Thieves in the Party Ranks?

Daisy Valera

In all the buses you could hear people talking about the same issue, likewise on any truck or in any food line.

Sancti Spiritus seemed different.  The atmosphere was hot, I’d say.

The residents of my small hometown included in their conversations words like “party,” “secretary,” “government” and many more.

As for myself — someone who considers people from Sancti Spiritus Province to be contemplative and calm, with folks more concerned about emigrating than the revolution — I was surprised.

I threw up my hands in amazement when I discovered the newspaper discussing what had happened in town.

Yes, El Escambray (“the official organ of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party in Sancti Spiritus”) was actually telling us something about what was going on.

Vice President Machado Ventura was calling on party members in the province to break with routine during the provincial assembly of the party, which centered on economic questions.

Local residents had hoped that the country’s president and the head of the party, Raul Castro, would also attend the assembly, but that didn’t happen.

The dissatisfaction could be noted in conversations, since this confirmed the feeling of Sancti Spiritus residents that they live in a city that’s left out in terms of support from the government.

In the assembly, party members discussed the decline in crop yields, advancing the province through tourism and the problems of adulterated milk supplied to the population.

In the street, people laid the blame for all the area’s wrongs squarely on the shoulders of party secretary who had managed Sancti Spiritus for almost eight consecutive years.

Abelardo Alvarez Gil (a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party and head of the Department of Politics of Cadre of the Central Committee of the Party, since 1990)   said goodbye to Miguel Acebo Cortiñas (the outgoing Sancti Spiritus party chief) but making reference to the “modesty and dedication that characterized his work.”

The people accuse

Refusing to echo any of those words, people accused Alvarez Gil of everything from bad administration during the hurricane to allowing tons of shellfish to go bad in the town of Trinidad.

He was to blame for many families in the town of Casilda ending up in the street without water or shelter for more than a few days.

The fact that they have designated a new secretary is tremendous news.  He is a 50-year-old member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC): Jose Ramon Monteagudo Ruiz.

People have already begun to grumble about his Cienfuegos Province origin (the problem is that people from Sancti Spiritus consider those from the neighboring province to be somewhat bigheaded).

But the main point of contention was something else.  Comrade Gil himself recognized that the selection, leadership and control of work by party members has been inadequate.

He mentioned that severe disciplinary, policy and administrative measures had already been adopted.

The honey of power

These problems were the reason people from Sancti Spiritus had been practically foaming at the mouth: they’d been robbed blind of who knows how much for who knows how long.

Those responsible were a group of leaders at the first leadership level of the municipalities and the province who had been principally in charge of government activities.

People are still commenting indignantly about how many of them need to wind up in jail.

As can be expected, many residents are assuming postures of uncertainty and suspicion.  No one can assure that something like that won’t happen again.

How can we prevent leaders from being tempted by the honey of power?

The revocability of their positions in any moment, short terms of office and periodic reporting to their constituencies would be valid and appropriate mechanisms of accountability and transparency.

But for this, the party elites must stop opting for the vertical appointment of leaders and start adhering to Article 41 of the Regulations on the Local Organizations of the Party.  In this way the responsibility for choosing representatives would fall only on the working people of our province.

5 thoughts on “Thieves in the Party Ranks?

  • Grady,

    I am sorry, but Daisy is right and you are wrong. The reason is that in your quest for a socialist Co-operative Republic you are not prepared to consider the implications of your ideas to the end. At least in the Cuban context you do not seem to be prepared to do so.

    Like you, I fully support the idea of a socialist Co-operative Republic and I hope your join me in that respect that socialism should not be defined by those in power, but should be subject to never-ending discussions among those who wish to strive for it.

  • However, and it is a very big however, from your many very interesting postings, I come to the conclusion that you seem to believe the way to achieve that wonderful world of the socialist Co-operative Republic of Cuba, will come about by bending the ears of those who for half a century obstructed conditions for a genuine co-operative movement in Cuba. You seem to be believe that all it takes is for you to tell Fidel and Raul Castro that you have found the solution to a ll of Cuba’s problems, and once they have accepted the superiority of your arguments, they will bring about our dream scenario.

  • Sorry, mate, it is not going to happen! Why? Because what is happening in Cuba is not an open competition about who does have the best idea to promote socialism, it is about how to prevent the collapse of the economy whilst staying in power. The key word here is Nomenclatura. The state-monopolist system in Cuba was not chosen because the historical leaders were unaware of your superior ideas. It was chosen because a population that depends economically on the leadership is deemed unable to challenge the power of the leadership.

    The state monopoly in Cuba is about power. You are asking the historical leaders to saw off the branch on which they are seated. It is not going to happen. They simply do not want your ideas.

  • Daisy, you poise the question: “How can we prevent leaders from being tempted by the honey of power?”

    Our Cooperative Republic Movement in the US has an answer: Base your form of socialism on private productive property rights and market mechanisms; but ensure that the owners of that private property are those who do the work of the enterprise, the worker-associates, not the capitalists or the socialist state apparatus. With such democratic ownership the market will perform with a socialist conscience.

    You already know this, we feel, but for some reason you seem to be stuck in a mindset of attacking statist bureaucrats. The statist economic system stipulated in the Communist Manifesto will always produce bureaucrats who are tempted by the honey of power. If socialism cannot utilize private property rights and market mechanisms to underpin an economy, the only alternative is a pervasive planning and administration bureaucracy that decides everything and ultimately is infected by corruption.

    What is needed in your country is not such tweaks as “revocability of their positions in any moment, short terms of office” and etc. What is needed in Cuba is the same thing that is needed in the US and every other country: a socialist Cooperative Republic and a political movement to win it.

  • I am in partial agreement with you that an important component to a solution would be that local and provincial leaders should be appointed–i.e. elected–by those they serve (in other words, the people of their neighborhood, town or province) rather than being appointed by on high; on the other hand, as long as there is an economy of scarcity, it seems likely this endemic corruption will continue to exist, for the temptation to skim off the top is just too great for most folks to resist. How to arrive at an economy of plenty? That is the question. Obviously, what has been tried in the past has failed. Embracing capitalism, however, is equally unsatisfactory. It seems that with greater decentralization, however, more people would be invested in the outcome. Over-centralization has resulted in alienation and apathy–not to mention theft and graft!

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