Cuba’s Two Communist Parties

Pedro Campos

Playing domino. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The systematic and direct exchange with members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) through base-level organizations that those of us who champion the SPD (Participative and Democratic Socialism) platform maintain has led a number of us to conclude that there are in fact two Parties in Cuba.

On the one hand, we have the bureaucratic Party of Machado Ventura and its well-crafted command structure, which continues to adhere to an archaic form of “Marxism-Leninism” and its aged ideas about the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the leading role of the Party, unions and grassroots organizations (understood as pulleys and control mechanisms applied on base-level organizations), a centralized and planned economy, State companies paying wages and the struggle against the “imperialist enemy and all of its counterrevolutionary allies.”

There, we find only obsequiousness. No one wants to actually change anything and all discourse has been emptied of revolutionary content.

Then, at base-level, we have the other, the true Communist Party, made up of party members at production and services centers, some in the Party’s bureaucratic apparatus and so-called “Zone Departments,” which includes pensioners, where many criticize the bureaucratic system that has been imposed on the people in the name of socialism and the obstacles stemming from the State-command system, constantly advancing proposals (which are seldom heard and rarely addressed) about how to confront community, production, or service-related problems through innovative means.

This phenomenon isn’t new: it has been highly evident since the debates of the 4th Congress of the PCC held in 1990-1991, when no few Party organizations, faced with the disintegration of the USSR and the “socialist bloc,” analyzed the contradictions and distortions of the concept of socialism that had been applied in Cuba as a sheer copy of the model that had failed everywhere, and very precise proposals dealing with the need to democratize the Party and society and socialize production and distribution were made.

This phenomenon has become even more evident as of the debates surrounding the 6th Congress (2011), a process which, despite its vertical nature and other limitations, made it possible again for base-level Party organizations to express their opinions and see that diverging opinions can be held and announced in public. This has become something of a daily practice that neither the bureaucratic PCC nor its commissars (referred to as “instructors”) can control.

These newly-unleashed criticisms are even more abundant at base-level organizations of the Young Communists League (UJC), as is evident at the meetings and wide range of forums where their members participate. I will delve more deeply into the issue of the UJC elsewhere.

Today, it has become clear that the bureaucratic leadership of the Cuban Communist Party is heading in one direction while much of the rank-and-file is heading in a different one. That is why I speak of two Communist Parties.

Father and son observing a cruise ship docked in Havana Bay. Photo: Juan Suarez

And this is good news, because much is being said about how the country is not yet ready for the progressive changes soon to be brought about by new information technologies and in salaried state relations of production which the “reform” process is flimsily encouraging, impelled by Raul Castro’s military retinue, and, most of all, by reality and the longings of young, mature and elderly people, who wish to break out of the dogmatic backwardness that “State socialism” has trapped us in.

The Cuban people, workers, pensioners and home keepers – and the Party’s base-level structures and Young Communists League in particular – are much more ready to take on and even impel changes than Granma, the TV news and the Round Table program, sources of information representative of the obsolete neo-Stalinism embedded in the Party’s bureaucratic structures, care to admit.

Today, when we see the way in which the news is presented by the official media, we realize that these mechanisms aren’t designed to accommodate the new policy of rapprochement with the United States.

The situation, however, is different at the Party base, where people are far more conscious of the urgent need for change and where the impact of many of Obama’s “democratizing” measures can be better assimilated and even used to serve the empowerment of citizens that the PCC and UJC bases have been calling for and demanding for some time now.

Members of the PCC who have maintained ties with the SPD platform insist that the notion of a more democratic form of socialism, the democratization of the Party and society, freedom of expression and association, the acceptance of political pluralism and progress towards forms of economic arrangements (cooperatives, credit unions and basic monetary market relations) associated with private enterprise capitalism, have taken root at base-level Party structures.

The Party base demands the modernization of the economy and broad access to new information technologies by the people.

The US government is advancing proposals that coincide with the demands of the PCC and UJC bases and important sectors of the Cuban people. Some are even envisaged by the Party Guidelines that guide the “reform” process, but the Party bureaucracy still sets up obstacles in their way.

The La Borla store in Centro Habana. Foto: Juan Suarez

If Raul Castro and those near him are truly interested in the country’s progress, they can and must support the interests of the base, provided the Party’s bureaucratic structure allows that information to reach them, taking advantage of the tide of criticisms of the aging socialist system and the fact a majority supports a broad, democratic and socializing liberalization process, in order to finally shed the bureaucratic wing that burdens and delays the needed changes.

