Unmasking Cuba’s Bureaucracy

Daisy Valera 

Photo: Juan Garces

“… bureaucratic thought, [is] that parasitic plant that sterilizes creativity as well as authentic collective participation and the work of shaping the younger generations.” 

I couldn’t be more in agreement with these words by Graziella Pogolotti, taken from her article Otra vuelta de tuerca al pensamiento burocrático (Another Turn of the Screw against Bureaucratic Thought) that appeared in the Granma newspaper this past July 21.

The article is part of the critical line that seems to have been adopted by the official paper of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).  The daily recently even called for “increasing the journalistic effectiveness of the massive media” in an article by one it its writers, Anneris Ivette Leyva.

But we should not forget that the article by Pogolotti was printed in Granma, a newspaper that to date has achieved the merit of fostering among Cubans the capacity for intuition and the ability to read between lines.

Carefully and attentively I immersed myself in the writing by Graziella, though with the expectation — despite her excellent writing technique and the work’s coherence — that she would lack the words needed to clarify to the ordinary Cuban what she was attacking.

The author set sail in an assault on bureaucratic thought, which dropped anchor in this country far too many years ago.

She gave the example of a low level government employee who — absent from their position — leaves certain key documents locked up in their office, and thereby ends up paralyzing the resolution of major problems.

This situation’s solution (which the writer doesn’t suggest), would be something as simple as this official not being the sole person having access to the documentation, be instead all the those working at the facility.

Graziella criticizes the development of timbiricherismo (the spread of kiosk capitalism) and individualist atomizing approaches so characteristic of capitalist societies generally.

However, she fails to point out that it was PCC policy that opened the gate to the creation of private businesses (well aware, according to press notes, that many of these will fail within the first year).  Likewise, it was the party that approved the hiring of wage-laborers – without promoting associative work [cooperatives], which would have much more in tune with a society seeking to be socialist.

Photo: Juan Garces

The writer calls our attention to the fact that lower-level bureaucrats are the ones who hinder the putting into practice of the “Guidelines of the Party.”

But she doesn’t notice that according to that same “Guidelines” document, these officials continue to be the one vested with power.  They’re even identified as the ones who should have the last word in deciding which people are the “suitable workers” and which one should be laid off.

Citing the author’s own words:

“On another side of the balance, the damage is even more difficult to repair, and they [the bureaucrats] can disable the continuity of the socialist project, lead to a loss of sovereignty and affect a vertical drop in the standard of living of the great majority, as well as enthrone violence through the entanglement of mafias of all types.”

Why not say that the other side of the scale is a synonym for referring to the big bureaucrats like the cases for the deposed Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and VP Carlos Lage and the ton of ministers purged in recent times.

Many accused of not fulfilling their obligations or “tasting the honey of power” were bureaucrats who we had been required to obey for long periods of time.  We followed their ideas and participated in their projects because they’d been simply unquestionable.

On the other hand, not mentioned are the big bureaucrats who have come out unscathed in the latest house cleaning of the state apparatus.

Nevertheless, Graziella also calls on us to change our mentalities and to permanently question our situation.

However we should not forget that it’s necessary to dismantle the mechanisms of secretismo so widely used by the officials who get so worked up over the slightest criticism of our problems, since supposedly those are “weapons of our enemies” (the USA or the EU, depending on the moment).

To get rid of bureaucratic thought the writer challenges us to develop a true culture of dialogue.

I believe that, beyond dialogue and our becoming conscious, there should be a practice of eliminating the privileges enjoyed by a countless number of managers but never by common workers.  These higher-ups receive cars, airs conditioners, cellphones and even trips abroad, all paid for by the resources of the government, which is the same thing as saying by ordinary working Cubans.

Pogolotti comments that bureaucrats are subject to devastating criticism and ridicule, but she doesn’t alert us to the causes and origins (perhaps for reason of space) of their social class, nor does she discuss their arms and methods, which we should strip from them.

The most effective ones who think critically are branded “mercenary,” “annexationist,” or “counter-revolutionary” (we can recall the recent cases of Esteban Morales and Pedro Pablo Oliva) and they are isolated socially.

I don’t agree with the idea that bureaucratic thought is a problem that can be addressed with respectful conduct, frankness and mutual trust.

Photo: Juan Garces

Precisely because the bureaucrats have not been frank with the people or respected them, masses of people have lost confidence in the ability of the “socialist” ruling class to move the country forward.

In my opinion, this would be like making a revolution at night so as not to bother anybody, much less that same bureaucracy.

We shouldn’t be naive; those holding the power won’t give it up peacefully.  We Cubans have a long battle ahead of us.

The only thing left to say is that articles like the one by the writer cause only paralysis and a conciliatory attitude toward that same bureaucracy they’re trying to fight.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

Daisy Valera has 208 posts and counting. See all posts by Daisy Valera

42 thoughts on “Unmasking Cuba’s Bureaucracy

  • I partially agree. In the sense that yes the state should be responsible for some basic services but without excluding private hands to provide and compete with the state.
    Education should have both private and public components.
    Same for health care etc

  • “n my view socialist property “can be” full state property. Some enterprises and some industries (water and electricity) probably should be 100% state owned. But it can also be a associate-owned, Mondragon-type corporations with partial, non-controlling state ownership.”

    I fully agree, Grady. Essential resources, IMHO, *must* be controlled by the state. Water, energetic resources, telephony services, road and railroad meshes, et caterva.

    And by God, I forgot the most basic ones in my previous list – healthcare and education.

    Everything else should be either co-owned or private owned, in the social-economic system you advocate.

  • “Dear Grady, unlike you. I do not think that either Marx or Engels had bad intentions.”

