Criticize and Criticize, Proposing Nothing

Erasmo Calzadilla

Havana photo by Caridad

Someone named Greg commented in Havana Times that even though I have the capacity to be constructive, all I do is criticize and de-construct.  I thank Greg for his heeding; I’ll keep that in mind.  This also allows me to express my idea of how to take better aim for the betterment of things here in Cuba.

What I’m suggesting —concretely— is popular rule and workers ownership of their workplaces.

Let me explain…

In Cuba, it’s the Communist Party that governs at the local level, not the representatives of the people.  It is no less certain that institutions created for popular government exist and are sometimes effective, but only on some precise matters.  The representatives true role however, in my point of view, is to cover with the dress of democracy a mechanism that has nothing to do with being democratic.

Similarly, in workplaces, it is the respective administration and party cell that rule.  The workers are supposedly represented by the union, which can serve to protect them from irregularities and abuse, but these are not for exercising workers control over the means of production.  The workers are subordinate to a boss selected from above in a hierarchical structure that is neither democratic nor socialist.

As a consequence, neither in communities nor in workplaces are people really represented, which in turn generates such a level of apathy and alienation that everything ends up functioning haphazardly.  The flip side of a system like this is obviously crime – the two are indissolubly united.

For a change to occur, what is necessary is the awakening of mass consciousness, among other things.  People must gain trust in themselves and want to change things, take the reins of their lives and send their patriarchs far away.  The maturation of this lies at the end of an arduous and time-consuming path, as does anything that depends on popular imagination.

It is precisely this —the awakening of consciousness, the desire for freedom, for autonomy and responsibility— that I attempted to do as a philosophy professor from the classroom and on the university campus during my off-hours with students.  This, however, cost my being fired from my job, just like has happened to so many others for more or less the same reason.

But Greg, we’re not about to throw in the towel; We continue struggling here.  I hope that you, as the intelligent and sensitive person that you appear to be, try to understand and support us as much as possible.

12 thoughts on “Criticize and Criticize, Proposing Nothing

  • Hello Grady,

    You say your socialist party aim for the 2020 national elections to assume state power. I have a question: suppose you win. How will your movement deal with the Pentagon’s warmongers?

  • It’s great to know that some people are paying attention. The exchange going on under Erasmo’s article is the kind of thing that needs to go on repeatedly.

    I apparently mistook the reference to “Greg” as a mis-remembering of my name “Grady.” I apologize.

    The key question in this discussion is: “What is the program for a workable form of socialism?” This is the question that interests me, and the question that I believe is of interest to modern humanity.

    So, what’s the answer?

    Ours is just what was said previously: “Direct ownership of the workplace by those who actually do the work, which means employee-owned cooperative corporations on the Mondragon, Spain model for most major industry and commerce–with large chunks of non-controlling, ‘preferred’ stock owned by the state for its necessary revenues–plus pluralistic ownership of smaller enterprise–farms, ranches, restaurants, repair shop, etc.–by individuals and families.”

    This formula for a workable socialist cooperative republic is based on centuries of worker-owned cooperative experience, most prominently the so-called Mondragon cooperatives of the Basque region of Spain. Anyone who ignores the success of these is not dealing with reality.

    I’ve read Michael Lebowitz’s silly book Build It Now. His assertion that worker-owned cooperatives are capitalistic and do not work is utterly false. A better understanding of the problems and shortcomings of Yugoslavian self-management under a Stalinist regime can be had through George R. Melnyk’s 1985 book The Search for Community: From Utopia to a Cooperative Society.

    Employee-owned cooperatives are business enterprises. Under a capitalist regime, as business enterprises, they face all sorts of pressures and negative influences. If a cooperative republican state it not achieved by a vanguard party–transforming the economy and society along socialist lines–then these cooperatives can be re-absorbed into the capitalist system. Such cooperatives have never reached their transformational potential because the vanguard elements have shunned them, and these elements have been diverted into useless sectarianism by subversive mole ideology.

    To Julio de la Yncera: There is a good deal of truth in what you say, and I’ve taken note of your various comments. We believe that truly free enterprise–cooperative socialism, not capitalism–is the answer to freedom for the peoples of the world, and for saving civilization from the ecological devastation of world monopoly capitalism. If you believe in truly free enterprise, the market and private property righs, and still wish to be a patriot to your country and to humanity, then embrace the new program for socialism detailed herein.

    To Greg Dean: Good luck with your Parecon scheme. I think it’s fantasy, but I could be wrong.

  • You can read Parecon here: . Or search for talks by Michael Albert on you tube. Also you can read a speech he made to a conference in Venezuela.
    Also, Julio de la Yncera according to your writing on exchange value, you should read Helen Yaffe’ Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution. That book is hard to find, but worth it, Che Guevara solved the riddle you’re referring to in law of value and exchange value. The 3rd volume of Capital or Marx’ Poverty of Philosophy would also be illuminating to you.

  • Greg

    “Please, everyone read Participatory Economics: Life After Capitalism… ”

    Where do we read that?


  • Sam
    Let me see if I can answer your questions.

    Marx asks to you, why does the seller own the product he is selling,

    By ownership in this case I assume why does this person or corporation have the right to sell the product.
    They do because they have created it or invented it and because they have invested money to produce it using machinery and labor that both have also been paid by invested capital. So all of that make it legal for this person or corporation to be able to sell it. (Please let me know if that answers your question)

    and why does the buyer own the money he is using?

    The buyer may have the money for many different reasons. He may have inherited, earn as payment for service or product he sell or even stole the money from someone else or collect it in taxes. But yes the money is the exchange vehicle the measuring stick we use to measure the value of everything.

