Changing Mentalities

Alfredo Fernandez

Delegates to the VI Communist Party Congress that approved the economic reforms. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

With the recent congress of the Communist Party having concluded, a friend of mine visiting here in Havana asked me if I thought it was possible for leaders who have been so anchored to their dogma for so many years to change their mentality.

I told him that I shared his skepticism, because the “change of mentality” requested by Raul Castro was made to congress delegates who were undoubtedly rigid old-school types.

In none of the congress debates that I was able to see on television was there ever a mention of rights, like free access to the Internet or the possibility of traveling freely outside of the country.

If one keeps in mind that both questions are often raised by ordinary Cubans, then the first secretary of the party missed out on an excellent opportunity to demonstrate — truly — a “change in mentality” of the organization that he has headed since February 2008.

However, when Raul Castro gave details about the “changes” in question, he limited himself to only asking for a more efficient mentality in the administration of companies, that they reduce or eliminate government subsidies going to those businesses and that they allow workers who are not members of the Communist Party to hold management positions of these firms.

On the other hand, the party members who participated in the congress — rather than participants in debate — they seemed like “correctors of style,” revising each guideline word by word. Meanwhile, those who expected a congress with debates more in touch with the needs and problems of the country were left waiting for something that never came.

The “Guidelines” document is a serious contender to turn into the “new manual” of Cuban socialism. Should this occur, its promoters will care little when the time comes to revise them, since they can’t point to a single guideline that safeguards the transparency of the process of the country’s economic renovation.

Nevertheless, these were approved by more than 95 percent of the delegates. Therefore, it seems that the terrain is prepared for us waking up one fine day and hearing that a certain “leading comrade” involved in putting the guidelines into practice has been “separated from their position for poor handling and abuse of that position” (meaning corruption).

I think that if a webpage was set up with details describing the progress of the application of the “Guidelines,” the Cuban people — with its many professionals — could participate in monitoring those reforms and seeing if they were truly leading Cuba to a “new form of socialism.”

3 thoughts on “Changing Mentalities

  • Can the Cuban leaders change their dogmatic mentality?

    Unfortunately, when you consider that Marxist sectarians have never been able to change their mentality, no matter how dysfunctional the state-ownership-of-everything/no-private-property-rights-or-market-forces form of socialism might prove, the question answers itself in the negative.

  • Alfredo

    I think I like to share your optimism that Raul Castro himself will like to see those changes of free access to the internet and freedom of travel etc. But I also think it will only take a call from him to let Yoani go and visit any places she like. The same for Elaine Diaz who was invited by Ted Hanken to visit the US. But there is this fear I believe they feel of people communicating and exchanging ideas. Of maybe discovering communality between us and that will like to keep us divided.
    Some on both sides keep insisting in the era of distancing and separation and no communication because it is convenient for them to keep the status quo.
    I do not think it will be hard at all for the political leadership to return back the freedom to travel. Given that a majority of Cubans will like to have this freedom of travel back and have asked for it. The problem as I see is that they will loose a potent mechanism to control people. That is something that a government that dictates instead of listening to the people can not afford.
    Mean while they continue denying Cubans the right to enter or exit their own country and this above all gives the impression of a political elite who thinks they own the country and his people.

    Just very recently Ted Henken (El Yuma) the person you are probably referring above at the beginning of this article. Who is an american college professor, was visiting many bloggers with very diverse political spectrum and was warned not to come back as he was exiting the country. I am sure these shadowy people that warned him did not act on their own. They were asked to do so by those in the political elite.

    Why? why such deep fears?

    Here is a post by el yuma narrating in spanish his last encounter with Cuban security.

    At the end of his article he says he will like to ask those who asked him not to come back.
    “Why president Carter with whom I am very much in agreement has the right to meet with what they called “the counter-revolution” without been pointed as an enemy of the state and the same does not happen for me?”

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