By José Alejandro Rodríguez
07 December 2011
While state ownership will remain the backbone, especially in strategic sectors of development, there is increasing room for the citizens' initiative on commerce, services, food and many everyday trades and jobs that are not necessarily permanent and never were able to progress under the top-to-bottom aegis of businesses and ministries.
The decentralization is such that, according to official estimates, by 2015 the non-state sector will account for 35 percent of the jobs in the country.
The state’s preponderance in agriculture for decades was barely broken by the exceptional official grants of land to small farmers and cooperatives in Cuba. In the long run, the small farms showed more flexibility and productivity than the large and oversized state farms.
Such was the contrast, that in 2009, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information, the credit and service cooperatives (CCS) and agricultural production (CPA), which held only 24.4 percent of the arable land, produced 57 percent of the food.
Even so, the cooperative movement in Cuban agriculture has not been spared the excessive tutelage of the state, which has undermined its autonomy and burdened it with an overload of controls and conditions. Even the radical reform of the 1990s, which gave many of the state lands to the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), passed on to these new forms of property the debts, centralized methods and the vertical hurdles of the extinct agricultural enterprises that gave rise to the UBPCs.
Even with all these constraints, the cooperative movement has demonstrated in the Cuban countryside the strength, sense of belonging and the dynamism that are absent in state-run farms, plans and agricultural enterprises, because they are so bureaucratized.
However, either through copies of the so-called real socialism that failed in Europe, or because of extremist dogmas and prejudices against what was considered a germ of capitalist desire, the cooperative movement, as grounded in the classics of Marxism and the great thinker Vladimir Ilych Lenin as a socialist form of production, could not cross the boundary of the Cuban countryside, and spread to other productive and service sectors.
After a popular debate that generated more than 700,000 diverse proposals to dump the ballast that bogs down socialism on the island, the Economic and Social Guidelines of the Communist Party of Cuba considered for the first time the feasibility of establishing cooperatives "as a socialist form of ownership" in different sectors of the economy. This has been regarded as an announcement of the extension of this economic figure.
But even the gradual and cautious timetable of the economic “actualization,” focused on consolidating adjustments and changes that are already being felt, has not given the green light to this collective and democratic form of management, although it is common knowledge that approval will come after certain changes in the law, because the Cuban Constitution prescribes cooperatives only in agricultural production.
Enthusiastic scholars and advocates of cooperatives in the socialist formula, such as a researcher at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana, Camila Piñero Harnecker, impatiently wonder, “Why are we waiting so long to promote the creation of cooperatives of all kinds?” And they argue that these structures can be more compatible with the socialist democracy, more cohesive, collectivist and committed to the communities than self-employment.
They even argue that the cooperative formula is more akin to the socialist ideal, because it operates through the collective agreement of its members and observes more equitable distribution principles, and is not based on the hiring of labor, which is always in need of control under socialism to avoid excesses and deviations from the socialist ideal.
In the end, popular intuition will channel its hope in a much more simple and expeditious manner: if cooperatives are in the Guidelines, they will come when the Guidelines are implemented. The “when” and the “how” are not yet known. Time will tell.