Gorbachev made three serious mistakes which ultimately did Perestroika in: 1. He did not broadly develop forms of self-managed production and kept many State restrictions on these. 2. He did not secure an alliance with the middle class and democratic forces in the country. 3. He did not confront and defeat the conservative forces of neo-Stalinism within the Soviet Communist Party, forces that would later stage a coup. I have addressed this more extensively in a previous post.

We should not forget that coups are not always military – they can be “institutional” – and that what destroyed the Soviet Union was not its rapprochement with the West but internal conflicts.

The “Cuban revolution,” which some understand as the events of the 1960s, linked to a group of historical figures who sought to impose a neo-Stalinist form of socialism on the country, has been left behind by history and lives on only in the memories of the older generations and the media controlled by the Party bureaucracy.

The other, the true revolution, the revolution that entails the democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy, enjoys broad support and is alive at the Party base and society in general.
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10 thoughts on “Cuba’s Two Communist Parties

  • You’re almost right. The Nordic Model won’t work in the US and the US model won’t work in Cuba. But these are all entrees from the same buffet. Capitalism in Cuba will not involve Wall Street derivatives and Super Pacs. No moringa options. But it will and should reflect the personality of the Cuban people. Capitalism will work in Cuba. It is already working for the Castros.

  • In that case why would capitalism ever work in Cuba, nor democracy in Saudi Arabia or China. For both I can make equally uncompelling Red-herring arguments. qhat wrks in one place wrks in an another. If democracy and capitalism can work in Cuba, then nordic socialism can work in the United States.

  • I don’t disagree that for northern Europe, Democratic Socialism has not enjoyed many successes. I strongly believe that the Nordic model is not applicable on a larger national and international level where the participants are more diverse. Singapore, racially diverse?

  • You asked me for an example of a system that works – So I named it! And now you are making some excuses and speculating as to why the Nordic model works vs why the American model does not.

    Secondly, racial homogeneity has nothing to do with why corporations pay little to no taxes in the United States or they have all the racial issues they do. Look at Singapore, it has one of the most racially diverse non-homogeneous populations in the World, and an Asian Tiger economy.

    So again the facts don’t support your position. The real reason America is where it is, is due to how captured it is in the orbit of a crony capitalistic tyranny. An oligarchy hell bent on deriving profit at the expense of its own cherished values. This is why productivity of Americans is at an all time high but none of it is shared among the people.

    The Nordic countries on the other hand have been a welfare innovation – socialist – definitely so!. Balancing out the needs of everyone. The Nordic welfare model is based on innovation, and it is flexible – i.e. it is specifically designed to meet new challenges. The Region’s ability to balance strong welfare schemes, high tax rates and economic growth has attracted interest from other parts of the world.

    The Nordic welfare model is one of the most successful in the OECD rankings of different countries’ economies. In spite of high levels of immigration from refugees across the globe (Syria and Somalia for instance), they still are able to guarantee gender equality, care of the elderly, health centers and hospitals are examples of areas in which the Nordic countries have special competencies that they can use to position themselves in relation to other countries. The Nordic Region has the potential to to be a global leader in the development of innovative solutions in the health and social sector – particularly in terms of services for the elderly, preventative medicine and health.

  • Those countries that are included in the Nordic model have the advantage of being far more racially, culturally and economically homogenous. As a result, the degree of cooperation facilitated by this model is more easily maintained. US capitalism, emboldened by our differences is also handicapped by these differences. People are more likely to be sympathetic for people with which they believe they have more in common. The greater the difference, the more challenging it becomes to reach compromise.

  • Interesting pointvyou raise Moses, but what about the Nordic model?, ever considered that to be superior to American Capitalism

    Poverty reduction, socialistic, free enterprise. If the americans were actually looking to improve. They could have easily copied this model decades ago. Or may be its hard to change an entrenched explotative system that favours profit making at the expense of the “declaration of independance” itself?

  • Got a grip. “American Capitalism” certainly has its flaws. That’s why we are constantly trying to improve ourselves. But, so far, I know of no other economic system that has done more positive for the world. Can you name one?

  • Is that also your oversimplified one track mind solution to reforming American Capitalism just because it happens to be destroying the World today? from creating massive inequality, imprisoning the most number of people by far, not acting to stop global climate change, perpetual war mongering, Unsustainable consumption of planetary resources. Throw it all away?

    Get a grip!

  • Is that also your oversimplified one track mind solution to reforming American Capitalism just because it happens to be destroying the World today? from creating massive inequality, imprisoning the most number of people by far, not acting to stop global climate change, perpetual war mongering, Unsustainable consumption of planetary resources. Throw it all away?

    Get a grip!.

  • Reforming the Communist Party of Cuba is a lot like trying to improve the 8-track tape. It may work but why?…….

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