14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 August 2016 — The tabloid with the updates of the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party Guidelines, is distributed lately without fanfare. The few copies on sale in the newsstands and the majority of people’s lack of interest in official documents, suggest that very soon they will be forgotten. However, to not analyze or question them would be another form of meekly accepting their principles.
From the opposition sector voices are heard describing these new party directives as “tricks and traps from a caste that maintains itself in power.” The foreign press, for its part, has been quick to draw conclusions after a sidelong glance at them, but few have plunged into othe274 points plagued with grandiloquent propositions, commitments that seem to be dreams, and a syntax that is difficult to understand.
A question as basic as whether the stage between 2016 and 2021 will be characterized by an economy that leans toward the market or toward centralized planning can only be answered after determining what is missing and what is included, and weighing the nuances of the new wording that has been introduced in each concept.
After reconstructing the loose pieces, it is clear that the State will maintain majority control over production and services. The only positive innovation introduced in this edition is the appearance of “second degree cooperatives,” the characteristics of which are not explained, but which seem like the boldest step the Party is willing to take.
Some presences are easier to detect looking at the 16 pages of the brochure, such as the inclusion of the word “wealth” in the third point in the chapter on the economy. Not content with having determined at the 6th Congress to prohibit “the concentration of ownership” for non-state forms of production, the new version from the 7th Congress adds that neither will the concentration of wealth be accepted.
In a country where no one has ever made a formal declaration of their possessions there is no way to calculate what each person has, either in goods or in cash. The absence of regulatory mechanisms with regards to the possession of wealth, especially among natural persons, makes the control of assets a real mission impossible.
Such an alarming addition is nothing more than a potential threat, and even a formula of commitment to satisfy those most concerned about the growing inequality which has worsened in the country over the last two decades. Perhaps it is a crumb to please the hardliners within the Party, a wink and a nod to the old guard.
The disappearance of some guidelines, the rewording of others and the inclusion of new ones, makes it difficult to research which of the guidelines are in the 21% the authorities claim to have met, and which are in the 79% that are “in the implementation phase.” As if reshuffling the dominoes makes the readers unable to detect which tiles are missing.
As the artist Arturo Cuenca said one say, “the takes can be more important than the puts,” especially when the points that are missing or reduced in some of their essential aspects, don’t appear on the list of things accomplished, but in the sub-paragraphs of the problems, of those objectives that have been set aside.”
The first guideline to disappear is number 4 which mentions the idea that structural, functional, organizational and economic changes will be made “informing workers and listening to their opinions.”
Another striking and highly provocative example is the evaporation of an objective reflected in Guideline 57 of the chapter on fiscal policy, which in 2011 proposed to establish “higher taxes for higher incomes, to contribute, also in this way, to mitigating inequalities among citizens.”
Has the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) met this objective with the taxes imposed by the Office of Tax Administration (ONAT) or has it just abandoned tempering inequalities through the treasury?
The text is not without its absurdities, like the commitment outline in the change on economic integration of “giving priority to the participation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America (ALBA),” a regional organization that has lost prominence since the death of Hugo Chavez and seems doomed to an early demise.
A new chapter entitled Demographic Dynamics is reduced to the issue of the aging of the population and efforts to stimulate fertility, but omits the most serious problem facing the country today: the uncontrolled emigration that robs it of its human capital.
In other parts of the document, the inclusion of a concept reveals the pressures of certain sectors, such as the demand to “comply with medical ethics” in the chapter regarding healthcare, or the unexpected appearance in the section on culture of a point for the implementation of “the policy regarding the transformation of Cuban cinema.” A clear response to the demands of the numerous artists who joined together in the so-called G-20 group that is demanding a new Film Law.
When we contrast the wording of the 6th Congress guidelines with those now updated, details such as “attention to cruise ships” jump out. Along with more subtle references like changing the proposal to delete the ration book by “the orderly and gradual elimination of products in the ration book,” a way of making the subsidized market languish, instead of eradicating it all of a sudden.
The warning regarding “progressively decreasing the levels of subsidies” runs through a good part of the document like a thin strand of steel, like that emphasized in point 58 focused on achieving the principle of “subsiding people and not products.”
The update of the Party Guidelines is far from meeting the expectations of those who want to see in its pages a clear path to the dismantling of the centralized economy and the freeing up of the productive forces in Cuba. But also to distance itself from the paternalistic tone that once characterized the five-year plans on the island.
One step forward and two steps back? Or simply a Party that seems to be running in place