Political Reform in Cuba, An Internal Matter

Isaac Risco

Raul Castro at the Communist Party Congress in April. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 26 (dpa) — This weekend, Cuba will hold an unprecedented conference of its political leadership, who are immersed in implementing a deep economic reform program.

Though generally viewed with skepticism and indifference, the meeting of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is also generating certain hopes for a “political updating” on the island.

Officially, the discussion within the core of the sole party authorized in the Caribbean nation is designed to bring the membership in line with the new model for economic “updating” under the Raul Castro government.

But this First National Conference of the PCC is also an unfamiliar event after more than 50 years under Fidel and Raul Castro. Though cited in the constitution as an instrument of the government, this meeting set for January 28 and 29 will be the first of its kind in the history of socialist Cuba.

True to its traditional secretiveness, Havana has yet to provide many clues. Moreover, in a country that lacks classical forms of public expression, the meeting has raised expectations that are difficult to decipher in Cuban society.

While important stakeholders such as the Catholic Church are asking for political changes, the discussion around the conference seems to be going unnoticed by average citizens.

Skepticism is common in a society that on several occasions has experienced abrupt apparent changes that were subsequently reversed, like the “rectification of errors” process under former president Fidel Castro in the 1980’s.

His brother Raul recently played down any hopes of significant reforms in an announcement concerning political change.

“One mustn’t whip up so many illusions about the conference, which has raised many expectations,” said the current Cuban president at the end of a visit to Havana by his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The younger Castro pointed out that the Sixth Congress of the PCC in April 2011, which institutionalized the economic liberalization program of the “updating,” was the “definitive” meeting, adding that the upcoming conference is only an “internal matter of the party.”

The fears of opposition sectors are also pointing in that direction. The so-called Documento base (Discussion Paper) for the conference contains no hint of the “political updating” called for by the religious representatives.

From the April PCC Congress. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños

Having become an important social actor and the main partner of the regime in recent times, the Catholic Church is calling for more fundamental political changes that allow democratic pluralism.

Despite the hopes of some observers in the middle of the reform process, the conference is to others what they consider the old mechanisms of power of the Castro regime. The discussion appears not to have filtered down to general society.

Encapsulated in the usual bureaucratic language of the Party, the “Discussion Paper” is not a source of trust for an opposition that has been marginalized in political life.

“Not even on government television can one perceive any enthusiasm for the event,” recently noted the blogger Yoani Sanchez, one of the most recognizable faces of dissent and criticism. Others, however, believe in the maturity of the current circumstances.

The conference “is the last opportunity for the historic generation of the Cuban Revolution to undertake deep and lasting reforms,” ??noted Lenier Gonzalez, the deputy-editor of “Espacio Laical,” a publication close to the Catholic Church.

At the Sixth Congress Raul Castro recognized the need to prepare for generational change in the upper echelons of power. “Those of us who are here are not perfect, but that’s the best we can do for now,” he said in April 2011 after introducing only three new faces to the Politburo.

The president, 80, said the renovation of the PCC ranks as one of his priority tasks.

Up to the last minute, the government has not cleared up the uncertainties about the conference. “Renovation is indispensable in everything,” was the only thing Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcon said a few days ago.

The veteran 74-year-old politician gave no details on possible changes in the gathering’s agenda.

4 thoughts on “Political Reform in Cuba, An Internal Matter

  • cuba is following the china model without the new products and industries. there are a few minor new products. cuba needs a business magazine to point out opportunities and a kickstarter bank similar to the grameen bank in bangladesh but bigger loans than the grameen bank offers would be needed.

  • John, thanks for your comments re our movement’s “plan” for a modern cooperative, state co-ownership form of socialism. One thing that such a form would do allow us to win the US people to socialist consciousness — which would never be possible as long as we chase our tails with the old state monopoly form.

    Your comments re the RCC are generally valid, but socialism should always defend the moral and democratic right of people to believe as they choose, or as they have been raised to believe. Religious or spiritual belief and practice is totally compatible with socialist construction. It was a catastrophic mistake ever to have mistaken what our attitude toward that right ought to be.

    Also, there have been and still are many progressive Catholic priests, as well as many progressive religious leaders of various faiths. Father Jose Maria Arizimendiarrieta of Mondragon, Spain was an anti-fascist and founder of the worker-owned industrial and commercial Basque cooperatives.

  • “changing from the old full state ownership of everything productive (state monopoly), to state co-ownership of significant, cooperative industry and commerce”

    Grady, I like this idea and thought, that in some small ways, the recent reforms in Cuba that allowed small trades people to set up their own shops was a step in that direction. Perhaps it is perceived as a cautious first test step before expanding the program to slightly bigger coops if all goes well.
    What certainly is not desirable is any move away from worker control and towards what we see happening to the poor and working poor in now degenerating capitalist countries like the U.S, China and Russia .

    At any rate the Roman Catholic Church has absolutely no right; historically or morally to advise the Cuban people on how to run their society.

    Historically the RCC opposed the revolution, many of the priests serving in Cuba during the 50s and 60s were from fascist Spain and shared that political leaning with the pro-Nazi, post-war Vatican.

    Socially the RCC is misogynist and considers women less spiritual than and generally inferior to men.
    It prohibits birth control and abortion.
    It creates and provides the means, power and opportunity for pederast priests to victimize tens of thousands of young children around the world and protects those criminal priests and other church personnel when they are caught with their pants down by moving them to a parish where they are not known (yet) .

    Cuba needs deep reform.
    It also needs an end to the 50+ year war against it being waged by the United States and unless and until every post and article critical of Cuban society makes mention of the bloquero/blockade/war, I’ll make note of that author and consider him/her to be deliberately one-sided.

    Yes Cuba needs reform but it does not need an immoral, misogynist and historically opposed organization like the Roman Catholic Church to advise any Cuban on any matter.

    I’me ending this with the usual question for church-going parents who disagree with what I’ve said:

    Would you leave your child overnight alone with a priest ?

  • The problem with the “deep economic reform program” is that it has not been accompanied by a “deep theoretical rectification process.” Unless the theoretical underpinning of the old state ownership model is corrected, the Party will remind blind with regard to tweaking its strategic economic program of socialist transformation.

    Our cooperative republic movement in the US has rectified the strategic (maximum) program, changing from the old full state ownership of everything productive (state monopoly), to state co-ownership of significant, cooperative industry and commerce. This hopefully will allow us to win the people within a decade and achieve state power in a democratic and Constitutional electoral process. The internal PCC conference dealt with in this article indicates that socialist theoretical knowledge in Cuba is in hibernation, just as it is in the world socialist Left.

Comments are closed.