Behind the Curtains of Cuba’s Communist Party Congress

by Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Juan Ramon Machado Ventura and Raul Castro will continue to lead the all-powerful the Cuban Communist Party for five more years. Photo: Ismael Francisco (Cubadebate)
Juan Ramon Machado Ventura and Raul Castro will continue to lead the all-powerful the Cuban Communist Party for five more years. Photo: Ismael Francisco (Cubadebate)

HAVANA TIMES — The 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) – which ended on Tuesday – was truly unprecedented. There was no preliminary debate and everything was cloaked in secrecy until the last moment.

After Obama’s visit, almost on the eve of the Congress, they made a point of stepping up their propaganda efforts – perhaps because of the ideological challenges he posed to them by speaking directly and clearly to the Cuban people, or perhaps because of the futile reasons Raul Castro touched on during his extensive report, dealing with the continuation of previous one, a report which did involve a previous debate.

As it turns out, they yanked Fidel Castro out of his sarcophagus, and in what a way! Every day, on the front page of Cuba’s major official newspaper, we see an emotive phrase from the great leader that reminds us the Party is “the best” and the “only thing” we must defend. They also can’t fail to mention the long article that set this campaign going, sarcastically titled “Brother Obama,” or Fidel Castro’s sensationalist appearance at a school whose name pays tribute to his late sister-in-law and former comrade-in-arms Vilma Espin. Nothing is accidental in communist Cuba, everything has a political purpose.

The truth is that no one was even mentioning Fidel Castro before this. He had voluntarily stepped back, or perhaps he had been relegated to the background. We’ll never know. Now, there is no doubt that extolling the image and the ideas of the “great invincible leader” is the strategy they’ve chosen to counter the impact Obama had, and that they relied on this heavily on the eve of a decisive congress for them.

We could almost say that Obama’s message served to sabotage the Party Congress and that Fidel Castro came out to pick up the pieces and put them back together with his nationalist and anti-USA glue.

The sessions opened and Raul Castro delivered a long speech, reading the central report. It was more of the same and little of the new everyone was waiting for: the authorization of small companies, which already exist without a legal framework, the development aims for 2030, the rejuvenating measures of the Central Committee and government and the much-announced conceptualization of Cuba’s socialist model.

All of this put together, in its entirety, is nothing other than an attempt to develop an ideological justification for their left-wing dictatorship, which opens and restricts the market economy at its convenience. Lacking any practical connections to the now-obsolete Marxist-Leninist doctrine, they met up with government philosophers and political scientists to engender a kind of politico-ideological platform, under their censorious gaze.

Without a doubt, this benefits, not the Cuban people but only their group interests. In Cuba, there are still those who believe in the revolution and socialism, but they are a minority, I’m sure. Others abhor the system and have come to detest anything smelling of socialism and Fidelismo (though this position is more common among Cubans living abroad). Yet another group, which I think is the majority, is somewhere in between, confused for many different reasons and expressing ambiguous sentiments. They sympathize with the socialist ideal perhaps out of habit, while abhorring Cuba’s State-command model. They do not hate Fidel Castro or the revolution, but they can’t take it anymore and hope for constructive change. That is what average Cubans feel, torn by different and sometimes contradictory ideas.

Plenary Session of the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress. Photo:
Plenary Session of the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress. Photo:

Incredibly, many of the thousand representatives at the Congress are equally confused. There, they seemed euphoric over the proceedings and even carried away by emotion, believing that the hope of turning mud into gold is still alive. Many don’t even think about any of this, as they are at a different level and traded Marxist ideology for generalized hypocrisy long ago, the kind of hypocrisy that undermines our values. These remained inexpressive in the auditorium.

All of this stems from being denied the right to pluralism. However, in his report, Raul Castro defends the continuation of the one-party system as the Holy Grail of “democracy.” Not only that, he makes it the pillar of the homeland, the revolution and socialism – three concepts they have demagogically fused together in the popular imaginary.

In politics, nothing is as unnatural as single-party rule, because it leads to a false unity on the basis of a one-idea system. Such a concept of government is unrealistic, as there isn’t a single people in the world that is homogenous in terms of political thought. Cubans are anything but the exception to this rule.

How could we expect this one party, which guarantees control by a military elite that allegedly earned the right to govern the country because of a war that took place 57 years ago, to express our reality and needs as a nation for the first time? Let no one be deceived: what they’ve been debating is how, in this new context, they are to manage to preserve the dysfunctional system that guarantees their privileges. This will consist in adjusting and touching it up so as not to have too many problems with the new commercial partners that have begun to arrive following the re-establishment of relations with the United States.

To tell the truth, the Party Congress offers us no mysteries. Nothing in Cuba will ever change if such changes are to depend on the governing elite or their archaic notions about social justice. First, they defend their privileges and, later, “slowly but surely,” try to make the country improve a little bit. If they don’t manage this, at least they won’t be alive to answer to the people in 2030, the date they have set as the deadline for improvements.

Representatives at the Congress. Photo: Juvenal Balan/granma
Representatives at the Congress. Photo: Juvenal Balan/granma

The congress is simply a gathering aimed at setting up obstacles that can hold back the irrepressible currents of democracy, issuing from our people in growing and irreversible fashion, holding back the inevitable “change” coming their way and threatening to wash them away, because they are unwilling to change with the times.

It will take time, but change is coming from below, and it is being impelled by the government itself. One small change leads to another and new needs bring about ideological reforms. All resistance will be worn down by reality, as has been the case to date. They had no choice but to open Pandora’s Box and now it is next to impossible to close it.

It’s hard to ask a people who have waited and suffered for so long to be even more patient. We want change now, and badly! We want all the justice we deserve now! We need a common and viable strategy to force illegitimate rulers to bow to the true sovereign, the people!

Not even a thousand Party congresses will prevent the emergence, in the not so distant future, of a new homeland. But, what great merit we would be deserving of if we were willing to come together to achieve this! The moment demands a plan that will bring about the triumph of reason and justice!

Could it be we lack something essential to achieve this? I believe it is worthwhile to reflect time and time again on these issues. Cuba urgently needs it.

3 thoughts on “Behind the Curtains of Cuba’s Communist Party Congress

  • Cuba is not communist.
    I can be said to be “Communist” only because it is run by the Cuban Communist Party .
    But it does not practice communism which educated people know is a future democratic society
    Cuba isn’t even socialist unless you’re stupid enough to believe what the PCC and the government of the United States say it is.
    It is a totalitarian state capitalist economy and always was.
    You can’t rationally or intellectually talk about what’s wrong with Cuba if you have no idea of what democracy, communism, socialism, capitalism are in relation to each other, obviously.
    And you do not.

  • It’s a terrible system plan and simple. You needn’t be a Phd to see how pathetic this all is. The hope has to be the youth, and many are leaving but that’s going to be the key, in my opinion.

  • The soviet style socialist model failed. Done. Not even in a country with worlds largest oil reserves could be made to work. Change is comming no matter the reluctant current leaders. The public wants to keep parts of old system but much is going out.

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