    Me too. Wow, agreeing with Julio was something I’d never expected! 🙂

    “The initial problem we have is that there is limited resources. There is no way you can distribute limited resources equally.”

    Now this I disagree. Back in the 80’s Cuba and other countries of the eastern block had very low GNI indexed, just as social-democrat nordic countries. And in worker-owned factories in South America like Flaskô in Sumaré the highest wage divided by the lowest wage is under 2.

    We got to move forward, Julio. That’s the only thing I’ll tell you.



  • Grady,

    I guess each of us have the right to have our own views.

    I like to point out something else I have noticed talking to you and other leftist incline people

    “Our movement “believes,” and makes a promise in our political program”

    I have noticed this are very common features in the left.

    — Believes and Faith in a working leftist society. it seems to me that with believes and faith it becomes more of a religion. This working leftist society has not materialized anywhere and where it does it produces economical failure and the misery of the majority. The corruption of some others and the enrichment of the elitist class of people.

    — When confronted with real arguments most leftist do not know how to answer or do not answer or their answers are lacking rational explanations and the rational explanations are substituted by faith and this so called “socialist consciousness”. There seems to be ignorance also about human realities. The intrinsic greediness of most humans. The ignorance that we are all different and we can not be fitted all on the same mold. We each contribute to society in different ways and as a consequence should be rewarded in different ways.

    — I still have not found anyone able to proof their solutions to the problems of free capitalism are the correct ones. (For example you think mondragon style society should work when scale to a whole society and concentrate in what you think will be the consequences of your new economical organization but ignore the law of unintended consequences) and therefore ignoring the secondary side effects that could potential be worst problems than the original problem you are trying to solve.

    — Lack of future vision to realize the consequences of the drastic changes they like to do to current society. Each of the things you claim your system will do are huge changes that will have extraordinary repercussions as to the inner working of society and you seem to concentrate in what you think as good but ignore what is predictably bad.

    — There have been prior incarnations of leftist regimes. They all turn out to not be workable. The left continue to ignore that fact and continue to not understand the reasons for the failures.

    — There is this faith that an elitist group of people in this case the left. Can take control of a country and dictated to the rest of us simple mortals and make us see the light. I tell you this. Any group that think it is entitle to this elitist status is sadly wrong. It is wrong for any group of people to think that it can dictate to the rest what to do. Democracy, where everyone’s opinion is important and where all opinions are taken into account is and will be the future specially now that is harder for regimes to control the flow of information . The people do not like dictators. The people do not like self anointed groups and elitist groups.

    — Systems that where created with the intention of advancing the socialist agenda turned out to be a worst class of capitalism than free capitalist is. Socialism as implemented is more exploitative system than free capitalism. Standard of living under socialism degrades to a level of bare subsistence.
    Countries formerly of such system turn away from it by allowing free capitalism (China and Vietnam) . That has allowed them to make their economies increase proving by example that the other system with total state ownership is not workable.

    —There is always this concern about exploitation of the working poor. But no concern about the limitations to personal freedom and human rights that happen on any socialist system in existence.

    — Ignorance about the level of exploitation happening on existing leftist societies or left control societies. North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba.

    I could continue with more but I suppose you get the idea.

  • Julio, you are mistaken when you say that there will always be interest on loans. Usury, defined as charging interest on monetary loans (credit extensions), is recognized as an evil and is prohibited by the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious traditions. Islam however is the only one of the three to take it seriously and forbid the charging of interest, or even the accepting of interest on savings deposits. If it works for them, how can it be a pipe dream to pattern cooperative socialism after it?

    The banks of the future socialist cooperative republics would grant “fractional reserve” loans, but would not charge interest. They will do just as Islamic banks now do, which is to charge a one-time-only credit origination and repayment monitoring fee. A home mortgage under such a system, for example, could be paid off in one-third the time now needed under monopoly capitalism. You make a mistake Julio when you believe that the world imperialist banks and their blood-sucking usury is necessary or permanent.

    Also, you say that small and medium business under a cooperative republic would not be able to thrive. The businesses and these individual and family ownership entities are part of the three class alliance which would underpin the new type of republic. Unlike Marxian statism, we believe in and honor all productive citizens, including the small entrepreneurial class. Remember that cooperative socialism is and must be based on private productive property rights and the free socialist trading market.

    Noting I can say apparently will bring you over to socialism, Julio. You are too burned by the moronic stupidity of Marxist absolutism. I understand and regret it very much, but that is just the way it is. Go ahead and respond once more, if you must, and let’s call it a day.

  • I am sorry Grady but what you described above is another pipe dream.

    It seems you do have the desire to fix the issues we are confronted but there is no explanation as to the problems I pointed of hyperinflation and an stagnant economy due to a lack of innovation since small and little business will not be able to thrive.
    As for the elimination of loans and some of the bank structures. All of this are economical constructions necessary because of the existence of money. As long as you have money you will need Banks, You will need loans and there will be interest on those loans.
    It seems to me you need to think carefully on the consequences of your system. I think you will come to realize that it is as unworkable as the State Monopoly Capitalism in existence in Cuba.

  • Wow, Julio, in this comments section I can only address a few of the multitude of arguments you make.

    Our movement “believes,” and makes a promise in our political program for when we democratically assume state power, to carry out a series of steps that will transform the economy. A National Plan that has won the enthusiastic support of the majority of the people will be put in place by the new legislature and president, and full employment–even a labor shortage–will be effected.