    Doesn’t the system of exchange presuppose the system of property ownership?

    Yes it does I think. You can not sell what is not your property. and you can not really buy with something that is not really yours unless instructed by the owners to do so.

    incidentally it works the same way in socialism as far as I know. Please Sam if you know differences let me know.

  • Please, everyone read Participatory Economics: Life After Capitalism… The PARticipatory ECONomics (parecon) model is likely the only complete economic model ever devised. It is elegant and makes us be good to each other, while achieving productive efficiency and cutting out corruption.

  • Julio-

    Marx asks to you, why does the seller own the product he is selling, and why does the buyer own the money he is using? Doesn’t the system of exchange presuppose the system of property ownership?

  • Grady-I think you have a point in the general need for worker democracy, but I don’t think (1) that is an idea Marx would disagree with, and (2) doesn’t necessarily indicate that a free market is ideal either. I think cooperation between consumers and producers would offer a better model, and is more similar, fundamentally, to the Marxist ideal. In Stalinism, the worker is alienated from the means of production as much as in any Capitalist country, and so it is impossible to argue that Stalinism offers a model for Communism. At best, it was an intermediary Authoritarian Socialist state built up to create a strong, united republic with powerful industry.

  • Greg and Grady

    The simplest solution is capitalism – Demand and offer
    If the goods are not of quality people will not buy them period.
    Let money be the ballot that decide who gets to win and who gets to lose.
    The best will go up the bad will go down.

  • Grady it was me, posted in Spanish to his ice cream story a couple of weeks ago.
    Everyone, please read up on Participatory economics by Michael Albert. And to know why Grady and the popular cooperative republicanism (same stuff as 1860 France and Northern England) doesn’t work, read Michael Lebowitz.
    Worker self-management without consumers councils to balance them out, leads to workers’ capitalism (read Lebowitz on post WWII Yugoslavia) which corrupts just like corporations in market capitalism. So we need a multi-stake holder approach, with say-proportionate-to-stake. So if a given issue will effect worker more, they get a little more say, but if it will effect consumers more, the consumers get a little more weight about a factory, if it’ll effect the environment of a given local, then the political council of made of residents gets some proportionate level of direct say.

  • My dear Erasmo, my name is Grady and I think you are referring to me. It’s okay to confuse my name with “Greg.” I’m quite used to it as it’s been done repeatedly throughout the years.

    The sort of thing you are saying in this article is precisely the kind of thing I’ve repeatedly tried to inspire you to say over the past many months. You are now beginning to get concrete in your writing. I welcome and applaud this long-hoped-for advance.

    Now we can talk turkey.

    You are suggesting “popular rule and workers ownership of their workplaces.” Uh, Erasmo, what the heck do you think your friend Grady has been suggesting all along!

    We sincere socialist transformationaries in the U.S. have discarded the Marxian formula of “concentration of all the instruments of production in the hands of the state” per the last pages of the 2nd chapter of the Communist Manifesto. We now embrace the formula of: “Direct ownership of the workplace by those who actually do the work, which means employee-owned cooperative corporations on the Mondragon, Spain model for most major industry and commerce–with large chunks of non-controlling, ‘preferred’ stock owned by the state for its necessary revenues–plus pluralistic ownership of smaller enterprise–farms, ranches, restaurants, repair shop, etc.–by individuals and families.”

    I don’t know, Erasmo, if this jibes with your thinking and your suggestion. If it does, you might be what we call ourselves, a “modern cooperative socialist.”

    In the U.S. we have completely discarded Marxism and have put forward a program for a democratically achieved Cooperative Republic. This would be a continuation of the United States republic under the Constitution of 1789, but with significant Amendments in an extensive “Bill of Transformation.”

    The four cardinal principles of our movement–and future political party–are non-violence, legality, openness and persuasion. We believe these are necessary to win the people in their tens-of-millions to our banner. We target the November 2020 national elections for our political mandate to assume state power.

    The question of whether state power can be achieved in the U.S. through the electoral process is not one that can be answered now. It will be answered by history. What we do know is that state power and the Cooperative Republic can only be achieved with the conscious support of the people. This support can never be won through a discredited Marxian program.

    What is needed in your brave country for the happiness and advancement of the Cuban people is a cooperative republic and a modern cooperative form of socialism. How these might be achieved is the sovereign right and responsibility of the Cubans. We cooperative socialists in the U.S. however will continue to support all those–hopefully including you–who struggle for authentic, workable socialism.

    Continued best wishes and good luck.

  • I largely agree with you. As a foreigner, I want to say many in the CCP have the best intentions, but that’s not my place to say. It is sad that Communism, which was birthed as an ideology of liberation, was reduced really to petty cult of personality. In some ways, Cuban Communism reminds me of social democracy, with its paternalism and popular dependency on the state, than Communism.

    The critical issue with the state is exclusivity, particularly of access to information and resources. The State of Cuba fears that people will steal office supplies or use the information to spread Capitalist nonsense. These are partly correct, but are only possible because the State itself has already created a system which presupposes alienation from the machines of state (it is not democratic) or from fairly accurate information (the state is not transparent, and it censors information). It seems that the real Marxist ideal is an end to the exclusivity (1) of capital and (2) of the state, both events which negate the qualities of those systems which make them abusive (and also necessary) over time.

    Anyways, it’s good to see that radical dreams haven’t died in Cuba while the State Socialist system has stagnated. I only wish Raul and Fidel were listening.

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