Cuba Party Conference Document Questioned

By Pedro Campos

Photo: Eduardo Soñora

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 8 — “The enemies of a people’s freedom are not so much outsiders who oppress as they are the timidness and vanity of the people’s own children,” wrote Jose Marti.

The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and its permanently controlled government—after holding a congress in which they agreed to continue with the failed neo-Stalinist political-economic model of state monopoly capitalism, sprinkled with slight neoliberal modifications—have just published the “Draft Document” that they intend to discuss this coming January in their first conference, after 46 years of existence.

The document focuses on internal party matters as it modifies the organization’s statutes, though they do not admit to this.

In paragraphs 1.5, 1.6, 1.7 and 1.8, they recognize the complexity of the internal and external political situation and the need to take into account the many existing differences of opinion in our society, but without abandoning traditional state-centric, Manichaean, intolerant and sectarian approaches that do not permit people to make concrete proposals to successfully address these circumstances.

A call for national unity, except with those who differ

The conference could be an opportunity for the PCC to build the national unity needed and claimed by calling for dialogue—as part of the meeting—with the participation of socialist and democratic forces that hold positions and proposals other than those approved in last April’s Sixth Congress.

Nevertheless, the document continues to insist that the unity of the people must revolve around the party, the government and their policies, which continue to be mutually exclusive and monopolistic, responsible for our current plight; and continue to be pursued without defining the measures necessary for the freeing up of the productive forces, though this had been promised from the very heights of government.

From those positions—emerging out of ignorance and even the denial of the existence of socio-political and ideological differences, from the stubborn defense of the failed current economic and political model—it’s impossible to achieve a consensus or the necessary cohesion of the people that the situation demands and that the party/government hopes to impose.

Therefore, they continue emphasizing the required “unity”, not what could be achieved on commonly accepted bases. Yet there is widespread evidence that strength doesn’t come from imposed “unity,” which is proclaimed though not real, but instead in diversity coalesced around shared principles.

A closed fist is stronger than an open hand, but it always has five different fingers.

The expectation created by the leadership of the party/government was that important statements would be issued on radical changes for the socialization of the state economy and for moving the current political and electoral system in directions that are more democratic.

However, the tabloid gives no clear signs of progress in these directions. This leads us to conclude that the party/government believes that it has presented all the changes that they are disposed to accept in their model. This failure is not from a lack of alternatives, proposals or support, but due to a lack of willingness. They are only willing to go so far.

This of course requires definitions.

For five years, various supporters of a more participatory and democratic socialism have expressed our positions and proposals in thousands of articles published on the Internet and even in limited space in the national press, in letters to the party/government and press organizations, in neighborhood discussions and in spaces such as the magazine Temas and other forums.

We have succeeded in presenting our ideas to the highest spheres of the party and government, and to many workers and citizens at the grassroots. Even if some of our proposals were reflected in a few of the Sixth Congress “Guidelines,” overall we are feel disconcerted by the philosophy expressed in that document and now in the “Draft Document” (for the party conference).

This is pulling the rug out from under the communists and all Cubans, who—convinced that the Sixth Congress was too abbreviated—were hoping for and expecting major policy decisions to come out of this conference.

The document is full of contradictions along with traditional, sectarian and bureaucratic concepts and frameworks. It calls for a change in people’s mindset and breaking with dogma without clearly defining what this means. Similarly, it calls for Cubans to fight for the construction of “socialism” when the party/government still hasn’t been able to hold a serious national, open, public, horizontal and democratic discussion about its meaning.

Photo: Samantha Levins

What type of socialism is the document talking about? Is it continuing to call the current economic and political model “socialism” despite its recognized failure?

How can we believe that they will respect differences, in advance, if in the same document they—in the most convoluted style of Beria’s secret police—criminalize disagreement and accuse those who differ as of serving the interests of imperialism?

How much longer will they try to equate and confuse the concepts of the party, the government, revolution, socialism and the nation?

A broken mirror

In the document, section 1.6 reads, “The imperialists are pinning their hopes on the supposed vulnerability of the young generation and certain groups or sectors of society, attempting to foment division, apathy, despair, rootlessness and lack of confidence in the direction taken by the revolution and the party. They are trying to depict this as a society without a future, to reverse socialism, and strip us of our independence and the revolutionary gains.”

