Musings on Why the Party Should Rule

By Erasmo Calzadilla

Revolution Is Socialism – Photo: Caridad

As I leafed through the books in a secondhand bookstore the other day, my eyes stopped on a shelf I always avoid: law.  I have always thought that law books are a compilation of pedantries; however, this time I put my prejudices aside and found very interesting things there.

Among the books in that dust covered corner, there was one that seemed like a godsend to me because it goes straight to some aspects that have been lately discussed on this website about Cuba’s Socialist Constitution.  Comentarios a la Constitución Socialista(Observations on the Socialist Constitution), by Fernando Alvarez Tabío, (Ciencias Sociales, 1985), analyzes each article of our Constitution.

Without wasting time, I went straight to the comment on the famous Article 5 of Chapter 1, which establishes the status of the Communist Party in the power structure of Socialist Cuba.  It reads:

“Following the ideas of Jose Marti, Karl Marx and Vladimir I. Lenin, the Communist Party of Cuba is the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, the highest leading force of the society and the State, and organizes and guides the common efforts towards the higher ends of the construction of socialism and the advance towards a communist society.”

To set out the reasons why the Party enjoys such a privilege, the author prefers to let Fidel himself explain this point from his “Seleccion de Discursos acerca del Partido” (Compilation of speeches about the Party), (Ciencias Sociales, 1975, p.103).  There, the most famous of the Castro brothers as General Secretary of the Party states:

“The Party must have authority before the masses not because it is the Party, or because it has the power, or because it has the strength, but because it has the authority to make decisions.  The Party should have the authority before the masses to carry out its work…, the Party inside the masses, the Party with the masses, but never above the masses.”

Is that clear? It was also clear for me.

What I do not understand now is that if it is true that it is the Party of “the masses” then why are its members not directly and solely elected by these same masses.  Why is it not open to all “the masses” and why is its functioning not directly controlled by them?

In addition, if we already have the entities of the People’s Power (city councils, provincial legislatures and the national parliament) to represent the interests of “the masses,” why is it necessary to have two parallel institutions with the same function?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

2 thoughts on “Musings on Why the Party Should Rule

  • Erasmo, in reply to your question, here’s my take. The Communist Party of Cuba is based on the Leninist doctrine of democratic centralism. This doctrine says that once a decision is made by the party, it is binding upon all of its members. Further, decisions made by higher organs of the party are binding on lower organs of the party. It’s pretty easy to see that this leads to hierarchical top down decision-making.

    Article 5 of the Cuban Constitution grants the Communist Party a monopoly on political power, and any challenge to this monopoly is considered counter-revolutionary and is therefore illegal. The so-called peoples power assemblies are likewise dominated by Communist Party leaders and functionaries and act as a rubber stamp for decisions made the by the party leadership.

  • Erasmo, the Cuban people are trying to achieve “the construction of socialism and the advance towards a communist society” per the Cuban Constitution. If your country were not under constant attack by the U.S. government, the Party would not have to have such an iron grip on the government apparatus.

    We should reflect on the fact that, without the Party’s leadership and authority, your Revolution would have been defeated long ago, and your country re-subjected to the brutal rule of a foreign power. None of the last half-century accomplishments of your country would have come to fruition, and this would not have been beneficial to anyone. Still, you have a serious task before you in these days, and this is to solve the problems of bureaucracy, low productivity, and citizen alienation that apparently threaten socialism in the years ahead.

    We in the U.S. only wish we were so lucky to have a country and a government like Cuba. The grass may look greener elsewhere, but is it…

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