In Cuba Too, Less Than 1% Decide

Pedro Campos

Raul Castro addressing the Communist Party Congress in 2011.

HAVANA TIMES —A slogan for mobilizing people in the US and the rest of capitalist world identifies the less than 1 percent of the population — composed of multi-millionaires — that possess the real political-economic power and that use this to decide everything important in those countries.

The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (April 2011) adopted the “Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy,” which according to that body should rule the destiny of Cuba. These Guidelines were not put to the vote by the whole party or to a popular referendum; rather, they were voted on by few hundred delegates at the party congress – a number that doesn’t make up 0.05 percent of the country’s population.

This was done in the name of Article 5 of the constitution, which recognizes the lead role of the Communist Party in Cuban society. Nonetheless, this contradicts the spirit of that document and is in flagrant violation of the sovereignty, democracy and republicanism reflected in the constitution as a whole.

Moreover, that one article contradicts the specific letter of the law expressed in several articles, of which we can point to the following:

Article 1 states: “Cuba is an independent and sovereign socialist state of workers, organized with all and for the good of all as a united and democratic republic, for the enjoyment of political freedom, social justice, individual and collective well-being and human solidarity.”

Article 3 points out: “In the Republic of Cuba sovereignty lies in the people, from whom originates all the power of the state. That power is exercised directly or through the assemblies of People’s Power and other state bodies which derive their authority from these assemblies, in the form and according to the norms established in the constitution and the country’s laws.”

PCC Congress participants.

Today the entire political-economic-social system is based on “the leading role of the Cuban Communist Party,” which operates according to democratic centralism, where centralization takes precedent over democratization, consequently a small ruling elite determines and decides everything, not just in the party, but in society as a whole.

It is not by chance that those people who hold the main positions in the government and the Council of State also hold the central positions in the party.

It is from this center of leadership that come all the laws (in the form of executive orders), which are then discussed and approved by the National Assembly. No law is subject to referendum, as should be done in a system of true direct democracy.

But how representative is the National Assembly? The National Assembly is composed of less than 1,000 individuals, less than 0.01 of the population. Of its candidates, 50 percent are nominated from “above” and 50 percent from the electoral commissions controlled by the party in the provinces.

Though it is recognized as having legislative initiative, in practice the members are there only to rubber-stamp what is ordered from above.

Currently it is this National Assembly, with its quasi-appointed members, that elects the Council of State and the president of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. The people do not do this through direct elections.

Therefore, I can say categorically that in Cuba too, less than 1 percent of the population decides the fate of more than 11 million Cubans, the more than 99 percent of the rest.

Protest art exhibition from a small town in southern Arizona.

It’s difficult under the current circumstances to establish a way to reverse this situation. Whatever is done should be attempted through peaceful means and through dialogue and negotiation.

The sectarianism and obstinacy of the party-government is preventing this from taking this route, unlike the democratic and socialist left, which isn’t tied to dogmas, prejudices or exclusion. It is an advocate and a proponent of national dialogue without exclusions.

In this respect, we recall that it was our colleague Felix Guerra (the poet, writer, journalist and forever communist) who in March 2009 called for a national congress.

Likewise, it was our colleague Felix Sautie (who is a journalist, economist, theologian and also a forever communist) who in 2007 wrote a book titled Socialismo y reconciliación en Cuba. Una mirada desde adentro” (Socialism and Reconciliation in Cuba: A Look from Within).

If we want that 99-plus percent of the population to participate in the decisions concerning their destiny, if we want the socialization and democratization of the economy and politics (the revolutionary process) to move forward — thereby reducing the chances for a return to the disgraced regime and an even more vulgar and foul form of capitalism — then there is no choice remaining for the non-dogmatic left than for us to promote this ourselves.

We must implement that dialogue “with all and for the good of all,” since the government-party is not accepting the challenge.

Allowing the right to spearhead the critique of the bureaucratic neo-Stalinist model, the struggle for dialogue, respect for the rights of all Cubans, for the democratization of the political system, for freedoms of expression and association, for free access to the internet, for freedom of choice by Cubans and for confronting the arbitrariness of “state socialism,” would be to guarantee the restoration of private capitalism, bourgeois democracy and the end of Cuba’s attempt at socialism.

For those who don’t understand, a number of citizens drafted and signed the Urgent Call for a Better and Possible Cuba so that we could prevent that from happening.

To contact Pedro Campos, write: [email protected]


19 thoughts on “In Cuba Too, Less Than 1% Decide

  • ‘Griffin’ writes that I invented “a long list of opinions” for him. I actually carefully quote what he’s written as I am doing here.