This approach is one of disregard, manipulation and counterrevolution. It accuses anyone who opposes the system that needs to change as serving imperialism. The main factors that promote “division, apathy, despair, rootlessness and lack of confidence in the leadership of the revolution and the party” are the misguided economic and social policies of more than a half century of hyper-centralized government/party rule.

This is what has led to the ruin of our agricultural and industrial sectors, and consequently the tremendous hardships faced by the majority of the people. This is what is responsible for all of the current distortions in social consciousness.

This is the same philosophy that has tried to ignore political and ideological differences and to present them as “enemy activity.” It then restricts the freedoms and rights of all Cubans, and hopes to force the young generation to think like those of the past and to offer their unconditional support.

Discrimination on the basis of gender, age, color, religion, ideology, regional origin and other factors are not resolved by promoting victims to the positions of potential perpetrators, elevating them to senior rungs in the hierarchy, nor is this resolved with strategies that continue to be exclusive and sectarian and that criminalize differences.

Instead, what are needed are policies that lead to the real, practical, legal, moral and economic elimination of inequalities, hierarchies and powers that allow the exercise of discrimination.

Discrimination can only be exercised from a higher hierarchical level. Those who don’t have power cannot discriminate. Its resolution is an issue of economic and political power being shared and distributed, not centralized. Its concentration and centralization is the basis for the present disaster and all forms of discrimination.

We all need to participate in the power. We must wind up with the empowerment of the people. The hegemony of the existing power must be ended. Power must be pluralized and distributed in all ways, making it truly popular.

This implies laws that punish those who discriminate for any reason. This implies a legal and judicial framework that immunizes society against all forms of discrimination. From that, independent civil society can exist and function – one that doesn’t operate simply like a pulley that lowers directives from the top down. This implies legislation that guarantees all human rights equally to all, and not just some of the rights or for some of the people.

What has created distrust in the party and in its political-economic model is not imperialist propaganda but the establishment of state monopoly capitalism. Its proponents decided to reach this through socialism, where the bureaucratic structure has replaced the bourgeoisie in the appropriation of the means and results of production, and has established a controlled representative political system based on the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which has really become the dictatorship of the bureaucracy.

A brotherhood of two bureaucratic factions?

If the classical framework of political power of the bourgeoisie is “representative democracy,” then the political structure of this system of state monopoly capitalism (we won’t call it socialism any more) may well be called the “representative bureaucracy.”

Another factor is that imperialism and the opposition of course use the media to exploit ill-conceived and absurd government policies.

Photo: Byron Motley

If Raul has now determined that imperialism is not our main enemy, but instead our own mistakes, inaction, inertia, double standards, what is the source of this movement in reverse? Do they fear that democratization could lead to policies consistent with the recent speeches by the president and the first secretary of the PCC? Why not concentrate criticism on the real enemy, which has already been recognized and acknowledged by him? Or are the PCC and its first secretary moving in different directions?

The “Draft Document” cites important quotes by Raul, which at no time were implemented, such that it seems that to be in good with him they’re saying “I agree with you, but I’ll continue doing what I please.” It’s evident that the “Draft” (for the January party conference) was written by a team of neo-Stalinists who have nothing to do with the people who prepared the “Guidelines” (for the party congress), pregnant with neoliberal biases.

We revolutionaries and the people of Cuba are trapped between neo-Stalinist PCC bureaucrats and the neoliberal bureaucrats of the government commercial enterprises?

Are the neo-Stalinists and the neo-liberals the same thing or have they formed a brotherhood that operates beneath the presidential line to guarantee the future control of the country once the historic leaders are gone?

Does Raul know that neo-Stalinism and neoliberalism are antipodes of socialism? Does he realize that the revolution is being strangled from within by the party/government bureaucracy itself, by these two anti-socialist tendencies?

They are doing the dirty work of imperialism—some for free and others receiving large commissions—whose military muscle will not be needed to fully restore the power of international capital over our country.

