Notes for a society of social economy and people’s management

Cuban society is demanding in-depth changes so that distributive justice in the economic, social equity and quality of life prosper in it based on the exercise of development opportunities for all, with guarantee for citizens’ exercise of their rights with respect to national sovereignty and the leading and decision-making participation of the population organised territorially in social movements and thinking groups, among other important questions

Private work is currently expressed in variants that range from simple and handicraft work to small and medium-size enterprises with variable employment of wage-earning work.

Foto: Jorge Luis Baños_IPS

Paradoxes and questions

Our society is moving toward goals charted in the guidelines for the updating of the economic and social model. While new economic channels were opened in them, the quota of uncertainties, imprecisions and confusion of final objectives, under a clear vision of what type of society would be hoped for, mark their framework and their current practical route.

Together with this, the necessary changes in the context of Cuba-U.S. relations, which are being carried out in what seems will be a long process of normalisation, contribute to highlight the expectations toward junctions and trajectories still undefined in terms of their achievements.

 

Faced by this situation, the economic, political and social model of our country, more inserted in predominantly global relations, will suffer inevitable transformations; some of the most important will depend on the course of action of the socio-political sectors of our society.

 

They would go through the alternatives of increasingly resembling a globalised world, of more or less unipolar systems, of a responsible democratic order and classic capitalist relations, or they would be aimed at the novel reconstruction of a democratic and popular society of a new type, of citizens’ emancipation, that determines the course of their government processes toward a distributive justice, with values of real equity and fraternity in all the economic and social spheres. Will this utopia be possible?De Izquierda a derecha en la imagen aparecen Nidia Tamayo,Yamila Delgado,Alina Sabori y Lidia Santos,mujeres victima de la violencia e integrantes del Proyecto "Mujeres con propositos", en la sede del proyecto de transformacion integral del barrio "Libert

 

In these brief notes I would like to deal with a series of situations, possibly paradoxical, and inexplicable questions which should be retaken in works of rigorous historical-logical analyses, more in depth, to clarify the possible courses.

 

The expansion of the current economic forms of self-employment – actually with a multitude of variants that range from simple work and handicrafts (private, familiar or associated), to small and medium-size enterprises with variable employment of wage-earning work -, shouldn’t they be differentiated and those that have a wage-earning work force be based on new forms of equity between capital and work, that would conserve a distributive ethics favourable to both?

 

Even when recognising the importance and need of the micro, small and medium-size enterprises (msme) – private or collective – wouldn’t they be generating more wide-ranging forms of private ownership, partly already existing, in which, because of their forms of generation and operation, many cooperatives created from previous state-run enterprises would enter?

 

Would this situation not be creating some positions (objective-subjective) favouring capitalist social relations based on individualism and interest for out-and-out profits, without the necessary considerations of the qualities of work as a creator of value and added value that increases capital?

 

In Capital, Marx analysed the process through which small mercantile or handicraft production went on to become a form of “strictly speaking” capitalist appropriation. Isn’t this form of appropriation – based on the naturalisation of the power of capital-money over the work creator of wealth and added value – one of the causes of the generated social inequality and potential in a great deal of contemporary societies?

 

In a bit reverse sense, shouldn’t the reference – bluntly put – to “anti-capitalism” be clarified to not favour the imagination of comparison to forms of mercantile production-services, which are legitimate while they generate possibilities of ownership and private usufruct favouring personal or family living conditions, or creating options for the development of autonomous associated productions? But wouldn’t it be necessary to promote this in conditions of greater equity – of co-management or collective self-management -, at the level of simple and handicraft production, or in greater forms of joint state-private ownership (or “only” private)?

 

Beyond the amount of possible wage income, shouldn’t the worker then have the same possibility of sharing profits – according to their effort – once this is accompanied by the recovered initial capital, according to fair quotas, by the investor? Wouldn’t this make it possible for the participation of the workers in the management to be shared as co-management with the capital?

