The Relationship between Participation and Managerial Autonomy in Cuba’s Basic Units of Cooperative Production: Six Case Studies

Niurka Pérez Rojas and Dayma
Echevarría León

Transformations in Cuba during the 1990s have been analyzed by numerous specialists.  Among the changes in the agrarian sector, one of the most important was the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPCs) in September 1993, a change that has undoubtedly influenced the social organization of cultivation and processing of many of the country’s crops.  In more than a few cases, the search for economic sustainability together with the scarcity of resources have resulted in a return to traditional and ecological practices.  On the other hand, the creation and development of the UBPCs has also influenced the relationship between participation and management autonomy, with varying results up to the present.

This article analyzes the Basic Units of Cooperative Production as organizations that have increased the space for participation and for managerial autonomy¾one of the underlying purposes of their creation.1 Six UBPCs were studied:  two of  sugarcane (Carlos de la Rosa, Olo Pantoja) and two of  mixed crops (Restituto Alonso, Rolando Pérez Quintosa), in Güines (in Havana Province); and two tobacco cooperatives (La Jocuma, El Brillante) in Consolación del Sur (in Pinar del Río). 

Nearly six years after the constitution of the UBPCs, the nature of the workers’ participation in them has undeniably gone through different phases closely linked to the four principles that guide their activity2  (Ministerio de Azúcar, 1993: 1, 4, 9; Ministerio de Agricultura, 1993: 1, 3, 4, 9).  In our opinion, the most important of these principles are those referring to the broad development of managerial autonomy and to responsibility (both individual and collective) for particular plots of land (la vinculación del hombre al área).

An extensive theoretical debate is still under way concerning the nature of this organizational form, its possibilities and limitations (Pérez & Echevarría, 1997: 69-75; 1998: 245-258).  In terms of a cooperative model, it is considered a measure to revive the state cooperative system (Pérez & Torres, 1997: 13-30; 1998: 83-110; Villegas, 1998),3 with a hybrid character due to operational and structural dualism.  Its operations place it somewhere between a commercial and a technical-productive unit, while its structure is midway between a state enterprise and a true cooperative (Figueroa, 1994: 36-38).4  On the other hand, some specialists consider that the cooperative character of the UBPC lies only in the way its production is organized (Azcuy, 1994).  Others perceive it as a new model forming within the change in property and work relationships in Cuban agriculture (Suero & Martín, 1998).  As for individual members of the UBPCs, one approach characterizes them in terms of their participation in management (Valdés, 1993), while others define them by their membership in a state cooperative, by the state entity that sponsors them, and by their relationship to ownership of the principal means of production (Pérez & Torres, 1997: 13-30; 1998: 83-100; Villegas, 1998; Figueroa, 1994: 36-38; Azcuy, 1994).

At first, those in charge of transmitting the planned policy did so on the basis of the relationship between a) autonomy-decentralization; ownership of land, means of production and crops, and; b) state control

...but placing greater emphasis on the former (Pérez & Torres, 1998: 93). The process of constituting the UBPCs reflected the way this relationship functioned.  Thus, committees were created at the state enterprise level to analyze the viability of the new project with respect to labor force and means of production; and meetings were held with the workers to explain the principal characteristics of the new organizational form and its possibilities.  Later, when the constituent assemblies were held, the administrative boards (Juntas de Administración) were elected and internal regulations were established.  The process differed in the different crop-sectors.

During the informational meetings with workers on what were still state farms, the committees in charge of moving the process forward had the task of designing the new organizations. In one of the sugarcane plantations (Carlos de la Rosa), the founding committee gave special emphasis to the superiority of this organizational form, based on the possibility it offered for making autonomous decisions, obtaining profits, guaranteeing food self-sufficiency, and building and repairing housing.  At Olo Pantoja (also sugarcane), the committee was very interested in getting the workers’ opinions on the model that was being set up.

The opportunity to make profits and to guarantee food self-sufficiency was also emphasized at the farms devoted to mixed crops (Restituto Alonso and Rolando Pérez Quintosa) and at the tobacco farms (La Jocuma and El Brillante).  In addition, at La Jocuma, the principle of management autonomy was presented as one of the main advantages of the UBPC, while at El Brillante great importance was given to responsibility for individual plots of land.

