Saturday, February 21, 2009

Self-management in Cuba? Part 2.

During the last few decades we have seen the greatest expropriation take place in history, barring the conquest of the Americas. Trillions of dollars worth of ostensibly public property, bought with tax money, sweat, and in the case of the USSR with the lives of millions, has been given away to trans-national corporations or the friends of politicians. The politicians were able to do this because the state owned these properties, and in the same way I am free to sell my house because I hold title to it, the government can do the same. This is the great failure of state socialism, what the state gives, it can also take away. All that has to happen is a change in government policy. Seemingly, the leaders of the social democratic and communist parties never saw this as a possibility. (1)

Here lies the greatest danger for the Cuban people. A group might arise within the government which decides to give away the store, like has happened in the rest of the world. This is vastly more of a threat than the prospect of a worker coop system evolving back into capitalism, but more on that later. Now here is a very important point – what the state does not own it cannot give away. State ownership plus worker-management, though it makes it more difficult for the capitalists, does not eliminate the problem of “privatization”. As long as title lies with government, a give-away is possible. If the Cuban government were to give legal title directly to the people, no “privatizations” would ever be possible. In other words, create a form of public or national ownership that is not governmental.

“Public ownership that is not governmental, how can that be?” you ask. Well, I have good news for you, this concept was invented 90 years ago by the French syndicalist union, the CGT. The syndicalists realized that the French economy had changed radically in the 20th Century and that the old Proudhonist slogan “the mine for the miners” no longer applied in many cases. Huge industries such as railways, electrical power, steel mills made more sense owned and run on a national basis. They rejected state ownership fearing the growth of bureaucracy and a loss of workers democracy, and so invented non-statist nationalization. (2)

It worked this way. Every nationalized industry would become its own entity. It would be overseen by an elected board of directors of 18 members comprising 6 worker representatives, 6 consumer reps (included the coop federation and consumer association) and 6 government reps – 2 from the central government, 2 from the departements and 2 from the communes. All nationalized industries were to be unionized and under worker management. It goes without saying that such industries would be next to impossible to “privatize.” Furthermore, all the nationalized industries were to have belonged to a planning council, along with other economic actors such as the coops and trade unions.

I am not suggesting the Cubans should adopt this model verbatum, but something along these lines would provide both work place democracy and avoid the possibility of capitalist restoration.

Next posting – mutualism and worker coops

1, I suspect the social democrats for their belief that the class struggle had been tamed and the CP out of faith in a supposed linear evolution of society.
2. This was actually the suggestion of the French Cooperative Movement, but the CGT adopted it as policy.


Blogger Frank Partisan said...

Later tonight I'll send a link to your blog to Jordi. He might comment.

2:25 PM  
Blogger bathmate said...

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12:29 PM  

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