxist-Leninist foundation of the state would be undermined if the corporate form were made available except through the state to the PCC’s institutional apparatus.  That rationale, in turn, is founded on the idea that only the state may aggregate the ownership of property and that the corporate form, in effect, is a manifestation of political rather than economic or property power. The foundational principle is that under Cuban Marxist-Leninist economic organization, only the people, organized through the state sector and directed by the PCC, can accumulate the means of production and engage in collective activities.  To permit collective activities outside the state sector would be understood as a threat to the principal authority of the state and its apparatus as the vanguard of popular action. For those brought up under Soviet Socialist theory, this approach sounds familiar.  It has also, to some extent been abandoned virtually everywhere, at least in the form the Cuban Communist Party seeks to preserve.
In its place, other, more limited vehicles for aggregation of capital in private ventures have been suggested. If corporations are prohibited as a form of private economic activity but reducing such activity to prescribed simple sole proprietorships may not produce the sort of positive economic growth necessary to avoid economic stagnation, then the question of finding an alternative form of economic activity that permits private aggregations of economic activity becomes critical to the forward movement of Cuban economic reforms consistent with its governing ideology.  For that purpose the Cuban state will offer the cooperative in a form that is yet to be determined. 
Focusing on the work of academics organized by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker of the University of Havana’s Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana (Piñiero Harnecker ed. 2011), and recent actions of the Cuban state, this paper examines the consequences of the current approach to the creation and management of economic enterprises within Cuba.  The cooperative device is not new.  It has become an important element for aggregations of efforts around the world. (ICA Statement on Cooperative Identity).  Since the 1990s, new models have emerged which “appear to be not only a reaction to the exogenous environmental influences of globalization, industrialization, consolidation, technological advances, institutional uniqueness of the country to legal environment, and overcapacity in the food sector but also to the intra-firm coordination challenges of redirecting strategy”  (Cook & Plunkett 2006, p. 423).  Indeed, cooperatives “represent a substantial share of the economy in most developed market economies. . . . [and such share] is larger in advanced market economies than it is in less developed economies” (Hansmann 1999, 387). But these models tend to be property-based. (Chaddad and Cook 2004).  In Cuba, cooperatives have served principally as a device for managing agricultural production. Piñeiro Harnecker and her colleagues may be attempting something new and potentially more radical—the development of a theory of proletarian corporations.
This Chapter examines the consequences of the current approach to the creation and management of economic enterprises within Cuba.  That approach is grounded on the creation of four distinct spheres of economic activity.  The first is public and centered on the reorganization of state-managed economic activity; the second is private and centered on consumer goods and services; the third is national, centered on the development of an integrated economy grounded in Party line principles; and the fourth is regional, and is centered on the development of state-to-state economic activity under the ALBA model. Integrating these approaches requires a careful balancing of the logic of a centrally planned and public-oriented Marxist-Leninist approach to economic control and the logic of the framework of a market-based system of economic globalization.  But that balancing produces the potential for important contradictions, at the heart of which is the tension between the norms and forms of economic globalization and the current conventional framework of Cuban Marxist-Leninist state organization.
The Chapter first examines the current development of a new structure of economic organization in Cuba.  That structure reveals a limited space for individual economic activity in the shadow of, but not directly managed by, the State. To operationalize that structure, the Lineamientos (both the original from 2011 and its refinement in 2017, explored in Chapter 4) provide a framework that allocates permitted forms of economic activities and specifies their limits: private individual enterprise, corporate organization for some state enterprises, and the possibility of individual labor aggregation through cooperatives. The Chapter then considers the cooperative in more depth.  It examines the way these reforms reveal deep ideological fissures within the PCC. Within that context, the analysis also suggests the benefits and limitations of this peculiarly Cuban innovation within confines of Cuban political ideology as well as what the turn to the cooperative form in private enterprise may mean for the future course of the development of Cuban State-Party ideology. The last section attempts a contextual analysis of the Cuban approach within the structures of Cuba’s regional economic engagements. The problem of the cooperative highlights a fundamental conundrum of Cuban economic development: can Cuba develop a conceptually useful vehicle, like the cooperative, that enhances individual autonomy, and not hobble it for fear that it will undermine the socialist character of the 1959 Revolution? Cuba’s solution to that problem will determine the course of its future.

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