Breaking the Habit of Personalizing

so we can build our future collectively

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker

Camila Piñero Harnecker. Photo: Dawn Gable

HAVANA TIMES — I just read an article published in Havana Times entitled “Progressive Struggles from Below, A Real Possibility,” by Dmitri Prieto. Although I’ve never taken the time to respond to what’s written about me or my work, this time I feel the obligation to do so.

Firstly, it would be unfair to ignore the work that many people have done for a long time to promote cooperatives in Cuba. University professors in several provinces have championed the importance of cooperatives in our revolutionary process for decades.

Some of them are now part of or are collaborators with the Comision de Implementacion y Desarrollo de los Lineamientos (Commission on the Implementation and Development of the Guidelines), and thus directly influence decisions about cooperative organization. Other people from various governmental and non-governmental organizations have worked directly with agricultural cooperatives, supporting them and promoting public policies to consolidate them.

In addition, I think Dimitri is wrong to think that two people can influence decisions as significant as those related to creating opportunities for a new type of socio-economic organization in our country. My sense is that this decision was made after a process of searching for information, evaluation and analysis involving many people, where certainly the most varied and diverse sources were considered.

Moreover, the decision to place a greater emphasis on cooperatives was made before the release of the book I edited on cooperatives (Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una mirada desde Cuba, Ed. Caminos, Havana, 2011), the reason I was pointed to as being a promoter of cooperatives in our country.

A close reading of the prologue I wrote for the book and of my other writings show that I’m a critical advocate of cooperatives, because undoubtedly cooperatives are no magic wand that will solve all our problems. What’s more, the outcome of their expansion will greatly depend on how they relate to representatives of social interests.

I see no use in highlighting the role that some people have played in making known the benefits of cooperative organization for the advancement of our socialist project – on the contrary, I think it’s harmful. We need to leave behind the habit of personalizing whereby actions and results are attributed to specific individuals when usually there are many people behind these efforts.

The proponents of socialism — and especially those advocating its democratic and self-management  versions — are well aware of the importance of all people feeling themselves participants and leaders of the history they construct every day. Highlighting the role of a few isn’t only unfair, it also discourages what we desperately need and that Dmitri himself acknowledged, “the people” are the leaders of the changes we’re making today.


One thought on “Breaking the Habit of Personalizing

  • Thank you, Camila, for an important contribution to the on-going exchange of ideas in Havana Times with regard to cooperatives in Cuba.

    My core belief as a dedicated socialist, with regard to working associate-owned cooperatives–whether in Cuba; the United States, my own country; or any other country–is that they need the legal institution of private property rights, in order to make them “real” cooperatives. (By “real” I mean “functional.”)

    This core belief seems to go against what many socialists believe, which is that the existence of private property legal rights means the restoration of capitalism.

    The cooperative republican movement, of which I am a part, believes that all privately-owned productive under socialist state power–as in Cuba–is a form of socialist property, if it participates meaningfully and legally in socialist construction.

    That is, while state-owned productive property most certainly is socialist in character, a privately-owned farm, restaurant or other concern, or a privately-owned working associates’ cooperative corporation on the Mondragon model, would also be socialist in character.

    I do not know how you feel about this matter, but it would be enormously interesting if you could respond here in print.

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