Brakes on Cuba’s Cooperative Experiment = Greater Insecurity

By Alfonso V. Larrea Barroso  (El Toque) 

Photo: Jorge Beltran (elTOQUE)

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s non-agricultural cooperatives will continue to be an “experiment”. This was the announcement that came from Yovana Vega Matos, Assistant Director of the Finetuning Department belonging to the Committee of Implementing the Communist Party Guidelines.

It came hand-in-hand with the promulgation of a new Decree-Law, two decrees and two resolutions, which will now control the “cooperative experiment” as of November. We still don’t have a Cooperative Law that includes the non-agricultural sector.

Many arguments are used to try and justify this.

Shortcomings such as the unlawful appropriation of resources and income, corruption, discrepancies in accounting books, significant differences in the distribution of advances, the use of bank credit for different ends to the ones they were granted for, irregularities in construction budgets, invoices and payments, etc.

We can’t deny the existence of these evils, but we also can’t deny the clear double standards that come into play with cooperatives, as these same problems afflict state-led companies, causing much more harm than the cooperative sector; yet, cooperatives are stigmatized and closed down, not state-led companies.

As no new cooperatives will be allowed for the time being, according to Yovana Vega Matos, the government has decided to “officially” return all of the projects (that were in the phase of being evaluated by the Committee) to applicants, via the Provincial Administration Councils, Central Administration Bodies and the corresponding National Bodies.

How long will it be before new cooperatives can exist? The government official didn’t say. However, we know from experience that only God knows the answer, even though he doesn’t form part of the Implementation Committee.

“Innovative” points in the new regulations include the fact that members not only contribute with capital but will also have to do “physical work”. It’s a confusing issue because now that members can’t join if they don’t do “physical work”, it could mean to say that spotless guayabera-wearing, thick-necked “leaders and cadres” won’t be able to form part of the cooperative’s ranks. Sometimes, certain things not only bother people, but can offend them too.

But we won’t go into too much detail about the new regulations and official announcements that have gone with them. Other people, with more time and faith than myself, will do that. You just have to read comments made on Cubadebate’s website to know what the Cuban people’s general sentiment is, although official media will take on the quest of proving the exact opposite.

To do or not to do, to be or not to be, is nearly always a decision we take by throwing a coin up in the air because we generally aren’t sure when or how something that will mark our lives forever, will happen. This is the basic effect measures like this one have, which are now being applied to cooperatives: uncertainty, insecurity. We’ve had one experiment after the other this past decade or so, one step forwards and one step back. Nothing is for certain, nothing is conclusive.

The government is saying that the new cooperative policy “doesn’t mean that the experiment won’t progress any further, it’s just to make it more coherent.” Coherent with what? With Raul’s Guidelines, with the government’s development strategy, with the 2030 Plan, with the Constitution?

If that were the case, the coherent thing would be to do what they said they would. Incoherence is the exact opposite, incoherence was doing it the way they did, by imposing it, although they use the euphemism “induced”, violating the first principle of cooperatives: willingness. Incoherency is blaming others for our mistakes.

Incoherency was closing down the SCENIUS Cooperative which didn’t steal, divert resources, or become corrupt. Incoherency was the way courts, the Attorney-General’s office, the Party, the union acted. There is incoherency between political theory and practice, between duty and action, to the point that it ends up nourishing a lack of trust and discredit.

We are also in a country under siege, we are also resisting, we also have rights. I would prefer to be a guinea pig in a never-ending “experiment” than be employed in my country by a foreigner who is doing something that we Cubans are more than capable of doing on our own, without a foreign boss.

At this point of the “updating” process, we shouldn’t be proposing or amending, but demanding that what EVERY CUBAN agreed to on the Guidelines agenda is fulfilled. Demanding that Cooperatives are no longer an “experiment” and an accessible option to everyone who chooses to form part, whether that’s the self-employed or small and medium-sized enterprises. 

2 thoughts on “Brakes on Cuba’s Cooperative Experiment = Greater Insecurity

  • One statement by El Toque stands out:
    “I would prefer to be a guinea pig in a never ending “experiment” than be employed in my country by a foreigner who is doing something that that we Cubans are more than capable of doing on our own. without a foreign boss.”
    Certainly El Toque as a Cuban, can speak as a guinea pig in a sixty year long experiment which to date has a dismal record of failure. He has no choice!
    But, what is preventing Cubans being employed by Cubans and doing things for themselves?
    Could it possibly be that slavish adherence to the 19th century Marx/Engels/Lenin philosophy as interpreted by Josef Stalin and adopted by Raul and Fidel Castro?
    If it were not for foreign investment, the Cuban tourist industry which is essential within the economy, would barely exist. Even Fidel Castro recognized following the implosion of the USSR that tourism was essential and that it is critical to attract visitors from the capitalist societies.
    If Cubans are to be allowed to use their own talents and individual abilities, the current policies of the Castro regime must be abandoned.
    i am reminded that following the death of Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in a BBC discussion, the leader of the LPO said that Beecham’s greatest quality as a conductor was: “He let them play.” That is exactly what the Castro regime denies the people of Cuba! Individual initiative is denied as “bourgeois”, Cubans are expected to toe the line, keep quiet and give “respect” to the totalitarian regime. Living in Cuba, I observe the individual talents which many Cubans possess and their desire to progress, to improve the lives of their children and communities, to be allowed to work for themselves rather than being directed, but that is contrary to communism, and communism rules!

  • They sure think and organize differently how to run enterprises.

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