Daily Archives: 15/07/2010

State Ownership and Socialism: A critical voice from Cuba

We are reposting here an article from Havana Times. While we cannot vouch for the sources, the article raises important issues and critical debates happening in Cuba that provide a challenge to the direction of the island.

Image by Red Protagónica Observatorio Crítico

Pedro Campos
Original Havana Times Article
HAVANA TIMES, April 27 — Recently in Granma, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, an article appeared about the economic efficiency of “socialist government enterprises” in the armed forces (4/16/10).

In the spirit of helping to clarify certain concepts, I have attempted to provide a few, more precise details here.

Apparently the comrades who wrote about the Military Agricultural Union “socialist government enterprise,” based themselves on the identification of state and socialist property by virtue of the fact that this property belongs to the Cuban state; they assume that all state property is, de jure, socialist.   However, what gives a property its social character —be it socialist or capitalist— is the form of its operation and the appropriation of its output, not its legal form.

This confusion was introduced in socialist theory by those who mistook estatización (state ownership) for socialization.  They thought that for property to be socialized, it was sufficient to place it under state ownership and then hold the state sacred above the rest of society.

The social character of a company is one thing and the legal structure of its ownership is something else.  The social character of property is determined by the form in which it is put to use, by the way in which work is organized, the mode of production (based on slave, serf, wage or freely associated labor) and the way in which the surplus obtained is distributed.  This is independent of the property’s legal structure, which can be state-owned, collective or privately owned.  This said, the natural tendency is for the content (the social character) of property to determine its legal form (structure), not the other way around. Continue reading