Among the workers of all the UBPCs, there arose to some extent "and in varying orders of priority, although never in first place" the hope for greater participation and management autonomy.  The workers in sugarcane and mixed crops perceived and hoped that the UBPC would approximate the Agricultural Production Cooperative (CPA) model in terms of a higher participation level and relative autonomy in labor and production decisions (La O. 1997: 106).  For the tobacco workers, the possibility of having a plot of land that would give them greater autonomy in production decisions was one of the main reasons for joining this new kind of organization.

In the constituent assemblies, except for one in sugarcane, committees would put forward slates of candidates for the administrative board that might or might not cover all the posts.  Only the Rolando Pérez Quintosa (mixed-crop) unit accepted all the committee’s nominations.  In the others, the assemblies modified them to some extent, exercising the right to choose their own leadership.

Members are responsible for drawing up the regulations, which the by-laws committee of Restituto Alonso did on the basis of those of the Agricultural Production Cooperative (CPA) Amistad Cubano-Búlgara of Güines.5  With the official publication and implementation of UBPC regulations, it was necessary to modify certain provisions that were contradictory to or irreconcilable with the proposals of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The implementation, beginning around December 1993, of the UBPC regulations issued by the Ministries of Agriculture and Sugar, marked the beginning of a second period, in which the limits of managerial autonomy were made more explicit.  Although on the one hand such autonomy was authorized, on the other hand it was precisely stated that the state enterprise would maintain its supervisory function (función reguladora y controladora) over the new units’ activity, and even that it had the power to determine certain matters without taking into account the views of the UBPC.  Methods of management similar to those that governed the relationship of state farm (granja) to state enterprises began to operate, in many cases mandated by law (Ministerio de Azúcar, 1993: 9-27; Ministerio de Agricultura, 1993: 9-31).

Worker participation based on the criterion of management autonomy became increasingly difficult due to the excessive supervision that state enterprises exercised over UBPCs.  Their members have demanded the right to decide matters of importance to the collective, both within their units and in national meetings.6  Generally speaking, the state enterprises intervene and have the major weight in strategic decisions (drawing up plans, distribution and control of energy and fertilizers, beginning and end of harvest, investments, etc.), and the UBPCs have decision-making power over how they use their materials (Suero & Martín, 1998: 7).7

Rubén Villegas Chádez has made a valuable comparative analysis of Resolutions No. 354/93 and 688/978 of the Ministry of Agriculture referring to the UBPC regulations (Villegas, 1998), in which he demonstrates that:

Although their theoretical powers (atribuciones) multiply, the total weight of their influence remains insignificant.  Added to that is the ambiguity present in both versions, so that in numerous paragraphs it is not clear whether the reference is to a function or an obligation, a function or a “power,” or a “power” as opposed to an obligation.… [N]evertheless the essence of the problem does not lie in the internal relationship among powers, functions and obligations, because although the predominance of  obligations indicates the small margin that remains for UBPC autonomy, the greater recognition of  powers would not lead to a reduction of the obligations nor to a delegation of functions,since the latter basically represent the interests of society.  It would be more important to limit the powers of each proprietary entity involved, namely the state and its institutions (Treasury, Bank, enterprises, etc.) and the UBPC, so that the UBPC, in addition to being an owner, can act as such with economic and legal recognition.

In the analysis of how workers participate in production and labor decisions involving the exercise of management autonomy, the main issues are:

  • Relations with state enterprises
  • Degree of bargaining power
  • Drawing up of production plans for main and secondary crops
  • Formulating agreements
  • Determining subsistence production (what to plant, where, how; to whom to sell)
  • Decisions on use of resources (means of production and raw materials -– fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) 
  • Decisions on investments
  • Decisions on marketing
  • Organization of production; responsibility for individual plots
  • Turnover within the administrative board
  • Use of the labor force (permanent or contracted)
  • General assemblies (type of information, main topics for discussion)

