Workers’ Control: Merely ‘Prudent’ or Indispensible?

Daisy Valera

Photo: Caridad

The “Letters to the Editor” section of the Granma newspaper was created more than three years ago so that Cubans could make their complaints and suggestions public.

Last Friday, comments from E. Gonzalez Cruz appeared in that section of the paper and were published under the title “The Company, Cadre and the Workers.”

To clarify before continuing, “cadre” is the name given to directors — of companies, institutions or other workplaces — who are members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

The letter by E. Gonzalez mentioned the lack of depth in the “Guidelines” (a discussion document for the upcoming Sixth Party Conference) concerning cadre policy, or in other words how the managers of workplaces will be designated in light of the new economic changes taking place in Cuba.

Clearly in the “Guidelines” that are being discussed as a prelude to the congress — from which the political, economic and social situation of the island will change — this issue is stated succinctly in single two points: Guidelines 66 and 202

No other lines mention who are, should be or will be those who will direct the future changes.

And it was exactly after noticing this situation in the “Guidelines” that a brilliant idea occurred to E. Gonzalez, who expressed it this way:

“In my opinion it would be prudent to conceive of the participation of the workers in the leadership of socialist government enterprises through the election, ratification or replacement of cadre…”

Another suggestion by Gonzalez was as follows:

“In turn the nuclei or committees of the party would fulfill Article 41 of the Regulations for Grass Roots Organizations of the Party, submitting their assessment of the possible candidates to be chosen as cadre with the responsibility for their election falling on the workers…”

The comrade’s two points could suggest to us that the workers in a given workplace are not the ones who select their representatives and also the fact that bodies of party members are those who appropriate this right.

But these would only be suppositions.  What is a fact is that Gonzalez Cruz inserts the phrase “it would be prudent.”

The idea of E. Gonzalez concerning workers’ control, though brilliant, is not new; it has been understood by all those who have struggled for a system more just than capitalism.

Lenin in his “Draft Regulations for Workers’ Control” (1917), to mention only one work, expressed this very clearly:

1.     Workers’ control over the production, storage, purchase and sale of all products and raw materials shall be introduced in all industrial, commercial, banking, agricultural and other enterprises…

2.     Workers’ control shall be exercised by all the workers and office employees of an enterprise, either directly, if the enterprise is small enough to permit it, or through their elected representatives, who shall be elected immediately at general meetings…

Therefore I would suggest the comrade replace the word “prudent” with others such as “necessary” or “indispensable” if he/she is referring to workers’ control and the election of their representatives by the workers themselves.

This idea is ratified by all the classics of Marxism as well as in Cuba, which has a Leninist constitution and therefore makes it more than justified that power should be in the hands of the workers.

4 thoughts on “Workers’ Control: Merely ‘Prudent’ or Indispensible?

  • Terry: Thank you for providing a link to an unofficial translation of the PCC guidelines. I had not seen the guidelines. It is now fairly clear that the historic leadership of the Cuban Revolution will continue with its state monopoly concept of socialist economy.

    A state monopoly mode of production can never achieve democracy at the workplace. Neither can it give rise to social and political democracy, because it is inherently bureaucratic and absolutist.

    With regard to “workers’ control,” the subject of Daisy’s fine article, may I reiterate that workers’ control can only be achieved through a state co-ownership, cooperative form of socialism, never through the Marxian state monopoly form.

  • I recommend this article:
    Camila Piñero Harnecker: `Cuba needs changes, to take us forward rather than backwards’

    Camila Piñero Harnecker: I repeat once more: we should not fear Cubans democratically administering our enterprises and local governments, and eventually our economy and society! We should fear and distrust the “tired” ones who tell us that all solutions pass through narrow individual self-interest and that only certain elites are capable of administering effectively, because these two fallacies are precisely the ones that have historically justified injustice.

    Full article at

  • As long as the mode of production in Cuba–or any other country–is based on the concentration of ownership of the instruments of production in the hands of the state, the workers are destined to be powerless wage and salary employees of the state. The idea that workers will ever be granted democratic control of the workplace in such a mode has proved unachievable.

    As long as the state is the owner and the boss, the boss’s operatives–the “cadre”–will hang onto and further their power. This is not me talking; it is historical experience.

    Pure-hearted socialist can rant and rave all they wish, but workers democracy can never occur under such a state monopoly form of socialism.

    If workers’ control is what we believe is ideal–and it is–a different mode of production based on a different system of ownership is needed. The Mondragon, Spain workers have shown us what such an ownership system would be. The instruments of production should not be owned by the state and run by state and party bureaucrats and their underlings–the cadre. They should be owned directly by the worker associates and run as business enterprise.

    The socialist state could still take significant but non-controlling ownership of the instruments of production under a cooperative mode of production. It would get plenty of revenue automatically on a quarterly timetable, when the cooperative worker-owners distribute dividends.

    Calling for “workers’ control” under a state monopoly ownership system is like calling for “deckhand control” of a ship owned by a Wall Street corporation. You can call for it all you wish, but it will never happen under such ownership. If the deckhands wish to control the ship, they need to own it.

    Deckhands control ships all the time. There are many instances where all the members of a fishing or freight-hauling ship own the vessel cooperatively and run it as a business. A democratic mode of production of workable socialism would be based on such a system of direct ownership of most enterprise.

  • Daisy

    The issue with worker’s control of an enterprise is that workers will be looking after their own self interest. Something quite normal. Self interest of workers are to earn more and do as little as possible. So in simple terms is not a good idea for an economic entity to be control by the same producers. There have to be someone who have a real interest in making the economic entity produce as much as posible with as little as possible (be efficient). Notice how contrary are the interest of a worker to the interest of the owner. So given that. What type of economic entity do you think will be more successful. When success is measure by production, quality of production and productivity? What workers in the long run will be benefited more?

    Those of the owner and not those of the worker’s own entity.

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