    How? This is too big to detail here. It will mainly be done through truly free enterprise and a socialist trading market liberated from monopoly control and guided by socialist democratic government and economic science. But let me give you a few specifics. First of all, credit usury will be outlawed and abolished, and the payment of interest on credit debt will be gone. The two trillion dollars plus that presently goes as interest on various government debt will be shifted to purchase orders for things the people and the environment need. The military-industrial complex will begin to be dismantled and wars and occupations will be ended promptly.

    We believe it will take several decades to repair the worst damage done by monopoly capitalism and the banks that really run the show. Intensive employment of the national workforce will be needed. For one example, we intend to stop the extraction and burning of coal. Coal miners will have several years employment filling the old mines with “coal slurry” that is now contaminating and endangering the land.

    Julio, the Cooperative Republic we hope to bring into being is based on an explicit plan of reorganization that the people, including you, can either embrace or reject. It’s a long, detailed plan that takes socialism out of the “vague dream” category and makes it concrete. You may be certain however that it is a definitive break with the Cuban/Marxian formula of state ownership, and real socialism based on direct associate and small business ownership. (Your hyperinflation fears are not unreasonable, but are unwarranted.)

  • Grady, I think we both agree that Cuba’s socialism is a state monopoly right? So the only point of discussion with regards to what I claimed is that Cuba’s socialism is a capitalist system also.

    What is capitalism?
    Let us define capitalism by the appropriation of surplus by a group or entity be governmental or not make no difference. Capitalism is also characterized by the existence of money and of the laws of demand and offer. The fact that the means of production in the case of Cuba’s socialism are owned by the state makes no difference. All of the above is true for this abstract entity known as the state. Furthermore, There is further exploitation of the people by the state in the form of high taxes paid by the people when they need to buy basic products necessary for everyday life. They also restrict and control migration in such a way as to make a profit out of the people. I could tell you in detail about all the fees they charge Cubans wanting to visit their homeland and also about the fees they charge for the Cubans that visit any country and that like to return.
    This abstract entity called the state owns everything. Imaging it as a mega corporation that owns even the police and the immigration services and the security services and the military, the doctors and medical care, the educators, everything.
    So it seems to me this entity behave the same way any monopolist corporation behave. It controls prices. Setting arbitrary prices for things it will buy from the people. For example their agricultural department will set the price they will buy any agricultural products from farmers. They will also set the price they will sell those same products. All those indications easily lead you to believe you are in the presence of a capitalist system. A very restricted one that is control by a ruling class, an elite group of people that reserve for themselves the best services in medical care and food and anything else you could think of. That enjoy of privileges they denied to the rest of the people.
    When people speak up and complain about their behavior and about the system they could be accuse of treason, of working for the US government or whatever charges they can think of.
    So on the top of being really exploited with slave salaries that range from 10 to 20 dollars a month. They have to be happy about it because otherwise if they complain too much they could get in trouble.
    This is the same class of people that prohibit the working class to organize on their own free will using syndicates that are control by them you said

    “The Cuban Party leadership, in my opinion, is still sincerely dedicated to building a post-capitalist society for the eventual advance beyond conflicting classes, et cetera”

    Are you serious?
    Sorry Grady, but to me what they called socialism is nothing else than State Monopoly capitalism.
    There is money, there are profits and there is appropriation of surplus. Just the same as in any free capitalist society.

    “state power in your home country is in the hands of a sincere-but-theoretically-misguided political party.”

    State power should be at the hands of the people. Not of any special and elitist group of people. By having this elite group of people they in fact are passing power from family member to the next family member.

    Now let us go back to in theory that we have your system working here in the US.
    For example the 49500 employees of Apple assuming equal distribution of profit will each earn about 1.3 million dollars a year. The employees of Microsoft similarly and I could continue naming all the big corporations of America. The end result is that with so many millionaires inflation will sky rocket. Because people will use their money and the resources available will still be the same. (This is the initial problem I mentioned as the root cause).
    So I can foretell your system produces hyperinflation. So in reality the 1.3 million or so that some of us will make will be worthless money! Do you get it?
    Grady do you work currently for a Mondragon type enterprise? Do you have experience or have work for such type project? I ask you because you are idealizing this as the solution. I think this solution creates other problems.
    “Under cooperative socialism there are no unemployed and there are no poor” How do you know this?
    I can tell you your system will have the same issues we have and maybe new issues like hyperinflation.
    The other issue will be the disappearance of the small and little shops that will never be able to compete against the super giants in the industry and the conglomerates. Those small and little businesses are the engines and incubators of new ideas and technologies.

  • Julio, I agree with what you say in your second paragraph (“Their solution . . .”), except for when you say that the state monopoly system in Cuba is “state monopoly capitalism.” In this characterization you agree with the Trotskyists and other Left sectarians, and it simply is not accurate. The Trotskyists and others look at the Soviet Bloc-type states and exclaim, “Oh, My! Socialism is this democratic thing. These countries are not democratic. They must therefore be state capitalist!” They just can’t get their minds around the idea that Marxism is bogus and the origin of the statist monster, and they blame it all on the Devil Stalin and his state capitalist system.

    Yes, the mode of production in Cuba has certain features in common with capitalism, insofar as an elite bureaucracy controls, and exploits the workers through, the means of production. But socialism is more than a mode of production. Its essential element is state power held by a nominally socialist leadership. The Cuban Party leadership, in my opinion, is still sincerely dedicated to building a post-capitalist society for the eventual advance beyond conflicting classes, et cetera.

    I hate to say it, but even the crazy, dictatorial, dysfunctional system of North Korea is a form of state monopoly socialism, not state monopoly capitalism.

    All it would take to have a workable form of socialism in Cuba is for the leadership there to jettison the Marxist stupidity of the state owning everything productive, and Cuba would become a dynamic, democratic, socialist republic. State power by a socialist leadership is the critical element, and Cuba still meets this criterion. State power determines the direction, or potential direction, of a society, and state power in your home country is in the hands of a sincere-but-theoretically-misguided political party.

