Democracy Phobia among Senior Cuban “Communists”

Isbel Díaz Torres

The commission that debated the “National Plan for Economic and Social Development through 2030. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – Even after all that’s happened, the Cuban Communist Party’s congress is still holding up the outdated logic on which it was founded, and the critical shortcomings in this group’s leadership and members who rule the island.

When delegates at the recent Communist Party Congress from one of the committees debated the “National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030”, Rogelio Polanco, the former director of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde and current Cuban Ambassador to Venezuela, put forward an interesting request.

Polanco, using references from the party’s own documents and from President Raul Castro’s speech, asked that “Democracy” be included as one of the elements which defines Cuban socialism, among the main guiding principles of the plan being discussed.

Just saying the word was enough to make the chair of the room express his disdain and reject the idea out-front.

The first one to speak up was José Ramón Balaguer who, even though he was dismissed from his position as the Minister of Public Health by Raul in 2010, has remained a member of the Party’s Central Committee.

Communicate. Members of the Observatorio Critico on May 1, 2010.

About to turn 84, Balaguer’s opinion is that Cubans should “be wary of democratic socialism,” and he called for the words “socialism” and “democracy” not to be used in conjunction with each other. In this old man’s view, there is an embarrassing trend of regret-filled socialists in the world and that we shouldn’t confuse ourselves with them.

According to him, a former Cuban Ambassador of the now dissolved Soviet Union, our system is more democratic than any other in the world, “an exceptional system”, as he remarked before the delegates present.

Esteban Lazo, the National Assembly’s current president, immediately supported what the Balaguer had said, and emphasised the need for us “to be careful when using certain words”.

They reveled in the one-party system and Cuban elections, topics which were praised to the point of ridicule, mainly for those of us who know first-hand that the PCC rigs the elections at every level, and put forward a good number of the delegates to the Popular Power assemblies.

These “communists” weren’t even able to formulate an in-depth criticism of bourgeois democracy, in their superficial and slogan filled interventions. Much less offer a valid argument to defend this “strange” Cuban democracy.

This phobia of democracy from those who define themselves as communists belonging to the nation’s political elite, is something which we Cubans have suspected for quite some time now. However, it’s not quite the same to see them physically tremble before such a concept and express their authoritarianism before rolling TV cameras.

After a similar attack (somebody will say they were attacking bourgeois democracy…), the relatively young and intelligent Polanco used the word once again but this time, embarrassed and sorry, only to say: “I withdraw my request”.

Socialism is democracy. Observatorio Critico, May 1, 2010.

Once again it’s been made known that Raul’s calls for a “shift in mentality” are nothing more than a discourse created to sell the image of progress.

Nevertheless, those old-fashioned representatives in the room and defenders of the system, at least maintain their sincerity. They are nothing more than the Stalin followers which they are, in line with the doctrine received and the privileges they enjoy; even though they know they haven’t got a lot of time left.

But we can’t forget that we still need to unravel what the terms “change”, “democracy” or “renewal” mean, when coming out of the mouths of the system’s other well-seated officials, intellectuals, economists and diplomats, desperate to change but not to change, to integrate themselves into the logic of the world as it currently stands, without any real emancipatory intention.

Whilst we wait for them to build their tunnels towards power, some of us below them get angry watching the TV, watching the impunity of a tiny empowered group as they throw democracy into the bin, without offering us anything better.

7 thoughts on “Democracy Phobia among Senior Cuban “Communists”

  • No, we don’t have a choice. We don’t get to choose because our elections are rigged and our media misinforms the public. Hillary Clinton is a Republican running on the Democratic ticket. So we get to choose between two Republicans. One who is a war monger and imperialist and the other who is even worse (a conman and thug who can’t even construct a sentence).

  • It has always been perplexing how in communism the people do not get to govern themselves. Equality does not extend to governance. Good to be the king. Not just Cuba, in the United States the left is very intolerant. The worse are the college professors with one sided view of world.

  • Hi Cuban in Cuba!
    I think your numerical scale is interesting and your award of points pretty accurate. I would place the parliamentary democracies a point or two above the US whose Constitution requires up-dating to the 21st Century from the 18th Century when it was written. Placing North Korea at 0 is appropriate with Cuba as you suggest, barely exceeding it. One has to actually live in Cuba day by day to comprehend the restrictions placed upon Cubans. Even the best intended visitor cannot absorb the reality of day to day life and existence in Cuba. The reality is that to live there people are required to accept the system, stay quiet and exist. Hoping for an improved standard of living, for a better future for ones children, for freedom of speech and for freedom for democratic multi-party elections contradicts the pursuit of socialismo. It is necessary to not think for ones self, but to become part of the mass. That way, the regime can continue without hindrance to its absolute power and control.

  • You have no idea how democracy is not in Cuba, please stop comparing with the US. Cuba is as much closer to North Korea as the US is to a real democracy. If we would use a numerical scale, real democracy is 10, US is 7, North Korea is 0 and Cuba is about 1 or less. I understand you US citizens (or Canadians) complain about how better could your system be. But, please, could you stop for one minute to weep for a minute! It is like a rich kid crying for its out of battery deluxe train model in front of a famished undernourished Subsaharian child.

  • At least the US citizens have choice!

  • Great new leaders coming to the USA – Trump or Clinton ? I am betting on the one that spends the most money !!!

  • The Castros are dictators. Cuba is a dictatorship. Democracy is an anathema to a dictatorship. That Cuban leadership rejects any hint of democracy including the word itself is no surprise.

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