More Considerations on Cuba’s One-Party State

By Samuel Farber*

HAVANA TIMES — According to one of the criticisms elicited by my article “Cuba’s One-Party State is the Main Obstacle” published in Havana Times on November 10, 2012, multiparty systems are a bad idea because they are invariably corrupt and inevitably involve the unprincipled “politiquería” (politicking) that characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba and other electoral systems in capitalist countries.

Although this argument expresses legitimate concerns that I certainly share, it glosses over some important issues which, when taken into account, lead to a different conclusion. Of those issues I would like to emphasize the following:

I) Multi-party systems have no monopoly of political corruption; one-party states, far from eliminating corruption, have often expanded and aggravated it. Moreover, one-party states protect political corruption from public exposure through a systematic lack of transparency and widespread censorship.

II) The constitutional and legal monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party and of its organizational transmission belts, such as the Cuban Federation of Women and the Cuban Confederation of Workers, is enforced by the Cuban state’s use of political, administrative and police methods that violate fundamental democratic rights such as free expression and free association.

If nothing else, it is for this reason alone that the legal and constitutional monopoly of the Party should be opposed regardless of any opinion people may have about the role that political parties should play in a socialist society.

III) Once the demand to end the legal and political monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party and its satellite “mass organizations” is realized, a multiplicity of political organizations and parties are bound to emerge, not necessarily because they are motivated by particular political ideologies, but as a reflection of the conflicting social forces and their divergent views within the “really existing” Cuban society, a major reason why the demand to abolish the one-party system is democratic.

Many groups will want to organize politically to obtain power at the national and political level in order to achieve what has been very difficult to gain at the local and social level. That is the essence and raison d’etre of a political party.

IV) Corruption and “politiquería” (politicking) are not a product of the multiplicity of political parties, but of the political systems within which these parties exist. Although this is not the place to examine the matter in depth, it is clear that democratic capitalist societies depend on the apathy and lack of involvement of the popular majorities to ensure political “stability” and the “normal” functioning of their economic systems.

Lacking active popular oversight, the electoral and political systems of these societies systematically encourage corruption that may range from the shameless theft of public funds to relatively more subtle forms such as the close and corrupt relationships between politicians, major campaign donors and lobbyists. These forms of corruption are at the heart of the plutocratic politics that prevail in the U.S. and many Latin American countries.

V) A socialist democratic republic principally based on the workplaces, which by their very nature generally constitute real collectivities, would lead to far more discussion and debate than an isolated individualized citizenry linked to the polity mainly through the mass media. The periodic renewal of mandates and the right of immediate recall of elected representatives to higher bodies, and the opening of the mass media to all political tendencies that are willing to use peaceful means to resolve political conflicts, would greatly enhance the active democratic participation, control and transparency of the political process.

VI) Contrary to Stalinist dogma, a socialist republic is about the emancipation of all exploited and oppressed groups, but this does not eliminate socio-economic and political conflict and the divergence of views among people. Political organizations and parties are the vehicles through which people can organize to fight for their interests and views, particularly among those racially and gender based groups that were specially oppressed under the previous regime.

Political parties are also likely to become indispensable vehicles for the aggregation and systematization of goals and demands into internally coherent alternative programs, thereby making it possible for the majority of the population to make meaningful choices for the country as a whole. Their purpose is to present comprehensive, society-wide proposals.

For example, some parties may favor a more radical reduction of production for the sake of ecological considerations while other parties may argue that poorer countries such as Cuba cannot afford to go that far because it is imperative to substantially raise the standard of living of the majority of the population.

These are the sorts of choices that any self-managed society is likely to confront and decide on a democratic basis.

VII) The chances for the creation of such a republic are directly proportional to the political weight that a movement of Cuba’s working people will have in any future transition from the present one-party state. In the absence of such a movement, other forces, organized and in likely collusion with U.S. imperialism, will prevail and bring about the socio-economic and political system they find most convenient to their interests.

That is why the issue of political self-organization is so crucial. It is critical to reiterate that any political, let alone financial link, with the U.S. not only undermines Cuba’s sovereignty but plays directly into the hands of the current regime.[i]

VIII) Were such a socialist republic not to prevail after the demise of the current political system, there are demands that the popular and workers’ movement could put forward to maximize their pressure from below and minimize political corruption and politicking. That is a general idea that would be necessary to apply to concrete situations.

For example, instead of moving immediately to the election of candidates for public office, elections could first be held for a constituent assembly. Such elections would tend to give more weight o substantive issues than to the personalities of candidates including, of course, the fundamental question of the socio-political and economic nature of a new Cuba.