    In short, Cuba is socialist because a socialist party has state power. If the leadership there can ever understand that the state owning everything is simply one variant of the Utopian theoretical error of trying to abolish private productive property immediately, they could solve their economic and social problems and be a blueprint for workable socialism unto the world.

    To Julio (continued from above): You “continue to ask, why do you think your solution will be any better?”

    You seem confused on a certain point. You seem to think that I’m advocating a system in which the leaders “distribute limited resources equally.” This idea, that socialism means “equality of income” is simply erroneous. Under a cooperative republic those who do the work of society would have the opportunity to own and therefore control their workplace and their productive environment. How does this become in your mind “equal distribution of resources”? It means that people generally will not be robbed of the value of what they produce, and therefore will not be subjected to all the evils of a capitalistic system in which they are human livestock and pawns in the game of the big monopoly banks.

    You ask about “forcing” this wondrous system on those who don’t want it. This is something you must have dreamed up after a wild night. Under a cooperative republic no person would be forced to own anything. Every person would have the opportunity to co-own their enterprise, but no one would be forced to co-own. What would be the point in that?

    You don’t understand it but the ideal, free system you envision in your last paragraph is fundamentally what modern cooperative socialism is about. Private productive property rights would be intact, and people would be able to produce for the market as entrepreneurs. The difference is that under capitalism the entrepreneur sets the workers to work and appropriates any surplus value they might produce. Under cooperative socialism this might still be the case, but only if the entrepreneur can find workers who are foolish enough to allow someone bent on massive self-enrichment to exploit them and stand over them as an arrogant boss.

    You resort to European-type, social-democratic capitalism as you default system. The capitalists still run the show but your state taxes the hell out of them and redistributes “that money in programs to support the working poor and the unemployed.” I’ve got good news for you, Julio. Under cooperative socialism there are no unemployed and there are no poor. There is disparity of income, for you generally would get what you produce, and some would produce much more than others. But your projection of unemployment and poverty into the socialist future makes me want to lol–laugh out loud. Still, best wishes.

  • Dear Grady, unlike you. I do not think that either Marx or Engels had bad intentions. They just simply speculated about what the right solution to the problem they faced at their time.

    Their solution to the problem turn out to be wrong and unworkable. Still we see fanatics all over the world still thinking it can work. And ignoring the collapse of the full soviet bloc. Different countries with different people and different culture, different level of material resources and different educational level and none was able to make it work! To know this and to still cling to the ideas of state monopoly capitalism (socialism) is just insane. It seems to me more a cult and a religion.

    I continue to ask, why do you think your solution will be any better?
    As for Socialist consciousness and any such things where you are counting on people to support or believe on ideas and ideologies like in this case. It is a flip of a coin. By that I mean that some will follow and some will not. So what are you to do? Forced down onto them? I also see many other problems that can happen on a full Mondragon society. The initial problem we have is that there is limited resources. There is no way you can distribute limited resources equally. So the problem still persist where some will get and some will not. I also commented in another comment before that your type of system may possibly produce hyperinflation.

    I believe people should be free to organized themselves into any economical form they so desire and the state should stay out of dictating the economic form allowed. What the state should not allow is extreme exploitation. One possible solution to solve this is by redistributing income. The state can de-incentivated such behavior by increasing taxation the more exploitative the corporation is compare to the rest and redistribute that money in programs to support the working poor and the unemployed.

  • Julio, thanks for asking. Socialist consciousness simply means that a person understands the socialist transformational program for post-capitalist society, and looks forward to its implementation.

    You are fairly correct in what you say about the “socialism” of Cuba and other Soviet Bloc-type countries. These countries are as they are–or were–because they are based on a core principle and program for socialist transformation that was smuggled into the original working class, cooperative socialist movement by agent provocateurs in the mid-1800s.

    This core principle stipulated that the state should own everything productive. This of course destroys the historically-evolved institutions of private productive property rights and the price-fluctuating market. With these destroyed in practice, beginning in the 1900s, bureaus had to plan and administer production. This was and is unnatural and dysfunctional. But it was smuggled into our movement in order to destroy socialism from within. The fact that Marxism is non-scientific and bourgeois, and cannot thrive as an experimental ideology but only as a quasi-religion, has meant that socialist theory and program could not develop and self-correct.

    Socialist consciousness needs to be based on a workable understanding of what “socialist property” truly is. (Please see my later comments with Luis.) This is the consciousness we hope to build, in the US, Cuba, and in every country. It is a recognition that the Marxian program is a bourgeois, statist perversion of socialism and cannot transform any country in the direction of a classless, peaceful, sustainable society. In short, socialist consciousness is recognition that only a socialist cooperative republic can transform and democratize society.

  • Luis, you should not trivialize my theoretical stand. This question is important. Is socialist property “only” state property, or not? If you say “yes,” you are a Marxist. If you say not, you might be a cooperative socialist.

    In my view socialist property “can be” full state property. Some enterprises and some industries (water and electricity) probably should be 100% state owned. But it can also be a associate-owned, Mondragon-type corporations with partial, non-controlling state ownership. In this case the cooperative associates would distribute profits to the state quarterly, at the same time as they would distribute profits to themselves.

    This more broad view of socialist property however would include all sorts of individual or family owned small business enterprise–small farms and ranches; restaurants; hair and nail salons; small businesses of all sorts.The state would get its necessary share of the use-values produced by such enterprise by silent, “preferred” co-ownership. (Workable cooperative socialist government would not need taxes or tax bureaucracies.)