In the cases studied, the functioning of the UBPCs appears to be occasionally hampered by the excessive powers of the state enterprises over the units, for example, their excessive authority in determining the production plan, services and machinery; and in providing supplies and fuel.9  For all crops, the members perceive that they are dependent on the state enterprise, with different nuances depending on their bargaining power in negotiating the production plan, and on how much fuel and other inputs they will get from the state.  A greater centralization and control of activity exists in sugarcane than in other crops due to its agroindustrial structure and national importance.10 In mixed crops, the relationship with the state enterprise varies according to the crop.  The state enterprise has greater control over the main crop (potatoes, bananas) than over the secondary crops (sweet potatoes, corn, squash, etc.), where more flexibility exists and the possibilities for negotiating decisions are greater. 

In sugarcane and tobacco, the bargaining power in production decisions is very limited.  With sugarcane, this has to do with priorities and characteristics established at the national level.  Tobacco cultivation is likewise a national priority and a direct source of foreign income for the country and for UBPC members.  In the units of mixed crops, national production targets exist for the main crop, but participation in production decisions is greater for secondary crops.

The production plans for the UBPCs studied reflect this situation.  All recognize that the state enterprise determines the plan, although the interests of the unit are recognized through the participation of the administrator and the production manager.  The possibilities for negotiating the plan depend on the importance of the crops and the negotiating capacity of the board (EER, 1998: 84, 94; 1999: 10, 51, 90).

The state enterprises have difficulty guaranteeing inputs in all the UBPCs because of delays in delivering such important products as fertilizers and herbicides; shortages of work clothes, boots and agricultural implements; drops in the provision of some inputs below that planned; and changes in prices.  These difficulties affect production and often are not the fault of the enterprise (EER, 1998: 115).

The state enterprise plays an important role in providing UBPCs with technical services such as plowing and the repair and maintenance of machinery.  The members perceive that the enterprise attends first to its own needs and then takes care of the units.  They attribute this perception to the fact that the enterprise is now expected to be profitable and so opts first for its own interests (EER, 1998: 7).

In each UBPC, the organization of production is based on the availability of the work force and on technical resources, the type of crop, and natural conditions.  The impact of all these factors is further conditioned by the leadership and management skills of the administrative board and the membership.

The idea of responsibility for particular plots of land was introduced in 1994, when it was implemented at most tobacco farms.  In this case, it was necessary to strengthen the feeling of collective ownership in order to reverse the continuing drop in production, as well as to improve yields and quality and to lower cost.11  Although we aware of any official UBPC regulations to such effect,12 this way of organizing work was promoted as a model for all agricultural activities after 1994.13  An attempt was made to implement it with a certain degree of flexibility, so as to find traditional ways of working adapted to the conditions of each place and crop.

In 1996, there appeared in academic circles the concern that this way of organizing work might result in giving priority to individual interests and losing the desired sense of collective identity.  Apparently, the experience of the tobacco sector was the basis for this concern (Echevarría, 1996; 1997: 87-98; Pérez & Echevarría 1998:  113-124).  In April 1996, the National Agricultural Workers’ Union affirmed the need to establish subsistence plots in all UBPCs in the country.  Until now, according to the information gathered in field work, this principle has been applied differently in each sector and represents a way of decentralizing management within the UBPCs.

The predominant practice in the cooperatives is to organize the work force in small brigades or groups.  In the sugarcane and mixed-crop UBPCs, the system of responsibility for individual plots is not used for the main crops,14 given its non-profitability, labor shortages, and limited resources.  Only in the tobacco UBPC La Jocuma has this organization of the work force been successfully implemented (EER, 1998: 71, 95-99).

Although generally the tactical decisions related to distribution and utilization of the work force are the responsibility of the UBPC, on occasions when temporary workers have been used and/or mobilized, the decisions of the UBPC have not been respected.  Such is the case of the Olo Pantoja UBPC (EER, 1999: 45-46).

In the decision-making process regarding means of production, differences among the UBPCs studied were evident.  In both the sugarcane and mixed-crop units, such decisions had to be made by establishing direct links with their respective enterprises.  In the case of mixed crops, the units have a greater degree of decision-making authority over the means of production.  In the sugarcane units, dependence on the state enterprise is greater because the process of production requires more equipment that the units themselves cannot provide.  In tobacco, the process differs from other UBPCs in that the means of production are predominantly personally owned and the decisions are more individual (EER, 1998: 36, 57).