 

Wouldn’t this change the form, also more recently naturalised on an international level, of the so-called human capital (HC), which strips it of its special type essential character of social relations in which – according to Marx’s valuable findings – added value of work is generated toward capital? That is to say, would a type of relation of exploitation of work in favour of profit be manifested in a euphemistic and “neutral” way with the new concept of HC?trabajo-c-p

 

Does the metamorphosis of money in itself as a producer of profits (through loans or usury, investment, etc., historically naturalised since remote times) make it appear as a legitimate multiplier of profits?

 

Beyond the analysis of the original accumulation of capital, other subsequent sources of its increase, more or less legitimate or not (hereditary, etc.), could the use of these funds of substantial increases become necessary, but not to produce the same social relations but rather to distribute its products from work agreed by consensus and socially fairer?

 

Would the application of that distributive justice generate a feeling of real identity, responsibility, commitment and belonging to the enterprise (small, medium-size or large), instead of a situation of subordination and alienation of the conditions of work, production and of the final product to the demands of capital and, with it, a better human condition?

 

Finally, would that situation become more humanising and fraternal, would it avoid the proliferation of extreme social inequalities and a new conception of the liberal principle of ownership, now more shared and beneficial for all?

 

Paradoxically, though the measures favouring self-employment (and in part of the country’s new and old cooperatives) point to the resolution of the State’s inefficiency, the lack of diversity of products and services, the improvement of personal incomes, the centralisation of the economy, etc., are questions occurring without the small and medium-size enterprises, in general, being impregnated of a vision of exercise of social responsibility of benefit to the communities – except the tax aspect they have to pay and which the State operates for national expenditures (whether in a good or bad distribution).

 

Thus, would they be imbued of a solidary, co-managing and distributive connotation and follow the naturalised guideline of capital-work relations, between owners-employers (be they “good or bad”) and their employees (which with better or worse working conditions and wages contribute to the enrichment of the first, generating the added value that increases their initial capital)?

 

Wouldn’t a social relationship be promoting a social relation – and some associated subjective matters – in favour of individualism and diminishing of “another” worker and citizens in general, that tends to generate more capitalism in its classical sense, instead of a society of greater justice and equity?

 

Would this escape the new joint or private ventures of large capital, which sometimes, in their countries, are forced by law to exercise forms of social responsibility and of horizontal corporative management, which have not crossed the minds of the designers of the island’s economic policies?

 

By the way, those large amounts of indispensable foreign investments at present, wouldn’t they be requiring a greater ability to negotiate and agree by consensus on that social responsibility, the wage and equitable and fair conditions of work, taking into account that, in addition to the current weaknesses and critical socioeconomic situation, the country has some strengths to attract those investments in conditions of social justice?

 

Is the formula or urban cooperatives encouraging: generally imposed based on the dissolution of a state-run enterprise that, far from sowing a culture of the principles of solidarity, autonomy and democracy of the cooperatives, resemble in many cases the management of the former centralised state-run enterprises, in conjunction incongruent with the interest in a greater increase of prices to obtain more incomes and a position of authority-submission, characteristic of the processes of capitalist and bureaucratic-state alienation?

 

Are the state-run enterprises or the public institutions alien to the self-management or co-management participatory process, of relative distributive justice and autonomy, where it seems the managements – with the formal representation of the hackneyed “factors” (union and party) – destine them to exercise the fundamental decision-making at their level? Nothing to do with the real worker and social control of production?

 

Wouldn’t the emphasis on cooperative and community social responsibility take place through an exercise of fraternal commitment that would be proper of a social economy oriented toward solidarity, in a socialist project of a new type? Moreover, shouldn’t this be a principle for all the economic actors, be they cooperatives, private entrepreneurs in the different categories, state-run enterprises or joint ventures in a renovating context of socialist society?

 

Should this principle of solidary social responsibility commit the socioeconomic actors (of all the forms of ownership and management) to a distribution of the profits among the workers, to their participation in internal decision-making and to the support of actions of community and ecological transformation?