    The key element would be state power held by a party or parties with a macro socialist National Plan. With such state power in place, and the power of the capitalist state super-ceded, real, non-statist socialism would
    exist. At least, that’s the theory.

  • Luis I do not have an answer.

    But I assure you State monopoly capitalism (socialism) is not the answer either. I can show you a lot more poverty in Cuba. Their salaries are probably amongst the lowest in this hemisphere.

    I do understand your views but I still think socialism is not the solution to the problems we face.
    The problems we have I believe are derived from the initial problem of limited resources.
    That problem will always be there in principle. So we have to be less greedy. This itself is an impossible task. It is part of human nature to want the best for them and their families. Why some fall behind?
    I believe the reason lies in that we are all different. Some have more driven to success than others and so on.

    We all are not equal at producing and creating. Therefore we can not expect equality at distribution and earning.

  • What about the millions of US citizens, you know, that 14,4% percent of people that must have two or even tree jobs to make ends meet? And we’re talking about the most developed economy of the world.

  • Luis, I think I do know about slavery. Back in Cuba I used to work for about 10 dollars a month. That amount barely allow me to buy the food to eat when I used to live there. Nowadays many cubans have to do something else apart from their normal government job to be able to supplement their income in order to support themselves and their families.

  • “But, Luis, this means retention of private property rights during the socialist bridge stage of the social transformation.”

    Of course, Grady.

    “If you sincerely believe that the socialist state can co-own cooperative enterprise with the workers, you are a modern cooperative socialist, not a Marxist.”

    Well, label me whatever you want. As Plinio Marcos said in one of his plays, “stop this burgueous habit of labeling everyone!”



  • Luis,Really?
    What do you think computer programs are?
    How about microsoft windows operating system and all the software that runs on computer? All the software economy is base in just that. Ideas.
    Not only that. Most inventions are just ideas before they become physical products.
    So economies could actually grow at infinitum in the realm of ideas.

  • I’m amazed of how you do understand the principle of appropriation of surplus value and still advocate the capitalist model of production. This system is a system in crisis. Look at Europe, look at the USA, for goodness’ sake!

  • I’m sorry Julio, but ‘ideas’ have no value in our current economic model.

  • I am sorry Grady for my ignorance. Could you please explain in layman term what socialist consciousness is?

    And socialism is a bridge to where? Communism?
    If socialism did not work what make you believe that Communism will do?
    I can proof that what Marx called communism is equivalent to slavery.

  • Luis, the problem I’m trying to solve with “my style” of socialism–as Julio puts it– is how to win the people of the US and other countries, in their tens-of-millions, to socialist consciousness. Through such a mass political sea change it will then be possible to end the network of monopoly capitalist banks and regimes that is dominating and destroying the world. But such a mass shift in public consciousness will only be possible if sincere socialists can clearly define the nature of the authentic socialism we are trying to bring into being, and then present this clear definition–and program–to the people.

    Socialists shake their heads at the backwardness of the US people. It never occurs to them that the people are backward because we the socialists have been backward. We have been backward because Marxism came on the scene a hundred-and-sixty years ago and redefined socialism as state ownership of all the instruments of production.

    You and others have bought into Marxism for a century-and-a-half because the capitalist media and the whole infestation of capitalist agents in the socialist movement trained the spotlight on it, claiming that it truly represents the socialist program and viewpoint. The real exponents of socialism, the working class cooperative socialists, were shoved into the background while a whole cacophony of attention was focused on Marx and his silly statist redefinition of socialism.

    You say you never claimed that the state should own everything. You say “We can think about other types of property, such as joint-ventures between the state and the private-run cooperatives. The possibilities are limitless.” But, Luis, this means retention of private property rights during the socialist bridge stage of the social transformation.

    This is precisely what modern cooperative socialism is all about: state co-ownership socialism with private property rights intact, not full state ownership socialism which prematurely abolishes private productive property rights during the socialist bridge.

    Denying that Engels and Marx were the originators and the vectors of full state ownership as the core principle of socialism is a self-delusion on your part. If you sincerely believe that the socialist state can co-own cooperative enterprise with the workers, you are a modern cooperative socialist, not a Marxist.

    Uh, oh, Luis. I missed your sleight of hand. You said “joint-ventures between the state and the private-run cooperatives,” not “joint-ventures between the state and the worker-owned cooperatives.” In your formulation the state is still the legal owner of the enterprise, but the workers have been given the gift by the state of “running” it.

    Perhaps you can’t see that your formulation keeps in place the Marxian core principle of the state owing everything. Perhaps you can’t see that you believe in your heart that socialist property can only be state-owned property. Perhaps you can’t see that you believe that the institution of private productive property rights has been abolished in your Utopian, immediate-abolition concept of post-capitalism.

    Perhaps I’m talking to someone who will never understand.

  • Again, Grady, I understand your point of view. But you continue to put words in my mouth – where did I claim that “the state should own everything”?

  • I am sorry Grady but should I point to you that those are not the only choices?
    It is a fallacy to think that those are the only choices.
    How about this other one. Let people organize themselves into any economical form they so desire. Given that kind of economical freedom they may opt for your Mondragon type project or for public or private style corporation or for state employments and that is what happens in fact in our existing societies.
    Please tell me clearly what is the problem you think you are trying to solve with your style of socialism?
    And why do you think your solution to that problem is correct?

    The thing is that most leftist inclined people think what they call “socialism” is a solution to exploitation of the workers by the capitalist. But they forget the state replaces the capitalist in the socialist system and the same appropriation of the surplus is happening this time with all the consequential elimination of freedom and instauration of a totalitarian dictatorial regime that claims to act in the name of the people but that in reality benefit a new elite class that see their role in society as the commanding force of society.
    That exchange money for pure power and in some instances by having both (money and power)
    All of this can be seen in current Cuban society.

