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

  • February 7, 2015 at 11:55 am

    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.

  • February 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

    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.

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