This would also provide an excellent opportunity to advocate and agitate for the ideas and institutions responding to the interests of the people, like self-management and economic and political democracy.

To avoid the domination of the political process by moneyed interests, especially from abroad, such political campaigning could be exclusively financed with domestic public resources equitably distributed among all political currents in the island.

Based on fundamental considerations of national self-determination and equality of political access, this could entail the legal prohibition of U.S. or any other foreign provision of resources, including those of NGOs, to political associations in the country.
*Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba and has written numerous books and articles about that country. His most recent book is Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959. A Critical Assessment published by Haymarket Books in 2011.

[i] Because the existing Cuban state is undemocratic and monopolizes the mass media, the criminal prosecution of groups that receive U.S. aid to peacefully disseminate their views should be opposed, although these groups should be politically criticized for their Plattist (after the Platt Amendment) politics by those who advocate a democratic, socialist and independent transition.

14 thoughts on “More Considerations on Cuba’s One-Party State

  • Agree with you Luis, specially with the things you said ought to be done in order for a representative democracy to truly become a democracy. I will only add that the one party system is one of the best things cuba has. It is true there should always be more efficient mechanisms to hold accountable its members in public offices however if you want to see why is good compare it with the political system of cuba’s sister islands in the caribbean. Compare also the governments. For god’s sake! It is even funny to proposed a multiparty system. Look at my country DR, poor, illiterate, drugs, chaos, and yet very very democratic. For cuba would be worst because it is the middle of us and what, what ….. Did u guess? Drugs. To conclude, cuba is at war and they would be better if latin america gets better and americans demand more of their government. And like they say of mexico, poor cuba so far from God, and soo close to the US.

  • Actually, History has shown us – especially Latin-Americans – that to overthrow elected presidents in coups are a Righty thing to do, usually with the blessings from Uncle Sam.

  • I see what you mean… the only change to the status quo you accept and endorse is to overthrow an elected democracy and replace it with a Leftist dictatorship.

  • I think the definition of ‘status quo’ you have is a bit off-range. Representative elections – whether they be with one, two, three, twenty parties – aren’t meant to change the status quo. Or the establishment, as some like to say. They are meant to possibly change the people who carry on the political status quo, but not to change the status quo itself.

  • The outcome of Cuban elections is predetermined by the fact only one political party is allowed by law, no campaigning is allowed, and criticism of the government and official policy is not allowed. Under such a narrowly confined system the only possible outcome is a continuation of the status quo. No other outcome is allowed.

  • It wasn’t a death treath. You are the one who didn’t get the ‘how does it feel being directed back to you?’ reply because of his eternal death-wish.

    Poor Griffin, gets utterly destroyed in two threads and still have the guts to comment back.

  • The last national elections held in 2008 were widely covered in the international media, being the first since Fidel retired from public office. I followed the coverage quite closely. On the whole, it was quite balanced. I don’t know about your family and friends, but there was not a hint from any quarter, not even the rabidly anti-Castro Miami media, that it was anything other than a clean vote. Interestingly, not one mention of any spies lurking in voting booths or anything such thing. You obviously didn’t like the outcome. Could it be that you are just a sore loser?

  • Of course, the people in the US have been dumbed down to believe THEIR political system and THEIR way-of-life are the best in the world. How sweet is the power of Hollywood and commercials.

    If the US was China, it’d be called a two-party dictatorship.

    I believe that, should representative democracy be FOR REAL, several things ought to be put into practive:

    1. Public financing of all electoral campaigns.
    2. Absolutelly NO lobbying AT ALL.
    3. Every party would have its candidate for the executive, and would have the exact same number of candidates for the legislative.
    4. Maybe elections for the judiciary, who knows?
    5. Every candidate would have the exact same time of expositure on radio and TV.
    6. Every candidate for the executive would be called for debates on radio and TV.
    7, Electoral surveys would be prohibited, as they only serve the purpose of ‘pre-selecting’ those who are capable of winning and thus manipulate the electorate.

  • Moses, you don’t advance this difficult discussion by simply declaring as if unquestionably true “none save the insane would dream of exchanging our system for Cuba’s.”

