So What Happened to Cuba’s New Cooperatives?

Dmitri Prieto

Self employed. Photo: Elio Delgado

New legislation was recently passed authorizing more occupations to be carried out by workers who are supposedly “autoempleados” (“self-employed”).  The announcement came on TV, when parts of a press conference were broadcast with the ministers of Labor and Social Security, Transportation, Finances and Prices, and the president of the National Housing Institute.

This new regulations increase the number of diners allowed in paladares (private restaurants) to 50, while private transportation providers are exempt from paying state fees while their cars are undergoing repairs.  The types of newly permitted self-employed work activities include insurance agents, fiesta organizers, etc.)

For me, the essence of the matter is that all “self-employed workers” will now be able to hire employees (wage-laborers).  Previously, only those who carried out a few specific occupations were authorized to do this.

It’s clear to me that the person who hires a wage-labor worker is no longer a “self-employed worker”: they are small businesspeople, small time capitalists, and members of the “petty bourgeoisie.”

What’s not clear for me is what legislators did in relation to cooperatives, which had been so well publicized and prominently promoted during the discussion of the pre-party congress “Guidelines…” for reforms in the Cuban economy.

From now on, the hiring of wage-laborers is the only mechanism for economic entities that are independent of the government (except for agricultural cooperatives) to increase their size and involve more people.

This promotes the expansion of vertical relations instead of horizontal ones; subordination instead of cooperation; active embryos of private capitalism instead of…  

2 thoughts on “So What Happened to Cuba’s New Cooperatives?

  • Once again Mr. Grady doesn’t read what people are writing on this site because he has the secret formula. What this article is pointing out is that rather than cooperatives, the “self-employed” workforce are forming into small businesses with wage labor and exploitation.

  • Yes, but people who associate and conduct business are “self-employed” persons. Associating in such a way is merely a way for workers to avoid the wage labor market and have a democratic workplace and a more abundant life.

    Has any group of workers attempted to associate, to create a restaurant or other business enterprise, and been denied under the new Cuban rules? If they have, this would be cause for complaint. If on the other hand the workers are waiting for the government to hand cooperatives to them, then perhaps they have understood what worker-owned cooperatives are all about.

    Worker-owned coops are not state-owned enterprises in which the state allows workers a “say” in how things are run. They are enterprises that are independent of the government. Maybe things are just not clear, or maybe there are no cooperative entrepreneurial leaders who understand the opportunities that have now opened up under the new rules.

    Again, has anyone tried and been denied?

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