Vicente Morin Aguado
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.
– 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]