In all the UBPCs under study, decisions regarding productive investments are governed by the National Bank and by each one of the enterprises to which they belong.  In sugarcane production, the state-run sugar mill (CAI) plays a much more active role given the national priority sugar has, while in mixed crops a more direct role is assumed by the National Bank.  Tobacco growers are in a more favored position because the investments for their production are made in dollars.

Although the possibility of developing subsistence plots for members and their families is one of the inducements to joining a UBPC and remaining in it, differences were observed in the cases under study.  While the amount of land assigned for this purpose is similar in the sugarcane and mixed-crop UBPCs, the number of workers in sugarcane is greater, so their land is insufficient.   This may be one reason why these units show a high level of dissatisfaction with the subsistence program, as expressed by those interviewed.  This interpretation coincides with the analysis made by the Sugar Ministry of the factors that affect the consolidation of the UBPCs.  One of these is the failure to attain hoped-for results in the subsistence programs set up to solve the food problems of members and their families (Ministerio de Azúcar, 1999: 2).   The tobacco UBPCs are different in that they have one plot for collective consumption and another for individual consumption, which permits them to obtain greater surpluses in some products. The practice of individual plots reproduces the historical structure of the tobacco plantation.

Within the units under study, the priority given to subsistence production differs.  In the mixed-crop and tobacco UBPCs this production tends to have higher priority.  In those dedicated to sugarcane, only the Carlos de La Rosa UBPC encourages subsistence agriculture, with a strategy defined in part through the development of basic crop production for family consumption and the workers’ cafeterias, and in part through obtaining surpluses for exchange with other units to broaden the food supply.  The Olo Pantoja UBPC gives much less importance to this sector.15  In the two mixed-crop units, alongside a strategy of production aimed at providing for family needs, there is also an effort to attain the best results in the agricultural markets by giving priority to products with greater demand and higher prices.  In the tobacco UBPCs, the approach to subsistence production differs from that in the other cooperatives in the sense that it inclines more toward individual production, even though collective self-sufficiency also plays a role.

In all these units, the major weight in decisions regarding the plan for subsistence-production is shared between the administrative board, which draws it up, and the general assembly of members, which approves it.  The tobacco UBPCs differ in that they draw up a plan for individual subsistence production and also influence the plan for collective self-sufficiency.

In all the UBPCs studied, the availability of equipment for use in the subsistence sector is very limited.  Alternative and traditional technology is commonly used in all six units.  A small amount of fuel for tractors is occasionally made available for plowing.  The crop given highest priority in resources, in all cases, is rice.  The supply of inputs for such production is very scarce in all the productive units analyzed, and especially in tobacco.

All these units have a permanent work force that specializes in subsistence agriculture.  In the Rolando Pérez Quintosa UBPC (mixed crops), this force is unusually stable because of responsibility for individual plots.  Except in this particular unit, workers are generally also especially hired for such activities. The Olo Pantoja unit (sugarcane), unlike the others, sometimes employs a small number of students for particular tasks.  Only in the tobacco UBPCs is the work force predominantly made up of family members.

While the development of subsistence crops encourages a stable labor force within the UBPC (since it guarantees food for workers and their families), it also represents a space where production and labor decisions depend on the UBPC and on the ability of its administrative board and members to implement an appropriate strategy.   UBPC participation in marketing the main crop is entirely through the state enterprise.  Of all the units studied, the tobacco UBPCs are the only ones that establish relations of production and marketing with Acopio (entities that purchase and distribute agricultural products), and even this is only on a small scale and for secondary crops.

The agricultural markets are another space for participation by UBPCs, from which only the sugarcane units are currently barred.  In our opinion, this restriction, which prevents them from selling potential surpluses from the subsistence sector and from interspersed crops, implies a limitation of their efforts toward autonomy (Torres & Pérez, 1997: 31-56; 1998: 148-186; Torres, Pérez & García, 1997: 194-207; Charadán, 1997: 193-207; Nova, 1998; Arias, 1999; Villegas, 1999: 11).16  The tobacco and mixed-crop UBPCs use a strategy of marketing designed to obtain maximum profits by selling those products that bring the highest prices.