    ‘Griffin’ writes that a “military-corporate alliance now rules Cuba”. Eisenhower famously and futilely tried to warn Americans about the growth of the “military-industrial complex” in the US. If he was able to see the current state of affairs, he would be turning over in his grave.

    Today, according to Wikipedia, it’s called the military–industrial–congressional complex, an iron triangle relationship between legislators, national armed forces, and the defense industrial base that supports them. The relationships include political contributions, political approval for defense spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry.

    It manifests itself in a variety of ways. Profit rates of the top defense contractors substantially exceed those of comparable non–defense companies.

    When defense companies get into trouble, they can expect to be bailed out – Lockheed, Litton, General Dynamics, Chrysler, Grumman have benefited from this. They are not held to the terms of their contracts, subsidies are provided to keep facilities open and to finance ongoing R&D, loans and loan guarantees, government-supplied plants and equipment, tax breaks, and strategic placement of new contracts.

    Military-industrial dealings are ‘smoothed’ by personnel passages back and forth between government and contractors – the so-called “old boy network” and the “revolving door.” Upon retirement, thousands of military officers find immediate employment with contractors, while industry officials routinely occupy high-ranking positions in the Pentagon bureaucracy during leaves from their firms.

    Defense-related jobs serve as a major determinant of congressional defense decisions for both liberals and conservatives. Members of Congress strive to steer contracts and subcontracts to favored constituents, who reward them in turn with lavish campaign contributions, votes, and other payoffs.

    Most disgustingly, with corporations, military authorities, and members of Congress all linked in a mutually self-serving complex, there is little incentive to avoid going to war. Wealth, position, power, and perquisites all derive from the iron triangle. The best of all worlds in this context, then, is massive, ongoing preparation for war. With the nation well-prepared for war, national leaders launch more readily into military adventure, resulting in a perpetual state of war.

    Although the military-industrial-congressional complex is widely acknowledged to exist, never denied, there is absolutely no hope of doing away with it although it only benefits a handful of elites at the expense of the majority.

    Yet ‘Griffin’ insists that in Cuba the “emerging democratic movement will be seen as a threat to [the military-corporate alliance].” Not if it follows the American model, it would seem, that has learned how to effectively neutralize a democracy. Which of course is why folks like ‘Griffin’ continually claim to love ‘democracies’ – ones elites have absolute control over, that is, which of course is not democracy.

    On the surface, there’s not much to choose from between Cuban and American military-industrial complexes. Capitalist fat cats are careful to offer an appearance or veneer of democracy when it doesn’t threaten their control. The Cuban government, based on egalitarian principles, however, offers more of a possibility for changes that benefit the 99% than capitalist systems bases on greed and personal gain. It’s an obvious observation except for propagandists and self-serving ideologues.

  • Wrong again, Lawrence. You invent a long list of opinions for me, and then call me the “propagandist”.

    I wrote that in a free democracy, the Cuban people would have the right to elect whomever they want: socialists, liberals, democrats, conservatives, marxists, greens… whatever. It will be their choice.

    The danger is this: without a free democracy, the growing authoritarian corporate-military alliance that Raul Castro leads will control all political and economic power and seal the fate of Cubans to live as slaves in their own land.

  • ‘Griffin’ writes, “Did I say I want US hegemony over Cuba? Did I say I support the US embargo? Did I say I’m for America gunboat diplomacy?” Of course he didn’t say it, a propagandist would never say that. But the policies that ‘Griffin’ advocates, if allowed, will lead to US hegemony and gunboat diplomacy. Note he did not deny either, only he didn’t say it – typical propagandist. Let’s try direct questions. Do you support the Monroe doctrine and rule out using military might to enforce US policies in regards to Cuba?

    As for the embargo, I’ve written before that most Americans, on both the left and right, are in favour of stopping it, the right because they see it as marketing opportunities that have the potential of addicting Cubans to consumerism and undermining socialism. I think they are right in that regard and many find it a mystery why the US maintains its insane embargo.

    I assume, however, the US government fears this won’t happen and is unwilling to take even the slightest chance that socialism will survive in Cuba, offering to Americans a pointed example that another world other than capitalism is possible. I don’t see much logical thinking in assuming it’s the Cuban-Americans driving the ship – it’s the other way round – the government is supporting the Cuban-American opposition for their own purposes.

    ‘Griffin’ then resorts to left-bashing which one would assume is self-defeating on this website but I suppose if you listen to Fox News you lose your perspective on reality.

