Cuba’s Point Man for Instilling Communist Party Ideology

Rogelio Polanco after being elected as a candidate by Holguín for the next non-competitive elections. Polanco was once the editor of the Communist Youth Newspaper Juventud Rebelde Photo: @RPolancoF

Rogelio Polanco heads the powerful Ideological Department of the Cuban Communist Party. In referring to the social networks he states: ‘We Have to Take Away Those Weapons From the Enemy’

By 14ymedio

At the age of 57, the head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, Rogelio Polanco, feels part of what he calls the “process of gradual and orderly transfer of the main positions and responsibilities of political direction of the Revolution from the historical generation to a new generation,” and from that place he is willing to fight one of the most important battles for the regime: that of ideas.

The official spoke at great length in an interview for La pupila insomne [The Insomniac Pupil], in which he refers to the need for the transformations to be profound, but the detailed explanations make it clear that what changes, in any case, is the form, not the substance. “All our ideological commitment is aimed at reinforcing (…) the foundations of our ideology, based on the thought of José Martí, Fidel Castro and, of course, on Marxism and Leninism,” he explains.

The interview, of more than 7,000 words, leaves little room for the news. Among the few announcements that Polanco makes is the extreme intervention of the new Institute for Social Communication, created in 2021 to replace the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) and about which nothing is yet known. “We are proposing that at all levels and institutions the structures that are in charge of communication have to be hierarchical at the highest level of direction, because communication is a strategic resource,” he says.

Polanco also addresses the transformation that awaits the media of the Island, and that, from his words, will follow more or less the arrival of advertising in the Cuban media, although the official omits the word and prefers to talk about the experience of giving “a greater capacity to reflect the reality of Cuba and also that those media be allowed to have income for their sustainability, which guarantees the creation of better technological capabilities to face this new digital ecosystem.”

He also mentions the changes in the selection of journalism students and the importance of being “better prepared from a professional point of view and also in values,” an issue that is not really new either, since ideological adherence has always prevailed in this university career and its working reality on the Island.

However, Polanco introduces this alleged battery of measures to deal with what he calls “hybrid war,” a concept already exploited by the ruling party for months and that he develops to exhaustion in the interview. In his opinion, the United States is using the entire network to discredit its “enemies” while exporting culture and capitalism as the only model to follow. In addition, it has the necessary technology, since the companies that manage the algorithm (in clear allusion to Google or Facebook) are on its side.

On the other hand, the discomfort generated by the terrible situation of the world economy in general and Cuba in particular — part of which is induced, he argues, by the blockade [American embargo] and its effects — is used to generate chaos and cause confrontation by the people with the Government. His recipe for fighting all this is as follows: “Take those weapons away from our enemy. Learn to master them and use them for our own goals. We have to master the use of those tools.”

The objective, he says, is to strengthen political preparation at all levels so that “the people increasingly understand and accompany the leadership of the Revolution in the process of development of our nation, socialist construction and confrontation with subversive actions.”

Polanco steps on delicate ground when he talks about emigration. The official recognizes that the number of young people who have left complicates the economic and demographic situation of the country, but affirms that Cubans are migrants like those of any country in the world, who return when they improve economically, even though reality denies it.

“Today, thousands of Cubans live outside Cuba, maintain a normal bond with their homeland and return systematically. Even many actively participate in solidarity actions with their country of origin. Let’s go to what social science and demographic analysts call a circular migration,” he argues after an extensive dissertation on exiles since the 1960s, alluding to the Cuban Adjustment Act and the visas agreed upon and not delivered by the Trump Administration.

In any case, and aware that Cubans are leaving — more than 300,000 to the United States alone in 2022 — he asks that the “personal and professional realization” of young people be stimulated “without denying, of course, that anyone who wishes to emigrate can do so because it is their right.” As he explains, the Cuban Government has created working groups that can “in the short term present some projections of those policies in the field of employment, improvement, housing and other facilities especially aimed at youth,” but the economic, employment and lack of infrastructure data threaten to make any plan useless, no matter how good.