Current legislation relative to UBPC operations regulates relations between UBPCs and the state on the basis of contractual ties.17  Nevertheless, these regulations have been implemented in differing degrees, since not all the activities are supported by contracts and even in those cases backed by contracts, the major responsibility for their fulfillment falls on the UBPC.  Failure to fulfill the contracts has become a point of conflict between the UBPC and the enterprises in some cases.  For that reason, some administrative boards have considered the possibility of hiring legal counsel (EER, 1999: 11).

In different ways, the UBPCs under study have generated self-management strategies to attain a certain internal development with their own resources, although the greatest success in this respect has been with secondary production devoted to subsistence.  One sugarcane UBPC (Carlos de La Rosa), because it is not authorized to sell the surplus from the subsistence sector, engages in exchanges with other entities to vary the menu in the cafeteria and to diversify products distributed to the workers.  The UBPC Restituto Alonso raises cattle on available land and this has permitted it to supply two liters-plus of milk per associate weekly. In the subsistence sector, the members grow products such as papaya that bring high prices in the agricultural markets, so as to have an alternate source of income to balance the losses in other crops.  Only at the UBPC Rolando Pérez Quintosa has the board managed to negotiate with the state enterprise the exemption from production plans of lands devoted mainly to subsistence and to sales in the agricultural market -- which benefits the financial situation of the UBPC.

Within the UBPC, participation of associates in tactical decisions takes place in the general assembly and/or individual consultations.  The general assembly is another space for participation in implementing management autonomy within the units.  In general, workers’ participation in these meetings is quite good in terms of attendance and discussion, though the level of the latter depends on the topic.  In one sugarcane UBPC (Olo Pantoja), the most frequent matters raised have to do with information provided by the state enterprise, the sugarcane yield, insufficient food supplies obtained from the subsistence sector, shortages of work materials, and proposals for changes in the administrative board.  These topics are much discussed by the associates.  Participation drops when problems related to efficiency and economic viability are raised.  In the mixed-crop UBPCs, behavior is similar but one of the most debated topics is that of management autonomy.  An official of the state enterprise usually participates in these meetings to collect the workers’ opinions.  At La Jocuma the economic status of the UBPC is fully discussed.   

In general, the main difficulty with the assemblies is that the majority of the problems raised are discussed but not solved in the short run, and the suggested solutions are seldom put into practice. This may reinforce the role of the assemblies as real spaces for participation, since the problems arise, in most cases, from factors outside the entity.18  This issue is pertinent to whether or not managerial autonomy can be exercised in the search for alternative internal solutions to the principal problems.19

Another participatory space included in this organizational model is the presence of a trade union.  This topic was a subject of polemics during the first months of the UBPCs.  The argument was whether or not a trade union was necessary in organizations where means of production (except for the land) and the products are owned by the workers themselves (Pérez & Torres, 1997: 56, 62).20  Trade unions exist in the UBPCs we studied, and those interviewed consider them necessary.  In any case, the unions vary in their functioning and in the associates’ perceptions of the role they should play.

All those interviewed in all the units studied perceive that the trade union leadership has to improve its operations so as to negotiate more effectively on behalf of the workers it represents.  A generalized opinion in the UBPCs is that this leadership structure should develop a plan of incentives and recognition for associates, and should do more to manage resources in a way that will improve their working and living conditions.

The success of management autonomy depends not only on production results but also on the training of UBPC leaders to manage their units in the best way possible. This became clear during field work.

One measure of the scope for managerial autonomy is the granting of subsidies.  The state enterprises to which the sugarcane and mixed-crop UBPCs belong subsidize them because of their economic problems.  The losses that are projected in order to ensure the financial framework that guarantees UBPC operations are included when the annual economic plan is drawn up.  If losses exceed the projections, those losses are also compensated by the state.  The greater the subsidy required by a UBPC, the less its bargaining power.  As long as UBPCs remain within this mechanism, they will have limited possibilities for exercising management autonomy.

