Cuba and Cooperatives in Times of Crisis

Vicente Morin Aguado

Photo: Konstantinos Tsakalidis
The VioMe factory in Thessaloniki. Photo: Konstantinos Tsakalidis

HAVANA TIMES — In Greece, a thunderous toll sounded announcing that workers at the industrial mining plant known as VioMe, in Thessaloniki, have occupied the factory, turning it into a cooperative under a self-management system. It was abandoned in 2011 after the owners walked away from the industry, failing to pay their workers their wages.

After 20 months without getting paid and having appealed for international assistance to finance start-up operations, VioMe once again began producing. This time, though, it is under union control – “without exploitation, without inequality, without hierarchy.”

In Cuba, the government extended the cooperative idea to the cities, trying to alleviate the economy’s persistent crisis, its marked underemployment, depressed wages with respect to prices, and production inefficiencies, whose symbol is widespread corruption.

All this makes it seem that the time for cooperatives comes when crises intensify and no other solutions are at hand. I’m skeptical because in the Greek case a single factory needed many months of support and outside assistance to raise the financing needed to put it back into operation. Obviously, one cannot resolve such Hellenistic problems through philanthropy.

What’s interesting is the step taken, an example that can be followed by any responsible government if it has the political will to properly use the voluminous financial resources of aid packages received from the outside, while preventing fraud and tax evasion, and above all ceasing to rescue former owners who have failed morally and managerially.

Cuba must make an assessment of these experiences, applying them in a particular way since our starting point is an economically inefficient socialist state with similar problems in terms of unemployment. There are notable differences from the European case, but if we give members of cooperative the rights they deserve, ensuring they can comply with their contractual obligations, we’ll find a reasonable manner to move towards a better future.

Simple data show that if the Cuban government plans to lay off more than a million workers, according to preliminary calculations, real unemployment will obviously exceed twenty percent of the active labor force, similar to the acute and much talked about cases of Greece and Spain.

Greek union leader Makis Anagnostu gave a valid response for his country and for ours: “Factories under workers’ control is the only reasonable response to the tragedy we’re going through every day. It’s the only answer to unemployment.”

What I’m talking about is authentic workers control and the legal basis for ownership by cooperative members. The wake-up call is sounding.

Vincent Morin Aguado: [email protected]


10 thoughts on “Cuba and Cooperatives in Times of Crisis

  • March 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    You go, Bro’! Well said.

  • March 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    So, you admit that you take more words than necessary to tell more than you know. Swell!

    Your attempts to ridicule me, and your silly attribution of all evils to the Castro boys’ lust for power are a small price to pay for the entertainment value of your constant, vapid prattling.

    BTW, I’ve ordered the book you recommended on the insurance industry, Invisible Bankers, but it’s by Andrew Tobias, not Tracy Kidder. Thanks, again.

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