Cuba’s New Cooperatives

The decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union have led socialists of many stripes not only to try to renew old principles and ideas, but to rethink the very foundations of socialism as it has historically developed. In particular, the state-centric model of what used to be called “actually existing socialism” has been widely questioned. Does true socialism require a centrally planned economy, hierarchically controlled and administered by the state? Or does it center on the empowerment of the “associated producers”? Is the immediate task of socialism to develop the forces of production, or the flourishing of human beings? Is there a place for markets in socialism? Is state property the only or highest form of socialist property? What about worker-owned and managed cooperatives?

The project to build a twenty-first century socialism has been most prominently associated with the late Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, but fresh answers to these questions are also being sought in Cuba, the Zapatista areas of Mexico, and elsewhere. Though their circumstances vary widely, these contemporary socialist initiatives share certain values: the empowerment of civil society, democratic participation, decentralization, cooperation, and human development.

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