    ‘Griffin’ writes he is “merely offering my humble opinion that the Cuban people deserve freedom, sovereignty, democracy and human rights”. From what I read in the pages of HT, Cubans are quite able to do this themselves and doesn’t need an outsider’s help, so why is he really doing this? What he is not telling us – that his mere “offering” is within his fixed context of capitalism. Cubans are hardly unaware of that option, and their history has provided them with many ugly examples of its dangers. Griffin is NOT selling ” freedom, sovereignty, democracy and human rights”. He’s selling capitalism which he would have us believe, despite the myriad examples to the contrary, is the best way to achieve them.

    ‘Griffin’ then trivializes the embargo to affecting only rum and cigar exports, showing his ignorance? or selective facts? of what is actually taking place. I read on a weekly basis of the fines the US levies against businesses to enforce the embargo. In June of this year ING Bank NV agreed to pay $619 million to settle U.S. government allegations that it violated sanctions against Cuba and other countries. It was the biggest ever fine against a bank for sanctions violations. ING immediately closed its office in Cuba after the incident.

    Wikipedia notes, ” The embargo has been criticized for its effects on food, clean water, medicine, and other economic needs of the Cuban population.”

    ‘Griffin’ obviously doesn’t think these are important to have. It’s a good example of capitalist mentality. They don’t find it important for the 99% in their countries either.

  • It’s not a question of the possibility that the Cuban military might direct the post-Castro transition. The obvious fact is the Cuban military IS directing the process now. Raul was the Minister of Defense for 5 decades. Since assuming the Presidency he has moved his most loyal officers into key ministries and top positions if the party. Raul’s son-inlaw, a colonel, is also the director of GAESA, the military controlled holding company, which is now the largest corporation on the island. Through GAESA, the military is now self-funding.

    This military-corporate alliance now rules Cuba. Any possible emerging democratic movement will be seen as a threat to this ruling clique.

  • So I’m an”implacable enemy”… really Lawrence? That’s some fine purple prose you got there yourself.

    Did I say I want US hegemony over Cuba? Did I say I support the US embargo? Did I say I’m for America gunboat diplomacy? No, I don’t think so. But your fantastical reaction to anybody who disagrees with you is all too typical of the Leftist mindset.

    Cubans don’t have to trust me or distrust me, because as a Canadian, I have zero power to affect any change in Cuba. I’m merely offering my humble opinion that the Cuban people deserve freedom, sovereignty, democracy and human rights just as we Canadians do. Quite a few Cuban’s believe they deserve those things, too. Yet, for some reason you don’t seem to think they are entitled to them. Perhaps you are the Canadian the Cuban people should not trust.

    The US embargo has been watered down considerably over the past decade. Cuba imported over $300 million worth of goods from the US in 2011. Cuban expats sent over $1 billion in remittances to their family back in Cuba. US tourism, under the name of “purposeful travel” is increasing. The only thing left is for the US to lift the ban on buying Cuban goods, but side from rum and cigars, I’m not sure Cuba produces anything these days that America would import. Oh right: baseball players. But then, the US is already importing those. In any event, Cuba is free to export their products other countries and they import stuff from around the world. So it isn’t really much of an embargo is it?

    Do you understand that the regime benefits from the embargo and does everything it can to keep the siege mentality alive? Should the US move to lift the embargo you can be sure they would provoke a crisis to make sure it’s kept in place. How about the Cuban government lifting the embargo on free travel? Or their embargo on free speech?

    You see, the really big embargo, a blockade in fact, is the one imposed by the Cuban government on their own people. Lift that embargo and the people of Cuba can live as free people at last. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

  • Griffin,

    There would appear to be the possibility that a post-Castro transition could be directed by the military. The best way to encourage this not to happen, of course, would be for the US to end its embargo and demonisation of the Cuban government, allowing the siege mentality this has caused to die off.

    The rest of what you write, in purple prose style, indicates you are an implacable enemy of any government Cuba might want to have save one that is subservient to the US empire, thus making you an untrustworthy imperialist. The Monroe Doctrine – a declaration of hegemony over the Americas – and gunboat diplomacy policies continue unabated. Why would a Cuban trust anything you say? I certainly wouldn’t.

  • No Griffin.

    What I’m saying is that your idea of democracy as it is established today is far too idealistic, see my 4th comment on this post.

    You say, “So your idea of democracy means only one predetermined idea is permitted? That’s the system Cuba has had for 53 years.” I could exercise rhetoric and say that capitalism is the system the US has had as the ‘only one predetermined idea’ since much earlier from its independence and no ballot ever changed it.

  • Lawrence,

    I have gone back and re-read more closely. If he means what he says here,

    “the democratic and socialist left… is an advocate and a proponent of national dialogue without exclusions.”

    …Then I would have to accept that he is open to all political opinions participating. My error. Let’s hope that it will come to pass.