  • Luis, you apparently haven’t understood a word I’ve said. Please listen and think.

    Pretend for a moment that neither Engels, Marx, Proudhon, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Fidel or Raul ever existed. We are without their writings, and we are without the experimental nine decades of statist bureaucracy and failure. All we have is a sudden realization that we are trapped in a repugnant monopoly capitalist system, and have an exuberant desire to replace this system with a new one we shall call socialism. Now, comrade, what will be the core economic principle of this socialist system? This is the relevant question.

    We have two choices: (1) The socialist state becomes the owner of all land and all the instruments of production, abolishing thereby private productive property rights and the price-fluctuating market; or (2) Private productive property rights and the price-fluctuating market are retained, but the land and all the instruments of production are owned primarily by those who actually do the work, i.e., small business persons and families, especially in agriculture and services, and working associates in Mondragon-type cooperative corporations, especially in medium, large and very large enterprise.

    In the first system the state owns everything and employs everyone. It gets its revenues from owning everything produced and taxes . In the second the state owns some enterprise 100%, but mainly gets its revenues from partial, silent, non-controlling ownership of most privately-owned individual and cooperative enterprise. Its revenues come quarterly from self-managed national enterprise, taxes and tax bureaucracies are obviated, and whoever works enjoys workplace democracy and the self esteem of owning productive property.

    Addendum: But, Luis, Left sectarians are trying to save their beloved old way of thinking. They choose neither statism-as-practiced-by-those-nasty-Stalinist-bureaucrats, nor modern cooperative socialism. They call for a third way. They call for state ownership of everything productive, but their dream state owned economy has granted workplace democracy to the workers. Isn’t this nice! Statism without bureaucracy. It’s a dream come true!

    Too bad it’s only a Left sectarian dream.

    You guys need to wake up. Anytime the state owns everything and employs everyone, the result will always be the same: massive, choking bureaucracy and one-party political and social absolutism. The only way to have workable, attainable socialism is to retain private property and the market during the socialist bridge stage of revolutionary society, and let private property, the state, classes and the market transform naturally over several generations.

    This is what you and I and every other socialist should be thinking about, and talking about.

  • Luis,
    Socialism as experience anywhere is nothing else than capitalism.
    That restricted form of capitalism called Socialism does not work for many reasons I have commented before.
    It does not work from the economical point of view and from many other points of view. Should I remind you about all the environmental disasters created by socialism?

    I am trying to understand what is the problem that you or anyone with your views is trying to solve?

    Is it poverty and a more equal distribution of resources?

    For that socialism is not the solution either. The way they end up distributing things is by creating a hierarchical society where those with party affiliation and of the same ideological persuasion get first pick at the best doctors, best education and food and other things and the rest is left the scraps. So the ruling party becomes an elite class of people. To enter that elite you have to support the status quo and support the existing power structure.

    You have actually put your finger on the right spot. There is limited resources in the world. The current mechanism for distributing those resources is base on money. Value to those resources is assign by a mechanism of demand and offer. That is the capitalist mechanism.

    Because some resources are limited (The great majority) it means that many may have to go without them.
    So what is equitable distribution one some get something and some get none? It is not possible to distribute equitable. It is a dream to think that can be done. The only way to do such thing was assuming unlimited resources. In principle with current technology this is not possible.

    You can run an every growing economy when you add things that do not really require physical resources but ideas. For example the internet and all the new things that come about are part physical but there is a big component of ideas. How many new applications and software have been developed since the internet was created? Those things do not require a limited physical resource to be developed and to be use.

    When we enter on an economy where ideas are more important that physical resources then it is possible to have the ever growing economy you so denied.

  • “Free capitalism is the right solution for now.”

    No it’s not. If you want an example, look at today’s Russia. And how the freedom of the “God Market” drew upon a never-ending cyclic economic crisis. For a capitalist economy to function, it needs to expand to its fullest. But if you think you can run an ever-growing economy in a planet with limited resources, you’re either mad or an economist.

  • I never said that Marx is some king of “God”, Grady. Marx was wrong in many things, mainly in his technological determinism and eurocentrism. But his critique of how capitalism works transcends his era.



  • Guys Communism is slavery by a different name.

    If we are to trust people and the so called “NEW MAN” to appear. It will not happen.
    Free capitalism is the right solution for now. Until our problems are solved by technological advancements.
    There will be a time when we may have technology that will allow us to build directly from ideas. Molecular manufacturing and boundless free energy.
    But the changes will happen not because of consciousness development. Human will be same as they are now unless they decide to change themselves into something else.
    You guys keep thinking that socialism is a solution to the problems of free capitalism. Socialism as implemented is nothing else that a extreme case of capitalism. Just one mega corporation (The state) owning everything.

    Simple concept guys.
    As long as you got money involve. It is capitalism.

    Yes free capitalism has some issues. We can change some rules here and there and maybe some other issues will come up and we keep approaching a system where we minimize poverty but only technological advancements can produce anything where money will be obsolete.
    As long as we depend on limited resources. There has to be a limit and that limit is currently set by value and value is set by money. That is the current scheme of things as to how limited resources are distributed.

    Will we ever get to a state of unlimited resources? Maybe. Socialism or any other creation are totally useless and produce a lot of suffering on the people. Because they always degenerate on totalitarian regimes.
    Freedom is the most precious thing we humans should value. Anything else should be secondary to that.

