The Ideological Weaknesses of the Cuban Communist Party

Marxism-Leninism and communism as a goal keep appearing in the conceptualization of the Cuban model and in the Constitution of the Republic. But something is moving. Banner: “No one surrenders here.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, February 25, 2020 — The cliché has been coined that in that process called the Cuban Revolution, the first 30 years were those of the greatest ideological intolerance.

The firing squads, the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) [agricultural forced labor camps for gays, religious and non-conformists], the obligatory atheism, the Revolutionary Offensive, the university purges, the parameters of the “Five Gray Years“*, the imposition of a rigid mold to form the New Man, the repudiation rallies, and an exhausting etcetera were caught up in the rhetoric of Fidel Castro and the strict application of what the inquisitors of the time understood to be Marxism-Leninism.

The smallest deviation from the canon was viewed with suspicion. The catechism had to be recited exactly as it was written in the classics and, in the worst cases, as it was interpreted in the manuals, on pain of being accused of “ideological weaknesses,” which usually meant as a consequence loss of party membership, expulsion from the workplace or school, and even prison.

The extinction or collapse of the socialist camp, what the then-Maximum Leader called the “desmerengamiento“** [literally, cake-melting], brought for Cuba a couple of “subjective consequences.” On the one hand, the discredit that theory suffered by being refuted by stubborn reality, and on the other, there was no longer anyone outside supervising. However, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to get out from under the heavy burden of a failed dogma, stubbornness prevailed and it was established that this Island would be the impregnable bulwark for the socialist banners.

As if it was a curse, another 30 years have passed relapsing in that barren whim. Marxism-Leninism and communism as a goal keep appearing in the conceptualization of the model and in the Constitution of the Republic.

But something is moving on the board, more in words than in facts. The clear intention of remaining in power has run into the necessity of modifying language.

The first detail is that the president of the Republic and the announced next first secretary of the Party do not tire of repeating their mantra: “We have to think as a country,” which gives cause for the question of the devil’s advocate: So it’s no longer necessary to think as a working class?

Throughout those first thirty years, a slogan of that nature would have cost the membership card of any activist, because according to dogma, class interests are placed above nationalist interests.

If since the beginning we had been thinking as a country, we would have better considered the confiscations, which brought the embargo as a response; the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles, which came to the point of physically destroying us; the guerrilla interventions in Latin America, which we had to pay for with isolation; the military campaigns in Africa, for which the final payment was Cuba’s dead to install a new corrupt oligarchy in Angola.

But in those years there was only one person thinking and deciding.

Another novel detail of current times is the insistence that we must change mentality, said with the lightness of one suggesting changing a vehicle’s tires and with the vagueness of one throwing out a riddle. Nobody substantiates, nobody suggests the keys to understanding which neurons have to be retired.

Recently Ernesto Estévez, a notable scientist whose political opinions appear in the official newspaper Granma and other pro-government places, published in the official organ a disconcerting text entitled Dogmas, apocalypse, and the conquest of heaven, where he warns: “Cuba is today in the process of rupture with an exhausted paradigm.” And he points out: “But our antidogmatic rupture cannot be the return to capitalism, but rather to another order that allows us to advance further toward the attainment of a more just society.”

What is that “exhausted paradigm” called and when did Cuba begin to rupture with it? Supposing that his allusion to “today” isn’t referring to 1959, but rather 2020, and if the paradigm that we used to venerate is now exhausted, and it isn’t about a “return to capitalism,” then where do we go?

More recently, in his participation in a party event at the University of Information Sciences (UCI), Luis Antonio Torres, member of the Central Committee and first secretary in Havana, indicated to the center’s activists that it was necessary to “contribute to the economy, but also to produce revolutionary ideology.”

At this event it was suggested that the subjects that had to be brought to schools were “Why is the Cuban Revolution the only one? Why is there no other Party on the Island? Why is socialism the only option for a people like this one?” In other words, it is no longer necessary to go to the classics or to the philosophical essences, but “to the practical thing itself” and the explanations will have to be taken out of the concept of revolution that Fidel Castro turned into dogma in May of 2000.

The repeated phrase that Cuba will not renounce its principles, nor give in a millimeter on them, leaves open many questions, above all what a change of paradigms proposes.

Forgetting that the material is before the spiritual, that the working class is the most revolutionary, that when the means of production behaves as a straitjacket for the development of productive forces, it is the way that must change, are grave ideological weaknesses, without mentioning the acceptance of private property as a complementary element and the opening to foreign investment led by multinational companies.

There is a little less than a year until the very likely holding of the VIII Congress of the Party. In this period, which is brief, it will be necessary to produce a notable rearrangement of discourse. For this they rely on the forgetfulness of the people, the opportunism of those who manage the process, and the naivete of those who want to see identity changes where there will only be cosmetics.

The current and future “ideological weaknesses” of the only party allowed in Cuba will be the bedrock of strength of those who aspire to keep themselves in power, at whatever cost necessary.

Translator’s notes: 

*Parametrados / parametracion: From the word “parameters.” Parametracion (parameterization) is a process of establishing parameters and declaring anyone who falls outside them (the parametrados) to be what is commonly translated as “misfits” or “marginalized.” This is a process much harsher than implied by these terms in English. The process is akin to the McCarthy witch hunts and black lists and is used, for example, to purge the ranks of teachers, or even to imprison people.

**Desmerengamiento was a pejorative term coined by Fidel Castro to refer to the unraveling, the desmoronamiento (collapse, breakdown, undoing, crumbling), of the socialist bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Cuban cakes and desserts are commonly made with meringue.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.