Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 April 2016 — Army General Raul Castro, newly re-elected first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), in his closing speech at the Party’s 7th Congress spoke of moving forward with our democratic, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It turns out that the adjective democratic has just been added to the socialism officially promoted in Cuba.

The leadership of the first Communist Party was allowed to take the name, later used to turn the country into a disaster, even recognizing one day that “no one knew how to build socialism.” The leadership of the PCC has the right to name the society they are proposing whatever they want. But those of us who have been defending a democratic socialism in Cuba also have the right to make it clear that this name has nothing to do with the socialism as practiced by the PCC.

Everything done from the leadership of the PCC is solely intended to strengthen the state monopoly capitalism with ingredients of paternalistic populism that has always characterized what has been intended in Cuba since 1959.

In his speech, the general was precise: one party, the Communist, based on Marxist-Leninist ideology, which, in any case, is based on democratic centralism (promoted by Lenin to crush the growing dissent within the Bolshevik Party) and not on democracy.

He also argued that Article 5 of the Constitution regarding the leading role of the Communist Party in society will remain, and that there will be a continuation of the centralization of decisions and state ownership as the linchpin of the economy. Only wells are built from above: everything from the top down.

The election of the first and second secretaries of the Politburo was not performed by the full Congress nor directly by the Party membership, but by the members of the Central Committee. The age limit for new members of the Central Committee is established as 60. By the stroke of a pen the possibility is eliminated that the generation that fought at the Bay of Pigs, that ran the literacy campaign, and that carried the hardest tasks of the Revolution on their shoulders, will serve on the Central Committee. And the limit applies arbitrarily to new members, but not to those who are now in their 70s and 80s and who have been in the PCC leadership ranks for more than five decades.

Self-managed cooperatives and self-employment are still regarded contemptuously as secondary “non-state” forms of work, while appropriate ways of self-management for workers in state enterprises is not even mentioned.

How can there be democratic socialism when the means of production are controlled by the bureaucracy and the wage labor that typifies the form of capitalist exploitation is maintained, without democratization of politics and without socialization of the economy?

If the Communist Party decided to honor the democratic qualifier for its socialism, it should assume the minimum standards of democratic socialism: democratization of politics, socialization of property and ownership in the economy, and allowing free expression and political activism of our groups and all democrats.

But we are not exclusive nor sectarian. Hopefully Raul Castro and his Party will act consistent with this new adjective and not as occurs with the term socialism, which they converted into an undesirable word for many.

If the Communist Party is open to the interests of the entire Cuban nation, it will promote a true popular, broad, horizontal participation, without restrictions in discussions of the documents 7th Congress and of a new democratic constitution, in town meetings, without pre-conditions.

If, as a part of that process it assumes the overall defense of all human rights of all Cubans; if it prevents repression against peaceful opponents and those who think differently and releases all prisoners of conscience; if it endorses freedom of expression, association and election; if it accepts the free development of various forms of production and property; if it grants ownership, management and profits to workers in state enterprises; if it accepts that Cubans living abroad can visit their country with passports from other countries and that those who want to can invest in it; it would not be democratic socialists who turn their backs on them.

If they take steps in that direction, I am sure they will have the support of many Cuban democratic socialists and democrats.