Concluding Thoughts

The logic of internal operations in these units requires decentralization and the daily exercise of participatory democracy, expressed in part through the broad development of managerial autonomy.  However, the implementation of this process has been uneven, depending in some measure on the organizational culture and specific characteristics of each crop. 

The establishment and operation of the UBPCs introduced new participatory spaces and created flexible internal mechanisms designed to empower those involved in them.  At the time they were set up, the principle of management autonomy was outlined to the members, and this raised broad expectations as to the possibilities for decision-making on matters of production, economics, labor relations, and management.  As the regulations were implemented, these expectations were adjusted to the limits established by the legislation.

In the UBPCs we studied, these limits allow insufficient space for exercising management autonomy.  They tend to confine management decision-making to internal matters, leaving it little influence on external factors.  The major achievements in self-management strategies are related to the subsistence sector and the crops it yields. The main difference is in one of the cane-growing units, where production results and the negotiating ability of the administrative board on external relations make possible a wider margin of management autonomy (Figueroa, 1997: 19).  Over the period studied, the tendency on the part of the State has been to subordinate this operating principle to compliance with regulations and assigned tasks.21

In general, the future development of these organizations is tied to a process of consolidating them as self-managing units as long as they attain profitability, stability of the work force, development and diversification of the subsistence sector, increased income, and improvement in living conditions -- especially building and repairing housing.  In order for the changes that are occurring to last and for the members to be committed to the development of the UBPCs, extension of management autonomy is crucial.

The UBPCs under examination are excessively dependent on the state enterprises to which they are subordinated for, among other things, the assignment of resources and equipment; production decisions relative to the main crops; subsidies; utilization of contracted workers and, in some cases, machinery; and marketing of the main crop.  This subordination entails a high level of centralization in decision-making, leading to decisions that sometimes contradict the conditions and needs of the units and leave little room for managerial autonomy.

The state organizations mentioned above should not just have authority over the UBPCs but should be responsible for their development and functioning. The decentralization of certain functions could make possible a higher level of autonomy in decisions which directly affect the UBPC and which do not contradict social principles.  Concerning this matter, the Ministry of Sugar has prepared a document that summarizes, among other things, the main factors affecting the consolidation and functioning of the UBPCs.  One of these, to be changed immediately, was that the role of the state-run sugar mills was not clearly defined (MINAZ. 1999: 2).

The growing search for identity of each UBPC will be favored by the increased exercise of management autonomy and membership participation in decision-making.  The supervisory roles exercised by state organizations, especially the enterprises, should be more economic in content, as opposed to intervening directly in the process of attaining the desired production results.

Future debate will have to define permissible limits of negotiation between state organizations and the UBPCs, without losing sight of the principle of management autonomy as an incentive for production.  The UBPC law, as well as the establishment and implementation of contracts, are among the minimal instruments for specifying the boundaries of authority between these organizations (Figueroa, 1997: 19; Suero & Martín, 1998; Villegas, 1998 and 1999).22


1. This work is based fundamentally on an analysis of information gathered in field work during the period 1997 to 1999 and discussed in the research study La transformación de la agricultura cubana a partir de 1993: Parte microsociológica y microeconómica [The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture after 1993:  Micro-sociological and Micro-economic Aspects], conducted by the Rural Studies Team (EER, 1998) in collaboration with the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (University of Havana), and with the University of  Hannover. 

2. In all the documents related to the establishment of the UBPCs, the principles underlying their creation are:  a) responsibility for individual plots of land (la vinculación del hombre al área) as a way of stimulating interest in the work and a specific sense of individual and collective responsibility; b) self-sufficiency of  the collective of workers and their families based on cooperative effort, and the progressive improvement of housing and other living conditions; c) rigorous correspondence of workers’ incomes to the production attained; d) broad development of management autonomy and administration of resources to attain self-sufficiency in production.

