Vicente Morin Aguado interviews non-Marxist US socialist Grady Ross Daugherty

Grady Ross Daugherty
Grady Ross Daugherty

HAVANA TIMES — Over several weeks of difficult back and forth emails (it’s hard to imagine the slow speed and high cost of Internet in Cuban hotels), I attempted to clarify the thinking of Grady Ross Daugherty, the leader and founder of the “modern cooperative socialist movement” in the United States and who is a regular reader of HT.

HT: What place do you see for cooperatives in the current reform process taking place within Cuba’s socialist experiment?

Grady Ross Daugherty: Thanks for characterizing Cuba’s half-century post-capitalist period as an “experiment.” An experiment is a way of testing a reasonable hypothesis. If we look at the Cuban model as an experiment, as a modifiable work in progress, its performance can be altered to achieve greater prosperity and progress.

In our discussion, we need to keep in mind that most types of cooperatives require a certain basis of legal private ownership, assuming we want them to be functional. For example, agricultural cooperatives require the ownership of cultivated land and the families homes — not usufruct rights — if we hope them to be effective and make Cuba self-sufficient in production.

HT: Regarding the issue of ownership, I began to understand your non-Marxist position prior to our exchange. It may seem like a digression, but it’s good to point out something as controversial as your self-declared non-Marxist yet socialist position.

GRD:  Since its origins in the nineteenth century, the socialist movement was mutual and cooperative. This was something notable in France and England, where workers and farmers were eager to own land and the instruments of production as their property. They didn’t want ownership in the hands of private capitalists or government officials.

I think that if Cuba’s political leaders can clear their minds about the theory of state monopoly and its consequent personality cult, typical of the founders of Marxism during the nineteenth century, Cuba will be a socialist country in the long term.

Marx and Engels instilled prejudice against private property, pointing to it as a cause of society’s ills and as something antithetical to their aim of “scientific” socialism. Nevertheless, for cooperatives to be real they require ownership, which supposedly would be “capitalist” – as opposed to state-run or scientific forms like “socialist” ones.

Despite this, harsh reality has led Cuban politicians to take a fresh look at cooperatives. They’re beginning to look at socialism as an ongoing experiment.

HT: Of course Marx criticized Proudhon, the father of French cooperative and mutualist socialism, considering him petty bourgeois for all his vacillation and wavering, which is typical of his social class.

GRD:  Correct, Marx criticized Proudhon as being petty bourgeois, but Proudhon was a manual worker with calloused hands, while Marx was nothing like that.

The essential fact is that all workers — women, men, blacks and whites — have an intrinsic desire to control their workplace and direct their own productive lives. Marx and Engels couldn’t accept that idea. Marx was a bookworm, from a privileged bourgeois family. Engels was an office clerk in the textile business of his father, who offered prospects of eventually leaving the younger Engels a hefty inheritance.

If workers directly own the means of production under socialism, they won’t need capitalists, nor will they need bourgeois communist “friends” whose desire is to arrogantly stay on top and always be the stars of the show.

mondragon-3
The Mondragon cooperative complex.

GRD: Cooperative enterprises are often thought of as small and basic, but look at the example of the Mondragon cooperative experiment in northern Spain. There, the worker-owned factories are very large, automated and competitive – similar to other factories in advanced capitalist countries.

A derivative of Mondragon is the workers grocery chain Eroski, which constitutes the largest company of its kind in the country. So, as we can see, cooperatives come in all shapes and sizes.

HT: Is a cooperative political republic actually the third option between capitalism and socialism, or is it a limited an oscillating concept of the petty bourgeoisie?

GRD: That’s an excellent question. It would be more accurate to say it’s a third way between capitalism, on the one hand, and Marxism as a socialist state monopoly on the other – which is so familiar to Cubans.

From a distance, it seems that Marxists couldn’t shake their philosophy as a religion, a holy truth, therefore they couldn’t get their arms around the idea of workers possessing their workplaces directly under socialist state power.

HT: In the failed experiment in the USSR, cooperatives under perestroika ended up being a bridge to capitalist enterprises when the communists lost political power.

GRD: A reasonable theory would be to understand that — if workers must possess productive property directly and cooperatively in a socialist country led by a vanguard party that does the macroeconomic planning and coordination (be it a restaurant, hotel, factory, bus company, etc.) — these companies would then be socialist.

HT: Have you ever been to Cuba? What are the bases of your suggestions?

GRD: I haven’t been to Cuba yet, mainly because I’m a retired worker without much money to travel. But what I recommend for Cuba is largely the same as for my country. From this angle, my observations may be better than those of others who’ve been fortunate enough to visit the land of the valiant Marti.

If workers directly own the means of production under socialism, they won’t need capitalists, nor will they need bourgeois communist “friends” whose desire is to arrogantly stay on top and always be the stars of the show.

HT: They say that sometimes those sitting outside a game of dominoes can see the plays better than those playing. What do you see?

GRD: The traditional management system in Cuba is the necessary byproduct of 100 percent government ownership. In other words, what’s needed is a new system of ownership. Many Cubans, including the highest political leadership, don’t understand that associated labor, just like a company, is a “private” form of the socialist enterprise. What’s more, without this form of private cooperatives in Cuba it would be a repetition of the Yugoslav experience and therefore doomed to failure.

HT: Along the path we’re pursuing, based on the idea of cooperativism, how do you see the future of my country, either with or without socialism?

GRD: No one can predict the future, of course, but I think that if Cuba’s political leaders can clear their minds about the theory of state monopoly and its consequent personality cult, typical of the founders of Marxism during the nineteenth century, Cuba will be a socialist country in the long term. On the other hand, if the same mentality retains its paralyzing grip, then we can consider the socialist state as being endangered, with brutal imperialism waiting in the wings to reassert itself.
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To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write: morfamily@correodecuba.cu


67 thoughts on “Cooperatives Could Save Cuban Socialism

  • Your twist or misquote everything I have said or believe. Your game is to try and discredit modern cooperative, state co-ownership form of socialism. You will not succeed, Griffin, and history will forget you.

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