Despite all of its recognized errors, the party continues to consider itself the vanguard and leader of the revolutionary process. It makes the decisions for all the people while ignoring the fact that the people and workers who should have the highest decision-making role. They would play the leading role in any genuinely revolutionary process.

Doesn’t the party/government realize that they are continuing to treat matters of the revolutionary process as if they were their private property? They forget that, until now, everything has been made possible by the sacrifices of the workers, peasants, soldiers, professionals, students and the Cuban people in general, who are now ignored, ill paid and underestimated by neoliberal-style policies undertaken by the all-possessing and all-deciding state.

By adopting an escapist position focused on the past, the party/government is forcing the reconsideration of analyses and positions of the revolutionary forces against that perspective.

It’s time to recognize that the revolutionary process is not a state, a government, a party or an individual—however important their role may have been in certain stages—but the systematic progress of socialization and democratization of economic and political power.

It’s time to move from the “representative bureaucracy” to direct democracy, exercised by the workers and people in production and service centers, in communities, in neighborhoods and in the municipalities across the country. The conference offers nothing in this regard.

What is left to say and do by the broad gamut of communists, socialists, libertarians, anarchists, Trotskyists, Gramscians, social democrats, democrats, supporters of wide diversity, defenders of the rights of everyone, and revolutionaries in general?

Each must find their answer.

To contact Pedro Campos: [email protected]

7 thoughts on “Cuba Party Conference Document Questioned

  • Cimarron and Rt: The reason we still have a monopoly capitalist regime in the US is due in large measure to the discrediting of socialism before the peoples of the world by the incorrect, state monopoly economic mode of production experimented with in countries like the Soviet Union and Cuba.

    If Cuba would experiment with a modern cooperative, state co-ownership mode, it might be possible to create a sea change in the political consciousness of the US people by a new, successful Cuban experiment. This would bring about an end to the US regime, an end to the blockade, and payment of the reparations to which I’ve referred.

  • Grady, Fidel has the best answer to your armchair, dogmatic tendencies and frustrations in his Reflection No.46 of September 4, 2009 entitled “The Super-revolutionaries” ( where he exposes the phenomenon of leftie know-alls who descend on the Cuban leadership to implement this or that neo-liberal panacea – invariably a cover for capitalist restoration. Such “super-revolutionaries, Fidel also points out, do not even recognize the existence of the blockade!

    In responding to my comment, you conveniently did not address the question of how your mystical model, would operate with regard to the US blockade! It begs comprehension why those offering sure-shot alternatives never show how they would confront the blockade in their scheme of things! As I stated in my original comment, it doesn’t matter what the ownership or economic model a country pursues, if the US will not end the blockade of that country. Aristide of Haiti implemented all the toxic, neo-liberal prescriptions of the Clinton administration (privatizing utilities, state-owned flour mill , telecoms etc, opening up Haiti to cheap US rice imports and thus ruining peasant rice farmers). Yet both Clinton and Bush refused to lift the suspension of aid, and the results are no secret. Instead of waving a magic wand, you must show how you would confront and surmount REAL obstacles.

    I do not come to HT to advise the Cubans on what to do. I have no panacea of a model to make a fetish out of. No missionary complex that propels a “civilizing mission” on behalf of the “universal truth” of corporate cooperativism based in Mondragon, Spain. I come to HT as part of my regular tour of different sites primarily to inform and/or educate myself. The Mondragon experiment that you champion was one of my learning experiences. I remain open-minded about it, considering it as ONE of many paths worth trying but not as THE only path to be followed! I was already aware of the Yugoslav workers “self-management” enterprises which today, along with everything else done under Tito, once the darling of the West, is characterized as “totalitarian” and a “failure of socialism” by the same West. I have no divine or human right to instruct Cubans which path or model to follow. Only Cubans have that right to exercise their self-determination – and free from both friend and foe! I neither apologize for, nor wantonly criticize the Cuban leadership. I give praise where due and criticize where also necessary. I confront views that I see as either one-sided, unfair, hypocritical or just fraudulent. I firmly identify with the diverse approaches of the Bolivarian revolutions which, instructed by their own struggles and experiences, champion class struggle within a pluralist political and a pluralist economic milieux. Bolivia expands on this diversity by proceeding from a recognition of the “plurinational” character of its society, and consciously rectifying the historic injustices of racism and economic exploitation of the majority indigenous communities. Evo and MAS approach their social objective by pursuing MULTIPLE forms of socialized ownership: state-owned, state majority-share partnership, cooperative, and communitarian, in ADDITION to private ownership. Communitarian socialism is the focus of greater development as that is the mode of ownership traditionally-prevailing in the majority Native societies of Bolivia.