 

How are the positions and expectations of persons, the expression of the subjectivities and social practices, the values of the locality’s collective imagination impacting the process of changes or are impacted by it, and toward where are they visualising the expectations of their greater economic, social and ethical effectiveness? Which processes of interconnected protagonist operation and participation should be promoted in the local, institutional, economic, organisational, population actors to achieve those goals?

 

The reality is that we are facing the emergence of a multiactor society in the economic – a question revealed by diverse specialists. It is a new inevitable reality, but which can have its trajectories toward one or another direction, depending on the socially agreed upon policies favouring them.

 

Does this make it necessary to register and update the concepts that based on the positions of the original and subsequent Marxist political economy – together with the reassessment of aspects of other currents of thinking – deal with the processes of private ownership and capitalist appropriation, human capital and others, for example?

 

In the same way, the staking on free enterprise, shouldn’t it take into account the diversities of those groups when it’s a question of a relationship of capital-work and equitable distributive ethics, not just observing and promoting the technical-organisational aspects of its efficiency and efficacy, which could be translated into more traditional and alienating capitalism, but rather the aspect of its interactions and protagonist participation and solidarity in collective decisions?

 

The world context

 

All the aforementioned would seem the product of an illusory and unrealistic imagination of the economic processes that occur today worldwide: the prices of export and import products, the super monopolisation of production and marketing by large transnational companies, the financial speculation of the stock exchange, the pressures and interests of the political-economic lobbies of the powerful countries over the economies of the world…among other many factors.

 

However, some encouraging processes, like part of the needs and awareness of sectors of the population, have led to the emergence of different types of multiple solidary and cooperative actions, even in many developed capitalist countries. The struggle has started more or less silently, in other countries, backed by social movements, but it could be a road to follow.

 

Moreover, for some decades the need to increase the productivity of capitalist companies generated counter-hierarchical organisational processes: quality groups, semi-autonomous flexible work groups, etc. The corporative structure became, in many cases, more horizontal and participatory, with more extensive value chains involving multiple actors, above all small and medium-size entrepreneurs, encouraging opportunities, socially speaking.

 

However, in the developed countries (or even in the newly arriving Russia and China, for example) the polarisation of classes are weighed down with appropriation, due to the large profit-making super corporative managements. The struggle of the majority of the working and middle classes against one per cent of the privileged society remains constant in the capitalist countries, though without a defined direction.

 

In this context of naturalisation of capitalist relations predominant in the world, with sights set on interest rates and profit, all balanced, fair and equitable development processes are more difficult…but not impossible.

 

New society in connectivity and social and human development

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It is based on an essential philosophical position that goes back to the emancipatory preparations of a rereading of Marx, Gramsci, Freire and other thinkers of the socio-critical and complex currents, geared at a vision of society in which the institutional processes of orientation of social solidarity carry a fundamental weight.

 

Thus the fact that a concept of “Society of social economy for emancipatory solidary development” (SEESD) is kept within the complex fabric of relations that cover all the spheres and fields of action: economic, political, social, judicial, psychological, cultural, environmental, etc. This responds to a political conception and multidimensional development, based on the establishment of macro-meso-micro-social focuses, in a hologramatic way, that would be rendering account on the current difficulties and potentials of the emerging processes in the economy and society in general, but also of its refocuses and directionalities with a clear vision of an emancipatory ethical future.

 

It is impossible to interpret the events of daily practices without considering the movement of the political-economic-social mega processes occurring in the country and the international context. In the same way one cannot have a clear idea of their interrelations and directionalities without considering those subjectivities and emerging daily practices and their perspectives in the spheres of social inequality, worsening of the quality of life, limitations in personal and collective life projects, migratory expectations (conjuring of the “American dream,” together with the deterioration of the national living conditions), etc.

 

It is especially important in this entire current process of changes in the country to consider the political dimension, which crosses all the fields of social action and implies the drawing up of basic and practical concepts, reviving the essences of the socialist system – society-market, civil society-government relations, forms of ownership and management in the socioeconomic sphere, citizen participation in key decisions, equity and social justice, among others.