3. This economist considers that the UBPC constitutes “a qualitatively new type of property that is neither state nor cooperative, but contains elements of both and can therefore be defined as state-cooperative property, whose existence as an independent economic category is explained by its expressions of certain objective social relations of production that the members of this binomial (cooperative and state) cannot express separately; and because it creates the space for clarifying certain theoretically confusing points that have deep practical implications for the operations of the UBPC.”  He also states that “these organizations tend to operate within a system of co-ownership of workers’ collectives organized in cooperatives with the socialist state.  As for management, all present a system of co-management with these institutions present to a greater or lesser degree, especially with the agrarian enterprises and agroindustrial complexes.”  He adds that, “in fact, the real relations in which the UBPC is currently involved do not indicate that cooperative ownership is assuming a “substantially independent form” (Villegas, 1999: 6).

4. Another view on relations between the UBPC and outside organizations is that of Haroldo Dilla [“The Virtues and Misfortunes of Civil Society,” NACLA  Report on the Americas, vol. 32, no. 5 (March/April 1999), pp. 34-35], who affirms that in the case of  the UBPCs, the emphasis on productivity has given rise to oligarchic tendencies within their organizational structures resulting in widening inequalities and predatory relations with other social groups.   We believe this perspective does not correspond to what we observed in the course of our field work on UBPCs.  Nevertheless, it would be interesting to debate some of the broader theoretical reflections of various writers on such concepts as management autonomy or relative autonomy. See in this connection Glenna, 1999: 164-171.

5. This CPA was selected by the by-laws committee because it was in the same area and was successful, well known by the workers, and had relatively greater autonomy than their state farm.

6. For example, an operator of irrigation equipment at the Restituto Alonso UBPC believed that the enterprise remained in charge, guiding the work plan and other activities.  For him the UBPC should try for autonomy but that moment would never arrive (interview by Niurka Pérez and Nerina Cabrera, September 24, 1994).  During the National Meeting of UBPCs under the Ministry of Agriculture, held in Ciego de Avila in July 1994, an administrator of a cattle-raising UBPC brought this problem, albeit in a limited way, up for debate.  Those directing the meeting linked the level of assistance and guidance from state enterprise to the productive performance of the UBPC, and urged that autonomy not be confused with anarchy.  The state advises and aids the UBPCs toward the goal of management autonomy  (notes taken by Niurka Pérez Rojas and Cary Torres Vila at the National UBPC Meeting organized by MINAGRI, July, 1994).

7. Part of this idea is present in the work of Suero & Martín, 1998: 7.

8. This resolution was adopted in fulfillment of the agreement made at the fourth meeting of the non-sugarcane UBPCs in September 1997 in Santiago de Cuba that also dealt with the proposals made by agricultural enterprises andlocal representatives;  by the Agricultural, Forestry and Tobacco Trade Unions; and by other government agencies.  The authors participated in that meeting as guests.

9. In the case of the sugarcane UBPCs, inadequate methods generally predominate with respect to the principles of administrative and financial self-management for the acquisition of their resources.  The centrally determined allowance prevails rather than one calculated on the basis of the real necessities proposed by the boards.  See Ministerio del Azúcar, 1999: 2.

10. The cultivation of sugarcane at the national level is of great strategic importance as a generator of foreign currency and employment.  One of the resolutions made in the assemblies of sugarcane delegates (Parlamentos Cañeros) was that “the CAI [state-run sugar mill] does not recognize the UBPC as an independent autonomous entity….”  This resolution received 117 votes.  See INFOAZUCAR-DATAAZUCAR, n.d.  Moreover, one of the factors that impedes the consolidation of sugarcane UBPCs is that they exist in a system of centralized vertical authority.  See Ministerio del Azúcar, 1999: 2.

11. In the opinion of the chief accountant of the Tobacco Enterprise Consolación del Sur, the workers (trabajadores) had up to then gained very little in management autonomy and had behaved like mere wage-workers (obreros) so far as commitment to their work was concerned (interview by Dayma Echevarría León, December 12, 1995).

12. In the second half of 1995, the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) began introducing this approach in the CPAs and drew up the document  Principios Básicos de la Vinculación del Hombre al Area,presented at the ANAP Seminar in November 1995 (ANAP, 1995).

