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HAVANA TIMES – Even after all that’s happened, the Cuban Communist Party’s congress is still holding up the outdated logic on which it was founded, and the critical shortcomings in this group’s leadership and members who rule the island.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