    My fear is that the post-Castro transition will be directed by the military and state-corporate elite rising to ever greater power now under Raul. They will be even less interested in the “achievements of the revolution”, except as slogans for distracting the public, and focused only on extending their grip on power. To this end we see a rise in police repression of various dissident movements. The use of mob violence to intimidate & silence critics betrays a distinctly fascistic nature.

    Pedro worries about a return to “private capitalism, bourgeois democracy and the end of Cuba’s attempt at socialism”. I believe the greatest threat to an emerging Cuban democracy comes from the ruling party as it transitions to the “Chinese model”, based on quasi-market economic system based on powerful state monopolies, such as GAESA, under the political control of the military and the ruling party.

  • Griffin, I don’t follow your reading of what Pedro wrote. You write he “excludes the possibility of non-socialist parties from participating in his very limited democracy”. All I see is a call for dialogue. Is it possible you are reading it wrong? Please quote what you are referring to.

  • Lawrence,

    You’re correct, there was no “next sentence”. The contradiction was in the same sentence. Pedro wants a change from the Castro’s version of dictatorship, to his version of socialism, which he claims is democratic, but he excludes the possibility of non-socialist parties from participating in his very limited democracy.

    I support the idea of a true multi-party democracy in which all parties can participate. The Cuban people can vote for whomever they want, and not from a pre-determnined short list of approved parties, as per Pedro’s proposal. The Cuban people can then be free to elect socialists, liberals, conservatives, Marxists, Greens or whatever they like. Their elected representatives will have to work together to sort out Cuba’s future. The only people who oppose such a system are those who fear the loss of their monopoly on power.

    And to preempt the inevitable somebody insisting this means the so-called “Miami mafia” will take over Cuban government, the franchise should be for Cuban citizens resident in Cuba only. This is a normal requirement to vote in democracies around the world.

  • I don’t see the contradiction ‘Griffin’ refers to. He writes that Pedro calls for the democratization of the political system, for freedoms of expression and association and “then in the next sentence reject[s] the rights of those Cubans who would prefer a non-socialist system.” First of all, there is no next sentence. That’s the last one in the article except for a hyperlink reference. Presumably ‘Griffin’ is referring to the last clause in the same sentence where Pedro is saying the non-dogmatic left should not let the dogmatic right dominate the conversation.

    There’s nothing here that advocates denying freedom of expression and association. Luis has picked up on the root of Griffin’s problem – a mindset that thinks socialism can only be established if it is forced on people and that people who are free to make a choice will always choose capitalism. A more perfect example of dogmatic right-wing thinking cannot be imagined. Dogmatism coming from any direction is undesirable but I’ll take socialist ideologues over capitalist ones any day. At least it is based on the good for all, not for a handful of wealthy, powerful fat cats.

    Why would Cubans choose the worst of two evils? When powerless and frustrated, people do make this choice which is the worry in Cuba. In the US as well. It appears there is the possibility Americans may elect Romney.

  • Thank-you Pedro for an excellent, thoughtful essay. Luis nicely puts ‘Moses’ barbaric comment in perspective. Living in a country that has the death penalty and that has just executed a person with an IQ in the retarded range in the face of world condemnation, and one whose President personally okays unmanned drone strikes on foreign countries that kill more civilians that those targeted – all extra-judicial killings, of course, ‘Moses’ comment should not come as a surprise.

    The comment is typical of American culture in another way, it’s ‘bad guy’ mentality, reflected in Hollywood movies. “Just get rid of the bad guys and all will be right with the world.” It can be viewed as extreme ignorance but there is a more sinister motive. Marketing psychology learned long ago the value of simplistic propaganda in selling products and ideas. There’s nothing more simple than creating a bad guy – Osama, Saddam, etc.

    Propaganda and a compliant mainstream media conveniently ignores that many of the bad guys were once American good guys, supported and funded by them. As in Hollywood movies, once a bad guy has been created, they can quite openly be murdered or wished dead. Their bodies can even be dumped in the sea by the ‘good guys’, Navy Seals for instance, without them being labeled extra-judicial killers, or bad guys. A license to kill is created through propaganda, to cite another capitalist movie icon.

    ‘Moses’ will no doubt characterise this comment as America-bashing but it is only intended to bring perspective to the propaganda he habitually foists on us. I would have written none of this if he had not commented as he did. With ‘friends’ like this, the US hardly needs enemies.

  • Luis,
    So your idea of democracy means only one predetermined idea is permitted? That’s the system Cuba has had for 53 years. It is neither democratic nor economically viable. Pedro is calling for a small change in the one idea system, but rules out any other options. Cuba had a change like that before when it went from one dictatorship to another.