 

The new preparations would have to promote a “socialism of progress and sustainable” (the official slogan of the May Day workers’ festivities), based on the construction of a participatory, anti-hegemonic, protagonist, responsible and decision-making citizenry that advances toward social and work relations counterpoised to:

— the logic of capital (as relation of exploitation of wage-earning work, which alienates the worker from the means of work and life, for the sake of the profit of some privileged persons),

— the imperial logic (which is founded on the domination of the poor or underdeveloped nations by richer nations and their transnational corporations) and

— the logic of bureaucracy (which is based on the dominion of elite self-referents that exercise their autocratic dominion at all levels of society).

 

In this proposal we are analysing some of the current manifestations of the socioeconomic changes, their possible advances, incoherencies or limitations with respect to a general political vision of the advance of socialism, in which a discussion could be useful about the principles of several theoretical positions divergent in their possibilities of constructive coordination for the new social order, countering the previous logics, consequently, with an emancipatory logic.

 

On another plane, a society of social economy of a predominant solidary tendency (not necessarily a state one, except strategic enterprises operated with workers and people’s control), even in its diverse forms of private ownership with collective decision-making participation and distributive justice, would need to become a society of democratic popular management.

 

Society is a complex organism – which is already almost an obvious truth, but at times is not taken into account sufficiently -, where the changes in the economic system have a repercussion and make changes emerge in all the orders of society; the inverse also occurs. Thus all social organisation factors have to be taken into account for new and coherent designs.

 

Not only economic prosperity generates happiness, while important and basic; all the forms of popular action, all the social subsystems are interconnected in their interinfluences. The macro social operates on the micro social level, the inverse occurs the same way. Many processes cannot be designed from higher up; they must have spaces for creative self-organisation from the bases of society. The contrary is paralysing for the entire social order, while general regulations and of consensual law are required for an adequate functioning.

 

A SEESD based on the economic multiactor components previously pointed out, should achieve a balance between the State’s regulatory management and the self-organisational forms of construction of the local, provincial and national budgets, under the participatory and decision-making form of the population and its social movements or groups.

 

Therefore, wouldn’t this SEESD have the juridical mechanisms, of guarantees and citizen rights sufficient to adopt or contest the political and economic-social proposals generated at all levels of society, even at the highest level of officialdom?

 

In fact, wouldn’t this SEESD be a new really socialist economic-social formation – in Marxist terms -, which re-emerges from the rubble of real socialism and of the new horizontal capitalist forms, of the most advanced political regime in citizen and popular democracies (be they from the indigenous peoples of the South American continent or from the Nordic people of Europe, in possible synthesising imbrications – do-it-yourselves)?

 

Wouldn’t obstacles be required, in such a society, to prevent the exercise of argued free expression, the deliberation of ethical constructive positions and the conciliation and agreement on the interests of the different social and political thinking groups on the road toward new forms of emancipatory relations?

 

Wouldn’t such a society be the best form of expressing the ancestral values of the “goof life”: healthy lifestyles, enjoying being with one another and with nature, in the novelty of the world and its mysteries to be discovered, without extreme asceticism, but with a fair austerity and without individualist, selfish, consumer positions; with love instead of hate for our fellow men?

 

Don’t these truly human relations then require the coordination of economic, organisational, socio-political, ideological designs as an inseparable fabric, in the complexity of current times?

 

The final question could be: and how is that utopia made real, since we are so diverse, opposites on occasions, with ideologies and religions at times belligerent and anchored on different world traditions?

 

Of course, the simple answer could seem, at least, laughable if not full of ignorance and stupidity. But would it be worthwhile to make an attempt (as the Hindu teachings would say) with collective meditation and action?

 

These would be some of the in-depth questions that, by coordinating the social fabrics in which the community actors are inserted, would be attempting to deconstruct and reconfigure, in the best positive sense of advance toward that SEESD, in consonance with the proposed objectives.

 

Affirmations

 

The social actors’ sponsorship of the locality and a participatory local government, of space for the meeting of entrepreneurs and other public-private-collective local actors, could initiate a modality of jointly facing up to the problems and which can be useful.

