ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Socialism Is Dead, Long Live Socialism

Cooperativism and Solidarity Economies in Cuba

Faced with an existential economic and political crisis in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba launched reforms that were aimed at making its socialist system more sustainable. Self-managing cooperatives, which were to be independent of state control, started getting promoted as the preferred instruments for Cuba’s transition to 21st-century socialism. Drawing on fieldwork in Cuba and on secondary material, it is argued that these cooperatives have a fair chance of success, but that uncertainties exist, especially with respect to the project of “downsizing the state.”


Cuba, arguably the last of the still-surviving socialist countries spawned by the great revolutions of the 20th century, is now in a period of change and transition. Global commentators had a surge of interest in Cuba and its impending transition of power after the passing of its “maximum leader” Fidel Castro. However, within Cuba, the debate about change has been underway for a while; at least since the sudden crisis it faced in the early 1990s following the precipitous collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet block, its only patrons and trading partners.

The sudden implosion of what has since been called “20th century socialism” almost everywhere in the world—with China and a few others also transitioning into forms of capitalism—forcefully drove home major deficits in that model. For Cuba, which was facing near collapse and even mass starvation, the need to rethink and reform its socialist system was not just a theoretical or ideological issue, but one that was essential to its very survival. Cuba was forced to seriously address the need to reform its system in order to make it more sustainable. But, even as the public debates and rethinking began, Cuba quickly launched various reforms, especially in the early 1990s—what Fidel Castro called a “special period in [a] time of peace”—which were mostly aimed at economic survival.1 Castro declared emergency and austerity measures in response to the crisis which saw a sudden and steep fall in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), its import capacity, food availability, and calorie intake. The reforms ensured that the immediate crisis was largely overcome in just a few years.

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Updated On : 17th Apr, 2021
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