  • Luis you should listen to Grady and Grady you should listen to yourself! 🙂

    Earth to Luis and Grady Socialism is not the solution to the problems of capitalism.

  • Luis, thanks for finally agreeing with me on “something.” Just because I keep hammering people like you with the 1848 text of Engels and Marx, and it re-affirmation a quarter-century later in their 1882 preface to the German edition of the 1848 text, does not mean that I know nothing of Marxism, et cetera.

    What would give me a great deal of satisfaction and constructive response however is for just one of “you guys” to say: “Yes, Engels and Marx did say this in 1848, and did re-affirm it in 1882, and this core principle of the state owning “all” the instruments of production was and is dead wrong.” But, Luis, you and others will never take up the reality of what they said and believed, and this indicates something is dysfunctional in your mental processes. You act like religious zealots who will not look at the basis scriptural basis of their belief system, but offer up all sorts of other scriptural utterances in other works later on that seem to contradict or modify the original core scriptures. For socialists, this is repugnant.

    The problem is not with Grady being a one-trick pony, or a shallow, ignorant person, but with Luis and others not taking on the programmatic reality of Marxism and coming up with a new core principle/hypothesis for a rectified socialist movement. You continue to wallow in cult worship of personalities like Marx and Trotsky and will not engage in comradely discussion of the real programmatic issues. Please, for the sake of the socialist transformation, talk to me about program, not personalities.

    Earth to Luis: Marx was not all-knowing God, and Trotsky was not his infallible, crucified son.

  • “Private property as an institution must wither away gradually as society transforms itself economically, politically and culturally.”

    Finally something upon which I agree with you, Grady. But you see the Yugoslavian-type of cooperatives as ‘stalinist’, which I don’t agree. In fact, amongst the east-european block, the country with less stalinist influence was Yugoslavia, since Tito broke the ties with the USSR right after WW2.

    See, there’s something beyond both private AND state-owned property. It’s usually called ‘public property’. We can think about other types of property, such as joint-ventures between the state and the private-run cooperatives. The possibilities are limitless.

    And Grady, one more thing I’d like to counterpoint your view upon marxism: the very principle of self-management is fundamented directly from Marx, you can see the in his writings about the Paris Commune where he praised the uncentralized management of the factories (basis of the Council Communism) and predicted the socialization of the means of production (and not the transformation of its transitory statization into a permanent one).

    I really think that you’ve only read the Communist Manifesto and never deepened yourself in other Marx’s works, such as the Grundrisse or Das Kapital, and reduce the very complex marxian theory into a simplistic ‘the state must run everything’ thesis.

    But don’t get me wrong – I do applause the Mondragon experiment. But it’s not the only one self-management experience that exists in the world today: see this site for an example of what’s going on in South America and please, search about the ‘Caracóis Zapatistas’. You don’t own the ‘only road to paradise’, remember that.

  • Dear John Goodrich,
    You say that those in power must “remember what communism means.” Communism means a far-in-the-future society in which private property has ceased to exist. It’s a society to which the Socialist bridge is supposed to be leading. In this far-in-the-future goal society private property is expected to have withered away, along with social classes and the coercive attributes of the state. Can’t you see that the abolition of private property is not something that the vanguard can or should force onto present-day society by making the socialist state the owner of everything productive in sight?

    Private property as an institution must wither away gradually as society transforms itself economically, politically and culturally. This may take two, three, four or more whole generations. Historical experience shows that the premature abolition of private property rights through state ownership of everything productive leads to choking bureaucracy and political and social, one-party absolutism. It alienates the small entrepreneurial class from the proletarian and the vanguard party and destroys the socialist bridge.

    You say that coops can’t be run with “a heavy top down bureaucracy as we have in Cuba.” Yes, but as long as you have state ownership of enterprise, coops can only be flawed, stalinist-type creatures like they were in Yugoslavia.

    You say you wish bottom up democracy, rather than a self interested bureaucracy running things. You can’t see that private property rights and real, private property-based cooperatives are necessary for this. Why, companero? Why?

  • Julio, hi. I’ve read what Daisy has said, and understand what the Marxian state prohibits. What I have hoped to communicate to Daisy–and to other loyal critiques of the statist form of socialism–is that the Cuban bureaucracy is not the product of bad character faults in certain people. It is the product of a profound theoretical error that originated with Engels and Marx, and has misdirected and perverted the socialists experiments that began in the 1900s. It was bought into by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, and Fidel and Raul Castro and the results are clear–and sickening.

    This error, not bad character flaws, is what has led to bureaucracy in Cuba. What I’ve hoped to communicate is that it’s a waste of time to scream at the bureaucracy to change its ways. What is needed is a political tendency to arise in Cuba that understands the theoretical error. Private productive property rights should not be abolished prematurely during the socialist bridge period through state ownership of everything because it destroys the ability of the workers to from a cooperatively-owned economy, and also alienates the important small entrepreneurial class from the proletariat and the socialist bridge project.

    To John Goodrich: Hey. You may not understand your own program, but you are recommending the continued abolition of private property rights during the socialist bridge period, just like all sectarians. You say the state should own everything, but that things should be run democratically. You’re saying the same thing as Daisy and others, that is, that what Cuba needs is a new Yugoslavian experiment in state-owned cooperatives (i.e., fake, dysfunctional, Stalinist-type cooperatives).

  • John Goodrich, there is exploitation all the same in Cuba, actually I could argue there is more exploitation in Cuba. And the means of productions are generally in the hands of the state. So the state becomes a mega corporation of sorts. State monopoly capitalism.

    If Cuba was a bottom up democracy the communist will not be in control of the country. Why do you think they refuse to allow other political parties? If they were so sure to win they will allow them.
    They are really afraid of loosing power or having to share power.