13. Notes on the Report of the Deputy Minister of the Economy at the National UBPC Meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture, July 16, 1994.

14. In the sugarcane UBPCs, productivity is poor, and incentive-payments have not followed clear guidelines.  See Ministerio del Azúcar, 1999: 2

15. One of the problems most mentioned in the national sugarcane assemblies  (625 votes or third in importance) was that the subsistence sector does not meet the needs of the unit  See INFOAZUCAR-DATAAZUCAR, n.d.

16. Villegas considers that “up to now the market (its relations) as a factor of stimulus to the development of productive forces, for the direct producer, has not been a major outlet [espacio de realización] for the state-cooperative sector, because the UBPCs have had to contract more than 70% of their production with the state for the retail stores, where prices do not cover the cost of production.” p. 11.

17. The 1997 Resolution for non-sugarcane UBPCs establishes some differences from the 1993 Resolution.  Section 2.g of the 1993 Resolution (Powers, Functions and Obligations) instructs the UBPC “to contract with the collecting entities the crops that can be stored, according to the plan drawn up by the enterprise….” (p. 14).  The Resolution of 1997, Section 3.g (Powers, Functions and Obligations) reads “to contract and sell to the collecting entities and others, on the date agreed to, the amount and selection of main crops determined by the state enterprise….” (p. 16).  Both resolutions maintain:  “to contract with the corresponding entities the inputs and services required.”  However, the requirement for fulfilling the contracts signed with the collecting, supplying and servicing entities and others is modified in the Resolution of 1997 by adding a phrase on suing for economic damages suffered  (p. 17).

18. Policy debates were fostered within the UBPC and at various municipal, provincial and national levels.  In preparing for the Third National Meeting (October 1996) of UBPCs in the agricultural sector, general assemblies were held in each unit and at the municipal and provincial levels to define the problems that affected their operation and the possible solutions.  At the same time, in view of the generalized insolvency of the sugarcane UBPCs that underlined the need for remedial measures, Fidel Castro suggested convoking meetings known as “sugarcane parliaments,” led by the Central Organization of Cuban Workers (CTC).

19. Another view on how the Associates’ General Assemblies function is that of economist Victor Figueroa Albelo, who believes that there is too little democracy in the UBPCs, among other reasons because “The General Assemblies of  owners are not held or are identified with trade union meetings on efficiency; little information is provided; committees of members are few or non-existent; methods and styles are frequently authoritarian; and intervention from state enterprises is a threat to cooperative democracy” (Figueroa, 1997: 19).

20. At present, some academicians have different opinions on UBPC members joining trade unions.  Victor Figueroa Albelo states:  “The idea of a union of owners is not entirely understood:  its  content, methods, and styles of work are on the agenda for the Seventeenth CTC Congress.” (Figueroa, 1997: 19).

21. “…[T]he relatively limited discussion of autonomy  indicates, in our opinion, not that there is no disagreement , but rather that such autonomy is not fully utilized.  What should be the purpose of autonomy?  To fulfill the regulations; to make the board function; to hold periodic assemblies with all their prerogatives; to designate the most capable members as administrators; to replace them when they fail to respond to the just expectations of the collective; to demand the highest quality in planting crops; to use the machinery adequately; to care for and use the resources of the cooperative in the best and most correct way; to see that not a cent is paid if it cannot be justified by production results; to maintain technological, administrative and working  discipline;  to organize the work force so that the interests of  the individual, the collective and the economy of the country are balanced;  to recruit and select new members; to remove those who fail to fulfill their obligations; to make the subsistence plots produce and guarantee an adequate food supply for cooperative members and their families; to struggle for the creation of better living and working conditions;  to be more efficient; and to distribute fairly the profits obtained from collective work” (Ross, 1997: 11).

22. These authors have made recommendations concerning the projection of the UBPCs that, for the most part, refer to the need to broaden the reach of their managerial autonomy.  Villegas Chádez, in the summary of his doctoral thesis (Villegas, 1999: 23-27), recommends drawing up a law on cooperatives and the development of the process of inter-cooperation that, in his opinion, could solve “the latent conflict in all the state-promoted cooperatives between autonomy and economic security….”