The Needed Reformulation of Cuba’s One-Party (1)

Vicente Morin Aguado

The Ministry of Sugar. Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVANA TIMES — The need for a more open Party in Cuba was reaffirmed through the agreements reached at the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in 2011, the most important outcome of which were the “guidelines” the government approved after reviewing thousands of opinions voiced by the population.

For the first time, Cuba’s revolutionary leadership approved a work plan without improvisational elements, adopting it as a binding instrument.

This is the inevitable step forward towards a more open and participative form of government, whose most significant precursor dates back to 1991, when, during the Fourth Party Congress held in Santiago de Cuba, the leadership decided to grant the religious permission to join the ranks of the PCC.

Looking back on that year, it is clear that the unexpected changes in the world’s political arena spelt a serious threat to the very existence of Cuban socialism.

At the time, the country’s current PCC second secretary, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, said: “In the historical and political circumstances currently faced by the revolution, this measure is both necessary and just and it is in keeping with our concept of the Party of the Cuban nation, described and widely endorsed during the debate process held prior to the Congress.”

It is important to stress that, in fact, the Cuban Communist Party ceased to officially call itself Marxist-Leninist at the time.

The statement we should take away from the Fourth Congress is “in the historical and political circumstances currently faced by the revolution”. With it, the leadership justified the concessions it was forced to make and the changes to a number of paragraphs of the Party’s Program and Statutes, approved during the foundational conclave of 1975.

The times had changed radically. The triumphalism expressed sixteen years before was replaced with the challenge of survival, of avoiding the “domino effect” that menaced us, after practically all of the red chips in Eastern Europe had fallen.

The statements made during this congress, which resulted in other modifications to the Party’s founding documents, capture the international situation and Cuba’s growing internal difficulties, chiefly in the economy:

–  All statements demanding fidelity to and an alliance with a socialist camp that was clearly disappearing were eliminated.

Photo: Juan Suarez

–  The Stalinist notion of the inevitable triumph of socialism, sustained by the conviction that the Marxist-Leninist doctrine was infallible, and the aim of advancing towards a classless (communist) society were substituted with the fusion of Jose Marti’s radical thought and the traditions of a particular national and social liberation struggle. Socialism thus came to be understood as Cuba’s sole alternative to underdevelopment and neo-colonial domination.

–  The Congress established a principle that still today demands a clear political decision, which consisted in granting full autonomy to State powers as regards the Party, in its capacity as “vanguard”, and ultimately gave body to a paradoxical formulation that accepts the alleged autonomy of State institutions without “undermining the guiding role of the Party.”

From everything outlined above, we may establish that the precursors to a possible redefinition of Cuba’s one-party system are the following:

–  Accepting the religious as Party members cleared the path towards a non-doctrinaire form of organization foreign to Marxism-Leninism, which we can well consider a canon for PCC members.

–  Socialism ceased to be conceptualized as a scientific formula and became an alternative to a given reality.

–  For the first time, the leadership questioned the notion of a Party that is above the State, which is in clear contradiction to constitutional principles, as sovereignty allegedly emanates from the people and cannot be the exclusive attribute of a political organization, particularly when citizens have the right to vote freely, in a direct and secret fashion, to elect their representatives. Most citizens are not (nor need to be) members of the Party. What’s more, according to the electoral law currently in effect in Cuba, the Party does not put forth government candidates.

The contradiction between formal popular sovereignty, inherent to a duly institutionalized political system, and a single Party and its core of leaders, a select minority standing over and above the State, persists to this day.

To be continued…

Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]


14 thoughts on “The Needed Reformulation of Cuba’s One-Party (1)

  • January 18, 2014 at 7:30 am
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    this article is interesting

  • January 18, 2014 at 7:02 am
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    The audience here is missing the point, which is what the writer wants. This articles is written within the walls of the Cuban Communist Party Politic Bureau. The reader may think that there are democratic changes in Cuba and that is this article’s objective

  • January 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm
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    Excellent post. Looking forward to the sequel

  • January 17, 2014 at 7:49 am
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    I stand corrected on the .0001% owning 80% of all wealth.
    The correct figure is the top 10 percent own 84% of all wealth .
    As if that makes much difference to the bottom 90% .
    I did get my information from ZNet which carries a great many articles on wealth disparity all of which also list a great many more of the negative aspects of this sort of inequity on the world.
    The problem is not addressed by anything other than an economic revolution since as Marx got exactly right 150 or so years ago :
    “The problems of capitalism and oligarchy are systemic and not superficial.
    Only by structural change can current evils be eliminated because the roots are in the system rather than in men or faulty operations ”
    While, as an anarchist , I have a great many disagreements with Marx , he remains dead -on accurate on this.
    Capitalism is predicated upon the amassing of wealth without limit and given that the wealthy and the mega-corporations now own and effectively run the government ( as explained on several occasions ) and especially since the Supreme Court said that the wealthy can now make unlimited bribes to our elected officials, the once powerful wealthy are now far more powerful than ever in their abilities to widen this inequity that has no historical precedent .
    Capitalism is heading toward a technological future that has little to no need of human labor while piling up ever-increasing wealth for that .00001%-10% at the top because smart machines can and will produce necessary products in abundance. .
    This is unstoppable even were Obama or any bribed/elected official of a mind to do anything more than make empty promises.
    You need only look at what Obama has done and not done in the past five years to see what he will do.
    .