    In 50 years they have taken the whole country to ruin.

  • I do not see any advantage in having the means of production in private hands which is what we have under capitalism and which leads to exploitation. It’s a step backwards. If we are to move towards the ideal of communism I don’t see it happening by staying with private ownership.

    Neither can co-ops be successfully run with a heavy top down bureaucracy as we have in Cuba.

    IMO in Cuba there needs to be co-ops run by the workers in a democratic way with a reformed government agency to coordinate co-op needs like fertilizer or farm machinery, inter co-op cooperation, sale/distribution of the various co-op products and determination of national need and how each co-op fits into a long term national economy.

    As agreed upon by all, nothing will happen until those in power remember what communism means and what it entails and that does not include an ossified , self interested bureaucracy but rather bottom up democracy..

    As Daisy said

  • Grady you should read these fragments again

    “the state legislates even the forms of cooperative ownership and private enterprise is prohibited”

    “I hope some day coops of any type would not be illegal in Cuba, but first we have to fight to make it real.”

    The existing Cuban laws do not allow for private enterprise as you suggest. They will have to change the laws and that will only happen when there is political will of the elite. The elite is not really elected by the people in Cuba therefore they may not be inclined to such changes because they would lose their controlling power. They may change laws only when it is to their benefit as the ruling class to assure their own survival.

  • Thank you so much, Daisy, for responding. Believe it or not, when you first began writing articles dealing with associate-owned enterprise, my heart jumped into my throat because it seemed that, at last, a young, potential political leader might understand the basis of real, workable socialism. You seemed to be that sort of person, and this is why I’ve been “annoying” you so much with our movement’s ideas.

    You see, if Cuba could re-institute the kind of private property rights that are available in a country like Spain; and if the PCC could (1) create associate-owned coops in large and very large enterprise; and (2) embrace and encourage the small business sector–restaurateurs, farmers, ranchers, hair dressers, etc.–this would be a socialist cooperative republic. This then would be an example of non-bureaucratic socialism that would stun the working peoples of the world and give humanity a chance at a world network of socialist republics. It would allow us to win the US people in just a few years and achieve our own socialist cooperative republic.

    But it seemed to me that you have been drawn into the sectarian type of thinking and political line that despises private property rights and keeps 100% state ownership of everything productive–per Marx and Engels–and relies on throwing self-righteous, verbal rocks at the nasty bureaucracy. This destroys the possibility of a Cuban cooperative republic because it clings to the false idea that private property rights are inappropriate in the socialist bridge period. It takes the abolition of private property, an attribute that was supposed to be in the far-in-the-future society that the bridge is supposed to achieve over several generations, and forces it onto today’s socialism where is cannot possibly work.

    If you can just understand that the institution of private productive property rights are necessary for a workable socialist bridge, and stop wasting your precious time spewing rhetoric about the bureaucracy, you might build a loyal political tendency that can get rid of the roots of bureaucracy. The socialist state can silently co-own the instruments of production in a coop republic, and get ample revenues every quarter when the workers distribute profits to themselves, and function without taxes.

    Daisy, you’re the best I’ve seen down there, a real potential leader. I just wish we could exchange in English at greater length (my Spanish is only elementary).

  • Grady I agree with you about the importance of cooperatives, but Cuba can not be implemented in the form of cooperatives in Mondragon, because the state legislates even the forms of cooperative ownership and private enterprise is prohibited, even the state legislates the types cooperatives that can exist, these problems do not exist in the Basque Region, however i’ll think about what you said.
    On the other hand, what I meant is that for citizens to get the state to respond to their interests (for example to achieve the state makes legal any kind of coop), they must understand (the citizens) that the problem is not small bureaucrats, as stated in the article by Graziella.
    Grady, I appreciate your ideas, and I hope some day coops of any type would not be ilegal in Cuba, but first we have to fight to make it real.

  • Daisy, if you wish to get rid of the bureaucracy, look at how the Basque workers have done it in Spain. By using the legal institution of private property rights they have established their own associate-owned cooperative corporations. By being the direct owners of the means of production they elect their own managers, and no manager may retain a position without the permission of her/his co-workers. Also, they don’t need many managers because the workers manage their own enterprises themselves.

    The way to struggle against the bureaucracy in Cuba is to demand private property rights so that Cuban workers might do as their counter-parts in the Basque region have done, that is, own their own cooperative corporations directly.

    For example, the Mondragon complex of cooperatives bought out a small grocery retail chain and made it an associate-owned cooperative corporation. It is now the largest grocery retail chain in all of Spain. They don’t have a problem with bureaucracy because they own their enterprise directly. They are the bosses. If you wish to help lead the Cuban working people to the elimination of bureaucracy, struggle for cooperative private property rights and a largely associate-owned economy.

  • Interesting article. The best line for me is “it was the party that approved the hiring of wage-laborers – without promoting associative work [cooperatives], which would have much more in tune with a society seeking to be socialist.” Well said!

    What Daisy apparently does not yet understand however is that “associative work [cooperatives]” require the existence of the institution of private productive property rights, in order that they be anything more than Yugoslavian Stalinist caricatures of truly socialist production units.

    If we wish to have worker-owned coops that function properly, we must have private property rights. But Cuban socialism is based on the statist principle that “real” socialism is where the state owns everything and employs everyone like a giant, national corporation. And so, Daisy goes along with this abolition of private property rights during the socialist bridge period–where it can never work–and can only wax indignant at the nasty bureaucracy.

    How marvelous it would be if she could understand that private property rights are necessary during the socialist bridge period, and that they will only wither away with classes and the state in that far in the future classless society.

Comments are closed.