    Let’s examine what might be true if the current USA political system were replaced by Cuba’s system, but 30 times as big:

    Most likely: In very short order, 100’s of US military bases would be closed down for lots of obvious reasons, starting with Guantanamo.
    With no more millions pouring into local and national elections, the character of candidates would change quickly and dramatically. Maybe they would be party hacks, but the national government would no longer be dominated by lawyers and millionaires, a quantum change even if they didn’t have vast sums to dispense before and after elections.
    A number of overt and covert wars would quickly stop. No more money for million dollar a year soldiers and multi-million dollar vehicles, planes, ships, etc.
    The various lotteries and casinos would be closed. Absent these diversions, people might be encouraged to seek other solutions to life’s problems.
    Health care for all, without any risk of bankruptcy would quickly force people and caregivers to look at the quality and availability as a priority instead of a budget issue or afterthought.
    Billions would not longer be spent of military aid or vast military-industrial-profits
    I could go on, buy you get the point. Imperialism would suffer a crisis at a minimum..

  • CF wrote:

    “This, despite a half-century of genocidal trade sanctions inflicted on the Cuban people by that great “democracy” to the north.” The comment is posted.

    I wrote that “the real genocide was the some 60,000 Cubans who have drowned while attempting to flee the socialist paradise.” That comment was deleted.

    What am i missing here? I do accept the fact that the editors are dealing with a particularly delicate situation here. They have built a unique and valuable website that is worth protecting. I get that. But what are the rules? Are some opinions ok while others are unacceptable? On what criteria then? Trade policies can be called “genocidal” but emigration policies cannot? Is any defence of the Castro regime acceptable, no matter how unsubstantiated the claims against Cuba’s enemies, real or purported, may be? Are critiques of the Cuban government to be limited buy a different set of rules?

    In the Cuban Five thread, Luis came perilously close to uttering a death threat against Moses, but that comment gets posted. Is that ugly comment acceptable while my comments which are not in anyway sly threats, are not acceptable?

    If the editors cannot see fit to post this comment, as they have deleted several of my comments over the past few days, then an explanation via email would be appreciated.

  • CF, are you delusional? For all the many problems that exists within the framework of US democracy, you can be assured of one thing: none save the insane would dream of exchanging our system for Cuba’s. If what you describe is true about how the Cuban electoral system is supposed to work, it sounds great. But my Cuban wife and ALL my Cuban family and friends in Cuba vigorously disagree with you as to how the system “works” in real life. Cubans still believe that somehow the ballots are secretly coded to identity who voted and how they voted. Many believe that if they don’t vote, they will not get a promotion at work, or that somehow the State will know and punish them. CF, you clearly support the regime and that is your right. But don’t try to shovel that crap here. Too many people know the truth.

  • It is no coincidence that the country with the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas is also the only one-party state there. This, despite a half-century of genocidal trade sanctions inflicted on the Cuban people by that great “democracy” to the north. The PCC has an overwhelming mandate from the people that has been renewed time and again by secret ballot in national elections. If and when it ever loses the confidence of the people, it would be abundantly clear at the ballot box.

    By law, PCC can play no role in the electoral process. They can neither nominate nor endorse any candidates. The nomination of candidates is strictly a grass-roots affair. Depending the level of government, candidates are nominated either by their neighbours in open public meetings (for the municipal assemblies) or by the municipal assemblies themselves (for the provincial and national assemblies). To keep things honest, voters in national elections have the option of rejecting every candidate on the ballot and calling for a new slate of candidates — real power that US voters can only dream of.

  • As far as I know, every liberal democracy including the USA, Canada, the UK, etc, have laws against political parties accepting money from foreign sources. This is prudent safeguard of national sovereignty for any country. A similar law for a future democratic Cuba would be wise.

    On the issue of money & corruption in politics, as Farber points out, multi-party systems have no monopoly on corruption. Likewise, multi-party systems do not have a monopoly on public apathy either. Official media proclamations to the contrary, how many Cubans feel anything but apathy in regard to their political system?

    Political corruption can and does exist anywhere. “Money” is not just an envelope of greenbacks. Money is fungible proxy for economic power. In a single-party Marxist state like Cuba, where the State holds a monopoly on economic power, they control the “money”, in all its forms. They have the power.

    Through the mass organizations which they control, the State can use this power to mobilize people to support the policies dictated from on high. The apathetic, powerless masses are orchestrated to march and chant the “popular” slogans in support of a ruling class which has not listened to an independent or contrary word from the people for over half a century.

  • There is no doubt that money buys influence. Politics is the art of influence. Therefore, constructing a “money-less” modern political structure is unrealistic. Besides, time and again, it has been shown that while money can make a candidate or a special interest competitive among voters, it is no guarantee to winning. Cubans should not be underestimated. While I gernerally agree with Farber’s views on what changes need to take place in Cuba, I do not share his apparent fear that the Cuban people need to be “shielded” from outside money and the influence that comes with it. Mr. Farber knows full well how strong-minded Cubans can be. I say let democracy reign.

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