    Look ahead to what is coming: when the Castros are gone, those in power will do whatever it takes to hold onto their power. If the Cuban people don’t start working towards a free representative and responsible democracy they will find their country transformed into a new dictatorship based on an alliance between the military and the rising oligarchy.

  • Dear Pedro,

    It is always wise to check if your roof is made of glass before throwing stones. True, direct democracy has yet to see the light in this world.

  • What about those who prefer a non-capitalist system? Do they have any power to change the economic system, the mode-of-production in the so-called ‘free world’ though the ballots? Or when in power even the ‘socialists’ have to bow down to the will of the Capital?

    For the reasons above, this is why Pedro does not contradict himself – the “restoration of private capitalism, bourgeois democracy” would be like the Russian catastrophe after the fall of the USSR.

  • Your desire for death tell much about your sick personality and political (un)reasoning. It follows the logic of the US State Department and the CIA who planned god-know-how-many assassinations attempts on Fidel. See, for all my hatred with types of Bush and Kissinger, I’d never, EVER be anxious for their deaths. The most I would do if I had an opportunity would be to throw a show and call ’em ‘dogs’ like Muntadhar al-Zaidi.

  • This article isn’t even worth much of an answer; the same story, LEAVING SO MUCH OF THE PICTURE OUT. The huge difference is that our 99% has the most basic needs covered, which is not the case of the 99% abroad. In Greece, Spain, even in the States, people commit suicide out of desperation for their gloomy economical future. Corporations and banks are squeezing everything out of the 99%. And this will continue, unless the 99% worldwide unites to stop it. Corporations and banks are backed by the military power. If not just look at the repression of the Occupy movements in the US and UK, of the 15-M movement in Spain, etc. Are all photos and information in twitter and facebook of these assaults on freedom false?
    That is not happening in Cuba. We have a much healthier society (not in the sense of individual health). Many of our achievements have been recognized by international organizations. Are they also pro-Castro? Yes, salaries are low, yes, it is not as easy to visit other countries, but there will always be an economic restriction (in most places, most people live and die in the same place, without ever even dreaming of travelling), even if there are no legal restrictions.
    I do believe fervently in reconciliation and have already done so with all my Cuban-American schoolmates, but on a basis of absolute respect for opinions on both sides. We have “agreed to disagree”, and to “respect each other’s rights to do so”. I read the “Urgent Call for a Better and Possible Cuba” and feel it is the same. It is an attempt to offer solutions by people who are very far from our standpoint, to have a good understanding of how to do things. I know some of them and consider them friends, but people who have lost sight of the realities we face inside Cuba. I would love to see them call for many of these freedoms in other countries, like the US, UK, Canada, Mexico which all more or less agree with the US script, which I dislike much more than ours in all senses. I thought I would comment on that page, when I read it, but then read many comments similar to what I would have posted and decided there was enough.
    The other thing I’d like to say is that we have elections now in Cuba. The people we elect will form the municipal, provincial and national governments. Why don’t we just try to choose better? We need real dissidents, not those on the US payroll, who work with the CIA, its different agencies and the old Cuban-American mafia, who want to overturn the government, to subvert our system; but those who would really like to improve it. And yes, it can be improved, you’re right and I’m sure. But of course, bear in mind, there will always be unhappy people with whatever is being done. And the people making the final decisions will always have to be a small group.

  • “We are the 99%!” is an empty meaningless slogan which does not correspond to any reality, just like all the other meaningless slogans shouted about for decades, such as “Socialismo o Muerte!” or “Hasta Siempre”.

    Pedro, you contradict yourself when you call ” for the democratization of the political system, for freedoms of expression and association” and then in the next sentence reject the rights of those Cubans who would prefer a non-socialist system. True democracy & freedom means the people decide their own future. It is not to be found in a system where one faction dictates which options are permitted and which are forbidden.

    You are merely calling for a changing of the guard, not an end to the prison.

  • Cuba is a frickin’ dictatorship. Raul, and by definition, Fidel, decides everything that takes place. Anyone who makes a decision that these two jokers disagree with is subject to having that decision countermanded and worse. As a result, no one ever does anything that is counter the wishes and will of the Castros. The National Assembly, Council of Ministers, Poltical Bureau and even the Communist Party itself amount to nothing more than what good ol’ boys call a circle jerk because if Fidel/Raul don’t bless it, it ain’t gonna happen. I wish all the luck in the world to those Cubans who write letters but nothing, absolutely nothing is going to change until the Castros meet St. Peter at the pearly gates. Then, as expressed by another famous Cuban, Sr. Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy), the Castros will have “some ‘splainin’ to do.

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