    There may be some contributors to Havana Times who perhaps see “open-minded” writing as a daily suffering of readers with cynical lamentations on everything done under the revolution. But there is also a majority within and outside Cuba that is objective and understands the revolution’s difficulties taking into account BOTH internal errors and the 2 whammies of the cessation of the Soviet economic partnership, and the tightening of the US blockade. As Fidel states in “The Super-revolutionaries”: “Nobody has been more critical of our own revolutionary work than I have…”. The same Cuban leadership that is accused of ruining agriculture is the same one ushering in a new era of impressively widespread, community-based, organic farming, and land lease to private farmers (see The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, None of the developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, is known for practicing “statist” agriculture yet not a single one of these countries has eliminated hunger, famine and the high cost of food. While private capital is historically the engine of growth in advanced societies, one cannot dogmatically argue that any and all statist interventions are inherently doomed to failure. This contention is not supported by the bailout of Wall Street and the turnaround of GM courtesy the US taxpayer.

  • Graddy, i think you miss the point. Isn’t “blaming (only) the blockade” its how you can win a war using a democratic ruled army. Look around and try finding a military organization ruled by democratic principles. Nobody wins in a war, Cuban AND U.S. people are the losing side. And btw, blockade is an act of war. It’s interesting to see how a respectable Chinese bank employee can scare to death at the mere sight of a Cuban passport while opening a personal saving account (Not all Chinese banks of course). The unfortunately truth here is we Cubans can’t get a “normal” country w/ a normal economy and government as long as the blockade exist. That said, the point is “real solutions” not “point difficulties” that one has already been done, among others, by the actual president. Another interesting point can be what a normal country…is. If we use the arithmetic mean, then we have a problem.

  • Cimarron seems to argue that Pedro Campos misses the mark by laying blame onto the Cuban leadership for Cuba’s economic and social woes. He seems to argue that the criminal blockade is responsible for all of the problems. Nice try, Cimarron, but your apology just doesn’t hold water.

    Why was Cuban agriculture ruined? Was it because of the blockade? Cuba has fertile soil and plenty of sunshine. Yet, this agriculturally prosperous country destroyed its agriculture and allowed much of the land to be overrun by weed bushes. This was due to the mistake of nationalizing virtually all agricultural assets, treating independent peasants as the enemies of socialism, destroying agricultural sector after sector through gigantic, long-term mistakes, and on an on. The only sector to survive the stupidity of the statist madness was tobacco production, which was left in private hands and continued to flourish.

    Cimarron doesn’t have a clue as to how a socialist revolutionary is morally obligated to focus on problems and try to find their causes and perhaps their cures. He is too busy apologizing for the bureaucracy and the statist system to see that enabling people like him, not comrades like Pedro Campos, have contributed to the tailspin of the Cuban economy.

    The blockade has damaged the Cuba to the tune of around $80 billion US dollars. This is criminal and is owed to the Cuban people as reparations. But this does not mean that reforms cannot be effected in Cuba to perfect its socialist model. Let Cimarron engage in constructive criticism to advance this process of perfection, and stop apologizing for the bureaucratic system’s shortcomings.

    Pedro’s solutions are not accurate because he cannot break with the false ideology of Marxism, and clings to the Utopian-like mantra of abolishing private property rights during the socialist bridge period. He calls for democratic cooperatives, but cannot bring himself to call for direct, private, cooperative ownership of the instruments of production where workplace democracy would flourish automatically. But as least he doesn’t put his head in the sand and blame everything on the US blockade.