 

Thus it could be possible to reverse the processes of centralisation and bureaucratic organisation in the provincial plane if new possibilities are offered to the government institutions and local actors in the management of their resources and development options, with greater space for social self-organisation interconnected with government management. While, partly, this is one of the expressed directions, partially, in the Guidelines, practice shows the scarce level of its realisation and current comprehensiveness.

 

In these new conditions the opportunities would be given for community self-management and integral development, based on the active and interested participation, individual and socially, of its inhabitants. It could be that the economic self-management forms, closely linked to the community managing groups, productive and social associations, people’s councils and more autonomous local governments were the formula they would be favouring, thus, both the improvement of the population’s social living conditions as well as their sense of belonging and community participation.

 

The concept of social self-management, which is an important direction in that conception, is geared at its positioning in the processes that institute the daily practices and the social subjectivity linked to the leading of the institutional, economic and social processes by the significant actors themselves, in coordination with the meso- and macro-social institutions.

 

Along this line, achieving social self-transformation supposes actively working in the formation of proactive competitions that promote social subjects that, because of their position in the potential development sectors of the institutions, have the possibility of empowering themselves for the resizing of their social action and to exercise the function of criticism and in-depth social action in relation to the programmes, platforms and visions of the different sectors and social actors.

 

Consequently, this transforming focus promotes a type of social interaction based on mutual respect, reasoning, cooperation, constructive contribution and ethical coherence, in which the person and collective is completely displayed as a group of the social human being, which gives essential values of autonomy, solidarity and authentic social commitment.

 

It is thus about, and coordinated with the previous concepts, the need for a deep change in the socioeconomic and social political, of the re-creation of institutional and social forms that favour the creation of a new reflexive culture – creative and emancipatory – that promotes identity based on diversity, that tends toward a society for the free development of persons, that they feel identified with their roots and national and cultural values. Which would suppose another quality of responsible, reflexive, creative and solidary “participation” in all the extension of the process of preparation, decision-making and its social control at all levels.

 

The formation of that critical awareness-praxis, establishing new types of social relations, would make up the social imagination and the new institutions favouring an individual and social emancipatory construction.

 

The expression of critical awareness in the emancipatory sense we refer to implies forms of full social participation, possibility of wide-ranging association to exercise them, social responsibility for all and for the immediate environment; this suggests the generation of capacity of the community and social institutions as a group of actors interested in all the actions carried out by the different economic and social sectors.

 

Seen in this way, the construction of new social subjectivities-praxis can take its contents from the different institutional contexts in which they emerge to promote systematic criticism and creativity, which requires the preparation of very special solidary social commitment, consensus and norms of responsibility.

 

People’s management requires a real citizen people’s power, not completely autonomous or subordinated, but rather in the State-civil society conjunction (in its most constructive spectrum of a new society, not repetitive of previous models, though based on diversity, heterogeneity, differences, dialogue, deliberation and the consensus on positions).

 

The popular and citizen is underlined because the popular doesn’t have to be vague, while it is diverse, but rather concretising in civil, social and last generation rights that make possible the people’s mandate and the State’s subordination to the organised strata of civil society, though in permanent conjunction.

 

This implies the systematic transparency and information about what is being done, the consultation about important questions for the locality, province and country. The rendering of accounts with deliberation at all levels, the possible removal, the change of policies, the systematic use of mechanisms for denunciation of irregularities (through individual and collective means), of mechanisms of referendums, etc.

 

The idea, thus, is a society that meets the requirements of distributive justice in the economic, promotes social equity and quality of life based on the exercise of opportunities for development for all (which includes effectiveness, renovation and opening to the creativity of many social institutions), which guarantees citizens¡ exercise of their rights with respect to national sovereignty, the protagonist  and decision-making participation of the population organised provincially and in social movements and thinking groups, among other important questions.

 

This will be a balanced socialist society promoting the autonomy of persons and collectives, which feels interested in social development and committed to it; which does not tolerate undue privileges or abuse of real or potential power and, together with this, directs the achievement of all its citizens’ greatest possible happiness in an emancipatory environment. (2016)

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