  • January 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm
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    Forbes also once claimed that Fidel Castro was one of the richest people in the world because he had the power to walk into the national treasury and out with as much money as he wished.
    I would hardly take the word of Forbes , the WSJ or any other publication of, by and for the very wealthy as regards the division of wealth in the capitalist world.

    I rely on the information I get on the U.S. economy from the many left economists and authors at ZNet and will readily admit that your 40% is correct since I was running on memory when I posted that 80% figure which in all likelihood represents the total wealth of the top 10% .
    Either way, that’s a growing disparity and not sustainable and Obama will do nothing to change that direction.
    President Obama was pre-selected and sufficiently bribed by the very wealthy via the euphemistically termed campaign contributions without which Obama would never have been nominated , much less elected and regardless of what he promised , he wound up serving the wishes of the corporate and military power elite. .
    He has a solid record of giving money to the wealthy and denying help to the poor and you are free to ignore that record and believe his promises at the risk of deep disappointment on your part.
    We, on the real left , told you that he would do exactly what he has done before he was elected the first time .
    I cannot believe that you still cling to that Hope bullshit.

  • January 16, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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    I so want to agree with you about los hermanos Castro but I am too deep into anarchism and the belief that all governments long enough in power become self-preserving, corrupt and ultimately totalitarian.
    It may be possible that the Cuban government, born of far different circumstances and now well into the 21st century , will be the rare exception and I would hope so.
    Once the U.S ends its hostilities on its own or is forced to do so as capitalism worldwide collapses within a fifteen year timeframe, we will see what happens.
    Absent the contortions forced upon Cuban society by the forces of capitalism, all good things will become possible .

  • January 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm
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    You have it reversed. The PCC engages all Cubans to represent the PCC. That is too say that the PCC does not care what Cubans think only that they represent and promote what the PCC platform dictates. Were it not so, they would have never banned religion in a country that had 80%+ practicing Catholics. The PCC does not intend to reflect Cubans, Cubans should reflect the PCC.

  • January 16, 2014 at 4:15 pm
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    The Beasts of Biran should in no way be compared to FDR, nor Tiberius and Gaius Gracchi. You could have also included the Kennedys in this list as well. The “Robin Hood” theme simply does not apply to the Castros. Yes, they stole from the rich but the wealth was never ‘redistributed’ to the poor. At best, the Castros saw to it that the poor could go to school and visit a doctor but the poor paid for it at the cost of their freedom. FDR, the Kennedys, nor the Gracchi brothers took anything away from the poor in exchange for what they gave them.

  • January 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm
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    which just goes to show you, John, that the aristocrats have the self-confidence needed to pull off the radical reform of their societies. A select few, like F.D.R., Los Hermanos Grachii and los hermanos Castro, to name a few, have the audacity and are willing to become “traitors to their class,” (to coin an epithet used by the 1% back in the 1930’s against against another member of their class, F.D.R.) are sometimes successful–or at least go down trying, like the Grachii (and perhaps Fidel and Raul)!

  • January 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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    Income inequality in the US is a real problem that clouds America’s otherwise bright future and the Obama administration has promised to try to tackle the problem head on. But to be fair, the statistics you cite are very wrong and undermine your already weak argument. According to Forbes magazine, the top 1 percent own more than 40% of the nation’s approximately $54 trillion in wealth, So your cite of .0001% owning some 80% is ludicrous. Please refer to this link to rework your analysis: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2013/09/04/could-americas-wealth-gap-lead-to-a-revolt/

  • January 16, 2014 at 10:12 am
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    George Washington was replaced by just another aristocratic president who, as with Raul Castro, continued the established system .
    In the U.S , the system was intended to protect the wealthy from the democratic will of the masses and that has succeeded to the point that the very wealthy .0001% ,own some 80% of everything to the detriment of the poor and working poor.
    In Cuba that succession continues the calcification of the bureaucracy and the centralizing of the power of the government in a Leninist fashion while maintaining a socialist-style distribution of the wealth of the country .
    The difference is between malevolent and benevolent dictatorships and how they treat the poor and working poor. .

  • January 16, 2014 at 10:06 am
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    I am extremely disappointed that Poder Popular’s rules and regulations of the democratic bottom-up way Cuban society should function were not mentioned in this otherwise fine history of Cuban government reform. .
    Were this autochthonous ( uniquely Cuban ) electoral system to be fully implemented the evolved and totalitarian way in which Cuban society is now run , would disappear and a truly democratic society would arise in its place.
    Reforms, such as have been made amount to reinventing the wheel since PP is a perfectly workable solution to the totalitarian form of Cuba’s central institutions; the government and the economy.
    There are however two forces working in opposition to this implementation of PP and those would be the current Cuban bureaucracy and the long-standing anti-democracy U.S. foreign policy .

  • January 16, 2014 at 8:14 am
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    A significant difference of course is the fact that George Washington refused to serve as president for more than 8 years, while in Cuba, Fidel held fast to his power for 49 years until he was forced to retire because of his seriously declining health.

  • January 15, 2014 at 11:05 pm
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    George Washington abhorred political parties (see his farewell address). Seems to me the Cuban Revolution has taken his advice to heart! Since Parties are so abhorrant, if they exist, they should be limited to one, as of course is the case in Cuba. At least the PCC tries to represent all Cubans, whereas the Federalist represented the New England and Middle Atlantic States industrialist, manufacturers and bankers, whilist the Republican-Democrats represented the Southern planters, plus yeoman farmers in all of the new United States. Hence, in spirit, Cuba’s Revolution is closer to the spirit of our own first president!

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