Articles, Blog

Richard Wolff and Richard Hobbs talk about co-ops in Cuba and Spain

November 15, 2019

WOLFF: And one of the reasons you’re here today
is because you have been, for years, going to Mondragon to study and investigate
the worker co-ops they’ve set up there and likewise in Cuba. Tell us about them
and tell us particularly what you learned about them that gave you the
feeling of the importance of this institution going forward.
HOBBS: Honestly, after
three generations, both in Mondragon and in Cuba, I believe there’s a
fundamental shift in human nature. It’s a generational shift after people have
been living in a cooperative environment for 60 years, as in both cases (Mondragon
and in Cuba). I see that people are fundamentally different when you get to
talk to [them]. I’m lucky. I speak Spanish and I talk to people when I’m in Mondragon
and when I’m in Cuba and so it’s a big help to be able to do that. But, I say
that because in the case of Cuba, for example, we have the example of obviously
a state that has socialized the means of production and now is working to
decentralize and democratize the economy through the creation of worker owned
co-ops. In 2012 under the experimental worker
co-op law, for the first time non-agricultural co-ops could take place. And
with that we have about 400 service and industrial cooperatives in Cuba where
their wages have tripled ever since they’ve begun, the workers are much more
motivated to work than when they work for the state sector, and
they’re they’re very pleased making decisions about the prices of the food
at a restaurant, [and] about their own wages. And so it’s a fundamental shift
in Cuba and I think that Cuba is on a path (I mean, luckily, they
own the Island and so they can make these kinds of changes) but it does
take an enlightened group to be able to move in that direction of decentralizing
and democratizing the economy.
WOLFF: So, simple question: if the workers make the
decision, for example about their own wages, did, what capitalists have always
said, did it all blow up because the workers don’t care about running the
business they just want more wages and so it all falls apart? Implicitly, what
you’ve said is they didn’t have that problem. HOBBS: No, they don’t have that problem.
I mean, in Cuba the new worker owners in the 400 cooperatives outside of the
agricultural sector (which is actually much bigger than these 400 non
agricultural co-ops) the workers have been extremely pleased to have access to
making their own decisions about the co-operative and they also understand
that they can’t provide goods or services beyond the level of income of
the average Cuban, which is very low. I mean, Cubans have the inverse of what we
have in the United States. In the United States through our private system we
have to pay for almost everything: housing, food, education etc. In Cuba it’s
really the opposite. Health and education are completely free for life, 85% of the
people own their own homes, there are still subsidies for food. I was in Cuba
in January and I paid the equivalent of five cents to get on a bus. And so, on the
other hand, the actual income of Cubans is very low. And I think that’s one
reason why a lot of young Cubans want to leave Cuba, because there’s listening to
Miami and they’re ready to buy their Nike shoes and they can’t buy them in


  • Reply yellowbird500 November 5, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Three generations of oppression by a communist regime has not worked for the Cuban people. The agricultural cooperatives were not enough for the people. The restaurant cooperatives are necessary to feed the wealthier tourists who visit the island.

  • Reply bengom68 November 5, 2019 at 10:40 am

    That is the future !

  • Reply somastic69 November 5, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Despite capitalist imperialist American interference, the brave people of Cuba are fighting and working towards the ultimate goal of Marxism, which is mass starvation. We are with you, comrades!

  • Reply Andrii Shumskyi November 5, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Well, it’s just obvious that people are greedy, love to consume, and don’t care about others

  • Reply Andrii Shumskyi November 5, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Cuba was still little mismanaged at time of creation though

  • Reply puppetmasters nightmare November 5, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Professor Wolff needs to start a charity (or at least sit on the board) using the worker coop model. Self sustainment is such a better gift than just food. Agriculturaly based probably wouldn't break the bank. It would also give the idea of worker coops a boast, while bringing dignity to a large number of people.

  • Reply Richex112 November 5, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Does anyone have more info about how people change after 3 generations of coops? Seems like interesting for general psychology and also a complete rebuttal of the "communism won't work because human nature"-argument. Would be really important to know about how long a communist government has to reign before it can realistically dismantle itself; or alternatively how long militant anarchists have to endure before the new system is stable.

  • Reply Robert Lawson November 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Speaking of co-ops, I heard in one his interviews (the CEO of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei) that the company is owned by the employees … it is not a public company. And — wow! — look what they've accomplished.

  • Reply Tito Hral November 11, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    LOL @ the China masturbation below —————————–V

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