  • I hold no brief for the historic leadership of Cuba. With a heavy heart, I openly criticize it for curiously practicing the concept of the hegemony of the working class in a multi-racial Cuba as the hegemony of the white Cuban left over the past half century. But, in spite of all its errors, I give the historic leadership tremendous credit and praise for having steered Cuba through a half century of economic warfare from international imperialism, on one hand, and betrayal in the last 2 decades from its former socialist partners. Cuba DOES deserve the gold medal, as Fidel once said, for having survived the blockade! And the world might add a platinum medal for its many social and scientific achievements.

    Let the critique of the Cuban leadership get off the high horse of abstract theoretical presumptions and get down to the nuts and bolts of the objective reality. Pedro Campos must explain fully what he would do taking fully into account the objective truth of the effect of the BLOCKADE on the Cuban economy! Cuba is not operating an independent economy in a “free” market world. Cuba is blockaded – essentially being subjected to economic warfare, as if I needed to state it! This is the fundamental cause of Cuba’s economic woes and not internal errors as both anti-Cuban propaganda and pseudo-left critique maintain. As long as the blockade is not lifted or defeated, regardless of which type of ownership system is in place and which internal rectification measures are undertaken, the Cuban economy will be DISTORTED. Every single economic policy and measure enacted will be subject to the effect of the blockade. Internal waste and losses due to inefficiency and corruption will not even come close to the systemic losses due to the blockade. How will the perfect worker-managed factory buy equipment and parts from the closest an cheapest supply source, if it is the US? How can this worker-owned factory sell its products on the “free” market when ships entering Cuban ports face extraterritorial US penalties? Whatever the ownership system, a state has to generate income from both internal and external sources. Cuba does not have free access to either selling or purchasing products on the world markets. And no free access to the international banking and finance system! Cuba does not have a normal economy because of the blockade and not because of inefficiencies, dysfunctions and bureaucratic errors – all of which may be legitimately criticized but are not UNIQUE to Cuba and its ownership system! Go to the developing countries – to any of the neo-colonies of the IMF/World Bank/Western Globalization scam, and see if there are no shortages, inefficiencies, underdevelopment, colossal inequalities and impoverishment! The blockade has more to do with the quirks and failures of the Cuban economic system than leadership errors of Stalinist perversion.

    Pedro Campos undeniably makes some important, valid points but in all his writings, he conveniently, disingenuously forgets the existence and effects of the blockade. For polemical purposes, let Pedro assume leadership of a theoretically perfect, worker-managed and worker-owned economic system in Cuba. Let Pedro then explain to us how, under his superior system, Cuba will function normally in spite of the blockade and establish markets for its goods (especially pharmaceuticals, biotech products etc), how Cuba will be able to purchase products at 1/4th the price from the US instead of being forced to buy from China at high cost and how Cuba can utilize the international banking and finance system with all the prohibitions against it! Indeed, how Cuba can buy an oil rig from the US and not from all the way around the world in Singapore. Let us also know how his perfect, worker-managed, stateless Cuban utopia will maintain sovereignty without state institutions in an increasingly violent world of imperialist neo-colonization such as has been recently witnessed in Libya.

  • Thank you for this important article.

  • It is depressing to see comrade Pedro Campos expound, once again, ideas that cannot guide the PCC out of its blind alley. Pedro continues to misconstrue the Cuban system as “state monopoly capitalism,” and hurl epithets and insults at the PCC comrades. If his methods could have any positive effect, they would have had them already–long ago.

    Pedro does not go to the root of the failed mode of production. This mode has failed because it is based on the same ideological principle of Utopian socialists: immediate abolition of private productive property rights during the post-capitalist bridge to a higher, classless society. Unless this root is recognized and addressed through programmatic proposals, no quantity of epithets and insults will do any good.

    The criticism of the PCC conference document presented here repeats the ultra-Left theoretical error of seeing state monopoly socialism as “state monopoly capitalism.” As long as loyal opposition leaders like Pedro cling to this error, the PCC apparently will have not alternative programmatic alternative to the state monopoly system.

    What exists in Cuba is state monopoly socialism. It comes originally from Engels and Marx, and only additionally from Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union.

    Socialism must re-embrace private productive property rights, and use them in construction of the socialist bridge. This is what Pedro should be telling the PCC.

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