A similar case occurs with some other of Cuba’s achievements that Polanco enunciates. The official speaks of “continuing to strengthen fundamental social conquests” and accurately cites everything that is now in a situation of shipwreck, from education, which is experiencing a full exodus of teachers and students who, if they stay, must resort to a private tutor; to health, in the midst of a crisis of shortage of doctors, supplies and medications; and even sports, following Cuba’s failure in the Caribbean Baseball Series. To reach the zenith, the official exalts the “high level of democratic participation and elevated popular control” that exists on the Island.

Polanco goes into the final stretch of the interview talking about working in networks to reach a youth that is increasingly seduced by new formats rather than by books, and he calls for “generating content to infinity and in a creative way” to compete in the message. “We have to manage to be appropriate in that format,” he summarizes, before ending by making a plea in defense of the emotional, in addition to the intellectual. “Che said that a revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love. It’s love in all its expression, so we’re still in love.”


Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba


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2 thoughts on “Cuba’s Point Man for Instilling Communist Party Ideology

  • February 14, 2023 at 10:46 pm

    Has Polanco ever been to a supermarket in another country?

    Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin did in 1989 while visiting NASA headquarters in Houston. He was stunned by what he saw. Yeltsin admitted the visit made a profound impression on him. It cemented his growing view that the Soviet state-run economic system had left the Russian people far behind Americans, forcing them into a much lower standard of living. And it set in motion a path that would lead him to become the figure that would lead Russia out of Communism.

    Time for a trip to Houston, Rogelio.

  • February 11, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    In a nutshell what the head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, Rogelio Polanco is postulating, and really wants and relishes, is that the Cuban totalitarian rulers obtain total, absolute, control of Cuban digital media. This is the antithesis of what social media is all about whether in Cuba or elsewhere in the world. Freedom to speak, listen, act without the control of anyone especially government is the essence of any digital platform. Digital social media and total government control is an oxymoron.

    Cuban youth are not going to be fooled.

    Rogelio speaks about how the Revolution needs to morph “ . . . from the historical generation to a new generation . . . ” Well, the historical generation in the past 60 plus years have had enough of totalitarian slogans and promises coming from the historical propaganda department now newly constituted to read – the Ideological Department of the Communist Party. The new Cuban generation having learned from the historical generation are fleeing the island like flood waters in a damaged dike “ . . . more than 300,000 to the United States alone in 2022.” That is the historical record of past propaganda platitudes among many other distressing economic failures.

    Rogelio argues that the United States exports culture and capitalism to the island and that the United States has and uses the necessary technology to influence Cuban youth, like Google and Facebook. According to Rogelio if only Cuban youth were exposed to the “real truth” of Cuban communism through some form of innovative algorithmic technology made and produced in Cuba – like a Cuban Google or Cuban Facebook – then Cuban youth would be more inclined to digitally digest the “truth” and consequently stay home. Right?

    As Rogelio says: “We have to master the use of those tools.” Moreover, the Ideological Department of the Communist Party wants to use social media, again, to quote Rogelio’s words: “ . . . for our own goals.” And, what goals could those possibly be coming from a totalitarian, communist, inept government whose only purpose is to stay in power. Control, control, control.

    Rogelio goes into the final stretch of his interview talking about working in networks – whatever that is suppose to mean? – to reach a youth that is increasingly seduced by new formats – is he referring to digital format? – rather than by books. Well, welcome to the 21st century, 2023.

    In the Western world and no doubt in most developing nations, youth via their educational institutions, have embraced digital technology so that books, though important, are not the current method of transferring and disseminating information from one generation to the next. Free, open, social media, and diverse digital platforms of every kind are the wave of the future. Everyone, particularly youth have the ability to express themselves freely on these digital platforms without the oversight of Orwell‘s “Big Brother”. And that is exactly what Cuban youth want much to the chagrin of the newly minted Ideological Department of the Communist Party whose hidden agenda, which has come to light, is total social media control.

    Rogelio quotes the revolutionary Che Guevara: “Che said that a revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.” Absolutely. Cuban youth love their freedom, especially freedom of expression so much so that they are willing to sacrifice by leaving their beloved homeland in droves in order not to live in an endless totalitarian, government controlled country.

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